Lawcast 170: Professor Moorhead on the state of UK legal Education

Today I am talking to Professor Richard Moorhead  deputy head of the law school  at Cardiff University about legal education – the first in a series of between five and seven podcasts on this topical and important issue.
We focus on the following themes:

1. Where are the problems in legal education and training?
2. Is the law degree fit for purpose?
3. Should the professions intervene to improve the law degree?

4. The importance of research-based teaching.  Why should practitioners care about that?

Listen to the podcast


Richard Moorhead’s blog Lawyer Watch

Richard Moorhead’s blog post: Legal Education Review: Where does the knowledge come from?


There are 7 podcasts in this series on legal education.

The second podcast in the series:

Lawcast 171: Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law on the need to reform legal education

Muttley Dastardly LLP Episode 9: Position paper on The Bribery Act


From: Matt Muttley, Managing Partner

To: The Partners


Gentlemen, I write on a matter of some importance to those of our clients who have interests in the aerospace and arms industry and a side interest in what I shall loosely define as ‘football related activities’.

1.  You will, of course, be fully familiar with the provisions of the new Bribery Act and all corporate partners should now have downloaded a new ‘app’ for your Muttley Dastardly iPhone giving you a fool proof guide to these provisions should you need to give advice quickly to clients who are unable to resist the urge to bribe an overseas government or, a member of FIFA or indeed,  if recent Wikileaks revelations about Prince Andrew are to be believed, you are acting in France and Kyrgistan.

2.  I draw your attention to a most excellent briefing in OUT-Law ( so useful to have competitor firms provide briefing papers of value to us in these dark days of cuts and profit maximisation).  I quote the salient passages…

“The Law Society has responded to a consultation on (the government guidelines) and has called for more detail.

The Law Society considered that the guidance is helpful. However, there were specific areas where more detail and clarification would be helpful,” said the Law Society’s response (4-page / 45KB PDF). “The Law Society recognises the importance of prosecutorial discretion in legislation such as this. However, this does mean that there will be a lack of certainty in the early days of implementation and this is a concern for many of our Members and their clients. Clear and swift guidance from the prosecuting authorities would, in our view, help to allay fears and assist firms to ensure compliance with the new Act.”

The Law Society said the approach taken by the Ministry of Justice’s guidance is too vague.

3.  Having examined The Law Society response, a short and pithy paper, I note their concern….“The Law Society also said that the guidance should advise on how companies can deal with bribery that is ongoing, and how they can deal with bribery that occurs in the UK.

“[The guidance’s practical examples] are overly complex; they only consider overseas bribery, which may cause firms to overlook the fact that bribery can occur in the UK,” said the Law Society response.”

4.  The Ministry of Justice appears to be reluctant to explain how the legislation may work in any more detail for fear of restricting the discretion of the prosecuting authorities – in this case, the Serious Fraud Office – thus upholding a fine tradition of obfuscation in our laws to allow ‘wiggle room’ should any future prime minister or attorney-general wish to step in at the last moment and stop investigations on grounds of ‘national security’.  Not that one could ever imagine such a thing happening in the United Kingdom.
I think we can safely assume that none of our clients would engage in activities coming within the Bribery Act, as currently understood and implemented by the prosecuting authorities and, I understand, there was much banging of tables and cheering down at the old “Dog and Very Rich Duck’ last night at a meeting of tax avoiders, hedgies, bankers and entrepreneurs and a general feeling that business may proceed as usual and that the new legislation will deter the faint hearted but not unduly restrict those of a more, shall we say, bold disposition who don’t approve of the SFO,  [Expletive] journalists and sundry other traitors sticking their noses into business which is of no concern to them.

It may be wise to download The Law Society response for ‘best practice’ compliance purposes. Law Society’s response (4-page / 45KB PDF) You may even be able to claim some CPD points if you read it.

We meet this Friday to consider our weekly business.

Matt Muttley

Strength & Profits



With thanks to Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark,, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims

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Prince Andrew in who is the idiot who is trying to stop us bribing Johnny Foreigner SHOCK HORROR!

It is impossible to parody this latest nonsense from Prince Andrew… he has beaten me to it himself…. classic stuff from Wikileaks…

WikiLeaks cables: ‘Rude’ Prince Andrew shocks US ambassador

Guardian: Duke railed against France, British anti-corruption investigations into BAE and American ignorance, leaked dispatches reveal

During the two-hour engagement in 2008 at a hotel in the capital, Bishkek, Andrew, who travels the globe as a special UK trade representative, attacked Britain’s corruption investigators in the Serious Fraud Office for what he called “idiocy”.

He went on to denounce Guardian reporters investigating bribery as “those [expletive] journalists … who poke their noses everywhere”.

Time to turn up the heat…and shine a very bright light into legal education

It is all very well doing parodies with Muttley Dastardly LLP to make a point on topical  legal issues ( and there are quite a few more MD LLP episodes coming ) but I feel the time has come, having watched from the sidelines for a couple of years, to shine a very bright light onto legal education in England & Wales.
I shall be starting with a podcast tomorrow with Professor Richard Moorehead of Cardiff University.  I plan to do five podcasts with leading figures in legal education. They will be direct and to the point – hopefully.

We shall be discussing, inter alia:

1. Where are the problems in legal education and training?

2. Is the law degree fit for purpose?

3. Should the professions intervene to improve the law degree? [this will be about the Brown review’s effects]

4. The importance of research-based teaching.  Why should practitioners care about that?

In the meantime…this from RollonFriday….

BPP parent company in $200m write-off shock

Apollo Group Inc., owners of BPP University College, have published their annual results. And they won’t be easy reading for lead balloon BPP, which faces an enormous balance sheet write-off.

The educational conglomerate’s 4th quarter and end year results include $176 million of “goodwill and intangible impairment charges“. The Lawyer reports that Apollo CFO Brian Schwartz told investors that BPP’s business had been “significantly and adversely impacted by the deep recession in the UK“. Of course that hasn’t stopped the esteemed law school opening up another three much-needed factory farms university campuses. Sounds like the fees need to go up.

A spokesman for Apollo told RollOnFriday that “BPP has been and will continue to be a critical centerpiece of Apollo Global’s expansion strategy. We continue to believe that it has significant potential both now and into the future“…..

Read more…

PRAVDA!: Red *Buzz* Ed Lightweight in plan to take BIG SOCIETY off David Cameron

After 63 days as Labour leader, following an astonishingly long selection process, the Labour Party got the leader they didn’t really want – at least the MPs and Members did not want.  Ed M has been in power – whatever that means these days in Labour circles,  for 63 days.  Deduct 12 or so days for paternity leave… and it would seem he hasn’t achieved much.

The Sun pilloried him this morning for his *Beyond New Labour* idea… and now Ed wants to wrest the idea of BIG Society off David Cameron and set Labour up as The People’s Party… whatever that means these days… and represent  a squeezed middle, whatever that is……

I may have to take up drinking Vodka and take Cossack dancing lessons….

No wonder Toby Young @Toadmeister tweeted this morning that The Coalition could be in power for 1000 years….

The BBC has the story on Ed Miliband’s People’s party plan……

I nicked the excellent rendition of ED as Buzz lightweight from The Sun… I do hope they won’t object.  I thought the rendition…. not a popular word in the Miliband family, I suspect….. was good!

And here is ED….

In a final rallying call, he added:

“Join us on this journey which makes us once again the people’s party, the party of people’s hopes and aspirations, back on people’s side, back in power making for the fairer, the more equal, the more just country we believe in.”

Jeez..another farkin journey…. so last Century!

Law Round Up: A few articles from the press and the UK law blogs

A quick post with some interesting articles on legal issues I have read in the press and in some of the law blogs…

Police kettling stirs the pot of student unrest

This series of letters in the Guardian makes interesting reading on this controversial issue on the kettling and use of police horses at the student demonstration last week.  Professor Lewis Elton – who I had the pleasure of doing a conference with nearly 25 years ago –  makes an interesting point or two…

I also found Laurie Penny’s article in The New Statesman interesting – and thought provoking…Inside the Whitehall kettle

Why Lord Justice Moses should watch 12 Angry Men

Louise Christian in The Guardian: The judge’s proposals on criminal trials are a dangerous attack on the jury system. I hope he won’t prevail

Here is the opening of Moses LJ’s lecture – which I found interesting…

I shall speak to you at length; I cannot even say how long I will be. There will be few intervals; about once every 1½ hours if you are lucky, or 2 hours. I cannot say how long this will last, certainly more than a day, so please do not believe you can make any sensible arrangements for the rest of the week. You will not be able to take a proper note; even if you had pen and paper, your neighbour will be pressing hard upon your writing arm. You cannot interrupt or ask questions while I am speaking. To those of you who are not lawyers, or practise only in the commercial court, if that is not tautology, I shall be speaking in a language entirely foreign to you. There will be few visual aids; I shall expect throughout to capture your attention with the power of my voice, speaking faster during those parts of the process which I do not really understand and more slowly when it is really important. Before I finish my lecture it would be as well if you did not discuss it amongst yourselves because you will not, until I finish, have learnt all I wish to teach nor had the opportunity to appreciate my objective. Please, if I haven’t finished today do not discuss it with anyone else when you get home tonight. When I have finished I shall set you an exam. It is not the sort of exam with which you will be familiar. You must all agree the answer. You will receive the same mark and you will never know if you have reached the right

Most criminal practitioners I have spoken to over the years have expressed support for the jury system.  One does wonder, though, how jurors cope with the complexity of law and fact in a long complex trial.

Adam Wagner of the UK Human Rights blog adds a bit of light…. Jury summings-up should be binned, says judge

Ken Clarke plans tough changes to community service – run privately

Continuing with the plan to ‘improve British justice’ The Guardian notes: “Facing big budget cuts, Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, will publish a green paper on sentencing in the next fortnight which will introduce new private agencies, as opposed to probation services, to enforce tougher community orders. Clarke is eager to reduce the number of people serving short sentences, and Downing Street is determined that the alternative of community sentences should be seen to be tougher.”

Keen as I am to see improvements in the ‘corrections’ (We appear to be giving up on rehabilitation etc as an underlying rationale?)  part of the of the justice system,  I can’t be alone in having reservations and expressing a view that  placing prison control and community service into the hands of private for profit companies is necessarily a good thing.  I welcome comment from readers who have knowledge and experience of this issue.

The EU Bill in the European Scrutiny Committee

Carl Gardner in his Head of Legal blog writes: “Bill Cash’s European Scrutiny Committee of the Commons is looking at the EU Bill, and in particular is considering very closely clause 18, William Hague’s “national sovereignty clause”, which I’ve written about before. If you’re as interested as I am in this clause and the relationship between EU law and our own constitution, you’ll want to read or perhaps watch the evidence given on Monday by Professors Paul Craig of Oxford University and Trevor Hartley of LSE, and today by Professors Anthony Bradley of Oxford, Trevor Allan of Cambridge and Adam Tomkins of Glasgow.

You can see the videos here and here. The Professors’ written evidence is here, and a transcript of the evidence of Professors Craig and Hartley is here.”

Justice with Michael Sandel

Hat Tip to Natasha Phillips of Researching Reform for drawing my attention to this fascinating website. “What’s the right thing to do?”

Is torture ever justified? Would you steal a drug that your child needs to survive? Is it sometimes wrong to tell the truth? How much is one human life worth?  What do you think and why?  Take a frontrow seat at the first course Harvard has ever made available to everyone, online and on the air.

I think I am going to enjoy this from what I have seen so far…

And from Advanced Legal Studies @ Westminster

Representing Judges

This is an interesting post on the media representation of judges – well worth a look.

Garrow’s Law: Legal History

Obiter J, on his Law and Lawyers blog writes… “English law has a long and fascinating history.  As a subject, it is largely ignored in modern legal education.  This is a pity since there are many lessons to be learned.

The BBC Television series “Garrow’s Law” is proving to be very popular.  It is based on criminal trials which took place at The Old Bailey in the 18th century and highlights both the harshness of the system and the unfairness of the trial processes of the day.  The Old Bailey Online website makes available a fully searchable, digitised collection of all surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674 to 1913, and of the Ordinary of Newgate’s Accounts between 1676 and 1772. It allows access to over 197,000 trials and biographical details of approximately 2,500 men and women executed at Tyburn, free of charge for non-commercial use……. ”

And finally… from Bitcher & Prickman…. always worth looking at!

Charon buys toaster Christmas present for DPM Clegg… possibly……

The Sun – NICK Clegg has told pals he “may be toast” in a year’s time – as the Lib Dems’ taste of power backfires on him.

The Sun

I have spent a happy half hour online looking at toasters.  I have never bought a Christmas present for a politician.  I think I should do so once… in the spirit of those *Things to do before one dies* articles which fill Sunday newspaper magazines….

I’m thinking a Delonghi.…. well… he hasn’t had Delonghi in the job to give his party a ‘Haircut’ in the polls…. why wait until next year?

Vermin in Ermine Breaking News: Newly elevated Tory idiot talks bollocks – suprised?

Howard Flight rapped by PM over ‘breeding’ gaffe

BBC: David Cameron has called on a new Conservative peer to apologise for saying welfare changes will encourage “breeding” among benefit claimants.Labour called Howard Flight’s comments “shameful” and said they showed the Tories were out of touch with people. Mr Cameron said he did not agree with Mr Flight’s words, adding: “I am sure he will want to apologise for them”. Mr Flight, a former Conservative deputy chairman, was named last week as one of more than 20 new Tory peers.

He told the London Evening Standard: “We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive.

“But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that’s not very sensible.”

So…another Tory makes a nasty remark.  They appear to have form…. and now this buffoon gets to sit the in The House of Lords…. astonishing. Makes one proud to be British…. not.

Oh…LOOK… here is another Tory keeping up a fine tradition…….

My response to a commenter on David Allen Green’s TwitterJokeTrial post

The News Statesman website obviously does not like either of the two email addresses I provided – which were both valid, despite the New Statesman saying they were not – perhaps old Labour statist ideals die hard?

Here is the post that I could not post on the New Statesman earlier – I won’t bother trying again as it really irritates me when websites *can’t get their shit together… I almost feel like blowing up!*  (Mea culpa… a very bad pun in the circumstances)

This is David Allen Green’s post and Mr Nandawar’s comment was in the comments section for that post

The Twitter Joke Trial carries on

Swatantra Nandanwar

Are you this person?  Are you promoting yourself and your political aspirations on the back of this important issue?

If you are the politico – it might be useful for your future career in politics to have a good look at the issue and the intelligent comment and legal analysis  on David Allen Green’s Jack of Kent blog and elsewhere.   This is not to say that their views will be proved to be right – but I have always thought – before I use my knee and leg to kick a load of guff into the air, that it is best to have a good look at as much information as I can.

Let us have a look at what you wrote above….

“… thats a Blackmailers Charter! Contingent or not the threat was issued and Paul was rightly done. Any reasonble person or traveller would have assumed that ‘a plot’ might have been afoot. Unfortunately there are a lot of nutters out there, some genuine terrorists, some out for a laugh, and some plain angry who’ve lost it in the heat of the moment. But who knows what care capable of doing if cracked up.”

Actually….. I can’t be bothered to take your comment  seriously …..  because it appears to have been written by a wannabe scriptwriter for  Monty Python et al

…..fortunately, there are a lot of reasonable people ‘out there’ who can tell the difference between a real threat and a lot of nonsense on twitter – although, it has to be said, the judiciary, thus far, seem to agree with you.

Perhaps the High Court will take a different view?  Fortunately, our judges are not swayed by public opinion – a convention often observed, rather than merely adhered to, so it is not unreasonable for us to comment and give our view.

I just happen to think your view is not the right one.  If, however, you are not the politico on the make riding on the back of this… then I wish you well…. and hope that you don’t worry about getting on a plane, train or automobile.

In the meantime – good luck to Paul and best for the legal team.  I think I am still allowed to say things like this on a public forum in post-ironic Britain?

Legal Education Review: Where does the knowledge come from? by Prof Richard Moorhead

Legal Education Review: Where does the knowledge come from?

Professor Richard Moorhead writes:

It’s very early days. The SRA, BSB and ILEX’s IPS have announced the review. The LSB have indicated a desire that the review be as fundamental as the Ormerod Review from 1971. I do not know what shape the review is going to take. The College of Law has already come out of the blocks through its think-tank with proposals to do away with the training contract and parks an elegantly written tank on the University law school’s lawn with the suggestion that it should ‘advise’ law schools/law students of the options that students should take under a qualifying law degree. The Chair of the LSB has indicated the desirability of shorter training and more on the job training. There are proposals for aptitude tests at various stages of development from the Bar and the Law Society and also a report from the Law Society suggesting that ethics should be required as part of the degree training of solicitors. Some of these ideas I currently support and all of them merit debate but I want to stand back slightly, though, with a few key facts and a little horizon scanning. My first key fact is there are no key facts, or there are rather few of them…..

Professor Moorhead’s blog post is excellent and raises some very important points.

Professor Stephen Mayson of The Legal Services Institute (Funded by The College of Law) has a very detailed paper on The Education and Training of Solicitors: Time for Change – advocating, inter alia, the abolition of the training contract.

This is only the beginning… the regulators plan to review legal education… I have made a number of preliminary observations in these very broad brushed blog posts:

Law Review: Legal Regulator in CUT student debt by CUTTING study shock!

Breaking Shock Horror: The law is dominated by public school boys/girls… still!

Law Review: Law schools face crackdown as legal education goes under spotlight

As I don’t have kids and can’t clone myself… I thought a Statue *In Memoriam*

Quite how I managed to come up with the idea of cloning myself and buying some petri dishes on twitter this afternoon… I have no idea – save, that I had done a decent day’s work, having started at 3.30 am this morning as usual, and felt that I may as well have a couple of glasses of Lebanese red wine at Mazaar in Battersea Square this afternoon  ( an excellent caff where I take breakfast every day, cooked by chef proprietor Marlon who is  very amusing and smokes Marlboro Red) – a late lunch, if you will.

I also noticed that there is now a very large (and fine) Christmas tree in the square.  There will be lights, I am told. This was another reason to celebrate.

As I don’t have children and do not have any plans to have them… my thoughts turned to the end of my *Line* when I finally go to the great Bar in the sky…. My line, I can trace to…. the time of my ancestor Julius Charonus who invaded Britain covertly long before the days of CIA rendition flights.   I have, therefore, as my *legacy*,  amused myself by doing a working ‘construct’ for a sculpture…. of myself…. drawing, rather heavily it has to be said, on the work of another of my ancestors Charonangelo.

It is entirely possible, if I continue to drink Lebanese red, that I shall be making this sculpture later……as part of my December 2010 F**kART series – coming soon!

That is all.

Law Review:#Twitterjoketrial – Lawyers advertising on TV – Coulson’s imminent departure – Woman jailed for falsely retracting rape claim is freed

Twitter joke trial: Paul Chambers to take appeal to high court

Guardian: Paul Chambers to appeal to high court over conviction for joke Twitter message about Robin Hood airport

This is a brave decision on the part of Paul Chambers. Lawyer,  David Allen Green (aka author of the Jack of kent blog) tweeted to say that the lawyers are doing this work at well below their usual rates.  If the team wins the case – the ‘other side’ will pay.  In this case – the ‘other side’ will be the government…or the tax payer.  It is, however, a very important case for all who use the internet to communicate whether through twitter, Facebook or blogs et al.  The Jack of Kent blog has the most comprehensive coverage of the background to s.127 and the proceedings so far.  Ben Emmerson QC, a heavyweight human rights lawyer, joins the team.

Author of Legal Futures, Neil Rose, is on a roll with some excellent articles recently in The Guardian and on his blog.  Today… this…

UK lawyers start to take TV advertising seriously

Guardian: Law firms are trying to build brand identity because there is business worth £15bn out there – and possibly more

Is this the future of lawyer advertising on our televisions? “If you and your spouse hate each other like poison and want to get out of the hellhole you call a marriage, you’ve come to the right place,” begins the advert from Steve Miller of DivorceEZ, a Florida law firm, concluding 30 seconds later: “You’re on your way to getting rid of that vermin you call a spouse.”

Right Solicitor?

Recently, I came across Right Solicitor. I liked their style and approach – offering potential clients the opportunity to ask a solicitor a question and get a speedy response.  In fact, I persuaded them to sponsor – for a modest fee – my free student materials on my online magazine Insite Law. I would have been more than happy to write about their service in any event – but I am quite happy to be open that they did help defray the costs of the free student materials on Insite as other sponsors do…

Briefly: Consumers simply submit a question at and will receive an email response within 60 minutes. Right solicitor panel Solicitors also agree to offer a free 15 minute follow-up consultation with no commitment to use the solicitor.

A government backed report, “Developing Capable Citizens”  – highlighted that “One-third of the population has experienced a civil justice problem, but many do nothing about it – often because they think, wrongly, that there is nothing they can do or that there is no local legal advice provider who might help… This extraordinary lack of understanding is a major reason why around one million civil justice problems go unresolved every year. This is legal exclusion on a massive scale.”

Paul Careless, CEO at RightSolicitor, commented “Consumer confusion reigns in UK legal services. The time is right for a consumer focussed legal service to allow people simple, friendly and timely access to the legal profession, through a brand they can trust; allowing customers to ‘try before they buy’. This is what RightSolicitor intends to achieve”

Coulson’s imminent departure is just the beginning

by Tom Watson: Andy Coulson will resign as Downing Street communications director within the next few weeks. When the moment comes, his powerful but embarrassed friends will breathe a sigh of relief. They want it to be the end of the phone hacking scandal. It is just the beginning.For, as any investigative journalist will tell you, it’s always the cover up that sinks you. Senior executives have been clinging onto the line that “Clive Goodman was a rogue reporter” like it was a life belt on the Titanic. The unanswered questions are pouring in.

There is a police investigation and at least three court cases. There are two Parliamentary enquiries on top of a damning report by the media select committee. There are whistleblowers. Insiders are breaking ranks, beginning to talk. Shareholders are asking questions. Coulson may be on his way, but the story won’t go away, despite hardly being reported in some of the best-selling newspapers.

Woman jailed for falsely retracting rape claim is freed

Guardian: Lord chief justice says there is important distinction between false allegation of rape and false retraction of rape allegation

A mother jailed for falsely retracting allegations that she had been raped six times by her husband was freed today on appeal.

There was an outcry earlier this month when the 28-year-old was sent to jail for eight months for perverting the course of justice after she decided to withdraw the rape allegations – not, she said, because they were false, but because her estranged husband and his sister had “’emotionally blackmailed” her into doing so.

Ordering her immediate release today at the royal courts of justice, the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, said the judiciary had a duty of “compassion for a woman who has already been victimised”. Quashing her sentence, he instead gave her a community sentence and a supervision order for two years.

Seems to me to be a good bit of *judging* here…..

Duncan Bannatyne does it again…on Twitter… Oh dear!

It astonishes me how twitter can be so abusive… even if one disagrees with a point of view – there is just no call to tweet that someone else is a *phaedophile lover* – and coming from a BBC Dragon – quite shocking.  Then, encouraging his followers to report the tweeter for abuse? The legal issue regarding libel is, of course, a separate matter which I will not comment on.

All, it would seem, from what I can gather, because of ‘smoking in a car full of kids’.  I wouldn’t smoke near children – but….. I do not think that describing someone as a *phaedophile lover* on twitter is a pleasant thing to do either, when the person tweeting has so much twitter power.

Bannatyne blocked me some time ago – not that it bothers me – because I was critical and supported another tweeter who he was unpleasant to.  I don’t visit his gyms and I wasn’t critical of his business acumen…so assume he didn’t block me for not going to his gyms…I suspect he may have blocked me for these posts I did…

Duncan Genocide doesn’t seem to understand Twitter that well – a personal opinion…not a LIBEL!

Postcard from The Staterooms: Bananaskins edition

You can, of course, see the @andyburge tweets by following this link….

Andy Burge has just tweeted….21.30 pm 22 Nov 10


ok everyone, I was wrong to swear at @duncanbannatyne .. he was wrong to call me “paedophile lover” hope you agree Duncan .. can we move on?

Seems sensible to me…..

Law Review: Legal Regulator in CUT student debt by CUTTING study shock!

In the finest tradition of English Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera the Legal Services Board Chairman, David Edmonds – who is neither lawyer nor educator (It would appear from his cv – not that that is an issue and may well be a benefit.  He has extensive commercial experience)  – has stepped into the fray by giving The Lord Upjohn lecture on the subject of legal education.

The central premise of his talk, reported on Legal Futures, appears to have been that having been told that legal education is not fit for purpose,  student debt could be cut by the simple solution of cutting the study time. No detail appears to have been provided. One resists the temptation to do a reductio ad absurdum.  He also appears to have thought that training lawyers in a similar fashion to the way accountancy firms train their accountants on the job may be a solution. I bet the big law firms just love that idea! They weren’t that keen when I did a review for Magic Circle firms on the LPC 10 years ago and one senior partner even told me…”We are lawyers, we lawyer… we are not legal educators” Interestingly, David Edmonds appears to have completely overlooked the fact that this route to qualification as a lawyer is well established through ILEX… but, be that as it may.

Further, given that The Bar is really a collection of individuals, one is a bit perplexed about the issue of barristers being trained using the accountancy firm modus operandi… but, be that, also, as it may.  Perhaps Mr Edmonds overlooked the Bar as well when he made his speech?

Legal Futures reports quotes from his speech….“He welcomed greater flexibility in postgraduate legal education, as well as delivery methods “that more closely align teaching to the demands of legal practice”, highlighting the need for “a constant interplay between practice and education”. He continued: “As student finance becomes ever more difficult, I really hope that we see this type of initiative being taken even further. For those leaving school and aiming for a legal career, we need to see the total length of time spent in education – and so the total amount of debt – shrink. This is linked to ensuring that students do not need to make crucial, and costly, investment decisions too early on, before getting a real ‘feel’ for the area of practice and all that it will involve.”

Legal Futures ends the coverage with this…. “The Legal Services Board is billing the review – which originally it intended to conduct itself – as “the most penetrating enquiry into the training needs of lawyers since the Ormrod review in 1971”

In the light of the foregoing it is probably just as well the SRA and the BSB are conducting the review.  I have reasonable confidence that the review will even consider the views of professionals in the field of legal education at both university and vocational stages – a divisional distinction which I shall keep for the present.

Being vaguely serious for just a moment… there is no doubt that student debt can be cut, not by shrinking the amount of study, but by changing the way that content is delivered.  We live in the age of the internet.  Not all teaching need be face to face… but.. the law schools, particularly the vocational law schools, won’t like the idea… it may, god forbid, lead to a cut in the fees being charged for the course – particularly if we are really clever about it and have one central set of materials and a central set of high quality recorded lectures and pick the best lecturers and practitioners to provide these recorded materials!

I end by reporting that I have just seen a large squadron of Pigs flying over The Thames  en route for Chancery Lane in Holborn.  “I love the smell of vested self interest in the morning”….said one pig.

Breaking Shock Horror: The law is dominated by public school boys/girls… still!

I like the H M Bateman cartoons.  The fact that he attended the same public school I did, albeit at different times, is interesting to me – because I did not know that.  Mind you…so did Miles Kington and he spoke Franglais far better than I can, now, speak French… to my shame.

The reference to a public school (Glenalmond in Scotland) is not puffery… but is deliberate..because it appears that *DownTurn Abbey* is alive and well in the law according to an article in Legal Week last week…..

New study highlights extent of public school bias among legal profession

Legal Week reports: Lawyers are more than seven times as likely to have been privately educated than the general population, according to new research.

A survey of almost 50,000 City professionals, conducted by legal recruitment consultancy Laurence Simons, found that 15% of lawyers were educated at the UK’s 250 public schools, compared to just 2% of the general population.

The figures add further weight to claims that social exclusivity in the legal sector is a problem that needs to be addressed.

From those surveyed, 2,717 (5%) had been educated at either Eton, Westminster or Winchester, with 830 of those (30%) going on to become lawyers.

The findings come after a report last year looking at fair access to the professions included a submission from the Sutton Trust stating that between 1988 and 2004, the proportion of magic circle partners aged under 39 who had been privately educated increased from 59% to 71%.

Laurence Simons director Jason Horobin said: “The figures paint a disturbingly regressive picture of the opportunities open to those wishing to get into law. Social exclusivity is rife in the industry.”

All I can say… is that it will only get worse – University fees are going up, the law school fees for the LPC and BPTC are *pacy* and committees are being set up to write *Diversity* reports faster than footballers and other celebrities can get superinjunctions down at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Articles like this both annoy and worry me – partly because statistics may well bear out practice.  The irony is that so much work has been done by the profession to encourage potential lawyers from all social backgrounds to consider law in the last twenty years – only for vocational law school fees now to be set at  £15k for a one year course which could probably be taught by distance learning and some face to face tuition at a lesser cost (I did discuss this concept with Lord Goldsmith in The House of Lords some years ago – and he was kind enough to show me some unusual wall paper in one of the ‘State Rooms’ – The ideas were not followed up – possibly because he was rather busy giving advice to HM Government on Iraq et al), and now, government fee plans for all degrees are rising so that it is becoming more  difficult for those from less wealthy backgrounds to consider going into law (and other fields of life?)

From what I know of this issue we can’t simply can’t point the finger at the law firms – they can only recruit those available to recruit. Lord Neuberger’s diversity report, a fine document, may not become a practical reality through simple economics rather than bias to a particular class? Scholarships and bursaries can only go so far….. realpolitik may well make it impossible to achieve greater diversity, no matter how keen the profession is to achieve it.

Law Review: Law schools face crackdown as legal education goes under spotlight

Law schools face crackdown as legal education goes under spotlight

Legal Week reports: The three biggest legal regulators have launched a full-scale review of legal education and training as concerns about the oversupply of law students continue to escalate.

The review by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and the Institute of Legal Executives Professional Standards (IPS) will examine routes to qualification and the requirements placed on law schools in light of the likely future shape of the legal market.

College of Law chief executive Nigel Savage welcomed the review and argued that it was long overdue. He added: “It [the review] must be root and branch and embrace the undergraduate degrees as well as post-graduate courses. It also needs to look at matching what lawyers do within the legal services market with a brand new education and training framework.”

In the mid 1990s, when I was CEO of BPP Law School, I attended an education conference.  An academic from the University of London (I cannot, now, recall her name) raised a concern that The Law Society was seeking to dictate to universities the content of university law degrees. Paul Pharaoh, speaking on behalf of The Law Society, responded drily that if a university wished their law degree to be a ‘qualifying law degree’ then it must comply with the requirements laid down by The Law Society.  I could hear a fair number of pins drop.

Legal education is too important to be designed solely around the needs of the vocational law schools – those providers which run courses for the Legal Practice Course (Solicitors) and the Bar Professional Training Course (Barristers) – or even the needs of a profession in future dominated by Tesco Law?    The ‘law’ content of both the LPC and BPTC currently is by no means intellectually demanding.  There is a great deal of content to get through, no doubt, but the ‘sentiment’ I have seen on many websites is that the LPC / BPTC  (a) is fairly easy and (b) is of little value in practice.  Such comments do, of course, need to be taken with some salt, but those same students do often base their comments on what they find when they get into practice.  So, work does need to be done on the LPC/BPTC.  The ‘Laws’ of course, are the Laws –  set down in statute and caselaw;  so the academic law degree stage can’t be blamed there.    In fact, much of the content of these vocational courses, rightly, is concerned with procedure, and the skills needed by lawyers to practice. If they are not up to scratch then the regulators need to address it.  The hard law or *Black Letter* law has, traditionally been covered by the universities at the academic stage.

Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law, writes on his blog on the College of Law website…

Maybe we need more radical solutions? Let’s take the undergraduate LL.B law degree. What does it really prepare students for? It is taught largely by individuals who have never practised law and who increasingly have PhDs in a wide range of areas that bear no resemblance to the practice of law. Students are required to spend a semester – or if they are lucky an academic year – studying contract law, at the end of which they will never have seen a contract. Students will be told they are taught to think like lawyers. They are not. They are taught to wade through bizarre factual problems, which is a useful exercise, but what they really need is to think in terms of solutions. David Chavkin, a professor of law at American University Washington College of Law, recently said, ‘if the goal of medical school were to teach students not how to be doctors but how to think like doctors, would you want to be a graduate’s first patient?’.

Read the full post: The law degree – fit for purpose?

A number of points arise:

1.  It is not unreasonable that universities should provide high quality legal education in subjects relevant to future lawyers and these areas be required if a student wishes to practise as a lawyer.

2.  It is also important to remember that not all students who read law wish to practise law.  Law is a social science, a study in its own right, of value also to those who study it with a view to going into other disciplines.  Curiously, the teaching of Jurisprudence – or legal philosophy – has rather dropped off, even in the leading universities.  This, I believe, is a mistake for Jurisprudence considers the politico-philosophical basis of our law and its rich history.  To dismiss the academic stage of legal education as being taught by people with Ph.ds is not a particularly credible proposition in my view. The law is the law – there is a lot of detail, a great deal of concept and a great deal of politico-economic and social context to the decisions of our judges and the deliberations of our MPs – thankfully

3. Law is an intellectual discipline.  Good lawyers need to have a firm grasp of legal principle – and the devil is in the detail, to use that much borrowed phrase.  When I did a review of legal education for the Magic Circle firms some years ago – they were interested in a City oriented LPC – I remember the then managing partner of Slaughter & May telling me that law is a cerebral and intellectual discipline.  It was, he told me, of ‘first importance that trainees had a firm grounding in black letter law’.  I cannot imagine that much has changed in that regard in the last fifteen years.  If anything, as laws become ever more complex, I would have thought it more important that law students who are going into the profession have a very thorough grasp of law in relevant areas and, as important, the principles of legal theory and highly developed legal research skills.

4. I would not wish to see the vocational  law schools leaning on the regulators – or the regulators succumbing – to a view that legal education and practice can be conflated conveniently into a dumbed down course. The College of Law and BPP University College both enjoy the right to award degrees.  I hope they use this power wisely and do not, for convenience, reduce the intellectual and content element of legal  study to suit their needs at the expense of the future of the profession or the independent study of law as an intellectual discipline.

5. I am fairly certain, having talked to some very experienced practitioners on both sides of the profession that much of the practise of law is actually learned in practice.  Unfortunately, not all law firms can afford the expensive training  infrastructure of the top City and Commercial firms and I would doubt that most pupil masters / mistresses can do more than give of their expertise as best they can and combine it with excellent work being done in The Inns and in some Chambers. This is a very complex issue.

It may be that the vocational law schools and the regulators will take offence at the suggestion that a future regulation of ‘qualifying content’ would ever be dumbed down.  I mean no offence – but I do have two words which may be worth bearing in mind:  *Degree inflation*.  It is astonishing how some universities have awarded ever more Firsts, Upper Seconds and Lower Seconds compared to twenty-five years ago to students as the profession has sought to be more restrictive and selective. Given this phenomenon – it is not unreasonable to say that this review needs to take especial care of the content of the legal education syllabus.

5.  The review needs to look very carefully at the syllabus needed, the needs of business, the legal profession and other fields of endeavour where a law degree would be useful and it certainly needs to look at the modules which are essential to a modern lawyer who wishes to practise.  The vocational law schools should, in my view, continue to focus on procedure, skills and the wider aspects of commercial and other contextual practical  knowledge and not become involved in the teaching of black letter law. That is, in my view, best left to those who have specialist knowledge of the ‘laws’.  I think it fair to say, as a generalisation, that law teachers in universities know rather more about the ‘Laws’ than their counterparts in vocational law schools – who will, in turn, probably know more about legal skills and procedures and practice?   Perhaps more discussion between academic stage universities and providers of the LPC/BPTC on content would be an idea?

6. The issue of numbers will continue to be a very difficult issue for universities and the profession to deal with.  I make no comment on that issue here.

This is not a detailed analysis. I merely pose these issues for debate and discussion and do not ‘prescribe’…. as always.

I suppose I had better get my coat…..

Friday caption pic – I just love this pic of Theresa May

And a bit of buffoonery from Lord Young – one of the ghosts of Christmas past!  Iain Dale picks up the story…and, on this occasion, I agree with Iain!

The Ghost of Harold Macmillan Has Never Had It So Good


PS… the brilliant photograph of Theresa May was by Chris Radburn/PA  – I nicked it from The Guardian article... just could not help myself… or, rather… I could…. but Chris Radburn has produced a classic here…..  I shall make a donation to Children in Need tonight!

Another Lord says he has been *unwise* – are they all dodgy in The House of Lords?

Ex-minister Lord Knight rapped for doctoring form

BBC: A former minister has been criticised for doctoring a form in an attempt to justify subsidising Labour Party literature with parliamentary expenses.

Lord Knight signed and backdated a paper as he faced an investigation by the Commons sleaze watchdog.

The Standards and Privileges Committee called it a “serious misjudgement” and ordered him to repay more than £3,600 spent on a printing machine.

Lord Knight, formerly Jim Knight, lost his Commons seat in May’s election.


Well… the good news is… at least the CPS can be kept busy with important cases instead of farting about with #twitterjoketrial nonsense. The House of Lords is becoming a laughing stock… or, rather…even more of a laughing stock.  I’d better not refer to Guy Fawkes… lest some CPS prosecutor has a sense of humour failure and does me under s.127.

Legal Round Up: BAILII – #Metgate – MI5 Torture – Ridiculous inequality – Private civil litigation curbs

Justice’s hidden backbone – a tribute to BAILII

UK Human Rights blog has an excellent piece on the remarkable work being done by BAILLI.  I use it extensively, as do countless students who download the free legal resources, lectures and materials on my Insite Law magazine.

Anti-Piracy Lawyers Knew They Targeted Innocent Victims

Torrent Freak: “Davenport Lyons, the law firm which pioneered the lucrative file-sharing pay-up-or-else scheme in the UK, will head off to Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal proceedings next year. According to details just made available, among other things Davenport Lyons partners were responsible for knowingly targeting the innocent and relied on unreliable evidence in doing so.”

These allegations, if proven, are serious.

Court says News of the World staff who ordered phone hack must be named

Guardian: Judge rules that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire must identify journalists who instructed him to intercept voicemail messages

This is interesting.  It may be that we are getting closer to the truth…one way or the other?

Legal aid: annotated government proposals for reform

Guardian Legal affairs correspondent, Afua Hirsch, dissects the green paper on legal aid and gives her views on the most important passages. • Do you agree with her analysis? Will these proposed reforms affect you? We want to know…

I have now  read most of Ken Clarke’s magnum opus – quite a task.  The BBC has a quick summary.

MI5 officer escapes charges over Binyam Mohamed torture case

‘Insufficient evidence’ to prosecute over treatment of prisoner in Pakistan before transfer to Guantánamo Bay, advises DPP

Coming in the wake of the Government’s decision to settle the litigation with the Guantanamo Bay prisoners, this decision is not entirely unexpected.

This commentary from The Guardian is particularly noteworthy…

Today’s decision, and yesterday’s mediation settlement involving 16 UK residents and citizens incarcerated in Guantánamo, helps to pave the way for an inquiry by Sir Peter Gibson into the torture allegations. The Met police are still investigating an MI6 officer over a separate incident.

Tim Cooke-Hurle, of the legal charity Reprieve, which represented Mohamed, said: “Rather than scapegoating frontline officers, the investigation must focus on the chain of command that may have allowed torture complicity … to ensure that it never happens again.”

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of civil rights group Liberty, said: “Accountability, like decision-making, must go to the heart of government on both sides of the Atlantic and that is what only a robust and open judicial inquiry can achieve.”

Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP for Chichester and chairman of the all-party group on extraordinary rendition, said: “Any information that would have been available in the court cases and criminal investigations must be available to the [Gibson] inquiry.”

Theresa May scraps legal requirement to reduce inequality

Guardian: Measure introduced by Harriet Harman under Labour dismissed by home secretary as ‘ridiculous’

Private civil litigation curbs: A last chance to reopen the debate?

Guardian: The Jackson report has been adopted as though it emanated from the heart of Tory central office itself

Neil Rose of has dissected this issue very well… and his article is worth reading in full.  For that reason, I make no extracts here.

Law Review: Assange arrest warrant – Press release by counsel for Assange

Mr. Assange detained in his absence As a result of the court’s decision to detain Mr. Assange in his absence, an international arrest warrant will be issued.

(Swedish) Director of Prosecution, Ms. Marianne Ny, today requested the District Court of Stockholm to detain Mr Assange in his absence.

At the hearing on the detention issue, the District Court decided to detain Mr Assange in his absence, on probable cause suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. To execute the court’s decision, the next step is to issue an international arrest warrant.

On Thursday 18th November 2010, @wikileaks said:

Press release by counsel for Julian Assange

LONDON, 2pm Thursday November 18, 2010

Mark Stephens of law firm Finers Stephens Innocent said today, “On the morning of 21 August 2010, my client, Julian Assange, read in the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen that there was a warrant out for his arrest relating to allegations of “rape” involving two Swedish women.

However, even the substance of the allegations, as revealed to the press through unauthorized disclosures do not constitute what any advanced legal system considers to be rape; as various media outlets have reported “the basis for the rape charge” purely seems to constitute a post-facto dispute over consensual, but unprotected sex days after the event. Both women have declared that they had consensual sexual relations with our client and that they continued to instigate friendly contact well after the alleged incidents. Only after the women became aware of each other’s relationships with Mr. Assange did they make their allegations against him.

The warrant for his arrest was rightly withdrawn within 24 hours by Chief prosecutor Eva Finne, who found that there was no “reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” Yet his name had already been deliberately and unlawfully disclosed to the press by Swedish authorities. The so called “rape” story was carried around the world and has caused Mr. Assange and his organization irreparable harm.

Eva Finne’s decision to drop the “rape” investigation was reversed after the intervention of a political figure, Claes Borgstrom, who is now acting for the women. The case was given to a specific prosecutor, Marianne Ny.

The only way the accused and his lawyers have been able to discover any substantive information regarding the investigation against him has been through the media. Over the last three months, despite numerous demands, neither Mr. Assange, nor his legal counsel has received a single word in writing from the Swedish authorities relating to the allegations; a clear contravention to Article 6 of the European Convention, which states that every accused must 澱e informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him”. The actions by the Swedish authorities constitute a blatant and deliberate disregard for his rights under the Convention.

We are now concerned that prosecutor Marianne Ny intends to apply for an arrest warrant in an effort to have Mr. Assange forcibly taken to Sweden for preliminary questioning. Despite his right to silence, my client has repeatedly offered to be interviewed, first in Sweden before he left, and then subsequently in the UK (including at the Swedish Embassy), either in person or by telephone, videoconferencing or email and he has also offered to make a sworn statement on affidavit. All of these offers have been flatly refused by a prosecutor who is abusing her powers by insisting that he return to Sweden at his own expense to be subjected to another media circus that she will orchestrate. Pursuing a warrant in this circumstance is entirely unnecessary and disproportionate. This action is in contravention both of European Conventions and makes a mockery of arrangements between Sweden and the United Kingdom designed to deal with just such situations. This behavior is not a prosecution, but a persecution. Before leaving Sweden Mr. Assange asked to be interviewed by the prosecution on several occasions in relation to the allegations, staying over a month in Stockholm, at considerable expense and despite many engagements elsewhere, in order to clear his name. Eventually the prosecution told his Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig that he was free to leave the country, without interview, which he did.

Our client has always maintained his innocence. The allegations against him are false and without basis. As a result of these false allegations and bizarre legal interpretations our client now has his name and reputation besmirched. Thousands of news articles and 3.6million web pages now contain his name and the word “rape”. Indeed, three out of four web-pages that mention Mr. Assange’s name also now mention the word “rape”—a direct result of incompetent and malicious behavior by Swedish government prosecutors. My client is now in the extraordinary position that, despite his innocence, and despite never having been charged, and despite never receiving a single piece of paper about the allegations against him, one in ten Internet references to the word “rape” also include his name. Every day that this flawed investigation continues the damages to his reputation are compounded.”


Muttley Dastardly LLP Episode 8: India bites back


From: Matt Muttley, Managing Partner

To: The Partners

It is with pleasure that I report this day that plans by other law firms to ‘Take The Indian law market’ may have been stymied by the quite brilliant idea cooked up by our esteemed fellow partner and Director of Education and Strategy, Dr Strangelove;  that I visit India last month to seek to set up Muttley Dastardly (India) LLP. I thought it tasteless that I arrive on an elephant, wearing a pith helmet, because I felt fairly certain that Indian lawyers are really rather shrewd and could see no particular advantage to themselves in having a ravening horde of English law firms competing with them.  Strangelove was right.  It did irritate them.

We shall continue to co-operate with our best friends in India as before – but secure in the knowledge that our competitors in London are probably displeased.

I reference the article in The Law Society Gazette for your delectation and delight. James Dean has excelled himself with this raportage.

Indian legal services market to stay closed

The Indian government has no plans to allow foreign law firms to practise in the country, it said in a statement on Monday.

Veerappa Moily, minister of law and justice, said in response to a question in the Indian parliament that ‘at present there is no proposal to allow foreign law firms into the country’.

I particularly liked the text I have put in bold in this extract…

A statement on the Indian government’s website read: ‘Dr M Veerappa Moily, minister of law and justice, in the Lok Sabha in a written reply that under section 7 of the Advocates Act 1961, the Bar Council of India is responsible to lay down standards of professional conduct and etiquette for advocates; to safeguard the right, privileges and interests of advocates; to recognise on a reciprocal basis foreign qualification in law obtained outside India for the purpose of admission advocate and to manage; to exercise general supervision and control over state bar councils and invest the funds of the Bar Council.

We meet this Friday to consider our weekly business.

Matt Muttley

Strength & Profits



With thanks to Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark,, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims

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Law Review: Singapore judiciary can’t hack criticism – a journalist is jailed for daring to do so.

“Don’t poke a stick up a tiger’s bum unless you are outside its cage”

I quote above  from a comment made by stoneshepherd in the comments section of an excellent article in The Guardian:

Death and discrimination in Singapore

The writer Alan Shadrake has been jailed for exposing the lottery of Singapore’s execution rates.  I know Singapore well.  I was there as a child and in later life when I visited to talk to members of the legal profession, government and judiciary.  I have taught a great many Singaporean lawyers.

I am not at all surprised that the Singaporean judiciary has jailed 75 year old Alan Shadrake for contempt.  He knew that he faced the possibility of imprisonment for the offence.

The Guardian reports:

Shadrake has been jailed for six week and fined for “scandalising the judiciary” for remarks in his book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock. The book includes an interview with Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore’s Changi prison, who was said to have executed 1,000 prisoners over half a century.

However, the central theme of the book is Shadrake’s claim that Singapore’s legal system does not accord equal treatment to those suspected of capital offences. The death penalty is mandatory for a number of offences including murder and possession of drugs over a certain amount. In Singapore, as a result, he asserts that the question of who lives and who dies is an arbitrary lottery.

Singapore employs the death penalty for a range of offences.  It also uses corporal punishment.  Singapore, it has to be said, is an economic powerhouse but it also has a fairly repressive penal system and, it would seem, a judiciary incapable of tolerating criticism.  To be a judge in one’s own cause raises interesting issues of legal principle.  It is inconceivable that a court in our country would (in these days)  convict a journalist or lawyer, or anyone,  for reasoned, rational, objective criticism of a judgment.  The judiciary here are subjected to reasoned and unreasoned criticism on a daily basis.  It goes with the territory.  It is part of the rough and tumble of democracy and freedom of speech.  The convention is that the judges are not swayed by public opinion.  Contempt of Court is a quite different issue and need not be addressed here.

It won’t affect tourism.  It won’t affect business dealings with Singapore – and it probably won’t ‘trend’ on twitter because few will care about what Singapore judges do  – but those who are interested in human rights, who are interested in the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, can express surprise that a sophisticated City state in the 21st Century is so unsure of itself judicially – or perhaps repression is just a default setting – that it can’t hack a reasoned and analytical criticism of judicial power.  The Guardian writers  said it is scandalous.  I agree but would add…that it is tragic.

It is unlikely that I shall ever return to Singapore.  I probably won’t be able to after writing this piece.  I do not flatter myself that the Singaporean judges will read this.  They won’t.  But I am fairly certain that Singapore’s highly sophisticated communication systems will pick it up and flag it up on a  database.  Many Singaporeans are quite happy to live with a regime of strict laws.  That is their right and prerogative.    It doesn’t stop writers and commentators, however, from commenting adversely on Singapore’s continuing use of the death penalty or the jailing of a 75 year old man who wished to shine a light on their judicial system. Shadrake had the courage to poke a stick up a tiger’s bum… inside the cage…and now…he is in the cage…for six weeks.

Now.. I can’t hang about… there are more windmills to tilt at!

Charon ROYAL WEDDING MUGS available now!

I should explain, for people who do not hang on prime minister David Cameron’s every word, that PMDirect told us all, on the happy day for Prince William and Kate Middleton…. that he slept on The Mall on the eve of the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana – he was 15, apparently.

As I get older… I find that nothing surprises me.


I found this on Google… 🙂


Prince William to marry Kate Middleton – Home News, UK – The

16 Nov 2010 Nauseating to hear Cameron gushing outside No.10 : “A great day for our country” and “Banging on tables” and “Sleeping on the Mall“.…/prince-william-to-marry-kate-middleton-2135447.html

Chris Huhne backed plans to protect legal aid! #legalaid

I am grateful to @djhanks for drawing my attention to the announcement on the Liberal Democrat website…in.. of all things… the ‘What we Stand For’ section of the website! Unfortunately, it would seem that Lib-Dem principles have sell by dates….

Foreign Secretary announces funding of £1 million for Special Tribunal in Lebanon

Foreign and BritainisWellHardandOpenforBusiness Office

Law Review: Justice bloodied…and probably bowed

Above the main entrance to The Old Bailey in London, known in more modern times as The Central Criminal Court,  is inscribed the admonition, “Defend the Children of the Poor & Punish the Wrongdoer”

The words come from Coverdale’s translation of Psalm 72 and have great antiquity. The words of course mean more than a cursory read may suggest and embrace the protection of the needy, the poor, the weaker members of our ‘Big Society’, if you will. The wrongdoer is not only the ‘common criminal’.  The wrongdoer may include an oppressor and an oppressor can, of course, include the State.  We must never be seduced into thinking that the CPS and the State gets all prosecutions right.  #twitterjoketrial comes to mind. (Also here: Law Review: Twitter Joke Trial – A travesty… why do we really bother?)  I wonder how much that fiasco cost?

We are asked to embrace David Cameron’s idea of a Big Society;  to help each other, to reduce government, to hand power to the people and we are being exhorted to hold true to the high moral principles which Britain both aspires to and has been known for. Fine words, fine aspirations and fine sentiments – but essentially meaningless unless backed up with money in a field of human behaviour and endeavour  in some respects as important as physical health.  A doctor cannot help with legal advice or representation a person undergoing extreme legal pressure or oppression.

The legal system for ‘Big Society” must be independent of government if it is to work.  Unfortunately this can’t be cobbled together and funded by donations and cake sales at a village fete in the Home Counties and The Shires on a sunny summer afternoon.  It has to be staffed by professionals and that costs money.  I suppose we should be thankful that there are no plans to  have directly elected judges, ‘district attorneys’  and prosecutors, to save a bit of money. Fortunately, justice minister, Jonathan Djanogly, is too busy cutting like someone out at night on Friday 13th, to read my blog.  I would not wish to be credited for putting such an idea into his head.

Who is going to protect the children of the poor, the weaker less advantaged members of society, the innocent, the poor themselves,  if legal aid, is to be cut to the bone? – whether Coalition or Labour government,  I care not who is the perpetrator of this.

It costs money to fund even the most modest solicitor’s office, fund  solicitor’s time or barrister’s time.   Those who rely on legal aid tend not to be consulting the City and Commercial law firms – which, however, contribute in their way to our society by providing experienced lawyers who do many thousands of hours of free legal work for those who need help. (I would not wish twitter trolls and  head bangers to think I had missed the point that lawyers are ‘fat cats’)  Those who rely on legal aid consult lawyers who deal with very real, sometimes very serious and oppressive, legal issues which can seriously affect mental and physical health and even destroy lives.

The Ministry of Justice hopes to save  a great deal of money with these reforms.  Frankly, I would rather see our countrymen and women get help than see money given in overseas development aid to ease the passage of The  Foreign and Britain is Well Hard and Up For Business Office headed by William Hague and promoted heavily by David Cameron. And please… spare me the …we have run out of money bit…. The Ministry of Justice  savings are small compared to the money being made available elsewhere… I am advised…. but could have a very serious impact on the lives of many in this country. Yes, we need to make savings, build our country coffers back up – but these cuts could have unintended consequences for the political and moral health of our country and the people who need the help.

I shall write more on this in the coming weeks…and  I may even find that some of the proposals – funding personal injury cases through No win, No Fee , for example (which I thought was going to be hammered by Jackson et al?) may not be such a bad idea after all.

I do not practise.  I have no axe to grind, no favour financial, political or in career to gain. Nor do I hold a candle for all  lawyers here – especially not the bad, lazy, incompetent lawyers who do not do a good job of representing clients but take their shillings. I do wish to support lawyers who do a good job, especially those who have the interests of our justice system and rule of law at heart.  So I am not out to feather bed my nest through lobbying.  I need not, other than observe the courtesies of good manners, need to be circumspect in my words to power. I am concerned that Ken Clarke’s announcement today on legal aid and justice will have a significant impact on the rights  of a great many in this country and impact directly on the  enjoyment of life for many who simply cannot afford legal advice and representation.

This is not a technical legal analysis… it my ‘starter for ten’ in what I hope will be a serious, intelligent and reasoned campaign to ensure that we keep British justice alive and well for the people who need it.

I’m sorry that my representation of Justice above – she isn’t blind – is a bit bloodied.

And… if you need a bit of ranting polemic…. when a footballer can get £250,000 a week and is pilloried in the press – superinjunctionless, I assume – for not scoring a  lot of goals for his club or country recently, and whose hobby appears to be shagging grannies and tarts, perhaps we need to get a few of our Big Society priorities sorted….and stop all this bollocks about moral compasses and Big Society!   (May as well have a ranting polemic from time to time.  I blame my reading of the online version of The Sun and the comments at 5.00 am)

In the is Nicholas Green QC, Chairman of The Bar on today’s news.

and, of course, this…

Legal aid cuts would remove free advice for thousands of people

Guardian: Family, housing and immigration among the areas from which free legal advice may be withdrawn

From the Law Schools: Tuesday 16th-24th November is BPP’s Law in the City week

Tuesday 16th-24th November is BPP’s Law in the City week – a programme of talks and workshops providing an insight to some of London ‘s legal, financial and business sectors. Around 300 students from BPP’s GDL Extra programme will benefit from first hand experiences of what it is like to work in the City of London – including a talk from the Chief Economist at the Royal bank of Scotland .

Read more….

Blawg Review #290 by Pink Tape is up… and it is excellent.

Blawg Review #290 by Pink Tape is up… and it is excellent.

Read here…

Blawg Review, supervised by *The Mysterious Ed of Blawg Review* was, initially, US centric.  Now bloggers from other jurisdictions are invited to take part.  I have done five..and, despite saying I would do no more last year… I cannot, now, imagine the post Christmas week without writing for Blawg Review on the first edition of the new year… so, like our esteemed DEAR LEADER, Kim Il Clegg.. I went back on my pledge. Mea culpa!

I enjoyed reading this Blawg Review…and I shall work on my tactics with the ducks…and if you want to find out what that means… you’ll just have to read Pink Tape’s most enjoyable  Blawg Review

PS… I nicked the twitter pic from UK Human Rights blog – I go there a lot…you may wish to as well….

Darling…the law courts of England are open to all men like the doors of the Ritz Hotel

Legal aid clampdown will save £300 million

The Telegraph: Sweeping cuts to the legal aid budget which will greatly reduce the number of people entitled to assistance are to be unveiled within days.

Lawyers will, I hope, know that Mr Justice Darling was responsible for the famous aphorism….. back in the early part of the 20th century if I recall.. 1920?… not that I was there then… but I am this time around…. and it doesn’t look great for access to *Justice*.

Remembrance Sunday: A post from @RAFairman – a serving member of our armed forces

Who Do You Remember…?

I like @RAFairman – an enthusiastic and very friendly tweeter.  He is training ready to deploy to Afghanistan in a Joint Organisation with the Army in 2011.  A pleasure to host his piece – but I have extracted only the first paragraphs because I would like you to go to his blog to read the rest of it!

It’s Remembrance Day. At 11 am on the 11th Day of the 11th Month we come together to remember the fallen of all wars.

Today, as I am working with the Army right now we paraded in the local church for a short service of Remembrance.  And of course during this service there was the two minutes silence.  And during this I remembered.

I come from a military family, I am a third generation serviceman. Myself and my brother are/were in the RAF, my dad served in the RAF and my Grandfather served in the Army.  And he served in the First World War.  Fortunately he made it through the war, but died in 1956, years before I was ever born…

Please read the rest of his post

And, on 11th November Oedipus Lex was a guest on my blog with a strong piece of writing.

Breaking Biblical News: And….LO!…Cleggoses led the students into the Broken Promises Land

And this from @suzannemoore197 which I enjoyed reading on the student protests… it had a touch of compassion and common sense about it.  It may not appeal to some  Daily Mail readers and….I quite the idea of looking at realities and facts…. how many of the 50,000 students were violent?… not that many..and were all those who were violent, students?

Stick-wielding Leftie yobs? Not the lovely boys I met at the pub

Are our students taught how to demonstrate properly? Do they understand what a riot is? Do they know the historical context of this British tradition?

I do hope so – and, indeed, if they are ALL doing media studies they will find that every cliche in the book has been mindlessly lobbed at them.

What happened on Wednesday has been ­spoken of breathlessly as both the beginning of the revolution and the collapse of Western civilisation.

Read….the rest of Suzanne Moore’s article?

Law Review: QAA and the role of Judges in that process – Neuberger endorses accreditation scheme for advocates

Neuberger endorses accreditation scheme

The Law Society Gazette

The master of the rolls has given judicial backing to the proposed quality assurance for advocates (QAA) scheme, saying judges are the ‘ultimate consumers’ of advocacy services and are well placed to assess quality.

Speaking at the Bar Council’s annual conference, Lord Neuberger defended the proposal for judicial evaluation in the QAA scheme for criminal advocates.

He said quality advocacy is essential to the proper administration of justice, and that without it the adversarial system could not operate efficiently, effectively or fairly.

‘It should be entirely unsurprising then that judges strongly support the quality assurance scheme and judicial involvement in the assessment process,’ he said. ‘Judges are the ultimate consumers of advocacy services. They are supplied with those services every day and are well placed to tell which advocates are good and which are not. As such, they are essential to the quality assurance process.’

Last month, the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates (SAHCA) expressed concern about the ‘over-reliance’ on judicial evaluation, pointing out that judges have historically demonstrated a bias towards the bar. However, Neuberger said any bias was ‘unacceptable’ and had no place in such a scheme.

Today Michael Robinson of Emmersons Solicitors attended the SAHCA conference on the issue – and, using twitter for a very useful purpose for lawyers – tweeted key points throughout the day…  There are too many tweets to post here…. but here is a pdf of all the tweets extracted from @Emmersonslaw twitter time line on the subject.  With Twitter… you have to start at the bottom of the page and work up…. as the most recent tweets are at the top.It isn’t the neatest document I have produced because I had to delete a great deal of twitter code – but all the tweets are there and fairly quickly after the event.

It makes fascinating reading.

Download pdf of tweets

Look at tweets direct from timeline of @Emmersonslaw (You may have to scroll down if Emmersonslaw has tweeted subsequent to you reading this post)

Hat Tip to Michael Robinson for giving us all a flavour of discussion at what is a very important issue for advocates..

Law Review: Unintended Consequences and The *Saga* of The Imaginary Older/Ordinary Couple #twitterjoketrial

Yesterday Twitter sparked into action and #Iamspartacus and #twitterjoketrial trended all day – and is still trending.  @JackofKent (aka David Allen Green – Paul Chambers’ lawyer) reports that some 20,000 + tweets of the now famously  infamous @pauljchambers tweet about East Midlands airport being ‘blown sky high’  have been recorded.  Jackofkent commented that he may have 20k+ clients if the CPS decides to prosecute everyone who tweeted the original ‘menacing tweet’.

Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!! #IAmSpartacus

The  judge on appeal used the concept of the sensitive old/ordinary couple – another entirely imaginary device in the fine tradition of the *Man on the Clapham Omnibus* to justify her judgment – although, to be fair, I haven’t had the opportunity of reading this judgment.  Has it been published anywhere? [I am advised by Jackofkent that it may just have been a ‘sensitive couple’ and not ‘older couple’  as I have seen reported on the net/twitter – One must be accurate….. but there is nothing to stop an imaginary  sensitive couple being older as in pic…. – I will await JoK’s confirmation of this from transcript – Have amended pic and header accordingly! – The judge may have said *ordinary person / couple…..]

‘I am Spartacus’ goes viral on Twitter

“I am Spartacus” became one of the most used phrases in the world on Friday as thousands of Twitter users protested against the conviction of a man found guilty of threatening to blow up an airport on the microblogging site.


This *case celebre* ain’t going to go away quietly. Concerts for Paul are now being planned.  There is a Twitterjoketrial fund and Stephen Fry has said he will pay Paul Chambers’ fine.

Time, I think for politicians to step in and have a long hard look at s.127…and time for the deft hand of a Red or Appeal judge(s)  to ‘review’ it?

One tweeter has even written an ‘Open Letter’ to the trial judge….


BLOG: An open letter to judge Jacqueline Davies #TwitterJokeTrial
And here is another Open letter

The story even made the New York Times, The Times (The editorial is reported as being favourable to Paul Chambers), Guardian etc etc  and it will, no doubt, make the Sundays.

Careless Talk…

Twitter…. it will drive us all mad in the end! Lord Sugar strikes back!

I do enjoy twitter… but it can be surreal….. this exchange tonight is fairly typical of what can happen.  At least @Lord_Sugar  (It really is him) gets into the spirit of things of twitter….. (nothing ‘menacing’ about that tweet CPS).  I guess @Pinklillycat won’t be applying for The Apprentice 2011.

Might as well toss in some serious politics… being that it is a Friday night…..


Law Review: Magna Carta 800th anniversary – Oh… the irony #twitterjoketrial

Lord Chancellor and Master of the Rolls prepare for Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary

The Lawyer: This morning the Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke QC and the Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger will be among the dignitaries gathered at Runnymede Meadows to kick off five years of celebrations marking the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.

The celebrations will start with a public commemoration of the sealing of the Magna Carta at the site where, in 1215, the barons gathered to petition King John for the first ‘great charter’.

The organisers of today’s event hope that the five-year programme of celebrations will include a commemorative coin and stamp in 2015 as well as a public holiday on June 15th 2015.

Meanwhile twitter is ablaze with the #Iamspartacus hashtag – which, if you are not on Twitter reads as follows…

Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!! #IAmSpartacus

The above is based on the original tweet for which Paul Chambers was convicted.  There have been thousands…perhaps even a hundred thousand or more tweets to this effect. #Iamspartacus tweets on twitter.  It is unlikely that the CPS will be prosecuting everyone for tweeting this.

The #Twitterjoketrial – an issue about freedoms and common sense – is a serious one..  I wrote about this yesterday and to get the full story please follow David Allen Green / Jack of Kent link on the post below.

Law Review: Twitter Joke Trial – A travesty… why do we really bother?

On a lighter note… I do like Ken Clarke QC, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, as a politician. He has been around for a long time and, whether one agrees with his views or not, he seems to impart his beliefs in an entirely reasonable and reasoned way and invites discussion.  Magna Carta is important in our history – even if only three provisions appear to remain in our law directly.  The Coalition government has promised to roll back repressive laws and there is a reasonable belief, on performance to date, that this will be done.   We will see what happens in the coming months.

I also like his hat.  I have a similar one.

Have a good weekend.

PS… the quote in the Ken Clarke bubble in the pic above was from Lord Denning.


HAT TIP to @Loveandgarbage... this Hancock on Magna Carta is a must… if you haven’t seen it!

Law Review: QAA and the role of Judges in that process – Neuberger endorses accreditation scheme for advocates

Neuberger endorses accreditation scheme

The Law Society Gazette

The master of the rolls has given judicial backing to the proposed quality assurance for advocates (QAA) scheme, saying judges are the ‘ultimate consumers’ of advocacy services and are well placed to assess quality.

Speaking at the Bar Council’s annual conference, Lord Neuberger defended the proposal for judicial evaluation in the QAA scheme for criminal advocates.

He said quality advocacy is essential to the proper administration of justice, and that without it the adversarial system could not operate efficiently, effectively or fairly.

‘It should be entirely unsurprising then that judges strongly support the quality assurance scheme and judicial involvement in the assessment process,’ he said. ‘Judges are the ultimate consumers of advocacy services. They are supplied with those services every day and are well placed to tell which advocates are good and which are not. As such, they are essential to the quality assurance process.’

Last month, the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates (SAHCA) expressed concern about the ‘over-reliance’ on judicial evaluation, pointing out that judges have historically demonstrated a bias towards the bar. However, Neuberger said any bias was ‘unacceptable’ and had no place in such a scheme.

Today Michael Robinson of Emmersons Solicitors attended the SAHCA conference on the issue – and, using twitter for a very useful purpose for lawyers – tweeted key points throughout the day…  There are too many tweets to post here…. but here is a pdf of all the tweets extracted from @Emmersonslaw twitter time line on the subject.  With Twitter… you have to start at the bottom of the page and work up…. as the most recent tweets are at the top.It isn’t the neatest document I have produced because I had to delete a great deal of twitter code – but all the tweets are there and fairly quickly after the event.

It makes fascinating reading.

Download pdf of tweets

Look at tweets direct from timeline of @Emmersonslaw (You may have to scroll down if Emmersonslaw has tweeted subsequent to you reading this post)

Hat Tip to Michael Robinson for giving us all a flavour of discussion at what is a very important issue for advocates..

Law Review: Twitter Joke Trial – A travesty… why do we really bother?

David Allen Green (Jack of Kent) will, I am sure, cover this.  He has been involved right from the beginning.  So all I will say is that I am very sorry that our legal system does not seem to be able to accommodate a joke (albeit, not a great joke) and that our laws, designed to combat terror et al, seem to have handed a victory to terrorists in the sense that *British fair play* appears to have gone out of the window with this verdict.  I am also sorry for Paul Chambers who now has a criminal record confirmed.

The judgment should be interesting….. It appears that the Court thought @paulchambers tweet was ‘obviously menacing”… I must not, of course, (Being interested in the *Rule of Law*) prejudge the publication of the judgment (*Assuming one will – unlikely) … but… I will in the sense of commenting on the *situation*…. and  if our courts really think the tweet Paul Chambers posted on Twitter was a real threat and ‘menacing’  (Police/Airport staff did not appear to do so) then we really need to do some serious thinking about our civil liberties, our freedoms, and our stance on terror…

This is a disgrace and undermines my faith in our legal system…and, I suspect, many others will be of this view as well.

A lot of people do a great deal to support our legal system; the lawyers who work for not a lot of money at the coal face of daily law, government, those who support the  the ideals of democracy – this case – judging by very obvious anger on twitter – has done a great deal to undermine  public faith and belief in  not British justice… but justice in England & Wales… (Scotland has a different legal system – Also Northern Ireland)


I won’t be arrested for saying this (I  assume.. although nothing is certain, it would seem) …. I won’t be prosecuted for saying this (ditto) …. I do not practice… so I can’t even be censured… (pretty sure on that one).   We really do need to sort our legal system out if it can bring about such an absurd and unjust result….. even if *The Law* justifies the decision of the judge as framed… if that is the case.. we need better laws..and we do deserve them.

Remembrance Day – a guest post from OedipusLex

Agro belgico…
Oedipus Lex

It is with honour and a great sense of trepidation that I have been asked to write this short piece on Remembrance Day. As I sat at my computer I wondered how I could possibly do justice to such a theme, I can’t but I can at least try and explain what it means to me…

Let us put the charity aside for a minute and concentrate on the topic. We can ignore the tub thumping jingoism, grim faced politicians and the donations of profits from memoirs; what does that red flower mean? To me it is apolitical and I think this is the most important point to remember. I admire and support anyone wearing the white poppy, really I do, but I think it misses the point slightly. Remembrance Day and the symbolism that goes with it is not about the rights or wrongs of wars it is about the wrongs, it is about the people who died in them not the causes they were killed for. I will always avoid using phrases such as ‘Died for his country’ or ‘made the ultimate sacrifice’ because, for me, this implies that all the wars in which our young have died have been worthy of sacrifice; some have but we need to be very honest and admit that the overwhelming majority have not been.

War is hell. It is horrific and is the ultimate example of our failings as a society. Those that died were victims; they may not have been innocent, they may have been brave, they may have been guilty, they were often stupid and quite possibly they were the vilest individuals to walk the earth. However, that does not make them any less a victim of something that was not of their own doing, they were sent to face the forefront of scientific, processed, mechanical destruction and they did not return.

Every red poppy I see on a lapel encourages me. It means you remember people like my great-great uncle Walter who died in the trenches; you remember Mac, Stew and Cocky who were killed in Afghanistan last year and Steve who killed himself after numerous tours. For me Remembrance Day is just that, it is to remember. It is to think of those that are not here today to be with their families or who never had the chance to have a family. It is not just to think of those that died from our own countries, think of the lost of in Baghdad, Basra, Helmand, Belfast, Freetown, Berlin, Oman…

What Remembrance Day is not is a time to celebrate our martial prowess and we should be very careful of that. They are not ‘our brave boys’ they were boys, just boys. Do not turn this into a circus or pantomime but use it as a time to be thankful that you are well and your family are with you. Be grateful it is not your son or daughter that has been killed to sate another man’s ego but think of those who have and never, ever believe the old lie: Dolce et decorum est pro patria mori…


Please do take time to read *Fragments* by Oedipus Lex – beautifully written. (and also extremely funny……well some of them..others are serious)
Thanks OL – Charon

Law Review: 1 Crown Office Row UK Human Rights blog on Woolas

The UK Human Rights blog from 1 Crown Office Row is an excellent resource for lawyers and non-lawyers…Rosalind English  has shed a bit more light on the Woolas case and has come up with some serious ‘food for thought’.

I wrote about this last week…. and I am more than happy to do some more thinking after reading…..

Analysis: Phil Woolas loses his seat and has judicial review refused

Law Review: Torture and waterboarding – A line in the Sands?

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

Albert Camus

George Bush announced on Monday that he authorised the use of waterboarding.  Many in our country applaud him, including parents of the victims of 7/7. I suspect, if there was a straw poll, that a significant majority would support the use of torture when interrogating terrorists. They say that a majority in Britain would be happy to see the return of the death penalty.  Does majority rule make it right?

I can, of course, understand and sympathise with the emotion and the concept that it is better to torture a terrorist to obtain information than to let people die. We can all understand the concept.  We can all sympathise.  But does that make it right? Does it reduce us to the same level as those who commit acts of terror against us?

We are signatories to The Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention prohibits the use of torture. Waterboarding is within the definition of torture.  Our government, confirmed recently by the head of MI6, Sir John Sawyer, will not employ torture in the interrogation of terrorists or prisoners of war.  It is possible that some members of our armed forces will stand trial for war crimes.

Phillipe Sands QC, professor of law at University College London and author of Torture Team, writes in The Guardian today…

Although it comes as no surprise, George Bush’s straight admission that he personally authorised waterboarding – an act of torture and a crime under US and international law – marks a dismal moment for western democracies and the rule of law. When again will the US be able to direct others to meet their human rights standards? Certainly not before it takes steps to bring its own house in order.

Bush claims that the use of waterboarding on Abu Zubaydah “saved lives”, including British ones. There is not a shred of evidence to support that claim, one that falls into the same category as the bogus intelligence relied on to justify war in Iraq.

The article is worth reading in full.

For my part, easy though it is from the comfort of my desk – a freedom enjoyed by the blood of our forbears in World Wars and recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, lives lost and destroyed through severe injury in all our wars and  to be respected at 11.00 tomorrow and on Remembrance Sunday – but I believe in the Rule of Law and I believe we are stronger as a nation, as a people, for not reducing ourselves to the level of those who seek to cause us harm.

The difficulty is… that it is easy to have fine sentiments when one has not been the victim.  But then I am reminded of the remarkable courage and dignity of the parents of Linda Norgove, killed in Afghanistan recently.  Their dignity and compassion inspired me.

Law Review: Supreme court rules expenses MPs must face trial

Supreme court rules expenses MPs must face trial

Guardian: Highest court in UK dismisses argument that expenses issue should be covered by parliamentary privilege rather than legal system

The supreme court has dismissed claims made by David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine that they should not be tried in a criminal court because their expenses are covered by parliamentary privilege.

All three deny theft by false accounting over their parliamentary expenses and their legal team has argued that the investigation and any sanctions should “should lie within the hands of parliament”.

The supreme court – the highest court in the UK – ruled they were not protected by parliamentary privilege. They will now face separate trials at London’s Southwark crown court, the first of which is due to begin on 22 November.

Nine justices fast-tracked their decision today to avoid overlapping with the criminal proceedings and will give their reasons for the ruling at a later date.

The Justices of The Supreme Court will provide reasons for their decision shortly

Law Information for practitioners: New drugs and alcohol advisory board


A new Hair Strand Scientific Advisory Board has been established by UK-based Trimega Laboratories. Its purpose is to analyse the fast growing database of information created from the 10,000 hair alcohol tests and 7,000 hair drug tests carried out in the UK each year, of which Trimega Laboratories is responsible for around 40%. As well as being the world’s largest resource relating to substance abuse from both hair and blood tests, the database also contains vital self-donor reporting information. This will assist the Board in analysing what drink and drugs individuals say they have consumed in relation to what is found in test results.

Furthermore, the database gives the Board unique access to historical information relating to the ‘combined marker’ hair alcohol testing system. This system, which measures both EtG and FAEE markers in hair, has become the UK courts’ preferred method for accurately determining long-term alcohol misuse. As a pioneer of the ‘combined marker’ system, Trimega Laboratories has been using it to compile valuable information around alcohol trends and demographics for the past three years. Indeed a smaller subset of this information, which looked at 644 cases relating to child protection in UK courts, was published in 2009* and contributed to a joint consensus being adopted by leading scientists from around the world…..


Law Review: The Party is OVER!

Ditch legal aid for ‘planes and trains’, chairman tells Bar conference

Solicitors Journal

In a speech subtitled ‘There’s no more money’, Bar Council chairman Nicolas Green QC has urged barristers to distance themselves from legal aid work.

Green’s calls to modernise, made at the annual Bar conference, included orders for publically funded sets as well as “smug, complacent” barristers to seek work abroad instead.

“I regret to say – because doing publicly funded work is a noble cause – that the Bar will need to diversify away from legal aid work,” Green told members of the Bar on Saturday.

“This is inevitable and many sets are now doing just this. The reality is that legal aid will shrink significantly and there will be long-term pressure on rates.”

With apologies to Donald Duck…. who didn’t take to waterboarding like a f**k….

George W Bush claims UK lives ‘saved by waterboarding’


WOOLAS LATEST: The Guardian pictures shock horror!

Probably not the most flattering pictures The Guardian could have chosen see here and here for source of pics above.

Phil Woolas case: Speaker puts Oldham East rerun election on hold

Speaker will wait for court to rule on attempt by former minister to overturn ruling expelling him from Commons before announcing decision on new election

I have to admit that the decision of Mr Justice Silber today refusing judicial review took me by surprise – but as the judges were sitting as High Court judges and not ‘election commissioners’ (see Afua Hirsch below) the High Court cannot judicially review itself. Confused?  I am not a specialist in Constitutional law – and, clearly, know even less about Election law.   Fellow law bloggers on Twitter did admit that the law on the Representation of the People Act is hazy and unclear – so I don’t need to drown my legal sorrow.

Here is the judgment of the two High Court judges in the Watkins v Woolas case. HT to @Heresy_corner for the link.

Mark Pack put up the Mr Justice Silber ruling on judicial review this morning.

Phil Woolas case is becoming increasingly confusing

Analysis: No one seems totally clear whether or not the decision to strip the former minister of his seat is subject to judicial review

Afua Hirsch in The Guardian…..

Law Review: Legal education – What is marriage? – Journalist faces jail in Singapore for criticising judiciary

Law Review: The Bar’s moral obligation to the number of new, Called, barristers

My post on this issue on Saturday has generated both interest and interesting comment. The full text of Nicholas Green QC’s speech to the Bar Council is here.  Nicholas Green was right to initiate debate.  I have a view, but it is a very complex issue and I am interested in the views of students, academics and practitioners.  If you have time and the inclination, would you be kind enough to read the post and the comments thus far and comment here? (I permit anonymous comments)

“What is Marriage? What should it be?” A summary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law’s Opening Event

Family Law is not a field I know a great deal about – but I am delighted to link to Natasha Phillips’ excellent summary of this event.  Her blog is a very good resource for Family lawyers.

On Tuesday 2nd November, the newly established All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and The Court of Protection (“The Group”) held its first open event in The Grand Committee Room at the Palace of Westminster. This was a debate on the future of ancillary relief and focused on the philosophy of marriage as the starting point for the discussion.

The Group invited guest speaker, Mr Justice Mostyn to lead the debate. Mr Justice Mostyn has long been regarded as the leading family lawyer of his generation and now sits as a High Court judge in the Family Division. Joining him on the panel were Baroness Deech, acting as Chair for the evening and John Hemming MP, who introduced Mr Justice Mostyn to the audience with an engaging summary of the judge’s career and hobbies.

Mr Justice Mostyn’s Speech

Natasha Phillips’ full summary

Alan Shadrake faces Singapore jail term for criticising use of death penalty

Guardian: Contempt of court conviction for British author whose book fiercely criticises Singaporean justice system

I have had the pleasure of teaching law to a great many Singaporean lawyers.  I know Singapore well. I like Singaporeans and their country.  As a child I went to school there.  My parents were expats in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Singapore is a highly sophisticated country – a small state, but a very powerful economic powerhouse in South East Asia. Outsiders may feel that the legal regime is strict with elements of a police state about it.  Many Singaporeans would not agree. Their legal system, based on the English Legal System, departs, however,  from the English system in terms of the death penalty and the harsh regime of caning for a wide range of offences. It has also been fairly intolerant in recent years of external and internal criticism as the Shadrake case  and other recent cases reveal.

Judges in England & Wales have to put up with a great deal of criticism – some,  detailed professional and academic analysis of their judgments;   other criticism, perhaps less analytical, from the Press and some quite offensive from the tabloids when the tabloids think judges are being soft on criminals or the topic of human rights comes up.  We tend not to imprison those who are critical of our judges here.  Judges tend to limit their public speeches to the major issues.   Contempt of court tends to be limited to clear acts of contempt in the courtroom and is exercised infrequently.

There is every prospect that Shadrake could be imprisoned…. as The Guardian reports, he is prepared to take that chance:“As he waits to learn his fate, the former Fleet Street journalist, who arrived in Singapore in 2002 to write travel articles for the local tourist board, admits to fantasising about swimming along the causeway and over the border to Malaysia, visible from his hotel room.

But he has no intention of fleeing: “I am prepared to go to jail: if I apologise, or try to abscond, it means I lied, that I got my facts wrong.”

Perhaps the Singaporean judiciary will reflect that Singapore is a mature, international, society well able to cope with external criticism without resorting to jailing journalists (or their own people) for daring to be critical?  We shall see.  I hope they take the mature approach.  It would be a travesty to jail someone for being objective and critical of a legal system – particularly if, as Shadrake maintains, he is only pointing to the truth.

If Singaporeans are happy to live with hard laws –  that is their prerogative as a democratic state.  Do they have the right, however, to prevent intelligent debate and criticism from outsiders?   I don’t approve of the death penalty.  I accept, however, that democratic countries have the right to decide on their laws – but that still doesn’t prevent me from expressing a critical and alternative point of view and it doesn’t make the death penalty *right*.

Postcard From The Staterooms: Raymond Chandler edition…

The law isn’t justice. It’s a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.
Raymond Chandler

Dear Reader,

I spliced the main brace last night in a bar and ended up three sheets to the wind. The broad I met in the bar  was taken aback. From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away. Thought I was for the high jump when I lurched past a cop working undercover in a PCSO hi viz jacket.  As Raymond would have said…He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food. It was cold enough outside to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. I was at a loose end,  and our work is, after all, money for old rope. Hadn’t had a square meal for hours which is probably why I was over refreshed… Normally, of course I accept all drinks invitations at the drop of a hat and I am sure  a friend who was holding a goddam fireworks party  took my excuse on the phone that I was on a CIA Extraordinary Rendition flight  with a pinch of salt.

But hook or by crook, I was determined to get to a bar for a spot of grog. Needed a hair of the dog anyway, but at the risk of flogging a dead horse and not wishing to be a fly in the ointment I did make the call to excuse myself from my friend’s soiree en famille avec le fireworks… I don’t do en famille…period.  I made my way over the water to get to the bar at World’s End.  I used the bridge.  I save the Jewish magic tricks for Easter.  I don’t have feet of clay and these days one has to stand up and be counted, throw one’s hat into the ring…. you understand, I am sure. Anyway… I would not be worth my salt if I had chickened out of hitting the bar. I grasped the nettle, knowing that I would not have to pay through the nose there and it is not as if I had drunk a Mickey Finn…

And talking about Mickey and his Finns…. today I woke up in the dead of dawn and took a walk along the river.  It was cold, but it was quiet…and I turned up my collar.  The homburg kept my thoughts and heat in my head.  I read Raymond Chandler as a lousy kid…and when I say lousy… these were middle class lice… some of them had even been at Eton judging by their effortless arrogance as they scrummaged in the Wall Game of  my hair.  OK… I may be lying… about the lice…. but at least I am not a prospective parliamentary candidate for a part of Oldham...wherever that is.

Raymond…. we got on first name terms when I was young….even though I never met him….. Raymond could be rude about the English…. “The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.” I’d say that was fairly rude…. but he had a good way with phrases…” She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.” I was younger then….. These days when a broad smiles… I check behind me…..and if no-one is behind me I check to see if she is wearing a parking attendant outfit.

On that note…. I leave you with one final Chandler quote…. one of my favourites… “Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.”

Best, as ever…have a good week

Charon in a hat

The quotes and sentences in italics are pure Raymond Chandler….

And now for some *Real Life* – Sally Bercow and Mr Speaker according to The Daily Mail… wonderfully British…… barking…

H M Government: Britain leads the world in new GREEN energy source

It had occurred to me that IDS / Coalition plans to put people on benefits to work could cause a few Human Rights issues.  Kris, who commented, suggested that we look at Article 4 !   I may do some proper thinking and research on this shortly…..


Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits slavery and forced labour. Conscription, national service, prison labour, service exacted in cases of emergency or calamity, and “normal civic obligations” are excepted from these definitions.

Article 4 – Prohibition of slavery and forced labour1. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. 2. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour. 3. For the purpose of this article the term “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:

a. any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5 of this Convention or during conditional release from such detention;
b. any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;
c. any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;
d. any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.

Law Review: The Bar’s moral obligation to the number of new, Called, barristers

Today, the Bar held its annual conference – there were even some tweets on the #barconference2010 hashtag – not that many….but a few.  There are not that many tweeting barristers…or, if there are, they weren’t at the Bar conference tweeting.

Nicholas Green QC, the Chairman of the Bar Council of England and Wales,  discussed, among other matters,  the Bar’s moral obligation to the number of new, Called, barristers….

“The genetic makeup of our young practitioners is alpha class, but to my mind the statistics reveal both a moral and an economic problem which we have neither grappled with, nor properly understood.

“Morally, I have real qualms about a system of education which encourages universities to educate more and more law students, because a law student can be generated at virtually zero marginal cost.  These students leave university with substantial debts, often exceeding £30,000.  They then invest further in professional training only to find that the door into the profession is very small and the waiting room massively overcrowded.

“At one level, the oversupply of young lawyers intensifies competition for places, helps maintain quality and creates a paralegal workforce, which keeps costs down.  On the other hand, to a profession which places such a premium on ethics, I cannot but feel that there is a moral dimension to our work which we are overlooking.  This seems to me to be one of the major issues of the day and one which the profession needs to grapple with sooner rather than later.”

I understand that some 2000 students each year are now doing the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) for roughly 500 pupillages and roughly 250 tenancies.  [The Bar Council has contacted me to reveal that Tenancy / pupillages are roughly in line.  I was going on figures I had been given earlier in the year from other sources] Given that there are a lot of unsuccessful candidates from earlier years, who still wish to pursue a career at the Bar (and there are others who have not found other legal or other work), the problem is growing.  No doubt, the transcript of Nicholas Green QC’s speech will be available next week on the Bar Council website.  Until then, I make some tentative observations.

1. The Bar is (and many would say, always has been) a competitive profession.  I discussed this issue with Nicholas Green QC in a podcast earlier this year. Should the Bar or the regulator, The Bar Standards Board, try to control entry to the profession and deter those who, knowing the facts, wish to become barristers?

2. Students do have a right to enter the Bar side of the profession and, provided they are given the full facts about the ‘odds’ and difficulties, is there really a moral dilemma which could lead to ever more restrictive entry barriers?

Dealing with the related, but separate, point raised by Baroness Deech, Chair of the Bar Standards Board, on the outrage she is reported as feeling that law schools are charging £15,000 for the new BPTC.

Two points – not all law schools are charging this high fee – but, it does seem to be the case that the leading providers, at least in terms of numbers: BPP Law School, College of Law, City Law School and Kaplan, are charging at, or near to, that level.

The law schools will argue that the costs of running a course for modest numbers (There are 8 providers sharing the recruitment pool) justify such a high level of fee.  Given my background in education, and understanding of the need of law schools to generate profits, I would imagine that some providers are making a good margin.  I would hazard a reasonably honed guess (given that I used to do budgets for BPP in the very early days) that a margin of 25% would not be unrealistic.  It may be higher.  That is a very fine return on investment if my speculation is anywhere near accurate. I would be delighted if the law schools would correct me on my speculation – but I suspect that figures will not be forthcoming.

So, let me be provocative and suggest that they may be making as much as 35%+ return – the big providers more?  –  and see if that brings refutation with detailed figures. I would be delighted to be proved wrong – for if the big law schools can prove that they are running at very low profit margins or at a loss, then Baroness Deech’s reported outrage is irrelevant.  I suspect that smaller providers (Nottingham, Northumbria et al), tacking the BPTC onto their overall provision, are not making a profit or a substantial profit.  Their justification for running the course is that they wish to be a full service provider of legal education from degree to professional stage and budget accordingly.

A side point – if Baroness Deech is, in fact, outraged as reported by @legalfutures (above tweet) then it raises the role of the Bar Standards  Board itself.  Should they have a power to control the fees charged? The BSB does not appear to have that power.  In fact, they don’t seem to have that many powers generally in relation to controlling providers, short of the nuclear option of withdrawing accreditation.  The BPP Law School over subscription problem on the BVC  two years ago is illustrative of this?

There is no doubt that lecturers and directors at BPP Law School and the College of Law are well ‘compensated’.  But the old adage of peanuts and monkeys is apposite.  Do we want future lawyers trained by lower quality professionally qualified staff – assuming, of course, that legal education is not a wonderfully constructed gravy train?

I shall be most interested to read Baroness Deech’s statement on this issue.  I assume that it will be published.

The dilemma for the Bar is that it is vital that future barristers are properly trained. Chambers, unlike the very big law firms, cannot contemplate handling complex legal training on their own.  The Bar is, therefore, entirely reliant on providers to provide this stage of legal education and leave the Inns and Chambers to provide more advanced training at the coal face during the pupillage stage.  Unless, of course, the Bar returns to the days of one provider controlled – and subsidised? – by the Bar.  I doubt whether the Bar has the appetite to take on the burden of subsidising the training of future members beyond the provision of scholarships and bursaries.  Again, I could be wrong.

As Nicholas Green QC said…“This seems to me to be one of the major issues of the day and one which the profession needs to grapple with sooner rather than later.”

Many students are watching… and I certainly am…

I shall write again when the full speeches / reports  from the Bar Conference are available.


UPDATE Monday 8th November 2010

The Bar Council has given some further very useful statistic on pupillage / tenancies

Nicholas Green QC speech to Bar Council conference in full (and other speeches)

My thanks to @BarCouncil for providing this information.

My thanks also to all who have commented – it is an important issue and your comments give a a flavour of ‘sentiment’ on the issue.

Nicholas Green QC’s speech is interesting… particularly this part… I quote

I simply do not accept the “volenti” argument, that students know the risks and voluntarily assume them. However much the profession or even the educational establishments attempt to tarnish the rose tinted picture of the prospects of success, young, enthusiastic and aspirational young people still come forward. A review of the websites of the educational establishments makes it quite clear that stark realism is far from being the order of the day.

If this is the view of The Bar Council and The Bar Standards Board – then, surely, Competition law which may prevent them from regulating (a) the number of new providers and (b) numbers applying to the Bar, won’t prevent them from regulating more clearly the information which providers (and universities which provide qualifying degrees?) must provide to prospective barristers?

I do think the law schools have a moral duty to provide clear information on the realities….

Law Review: Woolas case – An infringement on freedom of speech? You’re having a larf, Guv

Phil Woolas ejected from parliament over election slurs

The Guardian: Court ruling that former immigration minister lied about his Lib Dem opponent triggers a by-election in Oldham East

I don’t propose to cover the issue, save for a few observations below.  The press reports (Guardian above) do this fully.

Section 106 Representation of the People Act 1983 (c. 2)

— (1) A person who, or any director of any body or association corporate which—

(a) before or during an election,
(b) for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election,

makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate’s personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, that statement to be true.

The solicitor to Mr Woolas, Gerald Shamash, according to The Times ‘insisted that the ruling was an infringement on the rights of free speech’.  This, of course, is arrant nonsense.  We do not have a right to go around ‘freely’ telling lies about other people for political or other advantage.  I do not criticise Mr Shamash for making this statement – he must represent the interests of his client, including brand and image management?

The Times editorial took a similar line on the freedom of speech issue “The suggestion that erroneous campaign statements should be open to juridical interpretation is a thorough danger to the process of free speech”.

Last night there was a fair amount of criticism on twitter that the democratic process was being undermined by ‘unelected judges’.  The fact of the matter, determined by two High Court judges appointed to sit in a special election court, is that Mr Woolas was found ‘knowingly to have printed two untruths’.

The Representation of the People Act 1983 was enacted to protect the democratic process.  As with all laws, it was enacted by Parliament. Most legal disputes in our country, should there be a breach of criminal or civil law, are dealt with by judges.  The separation of the Judiciary from the State is a healthy part of all mature democracies.  Ipso facto, it is illogical to complain when ‘unelected judges’ do what they are supposed to do and ‘judge’.   The decision is not subject to appeal but may be subject to judicial review.

Mr Bercow, The Speaker, has a difficult task on Monday – to postpone the by-election pending the outcome of judicial review. We shall see what he says.

I have some sympathy with the line that exchanges between candidates at election time can be vociferous and even quite unpleasant – but Parliament in its wisdom determined that a criminal offence is committed when a person….“makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate’s personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, that statement to be true.”

I have some sympathy with the line that other parliamentary candidates may have engaged in brutal electioneering – but they were not the subject of complaint. Mr Woolas overstepped the mark and  now faces being stripped of his seat.  I cannot, for the life of me, see how committing a criminal offence of this nature infringes freedom of speech as currently defined by ‘reasonable men and women’.

If Parliament, in its wisdom, wishes parliamentary candidates to be free to lie about each other without criminal sanction and the interference of ‘unelected judges’ or wishes to enshrine the ‘right to lie’ as one of ‘the freedoms of speech’ – it is a fairly routine and simple process: Repeal the Representation of The People Act 1983.  Parliament is, after all, ‘supreme’.

Alternatively, let Parliament deal with these matters of dodgy practices between honourable members and potential honourable members.  After all, they made a good job of dealing with their expenses last year.

And…. while we are on the subject of *Rights*…. please have a look at this excellent round up from The UK Human Rights blog – always an excellent read!

Human rights roundup: Control orders, Google rapped and Henry VII clauses

Muttley Dastardly LLP Episode 7: The Partners meet……


A group of 24 suited men are seated in the Muttley Dastardly LLP boardroom next to the penthouse office of Muttley Dastardly LLP managing partner, Matt Muttley.   There are no women partners at Muttley Dastardly LLP. It is unlikely that there will be in the  future.  There are no female solicitors at Muttley Dastardly LLP.

Time is money and money is time. There is a hissing sound.  A panel in the wall opens.  Matt Muttley walks into the boardroom, followed by his PA, Eva Braun. She is dressed, elegantly as ever, in a Thierry Mugler suit and black court shoes.

Below is a transcript of the Partners meeting….

Muttley: Gentlemen, good morning.  Turmoil continues in the legal world, to our advantage.  The Coalition continues to scythe through perfectly sensible ideas in their ideological quest for small government.  The Supreme Court, once ‘under review’ as a quango, appears to be spared.  Legal Aid is a shambles and Ken Clarke may well preside over the biggest release of prisoners since The Great Escape.

“Law firms need to be ‘porous, virtual, multi-sourced, adaptable and agile”. – Gentlemen…these words were not spoken by some professorial guru on the make for his next gurubook on how to run law firms.  These words were spoken by the Linklaters’ head of strategy and business transformation Rupert Egerton-Smith

I have spoken with Dr Strangelove, our beloved fellow Partner and head of strategy, and I agree with his analysis that these words mean that the big law firms are also concerned that the gravy train of the last decade, the stampeding bull run where even the most mediocre lawyers In The City could bathe in champagne, is coming to an end.   Some of the leading law firms are even warning…. more of an apostatic gnashing of teeth than apostolic conversion or Damascene revelation… that there are too many lawyers.  We would never suggest such a thing…. the maxim ‘never apologise, never explain’, is always a wise one when it comes to talking to the legal press.  The fact that law firms are suffering will not gain much sympathy with the public.  We do not give the public any information apart from strategically prepared disinformation and we only give people satisfaction when they pay for it… preferably on account or in advance.

Inevitably, the new sharp MBA suited brigade in  the Law Schools are onto the matter…. never let it be said that we at Muttley Dastardly would be critical of law schools et al finding rich new sources of highly paid course design and consultancy work. The Law Society Gazette…I read it so you don’t have to…. reports…  that these ‘porous’ law firms… whatever a porous law firm is….will have to develop a whole set of skills apart from law…..and I quote…“Their skill-sets will need to include people skills, coaching, mentoring, leadership, delegation, project management, sound financial acumen, time management – to name but a few, says Jason Maley, director of professional development programmes at BPP Law School: ‘They will also need the ability to think strategically and laterally to take advantage of new regulatory flexibilities and opportunities offered by technology.’

Given that many lawyers, let alone law students,  are not known for their mathematical abilities, think that management is done in some back office by *Untouchables* and many have the bedside manner and communication skills of the lead character in “One Foot in the Grave”, this could be a most amusing entertainment to watch.  The good news for us is that this will put further pressure on law firms at a time when money is tight because they will have to pay fantastic fees for this latest ‘gurudom’ and it will also cut into their billings time.

Gentlemen…. as you know, we have a very simple strategy at Muttley Dastardly LLP…  Partners supervise, associates work, trainees assist and my team does the management.  We call it ‘Focus on the Bottom Line’.

Gentlemen…, let me quote another passage from The Law Society Gazette article….which, I hope, will give you comfort for our future….

For those who feel their prospects are poor, training in business development and marketing skills is essential, says Professor Penny Cooper, associate dean of the City Law School: ‘The more clients you win and keep, the better your prospects, while knowing how to market yourself will ensure your prospects remain good.’

Other critical areas are strategy, people management and managing risk, says Colin Davey, director of business development at the College of Law: ‘They are potentially a passport to work elsewhere. Those who have had good incomes during better economic times may need to dig into their own pockets for worthwhile training.’

Is this not wonderful?  Students are going to be encouraged to train in additional fields, lawyers are going to be spending time, at great expense, developing their skills, so they can work elsewhere when they get fired…as, ineluctably, will happen if the law firms can’t afford to keep them on.  Think about it, Gentlemen… if you were running a serious business, would you want to hire a lawyer to operate in your business division who has half baked skills in business, who can barely count, and whose head is full of ‘guruspeak’?  If we want our people to learn about business, we’ll buy Lord SirAlan Sugar’s new book and require them to read it on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Gentlemen… a pleasure as always.  That is all. I know that you have no questions…so all that remains is for me to bring proceedings to a close.  Gentlemen… Strength and Profits!

Muttley turns and walks towards the wall.  The hidden panel opens with a hiss and Muttley walks back into his office.  His PA, Eva Braun, smiles at the Partners, turns and follows Muttley.  The hidden wall panel closes with a hiss and The Partners return to supervise their divisions in the light of this latest Intel briefing.




With thanks to Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark,, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims

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Law Review: Guest Post – Right to protest at party conferences challenged by ignorance

Right to protest at party conferences challenged by ignorance
Iain Gould of DPP Law is a solicitor specialising in actions against the police.

Protesters at the recent Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham have been making their voices heard about, among other things, the proposed high speed rail link between London and Birmingham and job cuts. The right to protest is enshrined in European and English law, but, as specialist actions against the police solicitor Iain Gould explains, it can be easily undermined by police ignorance…

I was approached by Audrey White after she was involved in an anti-war protest at the Labour Party Conference in September 2008.

I learned that Mrs. White is an exceptional businesswoman who has travelled all over the world. Now retired and living in Liverpool, she has dedicated the last nine years of her life to campaigning against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, taking a prominent role in the Stop the War coalition. She is well regarded by the police, having taken an active role in organising previous demonstrations and working with senior police officers to ensure that protests were conducted peacefully and properly.

At the protest in Manchester, Mrs. White was invited to meet politicians as part of a delegation and acted as a steward due to her seniority. Knowing that publicity was important for the campaign, she had a banner-sized Bank of England mock cheque made up payable to the ‘Oil Companies and Arms Industry for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq- the sum of 12 billion pounds, the blood of one million Iraqis and the deaths of 300 British soldiers’ signed by Gordon Brown. She also wore a Gordon Brown facemask which she later shared with others. The publicity stunt was well received, with Mrs. White appearing at the front of the protest.

The protest went off without incident until near the end when Mrs. White was suddenly approached by a female police officer and ordered to remove the mask. When she declined, two female police officers pulled it off her head, dragging Mrs. White to the ground.

Mrs. White suffers from low bone density and injured her neck and back in the assault. The police confiscated the mask, but she was not arrested. She was in pain, upset and humiliated. Audrey told me that the Stop the War coalition is committed to peaceful protest. She was worried that the police’s action undermined this and gave the wrong impression.

The following day she formally complained about her treatment to Greater Manchester Police. As is usually the case, the internal investigation found against her. The police said that their action was reasonable, necessary and proportionate.

Mrs. White refused to let matters rest. She instructed me to pursue an actions against the police claim for damages and seek an apology.

The police denied liability on the grounds that they were exercising a power to remove disguises under s.60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This is intended to prevent people from hiding their identity where an officer of the rank of inspector or above believes that activities in his area may involve criminal offences. If used, it entitles the police to remove disguises using reasonable force.

The police claimed that they had intelligence that anarchists were operating at the Stop the War demonstration, and that teams of protesters were wearing masks to conceal their identity.  Their security concerns were unfounded. My client, a 5 ft 2 in retired woman, was the only one who took a mask to the protest that day. She passed it to others, including her brother, as she felt that the photographs would look better if a man was wearing the mask. No known anarchists were involved in the otherwise peaceful protest.

On review of the police officers’ notebooks I identified inconsistencies. The most crucial of these was that the police officers did not state that they believed that the mask was a disguise for the purpose of concealing Mrs. White’s identity. She (and others who wore it) had been taking it in turns to wear the mask throughout the day without challenge from the police in attendance. There was no reason for the female police officers concerned to believe that she was attempting to conceal her identity.

By forcibly removing my client’s mask I asserted that the police had breached her right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. In this view I was supported by the comments of Judge Newman in the case of DPP-v-Avery (2001) who stated that ‘the wearing of a mask can be a potent means of demonstrating in a lawful manner.’  Whether by ignorance or design, the police failed to grasp that wearing a mask in these circumstances is both legal and an exercise of the right to freedom of expression, including the right to express political opinions. By removing Mrs. White’s mask, they suppressed this fundamental human right, assaulting her in the process.

Although the police denied liability, following discussions with their lawyers they accepted that their officers were wrong to remove the mask. Greater Manchester Police have apologised in writing to my client for this and paid an undisclosed amount in compensation plus legal costs.

I am concerned that over the past few years there has been a steady erosion of our civil liberties. Matters are made worse when the police go over and beyond the extensive powers they now have. This case reminds us that we must all fight to preserve and maintain our fundamental right to freedom of expression of opinion.

Iain Gould is a solicitor specialising in actions against the police.

Law Review: Prisoner votes – A Phyrric Victory?

Prisoner votes: killer John Hirst celebrates with ‘champagne and a spliff’

The Telegraph

The UK government says it will comply with the ECHR judgment – but the decision, judging by twitter and media responses, is not popular.

John Hirst celebrated with a video last night.  The irony is that his *crowing* in the video may irritate some and trivialise and demean the issue.

I suspect that the Prime Minister will have to consider more engagement with Hirst….given this tweet from @jailhouselawyer (John Hirst) tonight. ?

You may find the podcast I did with Carl Gardner of some interest.

And.. while we are on the subject of unpleasant behaviour – although this is serious if proven…

The Guardian reports tonight…..

Mark Saunders officer ‘planted song titles’ in evidence

• Firearms officer used song titles in inquest evidence
• Marksman may have fired shot that killed Mark Saunders
• Songs included Enough is Enough and Point of No Return

A Metropolitan police firearms officer who may have fired the shot that killed barrister Mark Saunders has been removed from firearms duty after allegedly inserting song titles into his oral evidence at the dead man’s inquest.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it is investigating the unnamed officer, who gave evidence as Alpha Zulu 8 or AZ8, after it emerged that he had been reprimanded by his superior shortly after giving evidence on 27 September.

Saunders was shot dead by firearms officers in May 2008, following a five-hour armed standoff at his flat in Chelsea, west London. Last month a jury at Westminster crown court ruled that the barrister, who was an alcoholic and armed with a 12-bore shotgun during the siege, had been killed lawfully.

The inquest heard that AZ8, who was stationed on an adjoining conservatory rooftop was one of two officers who may have fired the fatal shot.

An examination of the transcript shows that evidence given by AZ8 contained a number of phrases which are also the titles of songs, including Enough is Enough by Donna Summer, Point of No Return by Buzzcocks, Line of Fire by Journey, Quiet Moments by Chris de Burgh, Kicking Myself by As Tall As Lions and Fuck My Old Boots by the Membranes.

Sources close to the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, said he was “furious” that anyone could show such “insensitivity and lack of judgment” during the high-profile hearing.

Full story….

Breaking News: Theresa May calls upon us all to fight The War on Toner

It is always pleasing to see our rulers with their eye on the ball……  That is all.


BREAKING NEWS: A leg, detached from the knee, but including the knee, with a leopard skin ankle boot attached, was seen flying over The Thames from Westminster this afternoon.  Home Secretary  is recovering well, they say, after a bout of kneejerkitis.

The War on Toner continues…..

Muttley Dastardly LLP Episode 6: Report on the state of legal education in England & Wales from Dr Erasmus Stranglelove


Report on the State of Legal Education in England & Wales: Legal Practice Course

Dr Erasmus Strangelove LLB, JD, BCL, Ph.D, Barrister
Partner and Director of Strategic Development


I have been asked to brief on aspects of legal education in England & Wales and advise on a number of opportunities which may present in the light of the state of the market and the current economic climate.

The Legal Practice Course

Figures released recently for 2009 show that 9,954 students enrolled on the LPC. Of those that took the final examination, 5,824 passed, a 75% pass rate.  No-one seems to have a clue how many training contracts there are for 2010 yet (5809 for 2009 is given), nor the precise figure backed up in the system for students in the last two to three years who failed to secure a training contract. No-one seems to have a clue as to how many ILEX students  are obtaining contracts. There are no figures available for students passing the LPC at a second sitting.  Rachel Rothwell, writing in The Law Society Gazette, states…“The Law Society’s annual report does not specify how many traineeships were available in 2009, but in the previous year (August 2009 to July 2009), there were 5,809 new traineeships – almost exactly the same amount as the number of LPC graduates who passed first time last year.”

Ms Rothwell adds: “Kevin Poulter of the Junior Lawyers Division estimates that there are now between 10,000 and 20,000 LPC graduates currently looking for training contracts, although a letter in this week’s Gazette suggests that the real figure is lower.”

My observations on this may be summarised thus:

(a) With 10,000 students annually chasing 6000 training contracts (A figure which may well reduce as Tesco Law reduces the need for ‘lawyers’ with ‘sophisticated’ or, indeed, any legal qualification) there is, clearly, an over supply of young potential lawyers.  The law schools appear to be doing their bit by failing 25% of LPC candidates reducing numbers to a ‘politically acceptable norm’. It is surprising that the fail rate is so high.  The LPC is by no means an intellectually demanding course, the candidates are law graduates and they have paid (or firms have paid) fees of £8000 ++ for the privilege.  From this, I conclude that the university law schools and LPC providers are taking on too many students – I haven’t been able to find any pass/fail statistic on leading law school websites although, I understand, students are given some mumbo jumbo about ‘Things being difficult’ – fail rates ‘may’ be being made clear to students before they part with their money? I suspect that this may not, however, be the case. Further investigation is needed on this point.

(b) Traditional universities, newly keen to get into the very lucrative post Browne fees feeding frenzy (Law is a popular cash cow with Vice Chancellors) will not be too keen to have publicity on an over supply of law graduates because this will impact on their own law student recruitment.  An astonishing number of universities – some I have not even heard of until recently – are now running law degree programmes.

(c) Given that students have to get a minimum of  a 2.2 (although, frankly, this is a certificate of incompetence) to get into a Legal Practice Course Farm  these days –   the chance of a student getting a training contract with a 2.2 from The University of Lakeside Thurrock and Bluewater et al is remote. It would appear, given degree inflation and the entrance requirement of the aforesaid LPC providers,  that the chances of not getting a 2.2 are remote.  Ipso facto, it follows  that some not terribly bright law students are getting degrees which are not worth that much in practice and are then going on to LPC providers and handing over substantial sums of money only to charge  into the valley of examination death to be cut down in their prime by the examiners.  Some survive this horror only to re-take (at a fee, one presumes?) and leave their provider with another certificate of incompetence.  Who, after all, will employ a person who passes the LPC  on a re-sit when there are so many people who pass first time to choose from?  I understand that students who secure 2.1 degree passes from the top universities tend not to fail the LPC and, not surprisingly, are better placed to get training contracts.

(d)   BPP Law School is opening three new centres: Cambridge, Liverpool and Newcastle.  This could well put further pressure on the public sector LPC providers who can’t compete with BPP at present on money resources and may also encourage The College of Law into a tactical retaliation on  the old “me too” school of management thinking. And so the continuing tactically applied pressure on the public sector continues.

(e) As we only take people from a very select group of universities, specifying a minimum of a high Upper Second,  and play the LPC providers off against other to get the best fee deals because we don’t actually care who teaches our trainees the LPC –   it only take us a month to unteach them and train them ‘in our ways and means’ when they arrive here – I can see no immediate risk to us in the light of this latest information on the parlous state of legal education.

(f) Amusingly, it would seem from Rachel Rothwell’s article  that the SRA does not have power to limit LPC places.

Dr Erasmus Strangelove

Strength & Profits



With thanks to Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark,, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims

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