Law Review: Facebook contempt – John Hemming MP breaks injunction again – Privacy Law

While I am more than happy for those who believe in what they believe to continue to do so without fear of harassment – I am not too keen on the idea that any religion should be a foundation or principle of consideration – in the promulgation or application of our law.

I read an article in the Law Society Gazette by Andrea Minichiello Williams this morning.

Ms Williams states… “I believe Christians are seeing the beginnings of persecution in the UK because, as a nation, we have forgotten our history, our heritage and our Christian foundations. For hundreds of years most of the great advances in public life, in health care, education and social provision, came as a result of Christian conviction that cares for the good of all. Social trends have come and gone, but the Christian foundations of our country are what have maintained true tolerance within our society, the dignity of every human being and great public service.”

While she makes good points about discrimination, these are, surely, already addressed by legislation?   I can see no justification, in a largely secular state, for any religion, to be given specific protection and I certainly do not feel comfortable with suggestions that sharia or jewish (or any other religious) codes be permitted to stand alongside or, worse, above our own common and parliamentary enacted law.

I am not prepared to accept at face value Ms Williams’ bald assertion…“The secular movement is a variant of the man-made philosophies that failed in the last Century – humanism, fascism, communism.”  I am not at all convinced that most atheists or secularists, for want of a better word, have been influenced by any ‘movement’, or wish to join such a ‘movement’.

Laws should be enacted for the benefit of society as a whole.  I would hope that our law makers and judges put aside their specific religious beliefs – which are not followed by the majority in this country – when enacting or applying our laws?

The UK Human Rights blog has an interesting post on Facebook and contempt of court….

Silence please: A Facebook contempt of court – allegedly

Heresy Corner – a blog well worth reading, particularly if you are a lawyer, has an extraordinary piece today…

Charging Alfie Meadows

The news that Alfie Meadows, the student who suffered a near-fatal brain injury during last December’s central London protest, is to be charged (along with several others) with the serious crime of “violent disorder”, has been greeted with predictable outrage on Twitter and elsewhere. It was my reaction, too, late last night….
To strike a topically Orwellian note, this chilling prosecution (it seemed to me) summons up a future of a boot stamping repeatedly on a human face – and then putting the face on trial for boot-obstruction.

Read….

Premier Grand Cru blogging from Carl Gardner on  John Hemming MP and breaking of superinjunctions

John Hemming, sub judice and the public interest: “no abuse of parliamentary procedure?”


On a similar note… The Ministry of Truth states….

Hemming is, in my opinion, wholly unfit to hold public office and his actions yesterday stand as a flagrant and unacceptable abuse of parliamentary privilege.

I am with Carl Gardner on this one.  I would prefer Mr Hemming to focus his attention on breaking superinjunctions where there is (a) a legitimate public interest, and (b) where there is no risk of ‘sensitive’ issues of family law being compromised?

Lord Neuberger MR is soon to publish a paper on the use of superinjunctions.  I doubt if the recommendations will include ‘abolition’, but we shall see soon enough.  The  issues of privacy law and libel reform (sometimes conflated  by the press and others) both need parliamentary attention.

Joshua Rozenberg, writing in The Law Society Gazette, has a thoughtful piece and sums up the point with the title of his article: Privacy law, not injunctions, should be on press’s agenda

It is not the injunctions that the press should be attacking, nor the judges who are bound to grant them.

It is the law of privacy, developed by the courts with parliament’s acquiescence.

Lord Irvine, the lord chancellor, alerted parliament when he introduced what became the Human Rights Act, requiring our judges to take account of European court rulings on the human rights convention.

Irvine told the Lords on 24 November 1997 that ‘the judges are pen-poised, regardless of incorporation of the convention, to develop a right to privacy’.

Irvine stressed that the judges were free to develop the common law in this direction.

The issue as ever, perhaps an issue which cannot be reconciled easily, is the balancing of freedom of the press and a right to privacy when conduct is not ‘a matter of public interest’.

Legal Profession Law (4): Jeremy Hopkins, Practice Manager, 3 Verulam Buildings

Today I am talking to Jeremy Hopkins, a practice manager at 3 Verulam Buildings, the Chambers of Ali Malek QC – a leading and well known commercial set.  Given the recent TV programme Silk (and the arguably  better version of Peter Moffat’s writing, North Square – both series featuring extremely cunning clerks at the very centre of the action… I thought it would be interesting to get an inside track on this world from Jeremy…. but first……. I would like to get a view on the real world of practice managers / clerks,  the state of the legal profession today and his thoughts on the changes to the legal landscape coming in the wake of the the coming into force of The Legal Services Act this autumn.

Listen to the podcast

Has Charon died..and gone to *Legal Hell*……?

While I am happy to support (any) government against the absurd posturing of the tabloids on law, the rule of law and their agenda to control…[‘UNELECTED JUDGE’ FOUND ON THE MOON yada yada blah] I do wonder, sometimes…. if our modern politicians (who make the laws)… actually know any law / much about law or Constitutional history.

Our prime minister, David Camerondirect (TM), has come up with a few *stunts* in recent months which reveal, to my jaded eye, that law was not an option he took at Oxford or… frankly… which he has been over concerned with in his subsequent quest to lead our Scepter’d Tory-led Coalition fudg’d up isle.  I refer ‘members to  a blog post I made a few moments days ago’…. on privacy, prisoner votes… do I really need to mention any more examples?

Anyway.. there we are… if you want to listen to Professor Vernon Bogdanor on BBC  iPlayer talking about his new book…. The Coalition and the Constitution… without punting relentlessly,  like @Lord_Sugar on strong coffee, (Bogdanor didn’t appear to punt his book at all) … but talking some real…realpolitik…. sense.. try this short 15 minute programme.  You may not agree (and I didn’t agree with all the points) .. but… it was a pleasure to watch and listen to.

Link to BBC iPlayer Prog… may not be up for much longer… but it is tonight

***

Amusingly… Professor Bogdanor’s Wikipedia entry reports (I cannot verify the veracity of any Wikipedia entry – but, more often than not/ fairly often, they are fairly accurate?)

Professor Bogdanor has, however, expressed reservations about certain policies of Cameron’s, notably his proposal for a British “Bill of Rights”, about which Bogdanor said, “I believe it’s ill thought-out and confused…. He [Cameron] may have forgotten some of the things I’ve taught him. I’d be happy to give him a few more tutorials on civil liberties.”

Bogdanor taught Cameron at Oxford.

Law Review: Agadoo-doo-doo, push pineapple, shake the tree…

High Court judge ‘sits’ in Tenerife: Sensitive child protection cases will be heard by telephone in hotel room

John Bolch, over at Family Lore takes up the issue…. with this pithy view: Perhaps not the best decision…

I have absolutely no idea if complex family matters can or cannot be dealt with by telephone and email.  But  The Mail on Sunday does report.. “Lawyer Mark Stephens, who has been involved in many injunction cases, said: ‘If you are going for an injunction over the Easter Holiday you will be going for one which is very important and can’t wait for someone to fly back from Tenerife to hear the case.”

BUT!…. Mark Stephens is reported as saying that he does find it remarkable that a judge can go away at this time.  Being blunt.. I am more surprised by the choice of destination.  Magaluf next?  Ibiza?  I don’t think we need to fear the imminent collapse of the family legal system.  The President of The Family Division, who is not in Ibiza or any other Club 18-30 party island resort… is available to deal with matters which require a judicial presence.  I will add, that practitioner friends of mine in family and other fields do not see this as an issue and gave the view that the judge could easily deal with most matters by email and telephone, should the need have arisen. So… another non-story from the Tory press, putting the boot into the legal system?  Mostyn J was a very experienced and successful family silk (QC).  I hope he will go on to be an equally successful judge.  I am more than happy to parody The Daily Mail for this nonsense.

In the meantime….. I rather like to imagine His Lordship enjoying his break and singing…  ( I fear… it unlikely, however)

Agadoo-doo-doo, push pineapple, shake the tree,
Agadoo-doo-doo, push pineapple, grind coffee,
To the left, to the right, jump up and down and to the knees,
Come and dance every night, sing with the hula melody.

UPDATE

I had an interesting and friendly exchange of tweets with Mark Stephens.  Mark Stephens is stating the norm for duty judges in the Daily Mail piece. Mark made the point that The Daily Mail did not  explain to him, during his interview, that Sir Nicholas Wall had agreed to cover.  Mark tweeted to me that he had even ‘(ventured) that other judges could cover’. This puts a very different complexion on the use of a quote from a well known lawyer.

While Mark stated in a tweet to me that I did not need to put an addendum to my post  because his ‘shoulders were broad enough’ – which I have no difficulty in accepting – the point I am making is that it is important, I believe, for newspapers with reach (and The Daily Mail certainly has a long reach with a large readership) to get the story right.

If Mostyn J could handle most matters from Tenerife by email – and the President of The Family Division was able (and prepared) to give cover in person, should the need arise –  what is the problem?  (May I make clear  that I like Tenerife. The reference is to the party island style – hence the disco graphic!)


Postcard From The Staterooms: Urbi et Orbi and *Contra Mundum* edition

Dear Reader,

Being an atheist, I tend to find myself at a bit of a loose end on these extended Easter weekends… and…as I well know.. the devil makes work for idle hands.  I did, however, have an amusing Good Friday morning.  I decided that I would get into the spirit of things by having a breakfast of Rioja and hot cross buns.  I only do this on high days and holy days…and it certainly made my Good Friday morning more amusing than it might otherwise have been.  After all… I had not, previously, thought it would be a good idea at my age (or, indeed, at any younger age) to learn to be a tap dancer.

Google threw up some wonderful stuff.  After watching an ‘introductory film on the basic steps’, I rather lost patience. I am a bloke.  I don’t read instruction books.  Google then threw up some excellent videos of Gene Kelly tap dancing on roller skates, and, of course… the classic ‘Drinkin’ In the Rain’.  It was but moments before I graduated, assisted by another large glass, to “Puttin On the Ritz’. 

And now… I am a tap dancer.  Not a lap dancer… as a  friend of mine on twitter first read my tweets on the matter.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement on Thursday last on privacy law – described by David Allen Green in our Without Prejudice podcast as ‘legally illiterate’ (rightly) – continues to arouse ridicule, hyperventilation by those who support him,  and sane critical legal analysis by people who do actually know what they are talking about.

This informed piece by INFORRM – is a good one to read…. Case Law: OPQ v BJM – a privacy injunction “contra mundum”

And, as always, The UK Human Rights blog has a considered and accurate view.  Adam Wagner politely puts the boot in and reminds the prime minister that the ‘unelected judges’ (Do we really want ‘elected’ judges in this country – gawd help us?) are not actually running amok making new laws on a whim.  They are, in fact, applying the Human Rights Act according to the law and will of Parliament. But why let a mere detail get in the way of grand standing at election time when the ravening horde at the tabloids need feeding with a bit of raw meat?

Gagging on privacy

For my part, I don’t have any interest in knowing the name of the footballer or the actor involved in the latest superinjunctions. Lawyers have suggested that Eady J and others ‘may be over reaching themselves’.  Certainly ‘contra mundum’ – against all the world – is more of a legal fiction than a practical reality.  Whether judges like it or not, there is no practical way of enforcing breach if publication is in a foreign country – even if the writ of the English trial judge ran throughout the world.  It doesn’t.  It is, they say, fairly straightforward to discover identities of *The Superinjunctioneers* by using the net.

David Allen Green, Carl Gardner and our guest, former Lib-Dem MP Dr Evan Harris, considered the vexed issue of privacy law and the balancing of interests in our latest Without Prejudice podcast.  You may care to listen?

While The Bar may well have an oversubscription problem for the time being… the law schools are hyperventilating with this revelation by Alex Aldridge…

From oversubscribed to undermanned: are we facing a shortage of lawyers?

The Guardian: Since the Law Society’s 2009 warning that the profession was oversubscribed student numbers have fallen, possibly too far.

I shall do some serious thinking on this.  I am planning a podcast with Professor Richard Moorhead of Cardiff Law School.  Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law, has expressed enthusiasm for a podcast.. but I think it may be time to ask Des Hudson, Chief Executive at The Law Society,  if he would like to do his third podcast with me to get a balanced view.  I’m on the case.

Meanwhile… in VocationalWorldLand…  – a magic place reached via a bank manager’s office –  this… from RollonFriday.com

Exclusive: College of Law cancels JD course as no-one turns up

“The College of Law’s much-vaunted Juris Doctor (that’s the US legal qualification) course is not going to be running this year, allegedly due to low student take-up.  Sources have told RollOnFriday that the course – meant to be running for the first time in June this year – has been dropped and that students who had signed up were told that this was due to “low enrolment“.

Read…

Ex-offenders handed tents to live in

This story was drawn to my attention the other evening by  fellow tweeter @davemsund

Inside Housing reports: “Homeless ex-offenders in Nottinghamshire are being issued with tents by the region’s probation service.

The service confirmed it gave tents to five people last year when hostel accommodation could not be found.

Peter Anthony, accommodation, benefits and advice officer with Nottinghamshire Probation Service, said it would prefer stable accommodation for ex-offenders. But he added: ‘When there simply is no other option we will, if it is appropriate, provide a tent and sleeping bag.

‘If you send someone away from the office into the night and they have literally got nowhere to go, the chances are that they will commit offences.’ Mr Anthony added that bed spaces in the region were reducing due to the closure of a number of hostels. ‘This year we expect it [the use of tents] to increase exponentially,’ he added.

Read…

I am no expert in sentencing, probation, rehabilitation of offenders et al but…surely.. we can, as a vaguely civilised nation.. do a bit better than this?   This is a disgrace.  Funding is a problem… but do we really want to see ex-prisoners pitching tents in parks and then try to get jobs in the hope they can maintain themselves – somehow – to avoid re-offending.  I mention this latter because I am (obviously)  under the mistaken belief that The Ministry of Justice wants to reduce costs, reduce re-offending and bring ex-prisoners into the Big Society as useful tax paying members of the community.

I haven’t really got the enthusiasm to even vote on #No2Av / #Yes2AV (but I shall vote NO…. I like FPTP) – but bringing buffoons like Nick Griffin into the debate is just daft.

Well…. that’s about it for my postcard.  I may write another one tomorrow…… I wish you all a good Easter… and.. if you are on twitter... do please remember…. look on the bright side of life…

Best, as always,

Charon

I’ll leave you with this… which I knocked up some time back…..

#WithoutPrejudice Podcast 4: Twitter Joke Trial – Privacy Law – Freedom of Speech – Judicial review – Referendums and the Law – Law of Royal Succession

#WithoutPrejudice Podcast 4: Twitter Joke Trial – Privacy Law – Freedom of Speech – Judicial Review – Referendums and the Law – Law of Royal Succession

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

Our guest tonight was Dr Evan Harris  (Follow on Twitter?  @DrEvanHarris )

Useful links: 

Twitter Joke Trial

Privacy law should be made by MPs, not judges, says David Cameron

Judicial Review: The British Telecom case decided Thursday 21st April 2011 on the Digital Economy Act 2010

The Law of Royal Succession

***

I’d like to thank Lawtel, WestlawCassons For Counsel, City University Law School David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Inksters SolicitorsIken, LBC Wise Counsel, Carrs Solicitors,  JMW Solicitors – Manchester, Pannone and Cellmark for sponsoring the podcast  – and the free student materials on Insite Law – appreciated.

Lawcast 183: Nichola Higgins, Chairman of The Young Barristers Committee on the new CPS panel – Career at the Criminal Bar – Legal aid issues

Lawcast 183: Nichola Higgins, Chairman of The Young Barristers Committee on the new CPS panel – Career at the Criminal Bar –  Legal aid issues

Today I am talking to Nichola Higgins, Chairman of the Young Barristers Committee. On the 30th March of this year, the CPS announced:

“The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is today (30/3/2011) launching a new scheme for the delivery of prosecution services in court. All advocates undertaking prosecution work in the Crown Court (and Higher Courts) from October must be members of new, quality-controlled CPS Advocate Panels. The panels will be open to all barristers and solicitor advocates, and panel members will complement and work alongside CPS in-house advocates. Although the overall number of advocates on the panels will be reduced compared to the current lists, selected advocates will have more opportunity to undertake prosecution work. All current counsel lists will be abandoned when the panels commence on 1 October.”

We also looked at the broader health of the Criminal Bar, the impact of legal aid and  the prospects for students contemplating a career at the Criminal Bar.

Listen to the podcast

Nichola Higgins Chambers website entry

***

And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.co.uk and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors , Contact Law UK Solicitors

for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law

Breaking Wedding News: PM Dave *The U-Turn* Camerondirect to wear tails after all.. who’d have thunk it?!

The Daily Telegraph reports… with appropriate solemnity….

David Cameron will wear tails to royal wedding after all

Daily Telegraph: David Cameron is to wear a morning suit – and not a lounge suit – to the royal wedding, it was disclosed today.

The issue of the Prime Minister’s attire had become one of the most hotly-debated subjects in the build-up to the big day after Downing Street said he would be wearing a work-style suit.

He was said to be sensitive to opponents trying to portray him as “a toff”, following the publication of pictures of him wearing a white tie and tails when he was a member of the Bullingdon Club dining society at Oxford.

But after criticism on radio phone-in shows and in newspapers of his decision to dress down, The Telegraph has learnt that he will now wear a morning suit after all.

Insiders claim Mr Cameron was not consulted about what he would be wearing and that his advisers made the decision for him – a decision they have now come to regret.

A source close to Mr Cameron said: “Of course he’s got to wear tails. He knows that. He’s the Prime Minister, it’s the Royal family, there will be foreign dignitaries present and it is only proper that he dresses for the importance of the occasion.”

I shall, of course, be wearing tails… I’m making several now for the happy day…. one will look like a donkey’s tail… the other?  Any ideas?

On another note… this amused me.. from The Shropshire Star!

Blog: No win, no fee? No chance

You have to admire their impertinence. Almost three years after a council vehicle tapped a lorry belonging to S&S Scaffolding Ltd, its three occupants took the local authority to court to request compensation for whiplash injuries they claimed that they had received in the incident.

Law Review: The future of legal education is a shopping trolley?

Frank Zappa had a point when he said…“If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library. “

I’m in the midst of a series of podcasts and blog posts about the future of legal education.

Lawcast 175: Professor Gary Slapper, Open University, on the reform of legal education

Lawcast 172: On the reform of legal education with Scott Slorach, College of Law

Lawcast 171:  Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law

Lawcast 170: Professor Richard Moorehead, Cardiff Law School, University of Cardiff

Two weeks ago I talked to Baroness Deech, Chair of The Bar Standards Board.  In the course of our podcast conversation, we touched on the reform of legal education being undertaken by the profession. I asked her what she thought about the agenda of the big vocational law schools and the role of the profession in the academic stage of legal education provided by the universities at degree level.

I believe  I  summarise her view fairly by saying – that while it is acceptable for the profession to lay down minimum requirements for a law degree which the profession will accept as a ‘qualifying law degree’ for the vocational stage, she did not feel it appropriate for the profession to interfere with the curriculum or teaching of law in the universities at the degree stage.

I agree with her and have some concerns at the attempts by the vocational law schools to set the agenda for the future of legal education to their world view; a world view which, is, inevitably, geared to their growth, profit and development.  I have no problem with them making profit – but I advance an argument that they should stick to their own ‘vocational / practice course’ sector or, if they wish to advance (in) to the academic stage of legal education, they do so on the same basis as our major law universities –  with the same ethos and resources and ethic of research.

Of course, with the current fiasco on university fees – with the majority of universities rushing to charge £9000 or, subtly, just below £9000 –  one could argue that all legal (and other university education) is becoming ‘commercial’.  It would not surprise me if universities start to drop ‘unprofitable courses’ (Here is one example) – and, therein, lies poverty of the spirit of our future culture, arts, history, philososophy et al? That issue, I will have to address at another time.  My focus here is on legal education and, I fear, I may be wasting yet more time by charging at a windmill on a horse with a wooden lance.

Nigel Savage, CEO of the College of Law, wrote in November of last year on his new College of Law blog:  “The problem with lawyers is that when they are confronted with a problem, their training and instincts are to look for a precedent from the past rather than to confront and embrace new ideas and thinking. To borrow a quote from Henry Ford that Richard Susskind recently used in a report for The College of Law, ‘if I asked my customers what they wanted – they would have said faster horses!’.”

He then went on to say, remarkably...“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.”
Nigel Savage does not take into account in this statement the fact that nearly 50% of students who read law at university do so with no intention of practising law.  They have other motives – some of which may even be for ‘liberal education’, philosophy’, interest, history and the like.  I doubt they would find a ‘fast track’, possibly ‘dumbed down’ practice oriented fois gras stuffing exercise at degree level, an attractive item to spend £9000  on at a Russell Group university – (More at BPP, College, Cardiff, etc etc – the vocational law schools?).  In any event….why would a A*A*A* candidate want to do a law degree at the ‘new universities / new colleges with degree awarding powers’ – when they can take their pick from the top 20 UK universities?

For my part, we need to ensure that the big vocational law schools are confined to their own ‘quarters’; providing vocational education geared to the basic  needs of their City, commercial and high street clientele and that they, and the professional bodies, keep to the minimum input and advice on the content of law degrees as they have for some time – with some success.

If law firms really want their trainees to be ‘fast tracked’ through law studies – and, I suspect, that many will not – because they want to ensure that their future lawyers are well educated – then, so be it.  Reap as ye sow. Anecdotal evidence is always dangerous.  I recognise that – but I do recall talking with Melvyn Hughes, then managing partner at Slaughter & May, over ten years ago when I did a report on the Legal Practice Course for the *Magic Circle* firms (which they commissioned). He told me that it was imperative that their trainees were well educated at university (and not just law graduates), had good research skills, and, if they did read law, knew some good ‘black letter law’ – because law is a cerebral activity, founded upon intellect and reasoning.  He expressed the view that the firms were best placed to teach trainees the skills of practice as their lawyers progressed through their careers.  Other experienced educators in the Magic Circle told me that the LPC is but the second rung on the ladder. One, told me the LPC was a basic foundation of ‘practice oriented’ skills and basic knowledge of practice.  The firms will do the specialist training. Despite the ‘puffery’  of the vocational law schools in their prospectuses:  I suspect, for many practitioners, the knowledge they learned on the LPC (or BPTC for barristers) is of little use to them when they actually start to practice law and the reality is that they learn on their training contracts and pupillages  – and throughout their careers – what legal practice is actually like? ?  I am advised, anecdotally, that this is a widely held view by younger lawyers and older, more experienced, lawyers.

Why, therefore, would or should we allow the vocational law schools – or the professional bodies for that matter – to interfere in the study of law at the degree or academic stage?  We could end up with a seriously diminished and damaged academic resource.  I wonder, even, how much knowledge the vocational law schools and professional bodies actually have of legal research and the teaching of law as a liberal study’? Perhaps they can tell me?

And then, of course, there are other ‘difficulties’?

The Guardian reported a few days ago…

Private university company under investigation for deceiving students

“US government probes Apollo Group, owner of BPP University College, over admissions and financial aid practices”

Carl Lygo, CEO of BPP and Principal of BPP University, has stated that BPP is UK run and UK managed.  I have absolutely no doubt that he is correct on that.  Unfortunately, his US parent company, Apollo, has had a few problems – widely reported in the press.

Did the Tory-led Coalition rush into education change here by giving BPP the honour and benefits of university status within weeks of not winning an election outright?  – and having to promulgate policy with the benefit of the Lib-Dems – a party not exactly venerated throughout our sceptred isle  for going back on the pre-election ‘Pledge’ on student fees.   The Government appears to have done so on the public sector university fees issue with the majority of universities – even some at the ‘lower end’ of the league table – wanting to join the party and charge the maximum £9000 or close to it?  Unintended consequences?  We see this fiasco played out on national television and in the press daily at the moment.  It would be amusing… if it was not so important.  We shall see, soon enough.

For the avoidance of doubt – I do think that the vocational law schools at LPC and BPTC level do a pretty good job covering their remit as prescribed by the professional bodies.  The fees are pacy (£15k+ for the BPTC in some cases) – but that is a different issue.   Students may not always agree – or, even, enjoy the experience.  There are many student discussion boards which paint a slightly different picture from the glossy law school prospectuses… inevitably?

I don’t have all the answers.  I merely put forward some direct observations – and I may well be ‘past my sell by date’.  I am happy, as always, to be advised and for contrary comment to be put.  I still have enthusiasm to learn and reflect and, even, change my mind if the evidence and argument is persuasive.

***

The Guardian reports…

Carl Lygo Q&A: What will higher education look like with a larger private sector?

Kim Catcheside talks to Carl Lygo principle (sic: The Grauniad really does the biz on typos)  of BPP University College and the chief exec of BPP Holdings PLC about his visions for the future

Interesting – well worth a read.

Law Review Guest Post: David Allen Green on The Twitter Joke Trial

Twitter Joke Trial update

BY David Allen Green, solicitor, New Statesman blogger and author of The Jack of Kent blog

In May 2010, Paul Chambers was convicted at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court of a single offence under section 127(1) of the Communications Act 2003 in respect of sending over a public electronic communications network a message of a menacing character.  He was fined £385 plus £15 “victim fee” and £500 prosecution costs.  He lost an appeal to Doncaster Crown Court in November 2010.

This “Twitter Joke Trial” case is now infamous.  The supposedly menacing message was in fact an exasperated jest.  Paul did not want an airport to be menaced.  He certainly did not want it closed, as he wanted to fly from there so as to stay with a new girlfriend.  He did not send the communication to the airport or use its formal Twitter name.  He sent it only to those of his few hundred followers who happened to have been reading his tweets at the time.  He didn’t give it another thought until, one fine day, a number of Doncaster police attended his workplace to arrest him.

The next step in the case is to appeal to the High Court using the rare procedure known as “appeal by case stated”.  This is essentially an appeal on points of law.  Paul’s appeal will be on the basis that the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts misdirected themselves as to the correct tests for “actus reus” (the culpable facts) and “mens rea” (the guilty intention) as well as misapplying Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  The High Court appeal should be heard later this year.  Thanks to the Twitter Joke Trial Fund  and a fund-raising and celebrity-studded concert held on Friday, Paul is now in a good position for this appeal. Ben Emmerson QC and other barristers have been able to put together a strong 32 page “skeleton argument” – a benefit which most criminal appellants do not have, let alone one who has not incurred a custodial sentence.

Why does all this matter?  This case is an outrage because it shows the casual way the British state can impose criminal liability (and Paul has now lost two jobs because of his conviction and may never be able to work as an accountant again); because it shows that the law enforcement agencies do not understand social media and also do not have senses of humour or of proportion; and because it shows that a good and decent person can, with the help of others, make a stand and say to those who wish to use the coercive power of law that such an abuse of  legal power is wrong.  Paul, like the libel defendant Simon Singh,  is a person caught up in the absurdity of how the English legal system deals with what should be a matter of simple free expression.  And like Simon he intends to use the English legal system to put things right, when previously the system has got things horribly wrong.

***

UPDATE

David Allen Green has now posted on his own blog… this important update…

Twitter Joke Trial: the case stated by Doncaster Crown Court

We shall, I hope, discuss events briefly in our Without Prejudice podcast this week.

Useful links:

Concert write-up with audio interviews

Comedian Stephen Fry has said he is “prepared to go to prison” over the “Twitter joke” trial.

One of the pleasures of law blogging and twitter

It only took me a year to post it (mea culpa)…and the British postal service took four weeks to deliver it from Battersea to New York... but I am delighted that my *Social Media Maven Pronounces 2010*  F**kArt  finally reached my fellow law blogger Scott Greenfield – a  New York defense lawyer (sic) and author of the  Simple Justice blog.

We share a taste for parody / questioning law social meedja mavens?

Rive Gauche: The Era of the high-rolling criminal barrister is over!

Friday has arrived rather more quickly than I anticipated, but that being so… it must be time for a view from ‘Rive Gauche’.

It has been an interesting week.  The Daily Mail was able to publish a judge friendly story with this nonsense…

Judge’s anger after three scaffolders make £70,000 injury claim for van crash – at 1 MPH

Needless to say, the judge was not impressed. The Daily Mail reports: “Now a judge has thrown out the action after hearing from two expert witnesses.   One, an independent engineer, said that the damage sustained by the lorry would have cost no more than £300 to repair.”

The era of the high-rolling criminal barrister is over

Alex Aldridge writes in The Guardian: “A handful of criminal barristers still make big money, but the rest may have to diversify if they want to eat”

As it happens, I am doing a podcast with Nichola Higgins, Chair of The Young Barristers, on Wednesday about the new CPS plans and the pleasures and difficulties of a career for young barristers at the Criminal Bar.  I am looking forward to it.

I hadn’t started on my London Marathon final preparations, by opening a bottle to breathe, when I read this wonderful stuff from solicitor and fellow blogger David Allen Green in the New Statesman…

Should Oxbridge be abolished for undergraduates?

The Friday Question: why not turn Oxford and Cambridge into postgraduate universities?

I shall have to ask David for the telephone number of his vintner when we next meet to do a Without Prejudice podcast.

And just when one thought that social meedja could not get any more bizarre…. this…

Lawyers Who Ignore Social Media Equal to Cavemen Who Refuse to Hunt, Techshow Duo Says

“Social media is to marketing what email is to business communication.” This bold analogy on the importance of building an online network of relationships underscored the discussion of co-presenters Robert Ambrogi and Reid Trautz at ABA Techshow on Monday on ways to use social media to boost your overall reputation and marketing scheme.

With the proliferation of websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Avvo, Facebook or any of the hundreds of other online communities, today’s lawyers can no longer rely on static websites to generate business and enhance reputations. The duo’s No. 1 bit of advice? Start a legal blog…

I think it is a great idea to start a blog.  It isn’t easy to keep a blog going, as some have found..  The danger, of course, arises when the blog becomes a vehicle for law firm or personal practice puffery and little else.  The Twlawyer knows all about Linked-In, Tweeting all night using a buffer app and knows how to do the biz and really make a pig’s ear of it.

A rather more sophisticated (and interesting) analysis of the value of social meedja et al to lawyers came from the blogger Legal Brat, GC to the FT.

Cowsourcing: let’s share nicely children

Thousands may sue over police kettling at G20 protests

The Guardian: “High court rules way in which police kettled up to 5,000 demonstrators at G20 protests in April 2009 was illegal.  Thousands of people found by the high court to have been illegally detained for hours by police at a central London protest may sue Scotland Yard for false imprisonment. The high court has ruled that the Metropolitan police had broken the law in the way it kettled up to 5,000 demonstrators at the G20 protests in April 2009.”

While the decision is specific to the G20, I suspect the met Police may well find difficulties arise in future over the use of this tactic?

Ever reliable for bizarre news of goings on in the legal profession, RollonFriday. com has this today…

Law firm wants to hire magician

A firm in south west London is looking to recruit a property lawyer who can perform magic tricks whilst pitching to clients.
RollOnFriday was alerted to the unorthodox position when a job ad by a recruitment consultant was posted on the web this week. Jonathan Fagan, the recruiter, said that a mindreading criminal solicitor from Kings Lynn had already expressed an interest. Apparently he earns more from his act than his day job.

As Royal Wedding fever approaches shark feeding frenzy time in the tabloids, it is good to see a law firm taking advantage of the Nation’s interest in holy and other matrimony with this…from The Law Society Gazette

Law firm develops divorce app

A North London family solicitor has launched an app designed to help divorcing or separating couples in England and Wales to save money on their legal fees. Peter Martin, head of family law at Finchley firm OGR Stock Denton, has devised the ‘Divorce?’ app to provide people with easy-to-understand, practical information about the divorce process. It covers topics including legal costs, the practical implications of separation, individual rights and entitlements, long-term financial impact and expectations, and issues around handling any children involved…

Obiter in The Law Society Gazette can’t resist the Royal Wedding fever either, it would seem…

Taking the biscuit

As the Royal nuptials hove into view, lawyers at London’s Lloyd Platt have come up with some helpful suggestions for any solicitors out there who may or may not be drawing up a pre-nuptial agreement for the happy couple.

Well.. there we are…

I am enjoying Tim Kevan’s new Babybarista book “Law & Peace” ( I have an advance copy!)  – published in early May.  I shall write a review shortly…. in the meantime, I did enjoy this from Babybarista..

The modernisers are revolting

And finally… I really did enjoy watching this short film.. 

“Someone Czech his pockets! Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus is embroiled in an embarrassing blunder as he his caught on camera pocketing a pen on a state visit to Chile.”

Watch?

Hat Tip @loveandgarbage for alerting me to it.


Lawcast 182: Emily Allbon, Law Librarian at City Law School on research skills, law resources and social media

Lawcast 182:  Emily Allbon, Law Librarian at City Law School on research skills, law resources and social media

Today I am talking to Emily Allbon, law Librarian at City University and the editor of the excellent Lawbore resource website.  Research skills lie at the root of all legal work, whether in academe or practice, so we are going to look at the skills needed and resources available to law students and lawyers in the modern era. We may even have time to look at the value of legal blogging and social media for younger lawyers and not so young lawyers.

Listen to the podcast

Useful links:

City Law School
Lawbore
Learnmore

***

And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.com and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law

Law Review: London Legal Walk – A penguin solves cold cases? – Law schools need to manage ‘great expectations’

On May 17th 2010 4,500 lawyers and associates walked in the 2010 London Legal sponsored walk raising over £400,000 for legal advice charities in London and the South East. The walk was led by a host of legal stars including the Lord Chief Justice, The Master of the Rolls, The Attorney General, The Solicitor General, The Director of Public Prosecutions, The Official Solicitor, The Treasury Solicitor, the Presidents of the Law Society and ILEX and the Chair of the Bar as well as the President of the Family Division, the Chair of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, The Recorder of London, The London Chief Prosecutor and many more.

Fancy taking part this year? Here are the details, if you do, for Monday 16th May 2011

Yet more new bloggers emerge

This is good news from LawActually

If you fancy discovering: How can a penguin help to solve a cold case? I hear you ask….well…..

And… I am delighted to accept a contribution to the legal education debate with this ‘guest post’ from Dr Shibley Rahman….

Law schools need to manage great expectations
“Now, I return to this young fellow. And the communication I have got to make is, that he has great expectations.”

Great Expectations
Mr Jaggers about Pip, Chapter 18.
The reason that I am writing this guest blog post is because of a recent podcast (by Charon QC)  entitled, “Lawcast 181: Baroness Deech, Chair of The Bar Standards Board on legal education and the regulation of the profession”
I really enjoyed this thought-provoking and interesting podcast, which I think is highly relevant to my arm of the profession too: the solicitors. I am one of hundreds of thousands bombarding the corporate law firms with my training contract application. Without a training contract, I can’t actually be admitted to the Roll of Solicitors. This obviously concerns me. The bottom line: there are thousands of students who won’t get Pupillages either, as the market is so intensively competitive.
That is why I applaud Baroness Deech so much for raising awareness of issues which are extremely important to me as a student. I am yet to do my LPC, which I will do at BPP (Waterloo) between January and September 2012, although I have completed my LLM at the College of Law (2008-2010) and GDL at BPP (2006-2008). My first five degrees were in medicine and natural sciences at Cambridge; as I obtained the second highest First there and my PhD following AAAA11 at A level, I can put myself firmly into the ‘academic’ camp. However, given my interests in research, I wish very much to find innovative solutions one day as a legal practitioner. The specific aspect to my application, which I tend not to reveal, is my strong research output in frontotemporal dementia, for reasons I’ll explain later. I decided to study law late in my life, as I became strongly interested in aspects of the law by accident (e.g. constitutional issues, regulation of financial services, access to justice) and I wished to pursue a formal qualification in it. I have no reservations about pursuing corporate law either. There are many eminent lawyers who have come from a non-legal route. Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, the current Master of the Rolls, studied chemistry at Christ Church, Oxford.
I only passed my GDL, but I spent 50% of it in a wheelchair doing it by distance learning because of a two month coma due to meningitis which left me disabled. I am aware of the arguments that law course providers “mass-produce graduates” akin to a sausage factory, but in my case BPP were extraordinarily flexible and compassionate about completion of my GDL. I have loved my time there, not only because of the actual course, but because of the people that I’ve met. Many of the well-known corporate firms have told me that, whilst their official criterion is AAB at A level and a II.1, the vast majority of their good candidates have considerably better qualifications, but they can only invite a small proportion to interview. Some law firms have an intake of even 5-10 per session. My GDL pass is ‘tolerated’, only given my extenuating circumstances, I feel. I happen to believe that 20 problem questions across 7 topics in the GDL, compared to 12 difficult essays in my Finals, does not reveal much about how one can analyse different sides of an argument critically, in the first place, but my views on this are utterly irrelevant. They must surely be testing different things, and I hope that the Joint Academic Stage Board are able to make sense of this. My LLM commendation “looks better”, but one firm indeed wanted a Distinction.
There are other questions on the application form for training contracts which raise eyebrows with me. One is the “Why law?” question, but there are people who have genuinely questioned my commitment to being a legal practitioner given my academic publications record.  I run myself a student society to raise awareness of how commercial and legal worlds interact (http://legal-aware.org), but I often find students reluctant to take part unless there’s something in it for them (like, for example, a training contract application mention). I feel strongly now that law schools now need to offer quality careers advice in careers other than law, such as teaching, the financial services or charity work (e.g. in human rights). Notwithstanding that, I feel sorry for the fact that law firms have to ask this question at the point before offering a training contract, when one feels that this should have been addressed prior to assumption of a GDL/LPC/BPTC place.
The next obvious way to tackle the “Why law?” question might be therefore to cite legal experience. Whilst firms have told me officially that it doesn’t matter whether this work experience is legal or not, invariably at interview partners have asked me about my relative lack of work experience. The “social mobility” component to this is that I am now prepared to take out a loan for this – as it happens, I believe that chambers should not have to pay their interns to offer them at all. I am far too old for most solicitor vac schemes. I am now thankfully doing pro bono work at a London law centre in employment and discrimination law, and it’s great as I really want to do it as I am myself disabled,  but some firms apparently wish to see ‘corporate work-experience’. This is particularly pertinent in the “Why does the culture of our firm suit you?” question. Perhaps, it’s hard to justify applying to Gordon Ramsay when all you have worked for is Burger King.
I happen to think that any education is worthwhile, as you never know when you’ll need to use it. A Professor in Law at the University of London once told me this. I am currently doing a MBA, and when I told a Legal Graduate Recruitment Advisor that I am not trying really hard to get a distinction in it but that I was doing it because I really loved how businesses operate, she sounded much less than pleased. So should it matter if you come from a ‘non-legal route’ or ‘legal route’? I argue that it shouldn’t, in the face of all those law firms who have ignored my undergraduate and doctoral studies. Should it matter I’m not a great linguist? I am learning five languages, albeit at basic level. And so we could go on.
This all is leading to my conclusion that Law Schools need to take ‘expectation management’ more seriously than they ever used to. BPP Law School prides itself as being one of the leading providers of vocational education.  The School is now able to award degrees following approval from the Privy Council.   The Bar Standards Board has required BPP to appoint an independent statistician to review all available admissions data for the previous 5 years and clarify that in his/her professional opinion the number of offers that BPP wishes to make should not lead to over-recruitment.

However, critically, I do not believe that BPP is unilaterally responsible for this overload in the job market.
So, finally, I should like to thank Baroness Deech enormously for making me think about such issues. These are matters which, in my world, the corporates, the law and business schools, and the students must face together in the new challenging world of legal services.
Dr Shibley Rahman

Breaking News: Is PM Dave Cameron The Stig? – “The Bugger, bugged”

The actor Hugh Grant has pulled off a great story on #Metgate, #Phonehacking et al. In the wake of recent admissions by The News of the World that their journos (and others?) appear to have been taking too great an interest in mobile phone messages….and ‘modern surveillance technology and techniques’,  Hugh Grant has a great story in the The New Statesman. Hugh Grant writes about his encounter with a former NOTW journo….and turns the tables by recording the conversation… wonderful stuff.

I won’t spoil your pleasure in reading it.. but I was astonished to read that Dave Cameron dressed up as The Stig!…… ’nuff said….

The bugger, bugged

Do read.  The transcript of the recording makes a good read…

A quick taster… in the finest traditions of The Screws…..

Cameron gets dressed up as the Stig to go to Clarkson’s 50th birthday party [NB: it was actually to record a video message for the party]. Is that demeaning for a prime minister? It should be the other way round, shouldn’t it? So basically, Cameron is very much in debt to Rebekah Wade for helping him not quite win the election . . . So that was my submission to parliament – that Cameron’s either a liar or an idiot.

*Applauds*

Law Review: History – The European Arrest Warrant – Human Rights – Cyclists who kill

This new series by Obiter J on English legal history is a good read: Our legal heritage – No.1 – Early times and the Anglo-Saxon period

On a slightly more modern note, I was a bit baffled by this rather discouraging  research in The Guardian: Judges are more lenient after taking a break, study finds

“The adage that justice depends on what the judge ate for breakfast may not be far from the truth, according to a study of more than a thousand court decisions.

The research, which examined judicial rulings by Israeli judges who presided over parole hearings in criminal cases, found that judges gave more lenient decisions at the start of the day and immediately after a scheduled break in court proceedings such as lunch. Jonathan Levav, associate professor of business at Columbia University, who co-authored the paper, said: “You are anywhere between two and six times as likely to be released if you’re one of the first three prisoners considered versus the last three prisoners considered.”

Research is research, but, nevertheless, a rather worrying finding?

This post from Informm’s Blog is rather more interesting, given that we are soon to be able to read Lord Neuberger’s report into superinjunctions et al: Anonymised “privacy injunction” hearings – January to March 2011

How to fix the European arrest warrant system

Catherine Heard, writing in The Guardian: As the Commission now acknowledges, the warrant is only for major crimes and is being misused.

The European Arrest warrant came into public view recently in connection with the extradition request by Sweden in relation to allegations made about  Julian Assange. If there is one thing almost guaranteed to let the tabloid press and many others ‘kick off’ it is the activities / antics (Choose to suit your taste) of The European Court of Human Rights, The European Court of Justice, Europe generally, and now the European Arrest warrant.

Catherine Heard writes: “How is the EU going to stop the European arrest warrant, its fast-track extradition system, from being misused to prosecute bike thefts? At Fair Trials International we have been campaigning for years for a fairer European arrest warrant system, with a proportionality test to weed out trivial cases, as well as basic fair trial safeguards for people facing extradition….

And this wonderful extract…. “Take, for example, the case of a retired schoolteacher and grandfather facing extradition to Poland for going over his overdraft limit more than 10 years ago. The entire debt was repaid to the bank but he is still being sought to face trial for “theft”, although he has suffered three strokes and is in fragile health.”

and then this…“Time will tell whether this (building a proportionality test into the system)  is enough to stop the excessive use of this tick-box system by some countries (most notably Poland, which in 2009 issued 4,844 warrants compared to the UK’s 220).”

I’m with those who argue that the EAW should only be used for the more serious crimes. It is not acceptable for people to be extradited for minor administrative crimes like speeding, parking offences, or even minor criminal offences and, arguably, should not be used for matters which are not crimes in the country where the arrestee is resident at the time? .

Regular visits to the UK Human Rights blog are (a) good for the soul or, depending on your political viewpoint, (b) Good to get the blood running:  The sovereignty of parliament and property: this week’s human rights roundup

The UK Blawg Review is very much a new kid on the block. We have a fair way to go to catch up on Blawg Review –  a US centric blog, but generous in inviting law bloggers from many other jurisdictions – which celebrates six years this week of weekly reviews.  I have enjoyed participating in this original carnival of the law blogs six times so far and I very much hope it will continue.

Death by dangerous cycling law would not improve road safety

Erin Gill, writing in The Guardian, argues: Drivers and cyclists need to know dangerous behaviour will get them pulled to the kerb, but this proposed law won’t help

I don’t agree with Erin Gill.  I ride a motorbike.  I have to obey the Highway Code and all other road traffic laws.  I am subject to the full rigour of the law if I injure someone through careless riding.  I can see absolutely no reason why an aggressive cyclist (and they are legion on the road and, sometimes, on the pavements), who injures or kills someone, should not be subject to the specific offence of injuring or killing by dangerous cycling.  We would, of course, need to have registration plates for identification – and enforcement.

I suspect there would be few cases of death by dangerous cycling, but that should not preclude bringing law into play. I would quite like to see cyclists being prosecuted for riding on pavements. But I can’t imagine it will be easy to stop them in ‘full flight’ , and identifying cyclists may be a very real problem without licence plates.

East Park Communications has been a sponsor of my free student materials on Insite Law for some time, so I am more than happy to draw your attention to a series of four District Law Society journals.  I enjoy reading  them and students will also find it useful to have a look at the issues which arise in practice outside the metropolis!

Derby & District Law Society Journal | Norfolk Law Society Journal | Herts Law Society Journal | Worcestershire Law Society The Pears

Do contact Simon Castell at East Park Communications  if your law firm or local law society fancy having a journal.

AND finally… a bit of Muttley Dastardly LLP  on The Banking reforms…. Hugo de Vertback writes…. below…….

Muttley Dastardly LLP (Episode 20): Hugo de Vertback on the Vickers Report for Reform of the Banking Sector

PRESS RELEASE (EMBARGOED UNTIL YOUR FEE PAYMENT CLEARS FOR VALUE)

Hugo de Vertback, Partner and Head of Capital and Private Wealth, Muttley Dastardly LLP – The Vickers Report for Reform of the Banking Sector

In the early morning of Monday 11th April, a group of hitherto unknown men and women – unknown outside City circles – filed into a room for a press conference and released a document which could, in time, be as subversive to the interests of bankers and City lawyers as Gallileo Gallilei’s  championing of Cupronickelism: when a large majority of philosophers, noble statesmen and assorted money launderers still subscribed (rightly in the view of the Partners at Muttley Dastardly LLP)  to the Citycentric view that lawyers and bankers are at the centre of the universe.

Students of law, philosophy and fundamentalist capitalism will recall that when Gallileo Gallilei later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two World Banking Systems, published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found (pleasingly)  “vehemently suspect of heresy”, forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

It is a matter of some regret that his thought descendants, among them one Sir John Vickers, will not be subject to a similar fate for this latest report into reform of our revered and world class banking system.

I read the article in Legal Week with mounting dismay, which turned to anger when I looked at some of the ‘extraordinary comments’ appended to this ‘article’.

I quote the apostasy and heresy put forward by Legal Week  for analysis:

“City lawyers have reacted critically to the Vickers report’s proposals for reform of the UK banking sector, highlighting the potentially damaging impact on the City’s status as a global banking hub.

Key proposals contained within the interim report from the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) include the suggestion that UK banks should ring-fence their retail divisions from their investment banking arms and that there should be increased capital requirements for “systemically important banks”.

The report also concludes that a higher level of competition is required in retail banking, and in particular urges Lloyds to sell off further branches.

The report’s proposals are designed to reduce risk in the banking sector, mitigate moral hazards, decrease the likelihood of future bank failures and promote competition in retail and investment banking….”

While a competitor (and ordinarily I would not, of course, do anything in public to advance the cause of a fellow lawyer),  I find myself almost in full agreement with Nabarro corporate partner Alasdair Steele who said: “The ICB acknowledges that implementing its reforms will cost the banks. Shareholders and investors are unlikely to bear the full brunt of these changes so, if they are followed through, we can all expect to pay more for our banking through higher costs and fees and lower returns on our savings.”

These are dark days for bankers and City lawyers. While bankers can f**k off to other countries to ply their profession;  global mobility isn’t quite as easy for City lawyers, despite the best endeavours of our empire building forbears.  For one thing, the Chinese have cottoned on to how easy it is to train lawyers and are producing millions of them.  India already has several million lawyers and appears none too keen to import any from London or even let us in as ‘tourists’.

As to the preposterous suggestion by Robert Van Persie in the comments section in the Legal Week report where he wrote: “I think that City lawyers are the last people who should be moaning about this since they were partly responsible for causing the financial crisis and have never been punished for it. The law is not just something for partners to make money out of – it was designed as a system to govern and protect society. That includes lawyers involved in corporate and banking law.”
“The law is not just something for partners to make money out of”  – Good grief. Does Mr Van Persie think that City lawyers studied so hard at university and later on the LPC to NOT make money out of law?

Some will be attracted by Mr Van Persie’s apparently sensible analysis. This is why such thinking is so subversive.  There can only be one response to this.  Lawyers are merely the instrument of the client’s desire – so long as such action is within the code of ethics, best practice and, of course, we should not forget,  ‘the law’.  To suggest that we lawyers were in any way responsible for the collapse of the  Western banking system and be held accountable along with bankers is, quite probably and possibly, actionable.  I have asked my fellow Partner – Dr Erasmsus Strangelove, our Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops –  to log onto Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw and refine his thinking on defamation.

As for the totally absurd idea, advanced by Mr Van Persie, that we City lawyers would buy a holiday home in Cyprus on the back of our billings to our revered banking clients – Cyprus?  Ludicrous. Cyprus is for holiday makers.  City partners do not buy villas in Cyprus.  We might try to buy Cyprus – but we would not be interested in the modest returns a villa would bring.

I rest my case.  We were only following orders.  We have not been punished – ergo, we are not guilty of anything at all.  Editors of national newspapers and the legal press should be most careful in publishing any subversive material which suggests that we are in any way complicit in anything. That is all.

***

Note to Editors:

Hugo de VertBack was educated at Eton, and Oxford.  He took a First in law and would have taken more, had he developed the skills for taking more in those early days of his career.  Muttley Dastardly LLP is a niche boutique City firm.  WE are known as ‘the Silent service’ because our clients know that we say nothing about anything at any time in public about them and regard it as failure to end up litigating commercial contracts or banking documentation in court.

If you would like a picture of Hugo de Vertback – please contact Eva Brown, PA to Matt Muttley, Managing Partner of Muttley Dastardly LLP.  We shall do our best to accommodate your request to have a non-exclusive temporary lease of the photographic rights.  We take Amex.

***

With thanks to the following for sponsoring the free materials for students on Insite Law magazine: Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark, OnlineWill.co.uk, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims

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Postcard from The Staterooms: Giving caviar to an elephant edition…

I enjoy blogging (although I do, occasionally, wonder if I would be better off buying a horse, a lance and a windmill) and – as Brian Inkster’s excellent UK Blawg Review #6 reveals – an encouraging number of lawyers have continued to or have taken up law blogging.  This is a good thing.

As I have no law practice to *flawg* ( a term coined by Antonin Pribetic of The Trial Warrior, as far as I can determine) I can write about matters which interest me or indulge sardonic thoughts about the worst excesses of the legal profession through Muttley Dastardly LLP and…. The Twlawyer…without the cosh of having to please an editor or client…. or, indeed, anyone at all.  So…. was Faulkner right?  Is is Pointless?  It may be ‘pointless’… but it is not ‘without point’.

I can’t really be bothered with a growing fashion in Blogs to dispense advice state the bleedin’ obvious through *Top 10 points for lawyers to consider blah blah* or to dispense solemn advice on *what and how to do it*... I leave that, happily, to the mavens, dispensers, prognosticators , flawgers et al.  A sardonic smile flickers at the corners of my mouth – no more than a flicker – when I see the pedigree of some of these mavens on the blogosphere and twittersphere dispensing away and file it away in  my mind.  All parodists, even amateurs like “Charon QC”, need good source material and inspiration – so I would not wish these denizens of the net to ‘cease and desist’.  Fortunately, most readers will be able to sort the wheat from the chaff… and there is a fair bit of chaff.  As Gordon Brown said…. some of this chaff started in America… but we are not slow in the UK in picking up the baton and running riot with it. The Twlawyers are coming soon to a twitter timeline near you. Caveat emptor?

(For overseas and sane readers… QVC is a reference to the QVC shopping channel on TV) I   I enjoy ‘messing with heads’ as well…. “If I was…If I were” (?) And.. here – Ain’t lingo interesting?

An issue which has caught my eye is the increasing tendency for some tabloid newspapers to push their agenda to toughen up the backbone of the floggers and hangers in Parliament, throw some red meat to their readership and bring pressure to bear on The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State by pushing ‘editorial’ or stories on how we are going to the dogs when it comes to criminal justice. The Daily Mail has a recent example…

Judge in ‘paedophile’ row court case accused of being ‘influenced by alcohol’

The Daily Mail reported: “A legal watchdog is investigating a crown court judge after he was accused of behaving as though ‘influenced by alcohol’ during a trial in which an alleged paedophile was freed. Judge Douglas Field, 63, is said to have attended a leaving party during an extended lunch break.”

This matter is now in the public domain.  If the judge is guilty as ‘charged / alleged / reported’ by The Daily Mail, then one may be reasonably confident that the matter will be dealt with appropriately by the appropriate authorities – The Office for Judicial Complaints.  The judge has complained to the Press Complaints Commission – it is reported. Is it, however, fair to ‘try’ a judge in the press in this manner?  I don’t think so.  I can’t see the ‘appropriate authorities’ being swayed in any way by the Daily Mail report. So what purpose do such reports before legal action have?  To whip up hatred and / or irritation among a ‘readership’ for our judiciary?  That is hardly in any of our interests. To pressurise judges in their sentencing?  (Are judges swayed by public opinion when it comes to sentencing?  They say not.  Perhaps subliminally?) Again, it is not in our interests for any one section of the community, a powerful elite of newspapers,  to sway / attempt to sway the judiciary. Judges have to act within the laws made by parliament, within the sentencing guidelines, and if they don’t, then there are already good appellate and investigatory mechanisms in place to correct this.

While it is very much in the public interest that our judges dispense justice according to law and observe a higher code of behaviour than we impose on many, I would prefer to see cases of judicial misbehaviour or incompetence dealt with by the appropriate authorities first and then, if charges are proven, for publicity to be given to the matter.  Or…is it the case that without the fearless reporting of the tabloids, these matters would not come to light? If the answer to this question is in the negative, then it does not seem unreasonable to me to suggest that complaints against judges should be regarded as a special case and not be subject to press speculation and coverage before the matter has been dealt with by The Office for Judicial Complaints. Unfortunately, mud sticks to the innocent as well as the guilty.  Mind you, is there really a need for judges to be a special case?  The Attorney-General has warned the press recently in relation to coverage of criminal matters generally to ensure a fair trial.

Anyway… just a thought… not a prescription.

As an adjunct to blogging, I get a great deal of pleasure from talking to lawyers in podcasts – and I am grateful to all who participate.  On Wednesday evening last week, David Allen Green and Carl Gardner came over to The Staterooms for our fortnightly Without Prejudice series of podcasts. (This week: Libel, hyperinjunctions, Lautsi v Italy, Expert immunity and Interns) We sit around a small table, drink wine and talk about topical issues.  Judging by the response and the downloads, people seem to enjoy them.  We don’t have all the answers; but we are having a go at provoking interest, comment and thought.

On Friday, I did a podcast with Baroness Deech, Chair of The Bar Standards Board. We talked about the regulation of legal education, regulation of the profession and the changing legal landscape.  Baroness Deech is a very experienced academic lawyer and it was a pleasure to discuss very topical issues with her.
What, for me, is the point of law blogging etc? I have come to the conclusion that the ‘point’ is to provoke thought, comment and interest.  Politicians may be prescriptive.  I tend to find that debate is more persuasive… the old thesis, antithesis and synthesis schtik may have some value after all!

Have a good week

Best, as always

Charon

(PS… do you like my Green ink…? very Civil Service Mandarin!)

The Time Blawg Tardis visit a huge number of UK Blawgs…..

Brian Inkster, writing on The Time Blawg,  has really done the business in his epic UK Blawg Review #6: An interesting and very comprehensive review of UK law blogging from the late 1990s through to the present day.

Thanks for the mention…. although… I really am more *Godfaffer*…than *Godfather*.

As far as I recall, I invented *Charon QC* (Choosing the ferryman  because I rather liked the idea of driving lawyers to Hades) in 2002 and wrote qua Charon on a now defunct magazine I owned then. It was Nick Holmes of Binary Law who persuaded me (rightly) to blog using WordPress.  Before that, I faffed about on the RollonFriday.com discussion board as Brigadier Grappa – and met a lot of amusing people who drank a lot.  I was only too pleased to assist them with their hobby.

Good effort, Brian – and good to see so many new UK law blogs.

Read the UK Blawg Review #6

Lawcast 181: Baroness Deech, Chair of The Bar Standards Board on legal education and the regulation of the profession

Today I am talking to Baroness Deech, an academic lawyer, former Principal of St Anne’s College Oxford, and a bioethicist. Most noted for chairing the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), from 1994 to 2002, Lady Deech sits as a Crossbench peer in the House of Lords (since 2005) and, since 2009,  Chair of The Bar Standards Board

The legal landscape is changing so, this afternoon, I ask Baroness Deech for her  views on regulation of the legal profession, regulation of the law schools, the changing face of legal education and the changing legal landscape.  I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and Baroness Deech did not pull her punches.  I didn’t, for one moment, think she would. Food for a bit of thought?

Listen to the podcast

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And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.com and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law

#WithoutPrejudice 3: Libel – Hyperinjunctions – Lautsi v Italy – Expert immunity – Interns – Silk?

We recorded our third episode of the #WithoutPrejudice podcast series last night – Carl Gardner and David Allen Green did the business.  I asked the questions.  Linking to the post done last night because I have done a fair few blog posts today and the original post is a fair bit of scrolling down.

We take wine this week… which, I can say, assisted discussion towards the end!

Listen to the podcast?

Law Review: Unpaid pupillages?

Charles Miskin QC, on the letters page of The Times, today,  wrote:

“Sir, Your correspondent Peter Windle (letter, 6 April) makes a very significant point  Why does the Bar take only about 400 puipls a year? The answer, which may surprise him, is that for some years barristers have been allowed to grant pupillage only on a paid basis.  This policy was the product of a laudable desire to ensure fair access across the population. The result has been the collapse in the availability of pupillage.  Twenty years ago my chambers had about 25 members and we had a varying population of 4 to 6 unpaid pupils each year.  Now we have 90 members but with only three pupils, whom we provide with bursaries above the Bar minimum.  Three is a significant contribution to the Bar-wide entry, but this policy is ludicrous.  Broad access has been replaced by practically no access, with some chambers offering no pupillages at all”

In an era when the Bar has been digesting various reports on diversity and access, and where some argue there is a significant over supply of students to the number of pupillages available (also training contracts for would be solicitors), Charles Miskin QC may have a point – at least if bar students are to have a better chance  of getting the opportunity of completing pupillage;  even if no tenancy is forthcoming at the end of it.  Unfortunately, this would also increase the would be barrister’s debt – and with BPTC fees coming in at a hefty £15,000+  (and law schools have not only upped their fees, they have upped their deposit requirements) – this is a very hefty debt burden.  It will only get worse, of course, with the desire of most universities to be part of the £9000 a year club for student fees.

I asked for views on twitter and received quite a few replies replies.   I quote a few of those responses below:

* Back to the bad old days and the Bar not being an option for those of my background eh?
* I think there’s an argument to be made in favour if funded pupillages place an artificial restriction to entry.
* unpaid pupillages will make the bar the preserve of those who can afford to come here. Young Barristers’ Committee against suggn
* on unpaid pupillages. Would count me out the profession – and I wouldn’t have even tried in first place. So its bonkers.
* i’ve been banging the drum for some time on this, but glad now appears some traction since charlie’s endorsement.
* yes. Given barristers are self employed, req that pup be paid anomaly
head of my set is still perplexed that I’m not paying chambers for my learning experience!
 

* Seem apposite to re-post my piece from 2009: http://bit.ly/i5ZDOo
* That seems a very god idea. Alt pupillages with alt business structures.
 

* Real issue is the appropriate size of the profession. No point having more pupillages if the number of tenancies remains static!
also now we cant cross qual as solicitor until after pupillage cost of unpaid pupillage < cost of LPC?
 

* Arguably what is required now is an alternative mechanism to approach pupillage.
 

*  unpaid pupillages will surely be limited to those with means, thus defeating any diversification of the bar?
*  Think cost of BPTC is the barrier, borrowing living expenses for 1st 6 and hope for some income in 2nd 6 less scary
*  Without a doubt when pupillages were unpaid,opportunities were indeed more available & the profession less restricted.
* and what would pupils do who don’t get tenancy? Huge debt incurred and no way to repay it.
 

* Re unpaid pupillages- that’s likely to help increase diversity at the bar isn’t it?
 

* Charlie Miskin pro unpaid pupillages – does he have a point as no of pupillages now lower? – or is it kinder to limit entry?
* Interesting points raised. Arguably though,if pupillages are unpaid,that would create a bar 2 the Bar for a wide group
 

* He’s picked his moment, hasn’t he, what with all the “unpaid internships as bastion of privilege” stuff in the news…

* Oh but I’ve seen many good people in the old days, unable to get on because of unpaid pupillages. The law needs a good mix.*

The above tweets were all on the public twitter timeline and give a fairly good view of sentiment on this issue. I have removed the identity of the tweeters, simply to preserve their discretion – and I do hope they don’t mind not being identified on this occasion. A quick look at my ‘mentions’ on twitter will provide full attribution for the tweets above.
I’m not sure.  I can see the benefit to a student determined to get pupillage experience, but I can also see the value of the sentiment that paid pupillages allow people from less well off backgrounds – and there are many in that category who wish to practise at the bar – to have access to the profession. At the risk of seeming crass – why not a mix of paid and unpaid pupillages?  Would that be divisive? Would that be impossible to organise?   Your thoughts and comments are most welcome.

Law Review: Government intervention in the legal system – A ducking stool in every town?

In The Sun this morning, under the headline “TAKE HIM DOWN” the deputy political editor writes: “TOP judges last night blasted Ken Clarke’s soft-touch plans to HALVE the time some criminals serve in prison. The revolt was sparked by the Justice Secretary’s proposals to halve sentences for offenders who plead guilty early. They were included in Mr Clarke’s controversial sentencing white paper published last year – and rubbished last night in the judges’ formal response. Lord Justice Thomas, the Queen’s bench Division vice-president, and Lord Justice Goldring, England and Wales senior presiding judge, said: “In our view, it would not be right neither as a matter of principle nor as a matter of practice to go beyond a maximum discount of one third.”

This report is part of a continuing attack by The Sun on Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke.  The Sun does not approve of Ken Clarke’s moderate and ‘unpatriotic (?)’ stance on law and order. Interesting to see the judges, apparently, weighing in. I am no expert on  prison policy, but it does seem to many that we have far too many people in prison for relatively minor offences – at significant cost to the public purse; money which could be put to better use in providing access to legal representation and justice?

And another example of government interference – perhaps not fully thought through?….

Legal Services Board rebuffs Djanogly on ILEX rights

James Dean, in The Law Society Gazette writes: “The Legal Services Board has dismissed a call by justice minister Jonathan Djanogly for it to consult more widely on proposals to extend the rights of legal executives to conduct litigation and appear in court.

Last week, Djanogly told the House of Commons that an application by the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) to the LSB to extend the litigation rights of ILEX members was ‘unusual’ and merited ‘wider consultation and engagement’. But a spokesman for the LSB this week told the Gazette: ‘We have not and do not currently intend to consult more widely.’ The LSB is considering whether or not to allow legal executives to conduct litigation and appear before the courts in civil and family proceedings, and to deliver probate services…”

One wonders what the government is going to pull out of the hat for their next trick on justice and the legal system. Cuts to legal aid and  closure of courts plans are already having an impact….. do it yourself justice next?  Ah.. the old litigant in person stunt… very Big Society?  Perhaps a bit of trial by ordeal to save money?  Ducking stools in every town?

On to more sensible analysis from the UK Human Rights Blog : Police, Protests and other Hot Potatoes- the Human Rights Roundup

I enjoyed the piece on Burglar human rights  by Matthew Flynn of the UK Human Rights blog: “The proposition that burglars have rights incites debate, and sometimes anger, which is often directed towards the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention of Human Rights. However, on closer examination, the idea of “burglars’ rights” is not a new phenomenon in English law, and nor has it been imposed upon us by Strasbourg. The rights that burglars enjoy have long been part of the fabric of English common law”

Judges tell Theresa May to revoke ‘flawed’ control order on terror suspect

The Guardian: Court of appeal gives the home secretary 48 hours to drop the control order or get a new one – ‘if she considers it necessary’

I missed this story the other morning.  Maybe I am reading more into it than it merits – but this Court of Appeal intervention is fairly robust and calls into question the competence of the Home Secretary and her officials?  Perhaps those readers with more experience of  government would comment?

Three appeal court judges ruled that the order imposed on BM, a 38-year-old British national, was so flawed that it could not be allowed to stand. They gave the home secretary 48 hours to comply with the ruling and to obtain a new order “if she considers it necessary to do so”.

Lord Justice Sedley, Lord Justice Thomas and Lord Justice Hopper also ordered that a prosecution against BM for breaching the control order be discontinued.

And finally for the time being.. Alex Aldridge, writing in The Guardian, notes….

Legal aid cuts will put pressure on students to do more pro bono work

Pity the poor law students of 2012. Not only will they face tuition fees of £9,000 a year, but they’ll be under pressure to do much more free legal work to help fill the gap created by the legal aid cuts.

I’m all for students doing pro bono work – but I don’t think it is credible policy for the good work being done by many university law school pro bono units to be a part of government policy on access to justice.

“Frankly, we’re very worried, as there’s already a tremendous demand for our students’ services as it is,” says John Fitzpatrick, director of Kent Law Clinic, the pro bono service of Kent University which won best law school at the annual LawWorks and attorney general student pro bono awards on Wednesday.

And really finally…. I am grateful to fellow tweeter @pugandwhistle for drawing my attention to this... “An email promoting a ‘Beaujolais breakfast’ at Corney & Barrow wine bars has been banned after advertising watchdogs said it could encourage irresponsible drinking.”

I find, on a Sunday morning, that a glass of red makes both breakfast and the newspapers more amusing. Sir John Mortimer QC, who regularly came to speak to students when I was CEO at BPP Law School in the 1990s, told me that a glass of champagne at 6.00 am was a useful aid to life.  It didn’t do him any harm…quite the opposite, I suspect, judging by his excellent writing.

 

#WithoutPrejudice Podcast 3: Libel – Hyperinjunctions – Lautsi v Italy – Expert immunity – Interns – Silk?

Welcome to the third episode of Without Prejudice: Tonight, I am afraid, I can’t tell you about our guest… in fact, the superinjunction is so harsh, I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a guest… but…. I can tell you that David Allen Green and Carl Gardner are at the table…. waiting to discuss libel, privacy, hyperinjunctions, Rough Justice – Miscarriages of Justice, The Lautsi v Italy crucifix case, and we may even have time to discuss expert immunity from suit…and interns.
Listen to the podcast

[ In the miscarriage of justice part of the podcast: I did mean – “I’d rather see a guilty person getting off than an innocent person  going to prison”… not the other way around –  My apologies. (I do have  to listen very carefully – I do research and read in to subjects, but I  never write prepared questions for any podcasts – I got it the wrong way around tonight) ]

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Useful References

CASE OF LAUTSI AND OTHERS v. ITALY

Charon: Rough Justice – Denning and the illiberal judiciary?

The Rough Justice programme on iPlayer (while it is available)

The Guardian on Jones v Kaney: After supreme court decision, will other witnesses remain immune?

ZAM v CFW & TFW: “suing for libel in secret”

On Hyperinjunctions: John Hemming MP: abuse of power, and privilege

 

I’d like to thank Lawtel, WestlawCassons For Counsel, City University Law School David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Inksters SolicitorsIken, LBC Wise Counsel, Carrs Solicitors,  JMW Solicitors – Manchester, Pannone and Cellmark for sponsoring the podcast  – and the free student materials on Insite Law – appreciated.

Rough justice – Denning and the illiberal judiciary?

Over a long and in some ways remarkable legal and judicial career, Lord Denning made a significant and substantial contribution to English law and jurisprudence. Every law student will remember the decision in Hightrees and many other cases where Lord Denning changed the law. I had the pleasure of meeting him twice, twenty five years apart, and he recalled the first meeting, which surprised me. While the chill winds of constructionalism prevailed in the years after his retirement, and the House of Lords did much do undo some of the impact Denning had on English law, Denning was not always of a liberal or libertarian disposition and, at times, revealed a remarkable reluctance to admit of the fallibility of the justice system.

A note in Wikipedia reveals a glimpse of this illiberalism:

“In the summer of 1990 he agreed to a taped interview with A.N. Wilson, to be published in The Spectator. They discussed the Guildford Four; Denning remarked that if the Guildford Four had been hanged “They’d probably have hanged the right men. Just not proved against them, that’s all”.His remarks were controversial and came at a time when the issue of miscarriage of justice was a sensitive topic.He had expressed a similar controversial opinion regarding the Birmingham Six in 1988, saying: “Hanging ought to be retained for murder most foul. We shouldn’t have all these campaigns to get the Birmingham Six released if they’d been hanged. They’d have been forgotten, and the whole community would be satisfied… It is better that some innocent men remain in jail than that the integrity of the English judicial system be impugned.

I haven’t checked all these references for this blog post, but the wikipedia note appears to be a reasonably accurate summation.

I can, however, discuss another example of reluctance to admit of the possibility of a miscarriage of justice. I watched, in the early hours of this morning, an excellent BBC film covering the interesting and excellent work of the Rough Justice series – the first time television journalists had been instrumental in bringing a miscarriage of justice to the attention of the Court of Appeal and securing a quashed verdict.

The Rough Justice programme is a must watch for any law student. They say, it is the reason we have the the Criminal Cases Review Commission;  an independent body which is a valuable observer and practical overseer of our criminal justice system.

It was strange to see Lord Denning, a judge who did much to protect the vulnerable, to act judicially in the interest of the ‘common man and and woman’, reveal a reluctance to admit of judicial fallibility when he expressed the view that once a judge and jury had dealt with a case, journalists should not be poking their noses in.  (I paraphrase).

I am pleased however: (a) that we no longer have the death penalty (b) that we have The Criminal Cases Review Commission (c) that we have investigative journalists who are prepared to ‘poke their noses in to the workings of government and judiciary and, to be fair, (d) a higher judiciary prepared to apply the law of our land and act as a break on the government and executive, perhaps, more fairly than in days gone by – this latter point made by Lord Bingham, one of our most distinguished judges.

I urge you to watch the Rough Justice programme on iPlayer before it is is taken down.  Another excellent programme from the BBC.

Watch The Rise and Fall of Rough Justice

Law Review: Don’t look now! The Jackson reforms are coming

‘Don’t look now! The Jackson Reforms are coming’

By Stephen Higham, solicitor

September 11 2001 is a date Jo Moore will never forget. As Special Adviser to Stephen Byers, then the Transport, Local Government and Regions Secretary, she sensed an opportunity to use the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington to her advantage. Her e-mail to the Labour Party press office saying ‘It’s now a good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors’ expenses?’ was rightly criticized for showing the cynical nature of political spin. After being made to publicly apologise her career stalled. Jo Moore became a teacher in 2003.

This story ought to serve as a salutary lesson to all of us to watch how information is presented and what happens while we’re looking the other way. As events this week unfolded, it appears that we still have a lot to learn.

On Wednesday afternoon, while the world was watching the events of the London Conference on Libya, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Ken Clarke QC announced in Parliament that most of the headline Jackson Reforms will be implemented in full throughout courts in England and Wales as soon as possible.

Lord Justice Rupert Jackson’s 2010 review of civil litigation costs has been seen as an attack on personal injury claimants and their advisers. In it he recommended that success fees on conditional fee (‘no win no fee’) agreements and after the event insurance should no longer be paid by losing defendants. As an alternative, he suggested contingency fee arrangements which allow the successful claimant to contribute towards their own legal fees by paying their solicitor up to 25% of their ‘general damages’ only (i.e. a share of the compensation for Pain, Suffering, Loss of Amenity but not including special damages such as lost earnings). To assist the claimant, who is likely to be worse off under the Reforms, the Lord Chancellor intends to increase general damages by 10%, implementing long- overdue proposals made by the Law Commission in 1999.

The Lord Chancellor also intends to extend the online ‘portal’ scheme for road traffic accidents, which has been running for a year amid considerable teething problems, to other areas of personal injury claims. There is also to be an increased emphasis on mediation and, in a separate consultation he announced on Wednesday, a proposed increase in the small claims limit for non-personal injury cases from £5,000 to £15,000.

The questions most solicitors will be asking are ‘why’ and ‘why now’? There can be no doubt that the Reforms are good for insurers and their shareholders but bad for the rest of us. The so-called ‘compensation culture’, mentioned by the Secretary of State for Justice only six sentences into his speech has been shown by the government’s own Compensation Recovery Unit to be a myth. The number of personal injury claims is falling. Also, while implementing the Reforms will make it more difficult to litigate clinical negligence claims against the NHS, they have the unfortunate knock- on effect of making it harder for accident victims in all accident cases to claim NHS treatment costs or state benefits back from insurers.

It should also be noted that 75% of personal injury claims are low value road traffic accident cases where costs are already fixed. To use the personal injury arena as an example of a broken system is disingenuous when you consider how differently costs are dealt with, and how much they have already been reduced, compared to other areas of civil litigation.

The more cynical may be interested to note that despite LJ Jackson’s plea to implement all 109 of his recommendations in full, the government has instead taken a piecemeal approach. This is most evident in it’s decision to withhold reform of referral fee payments until after the Legal Services Board have finished their own consultation. Jackson’s view was that the abolition of referral fees (or limiting them to a maximum of £200) was essential to make the system work for innocent accident victims and their lawyers. It cannot be a co-incidence that many of the insurers who lobbied hard for the Reforms during the consultation process receive referral fee payments from their panel solicitors via ‘third party capture’ schemes. Under these arrangements insurers for responsible parties contact potential claimants and encourage them to make claims. They then sell these details on to solicitors on their select panels for fees far in excess of LJ Jackson’s proposed maximum. Knowing this, it is no surprise that referral fees have been excluded. It is churlish of insurers to criticise the number of claims and associated legal costs when they are contributing to both elements by third party capture.

There is no doubt that implementation of the Reforms will have unintended consequences in many areas of litigation, business and society. Small businesses will find it more difficult to get a solicitor to assist them to pursue debtors putting them out of business; multi-national companies may indulge in ‘forum shopping’, litigating in a more favourable jurisdiction abroad and taking their legal fees with them; and the court service, which relies heavily on the income derived from personal injury court fees, may need to consider even more swingeing cuts.

Above all, these Reforms put a fundamental principle of law under threat. The idea that a victim of a tort should, as far as is possible, be put in the same position as if the wrong had not occurred, will no longer apply.

Hopefully Parliament, and in particular the eminent lawyer Ken Clarke QC, will consider these issues and the impact on innocent accident victims before implementing the Reforms he revealed while no one was watching.

Law Review: OULS Moot Team win ICLR Moot Competition

The Open University Law Society Moot Team: Left to Right – Peter Blackburn, Gwyn Hopkins, Damian Wynne, Keren Bright (Director of Law @ OU), Craig Breed, Phil Zack, Naomi Cross.

One of the pleasures of twitter is information.  I’d been tweeting with fellow tweeter @juefrangos of the Open University some time back and we kept in touch on matters of mutual interest in legal education.

I am delighted, today, to report on the the success of an initiative by Jue Frangos and a small group of friends from  The Open University Law Society who entered themselves  in the ICLR National Moot Tournament, initially without any formal support from The Open University, and won it against Exeter University.

Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice Cranston judged the final, and had high praise for the advocacy skills of all four of the student mooters before them.  They argued their cases well and remained impressively calm under the fire of constant interjections and questioning from the judges.

The case before the moot court in the final concerned a disabled pensioner who brought an action in public nuisance against a property development company. Dust and noise pollution from the development of a block of flats had caused the pensioner to suffer from bronchitis and insomnia.

Mooting is not only an important part of the legal education of all future lawyers (not just future barristers), it is also enjoyable.  I remember taking part in many moots at law school with  my mooting partner.  He is now a very well known silk.  It is an impressive achievement to win this prestigious ICLR competition – particularly for a group of students who, as is traditional at The Open University, study remotely and often on a part-time basis.  I raise my glass of rioja to you!  Bravo!

Law Review: Too many law students? – Too many lawyers?

Report shows drop in training contract places

The Law Society Gazette, Rachel Rothwell reports: “The number of training contracts offered by law firms fell by 18% last year, Law Society figures have shown. The Society’s annual statistical report reveals that only 4,784 training contract places were offered in 2010, compared to 5,809 in 2009 The drop reflects the impact of the economic downturn on firms. Of the new trainees registered, 63% were women, and 20% of those with known ethnicity came from ethnic minority groups. The report shows that 9,337 students enrolled on the Legal Practice Course in 2009, with an overall pass rate of 62%, though not all students took the examination.”

I have extracted an interesting comment by Professor Richard Moorhead, Cardiff University:

It’s worth remembering…that the number of LPC students dropped by more than this number this year (see here http://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/lpc-numbers-drop-dramatically/).

Also, these figures are (by their nature) out of date. There is historically a timelag between drops in TCs and drops in LPC candidates. When things are bad, more students decide not to do the LPC than is probably healthy for the profession. When things are good, more students decide they will do the LPC than is probably healthy for the profession (http://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/a-history-of-lpc-numbers/).

The LPC market is not expanding. It is shrinking fast. The profession needs to be wary of talking its prospects down with would-be recruits. It’s done from the best of motives, but the time lag between what happens on the ground and the publication of the figures tends to mean that the markets and, if I may say so, the Law Society react rather late in the day.

Both The Law Society and The Bar Council are grappling with the issue of the ratio of students to training contracts / pupillages.  I am doing a podcast with Baroness Deech, Chair of The Bar Standards Board,  on Friday.  It will be interesting to hear her views on this, given her background as a respected academic.

On a less serious note… The Daily Mail has waded in with this analysis…

Now we have more lawyers than police thanks to legal aid

There are now more lawyers in the country than police officers, according to a breakdown of the booming legal profession. The number of qualified solicitors and barristers has shot up over the past decade to 165,000 in England and Wales. By contrast the official count of police officers was 142,363 last autumn – a total which is likely to fall in the wake of spending cuts.

The Guardian also considers the matter….

Number of solicitors triples in 30 years

More young women join the profession, but few make partner

Owen Bowcott, possibly even wringing his hands?, writes: “Is this proof that we have become a more litigious society? The number of solicitors qualified to work in England and Wales has rocketed over the past 30 years. According to the Law Society’s data, which is now available on the Guardian’s datablog, 150,128 individuals on the Society’s database.

Those holding current practising certificates – which excludes retired lawyers and those no longer following a legal career – number nearly 118,000. Back in 1980, when Rumpole of the Bailey was broadcasting the attractions of courtroom life on Thames Television, there were fewer than 38,000 practising solicitors.

And finally… some news from the law schools…
Last week, 33 law schools from across the globe – including from the US, Canada, Germany, India, Australia and the UKcame to BPP Law School to compete against each other in the prestigious International Academy of Dispute Resolution mediation competition.

BPP Law School was commended for its Pro Bono activity when its students won the Best Contribution by a Team of Students category at the LawWorks & Attorney General Annual Student Awards ceremony, held at the House of Commons on the 30th March. Read…

The Open University law School won the ICLR final this year, beating their nemesis, Exeter.

The Twlawyer has landed! – A superhero for our times!

Coming soon… the adventures of a superhero for our times…… a man who thinks only for and of himself…. selflessly out there…. a story in 140 characters!

 

AND this…from a fellow tweeter…. one of the many reasons why I enjoy twitter!

I may have had too much time on my hands today.  I shall return to more sensible posts about law, later in the day.


 

Postcard from The Staterooms: Cuts and university fee rises fiasco edition

Dear Reader,

I don’t usually begin my weekly postcard with law… in fact, more often than not, I don’t even discuss law in my postcard.  This week, I shall make an exception.

Bar Chairman: We Will Continue to Make Case on Effect of Cuts

The Bar Council: “The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has pledged to continue to make the case on the effect of legal aid cuts, as the Justice Select Committee announced its response to Government proposals.

Responding to the Select Committee’s findings, Peter Lodder QC, Chairman of the Bar, said:
“We are pleased to see a number of constructive recommendations which we have made have been taken on board by the Select Committee, particularly in family law cases.

“However, we are disappointed that the Select Committee has concluded that the legal aid system in England and Wales is one of the world’s most expensive, despite highlighting the significant gaps in comparative evidence.”

While it may be convenient for government to analyse our legal aid system by reference to the spend in  other countries;  this line of argument, while superficially attractive to the ‘cutters’, is flawed.

If we start from a reasonable premise that government has a primary duty to ensure basic human rights – health, education, opportunity to work and the protection of the vulnerable – these rights can only be of value if they are enforceable in law.

I do not have a difficulty with the principle that litigation in relation to commercial or purely private matters, which do not impact on core rights, should not be funded by the state.  I do feel, however, that access to justice and professional legal advice where an individual is vulnerable, where an individual is being prosecuted for crime, where an individual’s basic human rights are being infringed by the apparatus of state or private enterprise, is as important as medical care. In extreme cases, denial of access to justice can be as serious to an individual, perhaps more so, than health problems falling short of the life threatening and may even trigger physical and mental health problems which have to be treated by the NHS.

The Bar Council takes the view that diminishing (the legal aid budget and access to justice) will only serve to increase the power of the State.  I think they are right.  Hand wringing by axe wielding politicians and the repeated mantra that we must live within our means is all very well.  If access to justice is diminished…surely we are diminished as a nation… as a people? These cuts could, as the Lord Chief Justice has observed, lead not only to a serious erosion of justice but, ironically, also to increased costs.  Litigants in person tend to increase the real costs and impose considerable burdens on judge, prosecutor and claimant lawyers to ensure a fair process.

This blog post from Adam Wagner, UK Human Rights blog, is useful: Legal aid cuts: Do we spend more on legal aid than other countries?

Is anyone surprised that most/many of our universities are bidding to triple their fees to £9000?

I’m not.  Yet, it was reported today in The Observer, that government ministers were surprised.

Extra staff called in after UK surge in top tuition fees

The Observer: Ministers taken by surprise as department is swamped by universities’ decision to charge new higher rates

Just a few reasons why I am not surpised:

1.  Turkeys do not vote for Christmas – not even university turkeys at the very bottom of the ‘league table’

2.  Public relations dictates that as the ‘top’ universities are charging £9000…if we ‘less good’ universities don’t charge as much, there is a danger that we will be seen as providing a lower quality service. (The fact that they often are providing a lesser quality of education is, of course, irrelevant to this point.)

3. While many academics talk about independence from the strictures and evils of corporate mammon (Yes… some universities are quite happy to take money from the big corporates for ‘research’ and even, it would seem, from Libya!)  – the fact is,   the state funds most universities.  The state wishes to reduce funding.  Ipso facto, the argument must go, if we don’t fill our boots that void…we will lose our jobs.  Ergo… we, at the bottom end,  must put our fees up so that we can continue to provide courses for students who will pay our salaries even if they don’t get jobs because employers tend to cherry pick the best students.

Why would employers do otherwise?

I’m sure it can’t be as simple as I suggest above – but it can’t be far off part of the truth? Having worked in the private sector of legal education for many years, I know where the ideas that Vice Chancellors put forward come from..and where the bodies are buried. Part of the solution, unpalatable though it is, is not to cut state funding to the level planned… but cut the number of poor universities at the bottom?  It won’t happen until they fail.  I suspect that some universities at the bottom will fail.  They won’t get the recruitment at the higher fee levels and.. if they don’t get the customers, they will go bust. Students won’t be keen to invest £9000 x 3 years to go on a university course where there is a very much lower chance on graduation of getting a job?  Will the State step in?  I doubt it.   Give some of the money from the budgets of poor universities (which are closed down) to the better universities to increase places and  access to education?  This is a matter for “Two Brains” Willetts. After all – we can sell HMS Ark Royal etc etc… why can’t the government decommission  a few universities at the bottom end or flog them on ebay?

We shall see soon enough. I hope I am wrong….. and we all live happily ever after in a world of full university teacher employment,  where all the students get life enhancing jobs and pay their tuition fees off in full to our Big Society state.

I leave this issue with…

Shadow universities minister Gareth Thomas said: “This is just the latest sign of how badly the tuition fees fiasco has been handled. David Cameron and Nick Clegg failed to listen to independent experts who were warning even before the fees vote that allowing tuition fees to treble would cause problems they hadn’t properly thought through.”

AND…finally… because I need a laugh after all that….

Best, as always.  Have a good week

Charon

Lord Shagger writes……about Lord Mandelson and a consultation with a Libyan chap…..

 

I see that my fellow peer Lord Mandelbrot is reported in The Daily Mail today,  as about to head off to make his fortune in the global dictator market.

I’m Mandy – buy me: Revealed, the shameless letter that Mandelson is using to tout for business from despots and dodgy billionaires

The Daily Mail notes…

He writes: ‘Global Counsel brings together much of what I have learnt during my career: how best to renew and re-project brands (as I did in the creation of New Labour); how to re-focus large organisations to meet new goals (as I did in successive government departments); and how to adapt and benefit from the impact of globalisation (as I did as European Trade Commissioner).’

My first attempt to locate Global Counsel on the internet produced a startling result: “Global counsel  is a professional education and immigration consultancy based in mohali (chandigarh) punjab, india, with years of experience in placing the right student in the right universities.”

I couldn’t see Mandelbrot spending time trying to assist in procuring overseas students keen to  keep afloat our fine seats of learning by paying high fees, so I continued my search.   I then found this: “Labour peer Lord Mandelson is set to launch an international comms consultancy with backing from WPP Group, it has emerged.”

I rather lost interest in trying to find a website, but I did find  this analysis from The Daily Mail much to my taste:

Some estimates say Blair has amassed a £50 million fortune since leaving Downing Street in June 2007. For Blair’s long-time friend, these are very exciting times.

Indeed, Lord Mandelson has already taken a leaf out of Blair’s book by trailing his fingers in the lucrative waters of Kazakhstan, the sinister oil-and-gas-rich regime which has been accused in U.S. government diplomatic messages of ‘pervasive corruption’, deploying ‘torture’ techniques and where criticising the president has been made illegal. But more of their links to Kazakhstan later……”

Despite Gordon Brown saying that he would devote his life to ‘good and charitable works’ as he contemplated a future without the power to fuck up Britain (and he may well still do these good works), it would appear that he, too, is on a fairly lucrative lecture circuit and, they say, he is prepared to chuck in his wife Sarah for a bit extra.  I can’t see any problem with that at all.  If people are daft enough to pay good money to listen to him, so be it. I have his book.  I haven’t read it. I rather think it unlikely that anyone will pay me to do so as in the good old days when I ran the Media, Privacy and Libel Law Bunker at Muttley Dastardly LLP… or the ‘viper’s nest’,  as I seem to recall, was your term for it.

Some good news.  I had a meeting with a rather unusual Libyan chap the other morning.  He arrived in an Apache helicopter which, I can tell you, startled a few tourists at the The Brasserie du Café de Paris in Monte Carlo  “the most well known setting for “rendez-vous” in Monaco : its warm welcome extends a promise of enjoyable moments, the decor with its “Belle Epoque” windows recalls that of old Parisian bistros, the atmosphere is glowing and gay.”

He didn’t seem that keen on my advice that he should do a runner, sharpish, to Venezuela before MI6 plugged his location co-ordinates into a  cruise missile on one of our submarines.  He stood up, held his arms high above his head and shouted “I am not such a dictator that I would shut down facebook.  I’ll merely imprison anyone who logs into it” . He stepped away from our table and, after signing a few autographs for passing millionaires, shouted “You are all pig dogs and, remember, were it not for electricity, we would all have to watch television in the dark”. With that out of the way, he climbed aboard the Apache helicopter and headed south at speed.

He didn’t even pay the bill.  Fortunately, I still have his Amex details, which he gave me earlier so that I could settle my fee for the ‘consultation’,  so I shall be able to recover my disbursements.  Old habits die hard.

All the best.  I’ll be in town for Ascot.  Perhaps we could lunch at your local Lebanese?

Best

Shagger

Rive Gauche: All Fools Day edition….

On All Fools Day, two April Fools caught my eye… both involving lawyers. The BBC did a very cleverly constructed piece involving Julian Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, and David Allen Green, on his Jack of Kent blog, wound up some skeptics.  I particularly enjoyed the comment ‘attributed’ to the  Mumsnet founder on the BBC piece: “Fathers have always been welcome on Mumsnet, I even keep one in my own house. I find it very useful for the spiders.”

David Allen Green wrote:

Why “skepticism” is now just another cult

Anyone adopting an “evidence-based” approach must reluctantly concede that the so-called “skeptic” movement has now just become another cult.

This is unfortunate.

However, the evidence is overwhelming…

(The comments are amusing – do have a look)

I will add a third amusing April Fool... from the files of RollonFriday.com an email from James Holder, Managing Partner, Charles Russell

Departing from April Fools… but, arguably in a similar vein, we have to consider the new Bribery Act which, I suspect, will cause some alarm in the business world and keep lawyers busy for some time.

Revamped Bribery Act is giving firms the jitters

Alex Bailin of Matrix Chambers in The Guardian: “Businesses are gearing up for compliance as facilitation payments and hospitality are set to come under closer scrutiny. After widespread criticism of the lack of clarity in the original draft guidance to the Bribery Act 2010, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has rewritten it and the act will come into force on 1 July.”

I enjoyed this… “The justice secretary, Ken Clarke, has now made it clear that “no one is going to try to stop businesses getting to know their clients by taking them to events like Wimbledon, Twickenham or the grand prix”.

Well… that must come as a relief.  It will be interesting to see in the new ‘business driven economy’, where our High Commissions and Embassies around the world are being turned into temples of mammon, how our businesses will cope in countries where bribes are a matter of business routine and are not seen as ‘criminal’.

Troops on standby after Kenneth Clarke privatises Birmingham prison

The Guardian: “The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, said soldiers had been put on standby and told MPs: “If people are so unwise as to take industrial action in prisons, the situation can rapidly become far worse than in a normal strike because we start getting disorder among the prisoners.”

Not being involved in criminal law as a practitioner or academic, I can only express a lay opinion.  My first reaction is that to involve British troops in prisons, should there be industrial action, is to risk the high regard most have for our forces.  I may well be wrong.  While we already have private prisons, is privatisation of the prison system a good thing?  My gut reaction leads me to the the view that the state should be responsible for prisons.  I was told on twitter last night,  by a practising barrister who sits as a Recorder, that the private sector have been effective and are more focused to rehabilitation because of the way the contract rewards are drawn.  If that is proven, and we can reduce recidivism, then that can only be a good thing.   I would be more than happy for my initial ‘gut’ feelings to be replaced by opinion based on good evidence.  We shall see.

The Orwell Prize: While I was invited to enter my blog by a good friend and fellow blogger and lawyer – it is not my ‘thing’… so I didn’t. I prefer to faff along in my own way, randomly at times,  and see what happens.  I am, however, delighted to see that my friend and fellow blogger, Carl Gardner of The Head of Legal blog, is on the long list.  Adam Wagner of the UK Human Rights blog has also made the long list. Both, deservedly.

Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.
George Orwell


I did enjoy this from RollonFriday.com: Birmingham Law Soc President awards Firm of the Year – to his own firm

At a glittering awards ceremony last Thursday, the Birmingham Law Society handed out gongs to the cream of the Midlands legal community. Including a Firm of the Year award for the President’s firm. In the fractured West Midlands market, there are multiple awards for Law Firm of the Year. Top billing – for firms with 16 or more partners – went to Higgs & Sons, in a contest described as “fierce“.  However Dean Parnell, the President of the Birmingham Law Society – and a partner in the dispute resolution team at Sydney Mitchell Solicitors – presented the “Law Firm of the Year (five to fifteen partners)” award to, errrrrr, Sydney Mitchell Solicitors….