Rive Gauche: Dumbed down legal Britain is but months away….?

The final bank holiday of the year until Christmas is upon us.  Next week I shall return to detailed commentary on the law, but for now a few items from ‘left field’.

First up… the news that Rocket Lawyer is coming to town to take advantage of the brave new world of law under the Legal Services Act.

To infinity and beyond: Google Law prepares for blast off

Louise Restell writes: “Several years ago, when I was campaigning to bring about the Legal Services Act, some bright spark at Which? suggested to me it wasn’t Tesco law that would bring about a revolution in legal services, but Google Law.  I wouldn’t say I dismissed his prediction out of hand, but at the time it was quite a big leap to see how you could buy legal services in Tesco, never mind from Google.  Well, last week this colleague’s prediction turned out to be right as the Google-backed Rocket Lawyer announced its intention to launch in the UK in 2012.  It’s a measure of how far we’ve come that the news caused merely a ripple, rather than the tsunami we would have surely had in the past.”

And if that doesn’t worry you, what about this?: A US law circus is coming to town…

Exclusive: “Biggest legal brand in US” eyes UK market entry in 2012

Legal Futures reveals: “Pioneering US legal services business LegalZoom is planning to launch in the UK next year, Legal Futures can reveal.

Co-founder Eddie Hartman, who is also president of attorney services, told Legal Futures that the company is “deep into the planning stages” of its UK entry, with the hope of bringing them to fruition in the next six to 12 months.

However, he emphasised that LegalZoom was taking its time to understand the UK’s legal culture. “We have to pay close attention to what the UK customer wants – we are still working out what that is,” he said.

I have no idea how these two initiatives will impact on the legal services market yet.  I am, however, doing a podcast with Professor Gary Slapper on Monday.  Gary Slapper has written a detailed text on the English Legal System, so we should be able to ‘shed some light’ on this in the podcast.   We should be thankful that Mr Hartman of Legal Zoom is going to be doing some ‘deep planning and thinking’ – a fairly useful thing to do when launching a new product?

Meanwhile Mr John Hemming MP is facing calls to resign over his antics using parliamentary privilege to break super-injunctions This article from the influential Inforrm blog makes it very clear that Mr Hemming’s conduct was unacceptable.

“This case seems a particularly clear example of the dangers of a politician – who knows only part of a story – second guessing a judge who has heard all the evidence.   An injunction which was designed to protect the interest of a child was repeatedly breached by the losing party in litigation, encouraged and assisted by a number of websites and by Mr Hemming’s abuse of parliamentary privilege.”

Adam Wagner and the UK Human Rights blog has this news: President of Family Division’s press release on paedophile allegations case

With thanks to the Judicial Press Office, below is the full press release from the President of the Family Division in a case involving a “super injunction”, John Hemming MP, false allegations of pedophilia and some poor press reporting.

I will blog about this once the full rulings are released, but in the meantime see Lucy Reed: Bared Teeth – Grrrrr! | Pink Tape; Inforrm; News: Hemming MP’s “super injunction victim” named as sex abuse fabricator « Inforrm’s Blog, and the Fighting Monsters blog: Hemming and Haigh – The Journey of an Injunction.

David Allen Green continues to investigate #hackgate: The Story of Hackgate, Part 1 – A blog post well worth your time.

And then, of course, we have our political masters not learning the lessons of history from King Canute.  King Canute, you will recall, to prove to his “followers” that he was not omnipotent,  demonstrated that he could not hold back the waves.  Following the riots, Prime Minister Camcorderdirect, currently enjoying his fifth holiday of the year in Cornwall, and Home Secretary Theresa May, appear to be under the delusion that they can hold back the waves of social media.

Facebook and Twitter to oppose calls for social media blocks during riots

The Guardian reports: “Facebook and Twitter are preparing to face down government ministers over calls to ban people from social networks or shut their websites down in times of civil unrest The major social networks are expected to offer no concessions when they meet the home secretary, Theresa May, at a Home Office summit on Thursday lunchtime….”

As I write, I do not know the outcome of the meeting with May. But I can tell you that the BBC is reporting that Deputy Prime Minister Clegg was pelted with blue paint.  I’m not a fan of pie throwing or paint chucking as a means of protest.  Mr Clegg had the right attitude in shrugging it off… “These things happen. It’s not a big deal.”

The GCSE results were out today and trending on twitter… A’s, B’s C’s.  The incorrect use of the apostrophe is endemic in this country – prompting me to observe (lightly)  this morning..

Update: Mary Wombat (@little_mavis)

I thought the same about the apostrophe & was discussing this with someone on Twitter today. Then I found this http://oxforddictionaries.com/page/punctuationapostrophe Right at the bottom. Apparently for single letters & numbers it is acceptable to use an apostrophe to indicate a plural

I was taught at school by a stickler for the apostrophe.  It would appear that I have erred!  I have always used the convention of simply adding an ‘s’ to indicate the plural. One learns every day!

A fascinating issue on university fees has escalated into law…

Does Scotland’s university fees system breach human rights laws?

The Guardian: If claims of discrimination against non-Scottish UK students are proved, Westminster may be forced to interfere in domestic matters devolved to Scotland

I am not a fan of the increase in fees to £9000 next year.  Iwasn’t a fan of the Labour government’s plan to charge fees at all.  My generation were fortunate.  We did not pay fees.  The government says we have run out of money.  Universities must stand on their on feet.  The future of our country in terms of workforce and wealth creators must now pay for their own education – borrowing the money but paying it back over a lifetime. I don’t know the answer to this problem, but I suspect, if we pulled back from entering unwise wars which we can’t actually win, we may have more money to invest in the future of our country and the high quality of education which we do provide at university level.  This, of course, may be far too naive and simplistic a view and is unlikely to find favour with our political masters.  I would like to see this case won.  I don’t see why an English or Welsh student who wishes to attend a university in Scotland should pay a higher fee than a Scots student or other student domiciled in Scotland pays – another view unlikely to find favour with  political masters. – in this case Scotland’s.

I’ll leave you to enjoy your bank holiday weekend with this from Professor Gary Slapper…

11 thoughts on “Rive Gauche: Dumbed down legal Britain is but months away….?

  1. Yes. Am glad you raised the issue of misused apostrophes. The confusion stems from the sources of English: German (hence the Saxon Genitive which requires an apostrophe to denote possession) and French, which appends an “S” to words to pluralise them. Difficulties are compounded when it is required to denote possession by a plural noun. Where to put the apostrophe?

    Additional to the above problem is the use of an apostrophe to denote a contraction or a missing letter. The contraction of “it is” to “it’s” is a good example, and is correct too.

    However the the genitive of the third person neutral pronoun (i.e., it) is “its” but so often this is written in Saxon Genitive form, i.e.,, as “it’s”. Let us hope that “hers” and “his” does not develop into “her’s” and “hi’s”.

    Do schools still teach grammar?

  2. Hmmm. With due respect to Lynne Truss, I think she is wrong. I am with Charon – it should be As, Bs, and Cs, etc. I will never use an apostrophe to denote a plural. I don’t care what the OED might say – there is no logic to it and it is wrong.

  3. Slight correction to my intransigent position above. I did once find it necessary to insert an apostrophe to denote a plural when I used the term “the do’s and don’ts”. Writing dos, which is strictly correct, is not a recognisable word.

  4. How ridiculous to ask John Hemming to resign for abusing parliamentary privilege when he was actually protecting it ! He was asserting the right of Vicky Haigh to speak to her MP about the danger of social services snatching her unborn child without the local authority and a judge forbidding her to do so and threatening her with prison! .
    In the event she escaped the clutches of the “SS” by escaping to Ireland where she had her baby and was supported at every turn by Irish social workers.
    All this had absolutely nothing to do with her allegations of sexual abuse by her ex husband on her then 5 year old daughter…….
    Lord justice Wall has never produced a scintilla of evidence (to paraphrase his own words) to prove that Vicky coached her daughter .He relies on the opinion of a judge who relied on the opinion of another judge !
    Vicky on the other hand has 2 long (1 hour) police videos,medical evidence,and reports from her daughter’s headmistress to support her case.Some scintilla …..

  5. really glad to see that someone else agrees on the allocation of public money for war rather than investing it in the people of the country. i did a rough, and i mean very rough calculation recently that if you were to take the total known cost so far of the wars in iraq, afghanistan (those two have exceeded 20 billion alone) and now libya taken from publicly available and reported figures, adjust them down to the lower estimate to take into account media sensationalism, then add in the cost of replacing the trident nuclear disgrace and of decommissioning our current aircraft carriers and replacing them with the ridiculous supercarriers someone in the navy and whitehall seem to be deluded as to believing we need, you would probably just about cover the so called defecit with money to spare, and that is without even considering the usual media spun stories of banks and labour wastage on welfare. universities and all other areas now being cut back on are being cut back on because we have spent the last few years blowing the hell out of a number of foreign countries to achieve nothing more than to shift terrorism and despotism elsewhere (like Guantanamo).

    Surely education and welfare are of greater importance than weapons of mass distruction and expending billions to chase one terrorist leader (because thats all that afghanistan was about, nothing to do with drugs or anything else)


  6. It would be foolish to say that I’m disappointed with the legal sector’s at times rather simplistic reactions to things like the John Hemming saga, because ultimately every criticism of the family justice system is viewed by many of these professionals as a personal affront. This kind of emotive reaction though, is understandable as it’s natural for us all to feel threatened by the kind of analysis which cuts to the core of our earning capacity, but on the other hand it is wholly unacceptable because we have forgotten one, very important thing: we are, by virtue of the oath we take upon entering the profession meant to be, first and foremost bastions for justice. The current day to day conflicts of interest which often prevent that kind of clarity is obvious and needs no further explanation.

    Having worked for several years with John Hemming, I have not once seen him act without acute consideration. One could describe his way to be as calm, incredibly measured and he is also acutely intelligent. That’s not to say that I agree with all of his views, but the point he was making about the Haigh Case was not whether the mother in question was dishonest, but whether the law set out in her case was just and reasonable. The facts of the case show very clearly that it was not and I daresay the majority of those howling like banshees, have not read these documents.

    The current call for John Hemming to step down, is of course, nothing more than a political one and it is foolish for anyone to think the motives lie in noble or even intelligent sentiments of any kind. The call came from a Labour MP. I think that speaks for itself.

    Having carried out research on injunctions and like orders, it is very clear that the trend in the rise of these orders is not law-based, but judge based. That is to say, you can see with very little difficulty that there are judges in the system who are heavy handed in their use of these delicate instruments and they do so on personal proclivity alone.

    We have some very serious, legal philosophical questions to ask in relation to the way our family courts work. MPs like John Hemming carry out that function. We should not seek to crucify those who are prepared to work on deep law issues. No matter how insecure it makes us feel or how unconventional the analysis may seem.

    Someone once said of a famous lawyer that he was ‘something of a rebel’. If we do not rebel against the fault lines in our family courts, then we become nothing more than perpetrators of injustice ourselves.

  7. As an aside, no one has, as of yet, commented on the impact of the case’s details coming into the public arena, on the child in question. This too, surely, is a poignant point and one that highlights the truly political nature of the dissenting crowd.

  8. The most interesting part of this case, Vicky Haigh, is the allegation that Wall LJ deliberately refused to look at evidence submitted in support of the allegation. I also do not think it was appropriate for Wall LJ effectively to hand down a judgement that assassinated her character when there no counsel or solicitor present to represent her interests. That seems to me to amount to abuse of authority.

    I also note from Christopher Booker’s latest article that John Hemmings has allegedly at least reported Wall LJ to the Judicial Ombudsman over the judgement Wall LJ gave criticising him. What is the constitutional position if the Ombudsman rules against the President of the Family Division? I would have thought that Wall LJ’s position would become immediately untenable. At the very least he would have to apologise, and would the case have to be reopened?

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