Summer silly season coming to an end in triumph!

Solicitor-advocate hits back at judge’s ‘Harry Potter’ criticism


I just have to quote the article in full….

Lancashire solicitor-advocate has hit back at what he describes as judicial bias against solicitor-advocates after a Crown court judge criticised him for dressing ‘like something out of Harry Potter’.

Alan Blacker, a solicitor-advocate at the Joint Armed Forces Legal Services in Rochdale, had been representing Andrzej Wojcicki, who was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and jailed for five years.

At the end of the trial, after the defendant had been taken down but while the jury and press were still in court, the judge, His Honour David Wynn Morgan, reprimanded Blacker on his appearance.

Blacker, who uses the title Lord Harley when he appears before the Crown court, had attached colorful ceremonial St John Ambulance ribbons to his gown.

Judge Morgan said to him: ‘If you want look like something out of Harry Potter you can forget coming to this court ever again. I have been practising in these courts since 1978 and I have never seen a barrister or solicitor appear before these courts wearing a medal or with badges sewn onto his gown.’

The judge said: ‘Here in South Wales we had a barrister, who later became a judge, who had won during the Battle of Normandy the highest order of gallantry in a Victoria Cross. Did you ever see him wearing a medal? He would have considered it the height of vulgarity for such a thing to be done.’

He added: ‘If you ever appear before this court again dressed as you are I shall exercise my right to decline to hear you.’

Blacker said the judge also questioned his right as a solicitor to wear a barrister’s wig and gown during the trial and asked whether he was a member of the Law Society.

Blacker told the Gazette he was wearing St John Ambulance ribbons in a ‘discrete place at the bottom of my robe away from the jury’.

He said he is severely disabled with a heart condition, brain tumour, plural issues on his right lung and arthritis.

‘I can’t help my appearance – I am overweight, I do wear my hair long, though tie it back in court and I am disabled,’ he said.

He said: ‘I believe I was attacked because I am Irish and from Rochdale and due to the snobbish, hateful attitude that some barristers and judges have towards my branch of the profession.’

Blacker explained that his family has a hereditary title going back over 1,100 years. When he appears in the magistrates’ and county courts, he said he uses the name Dr Alan Blacker, as he received a D Phil in law with economics. ‘Everyone is equal in those courts,’ he said. ‘But when I appear in the Crown court I come up against senior and treasury counsel, so I use my title.’

He said: ‘I was born in Rochdale, I’m a Lancashire lad and have never had any pretence about titles.’

But he said: ‘Solicitor-advocates need to play the game – it’s an equality of arms issue. Juries don’t understand the difference between solicitors and barristers. They think solicitors are subordinate and people will ask “when are you qualifying as a barrister”.’

Judges, he said, exploit that inequality on a ‘snobbery basis’.

He said: ‘The abuse I have received across all forms of social media in the last 24 hours means I can’t leave my hotel. ‘The thing that upsets me more than anything is that no one has mentioned the service given to my client, which has not been criticised.’

Blacker has not yet made a complaint about the judge to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, but he said he is considering his next steps with his solicitors.


I particularly liked this part of the remarks: Judge Morgan said to him: ‘If you want look like something out of Harry Potter you can forget coming to this court ever again.”

Law Society Gazette

Indeed… nothing at all Hogwarts about our courts… men and women lawyers and judges perfectly sensibly dressed etc etc….

The Times we live in…. bring back hanging? Dear gawd….. whatever next?

[I thought it was worth digging this post back up from the past]

#Hackgate continues with coverage of possible computer hacking in the papers this morning Yesterday Christopher Jefferies, the man ‘monstered’ in some tabloids as the suspect in the Yates murder, has won substantial damages from eight newspapers and The Lord Chief Justice has handed down a very critical judgment holding The Mirror and The Sun in contempt of court

The Guardian reports:

Earlier on Friday, Jefferies accepted substantial libel damages from eight newspapers – including the Daily Mirror and the Sun – over stories relating to his arrest.

In the contempt ruling handed down at the high court on Friday, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Owen described the Daily Mirror articles as “extreme” and “substantial risks to the course of justice”.

The judges said the Sun’s coverage of Jefferies created a “very serious risk” that any future court defence would be damaged.

“These articles [in the Sun] would have certainly justified an abuse of process argument, and although their effect is not as grave as that of two series of articles contained in the Mirror, the vilification of Mr Jefferies created a very serious risk that the preparation of his defence would be damaged,” the judges said. “At the time when this edition of the Sun was published it created substantial risks to the course of justice. It therefore constituted a contempt under the strict liability rule.”

Attorney-General Dominic Grieve led the prosecution himself, unusually, and appears, rightly, to be taking a very hard line on the issue of contempt of court in relation to press and media reporting.

And then, this morning, the political blogger Guido Fawkes has started a petition to bring back the death penalty in the United Kingdom Apart from the irony of a blogger using the name  Guido Fawkes as a nom de plume to suggest such a petition, many have observed that this will do his blog stats no end of good, given the desire of many to bring back the death penalty.  I suspect that PM Camcorderdirect, relaxing in his Tuscan lair, having spent some time de-toxifying the Tory party, will be groaning as various (and sundry) Tory MPs have come out in favour.  The Sun has taken up the story.  Is Guido re-toxifying the Tory party for his own ends to bait them, to trap Tory and other MPs into declaring their position for subsequent vilification in media and social media?

I am against the death penalty on three grounds: (a) It is a barbaric penalty, suitable only for countries living under medieval concepts of justice (b) judges and juries are not infallible and (c) it goes against the foundations of  modern humanitarian and moral precepts of justice.  Quite apart from the fact that Britain would have difficulties remaining a member of the European Union if we bring back the death penalty (Members are required to sign up to the European Convention. Protocol 6  – restriction of death penalty. Requires parties to restrict the application of the death penalty to times of war or “imminent threat of war” –  Edit: and Protocol 13 – Complete abolition of death penalty in Council of Europe states) one just needs to remember the reason why the death penalty was abolished in Britain in  1965 – the case of Timothy Evans being but one important reason.

They say that 70% of the population in Britain would welcome a return of the death penalty – the argument of the ‘executioneers’ is that Parliament must impose the will of the majority.  To that, I have to repeat a statement I have used before – “5 million flies eat shit, but it does not follow that shit is good for us to eat” .

I suspect (I have no empirical evidence) that few High Court judges would seek return of the death penalty and, I suspect, that few barristers, defence barristers in particular, would welcome the return.

To use a ‘populist’ argument – as a fair few twitter users did this morning… “You don’t trust MPs on taxation, expenses, governance…so why do you want to hand power to them to hang people?” Res Ipsa Loquitur?

Well… there we are.  We shall see what happens with this latest ‘wheeze’ on the part of the right wing to bring our ‘green and pleasant land’ into their vision of control.   If the death penalty does come back… I suspect that Norway with  their mature, humane and inspiring  way of handling serious issues would be a good place to live in?

I did like this sensible tweet from a labour MP… he has a point!

And this is the level of debate that those who want to hang people rely on?  Absurd…. (Me, elitist?  I think not!)

Mr Gaunt is, apparently, a columnist…

I look forward to more ‘gems of reason’ from ‘Gaunty’…. I may have a long wait?

A human rights nazi?  Now that is a concept that may give Mr Gaunt something to chew on?

My fellow blogger, friend and podcaster – David Allen Green – takes up the theme, sensibly,  in a very well reasoned blog post…… I quote his ending…“The devil may well have the best tunes; but the liberals will usually turn out to have the better arguments.”  Well worth reading.

UPDATE Sunday 31 July 2011

Unfortunately… with public opinion… law gets in the way. Guido suggested that Article 2 permitted executions.  As @ObiterJ pointed out in the comments…. Protocol 13 ECHR makes a rather important legal point which public opinion should consider

Yes.. this is right…

PLEASE READ THIS…  excellent… beautifully written with some wonderful imagery… 

Hanging’s Too Good For ‘Em

Jerry Hayes is not a fan of the new e-Petitions. Not at all.


[I thought it was worth digging this post back up from the past]

Lord Chancellor Grayling – an epic career in progress or a crime scene in progress?

Mr Grayling MP, aka Lord Chancellor Grayling, is probably not one of the great Lord Chancellors.  As he is not burdened by any significant knowledge of law this may explain it.  Still… let us look on the bright side. An election is coming soon.  His skills could well be put to better use elsewhere.  Italy perhaps?  China?

Guido Fawkes has a most interesting story – A weapons-grade clusterf*ck for the Buckingham Bonaparte


The Speaker’s choice for the new Clerk of the Commons has been panned on an international scale. Former Speakers and ministers from both parties as well as MPs have been left flabbergasted to why Bercow is attempting to force in ‘the Canberra Caterer’, who has zero experience beyond ordering the tea and biscuits for the Australian parliament. The Clerk down under also points out the awkward fact that Carol Mills is under investigation for spying on Australian MPs.  A weapons-grade clusterf*ck for the Buckingham Bonaparte, who is refusing to entertain the concept of a pre-selection hearing.

 As one government source said on Friday: “Discontent rising. Consulting parliament was supposed to be his USP in the role, after all.”

 Order-Order has been at the forefront of this story for weeks now. Read all our coverage here

Guest Post: Legal considerations when setting up an online shop

Legal considerations when setting up an online shop

Creating an online retail store provides a viable option for anybody looking to generate a second income, or even replace their day-job with a brand new business.

With countless e-commerce solutions available, not to mention a web teaming with advice for would-be entrepreneurs, it seems there’s never been a better time to set up shop.

Yet as rewarding as the whole experience can be, selling online isn’t without its challenges, especially when it comes to understanding the law, and how it applies to your business.

With that in mind, here are the fundamental legalities you must consider when developing your own online shop.

Paying tax and National Insurance

Let’s cut right to the chase and deal with the most unpopular one first: When you set up your own business, you’re ultimately responsible for paying your own tax and National Insurance contributions.

If you’re just getting started, you’ll need to register as a business with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) as soon as possible. Let this little thing slide for too long and the government may not take too kindly to it, charging you with hefty fines that could cripple your business before you’ve even started.

Keeping records

To make sure you’re being accurate and honest when it comes to filling in your tax return, you’re legally obligated to keep business records relating to in the income and outgoings of your online business.

This includes:

l  Invoices for sales

l  Bank records

l  Receipts for business purchases

It’s also a good idea to keep stock inventories, records of money you take out of the business for personal use,  and details of anything else pertaining to your store’s cash-flow.

HMRC suggest keeping all your records for a minimum of 5 years after the date of your tax return, so that you’ll have everything in hand if they want to look into your return at a later date.

Consumer regulations

When you’re selling online, there are two specific sets of regulations that you absolutely must adhere to: The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, often referred to as the E-Commerce Regulations, and the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013.

This article on the legal requirements of online trading from small business legal experts Lawbite discusses both of these in greater detail, outlining everything you need to know, and everything you need to do to make sure you abide by the law.

The article also points other important pieces of legislation you should be aware of, such as the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, which provides greater protection for your customers.

Data Protection

Under the Data Protection Act 1998, you have an obligation to keep any information you collect about your customers secure, and only use for its intended purpose.

As part of your website’s Privacy Policy -an essential component of any online store- you must make clear:

l  What data you will collect from your customers

l  How you will use that data

l  How you will process and store it.

To ensure you’re fully compliant with the law, it also pays to include in your policy a promise that:

l  You will only use the data you collect for a specific purpose

l  You will only keep it as long as is necessary to fulfil that purpose

l  A customer can see the information you hold about them on request

l  You will keep the data secure and up-to-date.

While all this might seem like a lot to take in at first, familiarising yourself with the laws concerning your online shop, and making sure you’re doing everything you can to uphold them, will only mean greater success for you in the long run.

Not only do you keep out of trouble, but by proving that your business is one which is transparent and does everything above board, you earn the respect and trust of your customers, you’ll gain a reputation as a reliable online retailer those customers will want to do business with time and time again.


August continues – and I am keeping myself amused….

August continues and I am keeping myself amused with a bit of painting – fences and ‘artworks’ (as I like to ‘style’ my ‘creations’ !)

I suspect, like many law bloggers, I am struggling for things ‘law’ to write about at the moment – but as I write, news from Slaughter & May to whet the appetite for the coming Autumn…

Slaughters and HSF lead on $14bn BHP de-merger
Slaughter and May, Herbert Smith Freehills and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton have won the top mandates advising BHP Billiton on a transformative de-merger which is set to create a $14bn (£8.4bn) independent global metals and mining company.

And, not content with that, Slaughter & May announce…

Slaughter and May pilots working from home scheme

Slaughter and May is piloting a working from home initiative for associates and partners across its key practice areas.

I have ‘worked’ from home for many years – a most pleasing way to work.  I can recommend it.  Podcasting does, however, give me a pleasurable opportunity to get ‘ite and abite’ and visit lawyers at their offices.  And talking about work – that can wait until tonight.  I have another painting to paint.

And please have a look at this marvellous blog


This is Your Trial at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Inksters Solicitors are sponsoring This is Your Trial at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This is Your Trial is an improvised show where top comedians are lawyers, prosecuting and defending charges set against you! Everyone is guilty until proven innocent! This follows on from last year when Inksters’ founder, Brian Inkster, had his very own This is Your Trial show for one day at the Fringe. He was found not guilty on charges of High Treason for having his eyes on the Scottish, or was it Shetland, Crown.

 The show’s creator, David Allison, said “this is a show inspired by law, I studied it, love the practice of it, but love comedy a little bit more. Somehow I’ve found a way to combine the two. For a change, lawyers can come do jury service in our audience, poacher turned gamekeeper, or is it the other way around?”

 The Judge, as in Brian’s Trial, is Tim FitzHigham. Regular Court Clerk during the trials is Thom Tuck. Each night guest Counsel appear for the prosecution and defence. So far this has included amongst others Fred MacAulay, Janey Godley, Greg McHugh, Mark Dolan, Trevor Lock, Dane Baptiste, Marcus Brigstocke, Sara Pascoe and Phill Jupitus with Al Murray donning the wig and gown last night

 Brian Inkster said “After experiencing my own ‘trial’ at last year’s Fringe it is great for Inksters to be able to sponsor a full run of shows this year. Lawyers are often seen as stuffy and boring. Inksters are far from that as can be seen our involvement in this comedy show!”.

 Arts & Business Scotland match funded Inksters support as Inksters are a first time Arts sponsor in 2013/14 following their sponsorship in the same year of the Scottish Ensemble mini-residency to Shetland.

 The shows are at 11.20pm each night (other than Sunday and Monday) until 23 August at The Box, Assembly George Square Theatre.

 Inksters are running a competition for the best lines tweeted from the show or best joke about the law using the hashtag #trialinksters. They have also set up a dedicated blog at to follow interactions and hijinks from the shows.

Due to popular demand an extra This is Your Trial show was added in for tonight (not been doing them on Sunday or Monday nights): Janey Godley QC v Jarred Christmas QC.

The show has been getting some good reviews.

Latimer Lee, Solicitors – Support charity and get a Free Will

I am always interested in reading about solicitors and barristers doing something to help others, whether it be using their legal skills or their general interest in the community.

Latimer Lee LLP, Solicitors and Notary Public, are offering a free will scheme: “Support charity and get a Free Will”

Based in Manchester, Latimer Lee LLP have been helping families and individuals for over 75 years. I liked the free will scheme. Drafting a will is not always a straightforward matter and having one drawn by a solicitor will ensure that your wishes are carried out.



Fancy a bag? A tombag!

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have a penchant for the unusual – and even, at times, practical.  Here is a bag, from a range produced by a friend of mine.  I now have one.  I am confident I shall find something to put in it to cart about on my trips!

If you would like a useful bag to cart things about in  – do get in touch with Tombag


SALE starts today!


At least the Prime Minister didn’t break in.. so Rule of Law in safe hands with the Tories (?)

David Cameron criticised for PR stunt in home of suspected illegal immigrants

Critics say it was improper and in bad taste for prime minister to pose for photos in Slough home after raid by border officials

David Cameron has been criticised for posing for photographs in the home of people suspected of immigration offences as part of a PR stunt aimed at showcasing the coalition’s toughness on illegal entrants to the country.

The prime minister was pictured in what appears to have been the kitchen and living room of a home in Slough where four men, thought to be Albanian, were detained by border officials.

His attendance at the raid was attacked by Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, who said it was at the very least “bad taste and constitutionally inappropriate for elected politicians to intervene in law enforcement”.

“Who gave Mr Cameron permission to look round these premises? Being prime minister doesn’t give you the right to enter private property willy-nilly,” she said. “Are we going to see politicians electioneering by taking part in immigration searches?”


I continue to marvel…. but at least he didn’t break in…. did he? Surely not?!

Read the article

Giving up smoking?

Having just recalled the advice of an old friend on Twitter…”If there is a plot…let us go and lose it.” – I took the advice and came up with some nonsense to hang on my wall.  I am using E-cigarettes in a vain attempt to give up smoking.  I have many of these E-cigarettes.  The conclusion I draw from this is…that my attempt to give up smoking is not going terribly well.

Well….at least I can put the used e-cigarettes to some good.  Am I getting the hang of this recycling thing?