I do hope that I am not deported back to England when I return to Scotland on the morrow

I will be wearing – Yellow glasses, red trousers, blue suede shoes, black polo shirt, yellow watch, and walking with a marvellous walking stick with a test tube inside the stem and a brass eagle head handle…but I will have my Scottish St Andrews flag (which I have had for years) and I shall talk like Fyfe Robertson.  And here is the great reporter on a short YouTube clip

I shall head for Largs, Ayrshire on the West Coast of Scotland and hope to take black coffee at Nardini before too long.  I shall also eat some fish and chips.  They do good ‘fish suppers’ up in Largs.

I have every expectation that my first clothing purchase in Scotland will be a deerstalker hat… but I shall take my Panama Hat just in case.

Have a great weekend. Hopefully, my next post will be from the West Coast of Scotland.  There probably won’t be a great deal of LAW in it – but, there we are…. these things happen.

Data security in Legal IT

Data security in Legal IT
Matt Torrens
SproutIT – Legal IT specialists

Be honest, what do you think?  You’re reading this article for a reason and must have some opinion on data security within UK Legal.  I’d venture that, if you are really honest and you make clear comparisons with other professional service markets, we’d agree that Legal is a long way behind. 

The UK, as a whole, fares comparatively well with our European neighbours when it comes to data security.  We have the highest percentage of encrypted company laptops (62%, compared with 36% in France and 56% in Germany) and also report the highest percentage of encrypted company mobiles (41%, compared with 21% in France and 32% in Germany) according to a ComputerWeekly study.  But do those figures carry over to the Legal sector?  I doubt it. Very much.

To reduce, or even remove, that gap, we must first understand why it exists in the first place.

Regulatory Bodies

Our solicitors and barristers answer to a number of organisations when it comes to, amongst other things, data security.  The ICO, SRA, Bar Council and Law Society act as regulators, advisors and promotors of professional excellence.  Published taglines such as  ‘we provide authoritative guidance’, ‘promoting the highest professional standards’ and ‘committed to excellence’ seem to fly in the face of serious, published advice from the same regulatory bodies:

  • “How to dispose of your hard drive securely…………removing the hard drive from the computer and hitting it repeatedly with a heavy hammer”
  • “Passwords……………facial recognition software is an acceptable alternative”

Such poor ‘advice’ simply does not exist for Financial and Healthcare providers.

The Law Society’s published guide for Information Security was helpfully last updated on 11th October 2011 and the Bar Council’s review in 2014 can only have been completed by non-technical authors that certainly favour the term ‘should’ over ‘must’.  Conversely, the Financial Conduct Authority ‘enforce’ rather than ‘guide’ and “make it clear that there are real and meaningful consequences for firms or individuals that don’t play by the rules”.

Back in Legal, the IT element of the resurgent Bar Standards Board Audit process is well intentioned but poorly designed.  In fact, Chambers are more regularly interrogated as to their data security arrangements by significant clients (Banks, Insurance Companies etc) than by their own regulatory bodies, almost as if they feel they need to take such matters into their own hands.

Working Practice

In general terms, data security practices are better thought out, implemented and enforced in solicitor firms, than in Chambers.  80% of barristers are self-employed and have been individually purchasing and managing their PC’s, smartphones etc, long before anyone coined ‘BYOD’.  Despite sharing common computing resources, barristers routinely flout best practice and even written policies, simply citing self-employment and full autonomy as their defence.   

A solicitor firm, at least, often allows for full control over the desktop environment giving greater autonomy back to the IT Dept.  USB devices, downloads, installation rights, browsing restrictions and TLS email encryption are all commonplace.  Most firms still have the rogue fee earner or partner who is happy to circumnavigate the rules because they always have done, and resent the restrictions.  Data security, and IT security in general, isn’t a geeky desire to impose unduly prescriptive rules but a duty to protect precious and sensitive client data.

Individual Attitudes

Integral to the success of any system, is the attitude and behaviour of the individuals within it. 

The issue of data synchronisation, mobile access and cloud storage is a hot topic.  Other professional services are way ahead, with Citrix ShareFile championed in the US Healthcare market – to be fair, there are some good off the shelf UK products too; Workshare, Nikec and so on.  So why, when a clerk or barrister receives a secure communication or invitation to share via a secure tool, do they look so bemused and immediately begin to search for an ‘easier’ way.  Because they are seeking familiarity and the path of least resistance, safe in the knowledge that their toothless governing bodies won’t bite.

Indeed, the same survey showed two thirds of respondents do not always check whether the data is safe to share, and little more than two thirds said to share data easily, they were willing to use personal cloud services to circumvent company IT restrictions and policies.

Rive Gauche: Funerals and other unimportant matters…

I don’t have an expensive phone.  In fact, I have a very cheap phone.  All it does is make and receive phonecalls.  Unfortunately, it is not a clever enough phone to reject unsolicited calls from bores asking me if I would like to plan my own funeral when I am trying to write a sensible blog post or about to go outside to do some professional smoking.

Unfortunately these ‘phone bores’ hide their number so it is not possible to phone them back later to ask if they need any double glazing, want to buy a camper van, or even a camp van, or if they have had a pleasant evening planning their funerals.

I am about to move back to the West of Scotland – so I thought I would do some Law  blogging before I escape.  Fortified by some Marlboro Menthol fags, I went outside, braving the short rain shower, and reflected.  Did I actually need to write about Law tonight?  Would it add to the sum of human achievement, learning and endeavour if I did?

Pleasingly, the decision I came to for both questions was “No”.  This frees me to write about something else that interests me.

 

You may have worked out that you are not going to find any law in this post.  You are right – mea culpa.

 

I enjoy watching cricket.  I particularly enjoy the sardonic humour – particularly from the Aussies. A small selection from the net for you:

Q. What do Geraint Jones and Michael Jackson have in common?
A. They both wear gloves for no apparent reason.

Q. What is the height of optimism?
A. An English batsman applying sunscreen.

Q. What does Ashley Giles put in his hands to make sure the next ball
almost always takes a wicket?
A. A bat.

Q. What is the English version of a hat-trick?
A. Three runs in three balls.

Q. What do you call an Englishman with 100 runs against his name?
A. A bowler.

This from a post I wrote on 1st February 2007

Colourful language…

Reading the Legal Week Editor’s blog this morning I came across a story about the election of the new Slaughter & May managing partner. For those interested in such matters – see the Legal Week story in full – this quote gives the flavour:

“As numerous law firm elections have shown, there’s always something to be said for being an unknown quantity. Less time to make enemies, less time to get on the wrong side of corporate and less baggage – that most dangerous accessory for any prospective managing partner.”

I was more interested in this pithy comment:

“Or as one Slaughter and May partner colourfully puts it: “Hidden away in Asia, no-one would know if you’re a shit or not.”

And back at the end of January 2007 I came across this ‘gem’

Giant penis etched into school garden with weedkiller can be seen from space. Sky has the story: “The unnamed pair of Year 11 pupils from Bellemoor School for Boys in Southampton, Hampshire, burnt the 20ft phallus into the grass as an end of term joke two years ago.”

One for drafting ‘aficionados’
Notice the effect of the following Dear John love letter with different punctuation:

Dear John
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful.
People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.
You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever
when we’re apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours?

Gloria

Dear John
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful
people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.
You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever.
When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

yours,
Gloria

And finally…

A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day.
“In English,” he said, “A double negative forms a positive.
In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative
is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a
double positive can form a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”

 

Inner Temple decided to recommend a re-development of the Treasury Building (Project Pegasus).

The provision of world class library facilities for practising barristers and students in the Inns is obviously an important matter – even in this age of electronic information via the internet.  Inner Temple appears to be planning significant reduction in space with intended development on the top floor  of meeting rooms, offices and an auditorium for Education & Training.

What follows below came to me via email.  It makes interesting reading.  To some, it may be uncomfortable and worrying reading. If you are a member of Inner Temple – you will be able to make your views known through the usual channels.

“At its meeting on 21st July 2015, the Executive Committee of Inner Temple decided to recommend a re-development of the Treasury Building (Project Pegasus).  There are many issues surrounding the feasibility of this project.  However, one in particular is the impact on Inner Temple Library.

The proposal affects all members and tenants of the Inn.  If it is adopted by the Inn’s Benchers, the loss of existing library space and services will be significant:

The Library’s entire upper floor and gallery will be converted into meeting rooms, offices and an auditorium for Education & Training.

Half of the Library’s main floor will be lost to storage, equipment, and lifts and stairs to a new fourth floor extension also for Education & Training.

50 per cent of reader places will be lost.
25,000 books in every day use will be displaced.

The cost of this project is currently estimated at £21 million and will require the Library to be closed for 18 months or more while building work is carried out.

We invite you to read the Library Committee’s submission to the Executive Committee opposing the proposal (called Scheme 2)

We recognise that there will be different views about these matters. But the Library Committee believes that the Library provides a vital service to practitioners and students alike, that it serves the core charitable function of the Inn, and that we owe a duty to those who come after us, to protect and enhance it. The loss of space proposed would be fatal to the high standard of service currently offered free to members throughout their professional lives at a time when the service is needed more than ever because of the increasing financial pressure on many members of the Bar.

For these reasons, the Library Committee remains strongly opposed to the adoption of Scheme 2.  It would however support Scheme 1 which would give the E&T a new floor and facilities but have no serious impact on the Library.

The recommendation for Scheme 2 is to be considered at an extraordinary Bench Table meeting, open to all Benchers of the Inn, to be held on 21st October 2015 at 5pm in Hall.

If you share our concerns could we invite you to speak about the proposal to any Governing Benchers you know, or, if you are a Governing Bencher, to attend and vote against the proposal. Alternatively please contact the Library Committee by emailing librarycommittee@innertemple.org.uk

Thank you for your time.”

The Inner Temple Library Committee

My return to the West Coast of Scotland and Fyfe Robertson…

Here is Fyfe Robertson…. a great reporter in his day.  They don’t make ’em like this, these days.  

I am orf to the West of Scotland – Largs – to blog away, do some painting and enjoy the pleasures of my real homeland!
One of Fyfe Robertson’s video reports was from the West Coast wehere I am going to.  I can remember his words to this day…
“Here I am in the Clyde Valley of Scotland where if you can’t see the hills it is raining and if you can, it is going to rain.”
Suits me just fine.  It is 42 years since I have lived in Scotland – although I had one of my honeymoons up there with my wife.  I find it a good strategy to go on honeymoon with a wife – although it is not necessary.  It would, however, not be the ‘thing’ to leave one’s wife in London when one was in Scotland honeymooning away?
I reckon it will only take half an hour before I start talking in a similar way to Fyfe Robertson. …I will, however, buy a deerstalker hat to go with my brass eagle head walking stick with a test tube inside it for a ‘wee dram’.

The Man in a Hat reports on Lord Coke – WARNING – The story may make you ‘snort’.

There is only so much marvelling at the human condition that a man in a hat can do – but this story about “Lord Coke” is a ‘ripper’ and may make you ‘snort’ ?

Lord Coke: Top peer’s drug binges with £200 prostitutes

…And he’s the the one in charge of standards

The Sun reports :

A MARRIED peer in charge of upholding standards in the House of Lords has been caught on video snorting cocaine with a pair of £200-a-night hookers.

Baron John Sewel, 69 — Deputy Speaker of the Lords and once a key ally of ex-PM Tony Blair — stripped naked for one sleazy romp at his rent-protected London flat.

Last month he was also pictured snorting coke with hookers at a sordid sex party after asking: “What about trying the big one?”

The peer, in charge of upholding standards in the House of Lords, sniffed the Class A drug from one call girl’s breasts.

And he told the women — each paid £200 for the session at his rent-protected London flat: “I just want to be led astray.’’

Perhaps Lord Coke could just take it with a pinch of something….coke?

***

“It is literally the case that learning languages makes you smarter. The neural networks in the brain strengthen as a result of language learning.”

Michael Gove
Perhaps the Lord Chancellor should learn some law?  It would certainly make him ‘smarter’ when it comes to dealing with law and the legal profession? It may also be an idea for him to trust the legal professionals?  Asking for a friend…

 

Guest Post: Will Increased Sunday Trading Affect UK Retail Workers?

Will Increased Sunday Trading Affect UK Retail Workers?

Trade unions and politicians alike have spoken out against new plans to extend Sunday shopping hours to a full day’s trading. The changes were officially announced on Wednesday 8th July as part of George Osborne’s emergency budget plan.

The Treasury justifies the change based on research conducted by the New West End Company, which revealed that an extension of Sunday trading will create 3,000 new jobs throughout London alone, and will rack up more than £200m for the economy in the process.

If the move goes ahead it will be the biggest change to Sunday trading laws in two decades. The current law dictates that large retailers in England and Wales are permitted to trade for a total of six hours on a Sunday between 10am and 4pm.

A large retailer is defined as one that possesses floor space of at least 3,000 square feet or more. Stores with less space than this amount are permitted to open for a full day. The only time this rule was altered in modern Britain was in London for eight weekends during the London Olympics of 2012.

It is proposed that the alteration of trading hours be based on the individual needs of each town and city, with the final say being made by councils and elected mayors of that area. This choice of making individual rules at the expense of a single national trading rule is intended to allow each region to determine whether the change will benefit their local economy or hinder its economic and social plans.

Union opposition

Opposition to an increase in Sunday trading has already been expressed by several organisations. John Hannett, the secretary general of shop-workers union ‘Udsaw’, the fastest growing union in Britain, has refuted the notion of economic benefits getting generated and has claimed that the change will place unfair expectation on workers who will feel pressured into working overtime.

The conservative plan to extend Sunday hours is not a unanimous one, as many Tory cabinet members have expressed concern over the impact it will have on UK workers. Religious groups are also not pleased with the change, which could force some UK employees into work instead of attending religious services; a potential violation of their religious freedom. This could force retail employees to resign from their jobs and lead to an increase in constructive dismissal cases being brought to UK employment tribunals.

The Association of Convenience Stores also attacked the changes, claiming that large stores trading on Sundays will harm the performance of smaller businesses currently able to take advantage of existing Sunday trade laws. The organisation pointed out that small businesses saw sales fall 0.4% during the increased trading period of the Olympic games; a statistic it claims will occur again.

The UK small business minister, Anna Soubry, says that worker concerns will be fully explored, but warned that there is no guarantee the changes will be prevented simply based on employee opposition to an increase in additional trading hours.

Political opposition

Labour politicians have also denounced the plans. Potential new Labour leader, Andy Burnham, tweeted that he would stand against it: “Sundays are the only day people who work in shops can bank on some time with their kids. I will oppose this all the way.”

Yvette Cooper also announced her opposition with claims that the current model of six hour Sunday trading is sufficient: “The current legislation provides the right balance between Sunday shopping and protecting a bit of family time for shop-workers in a competitive market”.

Disclaimer: Please note that whilst every effort is made to maintain accuracy of the content in this article; we cannot take responsibility for any errors. This author is not an Employment Lawyer or HR Specialist and this cannot in any way constitute a substitute for Employment Law advice. All facts should be cross-checked against other sources. Should you require specific Employment Law advice, then we recommend that you contact Nationwide Employment Lawyers.

Rive Gauche: I can paint ‘sensible’ paintings?

While my brother Stewart ‘marvels’ at the nonsense I come up with in terms of spiderman wearing a barrister wig with a Lucozade bottle stuck on the canvas (He rolls his eyes heavenwards) – even Stewart, who is a good painter, might approve of the painting to the left which I will finish this afternoon.  In truth, I have not ridden a bicycle for about 45 years.  Fast motorbikes were my thing – The Honda Blackbird my favourite bike – had seven of those in my time. I was riding a Blackbird when I got stopped by a Guardia Civil bike cop near Mojacca in Spain at 6.00 am. The motorway was completely empty – not many drivers about at 6.00 am on a Sunday morning in that part of Spain.  He told me I wasn’t even trying as I was only doing 140 mph.  I did get the bike up to 190 mph earlier on that run on an empty straight section of the motorway, but the road had a long easy bend and the speed had to be lowered.  Just as well given that there was a cop waiting around the corner. We talked, had a fag, sat on each other’s bikes and shook hands.  He warned me to keep my speed down near the bigger towns, saying  that his friends in the Guardia Civil in marked cars were not as amusing with speeding bikers or drivers.

But a bicycle, stylised, is easier to paint than a motorcycle.  I’m not a fan of spending too much time on any one painting.  A nickname when I was at school flogging paintings to friends was ‘Risotto’ – “Ready in 20 minutes’.

***

As I am deporting myself back to Scotland, where I came from, this coming week, I just had to change my flag in the blog header to my version of the Scots Saltire…

CRY FREEEEEDOM etc etc.

The Food Judge – an excellent and amusing food blog by a senior solicitor

I have had the pleasure of meeting Nicky Richmond the author of The Food Judge – an excellent website and well worth a visit if you are interested in eating out or want inspiration for your own cooking.  I remember the Lemon Drizzle cake she made and brought with her when we met some years back.  It was a superb cake. Nicky Richmond is a polymath – she is also Joint Managing Partner of Brecher, a law firm with a fine reputation.

I’ll give you a short taster of what to expect when you visit The Food Judge – a must – and I don’t say that very often.

This, from one of Nicky Richmond’s recent articles…

Have I eaten in a morgue?

“Google the death of fine dining and you’ll see a plethora of articles telling us it’s all over. The most recent funeral oration is that given by Jay Rayner, in the Guardian, where he refers  to a survey which states that 70% of diners have turned against fine dining, linking to a headline in The Times, which declares that  “Fussy French dining loses out to relaxed rioja and tapas”.

Drilling down, the Times article quotes an outfit called Wine Intelligence who say that of a thousand diners asked, almost a quarter had ordered a bottle of Rioja in the last six months. I’m not sure that this proves the death of fine dining or the end of the hegemony of French wine. I’d be more interested to know if that was the first time those asked had ever ordered Rioja, or how many more bottles of Rioja were sold in the UK market, compared to the previous year.”

It really is an excellent food blog – and I like Nicky’s writing style – and humour.

Rive Gauche: The Great Escape to Scotland…Cry Freeeedom!

Hopefully, a week today I will be in Largs (Scottish Gaelic: An Leargaidh Ghallda)  a town on the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire on the West Coast of Scotland where I plan to live out my life. It is an interesting town – quite a small place, which suits me just fine after having lived in London for 42 years. I am a Scot, educated at Trinity College Glenalmond in Perthshire before university and it is a part of Scotland I particularly like – right on the sea overlooking the Two Cumbraes.  On a good day, one may see the Island of Arran in the distance.  When I was kid, we lived in Fairlie, a small village two miles down the road from Largs.

 

Largs was involved in quite a famous battle.  Wikipedia notesThe Battle of Largs (2 October 1263) was an indecisive engagement between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland near Largs, Scotland. The conflict formed part of the Norwegian expedition against Scotland in 1263, in which Hakon Hakonarson, King of Norway attempted to reassert Norwegian sovereignty over the western seaboard of Scotland.

There is even a Castle Semple nearby – a ruin.

The plan is to write, paint, take photographs, blog about English and Scots Law – and, indeed, anything else I want to write about and take coffee and eat fish suppers and ice cream at  Nardini’s in Largs, Scotland’s most famous cafe – a fine building and interior.  I will not be eating deep fried Mars Bars.

I used to play passable golf.  I may take it up again and play at the excellent Routenburn golf course just up the road.

Fyfe Robertson, the celebrated, journalist and Television performer of the 1960s once said “Here I am in the Clyde Valley of Scotland where…if you can’t see the hills it is raining and if you can see the hills it is going to rain.”. He had a fine Scots accent…drawn out and almost nasal in tone.

Fortunately they have the interweb up there, naturally – it was, after all, a Scot who invented television.  John Logie Baird – as my prep school Headmaster never stopped telling us. That Headmaster made good use of BBC television – pictures in black and white for educating us.  We assumed that it saved him the trouble of teaching us.    John Logie Baird came from Helensburgh, also on the Clyde – where I went to Larchfield  School

Well..there we are…my plan until I go to the great lecture theatre in the sky.  Have a good weekend

 

 

Guest Post: Probate Case Management versus Probate Accounts Isokon

Probate Case Management versus Probate Accounts Isokon

Many probate professionals refer to probate software as “probate case management.” This is a misunderstanding of the nature of probate software. What is the cause of this misunderstanding? Most software suppliers to the legal marketplace are not able or lack the vigour to replicate the full complexity of estate administration, which is primarily an accounting function. They therefore supply the case management tools that are readily available to them which they sell as “probate case management.” Case management is concerned with workflows, mailmerging and task management. It is certainly a useful tool in the day to day management of events. It does not however lend itself to managing the finances of the estate.

The fundamental question to ask is: how useful is case management without an accounting system based on a professional database from which it can suck financial data. One discerning solicitor likened it to “trying to catch fish without bait.” The reality is that case management is at best about 20% of the estate administration – the bulk of which is financial accounting. Law firms who buy ‘probate case management’ are unwittingly selling themselves short.

You will still need a tool to log the assets and liabilities of an estate. Many firms use spreadsheets to record the financials of an estate. Spreadsheets are useful but an inherently high risk tool, in contrast to a probate specific accounting system. Spreadsheets are not inherently multiuser.

Stuck on the sole computer of the user, they cannot be used on a central server by more than one user at a time without the risk of data being overwritten by one user over another. Creating management reports with information using all data from all cases from separate spreadsheets is not feasible. Inadequate management reporting is a significant risk factor for the firm, and is likely to alarm the auditors.

The Law Society might look askance at such a practice, and you definitely will not win Lexcel accreditation.

Probate accounting involves a plethora of financial details, such as: • logging the assets and liabilities • separating capital and income • dealing with post death income and accrued income • paying the gas bill and funeral expenses • dealing with post probate adjustments • an easy way to account for an abatement of assets • dealing with capital gains/losses and revaluations • accounting for packaged products such as ISAS and PEPS • listing the market value of equities and their dividends • calculating the cash value to the beneficiary who does not want shares • auto calculating the net or gross tax of equities, gilts and unit trusts • listing the foreign shares and calculating the tax due under the double taxation agreement • constantly recalculating the money due to the residuary beneficiaries

These accounting functions clearly require a dedicated probate accounting system. By contrast a spreadsheet is a blunt instrument. Only an experienced practitioner with a depth of knowledge can manage this work in such a manner. An experienced probate practitioner could even hypothetically manage the work on the back of an envelope. Not of course a recommended practice. Financial information needs to be held in such a manner that it can easily be understood by any other member of the team. In an efficiently run firm, work needs to be easily delegated to a probate assistant when necessary. Otherwise taking on new work is limited, and you will be in deep trouble if you fall ill and require an assistant to pick their way through your spreadsheet. An effective solution needs both case management and an accounting database, working in harmony with each other.

The result is a profitable private client department. A number of probate managers have reported achieving gross profits in excess of 70% for their department as a direct consequence of using the Isokon accounting system combined with an integrated Isokon case management component.

isokon

For further information please contact: Gregory van Dyk Watson, Managing Director of Isokon Limited. Email: gregory@isokon.com or call 020 7482 6555. Alternatively visit www.isokon.com

Isokon was founded by Gregory van Dyk Watson in 1999. The company has invested 44,000 man hours in development of the product over the last 15 years. The company is currently the leading supplier of software for Probate and Private Client work. It is used by 36% of law firms who do private client work. It is used by more than 2,000 individual users. Isokon is used for the most complex estates, as well as basic estates. Isokon is based on an accounting database engine with an integrated Isokon case management component.

Rive Gauche: Chief Justice and Master of The Rolls apprehend Lord Chancellor impersonator

Our revered new Justice Secretary Michael Gove has ‘vowed to combat ‘dysfunctional’ court system.  Well…good luck with that. I missed the story when it was published back in June

The Independent reports: “The new Justice Secretary will deliver a damning verdict on the “creaking and dysfunctional” court system, warning that is riddled by inefficiency and bureaucracy which compounds the suffering of crime victims.

And, if you have forgotten what non-lawyer Gove LC looks like after his raid on the dressing up box – here is a picture…

I do like this picture.  The real judges seem to be amused by something.  Because they have apprehended another Lord Chancellor Impersonator? Their hit rate so far in recent times is two out of two. 100% capture record. Time will tell if Mr Gove is able to do anything meaningful.  Friends in the profession have told me that they are ‘not hopeful’, an interesting choice of word – perhaps they were thinking about the word ‘hopeless’ at the same time as thinking about Mr Gove?  Who knows?

The Independent reported in June: Michael Gove: New Justice Secretary vows to combat ‘dysfunctional’ court system

“Michael Gove, in his first speech since his surprise appointment, will promise rapid and radical reform to criminal justice through the greater use of technology to accelerate prosecutions and to it less traumatic for witnesses to appear in court.

He is backing flexible court hours and allowing evidence collected by body-worn police cameras to be admissible in trials, as well as conducting more routine pre-trial hearings by video conferencing and email exchanges…..”

Increase in the Number of Accidents in Scotland’s Workplaces and Roads

Increase in the Number of Accidents in Scotland’s Workplaces and Roads

Accidents can happen at any time, but as is to be expected, they most commonly occur in the places we spend the most amount of time in. Needless to say, accidents in the workplace and road traffic accidents are two of the most common causes of personal injury in the UK. But two recent reports show that accidents both at work and on the road in Scotland are occurring more frequently.

Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that there has been a rise in accidents at work. These figures come as a significant blow to health and safety officials in Scotland, particularly following a similar report last week, which stated that the number of fatalities in road traffic accidents have also increased dramatically.

Accidents in the Workplace

Provisional figures from the HSE show a decline in the number of accidents in traditional areas of work such as construction sites, but indicate a rise in new areas of the employment sector. The report showed a significant increase in the number of serious accidents in previously unseen areas such as waste and recycling plants, with the number of accidents in previously dangerous areas of work, such as construction sites falling.

The rise in the number of serious accidents coincides with a new report that has shown that there has been an increase in the number of fatal accidents in workplaces in the UK. There were six more deaths in 2014/15 than in the previous year, with the Health and Safety Executive admitting that it would have been difficult to match the 2014’s record low.

In Scotland, the number of accidents and fatalities in the workplace indicates a much poorer safety record than other parts of the UK. The HSE argue, however, that Scotland has fewer employees in “low-risk industries and occupations” meaning that more people are working in notoriously more dangerous work environments, thus leading to more accidents in the workplace.

Regardless of whether your occupation is low-risk or not, all employers have an obligation to keep all their members of staff safe. One of the most important obligations is to ensure that the health and safety standards are appropriate and that employees are properly protected at work. Employers must also ensure that staff have appropriate equipment for their work and are trained to use it. Failure to do so can result in an accident, and leave an employer liable to legal action.

Rise in Road Traffic Accidents in Scotland

The Scottish government also recently published a report showing that there were more than 11,000 road traffic accidents last year in Scotland alone.

Worryingly, it was revealed that there were over 3,000 more accidents in the last year than 2013 and that 200 people died as a result of collisions on the road. The report will feel like a backwards step for health and safety officials with the number of accidents on the roads rising to a five-year high. Alarmingly, in October the provisional figures from the Scottish government showed that the number of accidents on the road was at an all-time record low. The figures also show an increase in road traffic offences and a rise in the number of children suffering a serious injury on Scottish roads to over 1000 in the last year.

Of those seriously injured on Scotland’s road, the majority were vulnerable road users, with eight cyclists and 56 pedestrians being killed as well as many others being seriously injured.

Your Legal Rights Following an Accident

Thousands of people are injured every year in the workplace or in road traffic accidents through no fault of their own. Speeding, poor road conditions and negligence are the most common causes of road traffic accidents, while employer negligence and a breach of health and safety conditions being the main cause of workplace incidents.

Fortunately, if you have been hurt in an accident on the roads or if your employer has failed in their duty of care, the law is there to protect you. We can only hope that this year bring a vast improvement in the figures.

Post by 100% Compensation Scotland a new site launched by Lawford Kidd, personal injury solicitors in Scotland – they can offer a free consultation over the telephone and work on a no win no fee agreement, where the client receives 100% of the compensation they win.

Frances Coppola: Financial writer, Forbes and FT contributor.

Frances Coppola

I had the pleasure of meeting Frances Coppola when I lived on St Mary’s Island near Chatham in Kent – a charming coffee companion with an eclectic range of interests..  I enjoy her blog Coppola Comment – which I recommend to you, particularly for the financial analysis and comment. Frances also appears on BBC television on financial comment matters.

 

Muttley Dastardly LLP: If your clients know how good you are, you can charge more

MEMORANDUM TO ALL STAFF

I read with interest an article on the Legal Futures website – a website which is most interesting and has the finger on the pulse.  I quote from the opening paragraphs:

“The barrister and law firm with the top High Court win rates in England and Wales will be named later this month, Legal Futures has learned.

US website Premonition, which has studied the win rates of attorneys across America, is to publish the names after studying 11,600 High Court cases over the past three years.

Toby Unwin, co-founder of Florida-based Premonition, said the report would cover every law firm which instructed a barrister in the High Court in the last three years, along with the 1,500 barristers who had acted for them.

If your clients know how good you are, you can charge more,” Mr Unwin said. “The top 20 people will get very expensive, but right now some of the best people are not being compensated.”

I have taken the liberty of highlighting in red the most important part of the excellent article – which is entirely consistent with our philosophy at Muttley Dastardly LLP

The photograph shows the amount of money in my wallet this morning, a smaller quantity  than is usual, but I have a fairly large vault at home where I keep a bit more loose change.

We must tell our clients at every opportunity how good we are. We must tell them of our very high hit rate of WINS and we must tell clients how we keep control of brief fees to the other branch of the legal profession who are more than keen to work for our firm just for the prestige, and when I say ‘just for the prestige’ I mean just that.  We don’t actually pay counsel.  We do give them a bottle of tap water and an Egg & Cress sandwich from Tesco (£1.10p)  which they eat in the main hall at The Royal Courts of Justice.

May I suggest that you read the Legal Futures article fully – in your own time, of course.

Dr Strangle-Ove
Senior Partner

Strength & Profits

 

Rive Gauche: And a bit of artybollocks….

My work explores the relationship between acquired synesthesia and recycling culture.

With influences as diverse as Caravaggio and Frida Kahlo, new combinations are synthesised from both constructed and discovered layers.

Ever since I was a postgraduate I have been fascinated by the essential unreality of meaning. What starts out as hope soon becomes debased into a hegemony of temptation, leaving only a sense of failing and the dawn of a new synthesis.

As shifting derivatives become distorted through frantic and personal practice, the viewer is left with a tribute to the possibilities of our condition.

Statement from the artist courtesy of artybollocks.com

I did paint the painting.

(I will be writing about Law and matters legal…soon…)

Just when you thought he’d managed to insult everyone, the nation’s most well-known elderly curmudgeon Prince Philip has been at it again.

The Independent reports solemnly: “Just when you thought he’d managed to insult everyone, the nation’s most well-known elderly curmudgeon Prince Philip has been at it again.

On a visit with the Queen to Dagenham, east London, on Thursday, the Mirror’s royal correspondent reported that the 94-year-old asked a group of women volunteers at a community centre, “Who do you sponge off?”.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s small talk game was clearly on fire this morning. He also enquired whether one local campaigner had any friends”

Excellent stuff from the nation’s leading curmudgeon.

I have had 21 motorbikes in my life – this is my 22nd motorbike

I have been fortunate in having had 21 motorbikes in my life – mostly, Honda Fireblade and Honda Blackbird.  I had a Ducati 916 and a Yamaha R1 for a while – but none of them came close, for me, in pleasure, to the Honda Blackbird.  I got stopped by a very friendly Guardia Civil bike cop in Spain near Mojacca at 6.00 am on an empty road for speeding.  He was very laid back, smoking a cigar. He didn’t speak much English and I do not speak Spanish.  We hacked about in Franglais. We still had a good chat, a smoke.  He sat on my Honda Blackbird and I sat on his Guardia Civil police bike.  He asked how fast it could go.  195 mph I told him.  He laughed and said I had been doing 150 when he stopped me, so I wasn’t even trying!  He did suggest that his friends in the Police near the bigger cities were not so amusing and to keep my speed down – about the same as the fast Spanish car drivers! Nice chap

I had an accident some years back.  I was waiting to turn right into a road in Chiswick.  A driver drove straight into the back of me. The bike fell on me, so no damage to the bike.  My leg had over 100 stitches – done by a friend of mine nearby who was a nurse.  Job done – went to the local pub with them, had a couple of drinks and walked the bike home – about 200 yards away. There was no need to trouble the emergency services. The driver who drove into me was most apologetic and worried – a charming  elderly lady.  I told her not to worry.  There would be ‘no further action’.  I did not feel the need to trouble Her Majesty’s Constabulary.

I miss riding motorbikes.  Who knows…one day again when I end up in Scotland?    In the meantime – I shall drink tea brewed in my 22nd motorbike – purchased from the Charity shop in Kingsbury for £3.50.

 

If you enjoy good, robust, political and law blogging – Visit Jerry Hayes’ blog

I’ve Known Jerry Hayes, a barrister and former Conservative MP, for some years. We’ve done a few podcasts together and with others.  An amusing man with a robust take on events who is more than happy to speak his mind and write robustly on his blog

Even if you aren’t a lawyer or that ‘political’ his blog is worth reading – because it is extremely amusing. And, you will enjoy Jerry’s turn of phrase and be entertained.  Jerry writes regularly – so well worth bookmarking this blog.

Have a look at these recent posts to get an idea of the serious and the amusing…

NOW IS THE TIME TO NEGOTIATE WITH GOVE RATHER THAN WRECK THE SYSTEM
OSBORNITE IS THE NEW KRYPTONITE, IT SAPS THE STRENGTH OF ITS ENEMIES BEFORE KILLING THEM
“Did anyone notice a tiny puff of white smoke briefly lingering over Number 10 Downing Street on Wednesday night? George Osborne’s shamelessly political budget has put him in pole position to succeed David Cameron. It always mystifies me why Chancellors are abused for acting politically. They are politicians, it is therefore in their nature to milk every budget for advantage.

Whatever side of the political divide you are on you have to admire this budget’s radicalism, dash and delightfully kleptocratic shaming of Labour. The tax credit system is a national disgrace. It encourages employers to pay sweat shop wages and demands that the taxpayer makes up the difference to the tune of £30 billion. It borders on the immoral. To steal Labour’s living wage plans and then increase it blindsided everyone and has thrown a mortally divided party into a blind panic. Do they support their own policy or do they vote it down? Clobbering the non doms and hedge funds was totally unexpected and at a stroke explodes the myth that the Tories are for the rich at the expense of the poor. It really was a masterclass in trashing your opponents and weening the country off its addiction to welfare. This will go down as one of the great budgets. And if you look carefully it had the fingerprints of Steve Hilton all over it….”

THE CPS ARE SO UNDER RESOURCED, UNDERSTAFFED & OVER WORKED THAT THE SYSTEM IS ON THE BRINK OF TOTAL COLLAPSE

“I was just scrolling though the Mail online to get my daily fix of my chum the splendid Quentin Letts, when I noticed my bewigged face staring back at me. It was when I went on strike last year. Never adverse to see my picture in the newspapers I thought it would be a good idea to read the piece written by Max Hastings. I really wish I hadn’t as it is a depressing rant about how the police, the judiciary, the church and lawyers are all dinosaurs and holding this great nation back….”

And a bit of current politico-legal comment…

GRAYLING’S PROBLEM WAS NOT HAVING A LEGAL QUALIFICATION BUT NOT HAVING A HEART. GOVE HAS AND MUST USE IT TO BRING BACK HUMANITY TO OUR SYSTEM OF JUSTICE

And one of my favourites – being a Labour voter…

WHEN MILIBAND WAS UNDERMINING BLAIR FOR BROWN HE USED TO BE REFERRED TO AS THE EMISSARY FROM PLANET FUCK

Rive Gauche: Yob squirrel breaks into pub, pours himself a beer and ransacks the place

While I should, perhaps, be improving my mind in some way – I did enjoy this story from HuffpostUK

I cannot resist quoting from the story: ” A drunk squirrel has caused hundreds of pounds of damage after breaking into a pub and hosting his own private lock-in. The rodent made an overnight visit to the Honeybourne Railway Club, near Evesham, in Worcestershire.

Sam Boulter, branch secretary of the club, initially thought the place had been burgled when he arrived on Sunday morning.

He told the BBC: “There were bottles scattered around, money scattered around and he had obviously run across the bar’s pumps and managed to turn on the Caffrey’s tap.

“He must have flung himself on the handle and drank some as he was staggering around all over the place and moving a bit slowly.

“I’ve never seen a drunk squirrel before. He was sozzled and looked a bit worse for wear, shall we say.”

It took Boulter and two customers an hour to capture the animal and a further hour to clean up the mess.

The squirrel – who is believed to have cost the pub around £300 in stock – has now been barred from the premises, The Worcester News reports.

***

Well..there we are.  But I can justify the story on the blog – there is a high degree of criminality involved on the part of the squirrel here.  I’ll get my coat…again…and try and find some sensible law to write about.

 

Rive Gauche: Sean Jones QC produces high quality art on discovery of Charonqc

 

 

I marvel – the talent in the legal world demonstrated on Twitter knows no bounds *Applauds*

As you can see – an excellent likeness.

 

I don’t usually sit at my desk holding a Zambian fly whip or a miniature Zulu shield and assegai wearing Yellow frame glasses.  That would be an ‘unusual’ thing to do – even for me.  I am, in fact, selling these two items which I have had for 42 years for £30 – if you would like to buy them get in touch by email or DM on Twitter

The fly whip was made for me by some Zambian colleagues when I was working in Africa after school. It is a Kudu tail.  The Kudu died a natural death.  I see no need to hunt animals and kill them.  Some people seem to take pleasure in riding on horses and watching dogs scare then tear foxes to death.  Not for me.

I meet some very interesting people…on Twitter

Like you, I have met many interesting people in life and I’ve met some very interesting people through twitter.  I have been exchanging Direct Messages with a lady author.

Her book is one I shall definitely read.

This is from Amazon: “Frances lives in Perthshire and has met lots of people once, including Leonardo Di Caprio. She studied criminology, philosophy, history and history of art at Edinburgh University. She hopes this 40-year-old bipolar book will give her another upwardly mobile holiday. She likes getting engaged, interior design, painting, photography, Roald Dahl and recycling. This book is for you if you’ve ever wondered what magic is. The author once completed the Tour de France when she beat Lance Armstrong with a milkshake. There are autistic and PTSD elements. This book was written after a dream about Alan Bennett.

If you would like to buy Frances’ bookhere is the link to the Amazon page

Law Society magazines published by EastPark Communications

I have known Simon Castell of East Park Communications for many years.  He publishes a series of local Law Society magazines which are an interesting read. I read them all as they come out. Keeps me informed about local issues. Simon Castell is definitely worth contacting if you are interested in producing magazines for your firm or chambers.

Here is the link to the page where the magazines are held online.  Worth a read.

The range is fairly extensive.

Small Zulu Shield and Zambian Fly whip for sale!

As I prepare to deport myself to Scotland – the land of my forefathers – where I shall live for another 40 years so I get a telegram from the Monarch of the day… I am selling a few unusual items.

I am fairly certain that you won’t find the items below being sold on Ebay or Twitter – a miniature Zulu shield and assegai and a fly whip which was made for me by two Zambians from a dead Kudu we came across in the Bush when I worked for a year in Zambia when I was 19.

The items, pictured below, are over 40 years old.  I know this because I am 62. 


I don’t have children but I have noticed that children who have visited me with their doting parents have admired both items.

I can sell both of these items to you for £30 + pp or £20 each if you don’t want both.

Please email me if you would like to buy them.

 

Pluto

A remarkable photograph. A remarkable human achievement. I studied astronomy with Geology for a year before I changed to Law.  I still have an interest in astronomy (and geology, for that matter).

Rive Gauche: Hats… Panama and otherwise…and even half a hat.

I enjoy wearing a hat from time to time.  I have a Panama hat which I have had for years. Interestingly, when I wear this hat I can almost recall, word perfect, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and most of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. These days, this is of little benefit to me – save for when I visit shops, as I did recently, that sell me kettles which explode when I turn them on.  I have to say that the kettle exploding did surprise me.  The local shopkeeper, an amusing Indian man who enjoys charging random amounts for the candle I buy daily, thought it was quite amusing and replaced it.  I told him that I taught Sale of Goods for many years – but if he knocked 1p off the amount of my next candle I would not start proceedings under the Sale of Goods Act or in Tort for the nervous shock I was almost certainly to suffer before any statute of limitations kicked in. (He gave me a new kettle half price! As I said, a nice chap.)

I felt, given the reference to a Panama hat above that I should provide a picture of the Panama hat on my head. There are a few readers who are skeptical about some of the posts on my blog.  I try to tell them that Muttley Dastardly LLP is not a real firm.  Two of my readers told me that they would continue to believe that Muttley Dastardly LLP is a real firm. That is just fine by me.

Anyway – here is the hat on my head.  Probably the last photograph of me wearing a panama hat in England – for soon I return to the West of Scotland to Cry Freeeeeeedom! etc etc.

And here is a picture…no half measures here..of me wearing half a hat. 

I have absolutely no idea why I thought it was a good idea to cut a cheap felt hat in half.  I don’t recall a friend visiting at the time who wanted half a hat to wear with me…but there we are.

I think that this is enough about HATS for this evening.  Back later with some law  if I should be unfortunate enough to encounter some laws being passed or broken when I am next out doing a bit of smoking.

Rive Gauche: Just take the F**king picture

I do like the Duke of Edinburgh’s robust attitude.  Guido covers the story here

A selection of The Duke’s more robust public statements…

He told a World Wildlife Fund meeting that “if it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.”

While on an official visit to China, he told a group of British exchange students living in the city of Xian: “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty–eyed.”

His thoughts on Beijing: “Ghastly.”

Duke of Edinburgh defends ‘slitty-eyed’ gaffe

1993

To a British tourist in Hungary in he quipped: “You can’t have been here that long — you haven’t got a pot belly.”

To survivors of the Lockerbie bombing he told them: “People usually say that after a fire it is water damage that is the worst. We are still drying out Windsor Castle.”

1994

“Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?”, he asked an islander in the Cayman Islands.

To a Caribbean rabbit breeder in Anguilla, he said: “Don’t feed your rabbits pawpaw fruit — it acts as a contraceptive. Then again, it might not work on rabbits.”

1995

He asked a Scottish driving instructor in Oban: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”

1996

Following the Dunblane massacre, he questioned the need for a firearms ban: “If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?”

1998

The Duke asked a British student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea: “You managed not to get eaten then?”

1999

In Cardiff he told children from the British Deaf Association, who were standing by a Caribbean steel band: “If you’re near that music it’s no wonder you’re deaf”.

2000

To guests at the opening reception of a new £18million British Embassy in Berlin: “It’s a vast waste of space.”

At a Buckingham Palace drinks party, he told group of female Labour MPs: “Ah, so this is feminist corner then.”

On being offered fine Italian wines by Giuliano Amato, the former Prime Minister, at a dinner in Rome, he is said to have uttered: “Get me a beer. I don’t care what kind it is, just get me a beer!”

“People think there’s a rigid class system here, but dukes have been known to marry chorus girls. Some have even married Americans.”

2001

To Elton John: “Oh it’s you that owns that ghastly car is it? We often see it when driving to Windsor Castle.”

And one my favourites: “You look like you’re ready for bed!”
– To the President of Nigeria, dressed in traditional robes.

 

Report into the state of UK immigration centres set to be released early next week

Report into the state of UK immigration centres set to be released early next week
By 
Kelly White, Managing Director redcowMEDIA

After the recent bad press for immigration centres in the UK, the Home Office has been instructed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to publish reports into the running of the facilities. The Home Office are responsible for running detention centres across the country but increasingly the day-to-day management of facilities is being contracted out to private firms.

The reports focus on two of the UK’s largest detention centres, Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, which are both located next to Heathrow Airport. The independent research group “Corporate Watch” made a freedom of information request to the ICO over 10 months ago, but government officials have been battling to keep the reports private.

Apparently the documents will provide insight into how the centres have been run by well known contractors; Serco and GEO Group. It is believed that the papers will be damaging to the reputation of the contractors, which is why the government have so far refused to make them public.

According to the ICO, it is “in the taxpayers interest” for the reports to be published, as public money is being used to pay contractors to run the facilities. Media reports have criticised the private running of the centres. Outlets have referred to “shocking cases where a sense of humanity was lost” at Harmondsworth and an “inadequate focus on the needs of the most vulnerable detainees” at Colnbrook.

In a shock move, the ICO ruled that “while it agreed that the commercial interests of the firms would be harmed, the public interest in transparency was more important” giving the Home Office a deadline of July the 13th to release the reports.

Corporate Watch has argued that detainees at the two centres are vulnerable. So much so that the press has reported that self-harm is increasing at an alarming rate. It has been reported that between 2012 and 2014 the number of incidents that required medical attention doubled. The Home Office has an opportunity to appeal, but if an appeal is not launched before the deadline, the release of the reports could be a landmark moment in law.

Traditionally, government departments have been exempt from Freedom of Information requests so if the ICO’s instructions are followed, it could lead to a flurry of further demands from research groups across the country.

In response to the impending release of confidential and potentially damaging information, the Home Office recently handed responsibility for the running of the centres to Mitie. Mitie is a British strategic outsourcing company, that is responsible for running a range of integrated facilities.

Worryingly for detainees and their associated legal professionals, the BBC reported on June 15th that Mitie has failed to meet the required standards for its contract with Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust. According to the BBC Mitie “repeatedly failed to meet cleaning and catering standards” with figures for critical incidents increasing month on month.

On July the 14th it is likely that the true state of living conditions in UK detention centres will be exposed. The Immigration Advice Service offers support and assistance to those who are affected by most immigration related issues, including detainees and those seeking bail from detention centres. More information can be found on the IAS website www.iasservices.org.uk.

Rive Gauche: I think I will have to start a “Deport Charon back to Scotland” campaign

As I plan my return to SCOTLAND, the land of my forefathers and my early life and education (I have lived in London for 42+ years), it occurred to me that I should explore the possibility of getting deported to cut down the costs of this expedition…

As I am not given to casual criminality, I have trawled through my records to see if there is anything in my background to convince The Home Secretary that it was, indeed, in the “National Interest’ to deport me back to Scotland.  I’m not sure that a motorbike speeding offence where I was nicked on the WestWay from Central London down to Shepherds Bush counts as major criminality.  I was doing 90 mph, the copper on a bike told me.  I took his word for it.  I was given a fine and 3 points. The lady magistrate asked me how I felt about the proposed fine of £300.  I replied that it was ‘entirely reasonable’.  I recall that she smiled and gave me the agreed fine and remarked that I had been ‘most reasonable’.  It was a surreal experience – we parted on good terms.

CRY FREEEEEEDOM….

 

Rive Gauche: A blast from the past ?

So…how did the plan for barristers to go into business with solicitors of five years ago go…?

Is the Bar a good career choice for a law student today?  I suspect it is.  It would be very interesting to get a feel for this from barristers from newly qualified to Silks – if you have a moment to add a comment to this post. (or email me in confidence?)
I do like looking back as well as forward.

Rive Gauche: Latitat et discurrit…he lurks and runs about

Lawyers reading this blog post will be familiar with the old writ of Latitat et discurrit – he lurks and runs about.  Non-lawyers may not be familiar with it.

I will confess to having attended only two English Legal History lectures back in the day at university – largely because I could see no point in listening to a young barrister pretending to be a lecturer by reading out from Maitland on Legal History – a book available in the library – and, surprisingly, hoping to get away with it. But be that as it may.  I think I managed to attend about twelve lectures and tutorials in my entire three year law degree programme. The tutorials I attended were pretty dire – the participants doing their best to avoid eye contact with the lecturer or tutor, largely because they had been overrefreshed the night before and had done no work for the tutorial or because such learning they had managed to acquire had been wiped clean from their brain cells due to over indulgence in Newcastle Brown or other ale the night before. It was not the fault of the tutors who were good.  It seemed far easier to study law by reading the books, a few of which were written by lecturers at the university – and going into the examination with two purposes (a) To get a decent degree and (b) Defeat the examiner. I was fortunate in being able to do both.

I was very badly injured at Leicester University while reading law. (I went to Leicester, initially, to read Geology and changed to law – turning down an opportunity to do Law at Cambridge)  It was 1974, from recollection.   I returned from a night out with a High Court judge’s daughter who had changed from Law to read English Literature. We had been to see “A Touch of Class” (I seem to recall).  In the communal kitchen of the student house block, a nasty fight was in progress.  I asked my friend to lock herself in my room. Six students from Cambridge university, visiting for the weekend, were kicking one of the students who lived in the house.  He was on the ground and his face was bleeding.  It was extremely nasty.  I was 20.  I had been studying Karate – and had reached black belt level. Not that it did me any good.  I managed to dissuade one student, but, as I turned, another Cambridge student smashed an empty milk bottle into my face.  My nose fell down in a fleshy mass and I lost most of my teeth.  I did not lose consciousness.  There was blood everywhere.  An ambulance arrived.  I was taken to hospital.  The over worked doctor in casualty moaned about ‘yet another student drunk getting into a fight’ – at which point, the Police officer told the doctor forcefully that I was sober and had saved another student from very serious injury in a fight.  The doctor apologised.

I refused to stay overnight in hospital – I am not very good at hospitals and got a taxi back to my room.  Two friends watched over me overnight.  The next morning a senior Police Officer came to see me.  As we were talking, one of the Cambridge students from the night before barged into my room and ‘warned me threateningly not to give evidence’ – at which point, my visitor, a cop in plain clothes, revealed his identity.  I have never seen anyone ‘go white from shock’.  He ran away as fast as he could.  The cop laughed.  I did my best to given my injuries.

I survived.  The law staff at the University were marvellous and could not have been more helpful.  The Vice Chancellor, Sir Fraser Noble, popped in to visit me to see if I was OK.  Nice chap.

Anyway…if you are missing Geezer Grayling…here is an old picture of him with a few of my additions in Photoshop….

Hypnosis, Consciousness and the legal profession

Hypnosis, Consciousness and the legal profession
By Mike Parker

Legal Consciousness

So as the Psycho Active Substances Act in draft gets drubbed by the Government’s own advisers for problems so obvious one would hope a teenager could identify them, it nonetheless leads to some rather interesting questions.

What defines a change in consciousness? What is the base metric against which it is to be measured? Dopamine in the blood stream? Serotonin concentration (released by a host of activities including exercise and sex). Perhaps we are talking about sets of motor-skill tests?

We can now see that people drift in and out of trance states all the time… Listening to music appears to effect a pleasure centre in the brain which may be related to sexual activity in fish, releasing pleasure-giving chemicals into the blood stream. Then of course there’s the Thalamus busily regulating away, maintaining a cocktail of psychoactive mood altering chemicals in the brain and body that would make drug companies weep with longing.

I’m not even an expert but it is clear from the most cursory investigation of neuroscience and brain chemistry that consciousness is changing all the time.

Perhaps this legislation is well intended, let’s hope that really is the case yet it starts down what seems to me an extremely hazardous path.

It is well known that under hypnosis it is possible to effect the automatic functions of the body and brain. Part of the treatment for depression using hypnotherapy is to encourage the body to manufacture more of its own serotonin. There is absolutely no question that this can have a dramatic effect on the state of mind.

I think this legislation is an enormous concern as it opens the door for establishing legal definitions of acceptable consciousness however they may be bought about, the stuff of science fiction nightmare.

And if young people start using hypnosis to experiment with their own consciousness will we make that illegal as well? Give them a criminal record for putting each other in trance?

Well of course that isn’t being suggested yet but the legislation as framed is not so very far away from that. Once a blanket precedent is set for which there can only be exclusions (2 of the most destructive drugs in existence are, of course, among the exclusions) how hard is it to amend to include hypnosis or meditative practice? Maybe we had better limit how much exercise it is legal to take as well?

Driving home enjoying Beethoven? Maybe even whistling? Well that’s you in a trance state manufacturing pleasure chemicals for sure. Off to the Tower with you.

Mike Parker

For more information go to www.highendhypnotherapy.com

Rive Gauche: A ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ is needed?

A flattering portrait? More a case of having been in the spin dryer than the work of a ‘Spin Doctor’ operating in the shadows?

This photograph reveals a more accurate likeness of face….and ‘personality’?

Mr Duncan Smith is a politician the country could do without. He could be deported, of course – to the Lords? Plenty of fairly useless politicos in there drawing a good living but, some would say, not doing a great deal for the country?

My iMac after the front glass panel was smashed in accident

The wind blew.  A large painting leaning against the window fell down and managed to smash the entire front glass screen of the iMac computer.  I pulled the front panel off to reveal the second screen below – protected by glass.  Now the iMac looks like a post-modern 21st Century iMac.  Probably the only one in the world?  I am most impressed by Apples – had them since 1980.  They work well and are easy to use. It seems to be working even better – but that is probably my imagination.  I even watch BBC iPlayer on mine – removing the need for me to have a television set.  I don’t watch ITV – don’t like adverts.

I don’t have a flash – so the picture is a bit dark this evening.  But you can get the idea from the picture above.

I rather like my ‘new look’ iMac.

Iain Duncan Smith – Don’t be stupid be a smarty, come and join the Nasty Party

Is this Britain’s most unpleasant politician?  Wikipedia reveals some rather strange information about him.

I extract three short paragraphs from Wikipedia which interested me:

1. On 6 November 2003, Iain Duncan Smith released his novel The Devil’s Tune. The book received heavily critical reviews such as, “Really, it’s terrible … Terrible, terrible, terrible.”, by Sam Leith in the Daily Telegraph. The book was never published in paperback

2. His wealth is estimated at £1 million, much of which has been acquired by after-dinner speaking.[70] However, an “audience with Duncan Smith” held at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall attracted an audience of only 67 people.[71]

3. In the September 2012 Cabinet reshuffle, Duncan Smith was offered the job at the Ministry of Justice replacing Kenneth Clarke but declined and remained in his current post.[58]

Ian Duncan Smith dismissed allegations in Matthew d’Ancona‘s book, In It Together that his colleague George Osborne had referred to him as “not clever enough”, which were also denied by Osborne. Duncan Smith said that similar claims had been made of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.[59]

Nasty Party or Nazi Party?  

MEL BROOKS – THE HITLER RAP (To Be Or Not To Be) 1984 (Audio Enhanced)

Rive Gauche: Over half of ministers will have taken drugs, says Norman Lamb

I can’t say that I am surprised by this revelation.  It may well explain why some of our politicians say some extraordinary things in the The House of Commons and on Daily Politics and other excellent BBC politics programmes.

My thanks to a fellow Twitter () user for drawing my attention to this video of Mr Osborne

“A few people have noticed that Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, was looking a bit under the weather at Prime Minister’s Questions, 26th November 2014.
Some even suggest he was off his head on drugs! Surely not.”

Frankly, I’d be quite happy for drugs to be legalised in sport.  I’d pay good money to see an athlete jump 50 ft into the air.

I understand that Cocaine is the Class A of choice for some members of the legal profession. This may well explain why their arguments in court are quite fast? Who knows…

Here is Mr Lamb MP’s statement.  I can only assume that he was not ‘Orf his head’ on alcohol or Class A.  But definitely a case of “Go to The Top of the Class A and hand out the pencils” award to Mr Lamb for raising this matter.

We must remember, of Course, that Sir Winston Churchill was a keen drinker and was often over refreshed during World War II.  The photograph above is one of the best I have seen of the great man.  I particularly favour this version of the ‘V’ sign when facing adversity.  It had a direct meaning then – a direct meaning which continues, thankfully, to this day. I believe that our American friends favour a ‘Single finger’ salute?

A small selection of Churchill on Booze quote I found on Google…

Bessie Braddock: Sir, you are drunk.
Churchill: And you, madam, are ugly. But in the morning, I shall be sober.

I have taken more good from alcohol than alcohol has taken from me.

When I was younger I made it a rule never to take strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast.

The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learnt to like it.

I neither want it [brandy] nor need it, but I should think it pretty hazardous to interfere with the ineradicable habit of a lifetime.

 

Annual Results 2014, ARAG plc

Annual Results 2014, ARAG plc

ARAG plc, the UK arm of the worldwide legal expenses insurer ARAG SE, has announced a further successful trading year in 2014 with increased profits despite a fall in premium under management. The company has extended its presence in the UK legal expenses insurance sector and increased the volume of business transacted with key insurers, brokers and solicitors.

With premium under management of £40m in 2014 (2013: £47m), profit pre-tax rose to £3.5m: this exceeds the record profits for the previous year (2013: 3.1m), benefiting from earned income being recognised for pre-LASPOA, After the Event (ATE) business.

“We have set the precedent and rewarded the faith of our backers by paying a dividend for the first time”, says ARAG Managing Director Tony Buss. “Ensuring we maintain this exceptional performance without any detrimental effect on our underwriting discipline is paramount. We are therefore investing heavily in experienced professionals, recently adding a dedicated legal & regulatory manager and in-house counsel to our teams in Bristol”.

Before the Event (BTE) competition has increased and ATE business has become more price driven, post-LASPOA. ARAG’s relaunched ATE products have been well received and business has maintained similar volumes of risk though the equivalent level of premium has now reduced in line with the residual remaining risk, resulting in less ATE premium being written overall. Meanwhile, BTE business is growing steadily and is forecast to maintain this momentum, as is the case with ATE.

The legal protection and emergency services markets continue to be affected by government policy and reviews to general insurance selling practices. ARAG plc works closely with all relevant parties to ensure that affordable access to justice and to other forms of insured assistance services continue to be available to the highest standards. Added to this is the security of binding and delegated authorities granted by a number of UK authorised insurers, with reinsurance separately placed by these partners with ARAG SE.