Par Avion from The Staterooms…

I thought I would start with some good news and head south after that…

QC brother of PM supports legal aid strike: Cameron’s barrister brother lends his backing to legal aid strike designed to undermine Government reforms:  Daily Mail

Well…there we are. Siblings don’t always agree with each other.

BUT… while I am on the topic of politicians, it occurs to me that the word *Sociopath* may be  a perfect description for some Tory MPs judging by their performances in the Daily Mail and other right wing rags?

An interesting note on the distinction between a Psychopath and and a Sociopath

With Britain getting back to the joys or miseries of work (take your pick) next week, I will be able to get back to podcasts and comments on the law, should I be seized of a desire to so comment.  In the meantime, I am enjoying Twitter and the net and the unusual things that pop up in my timeline.

And I did enjoy this tweet vis-à-vis the above on Psycho/sociopaths…

Pleasingly bizarre, also in the ‘provenance’ of the tweet…

Solicitor, Jules Carey had an unusual letter….

While I have taken up the amusing habit of *Vaping* with my new E-cigs when faced with restrictions on smoking fully leaded Marlboros – I have not taken up nude smoking.  However, should I be seized of a desire to do so, I shall be sure to invest in the natty fag pack holder pictured below.

And finally…. a wonderfully pointless talent to have… Backwards reading…

Back later, hopefully… orf to see a man about some cough mixture and cold medicaments.  One can never find a Carbolic Smokeball on the high street these days.

Postcard from The Staterooms – First of the year

I thought I may as well start the new year the way I fully intend to continue…so, on that basis… this marvellous graphic which I saw on Twitter…

HT to @SvenRadio

 

The Farageisti must be terribly disappointed.   What will they have to bang on about next?  It seems that the Bulgarians and Romanians prefer Spain, Italy and Germany to our fair shores.

I recall having to sit through The Sound of Music, rather hoping they would be caught. I am not a fan of musicals – save for The Rocky Horror Show. I don’t think that my Mother was terribly impressed when I asked when they were all going to be caught by the nazis…. pronounced Nazees….in a loud bored tone. I recall being quite young at the time.   I did not enjoy the film – but I did enjoy reading: Skreeeeem! The Sound Of Music.

RollonFriday reports... “Two judges are to be struck off for misappropriating more than £1.5 million in legal aid fees. But for the time being they still get to be judges.”

Astonishing, really.

Lord Justice Ward comes across as a man with a sharp turn in humour.  Legal Cheek picks up 10 of the Best Lord Justice Ward lines.  The extract below from Legal Cheek will give you a flavour…

When a Fathers 4 Justice campaigner came to argue his case dressed in a Darth Vader outfit complete with Jedi weaponry, Lord Justice Ward asked: “Would Lord Vader kindly take off his helmet and put down his light saber before addressing the court?” Ward then proceeded to politely refer to the man as “Lord Vader” throughout the hearing. [The Times]

One of my favourite satirists is the photoartist and satirist Beaubodor – invariably nails it with each picture he produces.  If you haven’t seen his work – do, please, have a look!

Like many, I was sorry to learn of the death of John Fortune :  Rory Bremner on John Fortune: ‘A fearless satirist and a lovely human being.

I have need, now, to do some smoking.  While I enjoy the Electric cigarettes for inside use – nothing quite like huddling under an umbrella smoking the real thing..  Back later… hopefully…

But..finally…oh dear….

Lawyer who uncovered JK Rowling’s Robert Galbraith alter ego fined £1,000

Christopher Gossage told his wife’s best friend that obscure writer of The Cuckoo’s Calling was in fact Harry Potter author
It may be that I am too easily amused at this time of year…

The truly honourable who turn down absurd British honours…

The truly honourable who turn down absurd British honours…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declining_a_British_honour

I am not a fan of the British Honours system.  I can see no reason at all to call someone ‘Sir Basil” or “Dame Edna”… let alone the absurdity of ‘Lord / lady’.

Fortunately, I don’t need to – and won’t.

Also time to get rid of titles for all judges – gives the impression that they are not independent?  Some think so – as is their right…still… in Britain.  Why do we need a ‘Lord’ Chief Justice?  Chief Justice has far more impact.

I can’t imagine that judges need a title to do a decent job.  Ipso facto, why bother with the title?

But I do have some sensible advice for those contemplating a career in the law…

Postcard from the Staterooms: Iolanthe – Nightmare Song by The Lord Chancellor edition

Words are not needed for what follows…

sinister (comparative more sinistersuperlative most sinister)

  1. Inauspicious, ominous, unlucky, illegitimate (as in ‘political barsteward’).
  2. Evil or seemingly evil; indicating lurking danger or harm.
    sinister influences
    the sinister atmosphere of the crypt

I have to say that Mr Osbore does seem a bit sinister in that photograph.  ’Something of the night’ about him?

I recall Ann Widdecombe’s famous statement about another Tory wannabe… Michael Howard:  “There is something of the night about him”. The remark was considered to be extremely damaging to Howard.

I can only assume that this trait is a requirement for high office in the Tory party… or a talent for Gilbert & Sullivanesque comedy, in the case of our present ‘Lord Chancellor’, Chris Grayling, who I very much hope will raid the dressing up box again soon to reincarnate as an Archbishop.

Before I turn to other sinistral matters – a most interesting piece from Paul Gilbert..

Innovation – of course, it’s what we all do, isn’t it?

It won’t be long and once again our thoughts will turn to what will be new in the next twelve months; what innovation will we see, what new gadgets and ideas will come forward, who will make a break-through with something that will astonish us all?

In legal services we have had a decade or more of predictions about innovation (or Armageddon depending on your personal glass half full/empty barometer). We may be rather unsure about what the future will bring, but we are certain that we must all be innovative, we must all be ready for change and we must all be revolutionaries.

Yet, what has actually changed so far?

The rest of this article is well worth a read…

I find it difficult to leave the topic of Lord Chancellor Grayling – here he is again, divesting himself of his wisdom on the  European Court of Human Rights:

Grayling says European court of human rights has lost legitimacy

Justice secretary finalising plans to curtail Strasbourg court after 2015 to ‘ensure UK court judgments are final’
And here he is again singing a bit of Gilbert & Sullivan – which he does rather well - Iolanthe – Nightmare Song by The Lord Chancellor
That’s quite enough for now…back later when I have taken of supper…

Postcard from The Staterooms: ‘Elucidator’ edition

I will, no doubt, return to commentary and analysis of matters legal at some point in the early new year – should I suddenly be seized of the mood to do so. Fortunately, there are others… elucidators…  who take on the burden of elucidation on matters legal.

 “Fox hunting is the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.” –Oscar Wilde

***

The last six months of 2013 was wiped out for me in terms of touring and sustained writing due to an unpleasant spinal injury – sustained while shaving when I tripped on a bathmat and fell backwards into the bath.  The doctor cheerfully told me that I was lucky.  It could have been far worse.  The dark side of my mind could not resist asking him if ‘worse’ meant ‘a bit of mortal coil shuffling’. The doctor was a fine man of medicine, but I don’t think he was used to ‘gallows humour’ from patients, so I left him to do the doctor bit.

It would seem that Barbasol recommend shaving while wearing ice skates.  I shall give it a go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

And so to other matters… resisting the urge to comment on the development of our laws with some ease.

David Allen Green, taking time off from the Financial Times to write for Legal Cheek – considers the interpretation of the Something Must be Done Act 2014

“Let’s start with Section 1:

“The Crown shall have the power to do anything, and nothing a Minister of the Crown does will be ultra vires.”

That should shut up the High Court for a while with their judicial review decisions.

But adding a second section to the Act will make sure that Ministers will act in the interests of all of us. So for the avoidance of doubt, Section 2 provides:

“The power given by Section 1 of this Act shall include the banning of things by any Minister of the Crown.”

 The remaining provisions of the Act are considered in depth here

I am reassured by this statement from the Boys in Blue… ?

On the topic of  ’elucidation’ it seems appropriate to dig up that old chestnut from F.E. Smith (Later Lord Birkenhead).

“Judge: I’ve listened to you for an hour and I’m none wiser.
Smith: None the wiser, perhaps, my lord but certainly better informed.”

And a couple more for you… why not?

“It would be possible to say without exaggeration that the miners’ leaders were the stupidest men in England if we had not frequent occasion to meet the owners.”

And a particular favourite… I suspect there may be a few judges who could be rewarded with such wonderful eloquence today…

“Judge: What do you suppose I am on the bench for?
Smith: It is not for me, Your Honour, to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence.”

And on that note, I take your leave to refresh myself…back later…perhaps.

Postcard from The Staterooms: What wine do you bring up with the fish edition?

Not a lot of law about to comment on and, if there is, it can wait until the new year.

Sitting at my desk looking at the back of a packet of Marlboro.  The picture on the back is a festive one of a dead body lying on a slab in a morgue –  a tasteful, atmospheric headshot. Still…on the bright side…smokers pay a lot in tax and some die younger, reducing the costs burden to our increasingly dystopian state?  A felicific calculus Bentham would be proud of. Our present Lord Chancellor may not be aware of the great legal writers of jurisprudence.  I am almost tempted to send him a copy of ‘Law Made Simple’ – although I would not wish to encourage him;  he might try to push such heresy through and where would we be then?

Mr Bentham’s remains in a case at The University of London

On a more festive note…. I see that The College of Law, now a university after a ‘Whovian’ transmogrification into a University  -  has managed to lose the contract to teach GDL and LPC students for Allen & Overy (See below also). Working on the reasonable principle that the University of Law would be unlikely to comment on this matter – I went to a reliable source – RollonFriday - to see if there was any ‘gen’ on why the University of Law lost the Allen & Overy contract.

Mr or Ms Anonymous User commented pithily: “Single-subject “university” that has been cutting and cutting on a knee-jerk basis now finds itself unable to compete. There’s no story here save for the years of business inadequacy not of it course but of its management.”

Another Mr or Ms Anonymous was able to shed further light on this matter with precision and astute observation…“Yeah: just the result of the previous management hacking through the staff, no business acumen any of them, therefore not surprising they cannot teach it.”

Well..there we are. Perhaps the University of Law needs assistance from my brother, Professor R.D. Charon?  I know he is free and I know he will be able to trot out the usual education ‘evidence based’ guff.  He also takes Amex.

Professor R.D. Charon was not available for comment – but his PR agent was able to respond to my email “ I am fairly confident that the vulture capitalists who now own the University of Law will do Britain proud.  Please settle the fee for this comment in the usual way by return cash.”

The University of Law has recorded a net profit of over £14m in its latest financial results, just a year after being purchased by private equity house Montagu Private Equity for £177m. Source: Legal Business

Curiously, apropos the loss by The University of Law (UoL)  of the Allen & Overy students to BPP which I noted above – “The UoL turned to longstanding adviser Allen & Overy (A&O) for legal advice during the sale, led by global corporate chair Richard Cranfield.”

You may like to read this incisive article from Professor Richard Moorhead in Legal Business.  A good read: Guest Post: Legal education review – why everyone is happy and no one is smiling

Given that it is still the festive season – this snippet from The Magistrates’ Blog amused me – on the ways of those who buy wine for investment. ’Bottoms up’… seems, inappropriate, however.  I did enjoy a comment on this blogpost by Anonymous – who is, clearly, a very busy person, popping up on blogs all over the place – “I’ve never understood why we have concurrent sentences for consecutive crimes.”

Bitcher & Prickman cartoons are always worth a look – from US lawyer Charles Fincher Esq

2015 is coming soon and the current government will have to see what can be done with the electorate.  I am not a spin doctor, but given the increasing rise of the Kippers, David Cameron may like to reach out to some of them and the Storm Trooper Wing of his own party?

This may inspire the Tory Grandees?:  Springtime for Hitler for their version of The Producers ?

And…a curious story about Ian Duncan-Smith being less than open in recent years.  The BBC covered it in 2002: Newsnight reveals inaccuracies in Iain Duncan Smith’s CV

Back soon… and something rather more law based and sensible when the lawyers get back to work.

Postcard from the Staterooms – Prime Minister Cnut edition

Dear Reader,

Christmas passed pleasantly in the company of good friends –  but then I had the misfortune to stumble across an article in The New Statesman about the prime minister’s attempt to control the internet:  Cameron’s internet filter goes far beyond porn – and that was always the plan. 

Surprised?

But…on the bright side…RollonFriday is doing in depth research into law firms and the attitudes of those who work at law firms.

This extract will give you a taste…

Allen & Overy has got very posh with a “jazzy new in-house shop” which sells everything from “delectable pick’n'mix and cakes to champagne“. And Tiffany jewellery. And flour, “for all those who have the time to bake their own bread.” However there’s disagreement as to the quality of colleague. One trainee says there are “very few arseholes” in the firm, but a senior associate disagrees: “speedy lifts, wall-to-wall tossers“.

Thankfully, there are many fine lawyers out there – many working for very modest remuneration compared to the commercial velociraptors in ‘The City’ - chacun à son goût.

a più tardi….

Postcard from The Staterooms: “Check your porridge”, Mr Mount?

Cartoon by Charles Pugsley Fincher J.D. a Texas lawyer and artist

Dear Reader,

My Vapidity Beyond The Call Of Duty award for last week must go to the Westminster, Oxford and Bullingdon Club educated Mr Harry Mount – who even has a whole Wikipedia entry to himself.

I marvelled as I read the nonsense he wrote about the legal aid reforms in his seminal article in The Spectator: Take it from a former barrister: Chris Grayling is right to reform legal aid“There’s only one problem with Chris Grayling’s legal reforms – they don’t go far enough”

It is fair to say that Mr Mount’s absurd article drew the attention of the lawyers on twitter and elsewhere – derision and ridicule in the main. There is, after all, absolutely no point in getting angry with buffoonery. I particularly enjoyed Simon Myerson QC’s elegant evisceration of the article in the comments section – a must read.

Mr Mount did a pupillage but did not proceed to tenancy. He also writes for The Daily Mail, I understand. Research did not appear to be Mr Mount’s strongpoint in the article according to experienced practitioners who commented on the article.

I did enjoy this:  Justice ‘Overrated’, claims Justice Secretary

THIS IS EXCELLENT satire on legal aid reforms (BBC Radio 4 )… John Finnemore (Hat Tip to @taxbod) listen from 11 minutes in…

And on a more serious note, before I go on to lose the plot completely… a bit of serious law content on the Legal Aid Reforms

Obiter J: Some responses to MoJ consultation on Transforming legal aid

theintrigant: Fourth Letter to the Lord Chancellor

That is probably enough serious stuff for the present…onwards and upwards…or downwards, depending on your viewpoint of such matters…

Most UK and US lawyers are fairly measured in their approach to putting themselves forward by way of advertising or using social media as a platform for their views and writings.

NOT so this US lawyer: ADAM REPOSA: Lawyer, Patriot, Champion – You really don’t want to get in his way.  A truly astonishing advertisement – available on YouTube.  Do have a look if you haven’t seen it already.  You will laugh, I am sure. You may bang your head on the table afterwards, though.

It isn’t just the experienced lawyers who want in on the ‘unusual way to practice’. Legal Cheek covered the case of a Freshfields trainee:

THE FRESHFIELDS TRAINEE SELLING INSIDER TRAINING CONTRACT INTERVIEW TIPS FOR £150 A POP

A spokesperson for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer told Legal Cheek: “We are taking the matter very seriously and have started an investigation.”

Some weeks ago I did a podcast with ex-Tory MP and barrister Jerry Hayes - who was most eloquent and amusing about Grayling’s legal aid reforms.  I am pleased to draw your attention to a post he wrote in Legal Cheek:  ‘I HEARD A VOICE WHISPER: “WHAT A GHASTLY PORTRAIT OF INSUFFERABLE ARROGANCE” – AND I REALISED HE MEANT ME’

The law just keeps on giving…

RollonFriday reports: “The University (née College) of Law has banned students from using electronic cigarettes in exam rooms after several were spotted puffing away during assessments. Authorities sent the following strongly-worded email to the GDL intake after University spies reported that several nicotine addicts were smoking e-cigs under exam conditions” Read….

RollonFriday notes: A Cambridge University law exam has caused a furore in the national press because of its explicit content.

I can’t really see what the fuss is about.  Criminal lawyers have to deal with some very unpleasant issues – the exam question is fairly mild in terms of examples of criminal behaviour?  But…hey… it gave RoF a chance to do some ‘Breaking News’ and mock the tabloids – rightly.

Apropos of absolutely nothing… I used to set Contract and Sale of Goods law examinations – marking some, it has to be said, imagining myself with a square of black silk (A Black Cap) on top of my head.   I may have had a different life had I been an academic in the field of criminal law or, for that matter, chosen to be a criminal mastermind like Professor Moriarty

It isn’t all bad news for the legal profession.  At least one Tory MP is concerned about assisting the legal profession…

This tweet prompted Mark Lewis, a very experienced media lawyer, to suggest…

Isn’t a threat to sue for libel before anything is published rather menacing? @NadineDorriesMP@mjhsinclair#freespeech#chillingeffect

I had a heavy (and strange) week last week… but I did manage to comment acerbically on the Grayling legal aid reforms…

Right… orf for a walk.  No doubt, while I am away, Nicholas Witchell will be standing around outside a London hospital – pointlessly – waiting for some Duke of Edinburgh action so that BBC News can cover it ad nauseam.  No doubt, also – my emails will be read by GCHQ…aided and abetted by the United States drone hovering over the River Medway as I write..

I shall return on the morrow with more ‘tales’…

Have a good evening..

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from the Staterooms: Nurse!….He’s out of bed again! Don’t mention ze Bar!

Dear Reader,

Our Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Basil Grayling,  continues to provide food for thought for serious commentators and fodder for  satirists alike with his ill conceived plan to destroy legal aid and the criminal justice  system with it.  G4S, Serco, Tesco, Stobart et al – if Grayling’s plans go through  - will probably kill off the high street solicitor specialising in Crime, reduce the pool of lawyers available to the public (You won’t be able to choose your solicitor anyway and the criminal bar will be significantly reduced in number) and….. well let me leave the detail to two experienced barristers who express their views robustly in recent podcasts with me.

Do listen if you have the time.  Jerry Hayes, former Tory politician is very direct in his criticism, as is Michael Turner QC – but Jerry, inevitably,  adds a sardonic touch to the commentary- which certainly amused me.

Podcast with Jerry Hayes

Podcast with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of the Criminal Bar: Tour Report #21:  Podcast with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association,  on the legal aid reforms

And lawyer or non-lawyer, if you would like to sign the petitionyou may do so here

And… you can keep up to date with developments by following @TheCriminalBar on twitter

The privatisation of ‘Justice’ by the back door seems to be the order of Tory play and, thus far, the ‘blockers’on the Lib-Dems don’t seem to be that interested – but, apparently, opposition to Grayling’s plans is now Labour Party policy.

@TheCriminalBar: Ex LJ with 40+ yrs experience of Legal System says reforms a disaster Ambitious Minister with 0 yrs says No #GoFigure http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/402682/Justice-Secretary-Chris-Grayling-defends-legal-aid-reforms …

I suspect that few lawyers with experience of libel law will have been taken by surprise by Tugendhat J’s judgment in the Sally Bercow Tweet case (judgment here) – Joshua Rozenberg covered the matterSally Bercow learns the social media rules the hard way in McAlpine case “Twitter users are learning what a dangerous weapon they have at their fingertips, as Sally Bercow’s 46-character tweet shows.”

David Allen Green, writing on his Jack of Kent blog notes Sally Bercow’s statement after the judgment was handed down.

Barbara Ellen writes in The Observer: Twitter at its worst is not Bercow, but the braying mob - The Twitter villains are the bullies who feel scant responsibility and a lack of interest in fairness

Patrick Strudwick forecasts doom: Sally Bercow’s Lord McAlpine libel: Twitter is over. O.V.E.R. – “The great modern sandpit will now have to rein it in, tamed by knowledge that the whiff of a suggestion could land you in court”

And… The Tweeting Lawyer has a view:  Lessons from #McAlpine v #Bercow

Finally for today ( I will return on the morrow…perhaps…hopefully etc etc)… from Legal Cheek – a prolix and rather pompous statement from a young pupil barrister.  (Are we sure that this is not an Alex ‘spoof’? Certainly worthy of output from the Muttley Dastardly LLP *Psyops* unit. )

‘THE TIDE MAY FLOOD LAW FIRMS, BUT I REMAIN UNCONVINCED THAT IT WILL ENGULF THE BAR’

Legal Cheek reports…

Enjoy the sun and the bank holiday

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms….returns

After nigh on a week of Kipper-in-Chief, Nigel Führage,  (HT to @seanjones11kbw for the ‘modification of Führer) being overexposed by the BBC -  I was amused by an excellent line in Ed Miliband’s response to the Government’s Queen’s Speech.

“They used to call [UKIP] clowns – now they want to join the circus!” EdM to Tories on UKIP in #QueensSpeech

Truck orf….

The anti-Stobart Barristers rhetoric is building – hardly surprising given their rather aggressive comments about the legal profession. I quote from a piece in The Guardian:

The row within the legal profession over the plans is intensifying. The head of Stobart Barristers has described traditional law firms who rely on legal aid as “‘wounded animals waiting to die” and accused rival lawyers of sending his firm messages urging it to “Truck Off”.

And the article continues…

Trevor Howarth, its legal director, said the firm would be bidding for the new criminal defence contracts. “We can deliver the service at a cost that’s palatable for the taxpayer,” he said. “Our business model was developed with this in mind.

“We at Stobart are well known for taking out the waste and the waste here is the duplication of solicitors going to the courtroom. At the moment there are 1,600 legal aid firms; in future there will be 400. At Stobart, we wouldn’t use 10 trucks to deliver one product.”

Howarth said he had received emails from solicitors with the heading “Truck Off”. He added: “I have already taken calls from barristers [on our panels] who say they have been contacted by solicitors telling them they won’t use them again if they take instructions from us.”

On removing a defendant’s right to choose their solicitor, Howarth said: “I don’t think the lack of choice is damaging. [People are not] entitled to access justice with an open cheque. No one is stopping them paying for their own choice of solicitor.”

Some have expressed doubt about Stobart’s ability to deliver a service, others doubt about financing it and The Guardian pitched in recently with a story…

The Guardian : Stobart lorry chief faces contempt trial

“High court judge rules Andrew Tinkler and legal director Trevor Howarth may have lied to secure gagging order on whistleblower”

Not an ideal start for a company wishing to provide legal services – if true?  We shall see in time. I have noted tweets from Law firms suggesting that many law firms will boycott the process by not tendering.

I talked recently  with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association, about the legal aid reforms.  If you haven’t already listened to it you may find it interesting. Tour Report #21: Podcast with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association, on the legal aid reforms.

The Criminal Bar Association is on the case daily on twitter – rightly:

@TheCriminalBar 20h

This is the official @MoJGovUK spin that they are spoonfeeding to your MP http://www.parliament.uk/Templates/BriefingPapers/Pages/BPPdfDownload.aspx?bp-id=SN06628 …

Simon Myerson QC ‏ noted…. @SCynic1 5 May – The BSB Joins The Debate http://wp.me/pjsAQ-uo

And The Bar Council – possibly unhelpfully – decided to set up a petition of its own – while most people (over 32,830) have signed a petition set up some weeks ago

And legal academics have joined in the debate: Crimeline: Academics Strike out Against PCT

And in other news…

Letters of complaint can be works of art.  Here is one I saw linked to on  Twitter (forgotten who put the link up  – mea culpa)  which is certainly direct…

Legal Cheeka most amusing read daily – identifies dirty deeds at The Bar?

Westminster School auctions a mini-pupillage – current bid £600

I am still thinking about my response to BPP Law School’s ‘initiative’ in offering a free course to unemployed LPC examinees (but not to BPTC examinees – which is interesting) – but Legal Cheek has come out with a fairly blunt piece…

Too much education: why BPP is wrong to damn its graduates to perennial studentdom

AND FINALLY… on a personal note…The sharp eyed regular reader may have noted the removal of a glass of Rioja from my header – a feature of my blog header since the early days.  I was rather ill earlier in the year and self medicating with glasses of Rioja was less than helpful.  I have packed the booze in completely – and, pleasingly, don’t miss it at all – a cuppa does the biz.

I am nearly back to full speed with recovery from the illness and have resumed my UK Tour – a gap of two to three months caused by the indisposition.   I am also back to blogging and podcasting – and my blog will be updated almost daily ‘going forward’ (what a dreadful phrase)

I leave you with this… recorded some time ago – when, perhaps, I may have enjoyed the juice that evening rather too much!

I often listen to The Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 before heading for sleep.  Here is my Drinking Forecast podcast, complete with ‘Drinking By’

listen (3-4 mins)

Adios for now…

best, as always

Charon

PS  The tache has gone – but I still have the panama and the odd ceeegar.

Christmas Card from The Staterooms: Grumpy (ish) edition!

Dear Reader,

Well… let’s start with a proposition I saw on The Grumpy Guide to Christmas (BBC) and take it from there…

Why would anyone want to bring a tree into their living room?  Who cooked that idea up?  And another thing… if an elderly gentleman wearing  a red gown  broke into my house -  I would check the Judiciary website out to see which judge of the High Court had finally lost the plot.   Mind you, Lord Chancellor Killaburglar Grayling would approve if I used proportionately disproportionate force and acted against the interests of the intruder – so not all bad, I suppose.

It has been a strange year.  I have finally escaped from London forever and have moved to Chatham Maritime in Kent  as a base – a place which I find most conducive to thinking and writing.  I have also started on my year (+) long UK  Jag Rouge Tour looking at the state of our legal system and getting views on it from lawyers, police, academics and anyone else interested in the law – including filmed vox pops with ‘members of the public’ – which should throw up some strident and trenchant views.

I am finding it a fascinating exercise to do and learning a great deal from the many experienced lawyers who have taken part so far.  I am also grateful to the sponsors for assisting with the not insignificant costs of this exercise which is free to all to read, listen to and watch on my blog and the Tour blog.  And, the tour certainly can’t happen without the support of many who have talked to me so far and the many who  intend to do so in the future -  all give freely of their time and knowledge.

Jon Harman – has designed an advert for the tour – please do click – he has done great work!

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/51869113 w=500&h=281]

Van Rouge from Jon Harman on Vimeo.

A duck alerted me by text  to this gem from television news: … We’ve just seen headline in papers about a drunk manager attacking a tree”… Jeez.. you guys know how to Party!”

And talking of ducks – I came up with the idea of ducks texting me earlier in 2012.  Apart from the fact that I find ducks fascinating, the ducks I know are subversive and contribute greatly to my knowledge and understanding of the chaotic world many of us live in.  I may also have overdone the juice when I came up with the idea of texting ducks… but, mea culpa, there we are.

I shall be at my post throughout the Christmas period… aided and abetted by subversive ducks… we never close…

I rarely write about myself – and interviews with me are few. I did, however, enjoy the kind invitation from Alex Aldridge of Legal Cheek to contribute to his excellent “If I knew then” series:

If I knew then what I know now: ‘I was too ready to treat the view of the experienced as gospel’

And this duck had absolutely nothing to do with me… despite views expressed to the contrary on twitter by surprisingly many!  But what a great duck!

Well… I think that is enough for now – but I may write another Christmas card on the morrow.  Why not?  It is Chrimbo, after all – and, even though I shall be at my post, ignoring it, I hope you have a good one – if it is your thing.

And… if you are a user of twitter and Farcebook – you might enjoy listening to John Cooper QC expressing his views on the CPS guidelines on social media prosecutions  issued earlier in the week by DPP Keir Starmer QC.  A Christmas cracker!  It is here and if you scroll down – below

Best, as always

Charon

PS.. and remember… a duck texted me to say that they, too, are bipedal and asked if I could fly!  Think about that!

Postcard from The Staterooms: Hyper-cardioid edition…..

Dear Reader,

As you can see, I am still partial to my ‘mandarin’ green ink for my ‘Postcards’ and its use in a fountain pen generally – not that I actually write much these days with such 19-20th century technology.  I was forced to use handwriting to sign a document the other day.  I could barely write.  Like many, I tend to write pretty well everything on a computer these days and rarely resort to actually ‘writing’. I was quite shocked at how my handwriting – stylishly illegible, formerly – is now barely legible.  I could feel my inner ‘Cro-Magnon man’ develop and reveal itself  as I handed the ‘signed’ document back to the cashier at the bank.

Anyway… to move on.  My tour is starting to take good shape and pick up in pace.  While I shall publish brief reports on my blog here – the Charon Tour blog will be the main publishing vehicle so that I can order the material logically.

Twitter Spat
I was rather baffled by the twitter spat reported on Legal Cheek this week between two Silks. Twitter is a strange medium.  LC reported disagreement between me and David Allen Green some time back. Fortunately, normal service and sensible relations resumed quickly thereafter.  Twitter can both sow good and reap discord, at times.

Hyper-cardioid ‘top shelf’…
I have become obsessed with ‘kit’ – kit to record podcasts with, kit to take telly vox-pops and kit to take photographs…not forgetting a bag on wheels to cart the stuff around in! I found myself spending much of the morning today talking to myself.  I set up the H4N recorder and two microphones on their tripods – resting on felt to dampen the dead wood of the table, closed the curtains (glass french windows is no friend of good quality recorded sound) and started recording a podcast with myself to test the kit.  A good three hours later of ‘fiddling’ and I found myself – after a rather bizarre breakfast at 6.00 am of macaroni cheese splashed with copious amounts of tomato ketchup , in need of a plate of subversive king prawns cooked a la Chef Charon in a garlic and chili ‘jus’ – Tres Frenchie.

My thanks to Jez (@badearth) for travelling to Ipswich to get some microphones from a mate of his and then travelling down to the Forward Operating Base in Chatham yesterday evening to lend me these wondrous microphones to test before I make a final purchase.  They are not cheap – so testing is a good thing.  Jez is a drummer, sound specialist and is now reading law. His advice will be most useful to ensure that I can record podcasts at a very much higher standard than hitherto over skype.  Most of the tour podcasts will be recorded face to face with my new mobile sound studio.

And talking of kit!  Now I shall be more than prepared to face the great British public for televised ‘voxpops’ on the tour with a Mk 6 helmet ( Which I shall spray paint ‘Rouge’) and a desert rig assault jacket with pockets for ‘kit’, gizmos and woodbines.

I have always been a subscriber to the maxim ‘ If there is a plot.. go and lose it”.

I am grateful to ex-tank commander and decorated veteran Craig Lowe (@Idaeus396) turned ITV sport cameraman – who has recently passed the BPTC with a ‘very Competent’ grade  - for providing me with the lid and assault jacket.  The tour is turning, as I hoped it would, into a collaborative effort.

Tomorrow, I ride on London with my ‘kit’ to record two podcasts – with leading academic, Professor Gary Slapper and Professor Richard Moorhead.  Tour report #4 provides all the detail on the next phase of the tour.

I am enjoying the new series from Legal Cheek where well known lawyers reflect on the reasons they went into law.  So far – two reports Joshua Rozenberg: ‘The Chances You Don’t Take Are The Ones You Regret’ and the latest in a series running up to December – Mark Stephens: ‘I’ve Never Regretted Being Tricked Into The Law’

Good stuff – highly recommended.

With much of the tour planning now done – at least for the Southern Section – I will return to sensible law blogging and my Week reviews this week.    I’ve been catching up with a few law blogs.

A selection of posts which caught my eye:

Well.. there we are…another week beckons…

Best, as always

Charon
***

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Postcard from Mallard House, Medway Staterooms – Clowns of The B*stardvilles edition

“A man can die but once”. – (King Henry IV, Part II – Act III, Scene II).

With that Shakespeare aphorism in mind, I decided to leave Battersea-on-Thames last Saturday to set up a new ‘Forward Operating Base’ (FOB) for my Van Rouge Tour which will be starting in a couple of weeks: Details.

I have moved to an island (Google pics) on The Medway near Chatham – near the old naval docks.  HMS Victory was built but a few hundred yards away. Rochester and Upnor are close at hand, as is Chatham itself. It is a marvellous place to set up a FOB – steeped in history and Dickens of Bleak House et al fame lived in Rochester just across the river.

Serendipitously, I now live in a place called Mallard House – a modest dwelling, small but perfect for my needs.

The actual move to Chatham Maritime was surreal – worthy of Brian Rix farce status.  I shall give you a taste of the nonsense I endured below.

An elite squadron (SDS) of particularly subversive ducks accompanied me to Chatham to train Medway ducks in the subtle arts of subversion.  I felt, the last time I lived on the island, that the ducks were far too flabby, ate far too many burgers and had a far too compliant attitude to life and our  government.  The Medway ducks have been through a five day ‘Bootcamp’.  The elite squadron have  extradited themselves without the aid of lawyers milking the system  back to Battersea-on-Thames (No Falcon 900 jet a la Abu Hamza for them, of course) – MISSION COMPLETED.  So it is Time To Say Goodbye to them.

And so to the….

CLOWNS OF THE B*STARDVILLES

Dr Watson was kind enough to keep a note of the bizarre proceedings which surrounded me during this past week as I attempted to move from Battersea to Medway.

So far I have been able to quote from the reports which I have forwarded during these early days to Charon. Now, however, I have arrived at a point in my narrative where I am compelled to abandon this method and to trust once more to my recollections, aided by the diary which I kept at the time. A few extracts from the latter will carry me on to those scenes which are indelibly fixed in every detail upon my memory. I proceed, then, from the morning which followed our abortive chase of the elusive estate agents and our other strange experiences upon the island……

Rather than allow Dr Watson to run riot on my blog, I have binned his compendious, prolix, verbose and ultimately sleep inducing account  and shall use his recollection as a structure.  I describe the events in a form more recognisable to lawyers.  I shall use numbered paragraphs:

1.  On or about Saturday 29th September I left Battersea Square in a mini-cab driven by a remarkably knowledgeable Pakistan born driver – who entertained me through the one hour drive to The Ship & Trades pub where I would stay over the weekend prior to moving into my new Staterooms on the Monday morning.  My furniture was in the very capable hands – or storage to be more accurate – of the truly excellent Gentleman &  Van

2.  Saturday and Sunday were spent re-exploring St Mary’s Island and taking the air in the marina and dockyards. It was at the Ship & Trades that I re-discovered my passion for gammon and pineapple with chips – a dish I have now eaten for lunch six days in a row.

3.  D-DAY:  The plan agreed with the Clowns of The B*stardvilles,  masquerading as estate agents, was to move into my new rooms on Monday morning.  The Gentleman & a Van were ready to roll. I was informed at 10.00 by one of the leading clowns that I would not be able to move because their ‘computer systems’ were down and they could not process the six month short term tenancy agreement nor, more importantly for them, I suspect, process the rent and deposit.  (I agreed to pay the full six months in advance to speed things up a bit).

4. Incredulous, I offered to draft a tenancy agreement myself or, better, see if @NearlyLegal would kindly offer assistance to an irritated law blogger by providing same pro bono or otherwise. I also offered to nip down to the bank, draw out the loot, and give it to them, cash, in a sack.  This offer of resolution was rejected on two grounds: (a) They had their own ‘special real legal ones’ and (b) They could not take cash. Payment had to be done on their office ‘machine’. I was told that I could move on Wednesday, possibly. I booked another two days at the pub hotel and re-scheduled the move.  I incurred an inevitable and perfectly fair and reasonable penalty – in fact, Gentleman & a Van reduced the penalty from 2 hours time to one hour.

5. D-Day II: On the morning of Wednesday 3rd October, confident that the clowns would have sorted out their ‘farkin systems’, I telephoned only to be told that I could not move in because I had not signed the pre-contract forms to allow them to do a credit check.  They still needed a credit check, even though I would pay the whole six month rent in advance, and needed to check that I was on the voters roll in London -  which would prove beyond peradventure that I was not an axe murderer in training. The solution, which appeared not to have occurred to the clowns, was for me to travel about a mile and a half up the road in a motorised conveyance, sign the bleedin’ form and then that would clear all impediments to my moving in.  They appeared to be reluctant to accept this simple idea – but relented.  I duly travelled to their offices and signed the document. The clown who I had been negotiating with was not in the office.  His female boss seemed altogether more sensible and at least gave the loose impression of competency.  She informed me that it was ‘illegal’ for them to do a credit check without my real signature on a piece of paper – despite the fact I had authorised same several times on the pre-contract document emailed back and by separate email to leading negotiating clown on the Friday before – which he accepted as sufficient for his needs.

6. I returned to The Ship & Trades and waited to see  what stunt the clowns would  pull next. Astonishingly, I received a telephone call at 11.00 that all was in order – the landlord had left work to return to his home so he could authorise the clowns  in writing by email  to allow me into the flat as my payment had been successful.  They are sticklers for paperwork, the clowns.

7.  Payment was another stress inducing activity.  I am not given to spending £5000+  on a single purchase by debit card.  Banks have taken up a practice of security reviewing any strange activity.  I telephoned my bank, warned them that I would be paying rental and deposit of £5000+ to a group of clowns managing the property and asked specifically that they did not block that payment.  I was assured that they would not do so.  I authorised the clowns to take payment.  Payment was declined. I telephoned the bank again and, less than enthusiastic about their service, explained that I had telephoned earlier so this problem would not arise.  A charming young lady told me that the Fraud Squad don’t seem to read notes on file.  She had placed a file note about the large outgoing payment. The block was lifted quickly and the second payment went though.  There was now no impediment to my gaining quiet possession of the dwelling.
… or…so I thought.

8.  The clown I dealt with from the beginning told me proudly that ‘it was a go’ and I could move in at 2.30.  I informed Gentleman & a Van accordingly. My good friend John Bolch (he of FamilyLore),  who lives nearby, came down to the pub and we went to the new apartment half a mile away together.

9.  Gentleman & a Van – ever efficient – were at the property at 2.15 when we arrived. At 2.30 no sign of the clowns.  Telephoning their offices, I was informed that the ‘paperwork was not ready’ and they would be along at 3.00.  This incurred me a further half hour removal time charge.

10.  Mr Clown arrived – hair gelled into curious and very pointed spikes, as if twiddled,  and wearing a slightly shiny suit with a purple tinge to it -  in a ‘clownmobile’ complete with their logo plastered all over the back and sides. The farce continued.  He had over 100 keys. The key to the main entrance did not work.  He looked flustered as I laughed maniacally – incredulous.  Mr Clown saved the day by ringing the ‘Trades’ button which he informed me would stop working at 3.30.  I pointed out that this would be very handy for me – confined to my flat like Julian Assange in the Ecuador Embassy.  “You what?” Clown asked.  I had lost the will to explain who Assange is – but pointed out that I would not be able to get back into the building without a main entrance front door key that worked.  He hadn’t considered the possibility that I might actually want to leave the flat at some point and, more importantly, get back in.  He promised to look into the matter.

11.  More astonishing command performances as we went up to the top floor.  Mr Clown tried over thirty keys as John Bolch and I watched, desperately trying not to laugh – but, in my case, failing.

12.  The last key Mr Clown tried opened door.  I resisted the impulse to say ‘Open Sesame”.

13.  In the premises, the premises were in a filthy state.  The end of tenancy clean when the client vacated two months before had not been done.  The kitchen sink was disgusting.  There was a smell of rotting vegetation.  John Bolch discovered mould having a Bunga Bunga  party in the oven.  Frankly, by this stage, I was not suprised.  A cleaning team was quickly engaged and the problem is solved.

14.  Then there was the paperwork saga.  I signed about thirty pages of a typed document – a ‘really legal’ tenancy agreement.    There was a clause referring to my obligation to pay the rent going forward.  I pointed out that I had, in fact, paid the entire six months and deposit in advance – so that clause was incorrect.  I am not a landlord & tenant lawyer.  The contract lawyer in me didn’t have to produce any miraculous out of the box thinking – I simply endorsed the clause with the rubric ‘Rent & Deposit settled in full’, dated it and signed under the rubric.  Mr Clown also signed.  I was informed the next day by The Clown in Chief that what I had done by doing this was ‘illegal’ and that I would have to re-sign that page of the agreement without the endorsement – and ‘No it was not possible to include a typed provision that I had in fact paid – I would be given a receipt to prove I had paid.”  I just laughed and said… “Hey.. go for it.. I could not care less after all you guys have done this week..and by the way…can I have a front door key that actually works?  I am like the Man In An Iron  Mask and  The Prisoner of Zenda locked up in my own apartment.”

15.  A locksmith arrived at 5.00 the next day.  John Bolch was kind enough, on the Wednesday evening,  to bring ‘essential supplies’ (Fags et al) down to me.  I was able to let him in using the intercom device. I was able to escape the next morning and gain re-entry by a cunning ploy.  I used the trades button which I knew – because Mr Clown had told me – would work until 3.30.  It did.  The locksmith came, sucked his teeth, told me I had a badly cut key, sprayed some WD40 into the lock and..hey presto, lock worked.  I hope he charged the clowns royally for his technical advice.

16.  I add that the estate agents are nice people -  they just didn’t hack it with my move – a view I am prepared to take!

And so… I am now fully in, broadbanded up and the planning for Van RougeTour, already under way, can proceed.

Have a good weekend…

Best, as always

Charon

***

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Postcard from the Staterooms: Our new Lord Chancellor should be good for a few laughs….

Dear Reader

A man who doesn’t approve of Bed & Breakfast owners being banned from banning gays…. a shield muncher with ‘form’  who enthused about the “Kill a burglar” law reforms… is promoted to the rank of Lord Chancellor  and Secretary of State for Justice -  a man who, through no fault of his own, knows no law.   It may not be long before Mr Grayling fails to understand just how complex our legal system is.

I  will be delighted if he doesn’t mess this up – and proves to be one of the greatest Lord Chancellors we have had.  The list of ‘great’ Lord Chancllors is  not a very long list. I suspect that a 140 character tweet would do the job for that list?

Say what you like about Lord Irvine – a ‘real’ Lord Chancellor - when he was taking time out from selecting wallpaper – I can’t recall much of any use that he did.  In fact, to be honest this sunny afternoon, I can’t be bothered to remember anything he did.  And as for Sir Saint Thomas More,

This is one of his views…

“Ask a woman’s advice, and whatever she advises, Do the very reverse and you’re sure to be wise”

So… not much evolution in the last few hundred years, it appears, at the pinnacle of our political  mind?

Mind you… another Chancellor, Adolf Hitler – not a Lord Chancellor, of course – once said

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”

Let us hope that Lord Chancellor Grayling learns tolerance and inclusiveness.  He may well have until 2015 to discover these basic human qualities?  The good news?  It is unlikely that Mr Grayling will be made a Saint – unlike his illustrious predecessor Sir Saint Thomas More.  But, you never know with this government:  They hand out honours with P45s.

Mr Grayling is now at the political pinnacle of our ABS/Legal Services Act  driven  legal system (Thankfully, no longer in charge of appointing judges – but still retains ‘powers’). This Saturday’s excellent episode of The Thick Of It – available, for the time being, on iPlayer - may give you some comfort in these dark days.   Some wonderful lines.  My favourites:

“You used a lot of words today… it was like a Will Self lecture”

“Sorry, darling… got to go… I think the bailiffs are coming to take away my will to live.”

(I am sure that I will have opportunity – perhaps without the ‘Darling’ -  to use the latter line)

If you have the urge to read something vaguely sensible on this most ‘unusual’ of appointments – Joshua Rozenberg does the business in The Grauniad:

Chris Grayling, justice secretary: non-lawyer and ‘on the up’ politician

“Grayling’s main qualifications for justice minister are that he is perceived to be right-wing and once shadowed prisons”

Anyway… enough of the absurd unprovoked ‘ad hom’ attack on Mr Grayling, who, I am confident is a nice chap and plays a decent game of golf when he isn’t out looking for burglars ….. have a good rest of a very sunny weekend.  The winter of all our discontent may well be coming very soon….would next Thursday suit you?

Best, as always

Charon

***

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Postcard from The Staterooms: Last day of Summer….

The end of august, I discovered as I slowly lost the will to live watching BBC Borefastnews this morning, marks the ‘official’ end of summer.  This news was quickly followed by a short piece on the new squatting law which comes into force tomorrow – squatting becomes a criminal offence.  The Police will now be able to assist landlords to evict squatters. Twitter received this news with the usual subtle polarisation of ‘analysis’.  Right wingers were delighted.  Lefties were not.  David Allen Green wheeled out his trademark catchphrase to describe this development in our jurisprudence….

Mr Green opined on twitter: “Bit by bit, the British state is shifting property rights from a civil law to a criminal law basis. Both misconceived and highly illiberal.”

The Law Society Gazette was on the case quickly: Lawyers berate new law criminalising squatters

Chair of the Housing Law Practitioners Association, Giles Peaker, who was one of the organisers of the letter, said the change amounted to a ‘tax subsidy’ for landlords who leave their properties unoccupied.

‘They will no longer have to pay to get people evicted; it will be the police’s job to do it, paid for out of the public purse,’ he said.

Peaker said the move was simply ‘headline-grabbing’, as section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 already protects homeowners and makes it a criminal offence for a squatter to remain in a property once asked to leave by the owner.

He said the new law is badly drafted and, unlike the 1977 act, does not cover gardens. ‘People squatting in someone’s garden shed will not be covered,’ he said.

So.. if you want a bit of shed action before tomorrow…. you don’t have long to get some before the Rozzers get involved.

And so.. life continues and the ‘Silly Season’ ends.  Rigour, analysis, rectitude, curiosity returns to our lives and to blogging – even mine…but not just yet….

RollonFriday reports: Legal education judged not fit for purpose by review committee
“The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) has published a pre-report discussion paper claiming that English legal education is “not fit for purpose“. The LETR is a monstrous hydra combining the SRA, Bar Standards Board and ILEX. It’s been running since June 2011 but is rapidly approaching its climax, with the final report due to be delivered in December. This week’s discussion paper fired a warning that its recomendations for legal educators may not make for pretty reading….”

I shall take a look at the LETR pre-report, over the weekend.  The current thinking, available on all good guru blogs near you, is that skills and business awareness is the new ‘paradigmatic paradigm’ and that  knowledge of ‘law’ is not actually necessary to practise law or is, at best, an inconvenience – as my brother Professor RD Charon observed earlier in the summer: Guest post: Professor R.D. Charon on the vicissitudes of a career in Law

The gurus may well be right.  Certainly, I have come across lawyers who appear to know very little law – and that has not hindered their progress through the ranks. Commercial providers are rushing out new practice focused law degrees as you read this Postcard.

Some time ago, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, jazz loving Kenneth Clarke came up with the idea – a possible bit of appeasement and red-meat for the shield munchers on the Tory back benches – that courts would sit at weekends to speed up criminal justice.   I am delighted to be able to report reports in the press that criminal defence lawyers – who are not to be paid any extra for weekend duty – are wrecking these half thought out plans.  Again, RollonFriday has their version of the story.. and you may as well have a laugh with the ROF version than read the worthy stuff in the mainstream press.

And it would be remiss for me not to highlight some good stories from legal ‘tabloid’ Legal Cheek – which I  enjoy reading when they pick up on the bizarre stuff:

3% of my twitter followers are fake.  About 25% appear to be inactive – and the rest are defined as ‘good’ by a twitter analytics service I tried.

It appears that some tweeters have been buying twitter followers (a story well covered by Legal Cheek) and now this remarkable scoop…

EXCLUSIVE: 4 Breams Buildings Deletes Twitter Account After It Emerges That Most Of Its 15,000 Followers Were Fake

Back in March 2009 I interviewed a director of a company offering ‘bespoke essays’ for law students.  I am not impressed by companies offering essay writing services to law students.  I regard it as cheating.  Most academics do. There are two sides to every story.  Sometimes one side is not that attractive. Here is the podcast I did:  Charon Reports: Cheating or taking professional advice?

Legal Cheek reports: Meet The Solicitors With Second Jobs As Writers For Essay Companies That Target Students

The judges have been banned from blogging.  The #twitterjoketrial judgment established a marker for common sense.  I did a podcast with John Cooper QC who led the team before the court in the final appeal: Lawcast 218: John Cooper QC on the #Twitterjoketrial judgment

But… it seems that the days of menacing and daft tweets are not over..by any means.  Legal Cheek reports: ‘If @TheDappy Gets Sent Down Today Then We’re All Gonna Go To Guildford Crown Court & Kill The Judge’

One cannot but marvel….?

But… there is some serious legal news about… and I shall return over the weekend to have a crack at looking at some of it… possibly.

Until then – have a good weekend

Best, as always,

Charon

***

 
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Postcard from The Staterooms: A return to dystopian reality

The Olympics, enjoyed by many, are now cast to the ethereal memory to reveal the malignant presence of dystopian reality.

The prime minister has left  Downing Street to go on a holiday (not annual leave: Politicians need holidays too, says David Cameron), leaving UK PLC in the capable hands of Theresa May and our foreign secretary, hitherto, arguably, the most sensible member of the axis of incompetence governing our country.  Mr Hague  decided yesterday to force the Assange issue by digging up a law from 1987 few knew about, let alone recalled, to suggest that Ecuador may be stripped of their diplomatic status and the rozzers could ‘storm’ the Embassy.

Ecuador has duly participated in Mr Hague’s cunning plan to shift moralo-global responsibility for the mess to Ecuador – Ecuador granted Assange asylum -  and there is much speculation on how Assange is to get into a diplomatic car without setting foot on British soil and avoid the attention of the Police who wait with their handcuffs to haul him off for breach of his bail conditions.  The BBC has the story.  Solicitor David Allen Green (aka Jack of Kent blogger and legal correspondent of the New Statesman)  valiantly tried to stem the march of the trolls and tin foil hat wearers by tweeting about the complexities of the law – to no avail – and my mate Carl Gardner appeared on BBC Radio 4 to inform Mr Naughtie and listeners, including me, about the law this morning.  Carl Gardner has written a sensible analysis of the problem faced by the UK Government: Julian Assange: can the UK withdraw diplomatic status from the Ecuadorian embassy?

I don’t think I added to the jurisprudence on this issue with my sardonic tweet of late last night:  “Breaking: Ecuador Embassy buy teleporter from makers of Star Trek to transport Assange to Ecuador.”

David Allen Green has considered the twitter issue with: On being hated by tweeters.

And… a late ‘analysis from @Loveandgarbage – a must follow (at your own risk) on twitter – @loveandgarbageDuchy of Grand Fenwick turns down Asylum Application from Ecuadorian Ambassador

Apropos of Mr Assange escaping to Ecuador – a country not noted for free speech – without being arrested by police when he steps onto British soil to make a dash for the diplomatic car – I had the pleasure of teaching Mr Umaru Dikko years ago.

Wikipedia notes: “On July 5, 1984, he played the central role in the Dikko Affair; he was found drugged in a crate labeled Diplomatic Baggage at Stansted Airport, an apparent victim of a government (Israeli) sanctioned, but aborted kidnapping.[2] The crate’s destination was Lagos.”

Dikko came to see me in my office to talk about doing a law degree. I believe in the principle ‘innocent until proved guilty’.  As he had not been convicted of any criminal offence at the time,  I was quite happy for him to enrol on the University of London  LLB programme. I did warn him that should he be convicted at a future time – of corruption or any other criminal offence – this would impact on his suitability for call to the Bar. During one of my contract lectures, I happened to talk about a case involving a consignment of goods to Nigeria.  Several Nigerians at the back of the lecture hall – burst out laughing and  started shouting “Dikko, Dikko, Dikko”.  To his credit, and to my amusement, Mr Dikko, immaculately dressed in expensive suiting, stood up, turned to face the Nigerian students and did a bow.  Class!

The ‘silly season’ is upon us; traditionally a time for the surreal and daft to appear in our newspapers in the absence of more serious news. So, in that spirit… and I head this section with an image of the Olympics which I particularly liked…althought there were so many marvellous photographs.

Random wanderings about London
The long vacation for lawyers begins at the end of July.  I decided to take a short break away from law,  which I enjoyed.  I spent a few amusing days getting on buses without having a clue where the bus ended up.  I like a bit of ‘random’ in my life these days.  London is, truly, a marvellous place to wander around,  even for a law blogger who has lived in London for 30+ years. I won’t trouble you with the boring details of where I ended up – but I can reveal that I purchased a very bright green Casio wrist watch (£20) and a very loud pair of electric blue suede desert desert style boots on my travels.  I shouldn’t be allowed out on my own sometimes. It is perhaps a good thing that  I  don’t escape that often?  I did my bit for Britain during the Olympic fortnight, on my mystery travels, by talking to tourists about our great City – Big Society in action? The tourists were most grateful for the information I imparted…possibly. I wasn’t even tempted to say that Nelson’s Column was, in fact, in Chancery Lane and that the guy in Trafalgar Square was an imposter statue. No…sireee…

Words
The English language is endlessly fascinating to me.  I don’t share the facility possessed by linguists  with languages (Although I speak acceptably bad French.  OK – really bad French - c’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas le français  and ‘tourist italian’). . My real brother – not Professor RD Charon – speaks quite a few languages including Hindi.  In fact, he teaches young British Asians to speak and write Hindi)

A number of unusual words have amused me in recent months – a selection:

philosophunculist: One who pretends to know more than they do to impress others

tibialoconcupiscent: Having a lascivious interest in watching a woman put on stockings (I don’t, in fact, have this hobby – but one never knows when a new hobby will come along.  I was much taken with the idea of becoming a sword swallower last night after seeing an item about sword swallowing on BBC London News.  The thought has, thankfully, passed.)

And the other day I was fascinated by the idea of having a concilliabuleA secret meeting of people who are hatching a plot

But my favourite for this week – given twitter’s proclivity for stampeding madly about, wilfully, mendaciously and with a full on ‘mens rea’ -  at times  -  ignorant of law, facts or sanity  was: exsibilation – The collective hisses of a disapproving audience

And, finally… on the subject of words… Hat tip to good friend,  Professor Gary Slapper (Always worth following on twitter @garyslapper)

I tweeted – Word du Jour: Afflatus (n) inspiration; an impelling mental force acting from within

Many complain about the modern habit of turning nouns into words.  ‘Medalling’ was popular during the Olympics.  And…before I get accused of explaterating – To talk continuosly without stop…

Best, as always
Charon

PS… I am coming to the conclusion that academic lawyers may know more law than the practitioners.  Whether this is useful – I hope to consider this phenomenon and wind up some of my practitioner friends  when I get back to serious blogging.  In the meantime, you might enjoy this speech from Lord Neuberger MR – who is soon to be President of The United Kingdom Supreme Court: JUDGES AND PROFESSORS – SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT

Wonderful stuff with much talk about citing academic lawyers – but only if they are dead!

Postcard from the Staterooms: Olynkiks ‘Censored’ edition….

Dear Reader,

I’m not allowed – none of us are – to use the Olympic Rings lest we  demean the value to the corporates who have paid to peddle and promote their not always  healthy products Olympics to our country. There is a delicious irony with  Coke and McDonalds sponsoring ‘the greatest spectacle on earth’.

Fortunately, The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 et al cannot, I hope, stop me from tastefully laying out my breakfast of fried eggs and baked beans in the shape of the Olympic rings.  A rasher of bacon, artfully laid out below the ‘rings’,  can serve to symbolise The River Thames innit!  – geddit?!!

I am not that interested in athletics or, for that matter, any of the sports in the Olympic games (but hope that those who are into the great art of couch potatoing enjoy the games – my caveat to offer protection:  I would not want Boris The Buffoon popping out of my fridge to berate me for slagging orf t’games).

In a vain effort to get into the spirit of the games, I spent a happy half hour making my own Olympic Torch with newspaper and coloured wrapping paper.  Unfortunately, the end result looked like a GIANT SPLIFF and I came to the view that if I yomped to the caff for my black coffee and newspapers this morning,  carrying my giant spliff – this would likely attract the attention of overzealous bun eating PCSOs or ‘Community’ wardens charged by LOCOG with the important task of protecting the corporate sponsors and their tawdry rights and, in some cases, their tawdry products..

Fortunately, the British do not take kindly to ‘Jobsworths’ or officious behaviour.  There have been a number of excellent stories in the press about over excited ‘community wardens’ and their high handed enforcement.

I particularly enjoyed Stuart Lee’s piece in the Observer this morning – an excellent read and well worth your time: How I was busted by the O—— Advertisement Enforcement Office“It was only an innocent double entendre about rings of fire. But even multi-award-winning comics can fall foul of Olympic censors”

The G4S / private sector security  fiasco rolls on and The Mail on Sunday reports: Minister’s daughter exposes Olympic safety scandal: Stewards made to fake NVQ qualifications and ‘trained’ in one hour at nightclub

Good to see that Adam Wagner of the UK Human Rights blog has apologised for the post on the outlawing of Dawkins in Mississippi.

Adam tweeted:

Outlawing Dawkins hoax wp.me/pJiO3-3PH 9 hours ago

All, apologies for the Richard Dawkins outlawed post – clearly a hoax. I have been offline today otherwise would have responded sooner.

I read the Rosalind English post  analysing the Mississippi anti-Dworkin legislation  on the UK Human Rights blog with mounting amusement.  I simply assumed that Rosalind  was being ‘straight faced’ and continuing with the hoax at first – but then remembered that the UK Human Rights blog is a serious blog and doesn’t do parody.  Laughing in Purgatory – the website which covered the original story, may have been a clue?  Anyway… good on ‘em for having the grace to admit they were hoaxed. It was a very believable piece from Laughing in Purgatory and beautifully constructed.

Laughing in Purgatory reported: Mississippi Passes Anti-Richard Dawkins Legislation – a most amusing and very believable report.

RollonFriday has a great film of Dutch advocaats (?)

RollonFriday reports: “Just what are law firm marketing types smoking in the Netherlands? Just a week after RollOnFriday brought an astonishing recruitment video from top Amsterdam lawyers Deterink to a wider audience, another Dutch firm’s viral marketing video has been revealed.

Picture the scene: a bland courtroom in the Netherlands. Enter a host of grim-faced men and women in flowing black robes and white neckerchiefs. Why, it’s the lawyers of Wessel Tideman and Sassen. They line up, as if to pitch to a potential client. Will this be the usual litany of tedious statistics, deals done and so on? Absolutely not…”

Watch the film

Back later with a sensible Without Prejudice podcast  on ‘Contempt of Court’ with David Allen Green.

Have a good one.. the sun has arrived.  Phew wot a scorcha klaxons are available on sale – with no olympic ring marketing – from all good Poundlands

best, as always

Charon

Postscript:  I am not prone to texting or otherwise troubling god – but this excellent article about the Bishop of Durham is a superb read.  (My thanks to barrister  James Vine of The Bung Blog – for alerting me to it.)

The Saturday interview: Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham
Bishop Welby of Durham – former oil executive, Libor scandal inquiry member and possible next archbishop of Canterbury – discusses corporate sin and the common good

AND..finally… I’m with Andrew Rawnsley on ‘The Olynkinks’…

This five-ring circus is only for those in love with white elephants

“I wish the best for our competitors, but it is a delusion that the Olympics will make us fitter, wealthier or happier”

Postcard from the Staterooms: “Flash incarceration” and other nonsense edition….

If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.
Groucho Marx

Dear Reader,

The Guardian reports on the latest ‘thinking’ from our political masters over at the Ministry of Cheap Justice: ” “Flash incarceration” of offenders who breach court orders, widespread naming online of those convicted, more witnesses giving evidence via videolink and Sunday court sittings are among measures outlined in government plans to speed up justice.”

The crux of the article is that criminal justice minister Nick Herbert MP believes that the present criminal justice system is slow and “opaque, with lengthy, complex procedures which make little sense to the public”… More important to Herbert..” “At over £20bn a year, it is one of the most expensive criminal justice systems in the world.”

Politicians, especially those of a Beserker persuasion partial to a bit of shield munching on the back benches, were delighted with the swift justice which followed the riots of last summer. Orgasmic at the prospect of judges dishing out exemplary sentences in ‘exceptional circumstances’ – the government is planning to ensure that terrorists and other sundry criminals, let into the country by untrained Border Agency officers, or waved through the barriers at The Olympic park by ‘highly untrained’ G4S security people, are dealt with quickly and, hopefully, ‘severely’.

Plans to have ‘single magistrates’ hanging about in village halls to dispense ‘flash incarceration’ worry me.  In fact, as it is Sunday, and a sunny day, I shall say that people like Nick Herbert, hanging about at The Ministry of Justice, worry me…. and on that note… I shall move on to other less serious legal and other matters…

The Law Society Gazette reports: Bar-solicitor divisions ‘music to government’s ears’

Jim Sturman QC warned: ‘By playing the two sides of the profession off against each other… each time the bar scores a point off solicitors, or solicitors off the bar, we cut our own throats as well as each others.’ Divisions between the bar and solicitors are ‘music to the ears of central government’, he said.

Legal Cheek notes that: A DISGRACED former solicitor and his ex-girlfriend caught with large amounts of amphetamines while planning to launch an escort agency will be sentenced next month.

Private Eye, still at the forefront of good journalism, reports: DON’T MENSHN THE ICO…“POOR Louise Mensch. After calling on social networks to identify internet bullies after she was stalked online, the chick lit author turned Tory MP was a touch embarrassed when it was revealed that security flaws on her own newly launched social network meant that it was identifying… everybody”

Worth reading – it would appear that Louise Mensch MP, a lawmaker, is not that clued up about the law applicable to websites and her new social meedja flop.

A quick selection of nonsense from the Tabloids…

The Sun: English football on the brink of civil war after Terry race trial

The Mail on Sunday: No 11 prepares ‘for life after Osborne’: Hague is tipped for job as UK is given 50% chance of losing gold-plated AAA rating

The Mail on Sunday: Judge who let Taliban soldier remain in Britain now allows refugee who raped girl, 12, stay in UK

And I do like this Sunday Mirror headline writer’s take on The Olympics…

It’s pathletic: Police and army seethe as G4S admits Olympic Games shambles

That’s probably enough nonsense for today… back next week with with more podcasts and Law Review Weekly et al.

Enjoy the sun….and the fact, according to the Met Office, St Swithin has never been right since weather records have been kept…

Best, as always

Charon

Airmail from The Staterooms – Oversupply of law students edition…

Dear Reader,

It seems appropriate this weekend to begin with Groucho Marx’s aphorism…“Before I speak, I have something important to say”….

For many years now, I have been warning of the oversupply of law students – caveat emptor…let the buyer of the ‘products’ from purveyors of legal education – for that is what they are – beware.  I am not a fan of restrictive practices and barriers to a future career, but the reality is, certainly at the Bar, that the chance of getting a tenancy now is  believed to be roughly 1 in 10. Tough odds.

RollonFriday.com is on the money with a story  headed… Shock as Bar Council chair notices lots of BPTC grads don’t get jobs

There was much learned worrying this week when a big cheese at the Bar noticed the huge number of students paying expensive law schools fees with precious little chance of getting a job.

Michael Todd QC, chairman of the Bar Council, claimed on Wednesday that over-recruitment of students wasn’t doing the profession, the students or social mobility any favours. Todd said it was a “great concern” that law schools were pumping out a hefty oversupply of grads with “no realistic prospect of pupillage“. And he worried about those chucking £16,000 at a qualification which, for those who fail to obtain pupillage, adds little to employability. He also acknowledged that social mobility is being restricted (no matter what the OFT might say) as it is the more affluent students who are better able to risk the cash.

Cue the powerful PR machinery of the major purveyors of the BPTC and LPC.  RollonFriday noted – “The College of Law was quick to jump to the defence. Susan Hutchinson, a member of the CoL’s management board, shot back that Todd’s statement was “scaremongering”. No doubt Montagu Private Equity is relying on plenty of bums on seats to see a return on their £200 million investment.”

Curiously, and going very much against the US oriented corporatespeak of his  ‘masters’ (I would have thought) – a US company Apollo and a venture capital company -  Peter Crisp, CEO of BPP Law School, is reported as saying that he would not advise any student in the present economic climate to go to the Criminal Bar.

Legal Cheek ran with the story: BPP Law School CEO Says Avoid Criminal Bar; Bar Council Chief Voices ‘Great Concern’ At Number Of Barrister Wannabes – Yet Still Students Keep Flocking To The BPTC

I was drinking a cuppa when I read this story and an image of Peter Crisp, who I know and like,  thumbing a lift on the Road to Damascus came into my mind.

Legal Cheek gets it broadly right… and I quote from their report:  “As head of a professional body like the Bar Council, Todd has a lot of people to keep sweet and has to couch his language in diplomatic terms so as not to offend. Reading between the lines, what he is really saying is “WHY THE FUCK HAS NOBODY BOTHERED LIMITING ENTRY TO THE BPTC?!”

I haven’t got much sympathy for The Bar Council or Bar Standards Board on this issue.  Perhaps not enough forward thinking was done – if they find now that they cannot unravel the ‘monster’ they have created?   They have the power to accredit law schools to run the BPTC, to fix maximum numbers for each accredited course and, frankly, what the lord giveth, the lord can or should be able to taketh away.  Or can they? Their response to that, of course, would be that competition law may not permit them to restrict numbers, that law schools have invested heavily in infrastructure… reasonable expectation of certainty  etc etc etc.  To that latter, I put a blunt point:  The vocational law schools are commercial organisations (even the public sector ones) and should factor in downturn and potential regulatory restriction into their financial projections going forward. Was there no ‘sunset’ clause on reduction in numbers accredited if market conditions required it in the original accreditation agreement?   The very high fees charged for the BPTC are, arguably, higher than necessary to turn a reasonable profit?

Having spent much of my professional life doing budgets for professional courses, I still have a fair idea of what the real margins are, where and how law schools ‘bury the bodies’ from the prying eyes of regulators -  god forbid that law schools should think of doing, let alone do, such a thing? -  where law schools make their ‘bunce’ and how the managing boards think and plan.  It is, of course, much easier for a regulator to get a crony in to advise them badly than actually take advice from the many who are knowledgeable in this sector to tell it ‘as it is’. You get what you pay for, chaps.

While some public sector universities are prepared to run courses at a loss to provide a ‘full service’ – generally speaking, those who own law schools don’t really approve of business plans which contain loss making activities – save where it is in their interests to run a loss maker to crush commercial competition – as may well be behind the thinking of the commercial providers to offer very ‘competitively priced’ law degrees, which compete against high quality law degrees from major public sector universities?  Please note the use of a question mark at the end of that last sentence.  BPP and Kaplan are owned by US companies and The College of Law has sold to  venture capital.

Michael Todd QC is right, however, in his statement that diversity will be affected – ironic, given the great efforts made by the profession to increase diversity – when he says that only those who come from a wealthy middle class background will be able to take the risk and afford the high fees charged by the providers of the BPTC with students facing a 1 in 10 chance of getting a tenancy.

So.. that is a cheery start to my ‘Airmail from the Staterooms’… on to twitter…

I received an unsolicited tweet from twitter to let me know that I had been on twitter for 4 years.  I have also managed to rack up over 100,000 tweets – proving nothing, save for the fact that I have, arguably, wasted industrial amounts of time.

In the same week, twitter announced terms and conditions for use of their logo - without having the hassle of going through their lawyers.  It is perfectly reasonable for twitter to protect their brand and direct  how their logo and intellectual property is used.  I fear I may be in breach of these T&Cs with my parodic use of a twitter ‘icon’ to mock the lawyers on twitter who put great energy into broadcasting their brilliance to other lawyers and a largely uninterested general public. I am hopeful that twitter is ‘big enough’ to allow latitude to users who use the logo benignly in terms of their attitude to twitter. (Note to law firms – good law firms and lawyers engage and get involved in discussion.  They provide good information and analysis for free – and deserve their higher profile and side benefit of public awareness, if any, as a result of their time on twitter.  They do not Broadcast.)

I am a fan of twitter.  I have met and talked with many interesting lawyers and non-lawyers who have an enthusiastic and intelligent interest in our law.  The trolls are tedious – but easily blocked from the timeline. Exonerators like Louise Unmenschionable MP who push their agenda can be amusing – and are only doing their job to get the job they really want .

Many of those I tweet with have stopped tweeting, which is a pity. Unfortunately an increasing number of lawyers and non lawyers are using twitter to celebrate their own self importance, their brilliance and promote their careers.  This category of user seems to suffer from Selfaggrandisementitis – a terminal condition which allows enhancement of vainglorious self esteem – usually well beyond their actual ability – but these, too, are easily removed from one’s timeline  at the click of the ‘Block’ button.

I shall continue to enjoy tweeting with those I like – including the apparently semi-insane ranters who can be very amusing and provide a needed laugh during the working day.

Well there we are… time for a walk in the wind… a hot black ‘Americano’ coffee at t’caff and watch the world go by.  Back later… or tomorrow

Best, as always

Charon