On August 8th 2009 I wrote this Postcard From The Law Library – quite fun looking back…

In the week when a denial of service attack struck Twitter, causing post-traumatic stress disorder, nervous breakdowns and anxiety on an unparalleled scale because Twitters could not tweet and tell each other about the baked potato they had for lunch – the legal world has gone on holiday…many, they say, not to Tuscany, but to ’somewhere in England’.

I have, of course, been at my post by the sea side (or at least the estuary) but there has been no sign of Hans,  my mate the U-boat Kapitan.  I do miss our late night chats.  When I was onDas Boot in Chelsea by Battersea Bridge last summer, Hans would surface at about 9.30 pm, moor the U-boat by the jetty and we would have Schnapps and he would ask if I needed any nylons.  Inevitably, the answer was always the same.  I told him that I did not need any nylons for personal use, as I am not a bank robber,  and none of the women I knew wore them.  He would shrug, then twitch slightly, down his Schnapps and the U-boat would dive and he would be gone… I know not where… for another week.

It has been a strange old week. I have read over 100 law reports to update my Contract and Sale of Goods materials which I am giving away free online – and have started recording lectures…. this allows me to use different voices when I quote from the judgments.  I began to realise that I may be losing the plot when, at 8.00 this evening, I found myself recording a  one hour lecture on Acceptance and concerning myself with the intricacies of unilateral offer revocation and Daulia v FourMillBank Nominees.  This… had to stop… so a bottle ofRioja was found from my stock, opened and I am necking it now as I write.

But…at least a Greek woman hasn’t thrown Ouzo over me and set fire to it as happened in Crete this week to a man who was trying to fondle her… so not bad, all things considered.  The England cricket team has mounted its final assault on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in The Ashes by giving an exhibition performance on how to play crap cricket – prompting @stephenfry to tweet about arseholes or words to that effect…. shortly after Mr Fry intervened on behalf of theCricketerati… England actually managed to take a few wickets.  All out for 102 on the first day, shortly after lunch, was a sterling effort.

What @stephenfry actually said was… “Bah! England weltering in an arsepit of horror. Straight and full. Straight and full. You have to try SO hard not to try too hard.”

Line and length..line and length…. that is the mantra in Cricket and I was delighted, years ago, to find a cricket lover when a pissed woman in a bar started muttering to me about line and length. Moving on….

With all this reading of law reports, I started to think about the law libraries I have used in my time… and my febrile imagination threw up images of me as Professor Plum in the library with a length of rope and a candlestick, waiting for the delectable Miss Scarlett….  who was probably being stalked by Colonel Mustard.

Clearly, the unexpected heat of this ‘barbecue Summer’ that we are not having has not only unhinged my mind… I refer to a somewhat unusual piece of judicial bluster which I covered earlier in the week in my piece about HH Judge Hardly-There QC.

It would appear that HH Judge Trigger – which prompted my piece – has ‘form’ for outbursts.  A barrister mate of my mine drew my attention to this wonderful piece of bluster… from HH Judge Trigger – via the blog written by David Jones MP:

His Honour Judge Ian Trigger. Last week, in Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Trigger gave vent to his obvious frustration and despair when passing sentence on a teenager who had beaten an elderly woman about the head with an iron bar. The youth was on bail at the time.

Judge Trigger told the yob…

“It is the fault of politicians that bail is so readily granted, rather than judges or magistrates.

“Parliament, and its woeful and indeed dreadful concentration on rights, forgets duties and responsibilities. It has meant people like you have the right to bail in these circumstances…… We are living in a society which is bedevilled by wild feral youths such as you……..Before we plunge into even greater violence at the hands of lawless and irresponsible youths it is time for us to address the problem.

“It is time for parents to resume control over their offspring……It is time for parents to teach values and respect to their children, value and respect for other people and not allow their offspring to engage in selfish and irresponsible behaviour.

“It is time for the police to be released from administrative tasks and red tape and be once more a visible 24-hour presence on our streets, particularly in our violent hotspots.

“It is time for the public not to criticise the police but support them so that wild youths like you are brought to justice.

“And it is time for Left-wing intellectuals and well-meaning do-gooders to abandon their obsession and concentrate on the obligations and responsibilities which we all owe each other.

Well… he has a point… I’m just not entirely sure (a) the yob would understand it or give a toss (or be ‘bovverred’) and (b) whether judges should make comments of a wholly political nature…. I would rather have something rather more brutal and direct from the the judge  for Mr Yob and his feral mates….

Postcard from The Bunker in Perth: A Restaurant Review

Some years ago I did a few restaurant reviews for an excellent website,  Here is  a ‘review’ I wrote some years back in the good old days when one could smoke as one ate and drank vino rosso. 

A Bar & Dining Room
Somewhere in London

Meal for two with wine: £90
Nil points

Charon goes to a restaurant run by East European border guards?

“Have you booked?” asked the black silk shirted Maitre D’ guarding the entrance. The abruptness of the greeting took me by surprise.

“I have not booked. Do you have a table?” Blackshirt’s eyes narrowed as he flicked open the diary. The page had one entry. Blackshirt looked up, eyes darting. “How many of you are there?” It may seem to the casual observer that I suffer from dissociative identity disorder, but I was alone. I heard Sir Alec Guinness in the recess of my mind: “Charon” he said, “Use the Force….”

“I am one.”

The Maitre D’ surveyed the dining room. It was that sort of place… Not a restaurant, but a Bar and Dining Room. It was 12.30. Only two tables were occupied. “Do you smoke?” Blackshirt snapped.

“For England.” I replied.

I was escorted to a table in the corner of the room – a table for two. An East European border guard, dressed as a waitress, appeared with a menu. I selected a bottle of Claret and asked for two espressos and a glass of tap water, no ice. “You want espresso?” the waitress asked, unsmiling. “Now?”

“Yes please.” I watched her walk towards the bar. Well it was more of a march… more Red Square than Sandhurst. I was not invited to taste the wine when it arrived.

The menu was fairly typical of many gastros – a mix of “Confu**tion cooking” with a bit of thai/vietnamese nonsense thrown in. I enjoy reading Anthony Bourdain… but his books, do on occasion, get into the wrong hands… and so it was, today. Couscous and polenta featured heavily. One day I am sure that I will find a gastro pub with a dish called “Irish tagine”.

A couple were seated at a table nearby – both late twenties, both City professionals. I know this because they managed to tell me, indirectly, by relating events to each other of their successes during the week. They talked at each other; he admiring himself repeatedly in the mirrors lining the walls on our side of the restaurant. They obviously knew each other well – at least one assumes so, because, later, declining the offer of pudding, they started eating each other.

I have no idea why nutters on trains, tubes, buses and restaurants gravitate towards me – but it happend again today. The East European border guard escorted another customer to the adjacent table – a man in his early sixties, blazered, highly polished Oxford shoes, grey trousers, Turnbull & Asser shirt, silk tie and a traditional ‘British’ haircut. One could almost smell the George Trumper cologne.

“Good day to you.”

“And to you.” I replied.

“Writer?” the man asked, pointing at my laptop. I learned long ago not to answer that question.

“Just doing a bit of surfing.”

“Surfing Eh?…. yes… I used to surf when I was a junior partner with X&Y in Hong Kong…. on trips to Australia…. tied up a few M&A deals, I can tell you… out there…. those were the days…”

God in heaven. I know I drank a bottle of cider in Church once when I was at Prep school… but I had no idea, then, that I would continue to be punished for that sin nearly 40 odd years later on Easter Sunday 2007… in the form of a retired City lawyer, from the days of Tai Pan, sitting at the next table.

“Really…? good stuff.. ” I replied, affably, but with what I hoped was the correct tone to indicate that I wished ‘to be alone’. It was too late to pretend I was Bulgarian and could not speak English.

So there I was… a couple of young professionals, but a few tables away, talking at each other and Mr Drone, to my right.

“Been to Church?”

I was looking intently at my laptop screen. The words appeared to come from above. I looked at the ceiling. I looked at my bottle of Claret. I had only had one glass.

“The Vicar had a few of us back for a glass of sherry after the service”

“Really…?”

“Yes… quite a few actually. Have to splice the mainbrace after sitting through all that without being able to charge fees at the end of it! ” a statement which provoked so much laughter from the speaker that I was concerned I may have to do a Heimlich manoeuvre on him.

“Oh Yes… Vicar did us a good sermon today…”

Mr Drone told me at length that he would have been in New York to advise on a merger but the US firm had ‘cocked up’ on timing… adding that he liked to take on important cases on a consultancy basis from time to time…

“Ah….”

I drained my glass, re-filled and lit a cigarette.

“Smoker Eh?…yes… used to smoke until the Doc said to me ‘My dear chap, unless you pack in the gaspers now you won’t be able to get it up when you are 65′.” Another burst of self satisfied laughter, gave me the opportunity to wave at the waitress and explain to the gentleman seated at the next table that I needed to concentrate on my work. He made a curious signal, tapping his finger against his nose and said “Got it…Roger… mustn’t stop a chap from his work “

“You are ready with your orders?”

I smiled at the waitress, trying not to look as if I had something to declare, and ordered a main course. I justified my lack of a first course, when questioned, by explaining that I may have a pudding. She seemed satisfied with my explanation and marched off.

It takes a rare talent to cook roast lamb badly, but only inhalation of super strength cannabis would suggest beetroot risotto and chilli jam is a sensible, or even suitable, accompaniment to lamb. The waitress looked at my plate, barely touched. The lemon meringue pie had the merit of being bought in. The wine was more than drinkable and, after negotiating my release without the aid of the Foreign Office, I returned to familiar surroundings.

Postscript:  What is wrong in the picture of the food and wine glass?

Several things:  1.  The wine glass is absurdly empty. 2.  The Chef may have been smoking the garden again believing that a piece of lamb needs to have grass sprouting out of the bone  3.  The plate is almost empty of sustaining food, although I did detect some mash and a brussell sprout hiding in plain sight with a carrot.

Anne Wareham: Where have all the critics gone? – I would like to see more great gardens.

Where have all the critics gone?
by Anne Wareham

I would like to see more great gardens. I think they would enrich our culture. You can express things through the use of land, water and plants that no other art form provides scope for, especially because time and weather are inevitable and dynamic partners in the process. This combination of natural forces and our work upon them has immense resonance for us, echoing our work in making a living on this planet in partnership with the land.

A great garden requires a site and a person willing and able to transform that site. In order to do that they have to have time, sensitivity, imagination, courage, taste, ruthlessness, a spatial sense and response to pattern, and an ability to learn, especially about their own limitations.

flowersanne1

And it requires a culture which takes gardens more seriously than we do. For that we need better gardens. An end of praising Highgrove and other inadequate efforts by  the famous and fatuous. And for that we need garden critics and garden criticism. No art can thrive without the serious discussion and dialogue which criticism offers: it raises standards, informs, educates and promotes intelligent debate. It is the lifeblood of any high art, and our gardens are suffering for lack of it. I am not referring here to the garden where the kids play football or that which is devoted to a collection of special plants: I am referring to gardens which open to the public for money.

flowers3anne

I think it is possible that the dual sense of the word criticism creates a problem. The dictionary clarifies the ambiguity –

“Criticism: 1.the act or an instance of making an unfavourable or severe judgement, comment etc. 2. The analysis or evaluation of a work of art, literature etc.

flowers2anne

It is, of course, the second use of the word that concerns me here, but the definitions are not mutually exclusive. It is a fact that “an analysis or evaluation” may come couched in quite damning terms – but serious analysis is worth the bruises. I read an article by a novel writer recently, about his visit to a book market, a “salon litteraire,” in France. He found the punters very blunt in their comments about his work, but concluded – “Yes, the French revere their novelists, but they also believe they can tell them off if they are found wanting. Because they believe that what you do is important, they also reserve the right to dress you down.”

flowers5anne

A bit of dressing down is maybe what we need to make our gardens sing again. Our gardens and our appreciation of them could blossom if we would begin to treat them as important, worthy of serious debate and discussion — not simply as occupational therapy for the retired middle classes.

However, there is currently no context for garden criticism. The model of theatre or book criticism would suggest that critics would visit gardens, and then write them up in our broadsheet newspapers and periodicals if they were worthy of that attention. But no-one writes such a column in this country and no writer has such freedom. Gardens are featured in magazines and newspapers – but never in the review section of a paper. If pop music can be reviewed in these sections, why not gardens?

Gardens usually appear in the press alongside “home” or “property”, and in glossy magazines which are dedicated to a glamorous presentation, for the benefit of potential advertisers as much as anybody. In both, the “how to” is muddled up with  the resulting gardens — both reduced to hobby.

Gardens get into these magazines and the press via photographs. Garden photographers trawl the country looking for new ‘material’, which they flatter by getting up ladders, crawling about on the ground,  getting up at the crack of dawn and Photoshopping. They then sell the results to an editor of a magazine or newspaper. The editor then decides whether the photographs fit the magazine: have the right “style”, fill an “autumn slot,” feature the right plants, create the right balance.

The editor is merely buying a set of photographs, not assessing a garden. She will probably never see the garden. If all this is acceptable, a writer will be dispatched to write a piece about the garden. Probably in the middle of winter despite the pictures featuring flowering roses. It is actually not unknown for the writer to write the piece without setting foot in the garden, but even if they do see it, their task is to justify the garden’s already accepted presence in the publication, not raise issues about it. Editors ask for the articles to be “personal, focusing on the owners and their history and how they came to make the garden. With plant associations.” This is altogether not a context in which we can review gardens or discuss them in depth. (I sometimes toy with the delinquent idea of inventing a totally fictitious garden and seeing if I could get it into a magazine or newspaper…..)

To get gardens worth taking seriously and then to understand why they are worth taking seriously we need a context for genuine garden criticism. We need editors with the courage to break the mould and put gardens alongside books, theatre and pop music in the review sections of our newspapers and magazines. We need to be able to separate garden appreciation from hints on slug control. We need to find a way to break out of the “gardener’s ghetto”, where gardens are only seen to be of interest to gardeners. And, perhaps, we need a certain delinquent small boy, prepared to declare that the Emperor in fact has no clothes.

badtemperedgardenerAnne Wareham has written a book which may be of interest to you: The Bad Tempered Gardener

Garden: www.veddw.com
Website: www.thinkingardens.co.uk/

Blog: veddw.com/blog/

Garden writing veddw.com/category/annes-writing/

***

It is a pleasure to publish this post.  I enjoy gardens, plants, trees and flowers, as many do – and it brightens the cold evenings and days of winter.

A Postcard early in the new year: A Review of the law blogs

As there isn’t a great deal of law around at the moment I thought I would have a look at the writing of fellow law bloggers, see what they have been up to recently, and cover it below.

Before I do that, I thought you might like this picture of using a mobile while driving sent to me by a good friend who is Spanish but who has lived in London all of his life.

From Carl Gardner at Head of LegalDominic Grieve: I am not a lone voice crying in the wilderness

“The Conservative debate on human rights is “very far from over”, Dominic Grieve told an audience of lawyers last night, as he strongly criticised his party’s recent policy paper – saying he was not sure a key aspect of it “was really intended as a serious proposal”. There are “plenty” of Conservative supporters of human rights, he claimed, and he said they will win the internal debate – but “must not stay silent”.”

The article is a good read and raises some interesting points.

Writing in mid-December last, John Flood considers: Relevance of Professionalism in a Post-Legal Services Act World

John Flood begins his blog post: “I’ve always admired “Duke” (or Hunter S Thompson as he’s known in the mundane world). For anyone who could consume the amount of drugs he did and yet write as brilliantly as he could must be professional.”

The Justice of The Peace  (Magistrate’s) blog: JUSTICE, FOOTBALLER, REHABILITATION. WHO AND WHAT ARE VICTIMS?

“And the Lord said let there be light and there was light; and his lordship said let there be law and there was law. And the law begat offenders and the offenders begat defendants and the defendants begat judges and the judges begat trials and the trials begat witnesses and the witnesses begat complainants and the complainants begat victims and the victims begat czars and the czars……….”

An interesting blog post.

The Nearly Legal blog considers: Getting around Tuitt

“Anti-social behaviour cases are one of the staple cases for the young barrister. If acting for landlords (whether local authority or housing association), they’re a great way to develop trial experience in a relatively low-risk environment. I say “low risk” because, for the most part, landlords have got quite good at these cases and courts have become quite cynical, such that you usually get an order of some sort.

For tenants, if your experience is anything like mine, you start off fighting the good fight and happily running the defence your client wants to run (often some highly elaborate version of bare denial) and (generally) you go down in flames. Your client isn’t believed….”

Francis Fitzgibbon QC over at Nothing Like The Sun is always a good read: They Would not Listen, They Did not Know How

“Here we go again. Another legal aid consultation by the Ministry of Justice, in response to the quashing by Burnett J of the flawed decisions based on the last one: not that you’d know from the announcement that the MOJ has suffered the humiliation of having its decision described as so unfair as to be unlawful. It says nothing about the judicial review. There is no trace of contrition, regret, much less of apology for mucking the profession about, wasting time and energy, and for creating a shambles….”

The blog of Obiter J: Counter-terrorism law

“Just a reminder that the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill is racing along its fast-track through Parliament.  The Bill (as introduced) is considered in this earlier post.  Please also see this post by Angela Patrick on the UK Human Rights Blog.

The Bill has now cleared the House of Commons and the second reading in the House of Lords is on 13th January.  A Joint Committee on Human Rights report about the Bill is due to be released on 12th January.  A JUSTICE briefing on the Bill is available, here.”

The blog of Obiter J: Charlie Hebdo – Freedom of Expression

“When a court in the United Kingdom is faced with a case involving freedom of expression, the Human Rights Act 1998 section 12 may apply.

…”George Washington encapsulated the importance to democracy of freedom of speech by saying – “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

We must retain the importance of freedom of expression and ask that legislators be very careful before enacting restrictions on it.  Similarly, the vital need for freedom of expression – even if it sometimes offends – must carry great weight in any law enforcement.”

Pink Tape – a blog from The Family Bar: Resolution Guide to Good Practice for Family Lawyers on Working With Litigants in Person ?

“Resolution recently published a guide for its members to working with LiPs, an increasingly common phenomenon. You can read the guide hereDavid Burrows beat me to posting a review of it, and he was rather underwhelmed with the “homely guide”.”

The Justice Gap: ‘The Court of Appeal remains at the heart of the problem of wrongful convictions’ – “The Criminal Cases Review Commission lacks independence and simply serves to reinforce ‘the traditional intransigence’ of the Court of Appeal, according to evidence submitted to the House of Commons’ Justice committee which calls on MPs to scrutinise the role of the courts….”

The Justice Gap Interview with Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty: 

“INTERVIEW: Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, talks about the launch of her new book ‘On Liberty’ as well as discussing today’s threats to our freedoms and how the biggest threat to our democracy comes from ‘complacency and comes from within’.

Speaking to www.thejusticegap.com, Chakrabarti described how terrorism ‘can only provoke us’ into ‘disproportionate, inappropriate, counter-productive actions’ that don’t make us any safer but certainly make us less free.”

Panopticon, 11 KBW:  Campaigning journalism is still journalism: Global Witness and s.32 DPA

“In an important development in the on-going saga of Steinmetz and others v Global Witness, the ICO has decided that the campaigning NGO is able to rely on the ‘journalism’ exemption under s.32 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).

The decision has major implications for journalists working both within and outside the mainstream media, not least because it makes clear that those engaged in campaigning journalism can potentially pray in aid the s. 32 exemption. Importantly, it also confirms that the Article 10 right to freedom of expression remains a significant right within the data protection field, notwithstanding recent developments, including Leveson and Google Spain, which have tended to place privacy rights centre-stage (Panopticons passim, maybe even ad nauseam)….”

UK Human Rights Blog: A worrying new anti-terror law is sneaking through Parliament – Angela Patrick

Angela Patrick, on the 9th January, writes: “As the world’s press and public stand vigil in support of Charlie Hebdo and the families of the victims of Wednesday’s attack, we wake this morning to reports that our security services are under pressure and seeking new powers. The spectre of the Communications Data Bill is again evoked. These reports mirror renewed commitments yesterday to new counter-terrorism measures for the EU and in France…”

UK Supreme Court Blog: Case Preview: Jetivia SA & Anor v Bilta (UK) Ltd (in liquidation) & Ors – In October, the Court heard applications by a Swiss company Jetivia and its director appealing against decisions to reject its application to strike out claims made against it for conspiracy, dishonest assistance and fraudulent trading.

And finally…it would be most inappropriate to miss out:  Legal Cheek – always worth reading:

a più tardi….

Rive Gauche: My desk…

As I did not happen to have a photograph of my desk, I thought I would use some of the time that is left to me to take one.

Yes, those are empty Lucozade Mango bottles flying up the wall.  They are empty.   My old Samurai sword doesn’t see much action these days. (I used to do Kendo and Karate stuff in my youth.)  I cut a pineapple in half years ago at a party.  I asked a friend to throw it up in the air. I may have been mildly ‘over refreshed’ at the time. My then wife was not amused.  It was a bit messy! Not a lot of call for me to use it now.   I have quite a few plants which I take outside occasionally to give them a different outlook.  I have had the large wooden Toucan for many years – and the chair, I am advised, was at The Battle of Trafalgar. (I have a habit of believing the cobblers of antique dealers – but, independent advice says that the dealer was probably right.  I do like the word ‘probably’ ! )

Well…there we are. A pic of where I spend much of my day writing, fitting in a ‘spot’ of work, blogging, podcasting and watching t’telly on iPlayer.)

 

Rive Gauche: A little bit of Lord Chancellor Grayling…and why not, indeed?

The Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, continues to amaze, but not amuse, the legal profession and others…

Justice Secretary Grayling tells Scots MPs: Get off my lawn

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, warns of a “travesty of democracy” if Scottish MPs are allowed to have a say over English laws

A senior Cabinet minister tells Scottish Labour MPs to get off his territory, in a dramatic escalation of the battle for the future of British democracy.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, accuses Labour of seeking to erase England from the map of the United Kingdom as he declares that Scottish MPs should be banned from voting on his legal reforms.

Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Grayling says the constitutional shake-up after the Scottish independence referendum must deliver a new deal for England. English MPs alone must have the final say over English laws, he says.

Saturday 27 September 2014

So much for a United Kingdom? Perhaps Grayling LC believes that England would be better off as a ‘One Party’ state. I can’t imagine that Grayling has been reading  over the collective words and wisdom (sic) of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or, indeed, any books on Law and history generally which may assist him in his endeavours to be a credible Lord Chancellor.  One can only assume that it is inconvenient to Tory High Command to have Scottish Labour MPs daring to cast a critical eye over what he is/they are up to.  So much for democracy?  So much for one nation? Perhaps Mr Grayling finds it inconvenient or ‘distasteful’ to have Labour politicians disagreeing with him?

There is, thankfully, a General Election coming soon and we will, hopefully, find Mr Grayling more usefully employed on the Opposition benches…or, indeed, elsewhere?  I suspect he would be quite good at running a dystopian call centre somewhere? India?

Anyway…must move on to more serious blog posts and sing “Keep The Red Flag Flying High” for a while.

 

As I return to blogging – I shall get fit with “Smokedo”

Now that my spinal injury (sustained when I tripped on a bathmat and fell backwards into a bath) is almost healed – I plan to return to decent fitness by walking and practising the noble art of “Smokedo” – doing exercises while smoking.

I cover this in an earlier blog post – http://www.charonqc.co.uk/2009/04/26/26th-april-postcard-from-the-house-of-lords/

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

Postcard from The Staterooms: Jubileed out… edition

Dear Reader

I shot the ITV button orf my telly years ago.. my taste for the truly inane having been driven out of my soul by the absurdities of Britain’s Got Talent and sundry other dross.  It would appear, however, that BBC 1 – through their truly inane commentary on the 1000 Boats Pageant – is in a race to the bottom with ITV for honours.  I enjoyed the 1000 Boat Pageant – but I watched that ‘live’ from The Stateroom windows with my brother, his wife and two daughters – and had to turn the BBC commentary off.  (I ‘reside’ at Battersea-on-Thames about 10 yards from the river. – Infra)

I gave the crooners a miss.  I didn’t care for their music when they first inflicted it on us – and I fear that music does not age well like wine or cheese.  A quick peek at Sir Tom Jones when I clicked on BBC in error last night confirmed my view on this.  Like a cobra watching a mongoose, I could not resist watching some of the coverage of the Thanksgiving Service this morning – but the craven obsequious tributes and general snivellings – which I understand Her Majesty does not care for – were too much and I had to escape for a walk and a coffee at a caff in World’s End.

For all the advances in education by successive governments of all political hues – it would appear that the BBC thinks we are all cretins and morons judging by the vapid, vacuous, cut aways to ‘celebrities’ ‘having fun’ in Battersea Park and on London bridges. As I write at 13.50 this afternoon… a celebrity autocutie is interviewing a man called Will.I.am – who, I am told, is a crooner.  He is overwhelmed with ’emotion’ by the Jubilee and is ‘excited’.  Mon dieu!

At least the clip of Suggs from Madness on the news – singing “Our Hice…. in the middle of one’s street..”. was amusing.

Here are some pics from the Pageant wot I took on my mobile from the window….

I would describe myself as Republican-lite:  I do admire what The Queen and The Duke have done these past 60 years – and I am horrified to find myself being  persuaded by Carl Gardner’s piece on his Head of Legal blog: The case for constitutional monarchy… almost!

I can, however, do without the craven, the snivelling and digging up of ageing celebrities and inane younger celebrities…and on that note… I spent much of this morning on twitter marvelling about Louise Unmenschionable MP’s ability to spin and exonerate Hunt and Warsi.  She is not a stupid woman – but she appears to be aspiring to such a state of grace with her absurd posturing on the prime minister’s judgement on Jezza Hunt MP who should be referred immediately to our new British Superhero…MINISTERIALCODE MAN.

The ducks have got right.. they often text me…. as, indeed, they did this morning.  I always tweet their texts..

“A duck has texted me..”We’re pretty sure we have just seen Louise Unmenschionable MP walking across the river.. on the bleedin’ water!”

Ah well.. back to ‘normality’ whatever that is… Collapse of the Eurozone… global financial meltdown and, no doubt, excessive and cosily banal coverage of The Olympics… which I shall be avoiding until they allow competitors to take drugs.  As I have said before… I’d pay good money to see an athlete High Jump seventy feet into the air.

Have a good… what is left of The Diamond Jubilee… and may gawd have mercy upon our souls… or whatever is left of yours if you work in the City!

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: Lord Chancellor Disingenuous F*ckArt edition….

Dear Reader

Lord Chancellor and  Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke QC MP, one of the ‘big beasts’ in the Tory party, has been in politics for a long time – a former Chancellor of The Exchequer – and (until recently?) regarded as one of the more liberal and informed members of the current government.

It was therefore a surprise to watch him express the extraordinary view on a YouTube film briefing a group of backbench peers in the House of Lords  (I paraphrase) that an “army of lawyers were advancing behind a line of women and children…not concerned with the income of the profession.. but are  only concerned that these vulnerable clients  will be adversely affected if they are not paid at the rate they currently are.”

I don’t practise law and, therefore, I am not open to the disingenuous charge of ‘cowardice’ implicit in the ‘advancing behind a line of women and children’ metaphor.

We live in difficult times.  Money is tight.  We also live in a country proud to assist the vulnerable and poor overseas.  The overseas development aid budget is protected.  The cynical may see this Tory policy to be part of a strategy to project ‘soft power’ abroad and to ‘facilitate’ enthusiastic commercial involvement with Britain. We live in a country where charity thrives, where provision is made for the vulnerable not by government but by the people.  We live in a country where lawyers like the author of the Pink Tape blog – thankfully – are prepared to write in detail about the erosion of access to justice through the pillage of the legal aid budget.

Barrister Lucy Reed, author of Pink Tape, does the biz with this most interesting blog post.  I don’t really need to comment further, save to say.. using the old cliche… “I concur”.

Above is a working draft / construct for one of the paintings I shall be doing in December as part of F*ckART Returns.. I shall do some law blogging, of course… but I fancy taking a break from  the daily grind and return to the more surreal side of law and life…. there is no shortage of material to comment on.. be sure.  I have the first paint down on the canvas for the painting above. Francis Bacon aficionados will, of course, recognise the inspiration and derivation of the ‘style and setting’. I am toying with the idea of calling the painting…. Disingenuous 2011..

The original F*ckArt series may be viewed here... this year it may well be darker?   We shall see…. I may find that I get the Christmas spirit…and change my mind, of course!

Best for the coming Advent..

Charon

Letter from The Staterooms

Dear Reader

The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and we head towards the season I enjoy most – Winter.

RollonFriday.com runs with the story this week: Exclusive: bids thought to be in for College of Law, and MBO on the cards
28 October 2011: Rumours are circulating that the College of Law is about to be flogged off to its own management.

While RollonFriday runs amok with a mocked up pic of CEO, Nigel Savage – no doubt to the amusement of BPP law School et al – I am not sure that RoF is right on this one.  A management buyout of a law school said to have an annual turnover of £75 million will command a fairly hefty acquisition price.  I covered this story some time ago.  The College of Law, as RollonFriday reported, continues to assert ““the situation has not changed since our statement was issued and the College’s strategic review is still ongoing

We shall see, but I suspect that it will be private equity or one of the big publishers in the frame to acquire if The College of Law decides on a sale – Pearson?  Thomson Reuters ?  Lexis-Nexis?.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

In the meantime – someone is keeping themselves amused with a spoof @ProfNigelSavage on twitter.  Now… I wonder who that could be?  I have my suspicions.

Before I head off into other realms- I thought it worth referring to two interesting posts from the UK Human Rights blog:  Is the Attorney General right on prisoner votes and subsidiarity? – Dr Ed Bates  | A grown-up speech on human rights reform

And.. it being a Sunday, that is probably enough hard law for today.

And, talking of ‘other realms’ – this wonderful nonsense from The Guardian caught my eye…

MI5 inquiry into Russian ‘spy’ was ‘Inspector Clouseau not George Smiley’

The Guardian: Lawyer for Katia Zatuliveter, the former lover of MP Mike Hancock, tells Siac hearing Home Office case was ‘amateurish’

As I head, inexorably…ineluctably even, towards 60 – I was amused by a story in The Observer this morning that Britons regard old age as starting at 59.  I have worked on the principle that while we may well grow older, we don’t necessarily grow wiser.  The Greeks take the view that old age starts at 68.  I shall continue with the delusion that I shall  only be old when I am dead – it seems to work for me and, I suspect, for many.

I used the word Vapid on twitter last night and a fellow tweeter responded…

I have another three words beginning with *V* which may usefully be employed to those who have watched the film Wall Street too many times…. Venal, Vacuous and Vulpine.

While I have found it difficult to grasp a coherent theme among the protesters at St Paul’s (at times) in the #OccupyLsx protest – I did enjoy Andrew Rawnsley’s piece in The Observer today and agree that they are certainly drawing attention to a widely held feeling of anger and irritation directed at the irresponsibility of bankers – and government to regulate bankers – and the insensitivity of some companies in declaring substantial pay rises for CEOs of companies which aren’t actually performing that well.

The protesters seem more adult than politicians and plutocrats

Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer: With a few nylon tents and some amateurish banners, the Occupy movement has rattled the establishment

Matthew 21:12

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves…

And… I leave you this week with this from The Daily Mail

BBC staff are trained on correct way to announce death of Queen in bid to avoid another embarrassing gaffe

Best, as always
Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: *MARK THAT FEE BILL UP* edition

Dear Reader,

In an act of selfless bravery in the face of the enemy worthy of Dr Strangelove of Muttley Dastardly LLP, I bring you news of world class lawyering from Payne Hicks Beach partner, Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia – she of the high value  divorce client fame who had a jug of water poured over her head by Sir Paul’s less than amused ex-wife.  I am more than prepared to accept that the article I refer to in The Telegraph below may not (entirely) accurately reflect the ‘actualité’ – for it is not unknown for newspapers to get their facts wrong when it comes to reporting on M’learned friends – but it does refer to direct contact with the firm and prints their responses.

The Telegraph reports: Baroness Shackleton, Britain’s highest-profile divorce lawyer, has increased the bills of celebrity clients beyond the time she recorded having spent on their cases, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

“Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney appear to have been charged hundreds of thousands of pounds more than the hourly rate would have demanded, documents show, a practice known as “marking up”…..The sheets, seen by The Daily Telegraph appear to show that a six-figure sum was added to bills of both Madonna and Sir Paul, as well as at least seven other clients in a column headed ”mark up’’.

It would appear that the law firm – and it may well be an industry wide practice – agree an hourly fee with the client and, presumably, dissatisfied with the amount of revenue generated by the work actually done or recorded, add a bit of extra bunce?  The Telegraph notes : “Lady Shackleton’s law firm, Payne Hicks Beach, came under investigation in 2009, but the Solicitors Regulatory Authority closed the case less than a year later without ordering any sanctions. The authority interviewed her about her practice of marking up bills and asked her to explain if there was any “scientific” basis for calculating the sums she added.”

What I particularly enjoyed about this story – the irony of the front page of the  Payne Hicks Beach website this afternoon entirely relevant to the context of this Telegraph story – were these wonderful quotes….

In one case a £14,000 bill for work on the former Beatle’s divorce from Heather Mills shows a “mark up” to £150,000. Both Madonna and Sir Paul have confirmed that they were happy with Lady Shackleton’s representation and satisfied with the billing.

The disclosure will give rise to concerns about the transparency of solicitors’ billing practices.

AND THIS… is truly world class…in the context of a bill presented to Madonna…

In a private email to a colleague she wrote: “This is good news as I was worried that they were cross about the bill,” she wrote, adding: “We obviously shd have asked for more?!!!!! F x.”

Payne Hicks Beach said the email was a joke. “We would have thought it is obvious that the internal email dated 15 December 2008 was intended to be humorous, from its punctuation alone.” Last night a spokesman for the law firm said all the clients had confirmed they were happy with their bills.

The problem is, clearly, one of administration and transparency.  It would seem that some solicitors do not accurately record all the work done (which is a bit worrying) and come to a view with ‘mark up’ later.  Well… all I can say is this… if the client is daft enough to accept such a procedure, they have more money than sense and it is their loss – BUT  if they are ‘too in awe’ of lawyers, it is time for the regulators to get tough.  Payne Hicks Beach certainly appear to have demonstrated their website ‘mission statement’  – Independent thinking and cost effective solutions – to their own satisfaction and benefit?  (And… I just love the gushing well of plenty metaphor on the PHB website front page – CLASS!)

On that note, if it transpires that The Telegraph story is another example of inaccurate press reporting, I will be more than happy to update my post accordingly with a statement from Payne Hicks Beach.

Meanwhile… on the HOTTEST 2nd October since the dinosaurs were wiped out…The Beserkers in the Tory party ‘gather’ in Manchester to talk at each other…

It can only be a matter of hours before some Tory politician provides a statement rich in satirical opportunity… I am eating popcorn and watching the BBC Parliament channel in anticipaaaaaation…… as they say in The Rocky Horror Show.

I may be back later.

Best, as ever

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: Sardonic Tuesday…

Dear Reader

A bit late with my ‘Postcard’ this week. I decided to take a few days away from blogging et al.  Punctuation is elusive to some, challenges many, and is an obsession for a few.  This ‘Oxford Comma’ graphic is amusing.

Legal Bizzle turns his mind to the issue of  the role of GCs (General Counsel) and the topic of a talk at a recent conference delivered by Tom Kilroy: “Operating as your company’s ‘moral’ compass”.

Lawyers are called on these days to develop a number of skills.  I suspect, however, even in a country famous for ‘Le Vice Anglais’, that there will not be any continuing professional development points available for this extra-curricular work…

Prosecution lawyer moonlighting as ‘dominatrix at S&M events in skin-tight latex’ is suspended

It is rare for law students these days to study Roman law, Jurisprudence or The History of English Law.  It is good to see a fellow law blogger turning her expertise to this fascinating subject with a new History of English Law blog – well worth dipping into.

Hopefully, the right to professional legal representation before the courts, particularly the criminal courts, will not be consigned to history. Lawyers, rightly, are warning of the dangers of the current government policy of cutting back dramatically on legal aid. This letter from Jonathan Djanogly MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, reveals a degree of smugness.  Is he really saying that the government is satisfied that there is a sufficient supply of desperate barristers and solicitor advocates to provide the necessary levels of ‘manning’ to run our creaking criminal justice system?  Have a look at the letter and judge for yourself. It has a hint of ‘smuggery’ about it to my eye — but, I accept, that my eye is becoming increasingly jaundiced when it comes to announcements from this government.  I am, of course, assuming that the letter is genuine.  I have to admit, I had my doubts when I first saw it on twitter. [But… the title of my post is ‘Sardonic Tuesday’ – I did believe that it was genuine.]

The Metropolitan Police has taken up the sport of using the law imaginatively to suit their own ends – resulting in a flurry of outrage from lawyers and bloggers.  David Allen Green has considered the use of the Official Secrets Act by the Metropolitan Police to put pressure on The Guardian to reveal sources here – dismissing their tactic as ‘the stuff of parody’Adam Wagner asks if  the seminal Shayler case would be useful to The GuardianThe Guardian reports that the attorney-general will have to decide the matter.

It was National Talk Like A Pirate Day on twitter yesterday – providing opportunity on an otherwise dull Monday morning for some light relief.  Unfortunately, as is often the case with twitter, it brought out the tedious pedants and killjoys to remind us that pirates didn’t, in fact, talk like pirates.  The trouble with pedants is that they have little sense of joy and are obviously far too mature to be on twitter.

Fifteen briefs on a City arrest.
Yo ho ho and a bottle of Krug.
Coke and the Euro Crisis have done the rest.
Yo ho ho and a bottle of Krug.

AND FINALLY… just in case we are left in any doubt about the ethics of the present government… this astonishing story – assuming it is true – really is worrying…

Michael Gove faces questions over department’s use of private email

The Guardian: Education secretary facing claims that he and his advisers used private emails to conduct government business.

Quite apart from issues of compliance with law – is this the conduct we expect or deserve from a senior government minister?

A short one this week.  I shall return soon.

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: #Aldridgegate edition….Have you been *Aldridged*? and some other b*ll*cks

Dear Reader,

First a bit of culture from Prologue to the Satires….

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

“Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot” by Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

The technique of damning with faint praise is rooted, unappealingly, in English literature and culture – a  device used to wound, to condemn obliquely; a device used to cloak envy, jealousy and an inability to be blunt and to the point..or, in the modern idiom… to “Man up”.

Oscar Wilde had the right idea when he observed that..”A true gentleman is one who is never unintentionally rude.”

Late on Friday afternoon there was a fair amount of twitter irritation about an article written on tweeting lawyers by Alex Aldridge in The good old liberalesque Grauniad.  Aldridge managed to convey the idea that he was praising a number of well known legal tweeters: David Allen Green and Adam Wagner to name but two initially,  and drew attention to law student Ashley Connick’s success on twitter in promoting himself as a nice guy – which he is.

Aldridge, then managed to put the first boot in…“Other lawyers to have used the medium cleverly include Ashley Connick, a Leeds University graduate who landed a plum trainee job at one of the prestigious “magic circle” law firms partly on the back of his tweets about life as a wannabe solicitor”….and then, the coup de grâce“…Connick has found himself increasingly short of interesting things to tweet about now his hunt for a graduate job is over.”

This latter is nonsense.  I read Connick’s law and cricket and life tweets – Most amusing.

Not content with being offensive about a young law student who almost certainly got his training contract in a ‘magic circle firm’ by hard work and having the right qualifications – rather than his ability to tweet  – Aldridge runs ‘amok’ with the suggestion (as I interpreted it) that Felicity Gerry and John Cooper QC are propping up their careers in a difficult criminal law market by tweeting. [“Gerry and Cooper are both criminal barristers at a time when legal aid funding is about to be cut by a third.”].

I follow Felicity Gerry and John Cooper QC on twitter.  Indeed, I have had the pleasure of doing podcasts with both (See links supra) – podcasts which have had many thousands of downloads and have been well received because of the incisive commentary on diversity, the riots, sentencing issues provided by experienced members of the bar – comment provided by both free.   Their tweets are informative and they are both more than happy to engage and debate with lawyer and non-lawyer alike.   I have not seen either of them touting for work.

And then… most absurd of all… the incisive mind of Aldridge went to work on a popular media lawyer with a twitter following of 18,000 (even if he does at times wind a few people up and get a twitter kicking for his pains!), David Allen Green, who writes an excellent blog at Jack of Kent and provides incisive analysis and commentary as legal correspondent of The New Statesman.

Aldridge ‘opines’…“Pre-Twitter, Green was an anonymous journeyman lawyer, who, after starting out at the bar, re-qualified as a solicitor, and completed a series of relatively short stints at several law firms and a government legal department.”

All these facts delivered by way of prelude to the main event – the follow up to damning by faint praise –  by an omnipotent all seeing journalist  may well, at first quick reading blush, be true… but I was far from alone in finding this article shoddy, lacking research and downright rude to  lawyers who give of their time to debate law and assist non-lawyers  on twitter and elsewhere with understandable and authoritative commentary on the law.

I am surprised that Alex Aldridge, given his own background in moving into legal journalism after qualifying as a barrister, was so offensive – in the perception of many who took his article to be so. Aldridge has just been appointed ‘UK Legal correspondent’ for Above The Law – a good USA law satire and commentary site. Perhaps Aldridge thinks he will get ‘street cred’ by being edgy in The Grauniad and come from relative obscurity by tweeting?  That would be post-ironic.  Who knows..and who cares..if he is going to slag off lawyers needlessly?

I am all for calling out lawyers who behave badly, who rip off clients, who don’t do their jobs properly – but the lawyers in Alex Aldridge’s article are all good lawyers and are using their own time – free of charge – to enliven debate and bring light to legal matters which deserve being highlighted and brought to the attention of a wider public.  Adam Wagner’s contribution  (another lawyer singled out for an ‘Aldridging’) to ‘enlightenment’ in the excellent UK Human Rights blog may well bring him and others a higher profile – but it is all free and I am more than happy to see Wagner and others gain benefit should that happen as a result of the first class law blogging.

I rather suspect that there will be fewer lawyers bothering to read Mr Aldridge’s commentaries on the legal profession in future – and even fewer prepared to take his calls when he rings for interviews.  I shall certainly not be providing interviews or advice in future – unless he has the grace to apologise to Mr Connick.  The other lawyers damned with faint praise have years of experience in the law and are…more than able… to look after themselves; not that Ashley Connick is not –  but, in my view, Aldridge was particularly rude about Ashley Connick.

As someone must have said somewhere… it takes a big man to apologise. Being direct… and applying a mix of Oscar Wilde (above)  and ‘Dirty Harry’… I end with this..“Are you feeling apologetic, Punk?…Are you?”

An apology can be done by tweet…and would be the right thing to do.  Life is too short to piss off a lot of people needlessly.  Go and piss off the people who really deserve it, Mr Aldridge.  I’ll happily support you on that expedition.

I did promise a bit of other bollocks… and here it is… the great saga continues….

Judgment day looms for ‘Solicitors from Hell’ website

The Independent: “There is a fine line between fearless and reckless. Rick Kordowski appears to have ignored the line completely, inviting the fury of 120,000 of Britain’s lawyers, who are threatening to drag him before the courts. The 50-year-old from Essex provoked the anger of solicitors up and down the country when he set up his website Solicitors from Hell, which names and shames those members of the profession who are alleged to have provided a shoddy service. Thus far he has fought off repeated attempts by individual solicitors to shut the site down. Now, using their collective might, more than 100,000 solicitors represented by the Law Society have threatened him with legal action unless he shuts down once and for all.”

Mr Kordowski has responded to all this might by threatening, apparently,  to sue CEO of The Law Society Des Hudson for defamation… for calling him a criminal!  Whatever next?

Finally… another bit of bollocks coming our way… hence the captioned picture above..

Ministers ‘could get powers to overrule European Court of Human Rights’

The Guardian: A commission set up by the government to examine ECHR reforms has floated the idea of allowing ministers to strike out court rulings

As they say… you really could not make it up…

Well..there we are…peace and goodwill to all men and women… even tweeting lawyers.

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms (2): Unitit Kingdom Pairlament in Lunnon… edition..

First a bit of genius… HT to @Johnthelutheran .. this is wonderful stuff from Dudley Moore: Dudley Moore plays Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.33, the “Colonel Bogey”.

A couple of new law blogs:  The Bungablog  on The Bribery Act 2010 by barrister James Vine …..and This Much I Know – Alison Graham-Welles, Barrister.

The Bribery Act 2010 is fairly complex.  This blog post from James Vine will give you an insight into the workings of the Act: Official. Government declares Bribery is NOT an Offence!

HT to @loveandgarbage for alerting me to a leaflet in ‘Scots’ to explain to ‘Scots’ speakers how Pairlament warks.  Real money was spent on this marvellous document.  My father… pronounced… ‘faethar’…. (Mother is pronounced… Mither) was frae Glasgae and amused himself when over refreshed by being a ‘Professional Scot’ and speaking ‘Scots’ … largely by making it up as he went along. His grasp of Scots history varied according to the amoont o whiskae he hod drank.  Here is the ‘Garrin the Scottish Pairlament wark for ye’ pdf.  Good stuff. I like ‘Scots’ – I shall have to brush up on it. Here is a video of The Scottish First Minister talking wistfully about ‘Scots’…

And.. if you thought that was a bit weird…. what about a grown man who dresses up as a Ninja and patrols the streets of Yeovil?  This video is worth a look.

But… not to be outdone when it comes to weird shit…. Presidential hopeful, Michell Bachmann, from The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in the States…. has pronounced that….Hurricane Irene was a punishment from God.

I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.

And.. from the same New Statesman article…”Evangelical preacher Pat Robertson, a former Republican presidential candidate, linked Hurricane Katrina to abortion or, in his words, “the wholesale slaughter of unborn children”

But…. we have our own home grown politicians who are more than capable of getting in on a bit of batshit crazy stuff.  Tory MP Nadine Dorries has got in on the action on the abortion debate, attracting the ire of the liberal establishment.  I don’t happen to agree with her views – which is my right and, of course, the right of those who do to follow her – but liberal and never misconceived lawyer David Allen Green did an analysis of the ‘Works of Nadine Dorries MP’ in The News Statesman earlier in the year which is worth reading if you want to see how some of our Tory *Beserkers* are influencing government policy.

In his own words…here is a tweet from @David Allen Green: Here is my November 2010 @NewStatesman expose of Nadine Dorries dishonesty and abuse in using her blog bit.ly/9RWaWF.

I suppose… this being a law blog… that I should get back to a bit of law.  Here we go…

G4S sacks pair who tagged offender’s false leg

BBC: “Private security firm G4S has sacked two members of staff who tagged a man’s false leg allowing him to remove it and break a court-imposed curfew. The pair were fooled by Christopher Lowcock, 29, who wrapped the prosthetic limb in a bandage when G4S set up the system at his Rochdale home. He was then able to remove the limb and break a curfew imposed for offences involving drugs, driving and a weapon.”

Magistrates have responded angrily to prison governors’ accusations they have indulged in a sentencing “feeding frenzy” after the riots in England.

BBC: Prison Governors Association president Eoin McLennan Murray said sentences had appealed to a populist mentality. But Magistrates Association chairman John Thornhill said sentencing had followed guidelines and he was “angry and concerned” by the comments.

Indeed yes…. There are going to be a fair few appeals..and a few ‘quiet words’ and ‘taps on the shoulder’ to those magistrates (in the main, professional, legally qualified, district judges?) who have overdone the sentencing egg?  We shall see.

And finally… and not surprisingly… a wonderful mocking piece from The New York Times on PM Camcorderdirect’s knee-jerking response in the wake of the riots to close down twitter and other social media…. a ludicrous idea which the government appears to have backed away from as I noted in my Postcard the other day.

A couple of quotes to whet your appetite.  The article is worth a read in full.

“…Iran, criticized by the West for restricting the Internet and curbing free speech, seemed to savor the moment and offered in the immediate aftermath of the riots to “send a human rights delegation to Britain to study human rights violations in the country,”

Some of the nations that have been criticized by the West for their own draconian crackdowns on inconvenient freedoms of speech have watched Britain’s recent struggles with barely disguised glee. In China, The Global Times, a government-controlled newspaper, praised Mr. Cameron’s comments, writing that “the open discussion of containment of the Internet in Britain has given rise to a new opportunity for the whole world.”

Good effort.  With a single leap, our hapless prime minister has put Britain into a “League of Rather Unsavoury Nations” when it comes to human rights and is building on the repressive ‘crackdown’ on civil liberties meted out by the last Labour government.

Well.. there we are.  Back to real life tomorrow and back to vaguely sensible commentary on the laws and ways of our sceptred isle.

Best, as always

Charon.

Postcard from the Staterooms: No sh*t Sherlock edition

Dear Reader,

It being the bank holiday weekend, a festival to mark the end of the British summer and a transition from torpor back to realities of work, I thought I would have a wander about the online law magazines , a few law blogs and the press to find out what is happening.  I don’t, of course, need to cover or comment on Libya.

Did you know, in office slang, that Adhocracy – is a department with little to no process or organisational ability? Perhaps you are unfortunate enough to work in an office with Agenda Benders – a co-worker who is easily side-tracked in meetings.? Perhaps you are prone to a bit of Cybernating – snoozing at your computer? Or… perhaps you suffer from Flashturbation – self-congratulatory and excessive use of animation in Powerpoint?

I came across a most amusing website where office slang terms have been collated. Well worth a look. – if you are to avoid attending a Goat Rodeo… an embarrassing meeting.

Oooops:  The Lawyer has been called out by RollonFriday: Excitement as The Lawyer magazine offers law firm “Kite Mark” (for £495)

RollonFriday reports…” The legal profession fell over itself in its hurry to get its chequebook out this week, after being offered the chance to purchase a “Kite Mark” from The Lawyer magazine. For a bargain £495 plus VAT. PR departments of law firms across the country received an email from the Lawyer magazine about its “eagerly awaited UK200 supplement”. And, it revealed, each firm which makes the list (and that’s 200 of ’em – the clue’s in the name) would be offered the chance to purchase a finely crafted Kite Mark which will, apparently, be “regarded as the industry stamp of approval”. So if they all sign up that’s, err, £99,000 for a little graphic.?

RollonFriday are now offering their own award (Pictured)

The BBC reports: Thousands ‘ripped off’ by unregulated will-writers: “Thousands of people are being ripped off by companies providing unregulated services such as will writing, claims the first Legal Ombudsman. In his first report, Chief Ombudsman for England and Wales Adam Sampson said the most complaints he saw concerned conveyancing, family law and wills. He called for action to be taken to ensure consumers were not left vulnerable by unregulated services.”

Meanwhile, over at The Law Society:  Chief Executive Des Hudson stoked the flames…“The gap in regulation which allows unregulated cowboys to operate in areas like will writing does not just cause unfair competition to solicitors, who provide a regulated, professional service.”

Interestingly, The Law Society Gazette is getting in on the action with this report about a wills fraudster: Will-writing fraudster jailed

I had the pleasure of lunching last Sunday with the White Rabbit.  He told me that he was hopping orf to t’cricket on the Monday.  Here is his report.

And a little bit of analysis from Babybarista to assist you with your client care: Keep the client in his place

And this little bit of No Sh*t Sherlockery from Sir Alan Beith MP, late of the Institute of the Bleedin’ Obvious…

Peter Glover writes in The Law Society Gazette: More litigants in person will threaten the county courts with additional delays

“The House of Commons’ justice committee, chaired by Sir Alan Beith MP, predicts an increasing number of litigants in person by reason of the government’s curtailment of legal aid. We are told courts must make ‘adjustments’ to cope with this influx ‘in what are often emotionally charged cases’.

Wisely, the parliamentarians offer no suggestions as to the nature of the adjustments. It is possible some of them are sufficiently well informed to recognise that, in the context of the county court, this is just wishful thinking. To a far greater extent – and for far longer – than any other judges, district judges in the county courts have been ‘adjusting’ the management and conduct of cases to accommodate litigants in person.

Nobody has more experience in dealing with them than we do and, if we are nearing the limits of our capacity and inventiveness, there is no hope that the county court can survive the withdrawal of publicly funded legal assistance without significant increases in delay for other court users. If you agree that justice delayed is often justice denied, the county court and its users face a bleak future….”

A good article and worth a read.  Peter Glover has been a district judge at Dartford County Court since 1995.

There are big problems ahead for access to justice with the present government’s policy on legal aid and closure of courts.  It was, however, good to See Deputy Prime Minister Clegg warning about weakening our Human Rights – a view not shared by some of the Beserkers  in the Tory party. Cynics say that Clegg can say these things safely, knowing that it will not be a coalition-buster if PM Camcorderdirect continues with his rants about the Human Rights Act and comes up with / makes a hash of his much vaunted British Bill of Rights.

Obiter J continues to analyse and reflect with this excellent post: (1) The August Disorder – more sentencing …. (2) A seriously disturbing family case

“Sentencing remarks by His Honour Judge Milmo QC for the case of R v Ahmed Pelle at the Crown Court Nottingham are now available.  Pelle pleaded guilty to incitement of violent disorder.  Amongst other things he put on Facebook the remark – “Kill one black youth; we’ll kill a million Fedz: riot until we own the cities.”  Judge Milmo’s remarks are a concise model of a sentencing announcement which meets the various legal requirements – please see earlier Law and Lawyers post “Recent Disorder: Bail and Sentencing.”  Allowing for his guilty plea, Pelle was sentenced to 2 years and 9 months imprisonment….”

And this from The Guardian is worth reading…

Naming young offenders should remain a rarity

The Guardian: Revealing identity of 16-year-old who admitted inciting rioting will achieve nothing but a short-lived burst of media exaltation

If you haven’t listened to my podcast on the riots and the law applied to riot cases with John Cooper QCthe podcast is here.  John does a very thorough job of analysing the law and his comments are well worth listening to.

I think that is enough for this edition… I may do another Postcard on Sunday.  I shall leave you with this good news…

Government backs away from plan to close social media sites during riots

The Independent: “Threats to close down Twitter and other social media during civil disturbances, raised in the heat of this month’s riots, have been abandoned. The subject was not even discussed during an hour-long meeting between senior ministers, the police, and representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry yesterday.

The Government has executed a rapid climbdown after being alerted to the pitfalls of a policy put forward “in the heat of the moment”. Whitehall sources privately admitted they were not now seeking any new powers to censor the internet….”

Have a good bank holiday weekend.  I shall be at my post…

best, as always

Charon

A few sardonic observations and pics on and of Britain in August 2011….

It has been an enjoyable weekend.  I decided to take a few days away from blogging after the podcasts on Thursday last.  I have been doing non-law writing for a couple of weeks – a novel noir….which may or may not be completed.

A few quick screen grabs and pics to sum up this week…. from my perspective..

LIBYA…

Louise Mensch…a Tory MP….  amused many of us tonight on Twitter with her  rather absurd snivelling (some said brown-nosing)  tweets proclaiming that the Liberation of Libya was a triumph for Cameron.  Apart from the fact that Cameron was too busy eating sun dried tomatoes in Tuscany… and is now in Cornwall (possibly modelling next year’s Boden HOT SELLERS…..) to liberate anything but a bottle of Chateau Petrus… the French must be given credit for initiating and leading the NATO efforts…. or have we been misinformed..and it was Cameron who drove the entire Libya revolt?

I did, however, enjoy PM Camcorderdirect’s speech earlier in the week…when he reputedly said… “It is time for our country to take stock”.  Indeed…. HD TVs…. trainers….. mobile phones?  That sort of stock?

And then… one of the best Private Eye covers I have seen in over 40 years of reading !…. excellent…

And… a blog post would just not be complete without some parodic observation on our hapless Prime Minister David Camcorderdirect…. who, it has to be said, seems to be away on holiday when the big stories break… Riots last week.. Libya this week…

This… from the front cover of The Daily Mirror for Monday 22nd August.. sums it up rather well?

And… finally.. I had a most enjoyable lunch with The White Rabbit whose blog is always worth reading…. especially for his ‘Knob of the Week” feature..

Have a good week…

Postcard from The Staterooms: The Silly Season that isn’t….A riot?

“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”
Immanuel Kant

Kant had a point – and in this last week to ten days with the riots, I think reason, considered reason, is of great value.  While I faffed about on twitter this morning, irritating  a few fellow tweeters with my references to the ‘criminal’ activity of The Bullingdon Club (which the Prime Minister belonged to in his youth) and noting the arson which Nick Clegg engaged in during his youth – the recent rioting and looting is a serious issue and deserves serious reason being applied to the causes and the solution.

I am not a sociologist.  Many have written on the subject.  Many have tweeted.  David Allen Green wrote in his Jack of Kent blog about the riots – quoting the historian Conrad Russell: The riots and lawlessness.  I hosted a Without Prejudice podcast on the subject last week with regular panelists Carl Gardner, David Allen Green and guests Dr Evan Harris, solicitor David Wales and human rights barrister Adam Wagner.

There are dangers in a perfectly understandable ‘swing to the right’ from commentators, politicians and public sentiment.  There are dangers in quick and expedient justice, rushed justice, ‘exemplary’ (or should that be ‘to make an example of’ ?) justice.   Matthew Taylor considers the sentence in a case involving a bottle of water worth £3.50:  Nicholas Robinson; Burglary; 6 months: An appropriate sentence?   Matthew Taylor notes: “The English riots, by Adam Wagner at UK Human Rights Blog, gathers a number of resources on different aspects legal of rioting, including advice for reporters and on policing powers. One of items Adam links to is a post by ObiterJ, Who will pay? We all will ! The Riot (Damages) Act 1886″

Today, in The Guardian, a number of interesting law oriented  articles: Riots: magistrates advised to ‘disregard normal sentencing’ | UK riots: Judges warned by Law Society not to hand down ‘rushed justice’.

Suzanne Moore’s article, intelligent and thoughtful, provides some food for thought: UK riots: don’t shut these kids out now.

This cartoon, which I found on twitter, sums up the view of many trying to make sense of non-sense through dark humour…

Barrister Lucy Reed, writing on her Pink Tape blog, tries to make sense from non-sense with this thoughtful piece: There’s been a riot in my living room

And this interesting viewpoint from the Civil Service is well worth a read: A challenge for the civil service – and large institutions alike.

This important issue isn’t going to to be solved by politicians scoring political points – but it may be solved with considered reason.  Most people have a pretty shrewd idea why the riots happened.  Surely, we don’t need yet another public inquiry to kick the issue into the long grass, to use a cliche of our times?

And we certainly don’t need a knee-jerk reaction to give government an opportunity to erode further our civil liberties because politicians of all flavours have not addressed long standing social issues and a minority of people rioted – some with malicious intent;  others, young people, who may have got drawn into it through excitement, boredom, and similar excesses of youth to those experienced by young students who trash(ed) restaurants as members of The Bullingdon Club and a young Mr Clegg,  who set fire to a collection of cacti collected by a German professor because he got drunk.

Back tomorrow with a podcast and some other law coverage

Best, as always

Charon

KBO: A wasted life? I shall have to Keep Buggering On as Churchill once advised…

“Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister during WWII) ended almost every phonecall with KBO.
KBO is an acronym for “Keep Buggering On”
Winston Churchill: Let’s have a drink or two some time after this terrible war is over.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: That would be great fun!

Winston Churchill: Right then, KBO.”

I may adopt this KBO thing. 

I have come to the conclusion that while I enjoy commentating / commenting on law –  the discipline of law  is lacking in soul  and the human spirit  compared to art, literature, philosophy and many other disciplines of academe.

Interesting to me though *Law* is… if I had another life –  which I have not quite worked out how to achieve (I may devote the next ten years to solving this ‘problem’) – I would not go into law.  The Legal Services Act 2007, legal aid cuts, a generation of poligeeks who do not care that much for LAW when  it gets in the way of their vision of life,  is about to kick in for your generation… and may gawd have mercy on all our souls?

Well… there we are… how radical is that…?   I suspect that I shall not be as welcome at ‘gatherings’ after this ‘revelation’.  But it may save me the problem of wasting yet more time worrying about how to *Unfollow* people on twitter…

Fear not… I am still watching the ‘goings on’ of lawyers and politicians…  and…. assuming I live for my three score and ten…(I continue to defy medical science as best I can)  I shall be nipping orf to find some Chateau Thames Embankment (A ‘homage’ to Sir John Mortimer QC ) to sustain my belief in what is left in our sceptred isle of the ‘Rule of Law’ in these Tory led Coalition days – and, depressingly, days of  polbloggers ‘amusing’ themselves by setting up campaigns to bring back the Death Penalty.

Well… it is August… and the silly season… and I have had a minor attack, this day, of recurrent Malaria after getting bitten in Africa in my yoof….

My thoughts on ‘legal blogging’ are in the post below I shall not be writing about this topic again – nor attending any symposia, colloquia or ‘gatherings’  on the subject in future … simply because I fear that navel gazing on law blogging  is not, ultimately, a terribly useful way to spend the limited time we are allowed on earth by the dictats and science  of DNA and the  bacteria of death. Happy to drink with law bloggers and others… [Bien Sur / Natch]  – on the proviso (See Butler v Ex-Cello et al – Terms of The Contract) we talk of other things!

I am… of course… writing for pleasure..and the silly season… or am I?

Whatever the answer… I shall KBO….

I do hope that you will KBO as well…

Have a good week….

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: Lawyers giving us a ‘good name’? – and a UK Education onslaught by News Corporation?

It has been a while since I wrote a ‘Postcard’… so this evening, sitting at my post overlooking The Thames at Battersea, I thought a non-structured and, possibly random, review of law, oddities and musings would be appropriate as the silly season begins.

Keep marches away from the Ritz, says QC  (The Independent i newspaper)

“Left-wing” marches should be banned from taking place in parts of central London which contain upmarket buildings, a leading barrister has said.  John Beveridge QC was criticised after it emerged that he had written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, demanding that such a ban should be introduced…… according to West End Extra, he said the marches attracted ‘ragtag’ protesters who “become violent and urinate all over the place.”

It seems that Mr Beveridge was happy for these ‘ragtags’ to go and urinate all over the place attacking Safeway and Costcutter  but observed…“There’s no fun for them in attacking Safeway or Costcutter, but they love beating up the Ritz” He is reported as adding.. “(I) couldn’t care less if such a ban infringed rights”

Given that Mr Beveridge is a trustee of the St James Conservation Trust, one is not entirely surprised by his rather trenchant views about ‘ragtags’. The St James Conservation Trust website reports that he is a retired QC.

But… it isn’t just the Bar side of our profession giving us a good name…. The Lawyer reports….

SJ Berwin was ‘wrong’ to ask summer student to do an all-nighter

SJ Berwin has admitted that the firm “got it wrong” when a summer vacation scheme student was asked to work until the early hours of the morning. A female student is understood to have worked until five in the morning after being asked to help another female colleague on a document for an international arbitration.

Worthy of Dr Erasmus Strangelove – the new Senior partner and CEO of Muttley Dastardly LLP

And… if you are a student… it is not all doom and gloom.  RollonFriday.com reports:  “Nabarro has come top of this week’s announcements of trainee retention figures, with 19 of its 20 trainees set to qualify with the firm in September. But other firms have not done so well. In fact Nabarro made offers to all 20, with one trainee choosing to escape under the barbed wire for pastures new. BLP is at the top of the list as well, also retaining all but one of its 20 trainees. A super result for the firm which just goes to show that giving your future joiners a good bollocking when they’re on the LPC can work wonders.”

Tonight, I shall be ‘prepping’ for our Without Prejudice podcast tomorrow evening.  Sadly, Carl Gardner is away in Holland, but David Allen Green will be at the table, together with our guest Joshua Rozenberg, a leading legal commentator and presenter of the BBC’s Law in Action series, and Amanda Bancroft, a former practising barrister and author of the Beneath The Wig blog.

We plan to look at the possible controversy about the appointment of Leveson LJ to head the #Hackgate Inquiry – given his recently disclosed links to the Murdochs, The Supreme Court ‘Star Wars’ judgment, Legal journalism and blogging, Clare’s law, Secret evidence, Press contempt of court, and, if we have time, the continuing saga of the Solicitors from hell website. I am looking forward to asking Joshua Rozenberg questions.  It may be a novel experience for him to be on the receiving end of questions?   Lucy Reed, barrister and author of The Pink Tape blog, has a thoughtful piece on Clare’s law in the Guardian this week: Why Clare’s Law won’t prevent domestic violence

Making law accessible to the public

Adam Wagner, I Crown Office Row and editor of the excellent UK Human Rights blog has a good piece in The Guardian this week: As legal aid reforms threaten access to lawyers, there are three relatively inexpensive ways to improve public access to law.  

On the theme of legal aid cuts, Professor Richard Moorhead points out: Lawyers are their own worst advocates

The government’s legal aid reforms will shortly become law, even though they are premised on a number of un- and half-truths.

We are not, for instance, a country gripped by a litigation culture, yet this is a problem that the Ministry of Justice is perpetually trying to solve. Litigants in person will cause the courts significant problems, even if the secretary of state is right that many will also give up on their cases rather than litigate them (apparently seeing this as a good thing).

It occured to me on twitter last night, as I marvelled at the usual stream of information and surreality with a glass of Montepulciano, that Michael Gove’s many reported meetings with News International (He used to work for NI, apparently) were almost certainly not about BSkyB, but were more likely to be about education.  This was confirmed by Gove this morning.  Given that it has been reported that UK Murdoch’s ‘loss making’ flagship newspapers,  The Times and Sunday Times, were subsidised by The News of The Screws (Now defunct) and The Sun, and the fact that education is VERY big business in the USA, Murdoch may well be thinking about getting into the soon to be ‘de-regulated’ UK education market.

Apollo, a large US company owns BPP University College (BPP Law School) and The Washington Post owns, inter alia, Kaplan – a keen entrant to the highly profitable GDL, LPC and BPTC market.   On that premise – it would make sense for News Corporation to muscle their way in to the education market in the UK generally.

During the CMS Select Committee hearings a week ago, sitting behind Murdoch, was a man who  sat impassively throughout.  “That man’s name is Joel Klein, the chancellor of New York city’s public schools, the same man who is now heading the internal News International investigation in the UK, he is Executive Vice President overseeing investments in digital learning companies with a News Corp education division and a $2 million salary.”

I am, obviously, not alone in having these thoughts and I draw your attention to an excellent piece of blogging by @Colmmu: Murdoch – The Last Frontier or The Next Frontier? where Jon Harman, director of The College of Law Multi-media division analyses the position in some detail. I intend to speak to Jon and follow up.

Given that there are doubts about News Corporation’s ‘ fitness and properness’ to even hold onto their current BSKYB holding, it may be that David “Two Brains” Willetts MP, Minister for Universities, will not be too keen to have any meetings with News Corporation on the matter of a Murdoch onslaught into education in the UK – at least for the present and medium term future?

Well… there we are… still a lot happening in the legal world….

Best, as ever

Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: PM Camcorderdirect gets tough on ripping up legal aid at police stations et al

Dear Reader,

I shall start my postcard this week with views on the Milly Dowler case – but without comment – save to say that I am interested to see what the Bar Council makes of the criticism in the mainstream media about the cross-examination by the defence Silk.

Some in the mainstream media (and others) seem to be taking the view that the Dowlers paid a high price for justice as their private lives were laid bare by the defence questioning.  Suzanne Moore has a view.

David Allen Green, wrote in the New Statesman…

Cross-examination on trial and the murder of Milly Dowler

What can be done to protect the dignity and privacy of witnesses?

Barrister @_millymoo, on her Beneath The Wig blog in an excellent analysis asks…

Justice: RIP?

AND…. rather more important to the whole field of criminal and civil justice – The legal aid cuts. 

Have a look at this remarkable provision from the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (HC Bill 205)

This… is very worrying…

Legal aid reform could end right to a free solicitor

The Observer: Law Society and former DPP Lord Macdonald voice alarm at proposal undermining ‘cornerstone’ of British justice

A “cornerstone” of the legal system, the universal right to a solicitor upon arrest, could be jettisoned in favour of means-testing under controversial plans drawn up by the Ministry of Justice.

Legal experts including Lord Ken Macdonald QC, a former director of public prosecutions, have expressed alarm at the proposal and questioned how it would work in practice.

Lord MacDonald stated “This is a critical part of the apparatus of protection that we have,” he said. “The presence of a lawyer doesn’t just protect the defendant from police, it protects the police from a defendant making up allegations about what happened, for instance during the course of an interrogation. I think the government should be very cautious about interfering in any way with the absolute right to representation in police stations. It’s there for a very good reason. When we didn’t have it, we saw the consequences.”

Most of us will not come into contact with the Police in our daily lives.  If we are the victims of crime, we will be grateful for such support as they can afford to provide.  Cast aside the usual  media storm of stories about ‘villains’ for one moment and bring cold reason to the issue. We need a responsible and honest police force.  We need a legal system which provides fair trials – and we need lawyers, prosecution and defence – both working to high ethical standards – to ensure that our freedoms are upheld and our interests are not suppressed to the often transient needs of those who govern. Ignore the hyperbole about ‘fat cat lawyers’, ‘bent and criminally inclined coppers’ and ‘prosecution minded / ECHR minded / out of touch judges’ – it costs money and if we aren’t prepared to spend that money – what price our freedoms?  What price or worth life in Britain?

This insertion, not much publicised (if publicised at all) into the new Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (HC Bill 205) is not encouraging and, hopefully, this specific provision about representation at the police station will be kicked into ‘the long grass’ along with a lot of other government proposals in recent months by the whirling dervishes who govern us (without, it has to be said, much experience of business, life, the universe et al)  at the very heart of power in this latest GOAT – government of all the talents.

I shall return on the morrow with something else to write about… no doubt.

Best, as always,

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: Law blogs – but no *Flawging* ?

Dear Reader,

I bowled a couple of bouncers on twitter last night when I asked if law blogging was becoming less gentleman/womanly with law bloggers broadcasting rather than ‘engaging’ and not linking to other blogs as much as they used to do.  Certainly, there are more law blogs than some years ago – a positive development – but are these blogs ‘out for themselves for business purposes’ or are they part of a wider collective of information sharing?

Brian Inkster considers the ‘elephant in the room’ in a very good blog post which has attracted many comments – all interesting. I’m not interested in the ‘Flawgs’ – blogs which merely highlight the brilliance of the law firm along the lines of *I was sorry to hear that Mount Etna killed thousands in Pompeii in AD 79 (substitute the latest disaster to taste)  – meanwhile, if you need advice on conveyancing, personal injury or will drafting etc etc …contact us at…*

The law tweeters I follow on twitter,  who also blog,  are good at assisting other law bloggers with links in their blog posts to other law bloggers and the occasional RT on twitter.  I don’t blog or do podcasts for business purposes. I do it for pleasure. I am delighted to have the support of advertisers on Insite Law for my free student materials project and I am more than happy to assist lawyers and others who assist students by sponsoring the odd podcast or blog post, and I am always receptive to assisting where I can by promoting interesting legal developments, pro bono projects and the profession and academe generally.  I have no difficulty whatsoever with law bloggers enhancing  their professional and business reputations by blogging – provided they engage, share their expertise and provide good analysis for all.  The bloggers in my blogroll and the lawyers I follow on twitter do this. I don’t bother to read the broadcast law blogs or tweets.

A quick look at BlawgReview – an excellent resource for US and other law bloggers – and the recent   UK Blawg Roundup #7 will give you an idea of how law bloggers can assist each other by promoting good blogging. I’ve done six BlawgReviews – and enjoy doing them.  My most recent was UK centric.

I shall return later in the day….

Best, as always… I raise my glass to law bloggers this week…. Sláinte

Keep batting!

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: The Rains came…..

Dear Reader,

Perhaps it is my Scots background;  years of running around the Perthshire countryside at school… pointlessly… in thin cotton running shorts and a tight singlet designed to reveal muscles and six-pack ; a duty which I now leave to others – but I enjoy the rain, the bleak landscape, storms.  And, as I write, Battersea-on-Thames looks not unlike the quickly cobbled together watercolour sketch above.  Not keen to stand on Battersea Bridge like some latter day James Abbott McNeill Whistler, whose statue is on the Chelsea side of Battersea Bridge near where I used to live on a houseboat, a quick pic pointing to the West up river as ‘a reference’ was the lazy painter’s way of ‘capturing the soul’ of an afternoon at The Staterooms.

And, this said, I now write from the comfort of my desk in the bay window overlooking the Thames.  The ducks, having returned from a rave, carrying mineral water in bottles and quacking quickly earlier in the day, are now reflecting and I have a glass of Italian Shiraz from Puglia to my left.

BAILII is a remarkable resource.  I use it extensively and the free books for students on Insite Law make use of many of their cases. As Nick Holmes wrote on The Free Legal Web: “BAILII is fundamental to free access to UK law. It’s future is in jeopardy. A major funder has decided not to continue funding BAILII, and there is uncertainty about the continuing provision of funding by other major funders.”

Have a look at the BAILII funding page for details. I shall certainly be asking my advertisers on Insite Law if they will be prepared to accept a modest increase on already inexpensive advertising to assist this valuable project.

A BIT OF LAW before the Shiraz kicks in and my mind wanders and wonders….

Lord Justice Stephen Sedley has written an excellent piece on …

The Goodwin and Giggs Show

For more than three hundred years the UK’s constitution has functioned remarkably well on the basis of the historic compromise reached in the course of the 17th century. The 1689 Bill of Rights forbade the impeachment or questioning of parliamentary debates and proceedings ‘in any court or place out of Parlyament’. Parliament in return has made it a rule, enforced until now by the speakers of both Houses, that it will not interfere with the decisions of the courts, whether by anticipating their judgments or by attacking them. If Parliament does not like what the courts do, it changes the law…

Well worth a read…..

I am grateful to The Solicitors Journal for alerting us all to this law intel: “Lord Justice Thomas has been promoted to president of the Queen’s Bench Division. Sir Roger John Laugharne Thomas QC, 63, is currently vice president of the QBD and will replace Sir Anthony May at the start of the new term in October.”

Lord Phillips, when Lord Chief Justice, said of Thomas: “Margaret Thatcher once famously said of William Whitelaw ‘everyone needs a Willie’. David Neuberger suggested to me that every Lord Chief Justice needs a John Thomas.”

Illness made it impossible for me to do our fortnightly Without Prejudice podcast last Thursday.  But, regular participant David Allen Green was on the airwaves in a most enjoyable episode of Law in Action.  Well worth a listen. (Available for 26 days as at the date of writing Super Injunctions 7 June 11)

Barrister and former MP, Jerry Hayes, has an excellent piece in Total Politics (pic credit): “Forget the predictable tabloid outrage about Ken Clarke’s sentencing proposals. The real problem the justice secretary needs to tackle is the effect of the cuts to the justice system, says Jerry Hayes…..”

The trouble is that the MoJ was created in its present form purely as a power base and ego massager of that old Gromyko of Labour politics, Jack Straw. For reasons beyond modern psychiatry, the hopelessly inadequate Jacqui Smith was appointed Home Secretary. Straw took all the best bits, and created a massive department with over 80,000 civil servants. And it just doesn’t work.

An excellent read…

BLOG POST OF THE WEEK… by a mile…

Unlawfully Detained!

Anna Raccoon writes: “Last year I reported extensively on the case of Steven Neary, a 20 year old autistic man. At the time, only Private Eye had taken any interest in Steven’s ‘case’ and a friend of his Father’s asked me if I would promote the case on this blog, given my interest in Court of Protection matters.  The main stream media, despite many approaches, were monumentally uninterested in Steven’s plight……

The High Court today have ruled that they UNLAWFULLY DETAINED Steven and UNLAWFULLY deprived him of his LIBERTY for a full year.”

Anna Raccoon did a remarkable job in drawing attention to this.  The mainstream media are now rushing to claim credit for breaking the story – and Anna notes… are checking her back story!

I will say this – with care and deliberation:  I posted about Anna Raccoon’s story on my blog to try and help publicise it.  I did note, as many law bloggers do, that there are often two sides to every story. [Law Review: Words fail me – a truly shocking story – please read and publicise ]  I was criticised by some law bloggers for doing so – with some guff about  ‘both sides’,  ‘evidence based analysis’ and other ‘advice’ being given to me unasked. I asked some law bloggers if they would be prepared to blog about this to publicise it.  They declined.  Their call.  Their right.
Sometimes, law and other bloggers just have to take a stand – as Anna Raccoon did – and write.  After all… any bloody idiot can write about an event and take a view when the judgment is out.  Lawyers do that all the time. Bravo Anna!

ON a lighter note…..  John Bolch wrote in his Family Lore  blog that I am to be involved in the Olympic Torch relay for 2012….  Yeah, right!

Well.. the rains have stopped… for the moment.  I think a quick glass at the caff.  I shall return…. later.

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: ********** Edition

Dear Reader,

While the publication of Lord Neuberger’s report gave us an insight into current judicial thinking on the use of injunctions and ‘superinjunctions’ – and prompted this (lawful) tweet…. from @DavidJonesMP : “Unimpressed by sight of Ld Chief Justice & Master of Rolls sitting under banner “Judiciary of England & Wales”. Bit like Match of the Day.” – and inspired Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, to say that the use of modern technology was out of control – and it is certainly, for the moment, out of his control as far as overseas jurisdictions are concerned… the show on twitter goes on….

The latest twist in the tale from lawyers representing the footballer we cannot name in England & Wales  (but who appears now to be known urbi et orbi despite the best endeavours of judges ruling contra mundum etc ) is.. CTB -v- Twitter, Inc. and Persons Unknown (Case No. HQ11XO1814) – well covered by the Charles Russell CRITique blog. See also: Footballer CTB is suing Twitter

I am, because I read a lot of tweets, aware of another twist in the tale… this time from Scotland. But… I can’t tell you what it is about. (Although the BBC is happy that you should know about these events)

And you will find this post by @loveandgarbage of value in terms of protecting a position in Scotland? : Don’t say I didn’t tell you so – superinjunctions, anonymised injunctions and Scotland

Twitter and WikiLeaks have made a mockery of the courts

One of the best analyses I have seen was in The Observer this morning “A showdown between the law and common sense is brewing as a footballer takes legal action over Twitter’s injunction breach”

Most people know – or should by now – that in the absence of any ‘privacy law’,  the judges have to balance the rights of privacy and freedom of speech in The European Convention, enshrined in our law by The Human Rights Act.

Some may well argue that the private sex lives of footballers and others is ‘private’.  Others argue that these celebrities make a great deal of money through sponsorship, they are role models and if their hobbies or extra-curricular activities are inconsistent with the image they ‘sell’, the press should report on such matters.  Others have argued that it should not just be left to the judges to balance these interests of privacy and freedom of speech.  A debate in parliament, they say, is to be held soon – not before time.  I have a feeling that whether you mock the ‘apparent right of tweeters to know everything’ or not, that injunctions may well not feature as a practical remedy in future.  The cat is out of the bag – and The Spycatcher affair of many years ago is a lesson that would be well worth learning.

Meanwhile… contempt proceedings may be considered by the Attorney-General if this report in The Mail on Sunday is accurateone assumes that it is.  Robert Verkaik writes: “TV star is first to face jail over tweets after England footballer claims they breach injunction: Judge reports top journalist to Attorney-General.”

The other saga of the week… among many… must be The Ken Clarke Affair.  I don’t propose to cover this again, but I would like to draw your attention to a very good, considered, piece by Suzanne Moore in The Guardian…

Like many women, I’ve been raped, but I still agree with Ken Clarke

Rape is not a party-political issue and I am disgusted that it has been treated that way this week

I’ll be back later with another ‘postcard’ if I have time later.

Best, as always

Charon

PS…. and I really enjoyed this…. Lord Neuberger – Superinjunctions and other orders from Obiter J 



Postcard From The Staterooms: Privacy edition….

I was distracted yesterday so was not able to do my usual postcard.    First up is an important announcement from the excellent  Inner Temple Current Awareness news service…

A recent change of web host has provided us with the opportunity to redesign and re-launch our Current Awareness blog. A temporary redirect is in place so the old URL will still lead you to the blog, but our new address is as follows: www.innertemplelibrary.com Please update your bookmarks and links where appropriate.

It is always a pleasure to read Adam Wagner in The UK Human Rights blog… particularly as he is developing a taste for tabloid ‘stylee’ headlines for his blog posts!

Unelected, underqualified and frankly bonkers

Wagner writes…“A near-hysterical reaction has greeted some recent European court rulings. If you believed the coverage, you would think that unelected, underqualified and frankly bonkers judges are dictating our laws and making our Prime Minister physically ill. With this week potentially heralding another hang-the-judges media storm over Max Mosley’s Strasbourg privacy case, it is a relief to read three sensible and balanced pieces on European courts this week, all of which highlights the courts’ shortcomings, but also the risks of a UK withdrawal.

I join David Allen Green (in my case a cynical rather than ‘skeptical’ eye) in marvelling at the mainstream media hysteria on the possibility that judges and parliamentarians may bring sense to the whole privacy issue.  Expect more ‘stories’ about unelected judges when the Mosley judgment is handed down from Europe. This could be most inconvenient for their parallel universe view of ‘rights’ – the right to increase revenue through salacious revelations about people behaving badly. Unfortunately for their cause – it would appear that the revelations about superinjunctions, widely available on the net, seem to be about matters of shagging and other private misbehaviour – rather than more important ‘public interest’ issues.

Twitter has been ablaze with talk of ‘Thousands of people’ possibly committing contempt of court by publishing details of apparent superinjunctions.  Jemima Khan denied that she took out a superinjunction – and stated that the fact newspapers published her name (but not others) without fear of being sued, proved her point. She doesn’t have a superinjunction.

Joshua Rozenberg asks if a person unaware of the existence of a superinjunction commits an offence if he / she comes into possession of information, the subject of a superinjunction, and publishes.  Kafka’s Trial may well prove to be a useful reference work in that connection? The Guardian reports: “Hugh Tomlinson QC weighed in on Guardian Law via the Inforrm blog with the first of two pieces on how a privacy law might work….”

Unfortunately… I have to go and do something vaguely sensible now… but I’ll be back later.  In the meantime… if you missed it and would like to listen to our latest Without Prejudice podcast: Bin Laden assassination – Ian Tomlinson – City Law practice and BRIBERY ….. please scroll down or click here.

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: I got *Beatified* edition

Well… what a long holiday everyone seems to have had over the last ten days or so.  I have, of course, been at my post and tonight… I share a few of the the blog posts, news items and other ‘phenomena’ which have interested and  amused me.  Working on the principle, whether republican or royalist, that you are sated with news of the wedding…

Donald Trump, after forcing President Obama to reveal his birth certificate last week – finally proving that Obama is, indeed, an American citizen (and therefore eligible to be President) – had his come uppance in a wonderful riposte by President Obama.  You have probably seen this wonderful clip… but if you haven’t – please take a few minutes to watch.  It is extremely amusing.

This video is also amusing… Donald Trump responds on US TV….

Trump sense of humour failure

There has been a huge amount of coverage on superinjunctions recently in the press and in the law and political blogs.  Some of the analysis is not particularly good and I have referred to good coverage in posts last week. This excellent post from the  Pink Tape blog is a very good read.  The author of Pink Tape is an experienced family law barrister. The is post, rightly, earns an Oscar from another leading family law blogger, John Bolch of Family Lore.

So – Superinjunct me!

It may be a bit heavy for a Sunday Bank holiday weekend, but this article from The Lawyer fascinated me:  Irwin Mitchell: we’ll float and take on the mid-tier.

“Irwin Mitchell first to declare ABS intentions; aims for £50m war chest for recruitment. Irwin Mitchell plans to use the £50m war chest it expects to amass on converting to an alternative business structure (ABS) to go head-to-head with mid-tier corporate firms. Managing partner John Pickering said the firm would target growth through mergers and acquisitions once the Legal Services Act (LSA) is implemented in October.

Pickering explained: “It’s about deconstruction of the law, like [consultants] Stephen Mayson or Richard Susskind have explained in the past, trying to reduce it to an operational process.”

I shall watch this with interest.  Commoditisation is the coming thing.  Whether that is a good thing, or floating on the stock market is a good thing, remains to be seen.  The comments to this article are worth reading.

Yes… I know I said that I would avoid Royal Wedding coverage… but I just cannot resist drawing your attention to this nonsense from The Mail on Sunday…

‘Those are not heir-bearing hips are they?’ Camilla feud with Lady Annabel after Jemima’s wedding Tweets

And this is wonderfully British….

The RNLI is a truly remarkable organisation – a rescue service manned by volunteers and funded through donations.  I suspect they had better things to do… but I just love the idea of three drunks on a boat greeting the RNLI with shouts of ‘Bonjour’.

Three men in a Boat!  Drunk revellers in rubber dinghy rescued after floating for 11 hours in the English Channel.

* Men greet (RNLI) with shouts of ‘Bonjour!’

* They had a bottle of wine and one paddle between them

* Suffering from hypothermia with only beach clothes to help them

A quick look at some law blogs…

Obiter J considers… Arrests in London on 29th April – Breach of the Peace etc.

Obiter J notes:  “A number of people planned a “street theatre” with the idea of showing a mock execution.  The arrest of three of these people raises some interesting legal questions.”

While it may have been in ‘questionable’ taste on the day of a Royal Wedding to stage a ‘mock execution’ – and I don’t actually think it was in bad taste – I cannot see any clear justification for arrest here. As Obiter J notes…“The precise basis of the arrests is not entirely clear though “conspiracy to commit a breach of the peace and public nuisance”  has been mentioned…. Some film of the arrests taking place may be seen at the Third estate blog – “It’s time we put breach of the queen’s peace into the legal dustbin.

I can understand Police needs and policy to ensure the Royal Wedding went off without a hitch….. but was a group, led by a professor of anthropology likely to be a serious threat to public order and control?  Freedom of speech?  We must be alive to mission creep and the use of ‘I don’t like your face’ policing and the use of vague charges?

UK Human Rights Blog: Privacy: the way ahead? Part 1 – Hugh Tomlinson QC
“The Prime Minister has said that he is “uneasy” about the development of a privacy law by judges based on the European Convention when this should be a matter for parliament.  In our contribution to the continuing debate on this issue we are re-posting this two-part discussion on the history and future of privacy law from Inforrm’s Blog.

Time for a bit from The White Rabbit: Keef, Dann, scum and Keira….

“Okay, lets start with a review. The rabbit has just read the less than imaginatively titled Life by Keith Richards – or more accurately by Keith Richards with James Fox, a journalist acquaintance of his. Which is okay. Unsurprisingly it reads like spoken reminiscences, surprisingly for those of a cynical bent, Keef not only remembers but also makes a good raconteur. He actually succeeds in making the reader like him – a kind of guarded, qualified liking but a liking nonethelesss.”


I missed this excellent story from RollonFriday.com… worthy of Dr Strangelove of Muttley Dastardly LLP

Exclusive: RPC lawyers publicly shamed if they don’t bill enough

Lawyers at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain can tell how effectively their colleagues are billing from the colour of their computer screens.

An insider complains that the firm has inserted a “nifty programme” on associates’ computers which changes the colour of the screens depending on how profitable they are. Red means they’re losing the firm money, yellow means they’re doing OK but must try harder, and green means that the key to the partnership washroom is within grasp. And given that the firm has open plan offices, everyone can check out everyone else’s performance.

Well… another week goes by

Best, as always.

Charon


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

Dear Reader,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gagging on privacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read…

Ex-offenders handed tents to live in

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

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

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

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

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

Read…

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

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

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

Best, as always,

Charon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway… just a thought… not a prescription.

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

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

Have a good week

Best, as always

Charon

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

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

Dear Reader,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extra staff called in after UK surge in top tuition fees

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

Just a few reasons why I am not surpised:

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

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

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

Why would employers do otherwise?

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

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

I leave this issue with…

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

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

Best, as always.  Have a good week

Charon

Postcard from the Staterooms: RITZKRIEG!

I see a lot of weird stuff on the net every day…..  (I am on twitter)  but this was excellent: “Walcome tae the Scottish Pairlament wabsite”
Being  A Scot – albeit one who has lived in London and other parts of England for thirty years – I rather liked this initiative from The Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Pairlament is here for tae represent aw Scotlan’s folk.

We want tae mak siccar that as mony folk as possible can finn oot aboot the Scottish Pairlament. Information anent whit we can dae tae help ye engaige wi the Pairlament gin ye arenae fluent in English can be haen at Langage assistance providit by the Scottish Pairlament (22.2KB pdf).

This pairt o the wabsite hauds information anent the Scottish Pairlament that we hae producit in Scots. Uise the link aneath tae find oot mair.

Wonderful. Hat Tip to @loveandgarbage for alerting me to this use of public money…and also for this!  Can you speak Scots?

A surreal day…

I watched the unfolding demonstration in London – and some of the footage when the BBC cut away (gleefully) to middle class protesters trying to trash the Ritz and then doing a sit-in at Fortnum & Mason on the basis that this organisation is ‘avoiding’ tax.  There is, of course, a difference between ‘evading’ tax (unlawful) and ‘avoiding’ tax (lawful).  It was also pointed out on twitter that the owners of Fortnum & Mason are well known for making charitable donations. I have no idea whether this is or is not the case – but it would be ironic if it was true.

Today was also Boat Race day. So… we had middle class anarchists trashing The Ritz and Fortnum & Mason while other middle class people amused pissed-up middle classes on the Thames by rowing boats… a  truly surreal afternoon.

And then…. I decided to ignore the calls on twitter to turn all my lights off for #Earthhour…

I’m afraid that I did not add to the incisiveness of the debate on twitter this afternoon on the demonstration and #Ukuncut  by tweeting….

A quick rendition of The Eton Boating song… a la 2011 CUTS and *Big Society* ?

Jolly protesting weather,
And a fay anarchist wheeze,
Blade on the feather,
Paint all over the trees,
Trash trash together,
With your iPads between your knees,
Trash trash together,
With your iPads between your knees.



The tabloids will, of course, be full of coverage about anarchists on the morrow. This pic from The Daily Mail will give you a foretaste… as will this…



Pink Floyd star’s son Charlie Gilmour sports clean-cut look as he faces judge over royal attack

The Daily Mail reports: Fresh faced, with a short, neat haircut and a collared shirt, the Charlie Gilmour who appeared in court today bore little resemblance to the long-haired, combat boot-wearing protester who took part in a student fees riot in central London. 

I do wonder if judges and juries are even vaguely impressed when defendants turn up in court all scrubbed up and wearing ties. Perhaps they get a certain pleasure at the schadenfreude and hypocrisy?
Meanwhile… The Daily Mail front cover for tomorrow (right). Pity the sensible, peaceful, protest didn’t get more coverage today in the meedja.

And so… on to other things…

RollonFriday.com continues at the cutting edge of amusing journalism by revealing.. gleefully…

Exclusive: College of Law screws up exam results. Again

The College of Law has allayed fears that it could be losing its competitive edge this week, by proving that it remains untouchable when it comes to cocking up exam results.

Read…..

 

An interesting article by Jon Robins in The Guardian….

Website that has become the scourge of all lawyers, good and bad

Rick Kordowski remains unapologetic over the website he set up after his experience with lawyers

Worth reading….

Katy Dowell reports in The Lawyer: Over a year into his tenure as Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger is proving to be a popular choice.

Famed for his straight talking and practical thinking, here is a judge who wants the judiciary to become more familiar to the public it serves.

This is becoming a common theme at the top of the judiciary. Supreme Court president Lord Phillips is becoming something of  a television personality given his smiling appearances on several recent court documentaries.

I can certainly recommend an excellent documentary from the BBC on the workings of The Supreme Court. Catch it on iPlayer while you can!

AND…finally… I watched the BBC News coverage on the Trafalgar Square element of the protest late tonight…. dreadful.  Why no/few live pictures?

Well.. there we are.  Have a good weekend.

Best, as always

Charon

 

 

Postcard From The Staterooms: Chili con carne edition…..

I have taken to eating an excellent Chili con carne at Mazar, my  caff / restaurant of choice for breakfast and lunch,  in Battersea Square.  The problem I have is that when I find a meal I enjoy I tend to eat it to death until I can face no more.  I had some Chili con carne for breakfast the other morning – which raised a few eyebrows, but there we are.

I have no theme this week, so I shall write as I find….

How I Became a Fake Lawyer

This article from Big Legal Brain in the United States is my pick of the week.  Not only does it parody the social meedja law mavens beautifully, it addresses a very interesting issue about lawyers who use twitter to push a persona for the purpose of their professional work which may not be entirely ‘accurate’.  I urge you to read it, if only to enjoy some good writing and, if you can fit it into your billable day, allow yourself a laugh.

Flawging and other legal matters…
I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours this afternoon doing a podcast
with Antonin Pribetic, a Canadian trial lawyer and author of The Trial Warrior blog.  At the end of the podcast we talked about Twitter and the use by lawyers of social media generally and the issue of anonymity on the web. We shall return to theme theme of “Flawging” (as Antonin puts it) in a  future podcast.  In the meantime… read this if you want to know about “Flawging”: My Gift to the Social Media Law Marketers: The Flawg

On the subject of podcasts – I have done several this week and plan to podcast twice a week going forward during law term time.

#Without Prejudice – The Law Podcast 2: ECJ Insurance case – Women in the law – Sexism – Contempt of Court – Libel reform

This is the second of our new fortnightly Without Prejudice (recorded at The Staterooms with wine to improve our thinking?) series with Carl Gardner and David Allen Green.  Our guest this week was Catrin Griffiths, editor of The Lawyer.  David Allen Green managed to knock over a 400 year old Chinese bowl – a slight crashing sound was picked up by the microphone towards the end of the podcast.   The bowl didn’t break.  I could not resist telling him that it was a priceless Ming dynasty bowl of considerable value. (It was 400 years old, but not of considerable value)   Being an academic lawyer, my mind then turned to nervous shock litigation – but both bowl and David survived.

Other podcasts this week…

Legal Profession Lawcast (3): Suzanne Dibble, founder of Law4mumpreneurs

Legal Profession Lawcast (2): Neil Rose on ABS – Jackson – Funding – Regulation and the state of the profession today

UK lawyer admits in US trial to bribing Nigerian officials

The Guardian: Jeffrey Tesler pleaded guilty to two counts related to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a court in Houston, Texas

A London lawyer pleaded guilty on Friday to taking part in a huge international bribery conspiracy that lasted a decade.

Jeffrey Tesler, 62, who operated from shabby offices in Tottenham, north London, admitted helping to steer bribes worth more than $130m (£80m) to Nigerian officials and politicians to land big energy contracts.

He pleaded guilty to two counts related to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when he appeared in a courtroom in Houston, Texas, on Friday.

The description ‘shabby’ in relation to offices caught my eye.

Unfortunately…I am not able to tell you about my quote of the week…

John Hemming MP used parliamentary privilege to reveal that Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin, late of the people’s favourite partly owned bank, RBS,  had obtained an injunction which was reported as preventing even the fact that he was a banker being reported on.  I have no idea if this is true.  I haven’t seen a copy of the ‘superinjunction’.  This allowed The Telegraph to use qualified privilege to report on ‘a proceeding of parliament’ and blow the secret.  Twitter then ran riot with Fred the Shred jokes (Fred ‘The Trended’ Goodwin?)  and some bloggers were unwise enough (arguably) to comment or speculate on the reasons for the injunction, it was reported.  I shall confine myself to simply reporting the fact that John Hemming MP did what he did and The Telegraph did what they did.

The Telegraph has gone for broke, however, with this….

Gagging order by Sir Fred cannot stop net chatter

The Telegraph: Judges are facing growing pressure to lift a super-injunction obtained by Sir Fred Goodwin amid speculation on the internet about the nature of the information he is trying to protect.

With libel reform coming (discussed in the Without Prejudice podcast this week) an a report on superinjunctions from Master of The Rolls, Lord Neuberger, on the immediate horizon these issues will, no doubt, be addressed.

Joshua Rozenberg weighs in…

When you can’t call Fred Goodwin a banker, whatever next?

The Guardian: Goodwin’s injunction to prevent him being identified as a banker raises questions about how much we should protect privacy

Briefly…before I go off on a ‘frolic of my own’ to less serious matters… this story in The Guardian is important on #metgate.  The net is closing in?

Murder trial collapse exposes News of the World links to police corruption

The Guardian: David Cameron hired Andy Coulson despite knowing that as editor he employed Jonathan Rees, who paid police for stories

I am a fan of all the legal newspapers. James Dean of The Law Society Gazette often comes up with stories which I enjoy reading and this story was a ‘Go to the top of the class and hand out the pencils job’….the comments are also amusing….

Lawyers are not just motivated by money

I extract one comment which I particularly enjoyed – extracting about half of the comment…

Ha ha!!

Submitted by Andrew Murphy on Fri, 11/03/2011 – 12:01.

Well thirty years working as a Conveyancer in a number of firms tells me something different. The Lawyers I have had the misfortune to come across have been very much motivated by money. They thought nothing of customer service. To them the clients they were buying houses for were just file numbers.

And I just had to end with this story from tomorrow’s Mail on Sunday….

Spending watchdog’s £4k travel expenses for a one minute walk from his hotel

The Mail on Sunday reports: The Quango chief charged with curbing wasteful public spending is being paid a £4,070-a-year ‘travel allowance’ – even though his daily commute is a one-minute walk between his office and a four-star hotel.

Have a good one…
Best, as always
Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: Sheikh Charon bin Quaffer Al-Charon reports……

Dear Reader,

I write this week from The Burj Al-Charon (as I have re-named my Staterooms for this report), probably the finest location in Battersea Square, but feet from the River Thames, with stunning views over the water to Chelski, owned, largely these days (I am told),  by Russian oligarchs and escaping North African dictators and their extended families.

Schadenfreude – the hypocrisy of the traditional academic establishment!
I’ve been involved in public and  private sector  legal education since 1979.  I remember only too well the lofty pronouncements of ‘leading academics’ from what are now called Russell Group universities, being critical of private education, expressing distaste that anyone would have to travel to foreign countries to drum up business.  As it happens, along with my then co-directors, my law school was given a Queen’s Award for Exports in 1982 and I spent an amusing and surreal evening at Buckingham Palace drinking Gin and Tonic with HM The Queen for about ten minutes. The Queen was astonishingly well informed, friendly and very easy to talk with, and I then had five minutes with the  then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who started talking about Roman-Dutch law on hearing that I was there because of our law school. This, I found rather curious given that Thatcher had qualified as a lawyer here under the common law system.

I also had a very surreal conversation with Willie Whitelaw who thought I made ejector seats for aircraft. Younger readers may like to see who he was? He didn’t seem to mind when I told him that I knew nothing about ejector seats.  Perhaps he thought it was par for the course for managing directors of Queen’s Award for Export winning companies to know nothing about their products? He kept on saying ‘well done, well done’ to me, laughing and saying he hoped no-one would ever actually need to use my product.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him, again, that we trained lawyers.   (I am pleased to be able to report that Whitelaw did, eventually, manage to find the arms dealers who were  at the Palace to collect their Queen’s Award for selling ejector seats.  God knows what he talked to them about.)

But… as Margaret Thatcher is reputed to have said… Everyone needs a Willie

Anyway…I digress. Today, you cannot travel to any country, repressive regime or just mildly corrupt regime like our own (See Bribery Act revisions and guidelines), without falling over academics rushing to get money from seriously rich plutocrats and self made dictators.  While I admire Sir Howard Davies, late of The Libya School of Economics, for ‘jumping’ the other morning; the truth of the matter is that most of our universities are up to their arm pits in financial dealings with people who, with hindsight, it may be better they weren’t in bed with.  The reason for this is remarkably simple.  We don’t (a) value education enough in this country to fund it through the tax payer entirely or (b) we are no longer a serious world power, a major world economy and we have, simply, not got the money to go it alone – so why not do as the rest of the world does and buy a long spoon and sup with the devil?  We can, at least, afford to design fund and manufacture a long spoon?

The Independent sums it up rather neatly…

Despots and academia: more scandals ‘likely’

And talking of despots and scandals….. I have written about Bradley Manning before and Wikileaks (and there may be no connection) and while I can’t fact check this report, Manning’s lawyer has reported in similar vein before.  This is rather disturbing… from the land of the free: Bradley Manning’s forced nudity to occur daily

Could you defend yourself in court?

In the wake of the BBC programme Silk and the Ministry of Justice’s best endeavours to minimise the inconvenient process of proper legal representation before imprisoning criminals (or not actually bothering to) by cutting legal aid – the BBC asks…….if you could defend yourself in court? You may well have to if you can’t pay the lawyers. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, is most exercised by this and has already pointed out that this could actually cost our country more because it will slow the whole process down and put even more pressure on judges who will, in effect, have to help litigants in person – who often haven’t a clue what they are doing, despite watching Silk, Rumpole et al. (and if they watch Silk… they could be in even bigger trouble on evidential and procedural issues – let alone cocaine use and nicking wigs from robe suppliers in Chancery Lane?).

The President’s Speech

If you haven’t seen this… it is definitely funnier than The King’s Speech...which wasn’t……

It is very good…..

Even though it is the weekend and I am exercising my rights under The European Convention to have free movement in bars and my right to drink as much as I wish… I did find this article from The Guardian of interest…..

Judges’ pensions: a matter of constitutional principle?

The Guardian: Judges pay nothing towards their comfortable retirement, as cost-cutting ministers are aware. But would change compromise their independence?

Foreign SecretaryWilliam Vague, The Duke of Edinburgh and HBH The Duke of Pork on a recent trip to The Gulf


On Russell Group universities… THINK £9000 p.a. ++  – they’ll all be in on the act soon… even, gawd help us…  those not in the elite group of universities like Exeter last week :-

This…is Exeter reports!

University playing down links to Gaddafi regime

UNIVERSITY of Exeter chiefs have sought to play down their links with Colonel Gaddafi and his regime in Libya in the wake of an uprising in the troubled country.

It has emerged that the university’s vice-chancellor Steve Smith met Gaddafi in 2003 in a bid to set up a £75m deal which would see British universities educate the next generation of Libya’s academics.

It also saw the two shake hands on a deal to set up the Exeter Centre for English in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

But the university has insisted that no money ever changed hands and plans for the centre were never followed up.

Taking the piss?

Well… I think it best to leave it there for this week… I shall write soon.

Best, as ever

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Kafka edition

Dear Reader,

“The Trial (German: Der Process) is a novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1925. One of Kafka’s best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime never revealed either to him or the reader.”

Demand open justice for Julian Assange

Mark Stephens, in The Guardian: Our high court should refuse extradition when the trial in prospect is likely to be unfair – as it is in this case

Mark Stephen, Assange’s lawyer in the UK, writes…”Julian Assange will, according to the judge’s finding of fact, be held in prison in solitary confinement when he is returned to Sweden and will then be interrogated, held without bail and later subjected to a secret trial on accusations that have been bruited around the world, not least by this newspaper. He has a complete answer to these charges, which he considers false and baseless. Even if acquitted, however, the mud will stick and, if convicted, the public will never be able to able to assess whether justice has miscarried. This country, which has given to the world the most basic principles of a fair trial – that justice must be seen to be done – denies that basic liberty for those that are extradited to Sweden. How come our courts abandon our cherished principles in deference to European systems and prosecutors?……..

I interviewed Mark Stephens in a podcast before Christmas.  In our first “Without Prejudice” podcast David Allen Green, Carl Gardner and Joanne Cash  reviewed the decision of District Judge Riddle handed down on Thursday.

There is, of course, another side to Mark Stephens which I enjoyed reading about in the Financial Times.  He is allergic to bees – but he has lots of them in his garden.

Meanwhile in modern Britain…..

Phone-hacking libel claim contested by Metropolitan police

The Guardian: Scotland Yard applies to strike out lawsuit by solicitor representing victims of phone hacking

Scotland Yard is to contest a lawsuit that could establish the true number of victims in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

Mark Lewis, a solicitor who has acted for people suing the newspaper, contends that a senior figure in the Metropolitan police, Detective Sergeant Mark Maberly, told him in 2008 that as many as 6,000 phones may have been hacked.

We are certainly living in strange times….. and I cannot help but wonder, given that there appears to be an even greater need now for lawyers and judges to keep a close eye on what government does in our name, whether those who complain about The Human Rights Act, complain about the ECHR, the interventions of third parties in Europe, may have a preference for allowing their view of the rule of law to prevail without the inconvenience of independent and objective analysis and critique.  I cannot resist the line from The House of Cards by Michael Dobbs….“You may think that….I could not possibly comment’.

I shall leave it there for today…and return to happier things later in the day

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: US arms manufacturer Census of Britain edition

My quote of the week….without question... has to be from Ken Clarke, Secretary of State for Justice and  Lord Chancellor (unless Michael Howard replaces him).  The Guardian has the the story…

It would be startling if we had a British government which said we aren’t going to comply with legal judgments…..

“I used to be a practising lawyer myself, and trying to give legal advice to a litigant who doesn’t want to be told what the law is and wishes it was something else is always difficult..”

Ken Clarke was telling  fearless interviewer Andrew Marr this morning that he plans to look to reform the European Court of Human Rights when Britain takes the chair of The Council of Europe this year.  I read with horror in the Mail on Sunday (not a paper I ever read in the ‘flesh’ so to speak, but one I dip into occasionally online to see what the ravening horde are thinking, or being told what to think, in the early hours of Sunday morning) that there is talk of the former great reforming Home Secretary Michael Howard, now Lord Howard of Panopticon, taking over from Clarke as Lord Chancellor.

I thought one of the benefits of having a House of Lords is that we take dangerous politicians out of society, without having to tag them electronically, and keep them occupied with tom foolery in the unelected second chamber, the House of Lords?  The last thing we want, surely, having pensioned these buggers orf, is to see them rising from the grave when darkness descends to walk among us once again?

If such an appointment is made, I might be tempted to occupy Battersea Square single handed and call for the overthrow of ….well….something… I’ll think about it..and come back to you later on my thinking.  I would certainly be tempted to leave the country and meet some interesting bankers; which would be infinitely preferable to staying here to watch Lord Howard of Panopticon visiting old naval ship breaking yards to rescue aircraft carriers for use as prison hulks.

Boycott the UK census over links to Lockheed Martin, protesters say

Guardian: We’re ready to face £1,000 fine, declare anti-war protesters in row over role of US arms firm Lockheed Martin in data gathering

It may be old news, but I am genuinely astonished that the British government has handed a contract to a US arms manufacturer to carry out the Census.  Apart from the fact that we should, in these dark days, be giving our own tech companies these contracts, I do understand the concerns of those who may wish to boycott the census on conscientious grounds and also raise my eyebrows that the Office of National Statistics can so glibly state that the information collected will be safe and not fall into the hands of the US State Department which may, under the US Patriot Act,  compel all american companies to hand over ‘useful information’.

Does the government have a credible explanation for this?  Can the government be absolutely certain the information will be safe – after the fiasco of the loss of 25 million records by HM Revenue & Customs..and, indeed, other information going AWOL at the DVLA and the odd military laptop left in the back of a minicab?

RollonFriday.com notes…“The Legal Services Board has announced a proposal to quiz lawyers on whether their parents went to university in an attempt to monitor the level of social mobility across the profession.”

While I applaud all initiatives to promote wider access to the profession for those who wish to be lawyers, I can’t help but feel that this latest initiative from the Legal Services Board is not only intrusive, it is almost patronising.  I am quite sure they do not intend these effects, however.

In my well spent youth – the days when students were able to combine hard living with hard study fitted in around more important commitments and still be fully paid up members of the awkward squad – I was asked where my father went to school at an interview at a well known investment bank (when I was misguided enough to think soon after graduating that I might actually find  the idea of working in The City interesting).  The interviewer had been a huge fromage at the Monopolies Commission.  I told him, politely,  that it was none of his business; which, of course, it wasn’t.   He seemed a bit put out by this reply and asked if my ‘family had any connections in banking’. I was really irritated by this question. Two advantages of having had the good fortune to go to a good school and having enjoyed the social satire The Ruling Class with Peter O’Toole, was that I was not ‘awed’ even at that young age by anyone (The only advice I would ever pass on to a law student is – don’t ever be ‘awed’ by anyone!) and I had a reasonable command of language.  I told him that my father did not, as far as I was aware,  keep his money in a tin box or stash it under the mattress and that it was quite probable that he had connections in the banking world. The interview did not go well. I did then, and to this day do, have manners.  I thanked the panel for their time, said that I was withdrawing my application, and left.   Unfortunately, I still meet people of this attitude and type to this day…. but, equally fortunately, they are a dying breed.

I lost my taste for (and being part of) the ‘traditional establishment’,  instilled and drilled in at school,  while in Africa before I went to university.  University compounded this and I decided to plough a different furrow…but at least is was my own furrow. Now I am like one of those ranters in the street;  except I don’t do it in the street…  I have my  ‘blawg’.

AND FINALLY… on the theme of the dangers of privilege and ‘background’….

I am delighted to see – via The Mail on Sunday….

“David Cameron is to ban internships with top City firms being sold for thousands of pounds to wealthy Conservative supporters for their children after the practice was exposed by The Mail on Sunday.

This newspaper’s report last week about the ‘cash for internships’ auction at the Tories’ glittering Black and White Party attended by the Prime Minister and his wife Samantha left the Conservatives deeply embarrassed.

A senior Tory aide said: ‘You can rest assured that this kind of auction will not be part of next year’s event. It was badly misjudged.

The worrying thing, of course, is that ‘they’ thought it was a good enough idea to hold the party and auction in the first place and that Prime Minister Camerondirect saw this, presumably, as ‘Big Society’ in action and attended the event?!

Have a good week.

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms (2) – The Writer with Bits Dropping Orf and other matters….

Dear Reader,

I got up at 3.30 am this morning and enjoyed a few hours watching two fascinating films on iPlayer:  Human Planet – Jungles – People of The trees and A History of Ancient Britain.

I went to breakfast at my cafe of choice in Battersea Square as usual this morning – black coffee, bacon, two eggs, baked beans and toast.  The plate, as ever, I turned to ensure that the eggs are in the right place to satisfy my aesthetic and practical needs.  A gentleman, late fifties, walked in to the outside covered area. He had a walking stick. As I have a nasty foot injury at present, I found myself coveting his walking stick.  “Do they come out, or should I pop in to order?” a voice boomed.

I raised my head from the remarkably dull story in the News of The Screws about Jordan and her cross-dressing cagefighter ex-husband holed up in a hotel.  I advised,  on a pro bono basis,  that he should make his presence known to management, who were exercising their human rights under self imposed ‘control orders’  inside…. if he was even vaguely interested in having something to eat or drink.

The gentleman came back out to take a table two distant from my own.  I returned to Jordan and the aforementioned cross-dressing cagefighter.    “Are you a writer?” the gentleman asked.  It is true that I looked, this morn, like an extra from King Lear…hair slightly wild, tache thick and absurd and a week’s growth of salt and pepper beardage… because I can’t make up my mind as to the issue of tache only or go for a full Scott of The Antarctic on a bad day look. [ A quick F**kArt representation is to the left….. I am calling it ‘The Writer with Bits Dropping Orf’. ]

I rather liked the idea that my unusual appearance this morning put me down in his mind as a writer. I told him that I was a writer…..of sorts.  We chatted for a while about the various bits that were falling off our bodies as the chickens came home to roost – in a way, I have found, that only some people seem able to do sardonically without the need to get out their medical records.  He won.  He had more chickens coming home to roost…. but we both sat there smoking Marlboros (he was, I noted with approval, on the fully leaded Red Marlboros), enjoying a few moments of conversation and talked of village London.  He lives in the village of Chelsea.  I told him that I had done my time on the houseboats next to Battersea Bridge.  I enjoyed the meet…random… slightly surreal…

I bought two newspapers this morning.  I like to know what those who live in a  different Britain to mine think. I had The Observer and The News of Screws. The Sunday Mail, however, had been left by a previous occupant of the table next to mine…and I saw this…… horrendous story……

Cash for internships: Tory backers pay party £2,000 a time to buy their children work experience at top City banks and hedge funds

I found this rather unpleasing…. but entirely typical of some who live in our country and who are enjoying the pleasures of living under a Tory led coalition.  They will, no doubt, satisfy their need to show solidarity with Dave’s new Egyptian friends by holidaying soon in Shark el-Sheikh to assist the peoples of Egypt… or…some of them at least…. well.. those who own the resort.
Back to sensible stuff tomorrow….. but if you scroll down…you will find some sensible stuff
Have a good week….
Best, as always
Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: Judicial edition!

Regular readers will know that I try to write once a week from The Staterooms… a more relaxed review of the week than the more clinical Law Reviews I trot out during the working week.

While Twitter was ablaze with newly minted  Egyptian experts last night… and even this morning at 5.30 am when I got up, I spent an amusing half hour reading The Sun online… more of which later… but so profound was the effect on me of reading about Jordan and her cross-dressing cagefighter ex-husband and sundry other showbiz celebs, I decided to make myself some asparagus steamed with molten butter and garlic salt poured over them to add to the pleasure.  I then decided it would be an amusing idea to pour some Gordon’s gin into my mango juice.  I don’t tend to drink at breakfast, but I do remember the late great Sir John Mortimer QC telling my law students some years ago that a glass of champagne at 6.30 am daily…  did remarkable things for the mood.  The gin and mango juice did the business..and after faffing around on twitter for a while I enjoyed a long walk down the Thames tow path, and went back to World’s End for a coffee… passing the boat I used to live on at the moorings at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea by Battersea Bridge – hence the nautical flavour of the postcard header  above.

The boats are pictured here at low tide.  When the tide came in, there was much rocking and wine bottles on the table had to be picked up and secured when the suction from the hull in the mud broke free suddenly from the force of the incoming tide.

I thought that part of my postcard this week should have a judicial theme….

First up..an interesting post from John Bolch at Family Lore on the work of Mr Justice Charles, the Family Division’s most appealed judge, apparently.

I quote from John’s excellent blog post – the full post is well worth reading:

Joshua Rosenberg has pointed out the Court of Appeal’s criticisms of Mr Justice Charles, who is apparently “the most appealed-against judge in the High Court Family Division and the one whose judgments are overturned the most”. Lord Justice Wilson said that he had spent days trying to understand the 484-paragraph judgment delivered by Mr Justice Charles, and quoted barrister Ashley Murray who had said in Family Law:

“There are certain challenges each of us should attempt in our lifetime and for most these involve a particular jump, a mountain climb, etc. Akin to these in the legal world would be reading from first to last a judgment of Mr Justice Charles.”
To which Lord Justice Wilson commented: “Mr Murray’s introductory sentences were witty and brave. In respect at any rate of the judgment in the present case, they were also, I am sorry to say, apposite.” Excellent stuff.

And then a wonderful story from The Sun…

A JUDGE let rip at “soft” Britain yesterday after he was unable to jail a burglar caught red-handed.

Seething Judge Julian Lambert hit the roof over sentencing guidelines he claimed left him hamstrung.

He said of a probation report that reflected guidance that the raider should go free: “I’ve never seen anything so wet in all my life – 80 hours community work for burgling someone’s house.”

The judge told Daniel Rogers, 25: “I very much regret sentencing guidelines which say I should not send you straight to prison. We live in soft times now.”

…. He then TRIPLED the amount of community work to 240 hours, slapped a six-month CURFEW on the crook and imposed an 18-month SUPERVISION order.

Rogers was caught trying to raid a Bristol house by the man who lived there.

Judge Lambert told him at Bristol Crown Court, where he admitted burglary: “You’ve got the lot. It may be easier for you to do the time.”

But… it is not just The Sun with the judicial stories. The Times got in on the action with no less a personage than Lord David Pannick QC having a pop at the judge who recently disgraced herself when up before the magistrates herself….

How temper tantrums and loss of judgment can dog a legal career

Lord Pannick QC writes…behind The Times paywall... but I have succumbed and subscribed…I missed The Times columnists and it isn’t that expensive even though I also buy the paper edition.

Last month a circuit judge, Beatrice Bolton, swore and stormed out of Carlisle Magistrates’ Court after being convicted of failing to control her alsatian.

It had attacked a neighbour’s sunbathing son, biting him on the leg. The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice, who are now considering Bolton’s future on the Bench, should make sure that her new year’s resolution — “I will never sit in a court of law again” — is fulfilled.

Bolton, who sits at Newcastle Crown Court, walked out of the magistrates’ court when the verdict was announced, shouting: “I’m going. It’s a f***ing travesty”.

Moving away from the judges… I did enjoy this article from Joshua Rozenburg in The Guardian…..

DPP’s power to block war crimes arrests is in the public interest

Critics who allege that arrest decisions would be liable to political interference are deliberately misunderstanding the case

While it may appeal to Richard Dawkins and others to arrest Popes when they visit here… or Israeli government officials.. or, indeed anyone who can come within the definition of a war criminal….some would say, the odd president of the United States, former British prime ministers returning from important business counting their lecturing fees etc etc etc.. it does seem to me, at 6.35 pm on a lazy Saturday evening, a glass of Rioja to my left, that the ability to prosecute such matters should be placed in the hands of the DPP rather than left to sundry libertarians etc etc  to issue proceedings before a magistrate to obtain an arrest warrant… Rozenburg noting…“a warrant may be obtained by a private prosecutor on little more than a bare allegation that a named individual is guilty of an offence under English law.”.

The Guardian covers the story: “The director of public prosecutions has disclosed how he proposes to use unique new powers enabling him to block the arrest of visiting foreigners accused of war crimes abroad….. “

And… while Egypt blazes…according to The Sun…they did have time, today, to scream…

NEARLY 2,000 jailed thugs and perverts will get the vote under the latest Government plans, it has emerged.

I really do think that it is time for the government to implement the ECHR judgments and move on.  The alternative is that we come out of the European Convention or seek amendments. It would be rather ironic, given that British lawyers after WWII were instrumental in drafting the European Convention,  for us to say now that we don’t actually want to abide by it.

On that note… have a good weekend and a good week to come.

Best, as always

Charon

Par Avion from The Staterooms: Twitteratigate and other absurd *Twuffoonery*

I really could not give a damn about twitter rankings and all the self aggrandising puffery which goes with social meedja. Brian Inkster has a very thorough piece on the twitter nonsense which I have commented on myself only recently.  Brian Inkster’s very thorough review of this nonsense and twuffoonery is worth a read.


And… while I am it…..

Have a good week…

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: A bit of a mixed bag this week…….

I rose on the fourth day, after facing the very jaws of some tedious winter bug which limited my enthusiasm for all but the most essential of matters, to be returned to rude health and the hope that those who go to public places with colds or flu do not attend at places I go to again this winter.

My enthusiasm for the legal profession returned, in fact, mid afternoon on Friday as the rains lashed Battersea Square. It may be a childhood influence, or years of schooling in the desolate glens of Perthshire, but I do seem to work better in wet and stormy weather and my mood is always better when it rains than when the sun shines.  Perversity in this may be a blessing, given our climate.

The legal profession provided me with the opportunity to wheel out Muttley Dastardly LLP a couple of times. The Director of Marketing, Henry Offthewall, sent a memorandum to The Partners with a proposal for a new wills drafting division: Muttley Dastardly LLP Episode 11: Not Dead yet? We have the Will for you! and,  earlier this afternoon,  Matt Muttley sent a memorandum to All Staff on the matter of age after reading an interesting article in Legal Week written by Alex Novarese the editor:Muttley Dastardly LLP Episode 12: Age is not a factor at The Firm.

On the matter of age…. Carl Gardner, author of the Head of legal blog,  has this analysis of this week’s case célèbre (sic): Employment Tribunal ruling: O’Reilly v BBC and Adam Wagner of 1 Crown Office Row, writing on their UK Human Rights blog, stated…Still almost impossible to sue the police in negligence

Desmond v The Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police 2011] EWCA Civ 3 (12 January 2011)- Read judgment

The Court of Appeal has ruled that it is not possible to sue the police in negligence for not filling in an Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate (ECRC). The ruling shows that the courts are still reluctant to allow negligence claims against the police, and provides useful guidance as to the duty of care of public authorities towards the general public.

I am delighted to say Happy Birthday to Obiter J – The Law and Lawyers blog is one year old – hence the little birthday card. And..some good news for readers who think that Britain is going soft on serious crime…Obiter J writes:  A Year On …. Yorkshire Ripper to serve “whole life” … more on the climate change case

In one of those post-ironic twists of fate – after I amused myself satirising Intendance for their survey on top tweeting law firms – some of whom ranked highly without even so much as tweeting [The Lawyer reports: A&O most successful among law firm Twitterati – hahaha! Absurd nonsense] – The Times produced a list of *Top* legal tweeters and I was on that list…..  the cunning part, of course, was that we had to go and subscribe to The Times online,  behind their paywall,  to find out what they said about us…..  It was great to see that many of the individuals who tweet about law were on the same list! The *£* sign in the tweet above indicated, I assumed, that one had to pay to read, rather than a subtle hint at some PRIZE!

To be fair… I have missed Times Law. Although I read the print version of The Times most days, I used to enjoy the online version as well.  Guardian Law is excellent, but I wonder if they would have enjoyed such support and following had Times Law not gone behind the paywall.  This is not to denigrate Guardian law – quite the opposite…it is excellent.  I am now reading Times Law again online… and paying my £8 a month to do so..even though I already pay for my print version. The Times article, if you wish to read it (and if not subscribing, subscribe) ...is here.

The Queensland floods have been both devastating and on an extraordinary scale. I have a very good friend in Brisbane.  She lives on one of the more hilly parts and is fine.  Others were not so lucky.  I am full of admiration for the calm way (at least as far as reports I have seen reveal) Australians have reacted to it. Hopefully loss of life will not increase significantly, or at all.  Fellow blogger and tweeter Peter Black, a university law lecturer in Queensland, tweeted about the floods regularly and provided some astonishing pictures.  Hat tip to Peter. Google has an information page and if you wish to donate to the flood fund, you may do so from here. Other Australians managed to retain their humour saying that Brisvegas has changed to BrisVenice.

And just to lift your spirits a bit… RollonFriday.com reports….

Man in court over defective penis pump

A Canadian man appeared in court last Friday after suing the manufacturers of a penis pump. The claimant, who is wisely remaining anonymous, said that he was an amateur body builder, and “my body grew and I wanted the rest to follow“. So he spent $262 on an X4 Extender Deluxe Edition enlarger, which promised to “increase penis length and girth“…… More?

Well… at least those who teach Contract and Sale of Goods…will have a rather different example to use for illustrating the possible application of express terms and implied terms under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 as amended…should we have any cases involving the membrum virilis over here.

And something to cheer up lawyer bashers…. RollonFriday reports…

Exclusive: Herbert Smith to pay lawyers £10 an hour
Herbert Smith’s new Belfast outpost is rumoured to be paying its lawyers as little as £10 per hour.

The firm is due to open the office in April, where its lawyers will crunch through large numbers of litigation documents on the cheap – last year Herbies said that it would have a significantly lower cost base than London. And it’s clearly much, much lower. Sources tell RollOnFriday that pay for qualified solicitors is pitched at £10-£11 an hour, and “legal assistants” (that’s paralegals to everyone else) will pocket a mere £7.

Mocking politicians is a perfectly acceptable sport for all… particularly in these Coalition government times.  The White Rabbit has an amusing piece…called….

Mocking Politicians……

Dan Hull..from WhatAboutClients?, a US lawyer and polymath, is always worth a visit…. I enjoyed this post… a very different perspective on legal education,  and well worth a read. I’ll give you a taster…

Why Are You Paying New Law Hires? Law Profs Don’t Pay Students To Learn.

He’s saying he didn’t want to be President of the United States so he could stay home and be “Daddy”? Give me a fucking break.

–Billy Bob Thornton’s Carville-like character in Primary Colors

and here is a little bit more…

It is no secret that law professors and law schools are too wimpy/lazy/out-to-lunch/greedy to teach them anything, and loyalty to commercial institutions is at an all time low. If marginal or even very good hires get the greatest benefit in the first 2 to 3 years from the firm-associate relationship–and they almost always do–don’t be chumps. Pay only a few of them; let the rest pay your firm. Law school professors do not pay students to learn. Why should you?

More…

My good friend and fellow blogger, John Bolch of Family Lore, … has a blunt and to the point blog post this week:

Justice for All campaign: Pissing into the wind?

And…. Babybarista…

Car crash barrister

And… a bit of gratuitous politics…. not that it matters until 2015…

The BBC reports: Ed Miliband said he’s pleased many Liberal Democrats see Labour “as the main vehicle for their hopes in the future”

I just wish that more Labour supporters saw Ed Miliband in the same way…. not the choice of members, not the choice of MPs, Miliband holds office by virtue of Union votes. That’s fine….those are the rules.  That’s democracy.  I find him rather dull.  I don’t see him as an inspiring prime minister in waiting…. he would probably make quite a good Maitre D’

Well… there we are….

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: Ashes to Ashes but not dust to dust….

As we waited last night for England to go 3-1 up in The Ashes there were some amusing jokes about our cousins from OZ...who don’t enjoy losing at anything, but particularly not cricket against England.  “What do you call an Aussie with a bottle of champagne at The Ashes?…. A waiter”….”What do you call an Aussie holding The Urn? …… An undertaker”…and so it went on…

I shall miss the ‘allnighters’ and the pleasure this year was definitely enhanced by being able to watch/listen and tweet with others on twitter.

hu·bris

[hyoo-bris, hoo-]

–noun

excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.
There are dangers and pride does often come before a fall as is well demonstrated by Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of The United Kingdom….now enjoying a 7% poll for support for his Lib-Dem party and the general opprobium of a very mixed group of people throughout the country. A question put on Any Questions tonight was interesting…..”Are control orders being repealed because of necessity or to bolster the standing of Nick Clegg.”

For my part, control orders as they presently stand are a blight on our legal system but we are not privy to the real needs of the security services and I don’t have any immediate answer to the problem of detaining known terrorists without compromising security service sources or methods in court through prosecutions.  The UK Human Rights blog considers: Control orders: what are they and why do they matter?

‘Virtual house arrest’ to go but control orders for terrorists will stay

The Guardian: Nick Clegg admits that government will retain restrictions for terror suspects who cannot be prosecuted in British courts

From MP to HMP

David Chaytor, former MP….or now prisoner No1223456789…  has gone down for 18 months , sentenced by Mr Justice Saunders after pleading guilty to three charges of false accounting in relation to his Parliamentary expenses. The UK Human Rights blog observes… “Three other men – Elliot Morley, James Devine and Lord Hanningfield (Paul White) – are still awaiting trial for similar offences under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 (false accounting), and will take little solace from the sentencing.”

If they do not plead guilty….they may well go down for longer if convicted.

What can David Chaytor expect now he has been sentenced?

Guardian: Editor of prisoners’ newspaper ConVerse, Mark Leech, gives a taste of what life will be like inside for the former MP

But… will he find GOD?  Will a book be coming out in time for Christmas next year?

I understand that other files have been sent to the DPP and it may be that some MPs who overdid the flipping and raiding of the John Lewis catalogue were lucky not to face the same fate.

Hat Tip to fellow tweeter @Taxbod for drawing attention to this classic from Peter Cook….

Peter Cook’s biased judge sketch (complete)

Watch the movie… it is still a wonderful piece of satire….. superb

Would the fountain of your mind were clear again, that I might water an ass at it.

Troilus and Cressida

I rather liked this internet gizmo from 1996….a Shakespearian *Insult generator*

While avoiding specifics, Nick Clegg makes the right sounds on libel reform

The Guardian: Lib Dem leader’s promise to publish a draft defamation bill shows recognition that free speech has been curtailed in the UK
There is no doubt that libel law does need to be reformed… but as Nick Clegg appears to have reprised The Ancient mariner and shot the albatross… I suspect that he is not the best person to front this…I would be most interested to hear from libel lawyers on this…… and you won’t get an email from me referring you to Pressdram v Arkell. (David Allen Green in his Jack of Kent blog explains the reference to Pressdram v Arkell if you are not aware of the meaning.)

Delighted to see that RollonFriday has returned after the great British shut down over Christmas and is leading the 24 hour rolling news carnival with…

Law firm bans pooing at work, it’s claimed

A law firm in Leeds has been accused of banning its staff from doing number twos at work after a pipe burst in the recent cold snap.

And excellent news…. which may well keep me busy for a while in 2011…

MoJ to extend Freedom of Information Act

The Law Society Gazette reports….. “More public bodies are to be opened up to public scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), the Ministry of Justice announced today.

The MoJ said it will extend the scope of the FOI to make it easier for people to find and use information about the public bodies they rely on. Bodies such as the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial Services Ombudsman and higher education admissions body UCAS are to be brought within the scope of the FOI, as are companies wholly owned by public authorities.”

FINALLY… if you are not prognosticated out…..this from the Law Society Gazette

Prominent legal figures give their predictions for 2011

And..that is enough from me….

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: Christmas 2010 edition

Dear Reader,

This will be my last Postcard From the Staterooms before Christmas, so I thought I would start with a picture of me and Vince Cable.  Can you tell the difference? Have you ever seen us in the same room together?

I am, as it happens, looking forward to Christmas.  I shall spend it alone, through choice…and I shall paint and write.  It is quite possible that I shall also tweet.  Last  Christmas Day I painted a Charonasso as part of my F**kArt series….

I have no idea what painting I shall do on Christmas day this year… but, I suspect, it will be mildly surreal.

They say it will be a White Christmas this year.  A quick look outside the window and the hysteria on the news channels confirms that this may be so.  Fortunately, I do not need to travel anywhere – all supplies needed are but a hundred yards away and I have a spade. I am quite handy with a spade, given my experience as a gravedigger when I dug graves to assist with my bar and legal education bill when I was reading law all those years ago.

The Assange coverage continues unabated and while I have taken the view, not unreasonably, that due process should take its course, the news coverage continues unabated. There is, of course, a certain irony in this…..from The Australian.

Lawyers cry foul over leak of Julian Assange sex-case papers

And The Guardian / Observer has covered all bases by being critical of Mr Assange : Julian Assange furore deepens as new details emerge of sex crime allegations and here: 10 days in Sweden: the full allegations against Julian Assange

I can only repeat my view that trial by twitter/press or television is just not acceptable and repeat that I have absolutely no view on whether Assange is or is not guilty of the rape allegations (however defined)  – for one can only be guilty in terms of the prosecution of crime when found to be so by a court.

The blogger formerly known as Iain Dale has waded into / climbed aboard the Assange bandwagon by writing for Middle England by turning it into a political issue…as, of course, others have done. Iain Dale flagged his Mail on Sunday story on twitter several times  suggesting that he may ‘upset’ a few people. Here is the Dale piece…

He preaches openness but demands privacy. He reveals ‘secrets’ but 99% are prurient gossip. He’s accused of rape but won’t face his accusers. Why do the Left worship the WikiLeaks ‘God’?

I am pleased to report on a matter of far greater importance than Mr Dale’s views on Assange that The White Rabbit is back in London. This means …. drinks with Charon…soon.  The White Rabbit’s blog is always worth a visit.  The White Rabbit reports…..

Finally… a very interesting article in The Independent…

Who’s afraid of the interweb? Judges to rule on Twitter in court

The Independent: Should journalists be allowed to tweet from court?

It’s become a question of some urgency since Tuesday, when district judge Howard Riddle gave the nod for reporters to tweet proceedings from inside Westminster Magistrates’ Court during Julian Assange’s bail hearing. It is a matter of such importance that the Lord Chief Justice has already announced there is to be a consultation on live reporting.

Tuesday’s ruling prompted some commentators to hail the dawn of a new era. By Thursday, however, journalists, bloggers and others interested in reporting how justice was being done in Assange’s case were back to good old-fashioned pen and paper after Mr Justice Ouseley ruled against posting to Twitter from court. Too distracting, he said.

Too distracting? In my experience, courtrooms can be uniquely distracting places. Silence in court, while an irreproachable instruction, is hellishly difficult to achieve. Courts have to contend with a cacophony of sneezing, coughing, whispering, endless standing up and sitting down, heavy things being dropped, paper shuffled, possessions ordered and reordered, quietly dramatic entrances and exits, muttered remonstrations, water being poured, gulped and spilt, prodding, tapping, snorting and grunting, and that’s just the lawyers.

Any “disturbance” caused by people tweeting is arguably minor by contrast. After all, electronic devices can be switched to silent.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no statutory ban on tweeting in court. While the pre-digital age Contempt of Court Act 1981 does not allow sound recordings to be made without the court’s permission, and prevents photographs being taken or sketches made in court, it doesn’t prohibit creating text using electronic devices. Judges do, however, have the power to set the rules for behaviour in the courtroom and that is why Mr Justice Ouseley was able to rule against tweeting in the High Court last week.

Judging by some of the tweeting I see late at night – and participate in…. I suspect that the judicial rules on tweeting from court should contain a requirement that the tweeter be sober.

Have a good week..and, of course, a good Christmas.

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: Heavily Redacted Edition

Dear Reader,

It has been a couple of weeks since I last wrote.  It has been a busy period and events have conspired to lead me to think that I should spend more time on art, literature and the decent…or , as @CarlGardner suggested to me on Twitter tonight – ‘indecent’ things in life and spend less time writing  about the venal, the foolish and the unpleasant.

I’ve been blogging or writing about law for a long time and not just since 2006 when this WordPress version started. I enjoy doing so and do so for enjoyment. WordPress tells me that I have written 2586 blog posts since 2006. Mon dieu…. tilting at windmills or what?  I’ve probably written more words than those million mythical  monkeys on typewriters with less result… but it matters not a jot because all blogging and tweeting is blown to the wind very quickly. I care not at all for stat porn, honours, awards or the ephemeral pleasures of fame which some lawyers seem to seek on twitter and elsewhere.  I believe that lawyers, whether academic or practitioner,  should be ruthlessly independent and neither court nor give ‘adulation’ – for, otherwise, how can they do their work without fear or favour or ‘fear of getting favour’?  I do not *do* heroes. I respect and like many and that works for me.

I spend a lot of time on twitter and barely a day goes by without some lawyer or law firm (many from the US but, increasingly, from the UK as well) pushing themselves or their ‘product’ and some do it so badly by ‘broadcasting’  that it verges on the risible.

AND then, of course, there are those who, with little experience themselves of the medium in a social sense, run courses or write books or vacuous articles on how lawyers can use ‘social media’.  I shall be writing about these denizens of twitter soon… probably in the context of Muttley Dastardly LLP posts. I shall, of course, ensure that I set up 500 + mirror sites, encrypt the file to 256, and give the key to a mate so that if ‘anything happens to me’, this ‘thermonuclear’ file can be read as my body explodes in the crematorium due to excess alcohol from wine at my funeral.

Well.. there we are…..  I am fairly certain that this post does not contravene the US Espionage Act 1917 and as I have no plans to visit any European countries in the near future,  there is little prospect of being extradited via those countries to face the wrath and justice of Mr Huckabee-Finn, Sarah Palin and other assorted nutjobs for ‘treason’.

Back tomorrow with some vaguely sensible stuff on law…

Have a good week and try not to have nightmares about Wikileaks or European Extradition Warrants.

Best, as always

Charon

PS.. if you are worried about European Extradition Warrants and the events today in relation to Assange’s arrest and the judge refusing bail.. this excellent post from Carl Gardner may be reassuring.  I am doing a podcast on this issue with Carl Gardner on Friday afternoon.

Extradition proceedings against Julian Assange

Postcard From The Staterooms: Raymond Chandler edition…

The law isn’t justice. It’s a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.
Raymond Chandler

Dear Reader,

I spliced the main brace last night in a bar and ended up three sheets to the wind. The broad I met in the bar  was taken aback. From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away. Thought I was for the high jump when I lurched past a cop working undercover in a PCSO hi viz jacket.  As Raymond would have said…He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food. It was cold enough outside to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. I was at a loose end,  and our work is, after all, money for old rope. Hadn’t had a square meal for hours which is probably why I was over refreshed… Normally, of course I accept all drinks invitations at the drop of a hat and I am sure  a friend who was holding a goddam fireworks party  took my excuse on the phone that I was on a CIA Extraordinary Rendition flight  with a pinch of salt.

But hook or by crook, I was determined to get to a bar for a spot of grog. Needed a hair of the dog anyway, but at the risk of flogging a dead horse and not wishing to be a fly in the ointment I did make the call to excuse myself from my friend’s soiree en famille avec le fireworks… I don’t do en famille…period.  I made my way over the water to get to the bar at World’s End.  I used the bridge.  I save the Jewish magic tricks for Easter.  I don’t have feet of clay and these days one has to stand up and be counted, throw one’s hat into the ring…. you understand, I am sure. Anyway… I would not be worth my salt if I had chickened out of hitting the bar. I grasped the nettle, knowing that I would not have to pay through the nose there and it is not as if I had drunk a Mickey Finn…

And talking about Mickey and his Finns…. today I woke up in the dead of dawn and took a walk along the river.  It was cold, but it was quiet…and I turned up my collar.  The homburg kept my thoughts and heat in my head.  I read Raymond Chandler as a lousy kid…and when I say lousy… these were middle class lice… some of them had even been at Eton judging by their effortless arrogance as they scrummaged in the Wall Game of  my hair.  OK… I may be lying… about the lice…. but at least I am not a prospective parliamentary candidate for a part of Oldham...wherever that is.

Raymond…. we got on first name terms when I was young….even though I never met him….. Raymond could be rude about the English…. “The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.” I’d say that was fairly rude…. but he had a good way with phrases…” She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.” I was younger then….. These days when a broad smiles… I check behind me…..and if no-one is behind me I check to see if she is wearing a parking attendant outfit.

On that note…. I leave you with one final Chandler quote…. one of my favourites… “Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.”

Best, as ever…have a good week

Charon in a hat

The quotes and sentences in italics are pure Raymond Chandler….

And now for some *Real Life* – Sally Bercow and Mr Speaker according to The Daily Mail… wonderfully British…… barking…

Postcard from The Staterooms: Tales from Battersea Square edition

Dear Reader,

I live in an apartment on The Thames at Battersea.  Within a 100 yards is Battersea Square – a tree strewn, cobble stoned ‘triangle’ with cafes, a hairdresser, The Battersea Rickshaw (A fine Indian restaurant), Barrio (a bar), a dry cleaning shop and an estate agents.   Being a creature of habit, I have breakfast, invariably falling in the door at 8.00 am (9.00 am on Sundays), at Mazar, a Lebanese cafe bar run by Marlon and his extremely friendly team.  ( I always eat the same breakfast – see my *About* section and smoke Marlboros, drink coffee, read papers and watch the world go by)

I’ve only been living in Battersea since February – but I have met some very amusing people in The Square.  With their blessing, I thought I would write about a few of the people I have met.

First – Alyson Jackson, a designer, who has a shop packed with unusual furniture, lights, rugs, and general ‘curiosities’. Alyson is running a campaign to *Say NO to the new road changes being proposed to Battersea Church Road*.  If you live in the  Battersea Square area – please contact Alyson for further details, if you want further details.  I am always interested in art and anything to do with art.  Alyson was even kind enough to buy one of my absurd F**kART drawings!  I was flattered! I won’t, however, be taking up her habit of jogging past looking athletic and fit.  I do admire those who jog.  I find it easier to get on a bus these days.

I like her shop Mish-Mash – and, if you are looking for unusual furniture, paintings, gift items – why not have a look at her website, or even better – drop in to her shop.  You never know… I may be drinking Lebanese Red in The Square and I would be delighted to meet you should you find yourself down here!   I do not, however, have *opening hours* – so I may or may not be in The Square!

And so… to cricket… and The Lashings World XI.

I enjoy cricket.  I watch it – Test and One Day Internationals. I no longer play it and even when I did, I did so badly as befits a hack player.   I am looking forward to The Ashes.  Long time resident of Battersea Square – he appears to run his business empire from a table outside  at Mazar with his iphone and iPad and a mad dog called Buddy who barks at postmen – is David Folb, who owns Lashings World XI and a nightclub bearing the same name in Kent.

I am talking with David about the possibility of lawyers playing against some of the great legends of cricket – many of whom meet with David regularly at his table outside  at Mazar; including Henry Blofeld, the great cricket commentator, who I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday. I’ll say no more at present on this….but the Lashings World XI website will give you a hint at what I am planning in this direction.  It may or may not come off – but if you are a lawyer and are interested in cricket and interested in talking to me about *A Plan*….  please contact me by email and I will call you back.   Have a look around the Lashings website if you are *into cricket*

 

And… you just have to love that logo – which I first saw on the side of a black Range Rover which parked up in The Square when I first arrived.  Wonderful!

 

More on this when I know more – but I am keen to see lawyers take on some serious cricketers.  Who wouldn’t want to bowl out Richie Richardson or knock a legend for SIX?

You may like to scroll down and read up on some law? This being a law blog n that! Or click on link…

Law Review: Troop abuses – Counter terror – Torture – Civil liberties review

So… my life is not just unremitting legal analysis and tilting at windmills….

@SARYAPPLES UPDATE

@Saryapples said she would abseil and she has…. here is the original post… if you wish to support the charity she did it for.

BRAVO!

Have a good week

Best, as ever

Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: CSR edition

Dear Reader,

It just becomes more surreal.  Not that I am complaining – a most amusing week.  Politicians explained the Comprehensive Spending Review – Beaker was filmed doing an interview (Above) with members of the public/activists… whatever…exercising their right to express their views, and twitter broke down, predictably, on tribal lines to debate the merits/demerits of the Coalition Government’s plan to *Wreck Britain/Save Britain* (You choose).  Cameron announced that a second aircraft carrier would be built after all – largely because it was too expensive to cancel – but there would be no planes to put on it because it now appears that General Dannatt and others think that aircraft carriers are too vulnerable and we don’t actually need them.   Then HMS Astute, a new hunter killer submarine, went aground during tests in the the waters off the Isle of Skye.  The good news is,  as we are not fighting the Russians in the plains of Germany, we have to plan what to do with 20,000 troops and 350+ tanks etc in Germany.  I would imagine that the Germans will be happy to see us leave?  A Russian submarine, however, was sighted 70 miles off the coast of Britain – but we couldn’t see it, because our Nimrods are being scrapped…and there is talk of the perfidious French helping to guard our shores – prompting inevitable comment about Trafalgar, Waterloo, Vichy France and general and sundry ‘surrender monkeying’.

And so… to other matters…

We don’t bribe people in Britain… well…. sometimes we may have done… when it comes to consolidating arrangements with foreign regimes in the the Middle East who buy a lot of arms from us.  And.. there is a new Bribery Act which is keeping City Co-Co lawyers busy and angst ridden in terms of what advice they can give to their corporate clients.  We want to host the World Cup soon…. possibly to ensure that we actually qualify for the first round. It appears that FIFA officials have been taking bribes.. who would have thought such a thing possible?  This week we have seen *Shrek Wreck*….. a saga of a rather thick footballer with a predilection for shagging grannies and tarts, apparently,…. posturing with the aid of his agent and, this very morning… pictured in the tabloid press grinning away with his new title of the World’s most expensive footballer on £250,000 a week. This is good news for The Treasury.  As Mr Rooney is widely believed to have enough difficulties with English – according to the popular press commenters – it is unlikely that he will be found doing a bit of tax-exiling in Monaco or other exotic parts where *foreign* is spoken. It does seem rather obscene that a footballer can earn so much, yet do so little for the England Team…I suspect that some of his fans, who may well be suffering real hardship soon.. may find the earnings a bit excessive? Hey.. what do I know..? I know nothing about football..and don’t actually care what he does or earns.

Expenses: police urged to reopen prosecution into Baroness Uddin

Telegraph: Police have been urged to reopen a prosecution into the expenses cheat peer who was this week suspended from the House of Lords after illegitimately claiming £125,000 in parliamentary allowances.

I was listening to Radio 4 recently where sundry Lords were explaining – rather earnestly – that The House of Lords had to restore credibility with the cap-doffing, forelock tugging, public.  The House of Lords, in my opinion, is an outmoded ‘form’  for the 21st Century and with one peer currently being prosecuted for fraud: Lord Taylor – and three peers being suspended this week, including the truly astonishing Baroness Uddin (quite apart from star jailbird performers from a bygone era,  Lords Archer and Conrad Black) the percentage of dodgy peers to ‘good peers’ seems to be growing.  Time to get rid of the whole shooting match, including the rather absurd titles, and replace it with a second Chamber where *grandeur*   is not part of the realpolitik of government.  I have no problem with the good peers putting themselves up for election.  There is, without question, a great deal of talent in the Lords.

And..finally… I invited John Hirst, aka Jailhouselawyer, to do a guest post on prisoner votes.  It has generated a lot of heat and a fair bit of light.  Tomorrow, I am doing a podcast with Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer and author of The Head of Legal blog, on this issue.  The Law is the Law – politics and sentiment, a quite separate issue.

Finally… been a long day…. the only cleb I follow on twitter…. at least he engages and I am enjoying his book!

and if you fancy an amusing article with a serious point … here is one from @suzannemoore197

 

Have a good one

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: Bananaskins edition

It has been an unusual week. A Dragon and twitter self publicist made a bit of a fool of himself on twitter and despite fanboys and girls rushing to his rescue to praise the heroic twitterer without stopping to thoroughly consider what was being said, Duncan Genocide (Copyright Harry & Paul) managed to issue a rather sinister tweet on twitter to @sharongooner…and I quote: “Just so you know.  If anyone believes your silly tweet & if it hurts my family I will sue you for as much as I can.” I covered the ‘incident’ on my blog yesterday [Duncan Genocide doesn’t seem to understand Twitter that well – a personal opinion…not a LIBEL! ].

I find it curious that a man who is reputedly 167th in Britain’s Rich list, worth over £370 million and who has a Titanium Amex card, apparently, could wish to sue someone who is not rich for as ‘much as he can’. This smacks of bullying.  The likelihood of Bannatyne actually winning a libel case in that context was remote – and it would have been a foolish thing to do because the British don’t like bullies and, I suspect, there would have been a Streisand Effect on twitter and on the net.
To be fair to Bannatyne – even though he has blocked me (Presumably because I parodied the Dragons? ) he does do a lot of good work for charity and it is right that he should protect his family. For a man whose judgment in business is obviously extremely good – this was not apparent on twitter yesterday.  Having reflected on the matter overnight, and learning from Sharon Gooner’s tweets that there will be no litigation against her, I think it probably not unreasonable to put this incident down to a “bad day on twitter“. I won’t, however, be following his ‘tweets’ (a) because I am blocked from doing so and (b) because I can’t be arsed to follow anything Bannatyne does from now on.  Lord Sugar is far more amusing, far more interesting and… I understand… far richer!  I shall make him a few more quid by buying his new book.  I enjoy autobiography and, I hear, it is rather good.  Apparently, Private Eye thinks so!

Talking of bullying… I am not too keen on the handling of an important law student  issue recently by RollonFriday. I think it was a bit cruel.  To be fair…RollonFriday did ask for observations from twitter users and I responded by saying they would get a bit of flack.  Judge for yourselves.  The original story by Carly Moore-Martin in The Law Society Gazette is here…

The training contract lottery

And RollonFriday’s treatment (uncharacteristically brutish?) is here.

I think that RoF would be better sticking to ‘sticking it to Law firms and Law Schools’ – which they do well. RoF – again being fair – is usually on the side of students, so I am a bit baffled as to why they went for Carly Moore-Martin in the way they did.  Perhaps they will make it up to her?  (Hint!)  They suggested it was because they wanted to encourage debate in their tweet.  I hope Carly Moore-Martin is thick skinned – she certainly seems to have the nouse to write an article on her predicament in The Law Society Gazette – and that takes a bit of nerve – and full marks to the Gazette for running the story.

I wish Carly Moore-Martin well..and, for the record, I take my hat off to all students who fund their own law studies, provided they know the facts about the profession, and wish them well. It is a hard profession, particularly in these difficult times – and I would never discourage anyone with a reasonable prospect of getting a 2.1 from a reasonable university (as here) from having a go – if they are absolutely certain they understand the risks.

WEST LONDON MAN….LIVES and RETURNS!!

Right… just to let you know… that George, WEST LONDON MAN, was released from custody at La Guardia airport New York through the excellent representation given by experienced New York Defense lawyer, Scott Greenfield (who writes the excellent Simple Justice blog) and will soon return to this blog… writing away now!

If you have never read West London Man – a social satire – and wish to do so here are the first 25 episodes. There are even podcasts and I play the part of George.  My ex-wife plays the part of Caroline and Scott Greenfield plays himself in episode 25 and Colin Samuels US lawyer from California and writer of one of my favourite blogs Infamy or Praise, and a good friend, who helped me write the last three episodes, plays…. Hank, the US lawyer and La Guarda guards!.

Read /  Listen to Episodes 1-25 of WEST LONDON MAN!

Season II Episodes 1-12 coming soon……

Have a good weekend

Best, as always

Charon

***

STOP PRESS – MARR AGAIN… taken from my Comments section from Pragmatist…

Great stuff, though surely Mr Marr’s little effort from last Sunday rates a mention in the Bananaskins edition? It’s still doing well on Twitter… https://twitter.com/#!/search/andrew%20marr

***

STOP PRESS:  Saturday night 22.50 pm

DRAGON LEAVES TWITTER IN A PUFF

Oh dear… DB may be gorn! He didn’t like the ‘haters’…so for that reason he is *OUT*… ah well….. there we are…. That’s twitter….. sometimes it can backfire…..

Sharon Gooner retaliated on twitter this evening – which,  while not the sort of thing a lawyer would have advised – is totally understandable.  She was slagged off by many of Bannatyne’s twitter followers.  She is not a celebrity.  She is a woman who works and tweets.  Below you will see an example of the  unpleasantness she has had to endure on twitter.  This, even without knowing Bannatyne personally, is not something I would imagine he would have any truck with. His  *Supporters* need to think carefully about this – because, as sure as eggs are eggs, mainstream media will pick this up – and that won’t be a pleasant experience. They also need to think about whether it is fair to tweet so unpleasantly about someone else?  Time to apologise, make up and stop the nonsense?  It takes a BIG man to apologise or resolve and make up.  Bannatyne is a big man… he does a great deal for charities but will he be here ?

A Bannatyne supporter doing his bit for BIG Society and The National Interest on Twitter tonight… why do we bother?  I am fairly certain that Bannatyne would be horrified by this…

This rather unpleasant man lives in *Shittie Swindon* – his words on his own profile when I looked tonight.  @s1monsays

And while you are at it.. do look at this…..  Matt commented on my earlier post.. this post is worth reading

A Brave Heart in the Dragon’s Den

Further update…

I very much doubt that this man would have the nerve to say this to Sharon Gooner’s face…and that is the problem with people like him.  I notice that he is perfectly charming to Dragon Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne.. so he is clearly not orf his head on booze as far as one can ascertain looking at his time line.

Does Bannatyne really want PR supporters and *Google juice* like this…..?  I don’t think so….

I am publishing this – unpleasant though it is – because I feel very strongly that twitter and Google and decent manners and humanity is rather more important than the vanity of a Dragon and his absurd followers*  (Those who indulge in the above).

Enough is enough Mr Bannatyne. Tweeting to those who follow you to say *don’t stoop to the level of the haters* is just not good enough.  You called lawyer David Allen Green *Big Boy* yesterday (See post of yesterday) ..are you a *big enough man to sort this amicably with Sharon Gooner*?  I do hope so.

 

AND THIS WONDERFUL PARODY IS FIRST CLASS… FROM THE UGLY TRUTH…..

 

Duncan Bannatyne Walks Into A Bar…

Postcard From The Staterooms 12 September 2010

This week, after thinking it might be a good idea to drink some cider for a change (it wasn’t), my postcard may well ramble more than usual…..

It has been quite a week. An ignorant bigoted self styled pastor managed to attract world wide interest and the attention of the President of The United States for his offensive plan to hold a ‘Koran Burning’ session.  I commented on this in a post yesterday but I would like you to have a look at this wonderful post on 9/11 if you haven’t already seen it from Meg Cabot.  It is a strong piece of writing about 9/11

With the Pope on his way…. Geoffrey Robertson QC, Richard Dawkins and a host of others wanting to arrest/criticise/vilify him… I thought I would balance things up a bit with this wonderful movie which I heard about tonight on Twitter…

This is fun if you like a bit of Papal Bull (via @Colmmu) http://youtu.be/i6ULDSNf87A “Twat in the Hat”

Put the pope in the dock

Geoffrey Robertson QC: Legal immunity cannot hold. The Vatican should feel the full weight of international law

I enjoy twitter. I enjoy social media and, obviously, I enjoy blogging. Are people one comes across on twitter and through comments on blogs any less real because it is an online experience?  I don’t think so – and certainly not for those I have met, podcasted with or talked to over the telephone as a result of meeting them online.  I would even say that others I tweet with regularly are ‘real’ in the sense – whether I agree with them or not – that they interest me and I look forward to reading their latest thoughts on twitter.   Suzanne Moore summed it up rather well in her Daily Mail column.

Charles Christian, who I have known for many years – has another side to his life….here is a tweet from earlier this evening… (I did offer to be a dysfunctional Rioja drinking walk on… so… maybe?)

This is @ChristianUncut’s tweet: Latest episode of my diary of a novel: I’m now turning all my major characters into deeply flawed human beings. http://bit.ly/boxVJY

Many will write about Lord Bingham who died yesterday. I think his words are a more powerful obituary than the many being written – and I am confident that those who write will not be offended by my comment, for their obituaries are strong and honestly written.  My own post is here.

A remarkable man – but I chose his penetrating statement about the Iraq war as one of countless thoughts he had, expressed in talks, lectures, books and judgments, to sum up his remarkable contribution to British life and not just legal history, but our history.  Afua Hirsch writes in The Guardian…and I quote…

In his own book, released this year, Bingham described the text of the Magna Carta, with its “no free man shall be seized or imprisoned or stripped of his rights or possessions … except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land” as having the power “to make the blood race.”

“These are words which should be inscribed on the stationary of the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, in place of the rather vapid slogans which their letters now carry,” Bingham said.

I can certainly run with that… I suspect most people can and do….. let us hope government, of whatever complexion, does too.

Difficult to follow that, so I won’t.

Have a good week

Best, as always

Charon


Postcard from The Staterooms: Ball tampering and blog fixing edition

Dear Reader,

I write this week with news, that owing to the exigencies of the international betting market, I had to post my weekly *Postcard* on Monday, as opposed to Sunday.  This has resulted in a lot of greedy, venal, f**ks making a great deal of money.  No money changed hands with me, of course, and recent pictures in the News of The World showing me counting a large amount of money are published out of context.  I quite often spend a happy hour or so of an evening   counting my money and on the evening that particular picture was taken, I was, in fact, watching an episode of The Dragon’s Den and I wanted to get in the mood for the programme.  Context and evidence based analysis and reporting is all.

Talking of greedy, venal, peopleJohn Bolch brings news, on a tweet,  of the well deserved bank holiday for bankers.

So… to Twitter…

Law blogger Jack of Kent a serial twitter user as well – writes with passion (and knowledge)  about the law and backs up his views with practical pro bono support for others  where is able to do so. After being hauled over the coals/challenged by the Transgender community for daring to post about practical issues – he has explained why he is a liberal and what this means to him. What is liberalism?

I don’t always agree with Jack of Kent’s analyses but respect the way he puts analysis and comment together. This does not, of course, mean that I am right.  It just means that I don’t always agree.

There are dangers in all blogging, and the use of twitter,  that the blogger or twitterer will get what I choose to call Popeitis – an infallibility complex. This is rather more dangerous than sitting on top of mountains for a while and then descending with tweets of stone to educate the assembled multitude.

The Social Media Maven pronounces (2010)
Oil on Canvas
Charon

The third category of danger, and one that Jack of Kent may well be ‘guilty’ of, is what I call Zeusitis – sitting on top of a mountain and hurling a few thunderbolts about to wind up Libertarians and other members of the knee jerking and ranting classes. I may well have done a bit of this myself on occasion.  I say ‘danger’ because tweeters seeing Zeusitis tweets are particularly likely to come scurrying out of their lairs – especially late of an evening when over refreshed – and tweet like a beserker or, indeed, if others join in, tweet en masse like a group of Beserkers on a quick raid down the Northumberland coastline.  This, I think, is fair game – they, the Libertarians and ranters, are more than able to cope.  I do enjoy debating with Jack of Kent and, being that it is a debate and not a hearing before a court of justice, I am more than prepared to use every means at my debating disposal to ‘win’ the point – including obfuscation, dissimulation, treachery, blackops and even a bit of law thrown in to spice it up a bit.  Few, I hope, regard this as attacking Jack of Kent – who needs no help from anyone in defending himself!  Fight the good fight, Jack.  Never surrender!

And talking of knee jerking – here is an amusing parody of Iain Dale’s DiaryIain Fale’s Diary

Twitter may also be used to put the boot in….

Tom Harris MP wrote a well reasoned piece on the Save The NHS campaign being pushed by Prezza – making the not unreasonable point that Labour also planned to cut NHS Direct in favour of another NHS proposition – 111.

Tom replied to Prezza with this: @johnprescott I’m sorry you want to make personal comments about me, John. I’ll stick to the politics (fortunately for you).

I rather like the idea of an experienced MP – here a Labour MP –  taking a point of principle, being honest and open and not knee jerking or responding along *Tribal* lines.

Well… the silly season ends with the end of the bank holiday and I am quite pleased that autumn approaches and I can get back to some semblance of commenting on law and do a spot of work.

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: Blue Nun edition

Dear Reader,

In the latest edition of Carter Ruck’s originally named Newsletter they refer to the fact on page 4 that they are acting for a number of lawyers who are on  the Solicitors From Hell website.  Private Eye, obligingly, informs us that Carter-Ruck are on the Solicitors From Hell website as “Premium Players’.

And so it came to pass after much measured judgment by the twitterati (and some outraged knee jerking) on the story that Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, was to be prosecuted for rape…  that he isn’t wanted for rape after all. Quelle surprise.

I may have mentioned it before – and I accept that my irritation with Toby Young is, probably, irrational, but I find him irritating in the extreme. He pops up all over the place, pulling various faces from smug to concerned to imperial, pronounces on a fair few matters he knows (or appears to know) little about and then manages to look even more smug.  It would not surprise me if he has mirrors in every room of his house.  I did, therefore, enjoy reading in Private Eye this afternoon…

THE HISTORY BOYS

TOBY YOUNG was in fine form as he launched into an attack on George Orwell’s essay The Lion and The Unicorn, a mere 69 years after it was first published, in 7 Augusts’ Spectator.

In the essay, written soon after The Battle of Britain, Orwell suggests that the incompetence of the British ruling class was hindering the war effort.  An affronted Young lays into Orwell, writing of the Battle of Britain: “The young men risking their lives to protect Orwell….were nearly all public schoolboys”. Later, he become overwhelmed with emotion: “It’s worth remembering that the few whom we owe so much to were all members of Britain’s ‘clapped out’ ruling class.”

Except, of course, they weren’t.  Some 70 per cent of them were state educated. Only about 200 of the 3000 pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain had been to a public school, and only 4.6 percent were educated at the top 13 public schools.  Even Churchill himself complained about the “almost entire failure of Eton, harrow and Winchester to contribute pilots”.  A fifth of the pilots were foreigners.

I don’t usually extract entire sections – and I do hope the Eye doesn’t mind on this occasion – but apart from it being an excellent piece – it does tend to confirm (for me, at least)  why I find Mr Young irritating. Blue Nun of us are infallible.  But at least we don’t appear on television at every opportunity to pontificate and, one assumes, get paid for doing so.  If Sky, Channel 5, Dave, QVC Channel want to contact me… I can knee jerk with the best of ’em… for a very large fee.  For the Beeb and C4… I’d even do my best to talk sense… for FREE.  Unfortunately, I am now a recluse and will only appear on national television if I am allowed to wear a burqa.

I am happy to draw my readers’ attention to a NEW book for lawyers: THE NAKED LAWYER. Truth can be stranger than fiction sometimes…and this is in the very finest traditions of legal marketing.  I am sure that Dr Strangelove of Muttley Dastardly LLP will be getting in touch. I have read the extract… I particularly liked the threat contained on page 2 of the extract…

Unauthorised duplication of this material in any form is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.  Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

But… helpfully….. The Entrepreneurial Lawyer does cover herself – although, strangely, her pdf would not allow me to copy her words, so I used *GRAB* instead….

Anyway… if you are a lawyer who needs advice and are happy to subscribe to the full 12 volume set to get the revelation and wisdom  of The Naked Lawyerthen here is the link.

I am looking forward to the start of the new legal year, or at least, some vaguely sensible law to write about. Not a lot of law about.  There are, however, stories about crocodiles in the English Channel and  beaches being shut – only to find that the crocodile was a tree trunk.  Last year The Sun had Great White sharks off the coast of Cornwall with useful photographs of Great Whites in South Africa.  I am able to report, following revelations in The Sun this week that 2-3ft long  rats (with pics) are being found all over Britain (compounded by The Daily Mail which reckons there are 60 million of them),  that the news desk at The Sun is almost certainly now being manned by a seven foot long rat, wearing a homburg with a  *PRESS* card  stuck into the band,   having a larf.

On that note… do have a good weekend

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: Stick of rock, cock? edition

Dear Reader,

It has been another quiet week.  August  is always a bit quiet with the courts shut and lawyers away on holiday.  Clegg returned from holiday in Spain, eager to take over the reins of power and even indicated on the Number 10 website, apparently, that “he would be making a high-profile appearance on Monday when he “takes over from David Cameron while the PM is on holiday”.

Fortunately…

Nick Clegg humiliated after Downing Street remove website claims he will be in charge while David Cameron is away

But by 4pm they had removed all reference of Mr Clegg “taking over”.

Experts call for David Kelly inquest

I am not normally prone to the conspiracy theory of life.  I rather suspect, given that we are British, that ‘cock-up’ is more likely than not for some of the strange things we do in our country.  On the issue of the death of Dr Kelly I have more than an open mind.  I am in favour of a rather more full inquest and investigation than the ‘whitewash’ conducted by Lord Hutton was able to provide.

Channel 4 reports: “The original inquest was subsumed into Lord Hutton’s inquiry into the circumstance surrounding Dr Kelly’s death – it concluded that he had died from cuts to his wrist and an overdose of painkillers. Now nine experts, including the former coroner and QC Michael Powers, and Sir Barry Jackson, who is the former president of the British Academy of Forensic Science, have written an open letter to ministers casting doubt on that conclusion. They claim the official cause of death, a haemorrhage from a severed artery, was “extremely unlikely”. They insisted that insufficient blood would have been lost from such an injury – calling the verdict “unsafe”….. “

If it proves to be the case that Dr Kelly did, indeed, kill himself in those woods then so be it.  I’d just like to see clear evidence to support such a conclusion. Senior lawyers and forensic scientists are not prone to writing open letters without good reason.

Terror laws overused by police, research suggests

The Law Society Gazette had an interesting story yesterday: “Less than 4% of people arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 were convicted of terrorism-related offences in 2009, new research has found. Just eight people were convicted out of 207 arrests made under the act in 2009, according to Home Office statistics analysed by legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell. In the 10 years since the act was introduced, of the 1,817 people arrested under it, 235 have been convicted for terrorist-related offences – less than 13%, the research found. The Terrorism Act 2000 gave police new powers to arrest and detain suspects without charge.”

I find this statistic, particularly the 4% statistic for 2009, rather worrying. Coming on top of abuses of RIPA  and other terror legislation, by Police, Councils and other bodies – and plans to give shopping mall security staff power to hand out on the spot fines – it would seem that it is not so much the law that is a problem (and these laws are a problem) but the people who misuse them.

Law chief urges Scots courts: consult the Bible in judgments

I met Lord Mackay briefly when he came to talk to my law students  – a very charming man – and while I respect the right of those who wish to believe, to believe, I am not at all keen on any form of religion continuing to be tied in with The Rule of law.  TheHeraldScotland reports:

One of the most prestigious figures in Scots law is calling on the country’s courts to take biblical teachings into account when administering justice.

Former Conservative Cabinet member Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who served as Lord Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher and John Major as well as holding the post of Scotland’s Lord Advocate, is fronting a campaign which will see bibles sent to every court in the land.  Just because God rested on the seventh day does not mean that we should have to. As the report indicates – Scots judges are aware of The Enlightenment and will, hopefully, continue to dispense justice according to recorded “Law”.

It is fortunate that the writ of Scots Law does not run in England & Wales.  I seem to recall from the BBC programme The Normans one of the Marcher Lords making a Royal emissary from England who tried to deliver a Royal Wit being made to eat it…and the wax seal as well.


If you fancy a diversion from all this law – unusual in my weekly Postcard – have a look at Iain Fale’s Diary  – a most enjoyable read

Then they came for Jackie Milburn

WikiLeaks: We Won’t Be Threatened By Pentagon

The Huffington Post reports:

STOCKHOLM — WikiLeaks will publish its remaining 15,000 Afghan war documents within a month, despite warnings from the U.S. government, the organization’s founder said Saturday.The Pentagon has said that secret information will be even more damaging to security and risk more lives than WikiLeaks’ initial release of some 76,000 war documents.

“This organization will not be threatened by the Pentagon or any other group,” Julian Assange told reporters in Stockholm. “We proceed cautiously and safely with this material.”

While I am all for the principle that we should be given access to information and government should be transparent – I do have concerns that the actions of Wikileaks could put more lives in danger; not just the lives of troops, but also Afghan civilian lives.  Wikileaks say they are going to be responsible about this by removing the names of “innocent people”. Well, we shall just have to see.  If they don’t, it could destroy the respect, trust and credibility Wikileaks has enjoyed in the past.

And finally… here is a Postcard from the Prime Minister…who is on his patriotic holiday in Cornwall….Dave cares….. about us all in Big Society… even on holiday.  I find that touching.


Have a good week

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from the Staterooms: Duke of Edinburgh and CMS Camerons edition.

Dear Reader,

Despite my mild republican sentiments, I am, in fact, a fan of The Queen and I have always enjoyed reports about The Duke of Edinburgh’s more extreme humour.  The Duke’s rather surreal and dry humour is well documented.… I always enjoyed this one for spectacular bad taste…

“Do you still throw spears at each other?” Said in 2002 to a Indigenous Australian businessman.

“Ah good, there’s so many over there you feel they breed them just to put in orphanages.” Said while presenting a Duke of Edinburgh Award to a student. When informed that the young man was going to help out in Romania for six months, he asked if the student was going to help the Romanian orphans and was told that he was not.

The Daily Mash reports that David Cameron has been taking advice from The Duke of Edinburgh.

Camerons invites clients to pay what they want for legal work

The Lawyer reports: “CMS Cameron McKenna has launched a marketing campaign to promote its alternative billing structures, which include a ‘pay what you think its worth’ option, to clients.”

I rather enjoyed this from the article comments section….
Radiohead of The Law Firm World | 5-Aug-2010 3:37 pm

Hi Duncan
I am the CEO of a large Fortune company contemplating a hostile takeover of a major Chinese rival. Our combined market cap is around USD80bn.
Can you handle the M&A work, plus any associated merger filings, and regulatory issues.
I’ll give you a fiver and a bag of revels.

RollonFriday reports: “French court ruling hits law firms
06 August 2010

The major law firms with offices in France may find themselves on the hook for millions, after Allen & Overy was ordered to pay damages to one of its former Paris associates.

As previously reported on RollOnFriday, A&O was taken to court by a capital markets lawyer who’d been given the chop last year. The firm argued that he was self-employed, and as such wasn’t entitled to the huge benefits that accrue under French employment law. However the associate argued that in fact he was a full time employee – and the court has now agreed and ordered A&O to cough up. A spokesman for firm admitted that “the court found in favour of the associate and the matter has now been settled“.

There is always an element of schadenfreude in reading of law firms losing cases of their own……  not, I would have thought, great marketing?

Oh dear….

Watchdog asked to investigate claims Nick Clegg misled parliament

The Guardian reports: “Labour MPs say Clegg covered up information surrounding the £80m loan for Sheffield Forgemasters. The parliamentary standards watchdog has been asked to investigate allegations that Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, misled MPs over the reasons for cancelling an £80m government loan to Sheffield Forgemasters and then tried to cover it up.”

The White Rabbit writes a wonderful mini monograph…

Saturday lunchtime in Birmingham…

Regular readers will know that I read Guido Fawkes fairly regularly – many do, for good reason. Guido has an excellent series going on at the moment *Ed Balls Campaign Diary*.   Here is the latest instalment I have found. I am enjoying it.

Well…. August continues to be fairly empty of law, client work etc etc  and I am enjoying it. I even enjoyed hiding under the umbrella at the cafe bar in Battersea Square today… moving from table 14 to table 15 to avoid the dramatic rains which lasted half an hour.  There was a group of very amusing people under the awning who were there at 12.00 when I arrived for coffee and a glass of vino and still there when I returned at 6.00 for another coffee and a glass…  Way to go!

Best, as ever

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms

With Parliament in recess and the Law ‘Long vacation’ upon us, there won’t be a lot of law for me to write about, so I shall strike while the iron is still hot with this story from the Supreme Court…

Cuts ‘would close supreme court’

Guardian: Chief executive warns public spending cuts of 40% would mean court ‘couldn’t actually deal with any casework’  “At a press conference to mark a first legal year for the highest court in the country, Jenny Rowe said: “As 62% of our costs are genuinely fixed, a 40% cut causes us some problems. We couldn’t actually deal with any casework, in fact, with a 40% cut.” Rowe said that casework was a “priority” for the court, but that after being asked to come up with scenarios of cuts of 25 and 40%, its education and outreach projects looked most vulnerable. Since its launch in October last year, the supreme court has heard a total of 67 appeals and handed down 62 judgments.”

I met Jenny Rowe last summer.  In fact, I enjoyed doing  a podcast with her on the work of the new Supreme Court.

Clearly, we can’t have a situation where the 40% cut requirement brings about a situation where the highest court in the land continues to exist but can’t actually hear any cases.  Even the most repressive of Lord Chancellors  – and Michael Howard, a former Home Secretary, now appearing regularly in ermine in the Lords doing… I know not what…nor care to find out – would pull that stunt.   I have read most of the 62 judgments handed down by the Supreme Court this year.  The new news summaries, the reports being published immediately and the excellent UKCS blog has made a big difference to access to information.  (I have updated the UKSC URL!  My error – I used the old one)

It would be interesting to hear from practitioners who have appeared before the Supreme Court to hear their views.

I can understand the need to close some magistrates courts.  I can understand why – but do not approve of – cuts to the legal aid budget are being made, but if we are to have a meaningful legal system, a strong Supreme Court to administer justice for the people of the United Kingdom (It is not as if the Supreme Court judges are paid fantastic sums of money – they aren’t and most lawyers take significant ‘pay cuts’ when they become judges), we have to resource it.

Lord Hope, deputy president of the court and one of the most senior judges in the UK, said the public had gained since the court’s establishment.

“Our concern is that having started on this enterprise … we should be able to sustain that operation,” he said. “It’s a quite different operation from what we had before [in the House of Lords]. It’s one which can’t be maintained without resources.”

It would be interesting to hear from practitioners who have appeared before the Supreme Court to hear their views.

It takes a fair degree of skill to piss off both Jews and Muslims but David Cameron has pulled the double off with his remarks about Israel and Pakistan. Did he ‘mis-speak’? or was this a well scripted intentional statement?  I can only presume the latter – in which case, bravo, as I think it is high time we had a Prime Minister who is direct.  I rather like the idea also, instead of High Commissioners and Ambassadors coming from the ranks of trained diplomats that we let a few businessmen and assorted hedgies, bankers and ponzi scheme organisers to represent Britain’s interests abroad and drum up some business.

As I find it impossible to take PCSOs seriously – I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful parody. Hat Tip to @OldHolborn for the tip-off.  Wonderful film!

Just a quickie today… I am holidaying at Table 14 at Riviera on Battersea Square at various times during the day and shall be so for the next week.  Indeed, I had a most enjoyable drink or two with The White Rabbit last night and, curiously, we even managed to debate politics and consider the historical position of the Labour party and reflect on the coalition.  More worryingly, we both seemed to come to the conclusion that the Coalition is doing good work on civil liberties, removal of ASBOS and prison policy – but we did manage to express reservations about Osbore and his CUTS policies.  We have not turned into Coalitionites….  The White Rabbit’s blog is always worth a look.  No law on it, though…..!

Best as ever

Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: Drinking Vin Rose in the sun edition

Dear Reader!   Bonjour!,

After a very pleasant evening last night, doing a spot of writing and catching up with my Rioja drinking, I decided to ‘stress test’ my bank by telephoning them to ask if a payment had come in.   I was put through to a call centre and passed the security checks.  I had waited for some time for this and the Rioja had taken hold.  The operator was taken by surprise when I ordered a pizza and then asked him what toppings he had.  He wasn’t very amused. I was a bit over refreshed and rather bored by the long wait.  It can be fun, sometimes, to be an awkward customer with banks.  I shall be writing to The Governor of The Bank of England to say that I am at my country’s disposal in these BIG SOCIETY days should he want any further bank ‘stress testing’ done.

This morning, I rose rather earlier than usual at 4.00. I found many good stories on the online newspapers – NOT The Times of course now they have hidden by a paywall – and, at 7.00,  I walked up to have breakfast at the Battersea Grill near Battersea Bridge.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten that it did not open until 7.30 so I amused myself by buying some more Marlboros, checking my balance on the ATM machine in the newsagent and purchased The Indie and The Sun.

I then saw a guy – almost certainly Nigerian from his accent – nicking tomatoes from a pile of small vegetable boxes left outside the cafe. [I have taught and met a lot of Nigerians so can generally recognise them – and very amusing most of them were!.  I am a fan of the louder Nigerians who laugh a lot.] The man appeared to be slightly drunk. He had an opened  can of cider in his hand.  I asked him what he was doing.  He became very abusive.  I asked him again why he was taking tomatoes which did not belong to him.  One of the waitresses arrived and opened up the cafe.  I told him to put the tomatoes back.  He became even angrier, told me that I could get *kill-ed* for doing this.  I’m getting a bit old for this sort of nonsense but I was relaxed – doing Karate and  Kendo in my youth for many years assisted (Not forgetting my ruthless exercise regime with Smokedo).   He was braced to throw a punch – which suited me just fine.  People who are not trained,  invariably are not balanced when they throw a punch. This is why it is a relatively straightforward matter to side step, grab the assailant’s wrist and use one’s other hand to snap the assailant’s elbow into a locked position and put them down.  The pain from the elbow and pressure applied to the nerves around the wrists drains the assailant’s enthusiasm for fighting fairly quickly. At which point, a foot on the neck tends to discourage further activity.  This is the theory of it – although, unfortunately, I had to use it with a pisshead many years back.

Fortunately, I did not to have  to deploy such methods in middle class Battersea at 7.15 am. After calling me various names, saying that he would wait for me and punch my head in, that I could be *kill-ed* again,  I thought it  best to use the other technique of ‘command and control’ and tell him to  fark orf. Ludicrous man! He did and I settled down at my usual table to have an excellent English breakfast.  I was greedy this morning and asked for  some beautifully cooked chips!

***

A quick return to The Staterooms to do some writing on my new Tort book. This, I have to say, had no appeal at all.  I did read the excellent blog post by lawyer and blogger  Jack of Kent about the win in the libel courts yesterday in the case of Kaschke v Gray, Hilton. This is a very important decision for all bloggers and I raise my hat to Dougans and Jack of Kent for their pro bono work on this, Osler and other matters.  Lawyers do not always get a good press.  These lawyers deserve a bit of praise and they certainly get it from me.

It would be well worth your time, if you are interested in libel law or blogging, reading these:

Victory for Gray and Hilton
Jack of Kent blog post

Judgment: Kaschke v Gray, Hilton.

Kaschke’s response – which I have to say is rather dramatic.  I am, of course, allowed to express an objective opinion on what I have seen published on the internet.

John Gray has become a fat ponze

I came to the view that Ms Kaschke’s blog post,  in response to losing the libel application yesterday, was ‘dramatic’ simply by reading her own opening to her blog post… I quote…

I have to let out the frustrations somehow that I collected today when I sat the High Court to listen to Stadlen J’s useless judgment.

John Gray is just a fat ponze now, he is part of the political establishment, having gotten the Labour Party Councillor post. Alex Hilton has gotten away with his tactics and Robert Dougans looked like a clown who spend most of his time stammering and didn’t know what he was doing. Or maybe his bad conscience over how he tricked me out of my claim, finally caught up with him, it is possible that he still might have a tiny drop of humanity in him, but its not certain…..

It goes on…..

UPDATE

It would appear that Ms Kaschke did not appreciate my comment and giving her an opportunity to respond by linking to her blog post.

Henchman?  Moi?

I won’t, of course, be seeking any legal remedy for being called a *Henchman* – I have better things to do than waste my time on litigation.

Guido Fawkes is usually on the button.  Here is his take on the matter:

Court Report : Loonie Leftie (Tory Party Member) v Hilton & Gray


And so to other matters…..

Catholic church embarrassed by gay priests revelations

Guardian: Vatican on defensive again after magazine exposes priests visiting gay clubs and bars and having sex

And then I went orf to The Square to have an early morning glass of vin rose with my americano and some Marlboros. All in all, an unusual morning.  The day can only get better.  I plan to ensure that this is the case

I asked yesterday on twitter: “To haircut or not to haircut……Whether ’tis nobler on the head to suffer the hacks and cuts of an outrageous barber….or look like Lear? ”  I enjoyed my visit to the choppers in Battersea Square.  A lovely Spanish hairdresser did the business…. I removed the tache myself some weeks ago.

Pic right – I would not, after all, wish my readers to think that I am pictured top left.  That is my alter ego!

Best, as always

Enjoy your weekend

Charon

***

Postcard from The Staterooms: Mackerel edition

Dear Reader,

About every 12-18 months I get cravings for mackerel – especially if they are grilled with a slice of lemon or smoked.  And it was thus this year on Tuesday last that these cravings started.  I have been eating mackerels at a local cafe since.  I now plan to buy some and eat them. It is likely that I shall continue to eat mackerel daily for another week, possibly more.  I shall then move on to prawns.   I was a bit bored on Friday afternoon.  As summer kicks in there is less work to do, fewer cases to analyse or laws to comment on.  I get a bit restless when I have too much time on my hands.  After a good lunch of grilled mackerel and vin rose  on Friday I returned to The Staterooms and went on to twitter.

It was then that I remembered the twitter #film games and I created my own hashtag #mackerelfilms and tweeted “Bring me the head of Alfredo Mackerel” .  It may have been the Rioja I had just poured myself shortly after 2.30 pm. Others joined in… I shall select but a few: @ lesleyalmost The Unbearable Lightness of Mackerel #mackerelfilms,  the former leader of he Libertarian Party UK @IanPJ: Carry on up the mackerel #mackerelfilms, @ lifelessvanilla One more (I promise) Dances with Mackerels #mackerelfilms, @ bnzss: 6million dollar mackerel #mackerelfilms….

I have no idea why I thought it was a good idea to tweet David Miliband and Ed Balls who, it has to be said, have rather more important things on their mind apart from Peter Mandelson’s book The Third Mackerel to worry about than my questions about mackerel.

Charonqc: @DMiliband Hi David… I’ve run out of mackerels… Balls said he’s got some… but I’d rather have your mackerels *Wink Wink* (Votes)  and then in the fine british tradition of playing politicians off against each other (as opposed to them doing it for themselves)….

Charonqc: @edballsmp Ed – I know this is a bit weird… but do you have any mackerels? I’ve ask DM…. if you do…I’ll see you right!

Suffice it to say that quite a few people who may have had a bit of time on their hands on a quiet afternoon piled in – I thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you really have to find out about #mackerelfilms click the link

Unfortunately I lost a few mackerel followers – including my very good friend, but clearly no lover of over refreshed #mackerel tweets @ScottGreenfield..  I know where he is.  He has an excellent blog. I may just pop over there!

Enough about Mackerels and on to a bit of politics…

I have ordered my copy of Mandelson’s book The Third Man – and I am looking forward to reading it.  I have read the serialisation in The Times and listened to pundits and commentators who haven’t read the book either telling me on television and radio about it.   What is truly astonishing, reading the extracts and listening to sundry pundits who once counted Mandelson as one of their closest friends when it mattered, is the sheer chaos of the new Labour government, the strife between Blair and Brown, the vanity of men put before the governance of nation.  I’ve never been a fan of Gordon Brown.  I regarded him years ago as a clever classic Number 2.  The Number 2 in an organisation is often more clever than the Number 1 – but the Number 1 wins because they are able to communicate and connect.  We saw how Brown, inarticulate and dysfunctional to the the point where bloggers and pundits were making jokes about ‘happy pills,’ could not relate to voters and appeared to have a very strong ‘control freak’ streak.   I am looking forward to reading the detail and, also, to reading Blair’s The Journey.  (What a hackneyed title for a book?) because I am interested in political biography.

I don’t think any of these books matter in the real world.  Britain has moved on.  I’m not so sure Labour has. I think the voters decided that they had had enough of Labour and even I, a voter of 30 years, lost patience with their stance on civlibs and political correctness.  It now seems that waste and extravagance abounded and government itself became dysfunctional because of infighting. Tragic – an opportunity wasted?   For my part – I am interested in none of the main contenders for leadership of the Labour Party.  Diane Abbott, I like, and I am sure she would make a good home secretary – but I do not see her as a PM, not that it matters what I think.  The Milibands, Balls and even Burnham were all part of the last regime and while they are keen to quash debate on Mandelson’s book and distance themselves from the events of 13 years of Labour rule – I suspect we will have to wait until the generation after them before we see new thinking acceptable to the public.  It may be, of course, that the Coalition makes a complete pig’s ear of things and an election comes sooner than later and Labour return to power.  I’m not so sure that will happen now.  I rather suspect that we will see a Tory government without  a very much weakened Lib-Dem party before another Labour government gets a taste of power.

What does matter, of course, is how the present government governs….


Ken Clarke says that he has no plans to cut the prison budget.  What he does plan to cut is the budget for legal aid, the judiciary and the courts.  He also plans to put prisoners to work making mailbags and, possibly, plastic cases for iPhone 4s if he can involve the private sector.  At a time when 600,000+ public servants are likely to be looking for work it is probably not a great idea to put prisoners to work.  However, far be it for me to suggest that the government have consistent politico-economic thinking.  That would break a fine and proud tradition of recent British government.  I plan to have a look at this next week….it is the weekend.  This is no time to discuss law.

But just a few more quick items: RollonFriday reports: Solicitors face huge rise in negligence claims: Lawsuits against solicitors were up an incredible 163% in 2009, according to data gathered by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.

210 claims were launched in the High Court in 2009, compared to a mere 80 in 2008 and only 31 in 2007. RPC  suggest that many firms are facing professional negligence claims fuelled by the growth of speculative “no win, no fee” arrangments. Investors (including banks and subprime lenders hit by mortgage fraud) burnt by the failing economy are out looking for scapegoats – and their professional advisors are the first to feel their wrath.

Nick Green QC, Chairman of the Bar has come out in favour of de-criminalising drugs. There are cogent arguments for and against.  I noted this yesterday

+ + + Breaking: Lord Taylor Charged with False Accounting + + +

Guido Fawkes: Troughing Tory peer Lord Taylor of Warwick has been charged for claiming expenses in relation to a house he didn’t own.

Having been brought down by a blogger he’s now on his own, out of the party and in the dock. He’s accused of fiddling the second home allowance by claiming to have spent six years living at the former home of his dead mother.

Developing…

And if you haven’t seen Zac Goldsmith v Jon Snow on Channel 4 news last night – this is classic.  How not to do a TV interview

Zac v Snow

The silly season starts soon.  The courts will close, lawyers and others will go off on holidays and there will be even less business or work for me to do.  This is just fine.  I plan to paint and do a spot of writing.

Best as always

Charon

Update…. This from Twitter…

@ ThetisMercurio

@Charonqc I liked the comment from someone who said you’d smoked one too many mackerels. Struck me as hilarious – the image – Dali-esque

Postcard from The Staterooms: LSA and Social Media for Lawyers edition

Dear Reader

I am a bit late with my postcard this week.  Got tied up with Lord Shagger (posts below) and the World Cup and taking on plenty of liquids, on doctor’s orders after a 24 hour  bout of recurrent malaria on Friday.  I contracted Malaria (and survived, obviously) many years ago in Africa.  They say that it does not recur – but all I can tell you is that every 6-9 months I spend a day shivering and then sweating.  Not a pleasant activity but I am restored to full strength now.  I was not, as @infobunny suggested, being ‘fashionable’ – a reference to Cheryl Cole’s serious attack.

My attention was caught earlier this evening by an article in The Law Society Gazette.

Barristers seek partnership with solicitors

This would for some of my friends at the Bar either be an irrelevance or an apostasy.

Rachel Rothwell writes : “Some 43% of barristers would like to go into business with solicitors, research commissioned by bar regulator the Bar Standards Board has shown today.A YouGov survey of nearly 2,000 barristers and 141 clerks and practice managers revealed that 43% said they would be interested in becoming a manager alongside a solicitor, while 23% would be interested in management alongside non-lawyers.

The bit I liked I have quoted in my cartoon above.  It does not surprise me that only a third of barristers said they had a good understanding of the LSA.  My own straw poll indicated a very much lower figure – this may, of course, be ascribed to supreme indifference to the whole thing.

Solicitors are certainly punting it out there, hyperventilating about SOCIAL MEDIA. Muttley Dastardly LLP issued a helpful bulletin advising solicitors how they may make best use of social media and twitter a few weeks ago.  The Law Society Gazette is at it again with advice on Social media, linked-In etc etc etc.

Is social networking really appropriate for lawyers?

Clare Rodway writes: “Here are some of the typical comments we hear as we talk to lawyers and their in-house marketing teams: I’m not sure about all this hype around social media. I’m not sure if social networking has any relevance to a law firm. I can see that more and more business people are active on the networks, but are they really appropriate places for lawyers to be seen? LinkedIn is becoming quite popular with lawyers, but I can’t see how Twitter is relevant. Does anyone get any business from any of this networking? What’s the return on investment? Help! My managing partner has asked me to develop a social media strategy for the firm and I don’t know where to start!


~My advice?  Don’t even think about it. I am, naturally, quite happy to charge you a substantial sum of money (double if you wish to consult after 6.00 pm) to tell you why you should be very careful about using Social Media to promote your law business!  I’ll give you a hint.  If you don’t *get* twitter you could make a monumental pig’s ear of it.  But… hey… who am I to  stop lawyers making a pig’s ear of things?

Sterilise claimants urges racist H M Treasury website!

Oh Dear.  Osbore & Beaker  don’t really *do* social media. The latest gaffe is not to moderate the website they set up asking for people to suggest ways of cutting the deficit.  Moderating comments is sometimes a good idea.  There are professional agitators and professional nutters out there who enjoy undermining everything.  Unfortunately, I suspect, many of the comments come from real nutters.

I quote from a newsletter… “This is a single issue newsletter asking for your urgent help in getting a government website closed down. The site, set up by the treasury to allow people to suggest ways to cut government spending, is full of hate-filled racist and disablist suggestions, including the sterilisation of benefits claimants, the return of the workhouse and the forced repatriation of asylum seekers and migrants.  Some of the site’s content is so extreme it may even constitute a criminal offence.

The Spending Challenge website was set up on Friday by the coalition government and features an introduction and video on its home page by chancellor George Osborne.

I really liked this.  Good on him and his family….

Holocaust Survivor Dances to ‘I Will Survive’ at Concentration Camp

A Holocaust survivor — along with his children and grandchildren — danced to Gloria Gaynor at concentration camps throughout Europe. Says the video’s uploader, “This dance is a tribute to the tenacity of the human spirit and a celebration of life.”  Watch the film.  Excellent.

And finally…. Twitter can be very enjoyable and amusing. @Nipclaw is a very serious barrister who enjoys and uses twitter well.  I have known her for many years.  The trouble is… I may have seen too many “Carry On” films in my ‘childhood’ and, therefore, just cannot resist her latest tweet this evening – pregnant with several meanings for people like me with too much time on my hands tonight. I may burn in the fires of hell. There are drawbacks to only 140 characters on twitter.

A short postcard… much to do.

Best, as always

Charon


Postcard from The Staterooms: Holidaying in Battersea Square edition

With Parliament in recess and the Law ‘long vacation’ upon us, there won’t be a lot of law for me to write about, so I shall strike while the iron is still hot with this story from the Supreme Court…

Cuts ‘would close supreme court’

Guardian: Chief executive warns public spending cuts of 40% would mean court ‘couldn’t actually deal with any casework’  “At a press conference to mark a first legal year for the highest court in the country, Jenny Rowe said: “As 62% of our costs are genuinely fixed, a 40% cut causes us some problems. We couldn’t actually deal with any casework, in fact, with a 40% cut.” Rowe said that casework was a “priority” for the court, but that after being asked to come up with scenarios of cuts of 25 and 40%, its education and outreach projects looked most vulnerable. Since its launch in October last year, the supreme court has heard a total of 67 appeals and handed down 62 judgments.”

I met Jenny Rowe last summer.  In fact, I enjoyed doing  a podcast with her on the work of the new Supreme Court.

Clearly, we can’t have a situation where the 40% cut requirement brings about a situation where the highest court in the land continues to exist but can’t actually hear any cases.  Even the most repressive of Lord Chancellors  – and Michael Howard, a former Home Secretary, now appearing regularly in ermine in the Lords doing… I know not what…nor care to find out – would pull that stunt.   I have read most of the 62 judgments handed down by the Supreme Court this year.  The new news summaries, the reports being published immediately and the excellent UKCS blog has made a big difference to access to information.  (The UKSC blog hasn’t done much of late.  I hope that this doesn’t mean it is ‘dying’.  That would be a shame.)

It would be interesting to hear from practitioners who have appeared before the Supreme Court to hear their views.

I can understand the need to close some magistrates courts.  I can understand why – but do not approve of – cuts to the legal aid budget are being made, but if we are to have a meaningful legal system, a strong Supreme Court to administer justice for the people of the United Kingdom (It is not as if the Supreme Court judges are paid fantastic sums of money – they aren’t and most lawyers take significant ‘pay cuts’ when they become judges), we have to resource it.

Lord Hope, deputy president of the court and one of the most senior judges in the UK, said the public had gained since the court’s establishment.

“Our concern is that having started on this enterprise … we should be able to sustain that operation,” he said. “It’s a quite different operation from what we had before [in the House of Lords]. It’s one which can’t be maintained without resources.”

It takes a fair degree of skill to piss off both Jews and Muslims but David Cameron has pulled the double off with his remarks about Israel and Pakistan. Did he ‘mis-speak’? or was this a well scripted intentional statement.  I can only presume the latter – in which case, bravo, as I think it is high time we had a Prime Minister who is direct.  I rather like the idea also, instead of HighCommissioners and Ambassadors coming from the ranks of trained diplomats that we let a few businessmen and assorted hedgies, bankers and ponzi scheme organisers to represent Britain’s interests abroad and drium up some business.

As I find it impossible to take PCSOs seriously – I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful parody. Hat Tip to @OldHolborn for the tip-off.  Wonderful film!

Just a quickie today… I am holidaying at Table 14 at Riviera on Battersea Square at various times during the day and shall be so for the next week.  Indeed, had a most enjoyable drink or two with The White Rabbit and, curiously, we even managed to debate politics and consider the historical position of the Labour party and reflect on the coalition.  More worryingly, we both seemed to come to the conclusion that the Coalition is doing good work on civil liberties, removal of ASBOS and prison policy – but we did manage to express reservations about Osbore and his CUTS policies.  We have not turned into Coalitionites….  The White Rabbit’s blog is always worth a look.  No law on it, though…..!

Best as ever

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms: Ingerland fail edition

Dear Reader,

It occurs to me, being a Scot, that Rabbie Burns’ famous poem To a Mouse would be appropriate to celebrate the panache, style, elan and passion demonstrated by the Ingerland team as they disappointed, yet again, a nation of optimists.  The English translation follows…

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.

[Small, sleek, cowering, timorous beast,
O, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With hurrying scamper!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.]

The good news is that all the hyperventilation and hyperbole about ‘OUR BOYS’ will die down.  I have enjoyed the World Cup – the tweets, the hubris….. the schadenfreude  (Particularly the Schadenfreude – a rather good German word)  It’s just a pity that Ingerland aren’t very good at playing football as a team.  When the German goal keeper kicked the ball up field and a German player ran after it, unchallenged in any meaningful way by defenders,  and kicked it into the Ingerland goal, I marvelled. It just got more and more surreal after that. Someone on Twitter said that a Labour MP blamed the Coalition CUTS for the lack in the English defence.

I do feel sorry for the fans – especially those who spent a lot of money getting out to South Africa.  I think there should be a class action to sue the English FA for misrepresentation, deception, passing off and, indeed, badly and perhaps we could even chuck in a bit of nervous shock mixed with  Rylands v Fletcher.  Some of those German players who escaped were pretty dangerous.   That would be new law, but good law!

I even put my Admiral avatar on for the occasion.  I end my coverage of this lamentable World Cup with this…

Back to law tomorrow……

Not all bad though.  England Cricket Team beat Australia in the One Day International and win the series 3-0.  Perhaps The Ashes in Australia is a realistic proposition?

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from our man on The Terraces with a VUVUZELA!

I am not a football fan – I rarely watch football, but I am a fan of the human condition.  So last night, a bottle of Rioja and Marlboros to hand, a Panama hat on my head and a Saltire draped over my shoulders, I settled down to watch a command performance from England’s Best! The tweets I read ranged from irate to hilarious.  I contributed a few thoughts of my own on Twitter – becoming progressively more surreal, it has to be said, as the wine was consumed.

***

Important Notice: BEFORE you go any further please click here – a new window will open (which you can then close… you will probably wish to do so!)

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Dystopia Edition!

Dear Reader,

I had not considered Danny Alexander a deadringer for “Beaker” until I saw the reference and pic on Guido Fawkes – so Hat Tip to Guido. This was largely because I didn’t even know, much less care about, who Danny Alexander was until the Tree Huggers found themselves lining up with fully paid up members of The Genghis Khan Fanciers Society after the election.  I can now see the resemblance all too clearly  I have to say, his public appearances on television have not been impressive.

Lord Phillips defends Human Rights Act

Reading the Law Society Gazette online I was interested in the report of Lord Phillips’ speech where he asserted that The Human Rights Act 1998 is ‘a vital part of the foundation of our fight against terrorism’.

The Gazette went on to report:

In a speech last week, the former lord chief justice said that senior judges were criticised by Charles Clarke when he was home secretary because, in Clarke’s words, ‘the judiciary bear not the slightest responsibility for protecting the public and sometimes seem utterly unaware of the implications of their decisions for our society’.

Defending the judges, Phillips told an audience at Gresham College last week that ‘Charles Clarke failed to appreciate that it is the duty of the judiciary to apply the laws that have been enacted by parliament. It was parliament that decreed that judges should apply the Human Rights Convention and, when doing so, to take account of the judgments of the Strasbourg Court’.

He added: ‘In my opinion, the enactment of the Human Rights Act by the previous administration was an outstanding contribution to the upholding of the rule of law in this country and one for which it deserves great credit.’

Discussing the cause of terrorism in Britain, Lord Phillips remarked that the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ was ‘not so much a military as an ideological battle’. He said: ‘Respect for human rights is a key weapon in that ideological battle.

I think Lord Phillips is right. We are in the midst of war which at best can, some experts say, only produce a temporary command and control over the Taleban and Al Qaeda.  The Taleban have often been quoted as saying that time is on their side.  Are we to wage a permanent war in Afghanistan at present rates of death and injury to our armed forces and those of our allies? – or should we press for more emphasis on talking, more emphasis on listening to why those who wage war against us wage such war?  One thing is for certain – a country without the human rights our law seeks to promote and protect is not a country that I would wish to live in.  Nor would I wish our country to engage in atrocity, to engage in torture, and if we do, I would expect our government not to sanction or condone it and bring those who engage in it to justice.  But there again, our  country would never do such things…would it?

I’m beginning to wonder if a preferred course of action would be to withdraw our troops, deploy our forces along the lines of a defence force , contain the problem here and start what will a long process, with others, to find a peaceful solution that is not reliant on the killing of so many… on all sides.   Hey… I’m talking rubbish.  The gung ho brigade would rather torture the bastards, electrocute their genitals and waterboard them until we get the truth, carpet bomb the fuckers back into the stone age and show them who is boss and sing Jerusalem… oh.. what a lovely war… oh what wonderful irony in the title of our so called ‘national’ song.  Utopia will never happen…. Rule Dystopia…Dystopia rules the f**cking waves.

I don’t really want to write more tonight.

best as ever

Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms-on-Thames: iPad Edition

Dear Reader

I took a short break from Laws and Law this week to spend time with my wine bottles, paints and clay – it being half-term week and, it would seem, advertisers and others being away.  Normal service on some sensible analysis of law and legal events and ‘phenomena’ will resume this week.

I have seen some very smug people with their new iPads this week.  In fact, I had the pleasure of sitting near a table, outside a cafe I frequent, only the other morning and saw three people all with iPads propped up in front of them.  There they were, tapping away at the screen, not talking to each other – I can only assume they were emailing each other…. and one even went and had a look at a newspaper and announced to no-one in particular …. “Yeah!… look!…. The Times iPad edition…. “ I was reading The Times Non-iPad edition…. a paper thing which I had on the table in front of me.

I did find it amusing when one of the iPaddies had finished sending an email… which he could have done from his iPhone, solemnly took his iPhone out its case and made a phone call to tell his friend that he’d just “sent an email from the iPad”  I suppose we could have been on a train and I was… at least… saved from that… “I’m on a train” schtik. He managed to look even more smug as he said it.

This has inspired me, as a ‘homage’ to Dali, to superglue an old, but working,  Nokia to the bottom of a plastic lobster I have had for years.  I now have a very exclusive iCharonphone 5..  I did get a few unusual looks as I called a friend on it at the cafe this morning…. I shall be using it a lot, I suspect…

A quick Hat Tip to a few fellow law  bloggers >>>>>

Simple Justice: Through The Eyes of Scott Greenfield

I like Scott Greenfield… I like his Simple Justice blog (not that he would give a damn, rightly, if I didn’t…) and he always writes incisively with analysis and sometimes a bit of elegant rant to season.  Do take a look if you don’t already. I agree with his attitude to blogging…

I’d also like to mention two other friends of mine who do law blogs serious  (and I have done podcasts with these two law bloggers as well):  Carl Gardner, who writes The Head of Legal blog and JackofKent – whose law blog is a must read for anyone interest in Bad law, Libel and on privacy issues. And for a bit of subtle and mildly anarchic stuff… you have to see The White Rabbit… no law in it usually, though!

I shall be reviewing quite a few UK and other law bloggers this week.  Been a while since I did that… so that is enough for now.

I am beginning to develop a completely irrational antipathy to Mr Clegg – partly based on his perpetual smugness, partly – as Suzanne Moore of The Daily Mail and twitter observed – because he always sounds as if he is in a Leadership debate and partly because I can’t help feel that he is on the make for himself.  I far prefer the simmering curmudgeon Dr Vince Cable, a man of 67 years, who knows a few things who I very much hope will become the next leader of the Real Liberals, when Clegg and his dapper navy suit wearing cronies finally come out of the closet and admit that they are really Tories.

Cuts in the Law sector….

Talking of Dr Cable…. it seems that it falls to him to consider cuts for the University sector.  I have had a long and not always happy association with the public university sector when it comes to law schools.  There are some superb public sector law schools and there are some not so good ones.

I suggested at a conference some years ago that we might be well served if we closed down a few of the poor law schools at the bottom end of the league table and gave the money to the better law schools.  Well, as we don’t need any more law students at the moment, why not just close down a few bottom enders and be done with it.  Cutting from the top really doesn’t make sense.  Students from bottom end universities rarely make the cut when it comes to jobs – the LPC and BVC providers and the law firms and other employers want the best students they can get.  Rightly.   It is important that we provide education of high quality for our future – but I am, fairly certain, having looked at this sector for 30+ years that we could make cuts in the short term without damaging the very best universities or, indeed, the long term health of our country.

And while we are at it, ‘thinking the unthinkable’: Given that public money at the better universities is used to train students to go into this most wonderful and rapacious of professions, why not do a ‘levy’ on big law firms who get the benefit of well educated students coming from our better universities at no cost.  Yes – the law firms do have to pay for LPC  (and some sponsor the GDL stage) – they rarely do so for university students – and as these law firms are making significant profits from their associates and partners, why not run a ‘special education levy’! The big law firms make a great deal of money out of their capital – human capital, much of which is an asset they did not have to fund directly.   This, of course, is an argument which could be extended to other ‘commercial’ users of university graduates! If big business wants the best, why shouldn’t they pay a bit to get it?  I’ll get my coat…. anther lead balloon from Charon.

OK.. and here’s another idea…. The public pay for new laws, we pay for Courts and the entire justice system.  This is a major intellectual property asset.  We aren’t maximising the value. Why stop at levies in the criminal sector to help pay for the criminal justice system?  Why not charge ALL civil lawyers a levy each time they use ‘our law’ – a sort of performing rights society idea?  Yes, it will be passed on to the client because the law is, after all, a business, but it would certainly be one way of providing money to plough back into both civil and criminal legal aid?  Fortunately, I have two coats, so I’ll take both of them.

Moving on to less important matters….

Two days of heat, followed by a quick bit of thunder and lightning last night.  I sat at my desk last night, looking out over The Thames,  and saw some very pissed people on a Disco Boat.  No sign of the Israeli Navy though… unfortunately, in this instance.

It has been an enjoyable week…. a bit of work, a bit of ‘F**kART’ and a fairly relaxed time…. back to work next week…


Best, as always

Charon

Postcard From The Staterooms: Econocomical edition

Dear Reader,

You will have heard that David Laws reported himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and resigned yesterday as chief secretary to the Treasury.  While he accepts that he broke the rules, his sin is rather less serious than some who fiddled voraciously as they sacked John Lewis like Romans at an orgy. Some are still in the House, they say, and they haven’t resigned.  The Telegraph will, no doubt, remind us soon enough.

For my part, given that we need the Coalition to work – whatever political dogma we believe in (and Labour really do need a bit of ‘Time Out’ to get a bit of thinking done – it is rather tragic that the country has lost a fine mind and, more importantly, one with significant experience of banking, economics and how markets work.  George Osborne, as yet, does not have this expertise.   He may well prove to be good – and leaving aside parody, briefly – but not for too long, I promise, he is reported to have the brains to pick experience and knowledge up.

It is a bit baffling (but understandable in Coalition terms and binding the Lib-Dems into taking the pain) that Laws has been replaced by a young man with little experience of money, economics, finance, fiscal policy and markets – he did do a PPE at Oxford, but so what..? That is just one up from A level and no match for experience and instinct.  A commenter on my last serious blog post suggested that we get a petition going to have laws re-instated.  I think it would be very good for the country to accept that the expenses thing has happened, we have gorged on it, stop letting The Telegraph hold people and the country to ransom with their constant drip feeding (to whose agenda?)  let the country get on and bring Laws back into government quickly.  I am ever the pragmatist.  The MPs have eaten their porridge, even if, some say, more should have done porridge.  We need to get a grip on the economy and the country and that requires a bit of talent.  Here endeth the ‘lesson’.

I wasn’t going to watch Eurovision last night, but the tweets were so good that I had to watch and join in.  I made a number of observations while in a fairly advanced state of grace brought on by Rioja…

I was rather hoping that Greece won.  I’d have paid good money to see Greece asking Germany for the money to host Eurovision next year.  But one cannot have everything one wants, can one?

Humphrey Cushion ran an amazing Eurovision avatar changing commentary on twitter… she is worth following on twitter – very amusing, if you don’t already follow her. Mea culpa for failing to mention in the first edition of this post.  Honour is restored – quite rightly.  I hold her responsible for getting me into Eurovision again last night!

I don’t follow football, but I was surprised to see that England beat Japan today simply because two Japanese footballers decided to kick the ball into their own goal. perhaps these are good ‘omens’ for a few weeks time?  I do know that the white flags have started to appear on cars again.  I have a pirate flag mounted on my glasses.  Why shouldn’t people have white flags on their cars and vans?  Good effort!  The image to the left is ‘Sexy Soccer’..apparently.  Frankly… of greater appeal to me than the real game… but there we are.  That I don’t give a toss about football doesn’t make me a pariah…..

I wasn’t going to watch Eurovision last night but did…so anything is possible.  I did watch England win the World Cup two hundred years ago.  I watched it with my Mother.  I was 12.  I drank cider.  My mother, then a non-drinker, was completely unaware that Somerset cider had alcohol in it.  I think she suspected something was up when I suddenly leapt to my feet, tore my shirt off, shouted “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS” and  ran into the street shouting nonsense…

Briefly on Tory Education Policy…

Being interested in education, at least at the tertiatry or university and professional level, I have an open mind on Tory policy.  I was lucky enough, because my parents worked abroad, to go to a very good public school in Scotland.  Had my parents not been abroad, I would have been lucky enough to go to a very good state school in Scotland – but I had to board.  Scotland does education well.  This is not being a “Braveheart’.  It just happens to be true.   I would like to see everyone get the benefit of good schooling – for that lays the foundation for a happy and possibly, if you are that way inclined, a successful life in money terms.  The News of The World, taking a break from outing Duchesses and droning on about tits and footballers (Sometimes the tits are footballers and the footballers have tits), had an excellent piece on the founder of CarPhone Warehouse.

The founder of The Carphone Warehouse (David Ross decided to sponsor a school in his home town of Grimsby.), along with his new headteacher Nicholas O’Sullivan – a former Dominican friar – took the comprehensive over and freed it from council control.  Do, please, read it – it is quite inspiring and whether others will follow this route (and I hope they will) this was a great story.

On that uplifting note, I am orf to Battersea Square for a glass of vino in the evening sun.  I may return sooner rather than later

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from the Staterooms

Dear Reader,

I’m a bit late with my postcard this week.  This is largely because I had a most entertaining and enjoyable weekend chatting to great people.  On this day of CUTS announced by George Osborne and his ‘Igor’… David Laws, I thought I would do my bit for our country – see above.

I thought I would devote my postcard to you this week to ranting – randomly – about things which have caught my eye today while sitting in the sun on Battersea Square and World’s End, Chelsea.

Oh… how wonderfully tweet…
The first thing to catch my eye and set the tone for my febrile mind was the news that The Hay Literary Festival is to hold a competition for literary types to come up with guff or otherwise on twitter.  … Oh.. so achingly tweet? The competition is to be judged by?… yes.. you’ve guessed it…. the unofficial ‘King of Twitter”… Stephen Fry… as The Guardian described him. Some might say unofficial pain in the arse of Twitter.  I could not possibly comment for fear that he might leave Twitter again and people will want to hang me. I do, however, enjoy Stephen Fry’s stuff and to be fair… he doesn’t call himself the ‘King of twitter’…. does he?

Things could only go downhill  in terms of my more cynical side after reading that… and they did. I took regular breaks during the course of the day to have a coffee, read the papers and watch the world go…. by sitting first at a cafe where I have breakfast and then moving over to an Italian trattoria on the other side of the square, alternating between the two with each coffee break.  We haven’t had a lot of great weather in the last six months – so I am taking advantage.

Mid-morning I saw an attractive young blonde looking desperately serious in her black spandex running kit with obligatory bouncing blond ponytail poking through the back of a large baseball cap. She was running slowly… more like a jog, but looked ‘terribly serious and self important’ as she did it, as if  to convey to the baffled bystander,  who was probably more interested in her arse joggling away under the spandex than her ‘self inflicted pain and endurance of hardship’,  that only a runner can ‘understand’. I have no interest in the ‘pain’ of runners and cyclists.  If I want to go somewhere, I get on a bus, a motorbike or a tube and don’t look serious about it.


Then we have the hordes of people on a hot day wandering about or walking purposefully carrying bottled water. Why do they do this?  Are they at particular risk of dehydration?  Will they succumb to heat exhaustion as they travel between home and office or home and clothes shop?   I would say, from a limited statistical population, that it was probably a ratio of 8:1 in favour of women.  Stylish men who use grooming products may well carry bottled water about with them.  I didn’t see one ‘blokeish’ bloke carrying bottled water.  I suspect this may be because we rationalise that if life threatening thirst should take hold as the temperature soars towards 30C,  we can always nip into a bar and down a cold one. It is a most curious thing to do – carrying one’s own water supply around, I think.  And why would anyone PAY for water?   It comes out of taps and is free (apart from water rates).  I am going to join in and buy one of those old fashioned canvas water bottles they use on safaris and in the desert…. and fill it with water in the morning and Rioja for the early evening.

And then we have the ‘Tour de France’ nazis… the cyclists who think they own the roads. As a  real biker (fast motorbikes, as opposed to ridiculous leg powered things) I take the perfectly reasonable view that cyclists who wear spandex, yellow jerseys, and those stupid boat shaped helmets are the most dangerous road users.  They tend not to stop at red lights.  They ride on the pavements…sometimes, they shout at other road users, they are not identifiable (or accountable), they rarely signal and some of them even shave their legs… and not just, I am advised,  to avoid ingrowing hairs infecting the wounds when they inevitably get knockled over by a lorry or car.

I like people who ride bicycles and who look as if they are enjoying it. I think Spandex Man is related to Spandex Running Girl… suffering pain for their vanity and ego. I like the people who ride ordinary bicycles, wear ordinary clothes, don’t wear helmets.  I did see, in Chelsea – not today, but on Friday – a man in his late fifties or so, wearing a beautifully cut suit, brogues, riding a sit up and beg bicycle with a basket full of wine bottles…and he was smoking a small cigar.  He looked great and was, clearly, enjoying himself. He even managed to signal his intention to turn left.

And… inevitably.. there were a few lobsters about. Why do people who have wonderfully pale complexions, blonde hair,  ginger hair, think it is a good idea to burn themselves?  I heard a couple of women at the cafe warning each other of the perils.  They went into a lot of detail about Factor 50 creams. They must work because they looked normal and comfortable, unlike a few women and blokes who had spent much of the day on Sunday getting pissed in the sun and appeared to be walking burns victims today.  Of course, it wouldn’t be  Britain if the odd person did not complain about the heat…. and they were at it by midday.

I like Battersea Square.  I have met a few of the locals.  I have seen the people who use the Square…. very laid back and relaxed… and several regulars very amusing the other night, when I was sitting out with my ex over dinner at the Italian trattoria, who came over to chat.

I end my ‘rant’ and brief observations with some good news…

ASBO bans woman from lap dancing, pole dancing and prostitution

A woman alleged to have driven neighbours out of their homes by her sexual activities has been banned from inviting any men around for the night except for her brothers and the emergency services.

She is only allowed to invite her brothers over and the ’emergency services’?  How cool is that?

best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms

Today is the anniversary, all those years ago, when I landed on Earth. I’ve always been into gizmos and gadgets.  If the iPhone had been around then, I would have asked my Mother to go easy on the breast feeding and just get me some apps.  The iPhone and twitter weren’t around when I was born in what was then called the Gold Coast, now by the rather nicer name Ghana.  So my Mother gave me some paper and early telegraph facilities. 140 characters on twitter is a breeze compared to issuing requests by morse code from my cot for my Mother to try a rather nice Rioja Crianza which I spied on the drinks table on the verandah –  so that I could get a hit later when it was feeding time. To be honest… I think my parents drank industrial quantities of Gordon’s Gin (Export Strength)  in those days.  Many expatriates in Africa did.  You should see what they got up to in East Africa in Happy Valley in the 1950s.  My parents were in West Africa. I still have photographs of my Father blowing up condoms on a beach on the coast at 6.00 am, after an allnighter,  with a lot of other over refreshed people.  I believe my Mother smoked Lucky Strike in those days.  It could have been Rothmans, State Express 555 or even Peter Styvesant.  I was far too young to tell the difference, being 14 days old. I do remember that they came in cylindrical tin cans of 50, which I think would be an excellent way for cigarettes to be sold today.

I’ve never been interested in looking back – so that is your lot. I won’t be getting any juicy advances from a publisher for that. I have lots of ancestors.  Everyone has.  In fact, ineluctably, we are almost certainly related if you go back far enough.

In my teens I used to wonder at what point one grew wiser, or even, up. Some people do both as they pass through Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man… I appear not to be one of these unfortunate people. Sure, the body isn’t quite what is was.  The hair has gone a bit silvery in parts and if I decide not to shave for a week I can do a pretty convincing reprise of King Lear when I get up in the morning.  I am pleased to report that although I am older… I am definitely none the wiser.  I am an optimist.  I’ve managed to avoid the Grim Reaper (They say most people die at 4.00 am or thereabouts) by the simple expedient of getting up at 3.30 am.  It works..and it is working today.

I don’t work on my birthday if I can possibly avoid it. I work every other day of the year…sometimes even on Christmas Day, but on my birthday I make a special effort.  It was a bit earlier than planned, having gone to bed at 11.00 pm,  to wake at 1.00 am – but as the wine was to hand and  the Marlboros purchased the previous day  had not all been smoked, what better way at 02.27 am to spend part of one’s anniversary of arrival on Earth writing a blog post.

My plan for the year ahead is to divide my life between the real and surreal. I shall continue to do analytical and sensible podcasts and Law Reviews, I shall continue to engage in work projects which interest and amuse me and I shall continue to develop my online rag Insite Law.  As to the surreal – more ‘painting’ is on the way.  I am enjoying putting together the scripts (and more so the recorded versions with friends) for Big Society: In The Diary Room… and I have no doubt  that the year to come will throw up many opportunities for parody from both the legal and political world.  Politicians and lawyers just can’t help themselves.  Sooner or later they will do something to cause me to wipe red wine off my new keyboard or desk.

Well…it is 3.52 am…and a miost amusing early morning after talking to my friend Cybil in Aus…. on Skype…  BUT as it would be inelegant to arrive at my usual cafe where I now take breakfast – over refreshed after an allnighter….. I shall nip back to bed and see if I can get some sleep.

Best, as always

Charon

PS.. I may do a Law Review when I get up…  that is pleasure.. not work.  I’ve just seen the Grim Reaper… he raised a glass to me and went on his way.  I have no idea what he drinks.

Postcard from The Staterooms in Tory Battersea: Anyone for a hanging edition

Dear Reader,

I write to you from Battersea  which fell to the Tories in the early hours of Friday morning.  I won’t rehearse or analyse the election, or proselytise about politics for much longer – a return to writing about law is long overdue – but two things did occur to me as I had breakfast in Battersea Square this morning:  The BNP might have lost every parliamentary and Council seat they contested but they did manage to rack up 500,000 votes according to the Times (Page 19 ‘Griffin under fire from own side as party rejected’).  This means that there are 500,000 pantomime fascists living in this multi-cultural and politically correct isle of hours.  That’s quite a thought.

I don’t actually know any panto-BNP voting fascists, but I did come across two while waiting for the 170 bus to take me to Victoria railway station the other morning.  They were talking about immigrants – inevitably – and bemoaning the lack of strong government.  One of them even cited Churchill’s fight them on the beaches speech fairly accurately.  There was much nodding between the two of them.  They reminded me of Alf Garnett.   The only difference was that they were both women.

The other thing which struck me this morning, now fully recovered after nearly 48 hours with but an hour of sleep, was that it is clear the electorate having had a look at Clegg and the Lib-Dems, decided to have a second look at their slightly ‘iffy’ position on immigration and Trident and decided to stick with the devil they knew.  It is ironic that a party which only managed to get 57 seats (actually losing five from the 2005 position) and only 23% of the vote should now have so much power.  Right… having lit the blue touch paper, I shall retire to a safe distance and move on to other things other than to say that the politicians probably only have until 7.00 am on Monday morning to get ‘their shit together’ before the markets dispassionately dissect their efforts over the weekend – at least, this is the received wisdom.

I thought The Sun headline (above) about a 59 year old man holed up in house was one of their best in the entire election campaign period.  This is why I have ‘nicked it’ unashamedly for those of you who don’t read this national treasure.

I will end this selection with a quote from Guido Fawkes’ blog post: Let Sunlight into the Backrooms

A system where deals are stitched up in backrooms by politicians without reference to voters is not much of a democracy.

General Election 2010: Gordon Brown launched telephone ‘rant’ at Nick Clegg

Telegraph: Gordon Brown launched a “diatribe” and a “rant” at Nick Clegg during a telephone call with the Liberal Democrat leader after it was suggested he should resign, it was reported today.

Thoroughly enjoyed the election coverage, although I think I may have overdone the lack of sleep with just an hour and a half in 38 hours.  The bottle count was satisfactory rather than exceptional – but there wasn’t a great deal to celebrate apart from Jacqui Smith losing her seat.  I was not a fan of that particular Home Secretary, despite my Labour tendencies.  Perhaps she could get a job driving  SERCO prison vans?

Moving on.  I am a fan of the surreal. This may be evident from some of my blog posts and one of my friends on twitter –  @infobunny – is a mistress of the art.  After a brief foray into painting, Infobunny has started taking photographs, using some wonderful old cameras and ‘film’.  She has a good eye and some of the serious pictures are of a very high standard.  The picture to the right made me laugh out loud, so much so that I could have been on another  trip to PC World  after nearly spitting wine all over the keyboard of my new iMac.  Infobunny drinks GINS and CIDERS –  this is excellent… in my book.

I am seated at my desk by the window at The Staterooms. I am, literally, on the river front and I can see many things. An Eights boat has just gone by with a man in a motorboat alongside shouting at the oarsmen through a megaphone. Is he shouting “Faster…Faster… or there will five more years of Gordon Brown” ? No, sadly – but in my mind, he is.

I can see a Cormorant flapping its wings to dry them and four ducks are looking up at me in a rather menacing fashion. The cormorant, I suspect – this being Battersea, is a Tory cormorant.  I would imagine it is thinking about finding a Lib-Dem cormorant to talk to. The ducks are most definitely Labour ducks… Brownites, which is why they are looking up at me in a menacing fashion.  If they were Blairite ducks, we’d be having lunch together on the river front discussing the re-structuring of the Labour Party post Brown.

I have made a decision that wherever I live in future it will have to be by water.  I used to live on a boat across the river at Cheyne Walk and then went down to the Medway.  Water is good…. sea or a sea loch may be even better.  I am looking at the practicalities of spending six months in the land of my ancestors – Scotland.  Loch Fyne?  Arran?  I am investigating.  It no longer matters where I live.  I can do what I do from anywhere with broadband, which is quite liberating.

A friend of mine @Bureauista sent me this via twitter and told me that she had been leafing through old magazines and thought of me when she saw it.  I thought I would share it with you.

I am, as regular readers know, a 30 a day Dan in Smokedo (The Art of Exercising while smoking). I can quite see how the game of golf could be markedly improved by smoking a cigar while playing it.

Well… on that note…. as nothing will happen in terms of removal vans arriving in Downing Street until tomorrow at the earliest (they say) – I am going to have a quick kip.

Best, as ever

Charon

Postcard from the Staterooms-On-Thames: Westminister edition

It being a Bank holiday, I thought I would leave my weekly postcard until the holiday Monday – in any event, I was out having an enjoyable lunch yesterday – and this being the last weekend (mercifully) before the election, it has to come from Westminster…. but a short walk up the road from here if one is inclined to walk, which I wasn’t.

I plan to return to writing about law on a daily basis from tomorrow but I have no doubt, in the final days of the campaign, there will be something to parody or amuse myself with.

The Times, newly converted to Cameron’s vision of a Big Society and coming out the for the Conservatives along with sister newspaper The News of the World – wonderfully surreal pairing of newspapers – cautions Cameron against revealing too much about his plans in the first days of government lest the fickle British voter (I include myself as such in this election) decides that schadenfreude is a dish best eaten any time and pulls back from marking the ballot paper with a cross and decides to draw a phallus all over the ballot paper instead.  I am not bang up to date on my election law,  but I assume that it would still be a valid vote if one were to draw a phallus in the box to indicate a vote? – the key being to make one’s wish clear with a mark in the appropriate box.  I shall ask my learned friend Mr Carl Gardner for his opinion on this matter.  I have designed a diagram to assist.

In the meantime I am pleased to be able to give you the benefit of this extraordinary public information film which indicates that any mark is acceptable.   The film is worth a watch if only to see how not to make a public information film!

This election has been fascinating, certainly the most interesting I have experienced in 50+ years. We have had Chris Grayling reprising Basil Fawlty by advising Bed & Breakfast owners that they should not need to take in gays.  Yesterday, not to be outdone,  we had reports of Philippa Stroud exorcising demons and curing people of their homosexuality through prayer – a story which may or may not have legs.  We had Bigotgate, where Gordon Brown revealed his famous temper and scorn, calling a faithful Labour voter a ‘bigot’ when he thought he was no longer being recorded.  We’ve had various Prospective Parliamentary Candidates having to stand down for unfortunate remarks on twitter and elsewhere.  We’ve had leader debates and a remarkable, but possibly now waning, surge in support for the Lib-Dems.  I did meet an interesting guy smoking outside the pub on Saturday night….

For my part – as I am not remotely interested in how other people cast their vote, for that is their business, I have enjoyed the humour, some of it even intended, on twitter and the astonishing urgency of twitterers punting the party line with the enthusiasm of a fellatrix on double time and a long queue.

I take a raw, almost visceral, pleasure in the fact that Cameron,  who had a 20 point lead,  is now struggling to get clear blue water between his ‘New Conservatives in wolves clothing’ and the competition.  This should have been an election with an open goal.  Friday could see the departure of two leaders – Gordon Brown and David Cameron if the Tories cannot form a government.  Hopefully, there are ‘dark forces’ working in the wings to ensure that there is a bus service to Fife on Friday morning so that McDoom can be returned to sender and fresh thinking is brought into the Labour Party.  If Miliband becomes leader, Lord Mandelson could yet fulfill his naked ambition to be Foreign Secretary, with Clegg as Home  Secretary and Darling and Cable fudging some form of job share over at the Treasury?  How the Tories would squeal if that were to come to pass. I can’t see a minority Conservative administration lasting long and, in any event, is there not a matter of convention whereby an incumbent party is invited to form a government first in the event of a hung parliament?

Election 2010: Which leader’s public persona do you prefer?

At least Gordon Brown’s act is almost admirably crap – you can see something awkwardly human beneath – Charlie Brooker

I rather enjoyed Charlie Brooker’s piece in the Guardian today.

As it happens… I had been wondering why we hadn’t seen much of Osbore. I was delighted to see in the Sun this morning that he has been doing something useful with his time.

The Election, coupled with the easter vacation for lawyer and the courts,  has also given me an opportunity to taste some good inexpsnive wines.  Some of them have been so good that I have started to entertain unusual thoughts….

And on that note, I suppose I should get on with some law writing. This is supposed to be a law blog, after all…  whatever you wishes, I do hope you enjoy the election.  Next week, of course… it could be the same old shit, just a different cast.

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from the Northern Staterooms : T’internet edition

Dear Reader,

It has been quite a week… and until Wednesday, I think it was, when I bought a case of Rioja Collapso 2007,  my view of the world was relatively straightforward and, quite possibly, similar to yours.  I don’t know what the vinyard has done, but ever since I opened that first bottle (and I have been doing my duty and working assiduously through them) things have become quite surreal.  First, Nick Clegg announced that he was the only Northerner standing for PM – @CherylKerl might say “Ah’ve aalweys leiked Clegg’s suporb woak; it’s just a shame thar he ler hizself doon wi tha shockin Geordee accent.” (With apologies to @CherlKerl for ‘adapting’! )

And today, as I opened another bottle at lunchtime, I began to wonder if I am living in the same reality of Tuesday last.  Just a selection of stories in the papers today, I present as evidence of the problem.

Lord Sir Digby Jones, who has form for unusual statements, has come up with a wonderful plan to ‘starve the young benefit scroungers into accepting jobs’. Apparently he was introduced to two young prats in Swindon who were being interviewed for BBC’s Panorama which goes out this week. One of the pair, from a middle class family,  told Sir Digby Jones-Lord that he and his girlfriend were paid about £12,000 a year in job seeker’s allowance and housing benefit and ‘there was no reason for them to look for work’.  Lord Digby Sir-Jones, was clearly not amused by this – and I’m with him on this – and suggested that these parasites should be starved back to work, or, in the alternative, should go and do some random cleaning of lavatories, graffiti removal – or study at College.   Lord Sir Digby Jones, who finally left the Labour government, did end the piece in the Sunday Times by saying….  that he had put his ‘Starve the scroungers back to work’ idea to a meeting of senior ministers and officials when he was in government.

“I told them. ‘We are creating a victim society of people who think they have no responsibility’.

“They all just said ‘What, what are you talking about?  You can’t say that’.  I might as well have admitted I mugged my granny.”

I agree… I’m writing to Sir Lord Digby-Jones, as I drink this fine Rioja Crianza that if he would be prepared to mug his granny on Britain’s Got Talent... he’ll get a YES from me.

I continued my reading in The Sunday Times and discovered that we have 1 million illegal immigrants who have gone awol. It is quite possible that some of them are working for the government.  The government has form on this. Quite a few illegals have popped up working, of all places, at the Home Office. Then I discovered  that the ‘Fortunes of the super-rich have risen by a third’.  This, when the country is reduced to penury is the supreme irony. Those investment bankers and ‘hedgies’ certainly know how to spot a turkey, promote it to the public and then bet against it succeeding.

Nick Clegg makes another appearance in  my alternate reality with a statement that he wants to have a ‘Putsch’ (assuming he actually manages to win his own seat in the election’), and demand half the seats in the Cabinet….. oh… and get rid of Gordon Brown. Well… I’m certainly with him on the latter proposition.   I suspect that the Lib-Dem surge is going to burst… but I could be wrong.  Most of the political pundits disagree with each other, so why should a Rioja drinking law blogger be able to shed light where there is darkness.

Stephen Hawking, I read in the Sunday Times’ is warning us that we should not communicate with any aliens who may visit us. I’m with him on that and can re-assure him and you, that I shall certainly not be sharing any of my Rioja with the yellow flying Lizard from another world who popped into The Staterooms just before before lunch.

AND FINALLY…..

Something to think about on May 6th

This is  the most important election I have been interested in and this from Old Holborn is worth a look!

I decided not to run the London Marathon yet again this year – the organisers  weren’t too keen on me competing with my water bottles filled with Rioja anyway… but I can report that as a ‘homage’ to all the runners, I did run 124 yards to a nearby bar to have an excellent roast beef lunch.

Best as ever

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Iceland and Leader Special

One can’t help but feel sorry for the people of Iceland.  Last year their banks blew up and earlier this week their country blew up….spreading ‘an arc of sulphurity’ from Iceland to the Nordic countries;  grounding aircraft and inducing panic buying in supermarkets for dust pans and brushes and soon, no doubt, food…  as people realise that we don’t grow a lot here and there aren’t any aircraft flying to bring food in.  I have, of course, gone long on chanterelles mushrooms, basil, extra virgin olive oil, ciabatta, olive bread and balsamic vinegar – not to eat myself, you understand, but to put in food parcels for my middle class friends whose diet is so rarified from years of foreign holidays they  can no longer metabolise ordinary British staples.

It was certainly That Was The Week That Was for Nick Clegg, propelled from relative obscurity by the Leadership debate to a point  where political pundits were hyperventilating on TV and the blogosphere about ‘Clegg introduced to the British people’.  One of many polls put the Lib-Dems equal with the Tories on 32% with Labour pushed into third place with 28% – a statistic which, to the anger and chagrin of many on Twitter, would still leave Labour with the largest number of seats.

You have probably seen it – but if you haven’t you may enjoy having a look at this excellent parody of Cameron and his ‘I met a man who told me..’  sound byte in the leader debate last week.

I even felt inspired myself, despite my post Twitter hangover of last night, to pen a Limerick (Called a Twimerick... by, a few people on Twitter who happened to see it…). I really will have to speak to my wine dealer, as I now like to call him…. some of his latest offerings have aeronautical properties.

I’ve just met a man from Belize
who helped us pay for our sleaze
When told this was so,
he said yes, this I know,
can I go to the Lords now, please

I am an enthusiastic reader of political blogs.  I  thought I would share a few good posts (there are many more good polblogs)  with you if you do not ordinarily spend your time reading polblogs.

Fat Bigot: Brillo brings the Knife from the Kitchen | Alastair Campbell : The election landscape has changed. Exciting times | Old Holborn 4MP: The ‘Stepford Leaders’ Debate | Tom Harris 4MP: How to avoid difficult decisions in government, by N. Clegg | Iain Dale: Why Did Cameron Play Safe? | Obnoxio The Clown: The Mass Debate | Dizzy Thinks: Cameron and Brown dismiss Clegg at their peril | Guido Fawkes: Guy News : Debate Debate Debate! | Emily Nomates: When Lovebombing Is Not Enough | The Spectator blog: Nick Clegg: the Hans-Dietrich Genscher of Britain | Al Jahom’s Final Word: Shameless, Boyo | ToryBear: Not Everyone Enjoyed the Debate…

Returning to the world of LAW briefly…. RollonFriday reports: Herbert Smith trainees disciplined for trolleyed sex frolics

Two trainees at Herbert Smith have apparently been disciplined after they were caught getting jiggy at a firm party.

The real estate team had thrown a – clearly very successful – “get to know you” drinks for trainees and had rolled in a trolley laden with alcohol to help with the mingling. And it seemed to help one couple in particular. RollOnFriday has heard various reports, ranging from them engaging in, ahem, a non-penetrative sex act in an adjoining room, to them spiriting the trolley away from the party, drinking all the booze and then celebrating their achievement by having sex on the empty trolley.

It is not known if one trainee said to the other “Shall I shake you or stir?”

And I can’t resist this, also from RollonFriday….

Lovells partner sends world’s most obtuse email : A partner in Lovells‘ New York office has sent the most convoluted email opener RollOnFriday has ever seen.

Marc Gottridge sent the following to the entire firm:

“Sorry for the broadcast email — and please do not read any further than this paragraph if you are either (a) a US-based Lovells lawyer who is joining Hogan Lovells US LLP effective 1 May or (b) a non-US-based Lovells lawyer, joining Hogan Lovells International LLP effective 1 May, who is not admitted to practice before any court in the US. In other words, please read the rest of this email only if you will be, from 1 May, a member of Hogan Lovells International LLP and are admitted to practice in any US jurisdiction.”

So thats, errr, US qualified lawyers not in the US? Or all US qualified lawyers? Or just those at Lovells? But only if there’s an “R” in the month? Clearly the chaotic post-merger structure has confused even the most intelligent partner. The firm better hope this is not a sign of things to come…

Ah well…. Obfuscation, dissimulation, evasion are but few of the many qualities needed by lawyers these days.  The dark arts of drafting  are, I am glad to see, still going strong.

A fine sunny day… I’m going to escape for a while… sit in the sun… but, be sure, I shall ensure that no volcanic ash gets into my wine glass or my lungs while I watch the world go by and smoke a few Marlboros.

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames

Dear Reader,

Last week it was Basil Grayling, a potential home secretary, revealing a deep understanding of the law when he said that B&B owners should have a ‘right to ban gays’ – which is against the current law, of course ….and this week we have former Tory Leader, Iain  Duncan Smith, appearing to talk nonsense about brain size and criminality.  Ah well…. these things happen.

Iain Duncan Smith ‘distorted’ research on childhood neglect and brain size

The Guardian: Research focusing on effects of extreme abuse was ‘grossly misrepresented’ by former Tory leader, neuroscientist says

Good to see ‘Britain’s national Atheist’ doing the business as the Easter Week celebrations come to an end with his latest plan…

Richard Dawkins: I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI

The Times reports: “RICHARD DAWKINS, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”.

Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.”

I think this is a marvellous idea – to underscore the revulsion felt by many at the way the Catholic Church has condoned child abuse for years in the name of preserving the ‘good name of the universal church’.  I hope they succeed in framing an appropriate charge.   The Times noted: “They have commissioned the barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to present a justification for legal action. The lawyers believe they can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope, launch their own civil action against him or refer his case to the International Criminal Court. Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: “This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence.”

Labour hit by cancer leaflet row

I was not impressed by Labour’s behaviour in this rather sordid episode as reported in the Sunday Times.  I’m not sure that dirty tactics, spreading alarm and repeated negative briefing goes down well with British voters.  This election campaign seems to be shaping up to be rather dirty.  Extremists on both sides of the main political divide may well justify this type of campaigning on the ‘for the greater good of the  party’ principle but I find it rather unpleasant.  I am certain that I am not alone on this.

Sunday Times: “LABOUR has become embroiled in a row about the use of personal data after sending cancer patients alarmist mailshots saying their lives could be at risk under a Conservative government.”

Politics Home is reporting this morning…“Mr Davis refused to be drawn on whether he’d be willing to serve as home secretary in a Conservative government, but said that the real Conservative Cameron has come out more in the past weeks with the NI plan and the marriage tax break proposal.

“We’re beginning to see a bit of the real Conservative Cameron – he’s a nice man, but he’s a Tory,” he said.

I am a bit baffled by David Davis’s remark.  It would make more sense if Nick Clegg had said it.  Is David Davis talking in code?  Is there a hidden message within the phrase… perhaps it is an anagram and revelation will come with careful study?

It appears that I was a little over refreshed on twitter last night. Just as well I am not a prospective parliamentary candidate or Gordon would sack me.

With all this serious stuff and even a bit of law on the Lord’s Day… I knew that I should have read The News of The World first as I took breakfast at the cafe… as is my usual practice.  I have caught up on my reading.  As ever, it didn’t take long for me to read NOTW and I didn’t even find something to laugh at which is most unusual….

I have a plan – a series of political podcasts

Rioja has many beneficial properties and through judicious self prescribing I came up with a plan to do a series of podcasts with political commentators, pundits, bloggers and future MPs. The angle is not to cover ‘policies’ – for others can do that far better than I would be able to and there is, in any event, a lot of coverage elsewhere… but to look at issues about politics, why the podcastees find politics so interesting, what their thoughts are on people abstaining or not bothering to vote, whether there will ever be an ‘English parliament’, whether they think the next Parliament will repair the damage to the reputation of Parliament and a host of other matters which come up in  the podcasts which I can’t predict. Politicians and political commentators are used to talking, so it will be difficult to predict – I shall do my best to keep them off pushing too much party line stuff!

So far I have invited

Iain Dale (Tory commentator), Old Holborn (Independent), Tom Harris MP (Labour), @LazyHyena (Ed of GuyNEWS, disaffected anarcho-feminist or something) Geoffrey Woollard (Independent) and Tom Williams (Labour) who is too young to vote at this election but who has demonstrated considerable enthusiasm for politics.  I am interested in the why not so much the what – so, hopefully, the podcasts will be interesting from a very different point of view.  I do plan to ask others – I just haven’t had time to do so since yesterday.

And I just have to end with this...Hat Tip to BenjaminFGray

Caught in the act… in flagrante delicto…?

Back later… but there is a bit of sun out there… a glass of wine for a late lunch

Best, as ever

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Rationalist Edition

Dear Reader,

I write on a Saturday this week because I am going to be busy doing my annual ‘urbi et orbi’ blog post tomorrow.  I trust you are having a rationalist, religious or just plain Easter egg greedy weekend?

It is unusual for the Church of England leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to openly criticise another religious party or branch – but, it appears, the election fever to come has taken hold at CofEHQ Lambeth Palace.

The BBC reports…The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost “all credibility” over the way it had dealt with paedophile priests.

Rowan Williams said the problems, which had been a “colossal trauma” for the Church affected the wider public. It seemed appropriate, given that the Church and political parties share a common interest in persuading us to believe in unbelievable things,  that I adapt the recent Tory poster…. and, after all, the Church of England was described as ‘The Tory Party at prayer’ not so long ago!

In a spirit of even handedness… How a Vatican ‘attack poster’ might look…given the propensity for Tories and Labour to shoot ‘own goals’ with their real attack posters… why should the Church be any different?

But back to more earthly matters….

The perennial ‘lightbulb question’ was running riot on twitter the other night….with Tories asking ‘How many labour supporters does it take to do…. this and that…. so I had to join in.

Tom Harris MP has an amusing story…

The joke’s on you, Colin

When former Bristol councillor Colin Eldridge fell for a very clever and funny April Fool gag in yesterday’s Liverpool Post, he could so easily have laughed it off. A self-deprecatory “I am such a chump – but that was very funny!” would have done wonders for his public persona. People like politicians who can poke fun at themselves.

Instead Eldridge, who is now the LibDem parliamentary candidate in Wavertree, decided to pretend that he was in on the joke all along. It was blindingly obvious that he had been completely taken in by the spoof story about Liverpool spending more than £140,000 on road signs written in Mandarin Chinese (a proposal which “has got to be worthwhile,” he told his host without a trace of irony), Then, when it was pointed out to him by the presenter that it was an April Fool’s trick, Eldridge said: “Maybe I knew all along.”

As a public service, Tom Harris has the radio interview Colin Eldridge did so we can judge for ourselves whether Eldridge was ‘savant or chump’ – and he plans to keep the radio interview on his blog until the election…and beyond.  Who said Labour is going soft!

Mandarin Chinese?  Love it – mind you, it appears that I fell for a story about Cambridge University taking back panto-fascist Nick Griffin’s degree. At least I can plead that The Sun reported this on 2nd April, not 1st April.

Feeling Horny? Not me.. I’m limp and lovin it!

My mate Tonto Papadopolous has been keeping himself amused…and this, his latest foray into motion pictures,  will…hopefully leave you LIMP.

Do watch the movie… I am pretty sure it will make you laugh.  I have drunk and talked until dawn several times with Tonto… fortunately, he is making movies at the moment… so I am relatively sane and get to bed earlier.

“The only good Tory is a dead Tory”

If you want an amusing story – head over to The Spectator.  This is pure class…. if you enjoy stories about politicians who ‘go over the top’ and get carried away. I won’t say any more… it is definitely worth a read even if you aren’t interested in politics.

What a B’stard!

And this is in the same category of ‘pure class’ for political parody – I found it on OboTheClown’s blog., M’lud… honest.  Not office safe.. but as it is a Bank Holiday… this is a movie well worth watching…  Cherie Blair and Alan B’Stard a film by Alison

As is my practice most weekends, I buy a tabloid and a more sane newspaper and flick through the tabloid while having a few Marlboros and coffees.  I went online this morning to look at The Sun – the cafes were still shut.

It really is an alternative universe over there.

Today’s headline news… “Harry Blotto and the Missing script” (Apparently some one got pissed and left the script for the new film in the pub).

Dr Who-er missus – “FLAME-HAIRED actress Karen Gillan is about to shoot to fame as Doctor Who’s latest assistant.”

My leg is broken – and so am I: CESC FABREGAS breaks his silence on the injury shock that shattered his season

Vice on the road: MOTORISTS are being distracted by signs warning them to beware of hookers

AND…as I prepared myself to phone a clinic in Switzerland to say it was time… I read a news story about a bloody police monkey in Thailand.  Dear god…. the future of our country is safe with The Sun behind the Tories.  How many potential voters does The Sun get each day?

The question is – are political bloggers – who reach good audiences, but nowhere near the reach of The Sun – wasting their time. I don’t think so… but The Sun will, surely, shape the future of our country …
On that note.. orf to find an open cafe… enjoy your weekend.  Back later with some law…perhaps.
Best, as ever
Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Papal Bull edition

Dear Reader,

While I will, of course, be doing my annual ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blog post next weekend, it being Easter… it would be most remiss of me not to note, at the very least, the Pope’s ‘difficulties with assorted and sundry sodomists or should that be sodomites..or buggerers, even? They appear to be popping up, if you forgive the rather grisly metaphor, all over the place.

The Observer notes: “The head of the Catholic church is bracing himself for a new round of allegations by victims of paedophile priests — in Italy”

I feel confident that the Pope will get to the bottom of it eventually….so moving on…

As the election draws closer the main political parties are revving up. The latest Tory attack posters are rather good – featuring a grinning Gordon Brown with various captions about plundering pensions and letting criminals out early etc etc  and, inevitably, there will be many parodies…

The Labour Party, taking time out from consulting their ‘Masters’ at Unite, is losing no time  in briefing about Osbore being immature and shrill.

I’ve just had an email from David Cameron…. I claim no special favour here.  I registered as Charon QC to receive emails from WebCameron some time ago and still they come.  I always look forward to them…. I read it with a glass of wine over lunch on Sunday

Dear Charon,

This week Labour showed us they simply have nothing left to offer. We had a completely empty Budget followed by five empty pledges. With each day that passes the choice at this election becomes even more stark and clear: five more years of Gordon Brown’s tired government making things worse or …with the Conservatives. ( I removed the word change just before ‘with the conservatives’.  It read much better that way.)

An excellent article by David Blackburn in The Spectator caught my eye.

The most corrupt parliament ever?

Blackburn draws attention to the Sunday Times coverage of yet another MP using his ‘experience’ to charge consultancy fees, plus ‘expenses’ (naturally)… and ends with this wonderful thought…“It’s nothing short of miraculous that the 50 percent tax rate got through this parliament of multi-millionaires. And who knows, perhaps a tax scandal is in the offing?

This affair runs too deep for politics to be absolved by an election. George III’s rotten parliaments take some beating, but this current parliament contends for the dubious accolade of ‘most corrupt parliament ever’. As in 1832, reform is essential.”

My Sony Vaio laptop died yesterday… it wasn’t a great death… I downloaded an update to some software and it simply refused to restart.  An engineer sucked air through his teeth in a meaningful way when I spoke to one at PC World and told me that it would take 2-3 days to fix it….and even then..?…. so I bit the bullet and bought a new iMac.  The return to Macs after a year farting about with endless problems with Windows Vista and Sony taking 15-20 minutes to boot up is wonderful.  Straight out of the box and up and running within five minutes.  I re-started just to have the pleasure of seeing this sophisticated computer do so in just over 90 seconds…marvellous. All I need to do now is bite another bullet, throw my Samsung Jet into the river and buy an iPhone… maybe next month.

I was a bit over refreshed on Twitter t’other evening and thought that I might create yet another ‘brother’ or ‘cousin’. Cardinal Charoni di Tempranillo, my ‘spiritual’ cousin, is flying over from the Vatican next week.  I have warned him  to warn the Pope that if he needs an English lawyer the fees will crucify him.  Charoni is coming over to ‘consult’, visit a lap dancing club with his City lawyers,  and do a few exorcisms.  He is doing a special offer… Buy one exorcism, get one free.  I thought the ‘Reverend Charon’ would be appropriate and found some suitable quotations to reflect the mores and issues of our times….

Well… there we are…another week has gone by.  Easter next weekend and we can enjoy the spectacle of lots of frustrated motorists sitting in long queues on motorways in the bad weather.  The papers report that 50,000 motorists will break down in their cars… or should that be… the cars will break down?

Have a good week.  I return on the morrow with some sensible law news…. and, no doubt, reports of some other nonsense from the political world.

Best, as ever

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Strike while the iron is hot edition….

Dear Reader,

3.50 am is, perhaps, a bit early to get up on a Sunday morning;  presenting that awkward dilemma… is it too early or late for a glass of Rioja?  Fortunately, unlike Mr Cameron – but six weeks or so away from having to cancel   the removals van booking, I don’t have bigger issues to decide…such as finding a new Foreign Secretary, whether Ken Clarke might have been a better choice of Chancellor, whether there could be any good ideas out there on the internet to use as policies…. so I poured myself a glass and settled down to read the News of The Screws and other newspapers online.

The NOTW informed me that Jade Goody’s mother went on a ‘coke binge to mark the anniversary of her daughter’s death’, ‘Venables goes ‘crazy’ in clink’ (quite possibly from reading all the tabloid ‘exclusives’ on him), ‘Paedo on Facebook snared me in web of lies’ (Not ‘me’ being ensnared obviously) – and declined to accept an invitation from the NOTW to meet Mr Miaow Miaow online. I always try to be fair  but searched in vain for anything on NOTW online which could be classed as news or of relevance to anyone that lives on Earth.

So.. it was over to The Sunday Times….online….

Not being one of the new graduates from The Laurel & Hardy Institute of Humanity Studies, I do not believe that ‘people should not ever be allowed to strike…. EVAR! ‘ (which seems to be a popular view among those wretched souls kept in a London ‘Lock up’ so they can be polled from time to time on the issues of the day… I soon got bored with the coverage in various newspapers claiming victory for one side or the other in the British Airways-Unite strike.   I knew I had to read Clarkson on the matter…

Captain to striking cabin crew: boy, are you in for a shock

Clarkson does the business… and summarises the matter in his inimitable way…

“I like Virgin. And I flew Singapore Airlines recently, which was out of this world. But there is nothing quite so joyous as leaving the hustle and bustle of a superheated Third World hellhole and being greeted on the big BA jumbo by a homosexual with a cold flannel and a refreshing glass of champagne. Take that away from us and we may as well all be Belgian.”

I then turned to an interesting article in The Sunday Times…. SAS veterans join new war on poachers:Conservation Wildlife charities are using military kit and know-how in bloody battles to save species at risk

And… just in case you thought that the corruption by MPs was all done and dusted now they have (almost) all paid back what they were not entitled to by way of expenses…the Sunday Times comes up with….

Revealed: Labour’s cash for influence scandal

The Sunday Times reports: A FORMER Labour cabinet minister has boasted about how he used his government contacts to change policies in favour of businesses. Stephen Byers, former trade and transport secretary, was secretly recorded offering himself “like a sort of cab for hire” for up £5,000 a day. He also suggested bringing Tony Blair to meet clients. He was among several politicians recorded by an undercover reporter posing as a company executive looking to hire MPs for lobbying work.

“The others included…” – well… it is only fair that you read the Sunday Times story….. they did the work…it is an interesting list!

And then this… from The Observer…

Treasury calls in Vince Cable for talks on implications of a hung parliament

The Observer reports: “Vince Cable has held unprecedented and detailed talks with the top official at the Treasury about the Liberal Democrats’ economic policies – and declared himself willing to serve as chancellor after the next election. As Whitehall gears up for a possible hung parliament, Cable told the Observer that he had been questioned by Nicholas Macpherson, the Treasury’s permanent secretary, about what the Lib Dems’ demands would be in a coalition with Labour or the Tories….”

The Observer noted…“Cable was unaware of such meetings having taken place with Lib Dem shadow chancellors before previous general elections. The talks were a sign that the Treasury was “taking seriously” the prospect of his party playing a leading role in economic policy in what could be the first hung parliament since 1974.”

On the other hand… as nothing would surprise me in politics these days… it could just be some guy at The Treasury who gets up at 3.30 am, cracks open a bottle of Rioja,  and decides it might be fun to phone Vince Cable….and see what happens ?

I watched Eddie Izzard on television last night – doing his 43 marathons for Sports relief... I like Eddie Izzard (How can one not?) … that was a very fine effort… and because Le Singe is, obviously, still in his tree… I am more than prepared to make a donation to Sport Relief – ordinarily, I don’t like to be told by celebrities to make donations… … but Eddie Izzard doesn’t tell… he suggests…invites… and anyone who can eat a Big Mac while doing a Marathon deserves support!

It is now 5.30 am and I am in an excellent mood… unfortunately… the cafes are not open yet… so I may have another

Best, as always


Charon

Carte postale de la Cabines-on-Thames: Entente Cordiale edition

Cher Reader,

Je vous écris de ma Cabines (Staterooms) sur les questions relatives à la Entente Cordiale avec les Français … vendeurs de missiles Exocet à la ARGIES dans la guerre des Malouines, des perdants au Trafalgar et Waterloo,  et now having a larf at our economy.

The Independent reports: “David Cameron has become embroiled in an embarrassing row with Nicolas Sarkozy after it emerged that the French have complained about a series of jibes at their leader’s lack of height. French officials have lodged a protest after the Tory leader appeared to make a comment about “hidden dwarfs” in relation to a photo of himself and the 5ft 5in President Sarkozy, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday.”

The remark, made in a newspaper interview six months ago, was followed by another slight, when the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne publicly described a box placed at a speaker’s lectern as a “Sarkozy box”.

This, following ex UKIP leader Farage’s extraordinary outburst against EU President Van Rompuy“”Who are you? I’d never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you,” Farage proclaimed. He said van Rompuy had the “charisma of a damp rag” and compared him to a “low-grade bank clerk”. For good measure he also insulted the EU President’s homeland, saying Belgium was “pretty much a non-country”. is ensuring that Britain is placed right at the heart of European politics.

I suppose it is fortunate that this year’s World Cup is in South Africa not Europe – because we do have form when it comes to sending yobs to Europe to run riot and behave badly to our European neighbours.

Tom Harris MP describes it as an act of political malevolence…but which Tory shouted ‘Object’ and scuppered Andrew Gwynne’s anti-poverty Private Member’s Bill?

The Guardian reports: “Pressure is growing on David Cameron to identify the mystery Tory MP who deliberately scuppered a landmark anti-poverty bill that could have stopped “vulture” bankers profiteering from the developing world’s debt burdens. Debt campaigners have reacted in fury and disbelief to the killing of the bill and Labour MP Sally Keeble, one of the bill’s backers, has accused the Conservatives of “duplicity” by pretending to back the legislation and then sabotaging it at the last minute.”

Pretty shoddy…and the failure to own up or report the MP (Pre-pubescent public school concerns about ‘sneaking’? – surely not!) doesn’t really bode that well for what journalists are still calling ‘joined up government’ in the future. Why do journalists still use that awful old cliche…joined up government…joined up education policy etc etc etc..?

As Tom Harris MP said..“Whoever did it is no friend of those charities working hard to improve the lot of the developing world and to stop bankers profiting from misery.”

Hey ho… or should that be “heigh-ho, heigh-ho  its orf to work we go”… a new anthem from the Tories when they get stuck into CUTS, should they be elected on 6th May?

Anyway…. in the interests of political balance (!)… I am happy to report that Guido Fawkes is reporting..

+ + + Lord Paul Repays Fiddled £38,000 Expenses + + +

“Telegraph is reporting that Lord Paul has repaid the £38,000 in expenses he claimed for a flat he never slept in. He says it is not an admission of guilt. So why is he repaying it?”

Well…there we are… a fine Sunday morning.. le soleil is shining and all is well with the world.. now it is time for me to go and read the newspapers, drink some cafe at a cafe and smoke Les Gauloises…Bleu!  Vive la France … Vive la différence

Au revoir

Best as always

Charon


Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Internet anger and other matters

Dear Reader

There is a lot of anger on the net, on discussion forums, in the comments section of blogs and even on Twitter.  Separating the techniques of the professional anger people who use ‘anger’ to make a point – for that can be useful, there do appear to be a lot of morons and trolls out there who have nothing better to do  after wetting their beds than to abuse and insult people on twitter or bloggers who try to express ideas and views.

John Bolch at Family Lore has had enough of people wanting to grind their axes on his blog…. Please, grind your axes elsewhere.

John writes…” I try to keep this blog a reasonably open place, where people can state their opinions freely, whether or not they coincide with mine (a quick read through the blog will confirm this to any neutral reader). Unfortunately, the privilege to comment freely is all too often abused by those with an axe to grind, and too much time on their hands (alas, it seems that this is probably the lot of family law bloggers). Too often, posts are hijacked by such people, whose comments often have little or no relevance to the point of the original post. I’m sorry, but if you want to grind your axe about lawyers biased against fathers/secret family courts/whatever went wrong when you experienced the family justice system, then please do so elsewhere, and let’s keep comments here relevant and civil.

So, if your comment is not approved, or is deleted, now you know why. Of course, defamatory or spam comments will also be rejected.

Politicians are used to maniacs turning up on their blogs and most have a policy of ‘be civil’. Richard Dawkins has now got involved…

Richard Dawkins takes on the Net

The BBC reports: Richard Dawkins has intervened in a dispute about the moderation of his official website. He says the nastiness of comments added to the site is a sign of “something rotten in the internet culture”.

It appears that the site, which describes itself as a “clear thinking oasis” has been muddied by thoughtless abusiveness.

Doubtlessly, some will say that the stridency of the new atheism movement may partly explain the aggressiveness one finds on the Dawkins website; that if Dawkins’s fan-base is populated by those who enjoy the sharpness of his verbal assault on belief and believers, then those acolytes might be tempted to outdo one another in futher sharpness.

But, to be fair, the Richard Dawkins I have met is a gentleman and a scholar, and I am not at all suprised by his stand against incivility.

We all get angry.  These days, I prefer not to…in fact, I go out of my way not to get angry. I prefer to laugh and I would far rather parody something than write a diatribe to make a point. Fortunately, I get interesting and surreal comments from relatively insane sane people on my blog and the bed wetters and trolls tend not to be terribly interested in anything I write or comment on. I have a pretty open policy on comments, but I don’t tolerate people slagging each other off – unless they do it with style, elan and panache – and anyone who comes on to my comments section to say “Great… I’ve been looking for a site like this..keep up the good work” runs the risk that I will divert their URL for their law service (or other commercial activity) to a dodgy porn site.

I am pleased to announce, should anyone be daft enough to be abusive, troll-like or unpleasant on  my blog, that I have a new award – Charon’s Bed-Wetter Award….

It is highly unlikely that I shall ever have to make this award… but I shall do so, possibly, if I get seriously tedious people writing unpleasant nonsense…or law firms (and other commercial organisations) who try to get free Google juice by putting inane and irrelevant comments on a post and then link to their crappy service!

++Target Reached++

Old Holborn and Anna Raccoon did the business with the help of a lot of people on the blogosphere… I was happy to support this (and did) and thank you to those of my readers who did

Anna Raccoon reports: “A quick update to let everyone know what the state of play is with Nick Hogan.

The Blogosphere has reacted in magnificent fashion, the target has been reached in a mere 4 days. There are legal technicalities which Denise is fully aware of, which will be sorted very soon – and he will be home.

I have spoken to Denise several times today, as has Nick, from prison.  He is very much happier than he was yesterday, considerably cheered by the huge bag of cards and letters he has received this morning, and Denise is fully aware of everything that is going on.

My heart goes out to Denise, she has been subject to constant rumour and scurrilous speculation, which has only made a difficult situation more difficult to bear, but rest assured, she is in constant contact with Old Holborn and myself, and wants me to thank you all from the bottom of her heart.

They said it couldn’t be done – well it couldn’t without Old Holborn’s help, or Guido’s final push, but this has been a non-partisan, non-political, non-campaigning, tour de force on behalf of ordinary people who were shocked at an ordinary man being jailed for failing to report his fellow citizens.

Well done everyone!”

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames

Dear Reader,

I have taken up smoking Marlboro Lites – a health kick thingy to supplement my return to the noble art of Smokedo this weekend. I was rather taken with the knowledge that there are now 1440 references on Google for Smokedo which I invented for myself (and others)  last Spring. Pictured left is a drawing done by a very good artist and friend of mine – Lindsey Goldsmith.  The drawing, which took 15 minutes while the artist was pissed at 3.30 am some years back – captures the very essence of my smoking technique.  I am not usually interested in images of myself – but I treasure this one because it was done at 3.30 am while the artist was roaring. I may well have been over refreshed myself at the time.

It is pleasing to see the return of an old friend of mine to the world of law blogging.  The Fat Bigot has returned to enliven our mornings. FB has a great writing style and his insights into the events of our times are worth reading.

Another law blog ‘Law & Lawyers’ , with serious analysis, which I read each day is by Obiter J – who is a regular commenter on my own blog (pleasingly). Have a look?

And since the law blogging world is getting better why not have a look at a blog written by solicitor Matthew Taylor.  Matthew and I plan to do a number of regular podcasts on general law issues of the week.

Mercifully, there are still of a few of us old lags who continue to write nonsense and cover nonsense. I always enjoy my visits to The White Rabbit – who is  Off to London for the weekend…

When Geeklawyer returns from terrorising High Court judges with his advocacy and tweeting with his ‘harem’ on Twitter – it is quite possible that he, too, will contribute to the more surreal analysis of the legal events of our times.  To be fair, Geeklawyer did much to help our understanding of the Middle East with a post only last week… Wimmin Lawyers allowed to speak in Saudi Arabia It is, perhaps, best that I let Geeklawyer explain his thoughts, rather than extract a passage – they are not always ‘office safe’.

THE THINGS YOU SEE (OR READ ABOUT) WHEN YOU HAVEN’T GOT A GUN…

After reading about people turning up at Tesco and other supermarkets to do their shopping in their pyjamas, I did not for one moment think I would witness  such bizarre behaviour myself.  I should have known better.  I have moved to Battersea… near Battersea Square in fact.  This very morning, but a few moments ago, at 10.30 after  returning from doing some Marlboro smoking and reading of the papers at a cafe on the King’s Road, I went into my local newsagent and saw a a man in a fairly unpleasantly coloured check dressing gown, even more absurdly check coloured bedroom slippers and pyjamas with a yellow baseball cap on.  He was buying newspapers and milk and was very pleased with himself generally – judging by the patronising way he spoke to the sales assistant behind the till in a drawling Sloany accent.  I suspect that he may be  ‘something in the City’.  I resisted the impulse to laugh maniacally like those ‘shouters’ who wander about  pissed in the street do and tried to avoid looking as if I was fascinated by the absurdity of his appearance.  I was standing nearby, waiting to buy more supplies.   I haven’t worn pyjamas for forty-five years – it seems to me to be a tad effete to do so – and marvelled that this man (a) would do so and (b) that he thought he was being ‘cool’ by shopping in them. A grown man, dressed in ‘jim-jams and dressing gown more suited to an eight year old boy at prep school in the fifties’, complete with nerdy bedroom slippers, and wearing a baseball cap, is not a good look. If I was Jeremy Clarkson I’d probably want to deport him… but I am not.

Talking about Jeremy Clarkson – he is right on some things. I read The Sun most mornings before turning to more sensible newspapers.  I do this because I want to see what propaganda is being propagated to millions of potential voters by a newspaper which seems to change political allegiance at the drop of a hat.  Clarkson was moaning about the fact that for every electrical device we rely on – laptops, mobiles, camcorders, iPods etc etc there are many separate chargers which have to be carted about if one goes on holiday or even on a short business trip.  Why can’t they come up a universal charger socket and charger?

The nannies are at it again with proposals to require Cinemas to put warnings and calories on popcorn and other foods sold to fat bastards and obese  e-numbered up children. I lost the will to read more of this in The Times this morning and turned the page to read a satisfyingly pleasing story that house prices have dipped again by 1.5% – the point being that this may aid the ‘fragile recovery’.  One of the good things about the recent recession has been that pub and dinner party talk has not been marred by venal and greedy people boring me  to death with how marvellous they are in having a house that has risen in value by gazillions of pounds.  The recent rises in house property prices was beginning to encourage Justin & Annabel to come out of the cupboard again with talk of house values.

Finally… for my ‘Rant du Jour’:  also in The Sun, was a story about a father being told by a security guard at a shopping complex that he could not take a photograph of his own son who was sitting on a toy train….  because he, the father, might be a paedophile. I accept that stupid people have to have jobs – but I do think it best that if people really want to be stupid they should not be employed as security guards. The father objected, remonstrating that he was the child’s father…at which point stupid man says that the father cannot prove this and calls the police.  PC Plod turns up and he, too, it seems, is rather stupid.  PC Plod, it is reported, tells the father that he isn’t allowed to take photographs of children and says that he can require the photograph to be deleted. The father got a bit heated, at which point PC Idiot decides to threaten the father with arrest fror breach of the peace. Christ on a f*****g bicycle…. how do people like this get into the Police?

I am pretty sure there is no law on photographing one’s own child in public and I know of no law which gives the police power to delete photographs taken in this context. I could be wrong, of course… there are so many new idiotic laws in this country that it is difficult to be certain. I appreciate that society has to protect children from paedophiles – but it is getting to a pretty sorry state of affairs when a father can’t even take a pic of his own kid?  Perhaps I am off beam on this and we do need these laws.  I have a photograph of myself aged five naked in a bath.  My parents took the photograph.  I suspect many readers will have pictures from their childhood taken by loving parents.  I also have a photograph of me aged 8 – toothy, wearing short trousers, grey flannel shirt, striped school tie,  a school cap, eating an ice cream – with a parrot on my shoulder…. which appealed to an ex-lover of mine because she said I looked ‘sweet’.  I am pleased to report now… that I am (a) not sweet and (b) do not look sweet.  Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is closer to my ‘look’ these days and,  some say… with an ‘attitude’  to match!

Guido Fawkes has a good story about a Telegraph hackette writing to David Cameron’s friends – on Facebook etc – to dig for dirt about his school days. Telegraph Digging on Dave’s School-days

Frankly, I hope Cameron did have a great time at school and university.  I could not give a damn what Cameron did then. Most people have a few minor skeletons from those halcyon days.  Half the Labour Cabinet popped up some time ago with tales of drug taking at university – with appropriate statements of retrospective remorse  – but it would be most pleasing if he did have a normal childhood and got wasted at university from time to time.

There will, no doubt, be amusements to comment on in the Sunday papers tomorrow…. so I shall hit the send button on my weekly  ‘postcard’ and wander off to find a pub to enjoy a glass of Rioja at locally and think about what I plan to do next.  I think I shall return to painting soon…. My F***Art section needs a few more entries.

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Outsourced and ‘Ghost written’

Dear Reader,

Twitter is awash with social media mavens who think they know more and think better than others.  The fact that many of the social media mavens may be American is inevitable. But the Brit ‘marketers’ are catching up fast with their snakeoil.  They have set themselves up as ‘mavens’ or ‘gurus’. Most of the ones I have come across don’t blog or their blogs are dull, don’t write entertaining tweets and don’t appear to have anything of any value whatsoever in terms of advice.

I am pleased to announce my Merdu du Boeuf award for webfuckery. This award is not given to an individual – it is awarded for a ‘concept’ .  The concept to win this, my first Merde du Boeuf award,  is OUTSOURCING TWEETS… or as the ‘gurus’ call it TWoutsourcing.  My attention was drawn to this ludicrous idea by fellow blogger Peninsulawyer – so Hat Tip to him.  He also tweets.

While I expect busy or cretinous celebrities (sometimes a celebrity may fall into both categories)  to get their memoirs ghostwritten , I really do not see why lawyers get serious law blogs ghostwritten (This is pretty close to fraud for it may mislead the reader about the lawyer’s ability and competence) and I certainly can’t see why anyone would want to pay someone to do their tweets for them – unless, of course, they are going to bore for England about their goddam products.

Oliver Jones is, obviously, an enterprising chap. He has set up  The Legal Marketer to help law firms get work.  He is prepared to tweet for law firms.  His argument is remarkably simple.  He says twitter is no different from an advert whether online or traditional print – so it is perfectly sensible for a law firm to get a ‘professional’ to do their tweeting for them. He does admit that twitter has other, social, uses.  These are are of no interest to law firms who simply wish to market.
I have no problem at all with advertisers – quite the opposite – they sponsor and help pay for the resources that my online magazine Insite Law provides for free.   I have no problem at all with law firms who use twitter simply to market their services. My remedy is simple – I don’t follow them.  If they follow me and I don’t like them or I am feeling capricious,  I block them.  Sometimes, if I am completely roaring on Rioja while tweeting…  I even report them for spam.  I know a lot of lawyers are a bit wet behind the ears when it comes to marketing their firms – but I can’t imagine they are daft enough to let a marketing firm loose on twitter on their behalf – unless, of course, they write all the tweets at a partner’s meeting for the month and send the list of tweets to the ‘guru’ to post at intervals!  Now.. that would be really daft, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some law firms are thinking of doing just that!

Mr Stone may have have succumbed to ‘Twitter selfimportanceitis’… I quote…

I read one tweet where somebody said that if they found out somebody was writing it that they would stop following!

Oh the sacrilege! That person probably thinks that because there is the lack of just one person tweeting, then a message is lost – there may be a brand behind it. Well the computer that you are typing on there… Neither Mr Hewlett or Mr Packard actually crafted it himself and moreover the channel that you use to tell me about your life is making someone some money somewhere so play the game, and be thankful that you tweet because you enjoy it, not because you have to.

I am, indeed, thankful that I tweet because I enjoy it and not because I have to!  Good luck to Mr Jones and the law firms who wish  to twoutsource to him!

Almost inevitably…

Twitter Sparks Its First Libel Action

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kurt Cobain’s widow, singer Courtney Love is at the center of a libel suit due to her angry Tweets against her former fashion designer, Dawn Simorangkir. According to a libel claim lodged by Simorangkir in Los Angeles Superior Court , Love carried out “an obsessive and delusional crusade” of malicious libel against her on Twitter, adding insult on MySpace and other websites.

And talking of libel… I received a tweet  from @IkenCEO a fellow twitter user asking for my view on Carter-Ruck representing the ‘good guys’ for a change with the comment… ‘that’s not on message’!

My own attempt to ‘twoutsource’ my tweets yesterday when I was recovering from overdoing the juice on Friday evening was met with this…

The reference to @DavidWrightMP was to Wright’s ludicrous attempt to say that his twitter account was hijacked when he tweeted about the Tories being scumsucking-pigs. This may well be true – but it irritated Eric Pickles, Conservative Chairman, so much so that he wrote to complain that Wright may have broken the ‘Ministerial Code’.  It also gave the Tory bloggers and tweeters something to get even hotter under the collar about.

Tory bloggers. gawd bless ’em, are almost wetting themselves with excitement at the prospect of a new Tory era – and they may well get it.  William Hague has, cunningly, been writing in the News of The Screws for two years (Paid / unpaid?) to get in touch with the Conservative Party’s working class side.

The NOTW reports today…

GORDON BROWN is deliberately wrecking the country to sabotage an incoming Tory government, William Hague has claimed.

He accused the Prime Minister of taking Britain to the brink of bankruptcy to leave a mess for his successor. Mr Hague warned that Mr Brown had given up all hope of winning the election and resorted to planting economic booby traps. In an amazing attack, David Cameron’s deputy likened Labour ministers to a retreating army “poisoning the wells” as they fled. He said: “If he had actually planned to leave the country in the worst state possible, he couldn’t have gone about it better.

Good, however, to see that humour and romance are not dead over at Eversheds…. RollonFriday reported on this Email sent to Eversheds staff…

Sent: 12 February 2010 15:32
To: Department staff
Subject: Roses are red…..

Violets are Blue,
I’ve done my timesheets
How about you?

Big Brother Bank Accounts

Guido Fawkes and Ian Parker-Joseph alerted me to the latest brilliant plan from George Osborne – well, I assume he was involved in the ‘plan’, given that he appears to be Shadow Chancellor of The Exchequer.

The plan is simple…. let the taxman have direct access to everyone’s bank accounts so that they can tax you at source. I had a bit of fun with Ian Parker-Joseph yesterday, tweeting that I thought this was a good idea to help struggling companies!  I was in that sort of post-hangover sardonic mood. Ian is a Libertarian – indeed, until recently, Head of the Libertarian Party UK.  He is absolutely right, of course, to say that this is not a great idea.  Guido Fawkes agrees…. “If HMRC has an electronic trojan in your bank account it will move on from deducting from your salary to taking a cut of your eBay sales and tracking all your financial transactions.  Do you want the government controlling your bank account?  That is the ultimate goal of tax collectors the world over since before even the Doomsday Book…”

Given the way MPs behaved when they tried to suppress Freedom of Information requests on their expenses – it is, perhaps, likely that Osbore and others at The Laurel & Hardy Institute of Fiscal Studies will have ‘second thoughts’ should they be elected in May.

Well… the gulls are shrieking, the cormorants are diving for eels… and it is time now, for me, to sit outside a cafe on the King’s Road – at the World’s End end – and drink black coffee, smoke some Marlboros and read the papers.

Have a good week..

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames, Battersea, London

Dear Reader,

I write from The Staterooms-on-Thames, Battersea – a curious place overlooking Chelsea Marina and close to Battersea Bridge. I can’t quite see the boat I used to live on at Cheyne Walk beside Battersea Bridge.  It is a short walk to World’s End, Chelsea for coffee, breakfast and a read of the papers.  I plan to live here for a year and then… who knows?

I’ve brought some of my paintings and some furniture with me and  I thought I would take a few pics on my mobile to show the main room where I drink and work – sometimes at the same time. (Dotted about the post)

I have my small computer table set up in an alcove overlooking the river. It is north facing so there is no direct sunlight coming in to interfere with the laptop screen.

The main room is probably three times thee size of the main room in the apartment I had at Chatham Maritime on The Medway. There is, unfortunately, no balcony.  I have to do my Smokedo exercises inside.  This is not a problem.  There are many gulls, ducks, cormorants.  The sound of helicopters going to the heliport is fairly regular but by no means intrusive.  There is almost always something going by on the Thames – yesterday kayaks and an eights boat full of earnest rowers being shouted at by a guy in a motorboat has just gone by.

Britain may have to brace itself for another snow cold snap. The eastern seaboard of the US is enduring what Obama called Snowmaggedon.  Our BBC and Sky news reporters often look ridiculous when they report floods while standing in puddles of water or snow while demonstrating just how slippery it is – but they are nothing on this guy from the States.  He loses the plot completely – well worth a watch. [Hat Tip to fellow twitter user @stokenewington

John Terry’s ‘£750,000’ legal gag

The Times has weighed in with a tasteful piece suggesting that the exact sum is disputed: friends of Perroncel say it was £750,000 while friends of Terry claim the sum was £400,000. Private Eye has a rather more sardonic view saying that Schilling’s, who represent the great, the good and the (obviously) not so good who want to keep their deeds hidden from prying eyes.

Private Eye notes that Schillings describe themselves as..

The leading law firm protecting the reputations of high-profile individuals, corporates and brands.

“Schillings is one of Britain’s top law firms dedicated to safeguarding the reputations of international corporations, brands, celebrities and high-profile business people. The firm’s track-record in defamation, privacy and copyright cases is second to none.”  [This is from the Schillings website] As Private Eye pointed out – and I checked today – the Schillings private client news section on the front page trumpets success – but I could find no mention of the Terry superinjunction which was lifted by Tugendhat J last week.

A quick look at Wikipedia reveals that Battersea is…

Historically a part of Surrey, the area takes its name from the old village of Battersea, an island settlement established in the river delta of the Falconbrook; a river that rises in Tooting Bec Common and flows underground through south London to the River Thames.[3] The site of the original settlement is marked by St. Mary’s Church. William Blake was married, and Benedict Arnold and his wife and daughter are buried in the crypt of the church. Battersea is mentioned in Anglo-Saxon time as Badrices īeg = “Badric’s Island” and later “Patrisey”. As with many former Thames island settlements, Battersea was reclaimed by draining marshland and building culverts for streams.

The settlement appears in the Domesday Book as Patricesy. It was held by St Peter’s Abbey, Westminster. Its Domesday Assets were: 18 hides; 7 mills worth £42 9s 8d, 17 ploughs, 82 acres (330,000 m2) of meadow, woodland worth 50 hogs. It rendered (in total): £75 9s 8d.[4]

Here is a picture of Battersea Square…. lively in summer. It was rather quiet as I sat at Muzar drinking coffee and smoking cigs while reading the News of The Screws.  I read The Observer later… when the mind is clear!

World’s End, Chelsea and the King’s Road is but a 10 minute walk away – a part of London I have enjoyed for 30 odd years.

Finally… a pic of the view from Battersea towards Cheyne Walk, Chelsea and the boats where I lived for a while in the second half of 2008.

Have a good week… back with some law / politics stuff ;later

Best, as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea

Dear Reader,

This is my last weekend Postcard from the Staterooms-On-Sea.  I leave Chatham Maritime on the Medway for London next week; returning to live in Battersea, right on the river opposite the boat I used to live on at Cheyne Walk.  This is not a permanent return.  I feel like a Tuareg, moving my tent and furniture about every six months or so.  I rather like the idea of being able to move about the country and pitch my tent metaphorically in different places.  I have enjoyed my time in kent – but I need a bit more of a social life. The apartment is right on the river overlooking the Thames to Chelsea and about 50 years from the very pleasant Battersea Square. (Right)

I’ve just finished reading a fascinating transcript of an interview with David Cameron by John Sopel of the BBC on The Politics Show. It is quite extraordinary, barely months before the election, that Cam & Dec haven’t got their act together on the specifics of the cuts they are going to impose. Save for those who will vote Tory come what may, how are other voters going to make an informed decision unless they are given details.  Cameron waffled badly in this interview, allowing Sopel to plunge the toasting fork into Cameron’s buttocks several times.  It was like the scene in Tom Brown’s Schooldays when Flashman toasted the young Tom Brown in front of the fire.

Here are a few of the Sopel questions. The answers are worth reading…

SOPEL
I’m sorry to interrupt you, I just want to interrupt you on that because is it that you haven’t identified what the year one cuts will be and therefore can’t tell us, or that you have identified them but now is not the time to tell us?

I want to rattle through some of the specifics where you have pledged, I just want to check that those specifics are still in place, for example on inheritance tax even though there are only a couple of thousand estates, a few thousand people would be affected by it, that commitment, policy commitment remains?

No going back on that one?

And now I want to go to where I think there are, really ambiguity is a good word to use for it. What about recognising tax, recognising marriage in the tax system? Where are you on that because this is going into a right mess at the beginning of the year?

You’ve had two years to work out the answer to that. You launched something and then it kind of all collapsed.

I’m not asking for the detail of everything but for, you’ve had four years to work this one out and you haven’t worked it out.

And then Cameron launched into his ‘Kill a Burglar ‘ speech and made the remarkable statement that burglars leave their human rights at the door. I’m astonished that a prime minister in waiting can make such a statement.

CAMERON
Well we think that the, the proposal has been put forward which is to say that unless the action you take as a homeowner is grossly disproportionate, so you’re raising the bar effectively, that that will be a good step forward. Now if you can find a different –

SOPEL
How have you turned that into law because –


CAMERON
Well I’ve given you two words – grossly disproportionate. That’s –


SOPEL
You can use proportionate force, you just can’t use grossly disproportionate force?

Oh dear… Cameron is not very good at thinking on his feet, it would seem and his side-kick Osbore doesn’t seem to be good at thinking at all.

Interestingly… this from Tweetminster at 6.15 pm this evening:

tweetminster Sentiment (on Twitter) around David Cameron has dropped following Politics Show (& the resulting coverage) http://bit.ly/dAjy1V

Having re-read this grilling of Cameron by Sopel – irrespective of the fact that i am supposed to be ‘socialist’… Cameron worries me. Nothing seems to be structured, coherent, thought out.  This is not really good enough for a prospective prime minister who has had some years to work things out.  Waffle just doesn’t cut it in tutorials with first year students… it certainly doesn’t when it comes to policy statements from a man who puts himself forward as the next prime minister.  Kenneth Clarke?  too late for a Conservative leadership challenge?

AND THIS IS THE KILLER QUESTION FROM SOPEL… Very clever as it reveals that Cameron has no understanding whatsoever of International Law, the ICC or what Chilcot is about… tragic… and I am sure that Sopel must have thought very carefully about that question…

SOPEL
Yeah, do you understand why some people say Tony Blair ought to be tried for war crimes?


CAMERON
Well I don’t, I don’t think it’s come to that. He’s, he’s giving an account of himself as we are speaking right now. I haven’t been able to see that. Let’s let Chilcot do his work and do his report, and then I think we can make more of a judgment.

This is rather worrying?

The Law Society gazette ran an astonishing story this week:

Website for blacklisted solicitors plans expansion

While I am n favour of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority publishing reports of disciplinary proceedings taken against solicitors – I am not so sure the Solicitorsfromhell site is an altogether fair way of dealing with complaints. Quite apart from possible issues of libel and unfairness (the owner of the site says he has been threatened with libel by solicitors) – it is not an analytical or objective forum.  The site does not appear to permit of a dissent or an alternative viewpoint under each listing post.  Mr Kordowski has this notice on the front page of his website:

Note to Solicitors and Firms:

An internet directory or search engine (such as this) is NOT a publisher at common law, just a facilitator.
As held by Mr Justice Eady on July 19 2009.

The Law Society Gazette reports: ” Solicitorsfromhell.co.uk allows visitors to post complaints about law firms and individual solicitors. The postings appear on Google within 24 hours. Kordowski said that he set the website up because he was ‘shocked’ about the number of complaints made about solicitors. He maintained that he is carrying out a public service that is also of benefit to the ­profession. Law firms can pay £299 to have all current and future traces of their name removed from the site. Alternatively, they can pay between £99 and £199 to have specific postings deleted. Visitors are charged a fee for posting a complaint about a firm.” (Mr Kordowski says that visitors to the site are NOT charged a fee)

Gary Slapper, of the Open University (who is always worth reading in The Times) has a truly weird case this weekand I mean W E I R D

“In the film The Matrix, Keanu Reeves plays a character who moves in and out of the real world. He might have thought he was having a similar experience while defending a recent legal action in Canada. Reeves was sued by Karen Sala, a woman he said he had never met but who claimed that he had disguised himself as her husband and, over 25 years, fathered her four children.”

RollonFriday has a classic this week: Exclusive – Eversheds partner questions parent’s commitment
Eversheds has admitted that it had to carry out an investgation after one of its partners sent a email to a colleague wondering how to deal with an interviewee who had recently had a child.

Delighted to see that the Spacehijackers, who painted their armoured car in Police colours to attend the G20 protests last year, are not going to face charges. The CPS appears to have used the common sense test… “

A theatre group charged with impersonating police officers at the G20 protests are planning to sue the Metropolitan Police after the Crown Prosecution Service dropped all charges.

Eleven protesters, billing themselves as the Space Hijackers and portraying themselves as the “laughing cavaliers of capitalism”, were arrested after they jumped out of an armoured vehicle at the Bishopsgate offices of the Royal Bank of Scotland during the demonstrations in London’s Square Mile on 1 April last year. They were charged with impersonating police but the case was dropped after four hearings after the CPS said it had received new information and no longer believed there was a realistic chance of a conviction.”

I accept that it is easy to indulge in a bit of ‘Police bashing’ – and sometimes, as the G20 police behaviour demonstrates, they deserve it – but this action on the part of the police was doomed to failure right from the start and just plain daft. I suspect a jury would have acquitted had it gone the full distance…. the CPS certainly thought so.

Guido Fawkes notes: Andy Murray Cursed (Again) Loses Open

“Back in July last year Andy Murray was cursed by Jonah Brown.  Earlier this week when Gordon wished Murray well against Federer many co-conspirators winced and commented that this was the kiss of death again.”

Another interesting week ahead for law news… I am planning to do some televised short voxpop interviews with members of the public about legal news stories when I return to London.  these will supplement the podcasts which I am already doing and, hopefully, be of interest in terms of seeing how mebers of the public regard our laws and the legal issues of our times.  We shall see how it goes!  (I shall, do not fear, be behind the camera)

Have a good week

Best as always

Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea: Legality of the war…. and a bit from the political world….

Dear Reader,

“Philippe Sands QC, a professor of international law, who gave evidence to the Dutch inquiry, said: “There has been no other independent assessment on the legality of the war in Iraq and the findings of this inquiry are unambiguous. It concludes that the case argued by the Dutch and British governments, including the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, could not reasonably be argued.” Guardian 12 January

“The findings of the Dutch inquiry that the war had no basis in international law are even more important for a domestic audience in Britain,” said Sands. “I do not see how the five members of the Chilcot inquiry, none of whom is legally qualified, could possibly summon the means to reach an alternative conclusion.”

Against this background and Jack Straw’s recent appearance before the Iraq Inquiry where he says he was ‘haunted’ we have Sir Michael Wood QC, principal Legal Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 1999 and 2006, likely to testify that he gave consistent advioce that the Iraq War was illegal without a second resolution. This will, The Observer, reports…“This will provide an explosive backdrop to the former prime minister’s appearance before the inquiry on Friday.”

The Observer notes: “His testimony will come the day before the appearance of Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general, who is said to have dropped his legal objections days before the invasion, following intense pressure from Blair and his closest advisers, and the US authorities……Wood’s deputy at the time, former Foreign Office lawyer Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who resigned two days before the war because she believed the invasion was a “crime of aggression”, will appear at the inquiry after Wood on Tuesday.”

Lord Goldsmith changed his mind about the legality of the war.  Was he waterboarded?  There was talk late last year of him being pinned to a wall by Blair’s enforcers. . This will be one of the key areas of questioning and will pave the way for what could be an extraordinary day when Tony Blair appears on the 29th.  Blair will hold firm and repeat the mantra that he did what believed was right.  I rather suspect that Gordon Brown’s testimony will be as interesting – testimony which will now be heard before the general election which Bob Ainsworth says will be on 6th May.  Tom Harris MP says that Ainsworth doesn’t know the date and asks why we are so interested in conspiracy theories. Harris adds, laconically…“Given the public appetite for conspiracy theories, I’m surprised no-one has actually suggested that Bob’s and Chris Bryant’s comments earlier this month are part of a complex subterfuge aimed at persuading the Tories to prepare for an election on the wrong date…

Interestingly, the Observer reports: “Blair will take his place amid intense security, with mass protests expected in Westminster. Sources close to Scotland Yard said Blair’s appearance had been a major factor behind the government’s decision to raise the terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe”.

Brown must now be regretting his ‘masterly’ decision to hold an Iraq Inquiry – an inquiry which, reportedly, angered Tony Blair.

Finally, on the Iraq war issue…The Mail reports :

David Kelly post mortem to be kept secret for 70 years as doctors accuse Lord Hutton of concealing vital information

***

I escaped to London on Saturday – hence no blog post – for lunch. I don’t do it often (but I am moving back to London in early February) – but I do enjoy a long lunch…particularly lunches which start at 2.00 pm and end the following morning.  Curiously, at some point in the proceedings, I was asked if I would like to appear as ‘Chairman of a large Corporate’ in a parody film being made about news by a friend of mine.   Hey… why not..?  I prefer the subtlety of radio/podcasts and I no longer care that much if people run when they see images, still or visual, of me on blogs….  so I appear to have landed myself a ‘part’ in a ‘musical video’… I do enjoy ‘random’.

I left Battersea at 8.00 this morning, walked across the bridge to World’s End in search of much need black coffee...found some at Mona Lisa and another cup at the Chelsea Bun and sat down to read the News of the Screws. (The Observer is best read sober).  Coffee taken…I made my way to Victoria Station to be told there were no trains to Rochester/Chatham because someone had decided to thrown himself in front of a train.  (I do feel for the driver’s of trains in these not so uncommon situations). Onwards to Charing Cross – where I found a train and after faffing about on the internet for a while I had a most enjoyable afternoon kip….


All this is, of course, completely irrelevant… but I would like to link to The White Rabbit, a fellow law blogger who is a serious lawyer but finds detailed analysis of legal issues on his own blog… unnecessary… This week he has several excellent posts and I have no hesitation in suggesting, when you want a laugh.. just pop over to his blog… (he does music as well)… This week I have selected…

Immortal stuff from Steve Bell

White Rabbit notes… “Cartoonist Steve Bell surpasses even his usual standards in the Guardian this morning. For the terminally inattentive Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary at the time of the Iraq invasion, has informed the Chilcot Inquiry that he could have stopped British participation in the invasion by resigning.


He didn’t though.”

I read many political blogs and this week, Old Holborn caught me eye with this wonderful idea! I quite fancy the idea of buying myself a High Viz yellow jacket and wondering around talking to Police Community Support Officers….

Oi! YesYOU! Who are you!? PROVE IT

Old Holborn advises: “Do it. Everytime you see one of them watching you, watch them. DEMAND to see their warrant card. And then ask the time(they hate it).”

[Picture Cassie Mayes – which I just had to nick from Old Holborn’s post.  Mea culpa]

Guido Fawkes reports: +++ Osborne to Re-Pay £1,666 Expenses Over-Claim +++

“Lyon’s report says Osborne’s breaches were not “major ones, were not intentional and did not provide Mr Osborne with any significant financial benefit.” He will not have to give an apology to the House. Nice to know the Shadow Chancellor can add up though.”

Rather more serious…. Guido Fawkes notes about David Chator MP… David Chaytor, the soon to be former MP for Bury North, drew up a tenancy agreement with his daughter but disguised their relationship by giving her middle name as her surname.  That is deception. …”

Obnoxio The Clown, not ‘knowingly over under-C*****d in terms of  usage of the old anglo-saxon (and not always office safe – assuming you want to keep your job) is a blog I read regularly. Acerbic is a word I like… and Obo can, certainly, be that… here is a recent post on politicans..  Have I got politicians for you

I did enjoy this tweet from Sandanista…

And Jimmy Bastard on NevermindtheBollix…. makes one think…

“If I’m honest, I always knew that walking away would not be the end of it all.

It could never be as easy as opening and shutting a door. There would always be a time when that knock on the door, or that tap on the shoulder in a crowded bar would see me having to face up to my past.

My advice to any armchair gangsters reading my words who still believe that violence brings honour or glory to a man’s name is; seek help, for you are caught up in your own mad world of atrophied emotional dyslexia.

Violence is an opprobrium that sits like a cancer inside a man’s chest.”
And another blogger who not only thinks, but engages in discussion on many blogs.. Obiter J – this is the latest piece.. Children and the law: No.1 – The Edlington Case

Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer, blogger (Head of Legal blog) is always worth reading on the current ‘difficult’ issues of the day. I know Carl.  We enjoy a few glasses of wine together from time to time and I have done many podcasts with him. This piece on the Munir Hussein case is very definitely worth a read…The truth about Munir Hussain

I lost  my parents many years ago.  This week, three people I know (all three met through Twitter – two I have met many times face to face). Geeklawyer lost his Mother.  I think he made a fine choice of music with this.  I would certainly have no hesitation in using it when I finally go.

What better tribute to a parent… Geeklawyer writes… “Thanks old girl. See you around.”

Best as always
Charon

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea: Gulls, ducks, cormorants and swans…

Dear Reader,

Soon, I move back to London;  leaving behind Chatham Maritime, Rochester and the Medway and my view over the old naval dockyards.  The gulls, cormorants, ducks and swans where I am going will be different..they will be Battersea ducks and gulls.

A friend of mine re-tweeted yesterday…Word of the day: Slacktivist“. n. one who sits on their arse, tweeting about important issues, thinking they’re making a difference.

I enjoyed that.  I would far rather read the wonderfully crafted rants of some of the political bloggers – which are amusing and probably do achieve something – than the Po faced comments and endless re-tweeting by people who seem to get outraged easily.  There was one this morning…“third day in a row the Daily Mail has failed to put #Haiti on the front page. Pathetic.”

I’m sorry Haiti is going though misery.  It is a dreadful tragedy.  The US and many other nations are doing everything they can to help. It will take time for that assistance to kick in. Celebrities are falling over themselves to publicise how much they are giving (why, when people give, do they need to tell people?) – but endlessly wringing one’s hands is not going to do any good to anyone. [ Repeating a message  until desired action takes place can be useful. We saw the positive value of Twitter with this on Trafigura. There have been many other illustrations. ]

I have no immediate plans, I’m afraid, to fly myself into Haiti by helicopter to try and rescue people and deliver food parcels and tents.  This does not make me a bad person. I do not need to have my conscience or ‘moral compass’ re-educated by sanctimonious nonsense on twitter or anywhere else.  I have got the message loud and clear and, like  all decent people, I am saddened by these events.  I have a suspicion that the self appointed twitter and other media experts on Haiti, exhorting us to pray (I don’t do god….of any kind), give (my private affairs),  or otherwise moderate our lives to show solidarity with Haitians, probably didn’t even know where the place was last week and have, possibly,  relieved themselves of the need to ‘give’ because they are doing such ‘important’ work on twitter by publicising the cause. Will no-one rid us of these turbulent bed-wetters?… Here endeth the Saturday rant.

Scott Greenfield has a very interesting post today… I quote from a section of it.. but the full post is well worth a read..he is referring to the disaster in Haiti: .“The point is that emergent desperation calls for certain abilities.  Think Abraham Maslow.  It breaks my heart that I, as a lawyer, cannot offer the help that people need in their desperation.  I cannot ease their pain.  I cannot feed the hungry children.  I cannot build them shelter.  I cannot even capture the suffering on film so that the rest of the world can see the pain.  I am but a lawyer.  There are times when my limitations are manifest.  This is such a time….”

Tweet of the week:  I don’t often get compliments… this is an excellent compliment!

Osbore Corner – The life, times and thoughts of a Chancellor in waiting

Better crack on… things to do…. supplies to organise.

Best, as ever

Charon

POSTCARD FROM REX CHARON MP

I am grateful, at this time of the ‘Great Snows’, to be offered the opportunity by my brother Charon QC to speak directly to you…the people of Britain. While my brother persists with the delusion that he is a socialist, I take a rather more pragmatic line. It is certainly true that I became an MP at the height of Mr Blair’s popularity in 1997 and I remember, with almost a wistful tear in my eye, the scenes as a young Tony Blair walked into Downing Street.  This was a happy time, a time before Blair decided to embark on selective regime change after prayers with a United States president who hailed from Texas, and started being selective with…shall we say..certain factual material.

While Quentin Davies shuffled across the floor from the Conservative Opposition benches to much fanfare; my own move over to the Conservative benches barely raised a murmur.  This, as it happens, was most useful to me and I met some very fine people like Duckhouse Viggers and Hogg ‘The Moat’,  who explained the intricacies of the expenses system to me.  Many happy hours were spent, I can tell you, poring over the John Lewis catalogue and checking the fine print in the Green Book… but there we are.

Suffice it to say that my own political future is secure. Iain Dale has, as near as dammit, told me so personally with his blog post earlier today that we can expect a 12 seat majority in the next Parliament.  As I come from an extreme right and entirely unelectable wing of the Conservative party –  had I not been fortunate  in representing  a constituency where they wear tweed coats (they do not call them jackets) and red trousers – all will be well.

The great ‘Plot’ from the Hoon-Hewitt Novelties Co (Established 2010) appears to have fizzled out and dear Matthew Paris, a former MP, must have  had hours of pleasure constructing an elaborate analysis and in coming to the conclusion that far from failing as a plot…it succeeded.

His central theme was that Hoon-Hewitt knew perfectly well that they could not succeed and with no prospect of a meaningful career in politics remaining, they decided to give the prime minister a kick in the political balls.   Political commentators and newscasters, taking a break from reporting endlessly about snow while they stood around in the stuff, had varying degrees of success in keeping up with events last week and Nick Robinson – who really is barely intelligible at times, had absolutely no success at all in terms of political prognostication.  Asked by Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics whether there was any truth in the rumour that a plot was coming, Robinson  indulged in a bit of sycophantic laughter and said that Neil was ‘right to place no credence in the idea’.  About ten minutes later the great ‘sayer of sooths’ was on BBC News solemnly reporting on the ‘Coup’.

A few of us from the entirely unelectable end of the party –  if we didn’t have the good fortune to represent constituencies in the Tory  shires – did enjoy Guido’s film over lunch at Claridges It really is worth a watch..and while you are at it.. you might care to look at the latest GuyNews: Save our Gordon edition where my brother Charon QC  is, somewhat implausibly,  making a guest appearance right at the end.

While Cameron is enjoying his place under the sun lamp – or so it would seem from his heavily photoshopped appearance on the latest poster from Tory HQ – George Osborne has been very quiet.  This, some of us suspect, is because he doesn’t have a great deal to say and does not wish to add to the impression that we have no fixed policies and fuel the  creeping realisation by voters that we may not have a clue….  after the debacle of David’s appalling performance earlier in the week.   I know that there have been murmurings that George may have been..shall we say… over promoted ……and that we would do better with Ken ‘The Bruiser’ Clarke as Chancellor.

It has just been drawn to my attention (by a fellow twitterer @johnhalton) a reasonably recent article from The Spectator: …

Osborne’s crazy admission

Montgomerie Andrew Rawsley’s column today:

“Mr Osborne raised some eyebrows at a recent private meeting in the City when he was heard to remark that ‘40% of my time is spent on economics’ – meaning that most of his hours are spent on campaigns and tactics. Mr Osborne seemed to think that 40% was an impressively large amount of his time to find to spend on economics; some of his audience thought it was a worryingly low proportion for the man who expects to be chancellor in less than a year’s time.….Of course, it’s no secret that Osborne has other responsibilities within his party.  But for him to push this “40 percent” line during an economic crisis is utterly bizarre, and will just fuel chatter that he’d be better off elsewhere in the Tory operation.”
Then some PR spinner decided that it would be a good idea to give the government a bit of ‘beasting’, toast their buttocks in front of the fire a la Flashman,  and blame them for the snow and lack of grit. I have a feeling they would have been better to leave out the snow and talk of a lack of grit on the party of Labour of a different kind – but our ‘masters’…in their wisdom, with an open goal, decided to run with this… duly picked up by The Independent

Tories blast ‘utter failure’ on grit reserves

This allowed that most subversive of Labour MPs on Twitter, Tom Harris MP, to post this tweet earlier today.

As I am on the subject of Twitter… I did enjoy this…

Cam The Man, as I believe some PR and advertising mavens are thinking of calling him to appeal to Sun readers… came up with this on Thursday.“We’ve got to have an election and a change of government,” Cameron told Radio 4’s Today programme. “Gordon Brown has only been prime minister for a couple of years and is in deep trouble.”

I resisted the impulse to tell Sir Harry Blundering-Smythe MP (We were taking breakfast together on expenses at Browns Hotel – Tory backbenchers of a ‘certain cut’  like a bit of irony) – who looks after the adjoining constituency, that should David become First Lord of The Treasury and Prime Minister he could probably manage to get into deep merde within a couple of weeks.

Anyway.. they have now come up with another wheeze… Go for an immediate election. ToryBear was certainly up for bringing it on on Sky. This is a marvellous idea.  Not only have we not got nearly enough policies worked out yet – which the electorate will swallow with the enthusiasm of a binge drinking  fellatrix on a night out in her high heels and short skirt we’ve still got Chris Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary, lurking out there in the deep,  like a latter day JAWS, giving demonstrations to all and sundry on how to kill burglars to prepare them for the happy day when we return to our rightful place as the ‘Ayatollahs of  New Britain’.

On that note, ladies and gentlemen… as they used to say on Crimewatch… don’t have nightmares… it is only politics…

You know what to do with your ballot paper

Good on you…

Rex

My brother Charon QC  has asked me to insert a drawing he has just knocked up… to give a bit of political balance to this postcard of mine.

STOP PRESS – UPDATE Saturday night 10.30

@iaindale Blogpost: Peter Watt: Gordon’s Part in My Downfall http://tinyurl.com/yzqc59v

This is beyond parody.  I have never been keen on Brown…  but this ain’t good for Labour either. I assume, of course, the Mr Watt is aware of the law of this country in relation to accuracy and libel.

***

My postscript of last night has been superceded by my post today: A matter of principle or principal?


Christmas Card from The Staterooms-On-Sea

Dear Reader,

I am snowed in, at least in terms of getting up to London – so no amusements for me tonight on a planned trip to London and then down to Brighton for a Tweet Meet with @geeklawyer @Rah-Rah @special_noodles et al.

This leaves me time to do a slightly longer weekly ‘postcard’ or, Christmas card, (if you will) this week.

It is a time of good will to all men and women, so it was amusing to see this tweet from Labour MP @KerryMP to another Labour MP, @TomHarrisMP, on Twitter last night.

I didn’t trace back the context on Twitter –  so it may well have been a quite innocent exchange – but I did enjoy the wording of the tweet.

And of course… lawyers also like to spread good cheer at Christmas. So my thanks to @infobunny for alerting me to this remarkably festive bit of enterprise from Lloyd Platt & Co.

The Telegraph reports:

Lloyd Platt & Company claims to have had hundreds of enquiries since putting the vouchers – which offer couples half-hour or hour-long advice sessions with a lawyer – on sale last month. They cost from £125 plus VAT and the firm says it has already sold 54 in three weeks.

Chief funmaker at Lloyd Platt & CO (and senior partner)  Vanessa Lloyd Platt said:

“Christmas can be a very stressful time for families as we have always seen by the huge increase of people seeking advice in January.

“The vouchers seem to appeal to an enormously wide spread spectrum of people looking for that ‘must have’ gift for Christmas.”

She said that purchasers have included husbands, wives, mistresses, and people using them to suggest to friends and family members that they should get a divorce.

If you are still a bit short of ideas for Christmas decorations or, indeed, Christmas presents – why not try these nifty little creations for your nativity scene.  I am grateful to fellow blogger and family lawyer, John Bolch of Family Lore, for drawing my attention to these… (What is it with Family lawyers?)

Caganers: figurines of defecating world leaders in Catalan nativity scenes

The Telegraph, believe it or not, has 24 large photographs of these Spanish artworks.  Mind you… they can also serve as a post-ironic metaphor for, or comment on,  the recent Nopenhagen Climate talks.

Italian craftsmen have brought out a figurine of Silvio Berlusconi to commemorate his being attacked with a model of a cathedral the other day.  I did enjoy the Bill Bailey joke on Have I Got News For You about Gordon Brown hand writing a note  to express sympathy ….. Dear Slivio Broluscino….

Readers will, I hope,  be pleased that I am not doing a review of 2009. This is largely because I may have spent a fair part of 2009 either working or over refreshed and cannot be bothered to trawl through my blog which now serves as a diary.

So… in the spirit of Christmas… I am going to spread a bit of good cheer about and look at some of my favourite blogs. Unfortunately, I have a lot of favourite blogs – and I am writing the first Blawg Review for 2010 on 4 January So if I leave you out here (because I only plan to provide 10 or so links out of several hundred blogs I read)  – I won’t in my Blawg Review.

Jimmy Bastard is right up there on my list. His new blog, quite different in style from the one he ‘lost’ when he got ‘pished’, is a very subtle one with some wonderful writing.  Stark and direct, it repays careful reading.  It is a tale of our times (or rather, his) from Glasgow.

Although I am a law blogger and, indeed, I do try to shoehorn some serious law in from time to time – a fellow law blogger, the White Rabbit, who is a serious lawyer,  manages to produce a blog with absolutely no evidence of law content in it whatsoever…  The White Rabbit comes up with some very eclectic stuff – always worth a look, particularly with a glass of wine to hand (and a ciggie, if one is so inclined).

Guido Fawkes, right wing…. but always of interest is regular reading for me. If you haven’t tried this blog – have a look.   On the political side, given my left leaning politics (although still none too happy with Labour’s record on civil liberties) is Tom Harris MP’s blog And Another Thing…. whether you like Labour or not – always something of interest there.

There are some truly wonderful US blogs. Many US blogs are serious – some are both serious and biting… You may like to try this small selection:  Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice always has something even for lawyers who aren’t interested in Criminal Law.  He is argumentative, direct and I always enjoy clicking away on his more general posts. (I am not a criminal lawyer)  Dan Hull – what can I say?  Hull’s  WhatAboutClients? blog (WhatAboutParis? at weekends) is written by Dan and close colleagues.  This is a serious blog.  Dan takes no prisoner’s when it comes to client service and there is much of value there for all lawyers – but he also is a Europhile and erudite. There is much to be enjoyed on this blog.  It can be eccentric… this is why I like it.

Colin Samuels of Infamy or Praise is a good friend of mine. We do the occasional spot of writing together (West London Man and Unsilent Partners)  Colin has won the only four annual Blawg Review of The Year Awards and may win again. He has taken to doing a good round up of law blogs each week – Round TuitDip in… take a look?

Although Geeklawyer appears to have given up blogging regularly in favour of his relentless quest for fame and totty on Twitter – his blog is always worth reading when he takes ‘twime’  away from Twitter and knitting (Yes – Geeklawyer has taken up knitting!) – so do go and look.  Not always office safe, so if you are of a conservative and gentle disposition – don’t go.  I understand that Geeklawyer is knitting himself a summer house.  or a very very big scarf.

And finally… in this quick review.. not a law blogger… just a very good blogger and writer. Ms Robinson – A woman of Experience.  It really is a very good read.. do have a good look around.  Ms R suggests some posts for you to start on, if you are a new reader!

OK – the blogs above have serious content – but are also excellent reads for the Christmas period when the posts address lighter issues.  The really serious law blogs I shall, of course, mention in my January 4th edition of Blawg Review, and repeat the law blogs above which also have serious content.  I have started planning Blawg Review for 4 January 2010.

Well that is it for this week.  I wish you a Happy Christmas and a remarkable New Year… I shall, of course, be at my post…. blogging, painting, drinking… and eating a Christmas cake for one on Christmas Day… (I have replaced the three which have already been eaten) and there will be a Postcard next Sunday as usual

I just could not resist this wonderful tweet.  I am doing a podcast with @lawyer_coach in early January – this tweet is pure class!

Best, as always

Charon

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