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Archive for July 20th, 2006

Freedom to Blog?

Human Law is another law blog which I enjoy reading (and which I am delighted to link to in my blogroll). Again, I do not know the blogger, so no vested interest, no secret loans, no cowboy hats – just the spirit of freedom to blog, freedom to read the views of those who write about life, the law and everything.

Tonight, I decided to take a night off from my journey of discovery into the wines at The Swan (I may have made a very brief visit) to reflect, to think, to write and to visit interesting places on the net which might provide me with something to think about.

I found a gem, a nugget of pure gold – and it was picked up by Human Lawyer. Here is his original post – so you may read the original before I put my own spin onto it.

The story: The full story is in The Telegraph.

A synopsis: Secretary working for a firm of accountants in Paris. [Dixon Wilson (Website) Dixon Wilson Paris Office (Website – for those who prefer to speak with English speaking advsiers etc etc) Secretary blogs about her “Bridget Jones life in Paris” life under a pseudonym ‘Le Petite Anglaise’. Does NOT refer to the firm, her former French boyfriend or anything else which could bring the firm of accountants into disrepute, according to The Telegraph report. Firm does not like it. Secretary blogger gets sacked. Dismissal claim in French Court – first type of case of this nature.

However…according to The Telegraph“…partners at the leading British accountancy firm Dixon Wilson alleged that she made herself and therefore the firm identifiable by including her own photograph on the weblog. They also complained that she used office time to work on it.”

Taking an entirely objective view – Catherine the blogger in question, is clearly an attractive person – but The Telegraph article does not reveal how placing her photograph on the web could identify Dixon Wilson to the world at large…given that she did not use her name, identify the firm etc etc.. (She did get 3000 people reading her blog – which is, quite possibly / probably ?, more than the number of people visiting the Dixon Wilson website… but who knows?… people who surf the net will look at anything, even a website produced by chartered accountants. I should know. I can think of no better way of spending an English summer afternoon, sipping Rioja and surfing around accountancy firm websites.

I liked this quote from The Telegraph article: “The senior partner is described as “very old school”, a man who “wears braces and sock suspenders, stays in gentlemen’s clubs when in London and calls secretaries typists. When I speak to him, I can’t prevent myself from mirroring his plummy Oxbridge accent.”

I rang Dixon Wilson tonight – but, not unreasonably at 8.45 pm, the office was shut. I wanted to know who the senior partner was. They don’t seem to identify a senior partner. If you would like to look at photographs of Partners at this firm for purely anthropoligical reasons – here is the link

The Daily Mail reports: “Dixon Wilson is apparently particularly angry about the continual references to her immediate boss, partner James Howes. He was said to be ‘incandescent with rage’ at what she had written about him.”

Well nothing in life is cut and dried, black and white or one sided. Here is a response from one Daily Mail reader, clearly angered by the story – from The Mail…

Please read the blog and get your facts straight. The girl got sacked because she called in a sicky to go and have sex in a hotel room during office hours since she was living with the father of her kid at the time and could not meet her secret lover at home. Hardly professional behaviour that deserves two years’ pay.

– Jules, Nairobi, Kenya

Le Petite Anglaise is certainly stirring it up.

Moral: Blog at work at your peril – unless your blog helps the work / you own the firm / you are an expert on employment law / you simply don’t care or don’t care about getting sacked / you want a lot of publicity when you are sacked.

One thing for sure…Dixon Wilson are now getting a lot of press and PR – but will it help them? Are they being mean spirited or prudent ? What do you think about this?

As a final thought.. I refer to the Telegraph article and quote: “(Le Petite Anglaise) refers to an office Christmas party where someone breaks the “unwritten rule” of pulling his cracker before the senior partner and his wife have pulled theirs.”

God help us…. if there is such an unwritten rule at the firm. There can’t possibly be..can there?

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Brokenthebank Mountain?

BrokentheBank Mountain is a story of human friendship between two men – the Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain and an american dome owning billionaire. The story opens with a touching gift of an £11,000 cowboy outfit (*) to John, the Deputy Prime Minister, and a nine day visit to the billionaire’s ranch. It is a touching story because the dome owning billionaire wants to turn the dome into Britain’s first super casino and John (the DPM) simply wants to go to the Wild West and dress as a cowboy. Philip (Dome owning billionaire) wants to invest millions of pounds in Britain to help the people of Greenwich. John, who was overeeing the regeneration of the Greenwich site as DPM,  denies any impropriety or conflict of interest.

Unfortunately, things turn difficult when journos discover that John’s trip and cowboy outfit have not been registered in the register of Interests at Westminster. We then see the shadowy figure of Sir Philip Mawer, The Parliamentary standards watchdog, enter the fray. The story goes downhill after this because instead of blood in the water, sackings, resignation, collapse of the government and further humiliation for John, all that Sir Philip says is that the cowboy suit should be registered (It is now being registered, apparently – John’s entry is being ‘updated’). Hyperventilating journos, with froth flecked lips, lament that all that is now likely to happen is for John to have his wrist slapped (unsalaciously and with not even a hint of “Le Vice Anglais”) by the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee. Not exactly ‘Rock Opera’ material is it?

(*) The Standard reports that the cowboy outfit is worth £11000: Thursday 20 July 2006

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Red rubber gloves…good grief!

I have never felt the need to wear red rubber gloves for anything, let alone to incorporate them into my personal life – but when a friend of mine sent in this report on an Edinburgh libel case, my eyebrows were raised and I had to light a cigarette quickly.

MSP (Member Scottish Parliament) faces former prostitute in court amid claims of group sex, bondage and spanking screamed the headline in the Online Telegraph (in red) I quote from the opening paragraph… you may read the whole story using the link above

“August is traditionally the month for drama in Edinburgh, but this July a small courtroom has been the setting for a production that may upstage the city’s international festival, with scripts racier than anything on the Fringe: cut-throat, Left-wing political infighting; drug-fuelled orgies; partner-swapping, red rubber gloves and ice cubes.”

and to set the point in context… I quote:

“Tommy Sheridan, 42, the silver-haired firebrand former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, is suing the News of the World over allegations that he attended a so-called swingers’ club in Manchester with two of his occasional mistresses, and that he had taken part in other radical acts of love.”

I am, as it happens, not that interested in what people get up to in their spare time – or even if they happen to be Deputy Prime Minister –  what they get up to of a private nature in work time. I did like the description ‘radical acts of love’ in The Telegraph report. Radical acts of love? I shall remember this phrase should I ever find myself in a situation where I can shoe horn it into the conversation.

What I am interested in is the fact that there are two quite amusing libel cases going on to provide us with some interest and amusement to leaven the depressing news of the war in Israel/Lebanon, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war in….. well there are quite a few to list.

Sheridan claims that none of the allegations are true and, as the hearing continues, we will have to wait and see what the court decides. Paul McKenna is up against it in London in a libel trial to determine the truth of the Ph.d which he acquired from La Salle University in the States.

He is suing the Mirror. John Kelsey-Fry QC, for the Mirror, told him: “This was an utterly bogus PhD, obtained merely on payment of a course fee.”

“Admitted dyslexic and undistinguished scholar’ (as Mckenna was described in The Independent) wanted the Ph.D,  presumably to enhance his standing. Unfortunately, Victor Lewis-Smith took the view that it was all a “load of old doc and bull’. I have commented on this case before.

What really puzzles me is why people bring possibly hopeless libel cases. It may be that McKenna and Sheridan will win and their honour will be unstained. It is an expensive business bringing libel cases. Silks and solicitors don’t come cheap. I can’t comment on the Sheridan matter – although it is a great story – but surely Mckenna, who is pretty savvy, I understand, and good at what he does, must have seen through a scheme where one can get a Ph.D for a bit of cash and submitting a previously written book? It takes years of hard slog to get a Ph.D from most universities and, I suspect, some misery. Well we will know the position when judgment is delivered on or about 31st July. The Mirror are certainly digging their heels in and stand by what was written. If they win, I have a feeling that they will have a field day. If Mckenna wins…I wonder how many people will hunt the net to find easy Ph.Ds?

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