Archive for August, 2006

In the Navy….

I know we have to pay for our new aircraft carrier and submarines somehow…but I can tell you, I almost spat my espresso out in surprise when I read in my Tabloid of choice this morning, that The Royal Navy plans to licence the White Ensign out for advertising purposes.

Navy publicity director Capt Brian Warren, who will vet items, said: “There will be nothing tacky, no weapons and no tobacco.”  The plan is that the Royal Navy will receive royalties of 5-20% of the proceeds.

I can just see one of the great fashion houses selling ‘Sailor Outfits’, snappy bell-bottoms – in fact, come to think of it, why not a full Admiral’s outfit by Karl Lagerlout (no relation)?  The White Ensign has a long and proud history and has, in fact, been used for some time to advertise various brands of ‘navy rum’ – so why should I be surprised?  Does it matter?

What about the SAS logo to market a particularly aggressive law firm – or personal injury service? Would that be tacky”   I can see it now.

“Had an accident at work?”  No problem.  Make an appointment to see one of our special force of solicitors and we will take the employer out.  Who dares sues..and wins”

I will splice the mainbrace tonight.



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Hippocratic oath…

Dr Christopher Wood, a GP, shot a neighbour’s dog 12 times with an air rifle after it attacked his chickens according to The Mirror this morning.

Why did he do this? The Mirror report is brief: “Dr Christopher Wood said he opened fire last August because he feared it would attack him or his two surviving hens.”

A vet reported that the dog had been subjected to a “prolonged and brutal attack… tantamount to torture.”

I really cannot understand how a doctor can behave in this way – yet the only sanction applied? A fine of £1500 and payment of £5k costs to the RSPCA. The dog, called ‘Socks’, survived.

Imagine consulting a lawyer who spent his time shooting air rifles at dogs. Would you want to take advice from such a person? Mind you… the prospect of lawyers keeping chickens is also a bit bizarre. Are there any chicken fanciers out there in the legal world? If so, would you have tried to shoot a dog with an air rifle to save your chickens ?

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I am grateful to Liadnan for inspiring me to look into the possibility that police officers will be dispensing instant justice on the streets of Britain.

The BBC reports : “The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is consulting members on whether to seek the authority to punish people without going to court.”

While the BBC report indicates that the additional powers sought will mainly be to deal with pissed teenagers binge drinking it up at the weekends and drink drive offences, it is probably fair to say that ACPO would actually like fairly extensive powers to deal with a range of minor offences ‘there and then’.

“When you do decide that someone’s been so criminal and behaved so badly and harmed other people that you need to punish them, that really is something that in a democracy belongs with the courts,” Civil rights group Liberty director Shami Chakrabati told BBC News.

What was interesting was the view expressed by a Police Federation representative. Federation vice-chairman Alan Gordon said: “As usual, Acpo have decided to go public on an initiative without consulting with those who would have to implement it.

“There may be some credibility in these ideas, but our fears are it will cause greater conflict and bureaucracy for our members and could blur the lines of justice – whereby the police enforce the law and courts dispense penalties.”

Policing and the administration of justice should really be kept separate. While it may be seductive, in terms of administration and cost, to dispense justice through fixed penalty tickets – is this something which we really want our police to do?  Parking tickets and other fairly routine ‘civil misdemeanours’ can be dealt with in this way – subject to appeal procedures being in place – but civil disorder offences of a criminal nature should be dealt with by the courts – however costly that may be, to ensure that the lines between policing and administration of justice do not become blurred. I wonder how many police officers on the street want to take on the role of ‘punisher’?  I’m not a police officer, so I can’t actually answer that question.  But, common sense dictates that asking a police officer to police and then be judge, jury and executioner, is placing too much responsibility and power in the hands of an individual and is unlikely to work well in practice. It is important, in my view, to keep the objectivity of the current system where magistrates dispense justice and the police do the policing.

It would be intereting to hear from any police officers, magistrates or criminal lawyers who deal with these matters on a day to day basis.  Please feel free to comment.

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Macca divorce…

While I did take the view that I would not comment on the Macca divorce – I thought you might like to read what John Bolch over at Family Lore has to say..

I simply draw your attention to: paragraph 1.3.3 of the Family Law Protocol: “It is crucial that solicitors or parties do not raise irrelevant issues nor unreasonably cause other parties or their own clients to adopt an entrenched, polarised or hostile position”? and let John Bolch pick up the story on his ‘Keeping it Civil’ post.

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Charon is alive…

Reports of Charon’s demise were premature. Here he is pictured reading a Cuban newspaper with incontrovertible proof that it is a current picture… because President Castro, who is also not dead, is, obligingly, reading the same newspaper.

The truth of the matter is that I took a bit of time off to spend with my Rioja collection at the weekend and, yesterday, found myself reading some fascinating consultation papers which I downloaded from the Law Society website on matters which I know absolutely nothing about, and deciding whether I needed to know more about these things which I know absolutely nothing about. Anyway… at least we know Castro is alive because he is reading the same newspaper.

If you have any concerns that the images above may have been manipulated in Photoshop (and quite a bit of that goes on in the news media) have a look at this

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Preaching to the perverted…

Pleased to get a mention on Preaching to the Perverted a US blog which did Blawg Review 70 – Thanks!

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Airport security…

I was having a quick look at a new facility on WordPress which tags similar topics to those discussed in one’s own blog.

I came across this quote from such a tagged link on Mises Economics blog

“Every time I take off my shoes in the security screening process at the airport, I find it consoling to remind myself that at least Richard Reid wasn’t wearing an underwear bomb.”

You may find this link to X-Ray technology being used for security screening interesting – and revealing.

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Rollonfriday has a beauty this week…

I visited RollonFriday, as I do from time to time, and found this marvellous nonsense on their news. This guy would enjoy talking to my brother ‘RD’. They would get on well. The Professor – does not do emails. I may well email him – through the faculty.  I may even call him to read my blawg to him.  You will note that The professor ‘likes for people to come and read things to (him)’. If you wish to see Prof Wexler – here is his page on UBC. Excellent nonsense. I must, however, adopt the comment ‘My mind is like a samurai sword. If I read e-mail, it will dull my blade”

I have just seen the learned prof’s personal webpage. Come to think of it – I think we need more academics like this. Quite enjoyed his webpage – not much on it – but worth a look

Below is the reason (from his own web page) why he does not do email

Steve Wexler
Associate Professor of Law
University of British Columbia

I do not do e-mail.

You may phone me at:
604 822 2194 or 604 228 8953

Write to me at:
UBC Faculty of Law,
1822 East Mall,
Vancouver, B.C.
V6T 1Z1

Come see me at:
Room 240, law school

I do not do e-mail because what I do as an intellectual requires me to read things very carefully and think about them very hard. My mind is like a samurai’s sword. If I read e-mail, I will dull my blade. I am very selective about what I read and would much rather talk to people than read. I like for people to come and read things to me. Then I can talk to them about what they have read. “Chatting” on line is not what I mean by talking.

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I wrote this some time ago…on my oldstyle blawg on Consilio, our online magazine – I have extended it, simply, because I wish to.

“Well…I spliced the main brace last night and ended up three sheets to the wind. I can tell you that Mrs C was taken aback. Thought I was for the high jump. Mind you, it was cold enough outside to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. I was at a loose end, you see, 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 Mrs C took my excuse on the phone earlier with a pinch of salt. But hook or by crook, I was determined to join you at this wonderful 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 made my way over the water to get here. After all, mate, 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. Anyway..as you can see, I grasped the nettle, knowing that we would not have to pay through the nose here and it is not as if I had drunk a Mickey Finn…By the way…why are those Germans looking at me so strangely…. speaking the Queen’s English, which they understand, I am sure….so what is the problem? I am a good European. I back the EU..why are they staring at me that way?

Anyway..where was I ? Ah yes…It is a moot point as to whether I was left in the lurch when Johnny pegged out after having too many irons in the fire, which put the dampers on my plans to hold the fort and bag a table …..

Of course…we all understand the above phrases..but how many of us know where they come from? An excellent book “Red Herrings and White Elephants” by Albert Jack will make all clear. Available at Waterstones and all our other favourite legal bookshops.

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Plain English…

“Lawyers have been writing two words instead of one since the Norman Conquest,” says Mark Painter, an Ohio appeals court judge.

There are many benefits in writing in plain English – but in my view the world be dull if all writing was plain. If you are interested in writing in plain English – this is the website for you: Plain English

For my part, while I am quite prepared to write clear letters (with no typos) – I actually enjoy using unusual words, I enjoy convolution and using words and sentences to create mood, atmosphere – even at the risk of a lack of clarity. Of course, if I happen to decide to blawg when I am ‘three sheets to the wind’ – and come up with a pile of nonsense, then I fall back on my prerogative as a citizen of these sceptred isles and say that I am free to do this, in a utilitarian way, so long as it causes no harm to others!

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Dubya watch….

I am grateful to JimFTL, who has taken to posting occasionally on my blawg, for sending me this by email this morning…

Three Brazilian Soldiers:
Donald Rumsfeld briefed the President this morning. He told Bush that three Brazilian soldiers had been killed in Iraq.
To everyone’s amazement, all the colour ran from Bush’s face, then he collapsed onto his desk, head in hands, visibly shaken, almost whimpering.
Finally, he composed himself, and asked Rumsfeld, .. “Just exactly how many is a brazillion?”

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Examinations…marking of…

I have just seen my brother’s reference to marking examination scripts. Yes, it is true. He did this for some time. In my view he should be tried as a war criminal. He was far too lenient.

In but a few days or weeks, the hapless (or should that be hopeless?) and lazy will be appealing to the examinations board, producing spurious medical certificates or, taking it on the chin, and settling down for a bit of work before the September re-sits. Bar the odd genius who gets a First class answer on the first two questions out of four and then fails to submit answers to the remaining two (Fail usually) and genuine illness – there are usually two reaons why students fail examinations. They either do not know enough law – through laziness or lack of ability or, secondly, they fail to address the questions set. In the latter case, the student rarely fails – but the mark gained does not reflect his or her ability. Examinations are not the best way of testing ability, but what is the alternative? Coursework, in the age of the internet where students can plagiarise or, worse, pay a cheat site to do the coursework for them, is no longer viable.

So… the misery of the exam hall continues. I was always a bit baffled by some of my colleagues in academe who did not seem to be prepared to help students by showing them how to approach essay or problem questions. They regarded my efforts with flow diagrams and specimen answers with disdain. How can one bowl like Monty Panesar without knowledge and practice? I have seen some truly horrific exam scripts – garbage is easy to identify and despatch (dispatch may be used in the alternative). So too, the B52 bomber who spatters law all over the page in the vain hope that some of it will be relevant to the question posed. Others just give up and doodle for a while before leaving. I can’t quite see how a law student, who does a reasonable amount of work, who is not actually ill or distracted by personal problems, who has been shown how to approach exam questions, can actually ‘fail to satisfy the examiners’.You have to be reasonably bright to get into law school these days. Getting a First or a decent 2.1 does require hard work and ability – but that is the way of the world and there are plenty of good lawyers out there with not particularly brilliant degrees. (The difficulty is – these days, they would probably find it difficult to even get into the firms in which they are now partners! or secure even a pupillage in chambers)
What, however, really irritates me is the tendency in some law schools to teach law to a formula. I shall be returning to this theme another time. I have been talking to two students recently who have been taught in this way. They did not find it a satisfying experience. Anyway..enough… I have to read Atiyah, Sale of Goods and see if I still agree with some of the more interesting ideas still contained in the book!

i was asked to review a book once.  It was not a particularly good book on law…in fact, it was terrible.  I borrowed the aphorism of Sir Maurice Bowra (Oxford) and wrote back to the Publisher – “Thank you for sending me this book – “I shall lose no time at all in reviewing it”   I was not asked to review any further books – thankfully.
R D Charon

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The human condition re-visited…

I start work early, usually around 4.30 am. By this time in the afternoon, I need a break. Imagine getting pissed, stealing a white goat from a field and breaking into a Volvo, bundling the goat into the back of the Volvo and then ramming the farmer in the Volvo which you have just stolen from him while he tries to block your way in his 4×4. Well, you probably don’t even want to think about bundling goats into the back of your car if you watched Gordon Ramsay’s pigs being slaughtered on Channel 4 last night (I wrote about this yesterday) – but it did happen. The Sun
District Judge Richard Williams said: “It seems to me you did this purely out of immense stupidity.”

Thieves in Malaysia get it badly wrong. Cnews reports that three men in Kuala Lumpur broke into a bank and stole what they believed was a cash dispenser. It was not. It was a cheque deposit machine. It was not clear whether they made off with any cheques after being surprised by a security guard.

Maybe it is a recessive cruel streak in me.? Maybe I have spent too many years marking law degree examination scripts? – some of which were so bad, I lost my sanity. I don’t know. But I do enjoy reading about crass stupidity.

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Charon goes “Goth” ?…

And there I was, wandering through Portobello market looking for a stud (metal, lest you should be thinking of other things) and some new Goth eyeliner (It is going to be a hot look this Autumn) when…. who should I bump into? Victoria Beckham – Posh Spice as was. She was moaning about WAGS, whatever they are, and saying that she was sick and tired of everyone copying her. It was then she noticed that my appearance was slightly different.

“Cha Cha”, as she alone, calls me ( a play on my name and my audition for Strictly Come dancing – where I bombed) “Why are you wearing a hideous red lipstick, eye shadow and a stud…been dressin’ in the dark again, have we, love?”

“Victoria.. I have decided on a new look over the long vacation. I see no need to trouble my clerk during August. In any event, he will probably be in Barbados or Jamaica looking for hurricanes and smoking the garden … hasn’t quite clicked with him that Winter is the best time for Barbados. I am returning to the ‘Eighties’… the days of Siouxsie and The Banshees, Robert Smith…Goth revival. You like?”

“No, not particularly” Victoria replied, pouting and looking to her left to look as if she wasn’t looking at the seedy photographer who had been following me around for half an hour.

“You don’t think it works?” I asked, a thin smile beginning to form in my mind.
“No..not for you.” Victoria replied, pouting again and arching backwards to adopt a rather curious model like stance for the photographer, who was now scurrying around frantically.

I was able to tell Ms Beckham that I was, in fact, on my way to a late lunch and felt like irritating a rather tedious barrister (hence the Goth) who I was lunching with and who, I knew, would pontificate about the Bar and drone on about lack of work, the fact that you know you are getting old when high court judges start looking like policemen..or some other such nonsense. Ms Beckham and I parted.

I am delighted that she has now come out with the Goth look as pictured in the Press in recent days (Couldn’t find a link to a pic for you). It pleases me that I may just have influenced this decision. Of course – I could have imagined the whole thing. It was a good bottle of Rioja. I will not, of course, be adopting this Goth look in future.

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Terror threat raised to critical…

There are two reports in The Independent this morning on the terror threat.  Both are worth reading:

Reid attacks judges who hamper ‘life and death’ terrorism battle and A major terrorist plot to blow up aircraft in mid-flight has been thwarted by the Metropolitan Police’s anti-terrorist branch and the security service, the force said today. MI5 has raised the threat level to ‘critical’.

John Reid made the point that we are using legislation dating back half a century to combat a 21st-century breed of “unconstrained” terrorists driven by a perverse morality. Perhaps his most forceful point was this: “Yet, in spite of these successes (A reference to four major terrorists plots being foiled since July 7 2005), we remain unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as I believe we need to. This is the area that puts us at risk in national security terms.”

What is the solution?  Carefully framed legislation, consistent with The Human Rights Act?  Reid stated “Sometimes we may have to modify some of our freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their use and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms in the long term.” 

Have the security and police services got sufficient power – legal and personnel to deal with the threat?  This is not my field of expertise.  Any readers care to comment?

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This is premium grade law – from Bystander JP, who I hope will not object to me quoting the entire post. I am not being lazy… but this is pure class. As I said – today.. I needed a laugh. The Law West of Ealing Broadway is a must for those interested in Criminal Law and the human condition.

Here is Bystander’s entire post:

(I haven’t worked out how to trackback to the specific post – but – it is always worth visiting this blog… The actual post was 9th August under the name “Sensible Advice”)

Sensible Advice

If you are driving along while using your mobile phone, and if a policeman (who is passing by in his car) calls to you to stop using the phone, do not, repeat not, shout back to the officer telling him to fuck off. When he advises you to moderate your language, avoid repeating the original response, and telling him that he is a useless wanker.

The above advice becomes even more important when you consider that there is a stash of cannabis in your pocket.

Ignore the above, and you may expect a fine for the phone, a fine for the bad language, and a fine for the cannabis.

There is no specific offence of being stupid, but if there were, we would see it committed every day.”

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I’ll need to blog a bit more law….

A friend sent me this info – a worrying trend. Charon Blawg in The Lawyer….?

Pleasingly, Geeklawyer also receives a mention. I may have to shoehorn a bit more law into my blawg
From The Lawyer

“Chain reaction

The NatWest Three were the subject on many a blog, with the fictional Charon QC (charonqc.wordpress.com) questioning the need for the three accused to front the US courts for a bail hearing in chains: “Why the chains? Are they likely to bolt? Are they likely to headbutt the judge?” Well, I guess that depends on what the judge says about their mothers and sisters.”

Fictional? Oh yes… but I worry sometimes that I am turning into Charon.

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Groucho Marx often hit the nail on the head. I came across an interesting and quite amusing story on a quick visit to Diary of a Criminal Solicitor about an over enthusiastic trainee solicitor selected for jury service. A quote from the CJS website may assist with this story: “Jurors can only discuss the case when all jury members are present and in private. It is illegal to discuss the case with anyone who is not a member of your jury.” If you wish to know more about Jury service?

If you would like to buy the H M Bateman print, or indeed any other legal memorabilia – a quick visit to The Carbolic Smokeball may be useful
On a similar theme – now that judges (and lawyers) may have to do jury service (and it entirely up to them whether they disclose the fact that they hold judicial office to other jurors), we have highly qualified men and women ‘learned in the law’ sitting alongside other jurors who, in all probability, will have little or no experience of law. Is it a good thing? There does not seem to be much comment or analysis on this question available. Of course, because of the secrecy requirement, we will probably never really know what effect a judge sitting as a juror has on the proceedings.

Here is ‘Guidance to judges on jury service’ issued by the Lord Chief Justice. I wonder what a newly elevated judge would think when he looks over at the jury and finds a distinguished Law Lord or other senior member of the judiciary sitting there? I wonder if that judge would be able to resist using his or her knowledge to influence other members of the jury ? I would assume so, since the role of judge and juror are quite different and the LCJ makes this point forcefully in his advice. Is it a good use of judicial time for a judge to sit as a juror? I would not have thought so.

The author of Diary of a Criminal Solicitor also has a very useful website for criminal lawyers. 

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Thoughts about pigs…

I enjoy a pork chop and a bacon sandwich can cure many ills early on a Saturday morning if the festivities of the night before have been overdone. Why am I writing about pigs and pork chops? Well.. I was sipping an espresso and eating bacon and eggs when I started to read an article in The Independent.

I quote from the article: “Viewers of The F-Word will see Ramsay moved almost to tears, as he watches the Berkshire sows, Trinny and Susannah, go under the slaughterman’s knife. Looking pale and shaken, the Glaswegian chef sees the 24-month-old pigs stunned by an electric shock to the brain, before being shackled by the hind legs and hoisted to the ceiling. Their throats are then unceremoniously slit.”

I’m afraid you will just have to read the article if you want to know more – it is graphic. They are screening this on Channel 4 tonight – after the watershed. I will not be watching. I have no plans to turn vegetarian – because I am an omnivore and need a bit of meat occasionally to give flavour to the Rioja and other Reds which I enjoy. I did, however, feel the need to push my plate of bacon and eggs to one side. It just didn’t have the same appeal after reading this article. I shall stick to The Mirror as my newspaper of choice when having breakfast early in the mornings – and leave The Indie and other broadsheets until I can cope with their relentlessly brutal gaze on life!

Executives at Channel 4 are, apparently, bracing themselves for a series of complaints. 27 people complained when Channel 4 screened the killing of six of Gordon Ramsay’s pet turkeys before the watershed on the last show. I shall make a trip to Sainsbury’s soon to view the meat counter and re-assure myself. Mind you, I am already thinking about a bit of sirloin steak and chips – must be hunger.

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Squatting on the net…

The Independent reports today that a young British artist, Simon Phillips, a self-styled “internet artist” who owns the domain name http://www.damien-hirst.co.uk, is being sued by Damien Hirst, the multi-millionaire artist for using his name on a spoof website. The website only seems to contain one picture now (left) and when one clicks on the picture there is a link to the official Damien Hirst website (damienhirst.com) – which appears to be ‘under construction’.

Science, the company dealing with Hirst’s business affairs commented “We have to protect Damien’s name, since it is a trademark. He has no problem with tribute sites, but the name of this one means that it could be confused with an official one.”

Manches LLP, retained by Hirst, argue that this is an ‘abusive registration’ and have submitted a dossier to Nominet, the UK internet regulator.

Philips, according to the Independent, stated “I consider my internet site to be my artwork,” he said. “It contains my comments on the state of the world, and since Damien Hirst is attempting to shut it down, he is guilty of trying to censor me.

“His lawyers have behaved in an incredibly heavy-handed manner. If they’d asked me nicely, they would have got a perfectly reasonable response. But instead, I was sent several very aggressive letters. I have therefore decided to fight this one all the way.”

It appears that Philips may have changed his stance (above). Where there are clear attempts to hijack and register a well known name as a net domain, it does not seem unreasonable that Nominet should step in to protect the well known name. The Independent report gives several recent examples of squatting. That being said – where someone just happens to have the same name as a well known personage and registers his or her name to use for a website, and there is no attempt at passing off or spoofing, the matter is rather more difficult if the well known personage wants all internet domain variations of the name.

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