Archive for September 23rd, 2006

The academic approach…

A question of criminal law…

My brother, Charon QC, has little taste for writing on matters of law. This is not the case with me.  I have devoted a large part of my life to writing law books, articles and monographs designed to make the law as obscure as possible to student and practitioner alike.  I believe that I have been quite successful in so doing.

Recently, Ruthie posted a question on Criminal Law on the Geeklawyer website.  It was a post headed ‘Back to School’ 

The question posed 

“As its back to school time Ruthie thought she should pose a mock exam question for budding criminal lawyers.

Ruthie reads today about a woman who has allegedly given white “mints” containing animal sedative to five ponies belonging to her son’s competitors in a show jumping contest in Jersey. The woman was seen by a witness to kick one of the “mints” into the dirt after it fell from a pony’s mouth. One of the “doped” ponies smelt of hay, had slurred speech and was unsteady on its feet. The event was cancelled before any of the ponies ran.

The prize for winning was a mere twenty pounds, but the event was apparently prestigious to win.

So, what if any criminal offence has potentially been committed here? For the purposes of the question assume that English, rather than Jersey law applies, although no doubt some smart arse will give me an answer in Jersey law. Remember to show your reasoning.”

I rarely write for free these days – but, for this question, I make an exception.

Here is my opinion 

At the request of my brother, Charon QC, I am pleased to be able to comment on the question and, perhaps, lower the tone of reasoning and debate.

For thirty years I have taken the view that students should be put to the sword from the very first day in law school. I recall a film, ‘The Paper Chase’, I think it was, where the professor asked a student in his class a question. The student was not able to provide a satisfactory answer. The professor took a dime out of his pocket, held it up and said “here is a dime. Go telephone your mother and tell her you aren’t going to be a lawyer.”

I must enter a caveat to the effect that I know absolutely nothing about the criminal laws of this country. My brother Charon QC does – because he has been up before The Beak several times on speeding charges. He rides a motorcycle, which, frankly, is absurd for a man of his age. It is not so much the riding of the motorcycle which offends my eye. It is the mirrored sunglasses and bright yellow helmet which is an affront to good taste. And as for those bright yellow racing boots, black leathers and bright yellow jacket with a black panther on the back – ridiculous! Mutton dressed as lamb.

I recall Professor Griew many years ago – an excellent role model for any aspiring Professor of Law. (Criminal Lawyers may well be familiar with his book on The Theft Act.). This recollection is not, of course, relevant – but I always think about my tutorials with Edward Griew when I think about Criminal Law. He used to smoke No 6 cigarettes. Older readers will recall that No 6 were cheap and very much smaller than normal King Size cigarettes. He kept them furtively in a metal filing cabinet and would take one out of the packet and smoke it in the tutorial. Sometimes he had two cigarettes during the course of the one hour tutorial. In those days I did smoke cigarettes. It was always a pleasure to smoke in Griew’s tutorials. I am pretty sure all six of us the room smoked then – so it was quite smoky by the end of the hour. I digress. Allow me to return to the point in issue.

Clearly, a number of offences have been committed. The relevant law is contained in The Subversion of Horse Racing Act 2006 which came into force only this morning to cover events such as those postulated in the question. I pride myself on keeping up to date, even in subjects which I know absolutely nothing about and read the Act this morning with my coffee. I do not share my brother’s desire to drink espresso – an affectation which he believes gives him a certain ‘je ne sais crois.’ Nor do I smoke. I take snuff, straight up the barrels of both nostrils. One may do this even in a No Smoking area.

Unusually, The SHRA 2006 has retrospective effect – a new idea put forward by John Reid, the current Home Secretary, to ensure that any blunders by the government can be cleared up after the event.

s23, 24 and 28 are the relevant provisions. S.23 provides that it shall be unlawful to administer any veterinary medicine, drug or preparation likely to enhance the performance of horses, ponies, camels, greyhounds or any other mammal, insect, arachnid, reptile, bird or fish involved in racing or other sporting competitions.

S. 23, therefore, covers the first point raised: The administration of the ‘doped mints.’

S24 makes it an offence to attempt to hide evidence which may be useful in relation to the proving of an offence under S.23. Kicking the mint into the dirt would, therefore, come within this provision.

S.28 makes it a criminal offence to be in possession, ownership or charge of a horse, pony, camel, greyhound or any other mammal, insect, arachnid, reptile, bird or fish involved in racing or other sporting competitions.

The woman who administered the doped mints would be classed a person ‘in charge of a doped pony’ and would, therefore, be liable to prosecution under this section.

The penalties are set out in Schedule 5 of the Act. Persons convicted under SS23, 24 and 28 SHRA 2006 are liable upon conviction to imprisonment for up to 10 years or be detained, at the discretion of The Home Secretary, without trial, at a suitably secure location in Eastern Europe provided there is room and the Americans agree to fly the convicted person out in one of their ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights which leave routinely fom all UK airports, including Luton.

I suspect that I may have missed a few of the more subtle, subtextual twists which examiners always insert into exam questions to ensure that no student can achieve a mark higher than 72%. It would, to say the least,  be a shock for an examiner to realise that one of his or her own students was actually more clever. Our marking system in the UK, mercifully, is designed to avoid such a possibility.

Professor RD Charon Ph.D, D.Litt CBE

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