Archive for November, 2006

Memo to all Members of the firm from Matt Muttley

Following guidelines issued recently by the Advisory Consiliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), as reported in The Evening Standard yesterday, it appears that this firm owes a ‘duty of care’ to our staff and could face legal action if employees don’t get home safely after the Christmas Party.

Further, it is well known that quite a few employment disputes arise over incidents which take place at Christmas parties. Older members of the firm may recall a senior associate, some years ago, being asked to leave the firm for groping the wife of our senior partner in an ‘inappropriate manner’ – which, of course, begs the question as to what would be ‘appropriate groping’. Law Firm, Peninsula, according to the Standard report, has carried out a study and this has shown ‘that most bosses believed their workers drank too much at the annual festive bash.’

What is more worrying is that the ACAS pamphlet identified , and I quote from The Standard, ‘several office party situations that bosses could be held liable for such as staff stumbling out drunk and injuring themselves.’ We could also be held liable if employees are bullied by other employees during the party.

Apparently, we have to be careful about our choice of music at the party. Under new age discrimination laws, music must be chosen to reflect the interests of all people invited to the party. While Lead Zepellin may appeal to the more mature (can I say this now?) members of the firm, it may not to the younger members. While X factor wannabe music may delight the younger members, I can tell you that it it does little for me and if it were to be played at a Christmas party I may well be able to sue the firm for discrimination on grounds of age, let alone for abusing my human rights. (Are damages tax free?.. could be something in this… Eva… check this out with Tax people, please) Nor, it is recommended, should we continue our practice of providing bottles of Champagne as prizes for ‘best dressed managing partner’, etc etc on grounds that it could offend those whose religions do not permit the drinking of alcohol.

Although lights and decorations are approved, because they are not ‘inherently religious symbols’, we do, of course, have to consider possible liability in negligence in case any member of staff injures themselves on a Christmas tree, a piece of tinsel or by using a Christmas cracker.

Taking all these things into account; the managing board of the firm has decided to cancel Christmas this year. We would, however, like to wish you a Good (and profitable) New Year.


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If any of you are contemplating a career at the Bar… try Pupilblog

Interesting and amusing… a new blog, but it looks good, providing an insight into the early days at the Bar!

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Good grief… a mention in Dispatches…

I am pleased to have a brief mention in the latest Blawg Review 85 – this week by an Aussie and delighted that he picked up on Ashley’s Ashes

A most interesting Blawg Review…. followed a few of the links up – there is a wealth of useful information out there…

England will bounce back…hopefully?…possibly…. maybe? Cry God for Harry etc etc….

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Addicted….to caption competitions…

Not only am I becoming addicted to liver and mash (Infra) – I appear to be fascinated by Caption competitions. So here is another one. I have started the ball rolling, rather predictably – so, again, the winner will get a prize of a set of lectures.

Thanks to all for taking part – the standard was excellent – but, as in Strictly Come Dancing… there has to be a winner.

Post your entries to the ‘Comments’ section below – please!

I may well be running more of these… if there is any demand… but I may come up with another style of competition as well. After all, one cannot live by liver and mash alone. As before… my decision… no judicial reviews on this site!

The winner of the previous caption competion

“…but in Glasgow this IS how we kiss the bride!”

Comment by Jem Harvey — Monday, November 27, 2006

Jem – if you write to msp@spr-law.com and let Mike Semple Piggot know which set of lectures you would like access to – it will be arranged. Please mark email subject line ‘Caption Competition’

Well done… Liked it..particularly because of my Scots background. (Father was Glasgow – Mother Edinburgh.)

View other entries here

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While Christmas is not really my thing – after an all nighter on Christmas Eve last –  mercifully, I was able to miss most of the day.  I thought I would turn on the lights on my blawg as I do not appear to have that many (any) invitations to perform this ceremony elsewhere.

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Caption competition…

Have a go at the caption competition…and win a set of 20 recored one hour lectures in a subject of your choice if your caption wins from: Contract, Criminal, Constitutional, Tort, Land Law, Equity and EU Law.

Scroll up for the latest papal caption competition….

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Freedom of speech…

The Guardian reports today that The Metropolitan Police are lobbying the A-G for wider powers to “arrest protesters for causing offence through the words they chant and the slogans on their placards and even headbands.”

This rather sums it up… and I quote from the Guardian report: “A solicitor who has defended protesters, Mike Schwarz, said: “Causing offence, if there is no other ingredient, is not against the law.” He said such proposed powers would clash with article 10 of the European convention on human rights which protects freedom of expression.”

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Memo to all Staff from Matt Muttley, Managing Partner

It came to my notice the other day, when I made a rare appearance in the open plan work area, that quite a few associates and administrative staff have taken to wearing burqas, skull caps, silver crosses, orange turbans, white druidic robes and various other symbols of faith. I find this pleasing. As I have no desire to see Muttley Dastardly LLP subjected to vilification by bearded Bishops a la British Airways – our official policy on the wearing of religious symbols at work is that you may do as you please and, it has to be said, I would not wish this firm to be ‘boycotted’ by the bearded Bishops. The only caveat I enter is that you are happy in your work and do the hours and that you think about the wealth of our firm and your future part in that wealth. Muttley Dastardly LLP is an equal opportunity employer with a structured and hierarchical approach to the distribution of rewards. The restriction on wearing brown suede shoes with a pinstripe suit continues in place – although senior associates may wear shooting tweeds and Plus Fours on Fridays if they so choose. That is all.

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A cunning plan…

Last night I dined with friends and it was suggested to me, by a recently retired partner at Slaughter & May who I play chess with fairly regularly, that England are merely lulling the Aussies into a false sense of security by their almost comical display of beach cricket at The Gabba. I mention my friend’s  legal pedigree simply to add weight to the seriousness of the suggestion. I was fairly well into the juice so I was more than happy to subscribe to his idea.

Watching the cricket this morning was a surreal experience. The commentators had almost given up and rambled on about almost everything other than cricket. Cut away shots to the commentary box showed Botham barely able to conceal his laughter. We really have to do better tomorrow…. if only to get some practice in.

A propos of absolutely nothing… I appear to have become addicted to liver and mash. I do have some routines.. two espressos at breakfast and two at 6.00 in the evening when I have a glass of vino. It is also true that I always have the same breakfast, if I have time to go to a cafe in the morning – and twist the plate around so the egg is placed conveniently to my right, before buttering a slice of toast. Now I find I am ordering liver and mash every evening. I shall eat this meal to death for a few weeks until I can longer cope with even the sight of it..and move on to something else. I have absolutely no idea why I feel the need to ramble on about these personal quirks today… perhaps the balance of my mind has been tipped by the cricket?

I decided, after eating my liver and mash, to visit Tim Kevan’s blog. I am glad that I did. Tim has written two rather good ‘briefs’ on Life in Chambers and The Senior Clerk – well worth a read if you are thinking about a career at the Bar or are just curious as to the ways of the Bar today. An interesting read.

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Caption competition…

Mildly depressed (Cricket!)…I have decided to amuse myself by having a caption competition.

I’m afraid, for practitioners, there are no prizes… just a signed picture of me which I will email to you in the best WebCameron style… – anyway, you are earning good money, hopefully. But if a law student comes up with the best caption – Consilio will send them a password to access a set of recorded lectures of their choice from: Criminal, Contract, Constitutional, Tort, Equity, Land Law or EU Law. (I will post an email address you can write to if you are ‘the chosen one’.)

OK. OK… if a practitioner wins I’ll let them have a set of recorded lectures as well. You can give it away as a Christmas present!

These are my ‘attempts’ at a suitable caption:

“Not today, Vicar…not here!”

“You may kiss the gold digger”

“Oh darling… how romantic of you to tear up the pre-nuptial…on this special day. Thank you.”

How to win:

1. Post your caption in the comments section below

2. If you win…simply phone Mike Semple Piggot on 020 8742 1357 if you are the winner – He will assume you are who you say you are and send you the password. You can tell him which set of lectures you would like. or I’ll post an email address – in fact you can email Mike if you are the winner : msp@spr-law.com

3. Come up with the best caption… my opinion…no appeals, no judicial review… I am the sole judge and I’m not shagging a brazilian cleaner.

(Hopefully..some of you may enjoy a few glasses of red this weekend and feel inspired… so I’ll post the notice about The Winner on Tuesday.. (ish) On the other hand, if no-one can be bothered… I’ll be even more depressed ! )

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No… I won’t be discussing the cricket. 53-3 battling against a 602-8 (Declared) Aussie total is not something even New Labour could spin a good story about. As I lay in my staterooms watching the cricket from my futon, I was reminded of my childhood when children hid behind the sofa waiting for the Daleks to come on in Dr Who. I certainly could not bear to watch the display of pretty crass batting this morning.

So… stumped for commentary. I may have to fall back on some law – which, on a Friday afternoon, may be asking too much.

But Borat may well have a few litigation problems ahead.

The Guardian reports:
“It began with outrage in Kazakhstan, followed by the strangulated sound of forced laughter from the nation’s diplomats, who realised they should pretend to get the joke. It may end in a procession of costly trips to court. While Kazakhs have meekly come to an accommodation with the blockbusting power of Borat Sagdiyev, it appears that Sacha Baron Cohen’s altar ego did not learn one important lesson during his travels across the United States: when they are offended, Americans sue”

I haven’t seen the film but the Guardian paints a picture of deception with potential litigators ranging from Romanian villagers who feel that they were misled toother ‘stars’ of the film who, reportedly, signed their rights away in a complex release form which included some unsual provisions – for example: subject agrees not to bring any claims over “false light (such as any allegedly false or misleading portrayal of the Participant)” and “fraud (such as any alleged deception or surprise about the Film or this consent agreement)”.

The article is interesting. One american media lawyers is confident that the agreement is ‘watertight’, whereas an english lawyer from Eversheds takes a different view: The Guardian reports: “According to Phil Sherrell, a media lawyer at international law firm Eversheds, the clause waiving the right to seek redress against the producers would be struck out under English law. “If this was playing out in England, the subjects would have a good claim that the nature of the project had been fraudulently misrepresented, and that the agreement was therefore void.”

Another story, with some legal content came up today in the Telegraph. Massingham, a Norfolk based car mechanic, wanted to run a car repair business from home. His planning application was turned down because of objections from other villagers. Apparently, Massingham took the view that it was the ‘green wellie’ brigade and second hime owners who caused him to lose the planning application.

So, to gain revenge he is putting up his house for rent at a ‘peppercorn rent’ advertising that “travelling families, large extended families, multiple occupancy, DSS and East Europeans, with all pets most welcome”. A move intended to cause as much annoyance to his neighbours.

“This is a last resort to show the village what bad neighbours really are,” he said. “It’s just to get my revenge, to prove a point”, Massingham is reported as saying.

I went to Norfolk once. I was told by a woman who has lived in Norfolk all her life, a doctor, that it was a strange place and that doctors in the area often inscribe their patient notes with ‘NfN” (Normal for Norfolk) when faced with patients exhibiting or presenting with unusual behaviour or ailments.

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I now know exactly where I work….

I am pleased to be able to tell you that I live at the following longitude / latitude co-ordinates: 51.49653421421105, -0.27088165283203125

I am able to tell you because of this gizmo on the web… Use the scroll bars on the left to find out where you live/work. It is pleasing to know that American B-52 bomber crews probably have even more accurate maps. It is, therefore, unlikely I will be bombed in error – at least..not in that way. The satellite picture option is even better. How they got a picture of me drinking outside The Bollo is mystifying.

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Now…this is worth reading…

Nick Holmes of Binary law has a fascinating piece about Microsoft licences and their right to determine, unilaterally, that you have broken your contract and disable parts of your computer remotely…

Here it is.

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The Ashes…. let the ceremony begin

And so… it has begun… an epic between giants of the game.

I have quoted this before… but it is worth quoting again (and, it brings in a little bit of law – at least.)

“In summertime village cricket is the delight of everyone. Nearly every village has its own cricket field where the young men play and the old men watch. In the village of Lintz in County Durham they have their own ground, where they have played these last 70 years. They tend it well. The wicket area is well rolled and mown. The outfield is kept short . . . [y]et now after these 70 years a judge of the High Court has ordered that they must not play there anymore . . . [h]e has done it at the instance of a newcomer who is no lover of cricket.
This newcomer has built . . . a house on the edge of the cricket ground which four years ago was a field where cattle grazed. The animals did not mind the cricket.”

Miller v. Jackson (1977) Q.B. 966, 976

I have Sky Sports. I am also fortunate in needing only four hours of sleep a night. So.. do I stay up and watch the first session until 2.00 and then go to sleep..or do I get up when I usually wake at 3.00 and watch it then? A difficult question. Last night, I did a bit of both. Australia are firmly in control at 346 – 3, with Captain, Ricky Ponting, producing a magnificent innings of 138 – and he gets a chance to add to this score tomorrow morning.

Grievous Bodily Harmison opened the proceedings with a spectacular wide which had to be caught by second slip. Unfortunately, he is not fired up yet (out of practice) prompting Boycott to ramble on as usual about ‘line and length’. Boycott is right, however. Harmison needs to get fired up and bowl to bounce the ball up to the ribs and head area to ‘test’ the batsmen and force errors.

Relax… I’m not going to drone on about cricket. The BBC website has excellent Ashes coverage.

What I will do, as the series progresses, is make a few observations.

Ashley’s Ashes (in the style of Lord Denning MR)

In a small village of London, called Chiswick, there is a gastropub. It is called The Bollo Bar & Dining Room. It is a delightful place with panelled walls, good food and a well stocked wine cellar. It is run by an Australian called Ashley, who is a keen cricket fan. Last year Charon QC and a group of friends took the afternoon off on the day of the final Ashes Test. It was an important match. It was the decider. England won. There was a great deal of celebration, drinking of Rioja and smoking of cigarettes by Charon and others. Ashley was unconsolable. Charon, to compound his misery, took a box of Bollo matches, burned the matches in an ashtray and with the ashes of these matches, supplemented by cigarette ash, filled the empty match box. Charon then signed the box, as did his friends – and, sportingly, so did Ashley. He then sealed the box with sellotape. Codebreaker, who was present at this afternoon of drinking and cricket, varnished the box to make it look old and the box of matches was then duly mounted on a small rosewood plinth provided by Charon. They are called “Ashley’s Ashes”.

For a year and a few months, Ashley’s Ashes have been on a bookcase in Charon’s study. Now they are mounted on a shelf above the bar at The Bollo – where they will remain until The Ashes tournament is over. If Australia win, they will stay at The Bollo. If England win, they will return to Charon’s study. These are the simple pleasures in life.

If you wish to view Ashley’s Ashes – you will have to go to The Bollo. Charon often sits at Table 21, sometimes playing Chess, but always with a glass of Rioja and two espressos.


Keep the Aussies from getting their hands on The Ashes bizarre interactive game 

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European Court fails drinkers and smokers…

Retailers have expressed relief at a European Court ruling against allowing consumers to buy drinks and cigarettes online at lower duties from abroad. BBC

Unfortunately….Europe has again turned away from the needs of drinkers and smokers who wished to buy cheaper Polish and Latvian booze and fags.  A victory for common sense chmed one worthy frm The Treasury.  Traders were relieved as, no doubt, were the many newsagents and off-licences in Britain. It is, however, still lawful to go on a booze cruise to calis and pick up cheaper products.  Here is one company which does these cruises.  I have never done one.  I might just have to try a cruise.  Pity… I was quite looking forward to ordering my Silk Cut and Rioja from Latvia.

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Grateful to Codebreaker, a regular contributor to the blawg and inspiration for a number of posts, for sending me this road sign picture in.

All day drinking

According to The Telegraph (20 November)
“The relaxation of Britain’s drinking laws has failed to trigger the surge in alcohol-fuelled violence and round-the-clock drunkenness that many predicted, police said yesterday.”

Catching up on legal news, I came across this story on the net. I assume that the police are pleased about this – but, the way the opening of the story read, there seemed, almost, to be a hint of disappointment. I recall the feeding frenzy in the press when these new laws came in. Pundit after pundit opined that the streets of Britain would be awash with piss artists..the streets would run with vomit etc etc. They have been proved wrong. The government said 24 hour drinks laws would not lead to problems – and, they seem to be right. The police are reporting a decline in night time alcohol related violence, according to the story in The Telegraph. Mind you, my own locals shut at 11.00 – which is probably just as well.

SPR, who publish Consilio and, it has to be said, my blawg… have Study Kits in CD format which contain 20 one hour recorded lectures, a detailed textbook, casenotes and a Q&A pack for just £42 – available from all good bookshops or Wildy’s online. If you are interested in buying a useful resource (or even if you are a practitioner and wish to ‘refresh’ your knowledge) – have a look at Consilio and LawinaBox

They are a godsend – solved all my Christmas present problems at a stroke. I’ve given my brother, Professor R D Charon, a copy of the Contract Study Kit because he does not seem to be particularly well versed in that subject, my other brother, Rick, the newsreader, gets a copy of Advocacy in a box to improve his presentational skills – and I thought I might give a friend of mine, who is a chartered accountant, the one on criminal law because his fees are certainly that.

I do hope you will enjoy the lobster competition on Consilio – free lectures, textbooks, Q&As? If you are luck enough to find the lobster.

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Saturday thoughts…

The theme to start this Saturday is ‘The art of being thick.’ The Americans have a good word for it – ‘Dumbass’.

Sheffield United manager, Neil Warnock, claimed this week that some footballers are thick (The Independent)

I quote: “Two of my players have been in the news this week for the wrong reasons. Alan Quinn was fined after admitting being involved in a fight in a Sheffield pub used by Wednesdayites and Paddy Kenny had his eyebrow bitten off after a late-night dust-up in a Halifax takeaway.

These things happen for managers, but I’d prefer they didn’t and I hope the players learn. They’ve been a bit thick. Quinn’s an ex-Wednesday player, he goes into a Wednesday pub, has problems, and wonders why!”

This stimulated Brian Reade in my Saturday tabloid of choice, The Mirror, to bring up his own examples of dumbass behaviour by footballers…

Jason McAteer (nicknamed Trigger) being asked at a take-away if he wanted his pizza cut into eight slices or four, and answering “Four. I’m not that hungry.”

Or when he locked himself out of his Porsche, his mate told him to get a coat-hanger so he could pick the lock and he came back with a wooden one.

Paulo di Canio’s defence against being a nasty bigot: “I’m a fascist, not a racist.”

Everton’s Neil Adams breezing, towel in hand, into the reception of a Madrid hotel asking for directions to the beach.

And there I was…sipping an espresso…smoking a Silk Cut and wondering whether I could find any stories about Lawyers behaving oddly. Of course – RollonFriday came to mind and, sure enough, an excellent story about a memo to staff on ‘toilet etiquette’ written by Stephen Ryan, managing partner at St Alban’s firm SA Law

I take the appalling liberty of copying the memo from the RollonFriday page – sorry.. Piers/Matthew but I still like a spot of grappa!
Source: RollonFriday

On the premise that this memo is not a spoof – I started to think how Mr Ryan could know about the the activities of the bogey flicker(s) referred to in Paragraph 2. Is it part of a managing partner’s remit to inspect the lavatories? Or did he notice the wall peppered with curious objects? Or did he, in fact, have information about the perpetrator(s) of this unusual comedy routine. And then I started to wonder if the perpetrators kept the door open so they could flick it onto the ‘opposite wall’ of the entire washroom or did ‘opposite wall’ mean the door of the lavatory? As you can see, I have way too much time on my hands when I sit at Cafes with my laptop and take advantage of the cafe wifi and write my blawg. The mind boggles – is this a common routine at SA Law?

I suspect that Matt Muttley of Muttley Dastardly LLP would applaud Mr Ryan for his directness, candour and humour.

Silver Lobster Award

Management skill and memo drafting, at this level, deserves special recognition – so… a silver lobster award just has to be given, subject, of course, to the memo being genuine.

This Picture of THE LOBSTER is NOT the lobster picture for the Consilio competition – sorry… that would just be too easy! 

And so… to other matters: Esteem and Lawyers… an oxymoron?

Grateful to Justin Patten at Human Law for directing my attention, through his blog, to an interesting article in The Law Society Gazette. It is about ‘Esteem’ and how the public pictures lawyers. This article won’t take you long to read and is worth reading

Pleasing to see Maitland Kalton, founder of Kaltons and founder of Lawyers for Change making a valuable contribution to the debate with some useful points. I have had the pleasure of meeting Maitland Kalton – he has some interesting ideas.

I quote Maitland’s comment: ‘The evidence is that 40% of lawyers are not happy with their career choice and that’s not only very sad, it’s very costly for law firms,’ he says. ‘The idea of excellence in client service is nonsense if you can’t please the lawyers themselves.’

If you are interested in Lawyers for Change – I’m pretty sure Maitland Kalton will be happy to talk to you.

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A tale of modern times……

Having spent a bit of time over lunch writing about vaguely serious matters – I found this on the net and thought you might enjoy it, if you have not seen it before.


The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building and improving his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed.

The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.


The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed.

A social worker finds the shivering grasshopper, calls a press conference and demands to know why the squirrel should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate, like the grasshopper, are cold and starving.

The BBC shows up to provide live coverage of the shivering grasshopper; with cuts to a video of the squirrel in his comfortable warm home with a table laden with food.

The British press inform people that they should be ashamed that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so, while others have plenty.

The Labour Party, Greenpeace, Animal Rights and The Grasshopper Council of GB demonstrate in front of the squirrel’s house.

The BBC, interrupting a cultural festival special from Notting Hill with breaking news, broadcasts a multi cultural choir singing “We Shall Overcome”.

Ken Livingstone rants in an interview with Trevor McDonald that the squirrel got rich off the backs of grasshoppers, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the squirrel to make him pay his “fair share” and increases the charge for squirrels to enter inner London.

In response to pressure from the media, the Government drafts the Economic Equity and Grasshopper Anti Discrimination Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The squirrel’s taxes are reassessed.

He is taken to court and fined for failing to hire grasshoppers as builders for the work he was doing on his home and an additional fine for contempt when he told the court the grasshopper did not want to work.

The grasshopper is provided with a council house, financial aid to furnish it and an account with a local taxi firm to ensure he can be socially mobile. The squirrel’s food is seized and re distributed to the more needy members of society, in this case the grasshopper.

Without enough money to buy more food, to pay the fine and his newly imposed retroactive taxes, the squirrel has to downsize and start building a new home.

The local authority takes over his old home and utilises it as a temporary home for asylum seeking cats who had hijacked a plane to get to Britain as they had to share their country of origin with mice. On arrival they tried to blow up the airport because of Britain’s apparent love of dogs.

The cats had been arrested for the international offence of hijacking and attempted bombing but were immediately released because the police fed them pilchards instead of salmon whilst in custody.

Initial moves to then return them to their own country were abandoned because it was feared they would face death by the mice. The cats devise and start a scam to obtain money from people’s credit cards.

A Panorama special shows the grasshopper finishing up the last of the squirrel’s food, though spring is still months away, while the council house he is in, crumbles around him because he hasn’t bothered to maintain the house.

He is shown to be taking drugs. Inadequate government funding is blamed for the grasshopper’s drug ‘illness’.

The cats seek recompense in the British courts for their treatment since arrival in UK.

The grasshopper gets arrested for stabbing an old dog during a burglary to get money for his drugs habit. He is imprisoned but released immediately because he has been in custody for a few weeks.

He is placed in the care of the probation service to monitor and supervise him. Within a few weeks he has killed a guinea pig in a botched robbery.

A commission of enquiry, that will eventually cost £10,000,000 and state the obvious, is set up.

Additional money is put into funding a drug rehabilitation scheme for grasshoppers and legal aid for lawyers representing asylum seekers is increased.

The asylum-seeking cats are praised by the government for enriching Britain’s multicultural diversity and dogs are criticised by the government for failing to befriend the cats.

The grasshopper dies of a drug overdose. The usual sections of the press blame it on the obvious failure of government to address the root causes of despair arising from social inequity and his traumatic experience of prison.

They call for the resignation of a minister.

The cats are paid a million pounds each because their rights were infringed when the government failed to inform them there were mice in the United Kingdom.

The squirrel, the dogs and the victims of the hijacking, the bombing, the burglaries and robberies have to pay an additional percentage on their credit cards to cover losses, their taxes are increased to pay for law and order and they are told that they will have to work beyond 65 because of a shortfall in government funds.


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Legal Week has a most interesting article on the LPC. It is a must read if you are a student thinking about doing the LPC or are interested in legal education. Here is the link

Briefly: there is to be a review of the LPC. I quote a part of the article: The first consultation, to be launched in January, will review the ‘written standards’ of the LPC and the balance between black letter law and more general legal skills. It will also look at the possibility of separating the electives part of the course, which allow students to choose different modules from the mandatory base of the course. As part of the review of written standards, the Law Society is also considering moving the course electives to the end of the LPC and allowing students to take LPC electives after their training contract. The second consultation will look at how the LPC fits in with other parts of legal training, such as the training contract. Chancery Lane is hoping that by allowing flexibility it will increase the diversity of students and make courses more accessible.”

We do have a multi-tiered legal profession. Fact. There is a difference between top law firms and smaller firms, City and general practice work. It is not unreasonable to design training to the needs of these different sectors – assuming that all solicitors are versed in the basics of law and legal practice.

Phil Knott, of Nottingham Trent, doyen of the LPC training world, knows more about LPC teaching and course provision than most, so when he expresses concern that standards might drop as a result of planned revisions to the LPC it is worth listening.

Peter Crisp of BPP supports the ‘loosening of grip on the LPC providers by the Law Society’ – but adds (Thankfully) “there still needs to be some criteria to ensure standards do not drop.” I’m fairly sure The Law Society will make certain of that – and the Top Law Firm clients will want value for money and quality – possibly, a more potent regulating force.

The truth of the matter, I suspect, is that we will see more of the big providers – College of Law, BPP and Nottingham Trent carving up the lucrative City market; tailoring courses to meet specific client needs and other LPC providers catering for the the rest of the profession.

I tend to agree with the comment on the Talkback section of the legal week article where the writer makes a rather good point… I quote: An interesting line from LPC providers, concerning a supposed two-tier profession, since the UK legal professional already has more tiers than a wedding cake convention. What LPC providers have themselves contributed to is a two-tier market for legal education. And what the big law schools are now pushing for is as much liberalisation as possible to leave them free to bend course content even further towards top City firms. Maybe that’s what the market needs, but let’s not dress it up under the mantle of protecting standards. ”

It will be interesting to see what the consultation will lead to – but, in my view, if liberalisation leads to greater diversity, I am all for it. The idea that the electives may be done at the end of the training contract is an interesting one. I suspect that the providers won’t be that enthusiastic because it will mean a reduction in teaching, with a concomittant reduction in fees charged. It will benefit the trainee who has been through a training contract because he or she should be better able to cope with the demands of an elective more easily (and more knowledgeably) – and, quite possibly, may not need a law school to help them with the work! The electives are not that difficult and any capable trainee should be able to do the work needed, especially after a good training contract where they are able to see how the law relates to practice.

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PC DCA style….

I was on Bystander JP’s excellent Magistrate’s Blog whiling away a few moments when I read that the DCA has issued guidelines about ‘acceptable’ language.  Apparently, the following terms are NOT acceptable:

 “Old, middle-aged, young, girl, young lady, boy, lad, young man, part-timer, the disabled, the blind, the deaf, black mark, black sheep, black list, black look, Black Monday, coloured, half-caste, West Indian, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese (used as a catch-all (sic) phrase), British (referring to whites), immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, gypsies (used negatively) Gyppos, Ethnics, Jesus Christ (used as a curse) Jesus freak, bible basher, Jewish (acceptable to some) gay (as a noun) manning the phones, manpower, policeman, chairman, spokesman, fireman, foreman, workmen, lady doctor, woman judge, male nurse, male secretary, love, pet, dear (used in a derogatory way)”

See: The Mind your language post on The Magistrate’s Blog.  The comments on this post are also worth a look.

It must be extremely difficult having a conversation at the DCA, given the society and times we live in, with some of the words in the above list being ‘proscribed’. What do we call a man who is in the Police?  Officer, I assume… but is it so bad to refer to ‘policeman.’ Is anyone really offended by being called British? Jewish?

Right…. the next person who refers to Charon QC –  in comments on my blawg – as middle-aged, or who curses me using ‘Jesus Christ’ or gives me a black look (metaphorically) will be awarded a silver lobster in .jpg form to put on their website or blog.

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