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Archive for July, 2007

Jaws and Sunday surreality…

The news today (The Sun) that a great white shark has been filmed 200 yards off the Cornwall coast may just be the final straw for beleagured Britain after the great floods. Curiously, the original Jaws film was on TV last night.

The Sun reports: Tourist Nick Martell, 57, from Newcastle upon Tyne, said after the sighting: “Coming face to face with a Great White is every swimmer’s worst nightmare. It’s not the sort of thing you expect in Cornwall, but now I know it’s possible I’ll definitely be on the lookout.”

Excellent understatement. Now, to other matters…

To The Bollo for a late lunch in the afternoon sunshine to digest the Sunday papers, drink Rioja and eat pasta…

I start with The Sunday Times and read about a ‘damning report’ to be published this week: “Official: doctors do less work for more pay”. Nurses are likely to start backlashing after reading this report and Gordon Brown, the paper reports, will accelerate moves to force doctors to open weekend surgeries and hold more morning and evening surgeries – for even more dosh, no doubt.

Mention of Gordon Brown in the article on doctors reminded me that GB is meeting GB at Camp David. Apparently, dress code instructions sent to Downing Street will not prompt Gordon Brown to turn up in ‘ball-crushingly tight blue cord jeans’ like his predecessor. Somehow, it is difficult to imagine Brown in anything other than a rather dull suit. We know, from recent news pictures, that he plays tennis wearing a suit. It is, therefore, unlikely that we will see him pictured dressed up like something out of Brokeback Mountain while he is with Bush.

Scientists breed world’s first mentally ill mouse
I turned my attention to the next story on the front page of The Sunday Times and discovered that scientists have managed to breed the world’s first mentally ill mouse. Apparently, scientists created these schizophrenic mice by modifying their DNA to mimic a mutant gene first found in a Scottish family with a high incidence of schizophrenia. Let us hope that these mice do not escape, watch the Braveheart DVD and start taking an interest in avenging Culloden, or worse, form a boy band or take up cricket.

British teenagers even worse than Danish teenagers
And so… it was on to “Comment” by Rod Liddle, where I discovered: “British teenagers are the worst in Europe, according to yet another cheering survey published last week by the Institute for Public Policy research (IPPR). They are all fat, drug-addled drunkards whose only social activities are vomiting and transmitting sexual diseases – and even worse than Danish teenagers who, everybody accepts, are thoroughly horrible.

While the IPPR wants them to play ping-pong, Liddle suspects they need to be beaten but accepts that ‘corporal punishment (has) become terribly unfashionable in recent years’.

Have you been a naughty boy?
Myrna, Rod Liddle informs us, is a Liberal-Democrat member of Bideford town council in Devon. But, apparently, she is also a stripagram girl who will talk to you in a ‘sexy’ manner for £1.50 a minute. The thought, prompted by Liddle’s piece, of Ming Campbell, in a leather basque, asking Andrew Marr if he had been a naughty boy was too much for me to take in and I had to order another glass of Rioja. Guido Fawkes’ blog (I disclose my enjoyment of this blog) has all the info you need on Myrna.

I had absolutely no idea, until I read Atticus in The Sunday Times, that Boris Johnson campaigned for the job of London mayor under the slogan “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.” If this is, in fact the case, I shall be writing to Boris to find out where he buys his wine.

And so, it came to pass, that Charon had to go to the land of the blawgs with a goatskin of the staff of life.

18.35 pm. Charon may as well be in The Diary Room.

First up is the blog of Geoffrey Vos QC, Chairman of the Bar who has been receiving judges and lawyers from Kazakhstan: ” I believe that there is a real prospect that these contacts with Kazakh lawyers and judges will create great opportunities in months and years to come for the Commercial and the Chancery Bars.”

Unfortunately, the authorities in Kazakhstan are not too keen on the internet (or blogs!) as a means of fostering communication and good relations. If the Kazakhstan authorities get their way, email and internet communication with the Bar may well prove to be, shall we say, difficult!

I quote from an AP report from Vienna (28 July 2007): “Web sites, blogs and personal pages all are subject to criminal as well as civil prosecution in Kazakhstan, and the country’s information minister, Yermukhamet Yertysbayev, has vowed to purge Kazakh sites of “dirt” and “lies.”

“Those who think it is impossible to control the Internet can continue living in a world of illusions,” Yertysbayev told the Vremya newspaper in a recent interview.

Next, we travel to a very different place:
While it is, perhaps, unfortunate that my next piece, following as it does a piece on Kazakh censorship, concerns the New Zealand government antipathy to being mocked by Australians or other persons (Geeklawyer covers the story): New Zealand’s Parliament has voted itself far-reaching powers to control satire and ridicule of MPs in Parliament, attracting a storm of media and academic criticism. Press Gazette story

Frankly, I cannot think of a single reason to justify parodying New Zealanders.

The news today that “Flog it”, “Cash in the attic” and other TV programmes have been faking it, prompts me to draw attention to Head of Legal’s question “Has the BBC committed offences?”

Unfortunately, I am now well into the Rioja and have no desire to get s.15A Theft act 1968 out and give a view… so, I move on… to another of my favourite blogs… the irrepressible “What About Clients?” conjured up by J Dan Hull.. This week, inter alia, he writes about “Rule Five: Over-communicate: Bombard, Copy and Confirm”


Simon Myerson QC, who, perfectly sensibly, asks visitors to his blog to address him as Simon, has joined the Bar Education and Training committee and continues to provide useful advice to prospective barristers – FREE – and gives a yellow card to an anonymous poster on his comments section for being a bit stroppy with other posters.

John Bolch, Family Lore, recently back from a Spanish holiday, enjoys the fact that a “divorce petition in one of my matters (prepared by the other side I hasten to add) was rejected by the court, one of the reasons being that the term ‘registry office’ had been used when it should be ‘register office’.”

Ruthie, of Ruthie’s Law, has returned from playing rugby (She admits, but not under caution, that she enjoys ‘rough games’) to find herself called for Jury service. Frankly, the idea of lawyers, police, prosecutors or, indeed, anyone with a knowledge of criminal law in practice (or academe) sitting on juries troubles me. There was a time when such people were excluded.

Not many other UK bloggers writing much at the moment…. so… I end with a diversion on the same story I started with.
The latest BBC report on the Great White Shark story I can find at 19.46 on Sunday evening states: But coastguards have dismissed the claims as “scare-mongering”.”

This has all the makings of rather a good film….

As Nick Ross used to say on Crimewatch, before he got sacked for getting old, “don’t have nightmares”

I must now retire and catch up on some documentaries and a bit of politics. I shall, of course, be watching NewsKnight, if only to watch Sir Trevor hack some more jokes to death with unusual timing.

Next week, as they say, is another week….

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A bit of burglary….

Shortly after 5.30 on Saturday evening, I climbed a ladder and ‘broke’ into my house through a first floor window – the only front facing window not locked. I could have kicked the front door in, broken a window, or behaved rationally and arranged for a locksmith to gain entry for me.

I had to gain entry to my own house because I had left my motorbike bumbag in my office, inside the house. I ride a motorbike and use a bumbag to carry keys, cigarettes, wallet, passport, lighters, and other life support systems. I use the bumbag even when I am not riding my bike. Yesterday evening I collected my laptop and wandered over to The Bollo for a glass or two of Rioja. Realising that I did not have my bumbag with me, I returned to the house. The door and downstairs windows were, of course, locked. But, fortunately, on this occasion, I had left an upstairs window unlocked. Fortune favoured me. A Polish builder, working on a house four doors down, was just driving off. I flagged him down, explained the problem, and asked to borrow his ladders. He was happy to assist. I retrieved my bumbag.

It was an interesting way to start my evening and I was able to return to The Bollo. The rioja tasted good and I started to blog – sitting outside. The few spatters of rain did not trouble me unduly. The front awnings provide good shelter.

Reading the lifestyle section of The Times, I saw a picture of celebrated chef, Rick Stein, with spaghetti hanging out of his mouth – not a particularly attractive spectacle. I am bored with all these endless articles on food and celebrity chefs droning on about yet another rare dish recipe they have ‘taken inspiration from’ from some poor peasants in Sicily or other exotic destination for the edification of their rich clientele in the UK. How many cookbooks can the British public consume? Why not just buy the cookbooks published last year at a bargain ‘remaindered’ price from a small independent bookshop? The recipes still work and even if the book is second hand, like some student owned law books, it will probably be in mint condition.

And… now I am about to depart, with my bumbag and laptop, to a place of seclusion to digest the Sunday papers (perhaps a few glasses of Rioja) and blog.

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Announcement by Eva Braun on behalf of Charon QC

After a week of worrying about the Cash for Honours decision and visiting various law blogs, and as a direct and causal result thereof, Charon has been absent from his blawg after a bout of a rather curious illness: Irrationalis Loca Donaldsonia.

Charon has responded well to treatment. In fact, he is self prescribing:

A statement on behalf of Charon QC
Eva Braun. PA to Matt Muttley of Muttley Dastardly LLP

Irrationalis Loca Donaldsonia

The symptoms of this particular disease may be described as follows:

Following the appearance of Sir Liam Donaldson (Government Chief Medical Officer) on television, radio or in printed media, the patient sustains an immediate attack of irrational anger. This is followed by a short bout of Tourettte’s Syndrome where the patient starts swearing uncontrollably. In extreme cases the patient experiences a need to start writing. Often the output is illogical, badly composed, lacking in syntax; with punctuation and spelling presenting at the level of a person with a reading age of 8.

If medical treatment is not given within two hours of an attack the patient may start self prescribing Rioja or other red wines, exceeding the government recommended dosage, usually resulting in further written output of an irrational nature. Often the patient starts to hallucinate and imagine a florid, overweight, man appearing on television to commend the use of taxation to increase the cost of alcohol, announce that he is asking the government to ban smoking completely and recommend restrictions on the advertising and sale of alcohol generally – along the lines of the Swedish government run alcohol monopoly systembolaget. There is no known cure for this syndrome but some psychiatrists have experienced a limited success with patients by using distraction therapy and recommending that the patient visits a pub to drink a bottle of wine and smoke cigarettes. The prognosis is, generally, good and treatment is enhanced if the patient is able to be distracted while drinking Rioja with fellow suffferers.

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Normal service resumed Part 1…

So… after my sweated labour at 3.00 am this morning, actually attempting to write something sensible (infra), I return to more pleasurable pursuits and mark my return to normal service with…

US Judge does a master class in judicial disdain

Hat Tip to Rollonfriday News for covering the story inspiring me on to more detailed research on Wikipedia, Google and reading, for the first time in some years, a US law report.

Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States delivered a dissenting judgment in a case involving a student election at the College of Staten Island. The full report may be read here (The dissent is from p.45)

Last week I commented on the curious Da Vinci judge case where the judge was given a mauling by the Master of the Rolls.

This week a US judge shows how to do disdain at world class levels. The case involves a student election. This is what he had to say…

He kicked off with this: “I concede that this short opinion of mine does not consider or take into account the majority opinion. So I should disclose at the outset that I have not read it

Chief Judge Jacobs moved across to land this… “this is not a case that should occupy the mind of a person who has anything consequential to do.”

and then….

“This is a case about nothing.”

And, rather like a boxer, waiting to land a left hook, he follows up with this: “With due respect to my colleagues in the majority, and to whatever compulsion they feel to expend substantial energies on this case, I fear that the majority opinion (44 pages of typescript) will only feed the plaintiffs’ fantasy of oppression: that plutocrats are trying to stifle an upsurge of Pol-Potism on Staten Island. Contrary to the impression created by the majority’s lengthy formal opinion, this case is not a cause célèbre; it is a slow-motion tantrum by children spending their graduate years trying to humiliate the school that conferred on them a costly education from which they evidently derived small benefit.

And.. the coup de grace: “If this case ends with a verdict for the plaintiffs (anything is possible with a jury), the district court will have the opportunity to consider whether the exercise merits an award of attorney’s fees in excess of one-third of two dollars.”

Excellent stuff… It is worth reading the dissent. Chief Judge Jacobs provides an extract from the student magazine. He states (p 46) “A selection from the illiterate piffle in the disputed issue of The College Voice is set out in the margin for the reader’s fun.”

The full report may be read here (The dissent is from p.45)

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Cash for Honours…

I woke at 3.00 am to find a very clear statement by the CPS on the matter of the “Cash for Honours” case waiting for me in my in-box. That the CPS has taken the step to issue a clear statement on this matter is testament to the interest which the decision not to prosecute will generate in the press and other media.

The full CPS statement may be read here.

The fourth estate may well thunder, opine and rant. Politicians may well take partisan positions, but the fact of the matter, as explained in the CPS Explanatory Statement, is that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution and, therefore, the issue of public interest did not have to be considered.

To summarise I have taken relevant extracts from the CPS Explanatory Statement.

1. Para 1: The CPS “was advised by a team of independent counsel, led by David Perry QC. The Director of Public Prosecutions played no part in the decision-making process”

2. Para 22: “A decision whether or not to prosecute is a two stage process. First, consideration must be given to whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction (‘the evidential test’). Secondly, if (and only if) it is decided that a realistic prospect of conviction exists, consideration must then be given to whether a prosecution is in the public interest (‘the public interest test’)”

3. Para 23: “As will be clear from paragraphs 13 to 17 above, an offence is committed if an unambiguous offer of a gift, etc, in exchange for an honour, is either made or solicited by one person to or from another, even if that other person refuses either to accept or to make such an offer; or one person agrees with another to make/accept a gift, etc, specifically in exchange for an honour.”

4. Para 24: “There is nothing in the circumstances of this case to suggest that the first of these routes to the offence has been taken.”

5. Para 29: “… the CPS is satisfied beyond doubt that the available evidence is not sufficient to enable an overwhelming inference to be drawn, such as to afford a realistic prospect of convicting any person for any offence contrary to Section 1 of the 1925 Act.”

6. Para 30: “In relation to possible breaches of the 2000 Act, we are satisfied that we cannot exclude the possibility that any loans made – all of which were made following receipt by the Labour Party of legal advice – can properly be characterised as commercial”.

7. Para 31: “In relation to any events which might have been interpreted as acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, we are satisfied that the weight of the evidence that has now been considered does not support that suggestion. There is therefore no realistic prospect of conviction in respect of the offence of perverting the course of public justice against any individuals.”

I have no expertise in criminal law, but it is an interest I keep up – and my post is made on that premise. The CPS will not reveal the confidential advice given. Para 4: “It is not our practice to publish such advice, particularly where it analyses in great detail the conduct of named persons against whom no criminal proceedings can properly be brought.”

Interestingly in para 32, the CPS statement ends with – “the conclusions reached by the CPS are the result of independent and professional judgment, following a thorough and professional investigation by the police. Extraneous considerations such as political or public opinion have played no part in the analysis, nor have they played any part in the decision making.”

Of course, as Simon Myerson QC has pointed out in the comments section on an earlier post: “A reaction which says ‘he got away with it because I don’t like the decision so he just must have done’ is neither sensible nor compelling. The proposition is that the CPS have been ‘got at’ or that the decision is corrupt. Those are serious allegations, so let those prepared to make them say what the evidence is. Otherwise, forgive me, they should shut up – no”

Victorian Maiden, over at Ruthie’s Law – has an interesting and amusing analysis on this, albeit in Victorian language. It is thought by Geeklawyer that Victorian Maiden is a real silk, which may well turn out to be the case given the precision of knowledge on posts so far, and if you would like to read a bit of grovelling and sycophancy from Geeklawyer – you may do so here!

The full statement from the CPS

After exercising my brain on matters of law and not wishing, in any way, to turn my blawg into a real law blawg by writing too much law (I like Simon Myerson QC’s description of my blawg as a ‘discursive / gossip blawg’) I feel I am now able to post some complete and utter nonsense, in contra-distinction to the above, later in the day without guilt. I shall, no doubt, do so.

So… what are the papers saying:

Guardian: “Blair aides attack Police inquiry”

Labour angry that investigation undermined authority of government – Lord Levy venting a fraction of his anger – Blair came close to resigning when told by Yates that he intended to interview the PM under caution. Yates backed down after representations by Cabinet Office – Gordon Brown, anxious to draw the matter to a close, defended the police – Despite Blair calling for restraint Mandelson gets angry – Police disappointed – Yates now likely to face three inquiries: Internal metropolitian Police and two external: Metropolitan Police Authority and Commons public administration select committee.

Angus Robertson, the SNP leader in Westminster, claimed: “The idea that the Metropolitan police … is a branch of the SNP is utterly preposterous.”

Times: Relief swiftly turns to anger as MPs confirm that police will be questioned.

Independent: End of investigation greeted with relief and recrimination

The Mirror: Bush has third test on Colon

Well… there we are. Soon I will be down on the high street sipping espressos and smoking Silk Cut. A bit of bacon, eggs and beans today – with the egg, as usual, on the right hand side of the plate.

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UPDATE: Saturday 21st July 2007 23.40 pm

 

I am grateful to Jailhouselawyer (See comments)  for pointing out that Guido Fawkes has proposed a private prosecution.  Here is the link 

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Friday cocktail…

I have absolutely no idea why a current Home Secretary and a fair proportion of the current Cabinet (according to the newspaper of record, The Evening Standard, on Thursday 18th July) have decided to admit to smoking cannabis when they were younger.

I can only surmise that the Brown government has decided the British public will be able to digest this information in a mature and reflective manner without doing something completely irrational or have decided upon some ‘cult driven mass expiation’, in advance of a ‘snap’ election, to expurgate their sins and leave WebCameron et al to reflect upon their younger days.

The Facebook saga, with Oxford using Facebook to hunt down miscreant students, continues to promote comment (Cambridge stated that they would not be using Facebook to hunt down their own students.) See: Martin George | Belle de Jure

Labour wins the two by-elections and Cameron is left to reflect on the wisdom of his choice of candidate in Ealing. Guardian report

Absolutely no-one to be charged in Cash for Honours case.

The Guardian reports: “The CPS had to decide two issues before proceeding with prosecutions. They decided a prosecution would be in the public interest, but after examining the evidence came to the view there was not a realistic prospect of a jury convicting. “

UPDATE:  It is clear, following the CPS Explanatory Statement (above) that The Guardian got the public interest point completely wrong.  The public interest question only comes into play if there is sufficient evidence to mount a prosecution.  There was insufficient evidence in the Cash for Honours matter and, therefore, the public interest issue did not arise.  Saturday 21st july)

The Police are not happy with this decision. Gordon Brown will, it is suggested, be magnanimous, and Blair tells his aides not to do ‘a Campbell’. There can be little doubt the Police invesitgation weakened the authority of Tony Blair and the CPS will have to explain their decision very clearly in the wake of what will, almost certainly, be a maelstrom of criticism and comment from politicians and the press.

UPDATE: The CPS issued a detailed and very clear explanatory statement on Friday 20th July.  See Post above 

In the meantime: I am reviewing hundreds of hours of writing blog posts to ensure that I have not been running any phone-in competitions or otherwise putting things in the wrong order to ‘sex up’ my blog and mislead readers. The BBC appears to be doing the same.

Right… it is just after 6.00 am. The rain is pouring down in West London. The prospect of play at Lords today does not look good. I am feeling antidiluvian and I have an hour to wait before I can get on my motorbike, ride down to the High Street and take three espressos, eat breakfast (Today, in a departure from the norm it will be toast and a banana) – sitting outside, as ever, smoking Silk Cut while I catch up on tabloid world.

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A ‘must read’ for Facebook users…

Martin George has a very useful post “Facebook, Oxford and Privacy” on his blog. Fascinating stuff – definitely a must read if you are on Facebook. A tale of dark deeds by Oxford dons against Oxford students and other matters…

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See also: Alex from IMPACT on his take on all this

See also: Lilian Edwards, Pangloss on Facebook

See also: Prisonlawinsideout for more on this 

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