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Archive for September 17th, 2008

Audio podcast: Charon Reports 6 – From the Cabinet War Rooms, London

I report, tonight, from The Cabinet War Rooms in London, last used during World War II by Churchill to direct Britain’s War effort against the tyranny of Nazi Germany. Tonight, these War Rooms serve a different purpose.   Tonight, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown, has to face two facts – first that David Cameron’s Tories now lead in the polls with 52 % and, secondly, that FTSE has fallen well below the 5000 mark, closing at 4912. It is inconceivable that the crisis has ended…. there will be more banking failures to come, FTSE may well fall even further…. as Churchill would have said, if he was alive today,…. “This is Gordon’s Brown’s darkest hour.”

We have an unelected prime minister, surely in the death throes of his brief and all too lamentable tenure of the greatest office of state in the land.  Described by one of his own as the worst prime minister since Neville Chamberlain, Brown appears, a mix of Dithering Height and Lear, to be completely unaware of his duty to our nation.  If he was a Tory, it would be a trip to a metaphorical library where a glass of scotch and a loaded revolver would be laid out, tastefully, on a Chippendale side table.  Brown is unlikely to go voluntarily.  His mantra, oft repeated, that he is ‘getting on with the job”,  is just not good enough in these days of chaos, crisis and calamity.

I spent a few minutes on the internet reading political blogs.  I no longer trouble to read Nick Robinson of the BBC – a favourite of George Bush, because he doesn’t seem to know anything or get anything right in recent weeks.  The BBC appears to be spinning faster than a cheap washing machine from Comet on a spin cycle directed by Labour HQ.  Guido Fawkes talks of political and economic meltdown and his band of commenters, ranging from the profane to the proficient, provide a thermometer of opinion on the mood of the country.

Iain Dale of the eponymous Iain Dale’s Diary links to an interesting piece by Tim Montgomerie who has written a fascinating account of the dying days of IDS’s leadership, in which he draws parallels to the situation facing Gordon Brown and his inner team.

How long do we have to wait?  The Richard III of the Labour government, Jack Straw, is overseas telling foreign governments how to run a good justice system – ironic from the the Head of a Ministry of Justice of a government which has managed to do so much to erode civil liberties and make justice just that little bit more difficult to achieve over the past ten years – most recently facing a crisis where criminals may have to be released because barristers won’t work for the pittance being offered by the government.

David Milliband, who to my jaded eye seems to resemble the actor who plays Henry  VIII in the BBC production  The Tudors, has shot his bolt, arguably, and who is to say he would be any good anyway?  He was told to F**k off the other day by the Russian Foreign Minister and appears to have done so.

Well… there we are… this story has a long way to go… as Churchill may have said… this may not be the end for Gordon Brown but it may be the end of the beginning of the end.

This is Charon, reporting from the Cabinet War Rooms near the seat of government in London.

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Audio podcast: Charon Reports 6 – From the Cabinet War Rooms, London

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Law Review: Juries, jazzy and jam…

The Independent carried a story today about the dangers  of police officers sitting on juries. The law was reformed five years ago to widen the pool from which jurors could be called to include judges, lawyers, police and others.  I thought at the time that having judges, experienced lawyers and police on juries would, ultimately, not work – despite protestations to the contrary at the time that jurors with judicial or police experience would serve impartially.  I am not a criminal lawyer, but it is interesting when four senior Crown Court judges are critical.  One judge is reported as saying:  “I do think the notion of opening up juries to those actually involved in the legal system is a step too far. When I say the legal system, I include police officers.” Another said: “I think it’s too far to have judges and policemen sit on juries… In a criminal case police in particular are not who you would want on a dispassionate jury.”

With the middle and professional classes keen to avoid jury duty and, from what I have been told, fairly successful at doing so – inevitably, the intellectual ability, impartiality and enthusiasm of some jurors may well be a factor in the efficacy of that jury.

It would be interesting to hear the view of criminal practitioners who read this blog – assuming you have the time, energy or inclination to comment! – or, indeed, the view of readers generally.

So… it is not all bad news for lawyers
The former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has predicted an explosion of ‘mega-litigation’ in the aftermath of this week’s collapse of Lehman Brothers. Legal Week reports “There is going to be litigation on a scale that we have not seen before,” he told the conference, predicting the emergence of “a new era” for litigation and dispute resolution. Falconer said Lehman-related litigation would follow three stages. First, there would be a series of disputes to determine the exact nature of the liabilities, then there would be a battle to determine how the bank’s remaining assets should be distributed and finally creditors would seek to identify institutions, advisors or regulatory bodies they could blame for their loss.

And it seems that London Lehman lawyers are going to be in work for some ‘months’. The Lawyer

While Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, has been in Vietnam and Pakistan building bridges and telling people how to run a justice system, Maria Eagle, has been busy over at The Ministry of Justice.  Her latest announcement (of several this week) : The law on assisting suicide is to be simplified to increase public understanding and reassure people that it applies as much on the internet as it does off-line, Justice Minister, Maria Eagle said today. Following a review of the Suicide Act 1961, the government has decided to reframe it in new, modern language that will make it easier for individual internet users and internet-based businesses, such as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to understand. UK ISPs already take down any websites under their control when notified that they contain illegal material and are free to restrict access to harmful or tasteless material in accordance with their ‘acceptable use’ policies. Simplifying the law should help them in doing this.

It is pleasing to see that at least some MPs are at their desks instead of skulking in the shadows of The Senate, daggers under their togas, waiting for Julius Brown to pitch up.

It is also pleasing to see that local authorities are taking advantage of their limited understanding of the principles of (a) justice and (b) common sense by misusing legislation. The Telegraph reports that  Covert surveillance was used in a bid to catch independent punt operators collecting customers from undesignated spots along the River Cam in Cambridge. Cambridge City Council mounted two cameras under a pavilion roof to spy on punters and council staff took hundreds of photographs. The use of the cameras was authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Labour councillor Lewis Herbert said the council was justified in using the cameras, for health and safety reasons.

Clearly, I misunderstood the purpose of the RIPA legislation.  I had understood it to be designed to assist in the war on terror and to deal with the need for covert surveillance of terror suspects.  Ah well….. that’s the problem with modern legislation… so much of it and not always that well crafted.

I shall resist the urge to say anything other than …. this is clearly a stunt with a punt.

And finally….

Is The Stig a High Court judge? Well… anything is possible and certainly, these days, our senior judges are very more closely in touch with daily life than perhaps once they were – but, no… it is unlikely that The Stig is a senior judge.  But…. if The Stig is a high court judge…  these will be his day job robes (without wig) from 1st October when the new look judiciary hits town in non-criminal cases. The learned friends, however, will continue to dress as they have done for centuries… although it has to be said… one does not see many blue and red bags around these days…it is  all stewardess style  suitcases on trolleys these days to cart the kit, laptops and files around.

More legal developments as they unfold….

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17 September: Daily News and podcast

Daily News and podcast now on Insitelaw

Quite a few lawyers are taking advantage of the FREE 1 Hour of CPD offered by CPD Channel – and seem to be enjoying the experience of doing CPD online.  Why don’t you have a look at the CPD offer on Insitelaw?

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