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Archive for November, 2008

Sunday night…. a great time to blog….

It has been a cold, wet and grey sky day on the boat – and, I assume, in many parts of the country.  I have read all the newspapers, considered the Jacqui Smith interview on Andrew Marr this morning – she did not seem comfortable – so…. and with no sensible work to do this evening… and  having wondered if the boat  should be swept for hidden listening devices,  I thought I would just write for a while and see if any civil servants happen to drop by with brown manilla envelopes. (Dawn on the boats the other morning – when the sun was about – towards Battersea Bridge and Central London)

There has been a bit of fun on Twitter with various US lawyers (and, I have to say that I have joined in) tweaking the tail of US lawyers who push… push… push the marketing value of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Digg – although none, as yet, have resorted to wandering around with sandwich boards to promote their practices… unless you know differently?  I am very pleased to say that I simply blog… I don’t justify it, I don’t have to do it, no-one has to read it and I shall continue to write about whatever comes into my head – I may even shoehorn in a bit of law from time to time.  (I am, of course,  delighted that a number of people… and who knows… MI5 and GCHQ?…  like to drop by and read and comment)

Let me introduce you to two very interesting US Blogs: Simple Justice, written by Scott H Greenfield and A Public Defender written by @gideonstrumpet – to use his Twitter ID.  I enjoy reading US blogs (and I am putting together a fairly extensive Pageflakes for US blogs I read and find interesting.)  Scott has written some pretty powerful stuff about (a) lawyers and marketing and (b) about his reasons for blogging – explore at your leisure and Gideon / Public Defender has produced, through a fellow blogger, a rather good badge for bloggers who do not feel the need to use their blogs as overt marketing tools. Since there is an invitation to take the badge… I do so with pleasure and link, naturally, back to Public Defender’s post and invitation!

Geeklawyer has turned his attention away from Twitter and the business of drafting complex pleadings again to review the BBC2 programme “The Barristers”. Reviewing episode 3 … I give you one choice quote… he says (considering the role of in-house salaried CPS lawyers) ” The down side of course, on the small matter of justice, was that while the Independent Bar was, mostly, treated with respect by prosecutors, their professionalism and skills at litigation management treated as unquestionable, the lot of the CPS Prosecution Monkey is very much a less happy one.” Enjoyed the review….

The BBC reports: Leader of the Commons Harriet Harman QC MP  has said she is “very concerned” by the arrest of Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green.

The Independent: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith today defended the right of police to arrest a Tory MP over alleged Home Office leaks – suggesting the case was more serious than reported.

An assault on all our rights

Conservative Party leader David Cameron writes for News of the World
– not many big words… but… it is NOTW.. so big headline!

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If you wish to listen to Carl Gardner, Head of Legal talking with me in a podcast on The Damien Green arrest – you may do so here. (or scroll down)

If you wish to listen to Gordon Brown telling Frank Bough, some years ago, that he had leaked information from a civil servant – of great public interest – then Guido Fawkes has picked that wonderful film up… here.

Well… that probably wraps it up for this eventful weekend… back to sensible stuff on Insite Law tomorrow.  I should make it through the night… aided… by the rest of a rather absurd British Red fortified wine at 15%.

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UPDATE: Sunday 30 November 21.39 hrs…

“Has a tipping point arrived for Twitter”… have a look at what a UK Blogger thinks… Neville Hobson (not a lawyer)

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Guido Fawkes has a very amusing film on his blog…. a film of Brown, when in opposition, admitting that he used leaked information from a civil servant who was concerned that the government was trying to suppress information!

It is Sunday…. film won’t take long.  Definitely worth a visit!

As one of Guido’s ravening horde of commenters (always worth a look) says… “Arrest him!”…?

Please scroll down for Podcast with Carl Gardner on Damien Green MP affair / Other coverage.

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So… it came to pass, after much deliberation, that St Peter Mandelson was brought back from the wilderness and… Lo… within but days… the Prince of Darkness had wreaked havoc and destruction in Tory  ranks with his gospels about George and Oleg the Oligarch.  St Peter, in his Revelations to the Media Pharisees,  then said… “There would come a man… the new Moses…. Gordon Brown… to lead us from financial hell to the promised land…. and so there was.”

I had to go out and buy a bottle of British fortified wine earlier after reading that.  I want to do my bit for Britain…. and when my eye saw the alcohol content at 15% …. I thought why not?  It does the business.  This may not explain what drugs Moses was on when he received the Ten Commandments… but it certainly enhanced my appreciation of the irony of calling Gordon Brown, son of the manse, Moses…

It also triggered my memory of a rather good quote from Prime Minister Golda Meir of Israel… appropriate today… “Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!”

And so… to BBC 2 The Barristers: Episode 3

After grinding through episodes 1 and 2 of The Barristers,  which I did not find that interesting, I did enjoy episode 3.  Much as I like the engaging students in the programme, I felt that the director spent too much time on ritual, baraphernalia and the students.  Episode 3 actually got down to the nitty gritty about the work of criminal barristers and was interesting television.  The focus was mainly on criminal work last night – but as I know little of that world, I found it interesting.  I’m afraid I have no idea if it was a true and fair portrayal of the life of a criminal barrister – but it did show us a snapshot of the relationship between the CPS and the independent Bar – not brilliant, it would appear! – and the work of Dickie Bond an experienced member of the independent Bar.  There were some amusing moments of banter between Bond and his opponent in the case in the robing room.

I can’t help feeling, given the sophistication and intellectual range of the work of the Bar,  that the producers have missed a trick by not looking more closely at the diverse and complex work and involving more experienced barristers across the range of work done by the Bar.  There is still episode 4 to come, so I may be jumping the gun.  I regret to say, I have rather lost interest in what happens to any of the students and my only observation is to say – I hope they make it – but for me the interest lies more with the experienced members of the Bar.

Much of the latter part the week was taken up with the horrific events in Mumbai, covered so well in the Indian and world media and by Tweeters on Twitter.  Twitter certainly provided so much good *live* content that they were often quicker than the television companies… so quick, the Indian government asked twitter to stem the flow in case the terrorists were on Twitter themselves.

But we did have our own *Breaking News*:  The arrest of Damien Green MP. AS with many other law and political bloggers I covered it in a post and, in fact, did a podcast with Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer and author of The Head of Legal blog on Saturday morning.  Carl is always on the money with his observations on constitutional law and it was a pleasure to spend half an hour in discussion with him about this fascinating story.

I have a feeling that the story has a bit to run. The Speaker, certainly, has some explaining to do, given reports in the press today casting doubt on the consent to enter parliament issue.

My eye was caught by a story on Inner Temple’s excellent  Current Awareness RSS feed: “A High Court has upheld a tribunal’s findings that a West Yorkshire dentist urinated in his surgery sink before treating a patient.” It appears, from the BBC report, that the dentist did urinate into his surgery sink – but the High Court quashed the “findings Mr Hutchinson used dental instruments to clean his ears and fingernails.” BBC.

Twitter has many benefits and while I continue to abuse it and tease the enthusiastic marketer lawyers from the States… I did learn that an armless man has been caught driving in China through Twitter – so I’m a fan. If you want to wast some more time and follow the good, the bad and the nonsense (and Stephen Fry is an enthusiastic Twitter user) … follow me and reach @Geeklawyer, @Infobunny, @Scottgreenfield, @Colinsamuels, @Jaffne, @gideonstrumpet, @kevinokeefe and a whole raft of rather amusing and interesting people. I’m afraid that my *Tweets* drone on about the boat, ducks, Hans and his U-Boat surfacing in the Thames right outside my boat – but others are more ‘sensible’….. or are they?

An excellent post for smokers in The Devil’s Kitchen today by guest “The Filthy Smoker”: “One the best things about the smoking ban is that you no longer have to step over dead bodies to get to the bar. We all remember, don’t we, the familiar sight of nonsmokers clutching at their chest as that lethal secondhand smoke triggered one cardiac arrest after another. On any visit to the pub you could be certain to witness at least one heart attack. The life expectancy for barmaids was three weeks. Thank God those days are over.”

The Filthy Smoker notes that the media fell over themselves to applaud the smoking ban when it was revealed that heart attacks, particularly in Scotland, were falling – but now it seems that the heart attack rate has been falling for some years… mind you… pubs are going bankrupt and many pubs, some say,  are thoroughly miserable places nowfull of non-smokers nursing a pint or nipping outside to drink with the pissed smokers – and that the smoking ban has not been the medical “promised Land’ lazy hacks from the media hyped it up to be!

Rather more interesting, for me however as a man who enjoys ‘turns of phrase’,  was the language employed by Filthy Smoker. I give a few examples which made me laugh….

“Inevitably, one the hatchet-faced gurners from Action on Smoking and Health piped up to make the implied connection with passive smoking explicit…”

“Even in the swivel-eyed fantasy world of anti-smoking nutjobs….”

As they say… some of my best friends are non-smokers, but they seem pretty tolerant when they are standing outside in the cold wet rain drinking as we smokers puff away!

There is a lot of navel gazing, over-analysis and horseshit going on in *social media* at the moment. here is yet another article… this time not from the States but from Canada… It’s not just the housing bubble and the stock market that crashed, says Steve Rubel, the digital media guy at PR giant Edelman. People’s attention spans have also burst after a prolonged distension… The number of things coming at us has outstripped what we’re capable of managing,” he said, as blogs, Twitter, and information on demand continue to proliferate.”

I liked the word *distension*… must shoehorn that into my next Christmas lunch speech….  Mon dieu….. why  all the analysis… It is only a bloody blog….Facebook or Twitter…. analysis schamanlysis.. I fear.

I did, however, have some difficulty trying to decipher what the writer meant by this paragraph… ” But, Rubel claims, he’s fortunate to have found a vocation where his ADD is able to work in his favour. He says spending so much of his time in the overstimulated digital culture gave him a special appreciation for how to market to its attention-deficient natives.”

I am sending it to M15 and GCHQ.

And finally… at least for Part I…. RollonFriday.com continues with the search for unusual law firm names…

Irish firm Argue & Phibbs;

Knocker & Foskett Senior Partner, Mr R Don;

– Trainee Mark Reckless and partner and water industry specialist, Trevor Turtle, at Herbert Smith;

Chad P Ennis and Sanford (affectionately known as Sandy) Weiner, at Vinson & Elkins.

Scott Greenfield, US Attorney and author of the Simple Justice blog has an interesting post today – where mention of a Judge Lawless is made.

That is all for tonight… the British 15% fortified red has woven a spell…. I’m now going to lie down and think… of many things.  Back tomorrow…

Regards, as always…

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Today I am talking to Carl Gardner, a barrister, ex government lawyer and author of The Head of Legal blog about the extraordinary arrest  by Police of shadow frontbench spokesman on Immigration, Damien Green MP.

We break the discussion into five sections: (1) The power of arrest and the potential charge –  (2) The PM, Home Secretary and senior government ministers did not know about the arrest in advance, yet The Speaker, David Cameron and Mayor Boris Johnson did – why? – (3) The Speaker’s role – he authorised the search (4) Cross party anger and irritation and (5) Will there be a prosecution.

It was a wide ranging discussion, bringing in opinion from the traditional media and well known UK law blogs.

Listen to Podcast 80: With Carl Gardner on The arrest of Damien Green MP

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Related link from Charon blog: Arrest of Tory  MP Damien Green

Related link from Head of Legal blog: Justifying misconduct in public office

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Arrest of Tory MP: Cameron comment

David Cameron, interviewed by the BBC early this morning, gave a strong statement of concern that a front bench opposition spokesman was arrested yesterday and asked the perfectly reasonable question why it was necessary for nine counter-terrorism police officers to search his house and others to search his office in Parliament.  Cameron said “If they wanted to talk to Damien Green… why didn’t they pick up the telephone.”

The BBC reports: ” Police say Mr Green was held on suspicion of “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office” and “aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office”. He was released on bail until a date in February….. The MP has denied any wrongdoing and said “opposition politicians have a duty to hold the government to account” and that he would “continue to do so”.

Cameron made the point that government ministers did not know anything bout the arrest – despite the fact that both he and the Speaker had been told shortly before – and that in itself raised further questions and that if they did not know “what do they think about the fact that an opposition politician has been arrested for making public information in the public interest and which may be uncomfortable for the government.”

We hear that leaking has been almost a tradition of government in this country – and, it would appear,  political journos are waiting to see if the famed “Treasury Mole” is soon to be outed – so what was exceptional in this situation..?

The BBC has a Q&A page on this:   One question is particularly interesting…

Has this happened before?

No. It is unprecedented for an MP to be arrested and his office searched by police in connection with a leak inquiry. The law Mr Green is suspected of breaking is an obscure, little-used piece of legislation.

The story unfolds….

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UPDATE: 13.30 Friday 28th November

1.  Edinburgh advocate Reactionary Snob has a robust view

From the comments section… “But I don’t believe that this was a breach of the official secrets act, or that doesn’t seem to be what the police are saying…….Furthermore, is Jacqui Smith not in operational control of Counter Terrorism?

I am struggling to believe that none of the Attorney General, the Home Secretary or the Justice Secretary knew about this knew about the intention to arrest a senior MP and search his offices (a la King Charles)?….. The speaker and the serjeant at arms knew about it… and are we to believe that Gorbals Mick did not think to ring the PM with the juicy goss?”

See also: Reactionary Snob:

The crunch of jackboots on the autumn leaves

This is a matter for the police…The Prime Minister had no prior knowledge of the arrest of Mr Green and was only informed after the event.

“Hmmm. I don’t believe this, I can’t believe this. The Police are either completely fucking stupid (admittedly not outwith the realms of possibility) but more likely they were either a) instructed to do this (unlikely) or b) made sure that their arses were gold-plated before they arrested an MP (i.e. getting direct authorisation to proceed from within Westminster). Dim as the Met can be there is no way on Earth they would have sent 6 armed anti-terror police into an elected representative’s house (and offices) without covering themselves from the inevitable shitstorm.”

UPDATE: 2.30 pm 28th November


1.  Douglas Carswell MP“Speaker sanctioned Police Raid.”

Carswell writes: ” Guido Fawkes is brilliant today – pointing out that no action was taken when public officials conspired to give the BBC’s Robert Peston sensitive information – allegedly.

2. Guido Fawkes: Arrest Osborne next – he seems to be in receipt of  secret Treasury information?

3.  I am doing a Podcast on this Farago with Carl Gardner, Head of Legal tomorrow morning.

Should be fun.

UPDATE: 6.45 pm 28th November

1.  Joshua Rozenburg in The Telegraph suggests that the arrest of Damien Green MP was not as perplexing as it would seem.  A worthy (and interesting)  article explaining the law – but doesn’t address the real issue of *Why* the PM, Home Secretary, other senior government ministers were not told in advanve whereas The Speaker, David Cameron  and Boris Johnson were told in advance

Rozenburg suggests that Green was arrested after Parliament was prorogued and to make it easier for the Police to search his office when he wasn’t there.  Surely the Police did not withold information about the imminent arrest from the PM, the Home Secretary and other Labour officials in case ‘the information leaked out’?   That would be ridiculous.

2. Bearwatch:  A warning from History

Charles I attempts to arrest five Members of Parliament, 6 January 1642

The story continues…..


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Daily Legal News and updated law blog news now up on Insite Law

Senior Tory, Damien Green MP, angered by his arrest

The BBC reports
that a senior Conservative MP has reacted angrily to his arrest by police investigating the alleged leaking of Home Office information.
“Police say Mr Green was held on Thursday on suspicion of “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office”. He was questioned, but has not been charged and was bailed until February.

Speaking outside the House of Commons, Mr Green said: “I emphatically deny I have done anything wrong….“I have many times made public information that the government wanted to keep secret – information that the public has a right to know….. In a democracy, opposition politicians have a duty to hold the government to account.”

The full story has yet to break but David Cameron has called a press conference for 8.00. Guido Fawkes and other political commentators are also pointing to the issue of the ‘famed Treasury mole’.

Guido Fawkes has a rather poignant graphic comparing Brown to Mugabe:
“Guido can’t remember anything like this happening in his lifetime. This was not a national security issue. Counter terrorist police arresting opposition politicians?”

Carl Gardner, author of The Head of Legal Blog, has a fairly detailed analysis

“I don’t for one moment think the government knew of, ordered or connived in the arrest – if they did, it would be a British mini-Watergate – and part of the reason I take that view is that this is extremely unhelpful to them politically. The apparent involvement of counter-terrorist police seems massively over the top and the whole affair throws the David Davis approach to civil liberties into sharp relief…..”… more from Head of Legal

More information will inevitably come through today. If the government was not aware of counter terrorism police activity (or any other unit of the Police Service) – as they maintain; arresting a senior frontbench opposition spokesman, searching his office in Parliament – surely they should have been?

We shall see what transpires as news comes out.

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