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Archive for August, 2009

Bolch did it! His book is NOW OUT!!

An ex girlfriend once called me ‘Lord of the Aisles’ on account of the number of times I had troubled the Registrar of Marriages and a country vicar – of methodist persuasion – although I told him I was an atheist.. and wouldn’t be involved in any of the mumbo jumbo bits.   I was fortunate in being able to handle my own divorces in a thoroughly civilised and amicable way and as I now have an ASBO prohibiting me from going within 200 yards of a Church, Register Office or other ‘approved premises’  licensed for the purposes of matrimony – I won’t be needing John Bolch’s EXCELLENT new book Do Your Own Divorce – (Now in print!)

I have read the book… indeed, I get a mention in Dispatches, no doubt for persuading Mr Bolch to try the odd glass of Rioja – although I have had absolutely no success in converting him to the wonders and delights of SMOKEDO.

It is a very good book – clear, practical and well written.  It will save you a lot of money (priced at only £10.99 – but £7.14 on Amazon)  but John does explain that in certain circumstances legal advice from a solicitor will be required. Bedtime reading it is not – especially with your future divorcee present – but I enjoyed reading it from the standpoint of an academic and writer.

Available now from Amazon.

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Insite Law FREE resource for Family Law The first chapter of the FREE Family Law resource being prepared by John Bolch, Solicitor and author of the Family Lore blog is now up. The remaining chapters will follow shortly. The first chapter on Marriage is brief. Chapter 2 will be on Divorce.

Have a look?

The other FREE resources in the series are well under way and those published may be accessed through the left hand column on the main page of Insite Law

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Pink Tape hosts…Blawg Review #226

This week Pink Tape is proudly hosting Blawg Review, and in keeping with longstanding tradition (she) will be entering into the spirit of transatlantic competition.

A quirky and different approach to Blawg Review from one our leading UK blawgers…. enjoyably different.

Have a look…

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22nd August: Postcard from a Tent in Tripoli

There is absolutely no connection…and I must make this clear to Foreign Office best practice standards… between my visit to Libya, a subsequent meeting with a man in a tent and the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber.

I just happened, like Lord Mandelson and Prince Andrew before me may have thought to themselves…. when they went out to Libya recently (if, indeed they did)…. that I had never been to Libya…. and… given the warmth of the Libyans towards Britain at the moment….  I thought I’d go out and see if I could blag a round of golf and free petrol for my motorbike for life…  I was always taught… if you don’t ask you don’t get…

I was quite surprised to find a reception committee waiting for me at Tripoli airport. I’ve never seen so many Scottish flags in my life. The place was crawling with Libyans wearing kilts, tossing cabers, and even some enterprising souls came up to me and asked if I’d like to buy some Edinburgh Rock, a signed copy of Alex Salmond’s book Principia Economica: The Arc of Prosperity from Iceland to Holyrood… and one charming chap wearing sunglasses with a huge range of military medals on his blazer  even sidled up to me and whispered “Want to see some pictures of the Loch Ness Monster?” I was told later by my guide, a Celtic supporter on the make, that the man who had sidled up to me was none other than Colonel Qadhafi himself…. I was pretty sure it wasn’t.

After a shower and a shave and some mint tea…. I was whisked off in an airconditioned Range Rover across the desert terrain.  We listened to bagpipe music on the way. Although I am a Scot, I am not a fan of the bagpipes after the first two hours and listening to Amazing Grace and Scottish Country Dancing (Stripping the Willow)  music for three hours was difficult.  I was beginning to wonder if the Libyan Secret Service were softening me up for interrogation later or even if they were planning to put me through a show trial in the Netherlands.

I needn’t have worried.  We arrived at a tent. We are not talking Milletts bivouac tents here – this was the real McCoy (if you forgive yet another Scottish metaphor)… a man in robes approached me.  He looked a bit like Michael Jackson on a bad day, although this man’s nose did appear to be a real one.  He looked as if he had been binge drinking with Alice Cooper and Oliver Reed for a month… but, this being Libya, and the fact that Oliver Reed is a goner… meant that this could not be so.

The man I met was charming… he kept looking at the ranks of photographers and grasping my hand to shake it.  I have long wondered if world leaders do much apart from looking into cameras and shaking hands with other world leaders.

I asked the man… after doing the usual As-Salamu ‘Alaykum bit… if Tony Blair was about.   The man smiled in the wily and shrewd way generations of desert people have and said nothing…. well he did say… “Sometimes, Grasshopper… it is best to reflect on other things” He touched his nose, which did not fall off, and winked.

It was surprisingly easy to get this man to agree to give me petrol for my motorbike for life.  He was saddened that he could not offer me a round of golf but added “I know people in Scotland….. they can get you a good game of golf at Gleneagles or St Andrews… of this… I am sure. ” He grinned… a slightly sinister grin…. I knew what he meant.

I asked him if he was pleased with his new found friends in Scotland.  The man smiled…. and said “I am not sure about that Milliband man… is he kosher?”!

Like the British Government … on this matter I am saying…. nuffink

Well… there we are… a quick trip back to Tripoli in the Range Rover, I stocked up on Edinburgh Rock, Scottish Highland dancing dolls, and even bought myself a kilt…duty free.  I can tell you… this was a first.  I have never bought a kilt duty free in 56 years on this earth.  It was good to get back to my drinks cabinet…. all this dry nonsense… couldn’t be doing with that at all.

Best, as ever

Al-Charon

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Nearly Legal writes:

“Our non-lawyer/law student readers, or even non-barrister readers, might have to forgive us for this for this Naughty Step, but it was too good to resist, particularly for those of us – i.e.  me – still newly qualified enough to harbour memories of their professional courses (LPC/BVC), and also familiar, from the other side, with the conduct of University exam committees.

And so, we welcome to the Step Cardiff Law School, who are here for their truly remarkably inappropriate behaviour in the face of a High Court order, as well as managing to ensure that they lost a judicial review of the conduct of their exam committees.

Clarke, R (on the application of) v Cardiff University [2009] EWHC 2148 (Admin) was a judicial review of Cardiff University Law School brought by a BVC student from 2004/5, Ms Clarke. The story went something like this…”

Read the rest of the post – not a great story for Cardiff Law School

In fact… it is disgraceful…. do read it. It is cringe making…. OUCH!

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Insite Law free resources project

I am delighted to report that Dr John Birchall, a barrister and experienced academic, will be writing the free text and produce free lectures for Equity & Trusts and Land Law and his new text will start to appear on Insite Law Magazine from the third week in September.  This means that we now have 13 major subject areas covered – an extensive free resource for students and others, including non-lawyers who are interested in law.  I am pleased that students and others are looking at the resources or using them  – some 31,000 pageviews on Contract’s 30 page URLS in the short time it has been up.  Nick Holmes was right – Free Legal Web is an idea worth looking at – free to the user.  I am grateful to all the sponsors who have already got involved.

The free resources will, we hope, not only be helpful to students but also to practitioners in keeping up to date – because we are monitoring all the main House of Lords and Court of Appeal cases in these 13 subject areas, providing links to BAILLI and by doing a short analysis.  The Contract, Intellectual Property and Sale of Goods updaters are already being done… and the others will start to appear as texts, lectures come online on Insite Law from mid-September.

Contract lectures: I have now produced 12 of the 20 lectures to support the Contract materials – so if you would like to listen to a ‘bit of Contract’ while you are on the train… or elsewhere… no problem! See my Contract book.

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The Lockerbie bomber is to be released on compassionate grounds, the Scottish Government has announced.

The BBC reports: Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, was jailed in 2001 for the atrocity which claimed 270 lives in 1988.Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill revealed that the Libyan, who has terminal prostate cancer, would be allowed to return to his homeland.

Let me explain what my opinion is on this:

1.  Al-Megrahi was convicted by a Scottish court and tried under Scots Law at a specially convened court in the Netherlands.

2.  Dealing firstly with the issue on the premise that he was rightly convicted.  Clearly, it is within the power of the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who admitted the correctness of both conviction and sentence, to order release on compassionate grounds.

3. Al-Megrahi committed an act of international terrorism.  The United States, the United Kingdom and many other forces from the coalition are currently fighting a war in Afghanistan to drive terrorism from our lives.  Men and women are being killed daily; giving their lives so we may be secure. That is the political premise on which the war is being fought – and whether you agree with that war or not, the fact of men and women dying in our name is clear and beyond doubt.  What sort of message does the early release of a convicted terrorist send to the ‘forces of evil’?, to the men and women on the ground in Afghanistan fighting in our name for our long term security?

4.  For my part – I agree with Carl Gardner – whatever the evidence of Al-Megrahi’s terminal condition – he should have served his full sentence in Scottish custody.

On the premise that he was wrongly convicted:

5. There are many who voice concern and discomfort that al-Megrahi may not be the person who committed this atrocity. Certainly, no-one else has been convicted.  This has been well documented and I need not rehearse the matter here

6.  If he was wrongly convicted, the proper process is to appeal.  Perhaps an appeal should have been allowed much earlier?  I cannot comment – I am not familiar with the processes of Scots Criminal Justice. He dropped his appeal earlier this week.

7. There are those who suggest that his release was political.  I agree with Carl Gardner and many others I suspect –  that if there is even a hint of political dealing for trade  here with Libya it would be shameful  – those responsible should be held to account and resign from their posts.  They are not, clearly, fit to govern our nation.

8.  I don’t have much interest in the purely emotive arguments being advanced in newspapers in this country and overseas – although the relatives of those who died, of course, have my sympathy.  This decision is about the rule of law and about nothing else. What value is criminal justice in such an appalling case of atrocity (in contra distinction to the early release of Ronnie Biggs?) when the law, already merciful in the sense that the death penalty has been abolished in our country) and the sentence of a properly constituted court is not carried out?    I don’t always agree with Carl on complex issues – but on this he is dead right – would the Scottish Justice Secretary be releasing al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds if most of those who died in that atrocity had been Scots?  It would be a political disaster for the ruling party in Scotland, I suspect.

9. This man is a proven and convicted killer of 270 people.  He is not a Ronnie Biggs.  I just hope this weakness on the part of the Scottish government – a view I hold and which I am entitled to hold – does not come back to haunt us, whether Scots, English, American, Canadian, European or other nationality.

As ever… your views and thoughts are most welcome in the comments section.

IMPORTANT UPDATE

If you would like to see a serious politicians view on this decision – Tom Harris MP, Labour member for Glasgow South – whatever your politics – please do read this… it is measured and very pertinent.  More particularly written by a Scot – albeit an MP in Westminster not the Scottish parliament. Tom Harris’s view may, I hope, be shared by many.

***

UPDATE 21st AUGUST

BBC – Lockerbie Bomber returns.

Here is the BBC Report… I just wonder, in the light of this report,  if  the Scottish Justice Minister still feels that he got it right?  The bomber appears to be being received as a  conquering hero….I could be wrong – but there are a hell of alot of very happy Libyans in the film….

Will the Scots Justice Minister feel quite so pleased with himself when he sees this? Compassionate Justice?  No… political grandstanding?  Beginning to look like it. A pretty shoddy lapse of judgement… well done Scottish Parliament – own goal, I think… but.. what do we mere citizens of the United Kingdom know? …. compared to the all seeing lawyer politician who runs Scotland’s Justice Ministry?  – rather depressing.

I have to say… not that I am a medical man…. that al-Megrahi looks rather well… will he do a Saunders (Guinness fiasco/farrago)? … will he rise like Lazarus from the dead? … to coin a rather old biblical metaphor.

Do read Tom Harris MP’s post – link above –  for a viewpoint from a politician from Scotland – I am not making a political point – I just think it would be worth doing so.

The Scots Justice Minister is a defence lawyer, so, one presumes, has some acquaintance with the law, concepts of justice, the rule of law, – but maybe he just doesn’t understand the appeal process in Scotland?…  the fact that judges should be independent and that politicians should not really meddle in the rule of law (or, indeed, at all) …or  the judicial process….  of course… I may have missed the point entirely, not being attuned to law across the border and that Scots Law can accommodate convenience without in any way being devalued and humiliating themselves on the world juridical stage.

Surely this cannot be about what Libya can do for Scotland? .. or is Alex Salmond  (or even our real UK wide politicians in Westminster – as opposed to what may as well be a local council masquerading as a proud parliament in Edinburgh) about to announce an ‘Arc of prosperity from Edinburgh to Tripoli”?  I  really do hope not

UPDATE 21st August

From blogger Loveandgarbage

A very well argued piece from a Scot about the Scottish Justice Secretary:  MacAskill: still unfit to be Justice Secretary

UPDATE

22nd August I am grateful to @ advoc_8 for this sane and sensible assessment of Lockerbie by Alistair Bonnington
Formerly of Glasgow Uni Law School’s Lockerbie Trial Briefing Team

US FBI Director highly critical read his letter to Scots Justice Secretary

UPDATE

24th August

Jonathan Mitchell QC Megrahi’s release: Kenny MacAskill was right

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