Archive for September, 2009

Jenny Rowe, the CEO of the new Supreme Court

Today, as part of my series of podcasts for The College of Law Inside Track I talk to Jenny Rowe, the CEO of the new Supreme Court.

Jenny Rowe  gives a behind the scenes view of the new Supreme Court, (which opens on Thursday 1st October), the budget for running the court and the new technologies, events, publication of judgments with commentaries being employed to make the court more accessible to the public.

Listen to the podcast

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The Independent reports: After years of over-charging, City lawyers could face tough justice

Opportunistic city lawyers who over-charge their clients face tough new rules aimed at tackling the excesses and mismanagement of corporate law firms, under proposals to be published this week. The crackdown on the City’s legal profession comes after growing concerns that regulators have failed to deal with abuses at multi-million pound law firms. Clients have told a review led by former Tory cabinet member Lord Hunt of Wirral that lawyers are guilty of over-charging, failing to provide objective advice and breaching commercial confidentialities.

Crackdowns on anyone, be they bankers, lawyers, binge drinkers – sometimes all three of these modern day pariahs are combined in the same individual – are always good for the soul of the newspaper reader in the morning – but one wonders whether they have any effect on behaviour.  The word is spreading, they say, that the recession is over, fees will start to rtise again as law firmns wrest ‘control’ from the hands of General Counsel / in-house lawyers and all will be good in the Kingdom of Mammon again….  We shall see.

In the meantime, Keir Starmer QC, fresh from providing guidelines on assisted dying, is reported in The Times as having “brushed aside objections and decided last month that 11 of the Space Hijackers would face a four-day trial at a magistrates’ court in February.” I remember the G20 conference.  I spent half a day tweeting about it.  I even had a purely imaginary Tiger tank which I used to drive to the G20 protest.  Unfortunately, what started off as being a good humoured protest turned into a rather more dark affair with the death of Ian Tomlinson and videos appearing on You Tube showing police officers using batons against unarmed and peaceful protesters with gusto.  It also showed pictures of police officers dressed like Robocop with their epaulettes covered so they could not be identified from their police number.

Now, it seems, the Metropolitan Police – not having managed to get nearly enough recent publicity for their antics – are to be given another opportunity to make complete fools of themselves with the prosecution in February of 11 people (just under half the number of people being prosecuted for offences at the G20 protest – excluding police officers)

I quote from The Times report: ” ONE woman is dressed provocatively in a black bra. Another sports red high heels and stockings. Their long-haired male companions are dressed in scruffy blue boiler suits and the occasional riot helmet. The costumes may look harmless, but for the Space Hijackers — a small group of part-time anarchists with a penchant for street entertainment — they have been enough to earn them charges of impersonating police officers. The group was pictured en route to last April’s G20 protests surrounding a dilapidated personnel carrier, complete with fake plastic machinegun and speakers blaring out the Ride of the Valkyries. Their jaunt now forms the cornerstone of one of the most bizarre prosecutions mounted in a British court in recent years.”

This is bizarre and almost certainly a waste of public money. The Press will cover the trial – much amusement will be had at the expense of Plod, it is even possible the magistrates may find the skyjackers ‘not guilty’ – a verdict still open, thankfully, to magistrates – but in the meantime the Police have to face the issue of the possible prosecution of one of their own for possible manslaughter in the case of Ian Tomlinson.  We shall see what transpires, but this prosecution may well rebound to the discredit of the CPS and the Police.

And finally.. cleaning up the story

The Independent reports: ” The Home Office faced demands last night to reopen its investigation into the illegal immigrant hired by Baroness Scotland after the Attorney-General was accused of lying by her former housekeeper. Lady Scotland’s claim that she scrutinised Loloahi Tapui’s passport to check she was entitled to work in Britain was flatly contradicted by the 27-year-old Tongan in The Mail on Sunday. The UK Border Agency, administered by the Home Office, concluded its inquiry by imposing a £5,000 fine on the Attorney-General. The disparity between the two accounts led to fresh demands from opposition parties for Lady Scotland’s resignation.”


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Comment du jour: Supreme confidence

With the new Supreme Court to open shortly, I would like to share with you a letter I read in The Law Society Gazette if you haven’t already read it.  It is written by Lord Lester QC.  Lord Lester deftly brushes aside Lord Neuberger’s warning made some weeks ago about the ‘peril of mucking around with’ the British Constitution by creating a new British Supreme Court

Lord Lester wrote:

Lord Neuberger may be unaware of what gave rise to the pressing need to separate the powers of the law lords from the political branches of government. Before he was appointed to the Chancery Division, there had been cases in which Lord Chancellors, wearing three hats, had acted judicially in highly political cases. There had been instances of law lords entering the political arena by speaking and voting in controversial debates in the lords, even though the senior law lord, Lord Bingham, asked them not to do so. On one occasion a serving law lord moved (but did not vote on) a highly controversial amendment which suited the political convenience of the government of the day.

Lord Lester stated that in a modern democracy this was not acceptable  and noted “The European Court of Human Rights had indicated that a lack of separation of powers was a breach of article 6 of The European Convention on Human Rights.” Lord Lester ended his letter “The fact that The Supreme Court will be, and will be seen to be, separate and independent from the government and parliament should be welcomed.  That will strengthen the rights of the citizen against the misuse of the powers of the state”

I am not a specialist in constitutional law but have an interest in human rights law and issues – as do many.  It seems to me that Lord Lester QC, a noted expert in both of these fields, has put forward a very reasonable point.

On Monday, I talk to Jenny Rowe, the CEO of the new Supreme Court (in a podcast) . I thoroughly enjoyed doing this podcast for The College of Law series “Inside Track”.  Jenny Rowe takes us behind the scenes, discussed the building and costs, the facilities and the very open access for members of the public.  She also talks about the use of television at the Supreme Court and the new commentaries being written on leading judgments so that the press and others will get a clearer picture of the major decisions being made by the Justices.  I’ll publish the link to the podcast as soon as it becomes available on The College of Law website on Monday morning at 9.00 am.

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This is stunning….

Ukraine’s Got Talent – rather more sophisticated than a dancing dog.  This will amaze you, I think…..Kseniya Simenova recounts Germany conquering Ukraine in the second world war. She brings calm, then conflict. A couple on a bench become a woman’s face; a peaceful walkway becomes a conflagration; a weeping widow morphs into an obelisk for an unknown soldier. Simonova looks like some vengeful Old Testament deity as she destroys then recreates her scenes – with deft strokes, sprinkles and sweeps she keeps the narrative going. She moves the judges to tears as she subtitles the final scene “you are always near”.

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Is she hot?!….

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The pleasures of twitter…..

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Dear Reader,

While my adaptation of a famous soliloquy from Hamlet may also be appropriate to Baroness Scotland – at least the first lines – I was inspired to do this parody by a very good pastiche over at Capitalists@Work by Nick Drew….  his is actually worth reading!

This week, now that Nick Cleggo (14 1/2)  has asked Jim to Fix It for him to be the next prime minister, we get down to the conferences for the two main parties – by which I mean the parties that actually have a chance (a) of losing power big time – Labour  and (b) Winning power – The Conservatives.

Gordon Brown’s soliloquy while waiting for some One-on-One action with President Obama
G20 Conference 24th September 2009

To go, or not to go: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the end to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous voting,

Or to take a post running the G20,

And by doing this ruin Britain even more? To lie: to shout;

No more; and by a flight to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

My government is father to, ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d by many. To lie, to fly;

To fly: perchance to dream of legacy: ay, there’s the rub;

For in that flight of political death what dreams may come

When I have shuffled off this prime ministerial coil,

Must give us pause: there’s no respect

That makes calamity of my long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

For my Chancellorship’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy taxes,

When he himself might his quietus make

Without my mobile phone? who would MPs fear?,

To grunt and sweat under a weary wife,

But that the dread of something after Brown

I abuse Twitter… and thoroughly enjoy the many exchanges I have (over 27000 tweets in 14 months) with quite a few people. Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Channel 4 broadcaster and newsreader, is a reasonably enthusiastic user and sometimes he asks questions – as he did on Friday evening before the 6.00 news.  I have printed my answer to his question below…

And so to a semi-serious point about the so-called ‘special relationship’ with the United States. Brown made himself and our country look rather ridiculous with his reported desperation to get a bit of  PM on President action with Obama at the G20. This led to ridiculous reports of the Foreign Office trying ‘FIVE’ times to get a response to a request for this one on one meeting  and mocking laughter from the press, voters back here and a bit of bafflement from people I know in the United States who actually asked… “What is this ‘special relationship’ the Brit press is going on about… we don’t know anything about this over here!

We have enjoyed good bi-lateral relationships with the United States ever since WWII when they stepped in to save the world, and took our colonies to pay for some destroyers. The US called it Lend-Lease.  Some here, in the pubs and bars of Blighty,  called it economic rape.  There was a time when a British Naval blockade could make the seas safe for us to go off and pillage the known world of colonies – but those days, thankfully, are long gone.  What is the pre-occupation with the ‘special relationship’? Why do British Prime Ministers demean themselves and us by appearing to want to be primus uppus your arse and tell the world and the voters back here that they are *IN* with whichever psychopath just happens to be in charge of the US nuclear arsenal at the time? (And to be fair…Obama …not withstanding, there have been a fair few nutters leading America in recent years.  How could we forget the Nutter-in-Chief himself… Dubya?

The real politik is (a) we have a perfectly good relationship with the United States if reports are to be believed (b) The United States is looking outward under Obama to reach a wider world (c) Obama seems vaguely sane for the present (d) Our prime minister, some say, is off the planet and will, in any event lose the next election… BADLY.  he is not so much a lame duck… but, as our friends in America would say… just LAME (e) we are over reliant on our relationship with the US and should, ourselves, be forging alliances with other countries – for trade, for fun, even…. rather than our usual motives of financial greed, control and a bit of war to keep things tagging along with the Yanks.

Oh… and when will politicans get the hang of the idea that the average voter is not interested in the legacy of any prime minister? .. they are interested in what the government is doing for them… not the Yanks or any other nation on Earth.  Yesterday Number 10 announced (On twitter!) with great solemnity that they were giving £250 million to world health.  I asked, on twitter, which bank they were going to borrow money from – and suggested Lloyds. Fortunately, I am not running the country… but I do live in it and the antics of the present prime minister are becoming, frankly, bizarre… if reports from independent blogs and some vaguely sensible newspapers are to be believed. Andrew Grice of The Independent puts a bit of sanity and perspective into the nonsense of recent days.

Well… there we are… I may well write two postcards this weekend… but now, as the sun goes down over the Medway…. I must find a glass and put some wine into it.

Best as always


PS… and now this…

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