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Archive for September, 2009

The Attorney could be in some difficulty….

Carl Gardner has posted a thoughtful piece – with some very interesting analytical comments by posters about the disparity between what the UKBA said and what Baroness Scotland said.  Baroness Scotland’s former cleaner has been arrested.  Two issues (a) The cleaner/housekeeper is saying that she did not produce her passport and (b) it seems that there is no evidence that her husband is a solicitor

Guido Fawkes is now reporting that The Undertaker (Max Clifford)  has arrived to act for the cleaner and her husband.  I agree with Carl that the expenses issue is far more difficult for The Attorney (and that has yet to be examined in detail?). I suspect it is now only a matter of time and, quite probably a very short time before Lady Scotland goes – with the Labour Party conference about to start (and be overshadowed by these events)?  We shall see.  It is a bit more complex than it appeared the other day.   Lady Scotland’s every statement now will be scrutinised very much more closely given the housekeeper’s statement that she did not show her passport to Lady Scotland. (Guido Fawkes)

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Obama snubs McDoom….

Telegraph: Barack Obama rebuffs Gordon Brown as ‘special relationship’ sinks to new low.

“Gordon Brown has been snubbed repeatedly by Barack Obama during his trip to the United States, as the fall-out from the release of the Lockerbie bomber appeared to have left “the special relationship” at its lowest ebb for nearly 20 years.”

Yeah yeah…. but the Americans still want us to support the war in Afghanistan… maybe it is a question of empathy? Would you want to be stalked by McDoom?

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Oh what a lovely day….

I may as well have missed yet another train last night – when I found myself being kidnapped by Johnny Biltong and a very amusing American writer who lives in Switzerland when he isn’t living here – because it felt like one of those post-hangover surreal days all day with various items of news.

First we had Stephen Hesford MP resigning, according to the BBC website (now corrected), “on a point of principal”.  I thought this a rather good bit of post-ironic neo irony on the part of the Beeb, but…. no… it was just a humble typo and no-one at the BBC will have to resign over it.  Mr Hesford has decided that he can’t work in a department where the head of the department, Law’s top dog, breaks the very laws she helped bring in.  I don’t suppose cutting one’s career short by six months or so is going to be a great sacrifice.  Mr Hesford won’t, probably, have to worry about a ministerial career after the next election and may not, indeed, have to worry about even being an MP.

Then we had Nick Cleggover from the Liberal-Democratic People’s Carnival Party who ( reminiscent of David Steele years ago who told conference delegates “Go home and prepare for government),…. declared that he wanted to be prime minister.  Well Mr Clegg… we can’t all have what we want.  I wanted to be a ship’s captain when I was eight… largely to see a bit of  rum, sodomy and the lash…. as Churchill used to put it about the Royal Navy… but I went into law instead and  two out of three ain’t bad… and I prefer Port to Rum anyway.

Then I discovered that chief of the mumbo jumbo men (Catholic branch) The Pope is going to walk across The Channel and visit us in Blighty….Some say, when he was in the Hitler Youth all those years ago,  that he thought about visiting England then… but I could not possibly confirm the veracity of this or, indeed, comment upon it…. so I won’t. Pope Benedict (Ratzinger) was, in fact, only obeying orders when he was conscripted into the Hitler Youth as membership was required – Wikipedia. This will give the god botherers something to look forward to as Jesus doesn’t appear to have any plans to pop back in the immediate or medium term future.

Then we had Judge Bruce McMillan 63 who threw himself on his sword before he was “dishonourably disrobed by The Lord Chief Justice and The Lord Chancellor” (Oooo er, Matron! as White Rabbit might say) for being nicked, for a second time, by Plod for drink driving.   I have no idea whether MacMillan was a good judge  – but The Times notes…. He made headlines in January this year when he sentenced a man who was found naked stuck in a supermarket chimney in Wigan for a “singularly inept” attempted burglary.

“Were this matter not so serious the facts would be decidedly comic,” Judge Macmillan said.

And then I read Oedipus_Lex’s amusing post about police stupidity and the erosion of civil rights. Lex gives us a first hand report of his experience at the hands of the guys whose eyes are just that bit too close together when he attended a protest being held at the annual dinner for arms dealers.


If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast with Richard Susskind which  I did for The College of Law (It has been shoved down the page a bit) – you may find it by scrolling down or by clicking here.  I think you will find it worth listening to – particularly if you are a student going into the profession.

Finally… for barristers...The Bar Council has finally responded to the sweeping changes going on around them with a letter to barristers… … The letter urges all barristers to respond to the BSB’s consultation paper, stating that ‘at the heart of this matter are the likely future changes to the way in which barristers practise…it is of the utmost importance that the Bar now addresses its future and engages in the debate on these fundamental and historic issues’.”

I just love the unintended irony in the last sentence.

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Bitcher and Prickman on lawyer’s fees

I was tweeting with @richardprickman t’other night about many things, including General Counsel’s power over law firms.  He tells me that this cartoon followed our discussion.  Bitcher and Prickman cartoons are well worth looking at – surprising how close american issues are to our own in law!  Have a look?

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It is, inevitably, going to be seen as ironic that Baroness Scotland, the Attorney-General, took an oath to uphold the rule of law, is part of a government that passed the law on employing illegals and has now ended up being investigated for allegedly breaking those very laws. (Picture from Guido Fawkes blog post on the expenses issue below)

The Independent reports this morning: ” Lady Scotland is fighting to save her job after the revelation that she employed a Tongan cleaner who had overstayed her student visa by five years. She sacked Loloahi Tapui last week, before her status became public, and asked the agency to look into the matter. If the Attorney General did not carry out sufficient checks, she could face a £10,000 fine under the 2006 Asylum Immigration and Nationality Act, which she helped to push through parliament. She will say today that in January she was shown documents which stated that Ms Tapui was entitled to remain and work in Britain. The agency, whose officials raided Ms Tapui’s west London flat on Saturday, is believed to have found discrepancies over at least one of these documents. Lady Scotland’s office declined to comment last night.”

Unfortunately, Guido Fawkes and others also have Baroness Scotland in their gunsights over the issue of £170,000 claimed for a housing allowance. Guido Fawkes notes: “Patricia Scotland, who was at the Home Office before becoming Attorney-General, has wrongly claimed some £170,000 since 2004.  The £38,280 a year over-claim is only for ministers who have a primary residence outside the capital.  Patricia has a £2 million home in Chiswick, West London.

Labour MP Graham Stringer told The Mail on Sunday that if Lady Scotland did not make a ‘principled resignation’, she should be fired by Gordon Brown.

The Telegraph notes: ” A parliamentary guide to ministerial salaries makes clear that the payments are intended for “ministers in the House of Lords who maintain a second home in London”. Although she owns a cottage in Oxfordshire, Lady Scotland lists her family home in West London as her main residence. A spokeswoman for the Attorney insisted that she is entitled to the allowance, which is paid automatically to her by the department rather than being claimed as an expense, as legislation does not specify where the peer should live to qualify.”

Interestingly, despite the apparent lack of clarity in the application of the law here, “…other Government ministers who are also members of the House of Lords, including the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, do not take the allowance.”

It is, at the very least, one could argue – inelegant, with just a hint of political hypocrisy, for a well paid member of the government, the senior law officer, a Labour Attorney-General to live in an expensive Chiswick property (but a half hour ministerial car ride to her office or less on the Tube)  and yet claim this allowance? Some from the less well paid sectors of society may well take this view, especially if they are Labour voters.

On the issue of the cleaner, I am not at all certain the mob should be standing outside Lady Scotland’s house with flaming torches.  Many people employ cleaners in this country.  Few, I suspect, check their documents – and even fewer would have the ability to determine if those documents have been ‘doctored’.  We don’t live in a country where identity papers or other documentation are routinely scrutinised by the police on our streets, let alone by employers employing cleaners.  I wonder how many of those who employ cleaners and who are enjoying Lady Scotland’s discomfort declare payments to their cleaners for Tax and National Insurance.  One assumes that Lady Scotland has declared the relevant payment to her cleaner to HMRC and has deducted tax and NI?  For my part, based on the very limited information available in the press on this matter, I do not think that Lady Scotland should be held up to public ridicule and censure.  I suspect this is more a cock up than an intentional act to break the law covertly.  It could be a case of ‘premature ejaculation’ for the horde who wish to see Lady Scotland and, indeed, other Labour government apparatchicks, hounded from office.

On the issue of expenses – we shall have to see.  It would appear that the law is not at all clear on this matter and if that is shown to be the case then perhaps a bit more clarity would be helpful.

A very rough straw poll of lawyers I know yesterday revealed that Lady Scotland is highly regarded by lawyers and seems more than competent in her job. Given the fantastic levels of incompetence shown during the credit-crunch by government members, bankers and the like, we should be thankful that a  government law officer is able to do her  job to ‘fit for purpose’ standards?

Unless you know otherwise?

Update  22 September 9.00 am : The Independent reports this morning that Baroness Scotland did pay tax and NI which rather strengthens, than weakens, the point that Baroness Scotland inadvertantly employed an ‘illegal’  because the housekeeper was registered for tax and NI – a not unreasonable conlusion to put forward?

Political blogger Iain Dale has a different view and states that Baroness Scotland should do the honourable thing and resign.  She has been fined £5000 according to the blog post.

“How on earth can Baroness Scotland stay in office when, according to reports, she is being fined £5,000 for employing an illegal immigrant. It can’t be put down to a simple technical error when it was she who took the original legislation through parliament.”

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The future of the legal profession

Today, as part of my series of podcasts for The College of Law, I speak to Professor Richard Susskind OBE.

Listen to the podcast

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter will shape the way that lawyers work in the future, Professor Richard Susskind predicts. He says that the legal industry will be transformed over the coming years by the need to embrace ways of improving efficiency such as new technology and outsourcing. He predicts that while the new legal landscape will reduce some of the conventional areas of legal work it will open up a range of new, exciting roles for young lawyers entering the profession.

“Lesson one for law students is to disabuse themselves of the thought that legal practice tomorrow might look anything like legal practice today,” he says. “If you are about to enter the profession by the time you’re my age, 48, the legal world’s going to look wildly and vastly different.

Professor Susskind has specialised in legal technology for 25 years and is an independent advisor to major professional firms and the Government.  Since 1998 he has been IT advisor to the Lord Chief Justice of England. He’s enjoyed a distinguished academic career and in his recent book ‘The End of Lawyers?’ aims to think ahead for the legal profession and anticipate trends in the delivery and receipt of legal services.

Listen to the podcast

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Blawg Review #230

Blawg Review #230, hosted this week by Unsilent Partners, a slightly more serious joint venture or collaboration blog between Colin Samuels, author of Infamy or Praise and Charon QC  our own personal blogs

This week, to celebrate International Peace Day, we have themed our joint Blawg review on the WAR. it is dark, with shafts of light…. it was good to work with Colin on this.  It is a long Blawg review – with links to many, but not all (sadly) of the well known and not so well known law bloggers.

We hope you enjoy reading it – peace be with you.  You may read it here

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