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Archive for October 17th, 2009

Dear Reader

I write to you from a location I am not able to tell you about.  In fact, I shouldn’t really be telling you about the fact that I can’t even reveal that I cannot reveal my location….. but  as super injunctions, despite being described as ‘unfortunate’ by Gordon Brown, have been ridiculed on Twitter and elsewhere and Carter-Ruck have found themselves being rather f****d and have climbed down on Trafigura and the publication of the Minton Report – I feel able to at least tell you that I am at a secret location in Chatham, St Mary’s Island Kent overlooking the old Royal Naval Dockyard with an excellent view of Upnor Castle and a lot of boats.

So you don’t have to go onto Twitter and the internets to find out where I am, I am taking the unprecedented step of breaking my own self imposed super injunction… here is where I am at this precise moment in time.  (I may not be here for long.  I am ‘peripatetic’ and plan to move very soon… possibly within hours.)

My podcast with Carl Gardner on the Guardian Gag order is here and my podcast with Mark Stephens of Finers Stephens Innocent on the use of superinjunctions  is here. Both podcastees are well worth listening to – and I am appreciative of the fact that both Carl and Mark gave up time in a busy schedule (and Mark on a Saturday) to do the podcasts.

Continuing on the theme of information, I turn back to freedom of information.

I did invite BPP by email earlier in the week to consider releasing the QAA report to the Privy Council which led to BPP being given degree awarding powers. Neither BPP nor The College of Law is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  Both Colleges are at liberty, therefore, to suppress or refuse to release information should they wish to.  The College of Law has chosen not to suppress information and they are prepared to make their report public.  BPP has, thus far, declined.  I have not had a reply from Peter Crisp, Dean and CEO of BPP law School, to my email .  In the wake of the rather serious over subscription by BPP of their Bar Vocational Course (and their acquisition by an American company) it is all the more important that the public (and students thinking about going to BPP) should be able to see objective reports on the College.  The SRA publishes inspection visit reports.  I hope the BSB will publish their findings into the the over subscription by BPP Law School on the BVC course.  I go further and hope the BSB will consider publishing inspection visits on all the BVC providers in future when the new BPTC comes into operation.

See my post on BPP Law School’s over subscribing of their BVC

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So… as the solicitors side of the profession (or one law firm within that side) has had a bit of a rogering on the internet… what have The Learned Friends at The Bar been up to this turbulent week?

Well.. I can tell you that one member of the Bar is very pissed off and is claiming £33 million damages and has called into question the behaviour of two senior Silks who happen to be Deputy High Court judges and who have broken the ‘unspoken’ rule about not consorting romantically (or Ugandan Affairs as it used to be called by Private Eye) with their clerks….

Such are the divisions of society at The Bar (it would seem?)  that going ‘below stairs’ for a shag is still to be frowned upon – wonderfully English, wonderfully archaic… The ‘Sin’ is made all the worse in the eyes of the The Learned Friends if the clerks or barristers are married to other people.

The Telegraph reports:

Dr Aisha Bijlani described to an employment tribunal a “racist” culture which operated behind the respectable façade of the award winning Four New Square Chambers where she had worked for 16 years.

……

Their relationship has caused a mini-scandal in the usually conservative legal profession as it has breached the convention that clerks and senior barristers should not become romantically involved especially if they are already married to someone else.

Unfortunately, and rather more seriously the claim also involves accusations of racism.

Dr Bijlani claims three “overtly racist” clerks were assigned to her between 1994 to 2009 during her time at Four New Square, named as Dennis Peck, Dominic Sabini and Steve Purse.

The tribunal panel was played a tape where Mr Peck can be heard mimicking a West Indian accent, then said that a receptionist of Afro Caribbean descent sounded like she spoke “gibberish”.

The recording was made by accident on the receptionist’s voicemail after he apparently failed to disconnect the call after leaving her a message.

It is also claimed that Mr Peck, who is not cited in the claim, was over heard saying “I hate educated wogs”.

Dr Bijlani said: “I have no doubt I was being clerked in an environment where I too was considered as an educated wog”.


This, if proven, is hardly the sort of behaviour expected of a set of Chambers... or is it perfectly OK, still, for barristers and their clerks to behave like racists?  Hardly.  I would have thought that a racial discrimination claim of £33 million will probably dampen ardour and focus minds.

If these allegations are true…. perhaps the Bar Standards Board will investigate?  My my… the BSB is rather busy at the moment…..invesitigations all over the place.

Have a good weekend… I’m orf to injunct myself with some superwine….

Best, as always

Charon

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UPDATE Sunday 18th October

There is more to this story: The Telegraph reports today

Barrister in race row was arrested for harassment

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Lawcast 156: Mark Stephens on Superinjuctions in the wake of the Trafigura issue and the Guardian Gag.

Today I am talking to Mark Stephens, partner at Finers Stephens Innocent about the use of superinjunctions in the wake of the Guardian Gag story earlier in the week.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

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Mark Stephens biography

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You may also like to listen to Lawcast 155 with Carl Gardner on the Guardian Gag

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Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian:  Trafigura: anatomy of a super-injunction

As the ‘super-injunction’ obtained by oil-trading firm Trafigura and law firm Carter-Ruck is published for the first time, the Guardian’s editor offers a clause-by-clause guide

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