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Archive for October, 2009

The Times reports…

Draconian police powers designed to deprive crime barons of luxury lifestyles are being extended to councils, quangos and agencies to use against the public, The Times has learnt.

The right to search homes, seize cash, freeze bank accounts and confiscate property will be given to town hall officials and civilian investigators employed by organisations as diverse as Royal Mail, the Rural Payments Agency and Transport for London.

The measure, being pushed through by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, comes into force next week and will deploy some of the most powerful tools available to detectives against fare dodgers, families in arrears with council tax and other minor offenders.

The radical extension of the Proceeds of Crime Act, through a Statutory Instrument which is not debated by parliament, has been condemned by the chairman of the Police Federation. Paul McKeever said that he was shocked to learn that the decision to hand over “intrusive powers” to people who were not police was made without consultation or debate.

This is a very worrying development and reveals that mission creep has finally crept up to the limit of common sense.  I agree with the Police Federation spokesman.  The government wants to ’embed’ seizure powers across the board in the Criminal Justice System and raise £250 million.

Putting draconinian powers in the hands of council officials is not a clever move and will, inevitably, result in poorly trained council officials making poor decisions.

I’ve lost patience with Labour over their continued and almost relentless attack on common sense when it comes to civil liberties.  Their much vaunted talk of human rights seems futile when they give with one hand yet take with the other.  This decision will be a disaster like many other decisions of a Home Office which has not, to coin a phrase, been ‘fit for purpose’ for some time. And to think, after the crazies we have had running the Home Office in recent years, I thought that Alan Johnson might actually be vaguely sensible.  This is not sensible…and while I am permitted in New Orwellian Labour Britain.. I shall say so.

I have stopped voting labour…. this means I shall not be voting for the first time in nearly 30 years. Not that this will have any effect whatsoever on the voting figures for Labour bar one less vote.

POLICE STATE BRITAIN ? … NAH… MORE OF A TRAFFIC WARDEN STATE BRITAIN  – and this will be even worse…. have you ever tried to speak to a council official?

If you want to pay your council tax PRESS 1…if you want to pay your parking fine PRESS 2… if you want to pay your fine for putting your bin out too early PRESS 3… if you want to enjoy your life in Britain… sorry… we don’t accept calls on this.

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Bitcher & Prickman…

Fellow Twitterers Bitcher and Prickman

Plenty more  perceptive observations on the legal profession where this came from at LawComix

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The Daily Mail worries me, but in a week where there is actually quite important news  – The Daily Mail has come up with a story about inbreeding in the Royal Family. You have to have a quick look at this – to get the point… astonishing, however, how all the royals do look alike?

It really is astonishing how a leading newspaper can be so pre-occupied with so little… what is more worrying is that their readers may also be pre-occupied with so little and, like everyone…Sun Readers, Mirror Readers… Guardian,Times, Indie, Telegraph etc etc readers….  … they have a vote.

I love Britain…… serious about politics… You bet!

Anyway… let me re-assure you, I am a republican. I am not related to any Royals or Boris Johnson… and while my father was in the Army during the second World War, he didn’t have liaisons with any members of the royal family past or present… or even dead ones.

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Lord Neuberger: A rather good speech..

I would like to draw your attention (if you have not already seen it) to a good speech by Lord Neuberger MR.  Amusingly, it includes a scripted slip of the tongue in para 14!

LORD NEUBERGER OF ABBOTSBURY, MASTER OF THE ROLLS

A JUDICIAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE CONDUCT OF CLAIMS IN THE CURRENT
CLIMATE

Yes… more of this from the senior judiciary, please.  Very interesting reading.

Worth reading

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The legal news over the last few days has thrown up some curious and interesting stories.

Genocidal maniacs

Yesterday we had Justice Minister and Lord Chancellor Jack Straw announcing that Britain would not become a haven for warlords and genocidal maniacs – which is reassuring given our history over centuries and, some would say, more recently (Interestingly the Radovan Karadzic genocide trial began and was suspended)…yet today  The British government wants allegations that it was complicit in the torture by the US of Britons held as terrorism suspects to be heard in secret.

“In documents seen by the Guardian, lawyers for the government argue it must be allowed to present evidence to the high court with the public excluded, otherwise Britain’s relations with other countries and its national security could be damaged. The government also wants its evidence kept secret from defence lawyers.”

It is, perhaps, not appropriate that I refer to Tony Blair in the context of genocidal maniacs – but he has been told in no uncertain terms by the prime minister and by David Miliband that he must fight or risk losing the European Presidency. (Guardian)

While I do vote Labour,  I have some reservations about Tony Blair becoming President of Europe.  I understand the need for Europe to have a well known politician to represent European interests on the world stage.  I suspect that other candidates (who have to hold or have held prime ministerial office in their own countries) may well be ‘invisible’ outside their own countries. Unfortunately, Blair is all too visible.  His pro-European sentiments were clearly not to the fore when he sided with Bush on the Iraq war.  Henry Porter did a rather good piece in The Observer last Sunday and, as always, made sense and put his views carefully and in a rational manner.

“What European leaders should want is the most principled individual for the job, not someone who cuts a dash on the G20 catwalk and knows how to abuse power.”

Having read Alastair Campbell’s The Blair Years recently, I have reservations about Blair’s ability to lead a complex entity of nations without being overtly ‘Presidential’. Blair also tended to be over reliant, it would seem, on a few people to govern and this, in the context of the European Presidency, would not appear to be a tactic which could be deployed successfully.  There is also the question of why he would wish to do it when he can earn fantastic sums of money on the after dinner speech and consultancy circuit. This latter. of course, is a personal issue for him.

I also have grave reservations about the baggage he carries with him over the prosecution of the war in Iraq and, more particularly, the use of the sexed up dossier.  Former Foreign Secretary (Lord) David Owen, is not alone in believing that ‘contempt of Parliament should always be a disqualification for holding high office’.   This, I feel, disqualifies him play a leading role in Europe  and, as Philippe Sands QC observed in the Observer on Sunday –  Blair is associated with the possible use of torture by the US and UK governments.  Sands puts the boot in, albeit elegantly as befits a Professor of Law at University College London and a leading Silk, by saying “Europe needs a president who is associated with promoting modern values, including the rule of law and fundamental rights for all.”

That said, there is no doubt that Blair was one of the most dynamic prime ministers of the modern era and would certainly bring profile, energy and drive to the job and perhaps this is of more value to Europe than baggage from the past? I suspect, had there not been a war with Iraq, that Blair would have gone on to be a very credible prime minister, albeit  not one with overtly or natural socialist principles. Who knows?  we did go to war with Iraq on a premise which has been revealed to be incorrect.

We also have some potentially sinister developments on the Policing front

Guardian: Chief constables will be forced to justify the legality of recording thousands of law-abiding protesters on secret nationwide databases, the government’s privacy watchdog announced today. Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, said he had “genuine concerns about the ever increasing amount” of personal data held by police.

 

The present government does not have a taste for following advice from incumbent Information Commissioners and it is no surprise to hear the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, saying “The police know what they are doing, they know how to tackle these demonstrations, they do it very effectively.”

To be fair to Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, he has intervened at the eleventh hour in the case of Gary McKinnon,  the hacker who faces 60 years in jail in the US for hacking into the Pentagon computer system..  Alan Johnson is going to look ‘very carefully’ at the medical evidence being put in support of a likely suicide if the extradition goes ahead. Times

And finally… a conman who told women that he was Keir Starmer QC, the DPP, to lure them into his bed has been jailed…

Independent: A swindler who pretended to be the country’s top lawyer and dressed in pinstripe suits, wigs and robes to trick women is behind bars after being convicted of a string of offences including fraud and theft.

 

 

 

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Inspiring…

This was sent to me by a good friend in Australia – an English barrister who lives out there now with her teenage boys.

As we get older we sometimes begin to doubt our ability to “make a difference” in the world.  It is at these times that our hopes are boosted by the remarkable achievements of other “seniors” who have found the courage to take on challenges that would make many of us wither.  Harold Sclumberg is such a person.

I’ve often been asked, ‘What do you old folks do now that you’re retired’?

Well..I’m fortunate to have a chemical engineering background, and one of the things I enjoy most is turning beer, wine, Scotch, and margaritas into urine.

And I’m pretty damn good at it, too!!



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I could not cook many years ago…but now I can – simply by watching programmes on cookery, reading cook books, trying things out and by having had the good fortune to eat some very good meals in different parts of the world. I am not a foodie.  I just enjoy cooking and eating the results. I also like cooking for friends.  It has to be said that I have had to go out to dinner after cooking – simply because what I tried was, shall we say, not too good.

There is a fantastic range of information on the net and on television for those of us who enjoy cooking.

Tonight… a recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon done in a slow cooker or ‘crockpot’

1. Buy a slow cooker (£20 – or use a hob and cook gently for about 2 hours and then transfer to a hot oven 180C to thicken the gravy for about 15 minutes.)

Using the slow cooker on a high setting for 5-6 hours:

2. Chop topside, sirloin,  rump or even cheaper cuts of beef into chunks. Coat with flour (I prefer cornflour) and season with salt and  pepper.  Brown in frying pan using groundnut or sunflower oil until the meat has a good colour on the outside

3.  Chop carrots, onion, mushroom, onion/challots and small potatoes (keep the skin on) garlic  – some mixed herbs and anything else you fancy by way of veg.

4. Add about 1/4 pint of beef stock available from supermarkets.  Put in a small amount of fat from the beef to render down and provide depth to the gravy.

5. Add a full bottle of decent burgundy.  The burgundy will cost about £6-10 depending on your budget.  It is worth using good wine. Frankly any heavy bodied wine will give good flavour

6. Cook for 5-6 hours with the slow cooker on high or 9-10 hours with the slow cooker on low.

Garlic and chive mash

It will take about 20 minutes or so to cook some small potatoes with or without skins (I like skins on for this dish)

1. Cook potatoes until you can put a fork into the heart of the cut potatoes. Drain water, mash, add garlic puree or chopped garlic, chopped chives and butter.  Mash until you have the mash the way you like it.

Quantities are irrelevant with slow cooking.  Some people are greedy.  Work out how much you like, add for friends. Make enough for some the next day – because it does taste better the next day and you can heat it up fairly quickly on a stove. Best to make a new batch of mash, though.

Rioja, Burgundy, Barolo, Cotes du Rhone… in fact.. most reds go well with this.

I have just had a boeuf bourguignon prepared in this way … and I am feeling no pain at all.. and I am never, knowingly, under refreshed… at night.

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