Archive for November, 2009

Charon makes ABA Journal top 100 blog list?!

I am pleased to report that I appear to be on the ABA Journal Top 100 law blogs list – along with that complete and utter bounder, rogue, mate  and serial Twitterer Geeklawyer.

We are in the IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) section.  It is fortunate we are not appearing in the Legal Theory section.  That would have been just too ironic!

All good stuff.  If you wish to look and vote, please do so. There are, actually, some fantastic US and other blogs on that Top 100 list in various categories  – so t’is a genuine pleasure and an honour to be in such good company.

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Dear Reader,

I’m a bit late with my weekly postcard this week.  I was kidnapped by a very good friend who came to stay this weekend… but, fear not…there is much to discuss this week.  The observant will have noticed an addition to my header – a smoking Santa –  which I ‘borrowed’ from the net.  Unfortunately, there appears to be no attribution, so I can’t credit the artist but if he or she objects, I shall, of course take it off – but I thought it a very fine addition to my blog header for the festive season to come.

The Iraq Inquiry proceeds and retired mandarins are falling over themselves to appear and opine again with those at the very heart of power. I wrote a piece this morning, commenting on an Independent article with some memorable quotes. White Rabbit’s comment in the comment section to that post inspired my main header pic (above) for this week.

I watch rather too much news and politics stuff on BBC News and BBC Parliament. The Iraq Inquiry, of course, keeps me occupied (I watch it on my laptop as I work away) and this afternoon,  I watched The Prime Minotaur clunk and thunder his way through his announcement on Afghanistan with much mentioning of tests being satisfied, statistics displayed with all the elan and  style of a Soviet  grain farm report and I started to think about a famous statue of Theseus slaying The Minotaur.  It just popped into my febrile mind.  The statue depicts the slick, smooth, privately educated Cameron, doing what Etonians do (sometimes in the nude, they say);  indulging in a bit of SM with someone on the other team. Gordon ‘The Minotaur’ thunders away even though he knows that there are more slick PR lashes coming from Theseus Cameron. The raw nudity of the sculpture seems….somehow… appropriate as a metaphor for our times…. and may well prove Nostradamian, should Labour manage to lose the next election, which,  despite my personal irritation with Labour’s track record on civil liberties, I hope they don’t.

Talking of civil liberties… my podcast with Shami Chakrabarti for The College of Law Inside Track series went out this morning.  I highlight it again simply because Shami Chakrabarti talked a lot of sense and was a pleasure to meet and interview.  I think you will find the 25 minutes a rewarding use of time, should you wish to listen to it.

It is, of course, St Andrew’s Day – a day when many Scots go about their lives completely oblivious to the fact that St Andrew is their patron saint.  This was certainly true when I was a lad being educated at two places of detention far from the wages of sin in Scotland.  Things may have changed in post Salmondian Alba.

Two things of note….

Firstly, Blawg Review # 240 celebrating the theme of St Andrew with many mentions of Andrews and a good sprinkling of links to Scots law blogs. You may read it here.  I liked the writer’s wry comment… “Blawg Review’s Editor asked me to host today’s Blawg Review because today, November 30, is St. Andrew’s Day…..And given the speed with which Blawg Review’s Editor forwarded along this list of other law bloggers named Andrew, I can only assume that at least a substantial fraction of them obviously have more sense than to agree to host Blawg Review after Thanksgiving weekend.

And, secondly, Alex Salmond announced in a ‘WHITE PAPER’ (this gives dreams added virility), his plans for a Free Scotland, a Scotland unshackled from the chains of history (including some pretty fucking stupid investments in South America (The Darien Scheme) many years ago)

Although I am a Scot, I have lived in England for 30+ years and have no view one way or the other on the Independence issue.  If the people of Scotland in their collective wisdom decide that their lives will be better, seems not unreasonable to me. If they do go independent, the English taxpayer won’t have to cough up so much, or at least the money coughed up will stay in England & Wales. And as the oil is running out without much thought a la Dubai as to what to do after the apocalypse in terms of generating revenue, now might be a good time to break away. Unfortunately, the ‘Arc of Prosperity’ once dreamed of by Alex Salmond, with a far away heroic look in his eye, is no more.  Iceland is a bit buggered.  Scotland’s main Banks are a bit ‘distressed’ and are now owned by the Westminster government. so there is probably much to think about.  I shall go back and forth to Scotland, as will everyone else, whatever the Scots decide.  It really is up to them….surely? The Queen will still be Queen.  The Royals are still popular in Scotland and certainly not, I am told, ‘unpopular’.  It will be interesting to see if Salmond, who I always enjoy listening to even if I don’t always agree with him, pulls it off.

I can’t for the life of me see why the Tofftastic Party is so exercised about Scotland breaking away. When I last looked, I couldn’t see much blue on the political map of Scotland.  The Tories are not exactly popular en Ecosse. The Labour Party could be a bit f****d if Scotland breaks away – because the map of England & Wales is not very red at the moment and a great deal of Labour’s heartland power base is in Scotland.  They will, of course, oppose Independence and say they are going all out, in a wonderful demonstration of commitment to democracy, to say they will ‘block a referendum’.  Oh… the irony.

Tweet of The week

I end my postcard this week with a very rare photograph of a political meeting ‘somewhere on the River Medway’.  My political ambitions are… by no means… over.

Best, as always


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College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty

Today I talk to Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty. Shami Chakrabarti gives her thoughts on why the Human Rights Act is so important and outlines Liberty’s key role in the successful campaign to defeat proposals to increase the period that terror suspects could be held without charge to 42 days. She also discusses the role of the judiciary in upholding democratic values and gives advice to young lawyers interested in working within the field of human rights and civil liberties.

Listen to the podcast

This concludes my series of podcasts for The College of Law. Earlier podcasts in the series may be found on the College of Law website

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The Times had an interesting story over the weekend:

Prince Charles named in £81m Chelsea Barracks court battle

The Candy brothers, property developers for the super-rich, want to call the Prince of Wales as a witness in an £81m case in which they are suing the Qatari royal family over the collapse of their plans to build Britain’s most expensive residential block.

Nick and Christian Candy claim it was Charles’s outburst against the venture to Qatar’s rulers that wrecked their scheme for London’s Chelsea Barracks.

The plan to build the most expensive apartments in London where, The Times reports, a one bedroom flat would sell for £20 million has been thwarted, the Candy brothers allege, by Prince Charles having a cup of tea with his mates in the Qatar Royal family. The Times notes… “The brothers’ lawyers will want to ask the prince what was said during an afternoon tea with the ruler of Qatar when he visited Britain to open a gas terminal in May.”

Prince Charles, noted for his enthusiasm for building in the style of times past, has previous.  He objected to an extension to the National Gallery in London describing Lord Rogers’ work as a ‘monstrous carbuncle’. If Prince Charles is summoned, the Candys would have the right to cross-examine him.  The Times notes: “He would be the first royal to appear as a witness in court since the future Edward VII gave evidence in a gambling case in 1890. In 2002 the Princess Royal, Charles’s sister, appeared in court to be fined £500 by magistrates after one of her dogs attacked two children.”

The Iraq Inquiry has, thus far, proved fascinating and the cause of considerable embarrassment, it is believed, to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Independent has a wonderful story under the headline…


Iraq: The war was illegal

The Independent reports:

The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war will consider a letter from Lord Goldsmith, then Mr Blair’s top law officer, advising him that deposing Saddam would be in breach of international law, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday.

But Mr Blair refused to accept Lord Goldsmith’s advice and instead issued instructions for his long-term friend to be “gagged” and barred from cabinet meetings, the newspaper claimed. Lord Goldsmith apparently lost three stone, and complained he was “more or less pinned to the wall” in a No 10 showdown with two of Mr Blair’s most loyal aides, Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan. Mr Blair also allegedly failed to inform the Cabinet of the warning, fearing an “anti-war revolt”.

The description of Lord Goldsmith being ‘more or less pinned to the wall by Lord Falconer and others is surreal but Goldsmith did appear to go through some fairly extensive letter writing at the time by all accounts.

Interestingly, the BBC had a report just over a year ago…

Legal advice given to Tony Blair by the attorney general prior to the Iraq war was fundamentally “flawed,” a former law lord has claimed.

Lord Bingham said Lord Goldsmith had given Mr Blair “no hard evidence” that Iraq had defied UN resolutions “in a manner justifying resort to force”.

Therefore, the action by the UK and US was “a serious violation of international law,” Lord Bingham added.

The Independent has a list of quotes which may trouble Blair who is believed to be concerned that his reputation is being ‘shredded’. I am rather more concerned for those whose lives have been shredded by the death, military and civilian on both sides of loved ones caused by and during this war.

Critical evidence from key figures to Chilcot inquiry

Sir Peter Ricketts “We quite clearly distanced ourselves from talk of regime change… that was not something we thought there would be any legal base for.”

Sir William Patey “We were aware of those drumbeats from Washington [about regime change]. Our policy was to stay away from that end of the spectrum.”

Sir Michael Wood “[Establishing no-fly zones over Iraq] was very controversial … The US government was very careful to avoid taking any real position on the law.”

Sir William Ehrman “We did, on 10 March, get a report that chemical weapons might have remained disassembled and Saddam hadn’t yet ordered their assembly.”

Sir Christopher Meyer “Suddenly, because of the unforgiving nature of the military timetable, we found ourselves scrabbling for the smoking gun.”

Sir Jeremy Greenstock “I regarded our participation in the military action against Iraq in March 2003 as legal, but of questionable legitimacy.”

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I quite like ‘SurAlan’ from his various appearances on The Apprentice and he seems to know what he is doing business wise.  Quite why he wanted to be a Lord in the first place  and then deliver an extraordinary maiden speech in The Lords I’ve no idea… but it didn’t go down well.  He did drone on a bit…about himself. Probably best to leave the jokes to people who can tell them rather than ending up as one.

TV maiden speech | Times review | Real Business review

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Geoffrey Woollard blog

Lawcast 161: Geoffrey Woollard, a prospective parliamentary candidate


Today I am talking to Geoffrey Woollard, a farmer of many years standing who describes himself as an ex-Tory and is planning to stand for Parliament as an independent for South East Cambridgeshire. . Geoffrey responded to my new parody series The Huntsman’s View and I thought it would be an excellent opportunity in the run up to the 2010 election to get a handle on matters political and in particular the process of standing for Parliament by inviting Geoffrey to do a podcast with me. I am delighted that he agreed to do so… so without further ado…

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for itunes


Apologies – some difficulty with Skype at my end with sound.  Happens occasionally.

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Christmas is coming and in some shopping malls it is Christmas every bloody day. It may have been Christmas for the bankers yesterday when the Supreme Court ruled that they didn’t have to worry about the OFT poking its nose into their sordid dealings with customer recidivists (although, leaving the door open for the OFT to have another go by pursuing a different line)… but today was not Christmas for bankers when Dubai announced that it wanted until May  2010 to repay massive debts – about £60-80 billion, apparently, I discovered on Twitter. European bankers are in for about 50% of that according to a friend of mine who tweets.

Gordon Brown, no doubt, is climbing into his Brown of Arabia outfit and heading off to Dubai to solve the problem. FTSE dropped badly on Thursday with some of our banks losing between 3.2| – 8% value on shares.  Could this be the death knell for Dubai?   Too early to tell and the BBC and other news services seem a bit pre-occupied with what Katie Price / Jordan is up to in the jungle with her cross-dressing cage fighter.The sands of time will tell… no doubt.

On to rather good news. Shami Chakrabarti, who I had the pleasure of meeting and doing a podcast with last Friday (Podcast goes out this Monday),  has been given an honorary degree by the College of Law.

Also rather good news, given that BPP Law School continues to refuse to let anyone look at their QAA report to The Privy Council in connection with degree awarding powers – is that The College of Law has put its money where its mouth is and has published their QAA report on their website – for all to see!

The Irish government has finally moved on the appalling abuse meted out to children by Irish priests over many years.  Four Archbishops in Ireland failed to pass on information about priests with a taste for abusing young boys – fearing that the public outcry would be too much to cope with or control. No longer.  The Irish are now going to root out all the abusers. Justice may have been delayed but the Irish Justice minister has stated that it will not be denied.

The Independent reports: Gordon Brown was accused of strangling the inquiry into the Iraq war at birth yesterday by refusing to let it make public sensitive documents that shed light on the conflict. A previously undisclosed agreement between Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry and the Government gives Whitehall the final say on what information the investigation can release into the public domain.” Independent

The Iraq Inquiry will run on for some time – but we appear to be off to a cracking good start with no lawyers on the panel and a senior civil servant, in the background, pulling the strings for what information can be disclosed. I have set up a widget on my online mag Insite Law to keep abreast of developments – and read it assiduously.  Sir Christopher Meyer did a star turn today with the revelation that Blair ‘hardened’ his position after a private chat with George Bush in a log cabin.  Perhaps they said a quick prayer, turned to each other and said “Right… in the name of God… war!…” Who knows? Hopefully someone will ask Blair when he takes his turn next year.

Sir Christopher Meyer did, however,  state that “officials had been left “scrabbling” for evidence of WMD as US troops prepared for invasion.”

Another Meyerism… “I didn’t tell Wolfowitz ‘we’re with you on regime change, let’s go get the bastard’ ..”

I enjoy reading The Economist and no more so than today when our American fellow bloggers and friends are celebrating Thanksgiving or Turkey Day. While President Obama pardoned a  turkey called ‘Courage’ (covered assiduously, also,  by the BBC) and sent it to Disneyland, The Economist reports…

ONE thing Americans should be thankful for this Thanksgiving is that they have not put on as much weight as the average turkey. Between 1960 and 2008, turkeys bulked up by around 11lb (5kg) to 29lb, an increase of 64%, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Coincidentally, in that same period the average American man gained 28lb, almost the equivalent of a turkey, according to data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, another government agency, and a Gallup poll of 2008.

The Telegraph has rather a good story about two lovers who decided to have a shag in an unusual place. And why not?

And talking of unusual places.  Brian Inkster of Inksters Solicitors, serious tweeter and principal of a modern client facing law firm in Scotland is in Argentina with his wife Nicola. He’s not lawyering… he’s doing some equally worthwhile.

They are assisting the charity, Habitat for Humanity, with the renovation of homes for families living in poverty in Buenos Aires. They will be working alongside other volunteers and with ‘stakeholder’ families who will eventually live in the houses. Brian and Nicola have also been fundraising for Habitat for Humanity. The cost of the trip to Argentina has already been met by Inksters. Therefore, every penny that is raised by Brian and Nicola goes straight to Habitat for Humanity to directly assist the project.

In just a few weeks they have raised well over the initial target they set themselves of £5,000. Brian said “we have been overwhelmed with the interest in and generosity we have received for this Global Village Challenge. My clients and our business contacts have been very supportive in helping us reach and surpass our fundraising target. We have also raised well over £1,000 via Twitter alone with donations coming from lawyers as far afield as Canada and the USA.”

Have a look at their website – and if you would like to help, you know how to get in contact through Inkstersgive

Putting up my Friday Rive Gauche a bit early… because I may escape to London tomorrow morning… but there again, I may leave it until Saturday.  And here is how I might look at a shopping mall in Dubai soon.. they say, advertising rates are going to improve…. Have a good Friday.

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