Archive for January 20th, 2010

There were two important criminal law cases yesterday:  The so-called ‘have a go hero’ case and the case of a mother who killed her son through love.

Munir Hussain
The Independent reports:
“A businessman jailed for seriously injuring an intruder after the lives of his family were threatened by knife-wielding burglars in their home was shown “mercy” and freed by senior judges today. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting at the Court of Appeal in London with two other judges, replaced 53-year-old Munir Hussain’s 30-month prison term with one of two years, and ordered that it should be suspended.”

The facts of this case are well known.  The case caused an outcry, prompting politicians  to respond ‘robustly’. Many lawyers took the view that the self defence, reasonable and proportionate force,  laws in this country are sufficient.  Many, including me, felt that the trial judge was right to sentence Mr Hussain and his brother to prison.  Chasing someone down the road and battering them so badly with a cricket bat that the bat broke and the victim suffered serious injury is not self defence.  It may well be a completely understandable reaction, but no matter how one looks at it, it is retribution.  It is vengeance.  iIt is taking the law into your own hands.

Today the Court of Appeal, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord judge, freed Mr Hussain – but not his brother.  Mr Hussain was given a suspended sentence of one year.  His brother had his sentence reduced to a very merciful one year.The brother had not been subjected to threat and violence during the burglary.

The Independent noted: “Lord Judge said: “This trial had nothing to do with the right of the householder to defend themselves or their families or their homes…… (lord judge rehearsed the violence of the tack on the burglar)…..this was “not an ordinary or normal case or one that falls within the overwhelming majority of cases, not least because of the character of the two appellants”.

I have not read the judgment, so I am reliant on the Independent report. That being said.. this appears to be the key point..“Involvement in this serious violence can only be understood as a response to the dreadful and terrifying ordeal and the emotional anguish which he had undergone.”

This is not a precedent directly in the sense of being a licence for retribution.  These were exceptional circumstances. I watched a BBC report later in the day.  An ex senior police officer and a probation officer were brought on.  The probation officer said that experts, judges, commentators, lawyers and others can say what they like and it won’t make a blind bit of difference to public opinion.  The public, the probation officer said, were alienated from the criminal justice system and we only had ourselves to blame because we are not tough enough on young career criminals. The Police officer reinforced the sense in the judgment but did say that provided reasonable force is used when an intrusion is taking place, prosecution is unlikely.

We are good at shades of grey.  Our legal system is built upon flexibility. Too much definition or strict liability can lead to inflexibility and injustice. Today’s decision may well be one of those classic fudges where the rule and principle of law is upheld, the law emphasised by an experienced judge, and a degree of ‘mercy’ applied.  I’m not against that  type of justice.  I think quite a few people would suffer from a red mist after an intrusion. The thing is, would we have beat a man so badly with a cricket bat?  I’m not so sure and for that reason, I would prefer  not to see the law changed and in exceptional trouble cases… there is always the objectivity of  appeal.


‘Mercy killing’ mother is jailed for life

The Independent reports: A mother who gave her brain-damaged son a lethal heroin injection to end his “living hell” was told today she must serve at least nine years in jail. Frances Inglis, 57, was given a life sentence for killing 22-year-old son Tom after he suffered severe head injuries when he fell out of a moving ambulance.

Reports reveal that Mrs Inglis made two attempts to kill her son, not believing medical advice that the son was showing signs of recovery, to put him out his misery.  The judge made the very important point,while acknowledging that her motives were born of love…“What you did was to take upon yourself what you thought your son’s wishes would have been, to relieve him from what you described as a living hell…..But you cannot take the law into your own hands and you cannot take away life, however compelling you think the reason. You have to take responsibility for what you did.”

Now the Royal College of Physicians slams the DPP’s plans for euthanasia

The Telegraph reports: “Poor Keir Starmer, the luckless Director of Public Prosecutions forced by some simpering Law Lords, who fancy the idea of euthanasia, into the impossible task of “clarifying” when it’s okay to assist someone to kill themselves, keeps being slapped down by medical professionals.

The British Medical Association and the General Medical Council have already made it abundantly clear that they want no part in voluntary euthanasia becoming a clinical practice. Now the estimable Royal College of Physicians, the professional body representing over 20,000 physicians that “aims to improve the quality of patient care by continually raising medical standards”, has weighed in with a strongly worded letter to the DPP.

“We would go so far as to say”, writes the College’s Registrar, Dr Rodney Burnham, “that any clinician who has been part, in any way, of assisting a suicide death should be subject to prosecution.”

I did a podcast on this topic with Lord Falconer (Listen to the podcast )  – an opposing view. Also with the DPP, Keir Starmer QC (Listen to the podcast)


Twelfth Justice – How are we getting on?

“We thought that it was time to have an update on the appointment process for the twelfth justice.  As our readers will recall, some time ago applications for this post were invited – with a closing date of 26 October 2009. Since then, there have been no official announcements.   There was much press speculation about the possible candidacy of Mr Jonathan Sumption QC.  However, in December 2009 he announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy….

The saga goes on… but it is an important one….


Jackson costs review divides market

I have read Jackson LJ’s report – thankfully this article from The Lawyer relieves me of the need to explore some of the more problematic issues – and it comes straight from the mouths of the people at the coal face.  I enjoyed reading it.  Definitely worth a read.


And a bit of Social Media  Mavenry and Gurudom for the weekend, Sir, Madam?

As regular readers know… I am not enthusiastic about mavens or gurus droning on about social media – but I do like Brian Inkster and Chris Sherliker,  who are both regular twitterers… so I shall make one final exception. They usually make sense, so perhaps they will take a different view to a lot of the nonsense I have seen on the net about twitter and other social media and how lawyers can benefit. Brian wrote and asked me if I could flag this up… knowing of my views!. Of course… a pleasure….

This Friday, 22 January, at 3.30pm you can learn how UK lawyers are using social media. American Attorney and social media expert, Adrian Dayton, will be interviewing Glasgow Solicitor, Brian Inkster of Inksters Solicitors, and London Solicitor, Chris Sherliker of Silverman Sherliker, about their experiences particularly with Twitter. Adrian will be seeking to find out whether things are really that different in the UK from the US.  Are lawyers in the UK and abroad using social media to make connections and bring in business?  Or are UK lawyers too serious for Twitter? You can listen and join in by way of a free conference call by registering in advance at: http://adriandayton.com/2010/01/how-uk-lawyers-are-using-social-media/

I may, of course, listen in… so if they do talk nonsense, I shall run amok.  They would, I am sure, expect nothing less.  🙂

The Social Media Maven pronounces (2010)
Oil on Canvas

In the Collection of @ScottGreenfield

The painting comes from my F**kArt series. I have a couple to finish and then I start on tmy Surrealist period of paintings in late January!

PS… I will be posting out paintings to recipients soon… I am just a bit behind on my life at the moment… mea culpa.



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Poor behaviour by a British prime minister

Gordon Brown, like many who held high office before him, has to put up with a lot of flack, criticism and downright rudeness. That, I suppose, is inevitable in an intelligent and relatively free democracy.  Many of the slings are parodic or analytically fair  and most people, one hopes, are able to distinguish between the politician and the man or the woman when it comes to having a go at politicians.

Today, I watched Prime Minister’s Questions. I do most Wednesdays, although it has become less valuable with the electioneering going on.  Iain Dale covered the story, but what I saw at the end of PMQs when Brown dismissively answered Michael Fabricant’s question about the safety of a local dam, I found deeply unpleasant.

I excerpt from Iain Dale’s full blog post…

“Michael Fabricant raised the urgent matter of the leaking dam which holds back the waters of the Chasewater Reservoir today with the Prime Minister in the House of Commons……..Lichfield District Council officials have told Michael Fabricant that unless the dam is repaired soon, it could have “catastrophic consequences” with loss of life and property and the Midlands canal system running dry….”

Michael Fabricant: “….The small district of Lichfield does not have the funds to make the urgent repairs. Will the Prime Minister please use his best endeavours to ensure that the financial burden is spread over the region as a whole?”

The Prime Minister: Of course I will be happy to consider his point although I see that he is making the case for public expenditure.

It was like watching the boy in a class at primary school, the one who could never tell jokes, think he is making a ‘funny’.  It wasn’t funny. I found it rather unpleasant. This wasn’t, or shouldn’t have been, a party political issue. Brown should have given a more responsible and considered answer – that, after all, is part of the responsibility and dignity of a leader. He chose to make a cheap jibe. Disappointing.  Let us just hope that the dam does not break and that people do not suffer harm or worse.

It just gets worse… no wonder Labour politicians are frustrated.. no wonder Labour voters are fed up. Cameron is not popular.  He did not perform well at PMQs.  The Spectator is even speculating about whether Cameron can cut it.  Do we really deserve a government of the least unpopular? The country is not doing brilliantly.  We are fighting a war, terror, economic collapse and Brown is pleasuring himself with cheap jokes? Get a grip… or perhaps, in the circumstances…that… is an inappropriate metaphor for Brown.

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“The Hall at Middle Temple is one of the finest examples of an Elizabethan hall in the country with a double hammer beam roof carved from the oak of Windsor Forest and an elaborately carved screen made in 1574. The traditional oak panelled walls are festooned with Coats of Arms and the impressive windows are made from heraldic glass memorials to notable Middle Templars. The bench table is believed to be a gift from Elizabeth I. It is 29 feet long and made from a single oak tree which was floated down the Thames from Windsor Forest.”

Middle Temple

In these splendid premises, steeped in history, the ghosts of the famous barristers and judges of their day almost present at every dinner, now enjoyed by the famous barristers and judges of our day… there have been deeds which have reached the courts of justice.

The Telegraph reports…

A cellarman at one of Britain’s most prestigious barristers’ inns claimed he was sacked for trying to prevent his colleagues from stealing bottles of wine, a tribunal heard.

I was alerted to this story by a fellow blogger on twitter who has a new blog called Bleak Flat… a rather good name for a law blog. The Telegraph reports ” Ryszard Adolf, 52, claimed that The Honorary (sic)  Society of the Middle Temple knew about the “system” and used to charge customers for the shortfall. He claimed that kitchen staff would ask him for ‘takeaways’ of up to six bottles of wine a day. He told the tribunal: “I was ordered to give takeaway bottles to the chefs every evening, every dinner.”

Apart from the Telegraph referring to the Honourable Society of The Middle Temple as the Honorary Society – there was the wonderful news…. “David Read, representing Middle Temple, said that Mr Adolf had not co-operated with colleagues when he started work last January and would often leave his shift early. He also suggested that Mr Adolf would address waitresses at the Inn with the Polish word ‘kurwa’, meaning ‘whore’. Mr Read added: “Middle Temple had an investigation undertaken to see whether it was possible for there to be a fraud by members of catering staff and the conclusion was that no fraud was being perpetrated and it was nigh on impossible for members of staff to have personally gained from wine sales.”

Calling a waitress at The Middle Temple a ‘whore’? Mr Adolf could be forgiven for thinking, given our standing in the community at large, that some of the members may be rapacious in their financial desires… but to call a waitress a ‘whore’ does not quite seem in keeping with this splendid dining club!

A virtual bottle of Rioja, not ‘plundered’ from any Inn of Court wine cellar for any member of Middle Temple who can shed more light on the goings on at the Inn on dining nights… you may post your comments below… and please…. no wino companies trying to get free search engine optimisation… if you are tempted..I have a policy of re-directing any URL you provide to a dodgy ‘pron’ site! I can’t say fairer than that.

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