Archive for February 2nd, 2010

The BBC reports: An MP has called the wearing of burkas the religious equivalent of “going round with a paper bag over your head.

In a parliamentary debate, Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said it was “offensive” for women to cut off face-to-face contact with other people. The Kettering MP said he had “huge sympathy” with those who wanted a ban on face-covering veils in public. None of the three large UK parties back a ban, with ministers saying it would not be “British” to bar them.

I thought I would invite readers to vote on the matter – it being an election year n shit…. innit.

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Why the legal debates about Iraq will never end

The Times has an interesting article by Professor Malcolm Shaw QC. It is worth reading to get a perspective on the issue of the legaility of the Iraq war.  Shaw opens with “What have we learnt so far from the Iraq inquiry with regard to international law? At one level, we have heard views that international law is uncertain, international lawyers dogmatic, and that lawyers who are not international lawyers are not international lawyers and thus cannot, by implication, deal with arguments in that field….”

A bit of Silk for the weekend, Sir…Madam?

The Legal Services Act has not exactly ambushed the legal profession – although a remarkably high number of lawyers I have spoken to in recent months do not have a grasp of…shall we say, the detail or, indeed, the implications for the profession.  The Lawyer reported yesterday: QC aspirants think again as LSA casts pall over bar
“Concerns about the future stability of the bar are having a knock-on effect on the number of barristers applying to become QCs, leading barristers have warned. In total 275 barristers have applied to the QC appointments committee this year. That translates to 11 per cent more applications than last year, when 247 people applied, but 17.4 per cent lower than 2008’s level, when the number of applications stood at 333. It’s a worryingly low ­figure,” one barrister ­commented. “I thought it would be much higher, especially when you ­consider it’s open not just to commercial barristers.

There appears to be support for the changes brought in relating to the appointment of silks and support for the rank of QC as a ‘kitemark’.  The market rules, however, and The Lawyer reports a clerk as saying (neatly summing it up) “Many people are worried they’ll lose clients when they’re made QC,” he said. “It may be a great status symbol, but it doesn’t ­necessarily mean you’ll get more instructions.”

While the Tories appear to be focusing on the fears of Britons being burgled in the night and their rights (It is interesting to note that only 11 prosecutions of householders have been brought in 15 years according to the DPP) Jack Straw has announced plans for  a National Victims Service.

The Ministry of Justice has announced: “An additional £8 million will establish the National Victims’ Service, which guarantees all victims of crime and anti-social behaviour referred by the police more comprehensive and dedicated support. The first stage will begin helping families bereaved by murder or manslaughter from March. This will provide intensive support, care and attention, tailored to their individual needs, beyond the conclusion of any investigation or trial.” Full press release

Pope condemns gay equality laws ahead of first UK visit

The Guardian reports: “Pope Benedict XVI has condemned British equality legislation for running contrary to “natural law” as he confirmed his first visit to the UK later this year.

The term ‘Natural Law’ has very little practical meaning. The cynic in me tends to believe that it is most often prayed in aid by those in power to control the activities of those not in power. The mumbo jumbo men are becoming increasingly concerned that Britain is no longer in thrall to the power of religion. The bishops have told the Pope..“…sexual orientation legislation that came into effect on 1 January 2009 had forced the closure of half the Roman Catholic adoption agencies because the law making it illegal to discriminate against gay applicants went against their beliefs.”

The Guardian notes: “In his letter the pope said: “The effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.”

For my part I am more persuaded by the entirely sensible line taken by the National Secular Society. Terry Sanderson, the society’s president, said: “The taxpayer is going to be faced with a bill for £20m for the visit – in which he has indicated he will attack equal rights and promote discrimination.”

It can’t be as much fun being Pope these days.  Back in history the Popes wielded considerable power, could start Crusades and organise for Inquisitions to be set up by Torquemada et al… hey ho… times have moved on.

Sir Jock Stirrup: Tony Blair’s Iraq war delay caused kit chaos

The Times reports: Britain’s top military commander admitted today that soldiers in Iraq were left without life-saving body armour and even proper boots and clothing because Tony Blair delayed authorising the war plans. Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup told the Iraq Inquiry the armed forces had been underfunded in the years leading up to the invasion which led to shortages of equipment….” Full report

The government has gone ahead with compulsory body scanning at airports, despite concerns by civil liberties organisations about invasion of privacy.

It appears that the new scanners do not reveal intimate body parts, the images cannot be stored and pored over on the internet by people into ‘signage porn’  but they  do reveal items like explosive underwear, guns and knives strapped to the thigh etc etc .  The scanners do not reveal explosive materials concealed within the body.  One assumes that a terrorist who is going to blow him or herself up is not going to be overly concerned whether the explosion comes from ‘within’ ?

One of the commenters on the Times story sums it up..

Barking Mad wrote:

Personally, I don’t think this goes far enough!. I want to feel very safe on my flights. The minimum security should be full x-raying of each passenger and full internal cavity searches. All passengers should be naked for the full flight and no baggage – carry-on or checked-in, should be allowed. Then I’ll be safe!

Straw urged to take action against court gagging orders

The Independent reports: ” Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, was challenged last night to take immediate action to tackle the proliferation of “super-injunctions” issued by courts. The demands follow the failed attempt by footballer, John Terry, to obtain a double gagging order preventing reporting of his affair with a team-mate’s ex-girlfriend. Vanessa Perroncel was last night at the centre of a bidding war, with newspapers offering her a reported £250,000 to tell the story of her affair with the England captain.”

Injunctions, in the digital internet age, have ‘limited utility. While the information can be suppressed within Britain – the High Court writ goes no further than England & Wales.  People in Scotland and elsewhere can read, comment, disseminate, host on severs to their hearts content – and we in England can simply go to those servers and read the details.  (Hence the idea behind the ‘super’ injunction which not merely suppresses the information but suppresses the knowledge that such an order was even given…theoretically)

The Independent notes: ” Mr Straw has signalled his concern over the issue and has launched a review into super-injunctions. The former minister, Denis MacShane, has called for action within weeks. Mr MacShane said: “Any order that bans the press from reporting the facts, and then bans the reporting of the ban itself, is Kafkaesque.”

And finally… a quick trip to the Law blogs.

Matthew Taylor of the MTPT blog has a very interesting piece... Sally Bercow v EyeSpyMP, or An interesting dimension the BBC missed.

“At the risk of turning this into a bad journalism blog, I have to mention the BBC News story on Sally Bercow’s “spat” with EyeSpyMP. It does also raise some interesting questions about the interface between the law of privacy and modern commstech.”

Professor John Flood, RATS, asks: How Is Access to Essential Services Guaranteed?

“Since my visit to CES in Coimbra, Portugal recently I’ve been thinking about the changing landscape of access to justice. For me the formal state system of courts has assumed a much less dominant role in the last 10 to 15 years. And even though legal aid in the UK has just enjoyed its 60th birthday, it only applies to criminal cases and a few types of civil matters. And government is seeking to reduce legal aid expenditure in the future.

So what has happened to the landscape? How has it changed? And has it improved or deteriorated?

Simon Myerson QC continues his coverage of the perils and pitfalls for prospective barristers who wish to make a career at the Bar.

I have said it before and have no difficulty in saying it again – all students considering a career at the Bar should read Simon’s Pupillage and How to Get It blog.  This week he continues in Bit of a Kicking Part 2 with the difficulties of pupillage… an essential read for those of you going to the Bar.


This week Slaw.ca takes the baton with a very detailed and fascinating review…

The Legality of an American Slavery

“February 1 is known as National Freedom Day in the U.S.  It’s also the start of Black History Month, the annual celebration and triumph of the descendants of African-Americans.  This year, President Obama has also indicated that National Freedom Day will also be the first ever National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  For this reason, Blawg Review #249 will follow the theme of African slavery in America, using the model of Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family.”….

Read Blawg Review #249

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