Archive for March 8th, 2010

Jack Straw was called to the house this afternoon at 3.30 to give a statement on the recall of Jon Venables to prison.  The press speculation on Venables’ return has been quite extraordinary.  Straw made it clear that he had every sympathy for the the parents of James Bulger – but at the request of the Police and DPP information on Venables was suppressed to ensure that there would be a fair trial.

Dominic Grieve, Shadow Justice Secretary, stated that the Justice Secretary was entitled to support but he had to earn that support by making a clear statement about the way the justice system worked.  Grieve also stated that the Justice Secretary could have avoided all the press speculation had he been more clear about how the recall system works and to explain the need for a fair trial.

For my own part – the rule of law, the principle of fair trials, is more important than individual needs, and while I can well understand the distress of James Bulger’s family, a fair trial on the new offences would be impossible, in all likelihood, if more information was given at this stage.  The mood of the house was with Straw’s position and the Rule of Law – thankfully.

The press has not been that helpful here and, I suspect, the reports they have published may well have added to the distress of James Bulger’s parents.  I would go further and say that the press has followed its own needs, rather than the needs of the Bulger parents.

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Dear Reader

There is a lot of anger on the net, on discussion forums, in the comments section of blogs and even on Twitter.  Separating the techniques of the professional anger people who use ‘anger’ to make a point – for that can be useful, there do appear to be a lot of morons and trolls out there who have nothing better to do  after wetting their beds than to abuse and insult people on twitter or bloggers who try to express ideas and views.

John Bolch at Family Lore has had enough of people wanting to grind their axes on his blog…. Please, grind your axes elsewhere.

John writes…” I try to keep this blog a reasonably open place, where people can state their opinions freely, whether or not they coincide with mine (a quick read through the blog will confirm this to any neutral reader). Unfortunately, the privilege to comment freely is all too often abused by those with an axe to grind, and too much time on their hands (alas, it seems that this is probably the lot of family law bloggers). Too often, posts are hijacked by such people, whose comments often have little or no relevance to the point of the original post. I’m sorry, but if you want to grind your axe about lawyers biased against fathers/secret family courts/whatever went wrong when you experienced the family justice system, then please do so elsewhere, and let’s keep comments here relevant and civil.

So, if your comment is not approved, or is deleted, now you know why. Of course, defamatory or spam comments will also be rejected.

Politicians are used to maniacs turning up on their blogs and most have a policy of ‘be civil’. Richard Dawkins has now got involved…

Richard Dawkins takes on the Net

The BBC reports: Richard Dawkins has intervened in a dispute about the moderation of his official website. He says the nastiness of comments added to the site is a sign of “something rotten in the internet culture”.

It appears that the site, which describes itself as a “clear thinking oasis” has been muddied by thoughtless abusiveness.

Doubtlessly, some will say that the stridency of the new atheism movement may partly explain the aggressiveness one finds on the Dawkins website; that if Dawkins’s fan-base is populated by those who enjoy the sharpness of his verbal assault on belief and believers, then those acolytes might be tempted to outdo one another in futher sharpness.

But, to be fair, the Richard Dawkins I have met is a gentleman and a scholar, and I am not at all suprised by his stand against incivility.

We all get angry.  These days, I prefer not to…in fact, I go out of my way not to get angry. I prefer to laugh and I would far rather parody something than write a diatribe to make a point. Fortunately, I get interesting and surreal comments from relatively insane sane people on my blog and the bed wetters and trolls tend not to be terribly interested in anything I write or comment on. I have a pretty open policy on comments, but I don’t tolerate people slagging each other off – unless they do it with style, elan and panache – and anyone who comes on to my comments section to say “Great… I’ve been looking for a site like this..keep up the good work” runs the risk that I will divert their URL for their law service (or other commercial activity) to a dodgy porn site.

I am pleased to announce, should anyone be daft enough to be abusive, troll-like or unpleasant on  my blog, that I have a new award – Charon’s Bed-Wetter Award….

It is highly unlikely that I shall ever have to make this award… but I shall do so, possibly, if I get seriously tedious people writing unpleasant nonsense…or law firms (and other commercial organisations) who try to get free Google juice by putting inane and irrelevant comments on a post and then link to their crappy service!

++Target Reached++

Old Holborn and Anna Raccoon did the business with the help of a lot of people on the blogosphere… I was happy to support this (and did) and thank you to those of my readers who did

Anna Raccoon reports: “A quick update to let everyone know what the state of play is with Nick Hogan.

The Blogosphere has reacted in magnificent fashion, the target has been reached in a mere 4 days. There are legal technicalities which Denise is fully aware of, which will be sorted very soon – and he will be home.

I have spoken to Denise several times today, as has Nick, from prison.  He is very much happier than he was yesterday, considerably cheered by the huge bag of cards and letters he has received this morning, and Denise is fully aware of everything that is going on.

My heart goes out to Denise, she has been subject to constant rumour and scurrilous speculation, which has only made a difficult situation more difficult to bear, but rest assured, she is in constant contact with Old Holborn and myself, and wants me to thank you all from the bottom of her heart.

They said it couldn’t be done – well it couldn’t without Old Holborn’s help, or Guido’s final push, but this has been a non-partisan, non-political, non-campaigning, tour de force on behalf of ordinary people who were shocked at an ordinary man being jailed for failing to report his fellow citizens.

Well done everyone!”


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The level of political debate, as the election gets closer, continues to decline.  The Guardian reports…

Peter Mandelson raises stakes in Lord Ashcroft row

Business secretary says Ashcroft has Cameron ‘by the balls’ and that affair reveals ‘fundamental weakness’

The Guardian reports: “In a highly personal attack, the business secretary said in an interview with the Guardian that Ashcroft had Cameron “by the balls”, the affair showed Cameron was “too weak to pick a fight with his own party” and the Tories were “fundamentally unchanged”.

The story is no longer about non-doms – Labour has a few of those lurking in the deep as well – but about integrity and controlling power. Ashcroft, having made  undertakings about tax to a point that Hague said publicly that Ashcroft would be paying tens of millions in taxes, did a quiet deal behind the scenes to ‘alter the effect of the undertaking’ and then, it would appear, kept Hague in the dark until ‘two months ago’.  Hague then seems to have kept Cameron in the dark, given Cameron’s statement that he knew only a month ago.   It is clear now why Cameron wanted to draw a line under the mater and tried to fob the Press off by saying that the horse was now dead so there was no need to continue flogging it.

Unfortunately for Cameron, the horse is very much alive and the left continues to probe and raise the issue.

Photography under threat: The shooting party’s over

The Times, a bit behind the curve on this issue, asks: Did you hear the one about the mother banned from taking a snapshot of her baby in the pool? Or the student prevented from photographing Tower Bridge at sunset? Be warned. The authorities now have the power to confiscate your camera — or even arrest you — for daring to take a picture in public…

The Independent covered this some time back and, indeed, so did the blogs but it remains, nevertheless an important issue about Police, Police Community Support Officers and others exceeding their powers and, of course, Parliament giving these people too many powers. While I am disposed towards the Labour party their record on civil liberties and the explosion of new criminal laws is very poor  and the Libertarians, left or right leaning, are right – government needs to curb its taste for knee jerking.  Clarkson got it right recently when he said that one man getting on to a plane with exploding underpants  has produced fear in the minds of Americans who seem curiously afraid of a lot of things compared to British and Europeans more used to terror outrages on our soil and our government has followed suit with a raft of poorly thought out laws giving poorly trained police et al the opportunity to ‘big it up’ in their high Viz yellow jackets.

Whatever flavour or colour of government wins the next election – the nanny state tendency and political correctness really does have to be looked at. I read somewhere at the weekend that Harriet Harman has now managed to ban use of  the term ‘Chairman’ in parliament.  I have never been a great fan of gender when it comes to nouns (This is something foreigners do with their languages!) and I can’t really get hot under the collar about a female leading a panel being described as ‘Chair’ or ‘Chairwoman’  when there are rather more pressing issues to worry about.  I am not running the country.  Ms Harman is.  Perhaps she could get on with doing so on the ‘bigger issues of our times’?

There is far too much interference in our lives from central and local government. CCTV cameras watch our every move, microchips are fitted in our rubbish bins to make sure we don’t overfill them or put in the wrong stuff, PCSOs, when they are not gathered in groups eating buns on street corners, are misapplying the law with tourists and members of the public, police officers are hesitating to break doors down to save people’s lives because of health & safety laws,… the list goes on and on and on… and worse, our government (and I doubt whether the Tories would be any better) continues with kneejerk policy making nd dancing to the tune of tabloids who are more interested in selling newspapers to their mass readership than the fine detail and intricacy of good government.

An example of dancing to the tune of the tabloids is the clamour for the government to release details as to why Jon Venables has been returned to prison.  I was appalled, as all were, by the horrific abduction and killing of a very young boy by two  juveniles all those years ago.  I have every sympathy for the family who continue to serve a ‘life sentence’ of misery as a result of their  son being  murdered, but I do also feel that as Venables now faces serious charges, law and procedure must be followed to ensure that Venables gets a fair trial for the offence he committed – a serious offence which merited his being returned to prison. Surely everyone is entitled to that… or do the tabloids have a greater right than the individual?

Iraq inquiry: Gordon Brown says war was ‘right’

The BBC reports: “Gordon Brown has told the Iraq inquiry the war had been “right” – and troops had all the equipment they needed. The PM also insisted he had not been kept in the dark by Tony Blair despite not being aware of some developments.”

Godon Brown gave a very competent performance at the Iraq Inquiry – perhaps aided by the lack of forensic questioning skills of the inquisitors which allowed him to evade the difficult follow up questions – or to be more accurate, move on to the next question because there were no penetrating follow up questions as there would have been had experienced counsel been handling the questioning. Armed Forces ‘top brass’ popped up on Newsnight and elsewhere to say various things – ranging from Brown being ‘economical with the truth’ to making disingenuous’ statements.  Certainly, Brown gave a far better performance than I expected – and he knew his brief and the detail.  More importantly, he had the balls… to use a metaphor from the opening section of this Review… to acknowledge the debt we owe to our armed forces and their families and to acknowledge the suffering of the families.  Blair did not do so.  Unfortunately, Brown is now being castigated by the press, bloggers and others for making political capital by going to visit the troops in Afghanistan.  Sometimes, a prime minister just cannot win.

Libel success fees limited to 10%

The Law Society Gazette reports: “The success fees charged by lawyers in defamation cases will be cut by 90% after justice secretary Jack Straw laid an order to amend the laws on ‘no win, no fee’ agreements. From April the maximum uplift charged by lawyers for winning defamation cases taken on under conditional fee agreements will be reduced from 100% to 10% of their original fee, subject to parliamentary approval.

The Ministry of Justice said the amendment is designed to prevent legal costs in defamation cases spiralling out of control. It follows its four-week consultation ‘Controlling costs in defamation proceedings’, which was published in January.Straw said the move would ‘help level the playing field’ so that journalists and writers can continue to publish articles that are in the public interest without incurring disproportionate legal bills.

So… are things looking up?

The Lawyer reports: Eversheds has become the latest firm to reopen its graduate recruitment programme after confirming it has offered positions to all of the trainees it deferred in 2009 as well as its scheduled 2010 cohort. In total the firm expects to take on 76 trainee solicitors in 2010 made up of 49 from its 2010 intake and the 27 candidates it deferred from 2009.

CEO Bryan Hughes said: “Whilst the economy remains fragile in some areas we’re seeing the benefits of having proactively managed our business as our performance continues to improve.”

Soon every Swiss dog could have his day in court

The Times reports: “There is no better place than Switzerland to be a chicken. Or a hamster. Or even — though the jury is still out on this — a goldfish.

The reason is that the country has an extraordinary set of animal protection laws that closely define the obligations of pet owners and farmers.

Now it is about to go a step farther: a national referendum tomorrow will decide whether to allow animals official legal representation.

The canton of Zurich already has an animal advocate, Antoine Goetschel, a kind of courtroom Dr Dolittle who, for the past two years, has been fighting the corner for flogged horses, depressed Dalmatians and tortured fish.

A “yes” vote will place publicly funded animal welfare lawyers, like Mr Goetschel, across the country. “Then I think the Government should create some form of academy or educational forum for animal barristers,” Mr Goetschel said. “These are not skills learnt at law school.”

This may well be a step too far for us… but we aren’t far behind.  I understand, following recent tabloid reports about dangerous dogs ripping faces off children, that the government plans to bring in a National Dog Owning test before anyone can keep a dog.  I’m reasonably sure, without needing to set up a Quango to look into it,  that the great majority of pet owners in this country love and  care for their animals well – but, yet again, a very small minority provides an opportunity for nanny to get her ruler out and be stern…. will this absurd knee jerking interference never end?

More later in the day…

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