Archive for March 13th, 2010

Barristerman rides again!

Pencil on paper

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Delighted to have a cameo role in GuyNEWS latest televised bulletin about the prosecution of MPs and the release of Nick Hogan. If you do not subscribe to Guido’s GuyNews, then you will have to wait until Monday – but you can subscribe for future GuyNews bulletins here and get them on the Friday. This week’s edition is amusing and Emily Nomates, Harry Cole and Old Holborn et al have done the business!

Update: As Lazyhena (Editor of GuyNEWS) has twittered the link to the film – why not have a look?!

I’ll come to the prosecution of the MPs shortly but, first, a word about alleged ‘trougher’ Baroness Uddin from Guido Fawkes and then a quick analysis of the extraordinary statement from Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions…

+ + + Baroness Uddin – No Charges + + +

This isn’t a surprise.  The Clerk of the Parliaments, Michael Pownall, gave the Lords almost free reign to continue troughing by ruling that there is no definition of main residence for the purposes of expenses.  A ruling almost designed to make a prosecution impossible. Uncharged is not the same as innocent…

Lords place themselves beyond reach of the law

The Times reports: Peers who have claimed hundreds of thousands of pounds for homes they rarely visit will escape prosecution through a House of Lords loophole. Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, denounced the change, which was made last month. It allows peers to designate as their main home a property they visit no more than once a month — a ruling Mr Starmer said caused him “very real difficulty”.

The Crown Prosecution Service announced yesterday that it could not bring criminal charges against Baroness Uddin, a Labour peer who received more than £100,000 in allowances by claiming that her main residence was outside London. Her family home is in Wapping, East London, where she has lived for more than a decade. Mr Starmer told The Times: “You could not have a looser definition. It would be nigh on impossible to find a neighbour who could act as a witness and who could say that a peer had not once stayed at a house — short of mounting 24-hour surveillance.”

It is quite extraordinary to have the DPP making a public statement that a prosecution cannot be brought because the Lords changed the rules. The Telegraph reports: “The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has blamed the House of Lords for derailing attempts to prosecute Baroness Uddin over her expenses claims.”

While Baroness Uddin may well be relieved that she does not face prosecution, she now has to face a Lords internal investigation- as, some say, do up to 20 other peers.  This nonsense has gone on long enough.  Not all MPs worked the system and, certainly, most peers did not either.  If the Lords are to have any credibility and relevance, and win back the trust and approval of the electorate,  they have to be seen to act quickly and robustly with those of their members who have played the system.  For my part, Baroness Uddin is an irrelevance.  She has, clearly, not done anything for which she can be prosecuted, but it may well be that she has not acted with the integrity we are entitled to expect from those who sit in what, after all, is one of the Houses of Parliament. We shall see if the Lords are prepared to  deal with any form of corruption or inappropriate behaviour, whether proven in this case or not,  in their ranks.  As Guido Fawkes commented..perfectly reasonably…Uncharged is not the same as innocent…

Only the Lords can now reveal the truth of the matter.

In the meantime, the troughing MPs who are facing prosecution are pleading parliamentary privilege and argue that no court, save for Parliament, can deal with their behaviour. Guido Fawkes, as always, covers the appearance of the MPs and one peer at Westminster Magistrate: Oink! Oink!

MPs and peer to fight expenses prosecution with 1689 law

The Independent reports: Three Labour MPs and a Conservative peer told a judge today they will use a 320-year-old law to argue they should not be prosecuted over the expenses scandal. MPs David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine, along with Lord Hanningfield, will insist their case should not be tried by a jury and instead dealt with by House of Commons authorities.

I have no difficulty with lawyers using the law to present the best defence of their clients – it is for the courts to rule whether the argument raised in relation to the MPs is right or wrong in law.  We are, however, entitled, as many do, to argue that parliamentary privilege should not be used in this way on moral and ethical grounds.

The Independent reports:  Barrister Julian Knowles, for the MPs, told the court they would argue they were protected by parliamentary privilege, covered in the 1689 Bill of Rights. “My clients should not be understood as saying that they are above the law – that would be quite wrong,” he said. “Parliamentary privilege is part of the law – and it is for Parliament to apply the law in their cases.” He said the case was of “high constitutional importance” but added the criminal courts had “no jurisdiction” over them.

We won’t have to wait long…the troughers will have their opportunity to argue their position – hopefully from the dock – on March 30th when they appear at Southwark Crown Court. I may well exercise my right to see ‘justice being done’ and turn up myself.  I won’t need a mask… some say that my own visage is horrific enough… They are right.  In any event, the troughers are entitled to a fair trial…as everyone is and it is for the Crown Court – if it rejects the parliamentary privilege point,  to determine whether the troughing is criminal or merely “within  the (rather badly drafted) rules”

AND now… to other matters….

I am not a great fan of George Osborne as a potential Chancellor..and, it would appear that The City would prefer Ken Clarke – but I was amused by Osbore’s ridiculing of French president Sarkozy at a speech last year when he made reference to the removal of a box at the lectern, presumably used by a previous speaker, and asked if  it was Sarkozy’s box.  A career at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office may not be open to Osbore should Cameron (who is not afraid to sack Osbore), sack Osbore.

I’m afraid that I did find Osbore’s comments about the “Sarkozy box” amusing – but I was pissed when I saw it first on the news last night and I am not trying to be Chancellor. Have a look – it is amusing.

Good to see that our law firms are getting one up on American law firms…

British law firm cleared way for Lehman cover-up

The Times reports: “Linklaters, one of Britain’s leading law firms, approved controversial accounting practices that allowed Lehman Brothers to shift billions of dollars of debt off its balance sheet and mask the perilous state of the bank’s finances before its catastrophic collapse in 2008.A 2,200-page report into the collapse of the 158-year old institution has uncovered evidence that Lehman used “balance sheet manipulation” in the form of an accounting practice known as “Repo 105”, without telling investors or regulators, that made the business appear healthier.

Lehman initially had sought legal clearance from an American law firm to permit Repo 105 transactions but was denied. It then sought advice from Linklaters in London, which said that the deals were possible under English law.”

The Law Society comes under the steely gaze of RollonFriday News this week… The Law Society seeks slave labour…”The Law Society is offering a “internship” position in its Chancery Lane headquarters on no pay. For three months. The job is advertised as starting from mid May, would suit “a graduate or similar“, and is described as “varied and creative“. And a great degree of creativity will certainly be required to live in London for twelve weeks on a salary of absolutely nothing. A spokeswoman for the Society said that the internship “is an excellent addition to any CV” and claimed that “travel costs and subsistence are paid” – although there’s no mention of this in the ad.”

RollonFriday notes that law firms have been using the ‘internship ploy’ as a means of getting no cost labour (and internships may, in other areas provide good experience for young people), but asks whether The Law Society – representing the profession, should be doing so.  I’m not so sure they should be – they should pay at least the minimum wage and set an example.  Law is a business – it is not a vocation, an art studio, a craft shop, a not very well resourced publishing business….  a museum or art gallery.

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