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Archive for April, 2010

Election Special: The Euro

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With the Daily Mail failing their Cleggmania smear test today, reason has descended on Twitter after a marvellous morning of #nickcleggsfault which threw up some great tweets. Tonight, the three leaders will talk directly to us, in our living rooms, quite possibly all three adopting the rather creepy “look directly into our living rooms” technique pioneered by Clegg last Thursday.  I shall be wearing White Tie for the occasion.  I wouldn’t want any of the leaders to think, as they speak directly to me, that I have let standards drop at the Staterooms.

I shall also be opening a fine Chateau Neuf Du Papes – a wine most suitable to accompany bull… papal or otherwise.

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Conservative party to send gay MP to quell EU extremists

Guardian: Most senior gay member of Conservative party sent to Poland to encourage EU allies to abandon homophobic views

Incredible….this passage from The Guardian rather sums it up?

“Amid nerves among cabinet ministers that Labour is heading for a defeat along the lines of its performance in the 1983 election under Michael Foot, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, today accuses Cameron of adopting an “isolated and weak” position on Europe after abandoning the main centre-right grouping in Strasbourg to sit in the new European Conservatives and Reformists group.

This includes the Czech ODS party, whose founder, Vaclav Klaus, has questioned global warming, and Roberts Zile, of Latvia’s Fatherland and Freedom party, some of whose members attend a ceremony to commemorate members of the Latvian legion of the Waffen-SS.

Cameron says the Tories have responded to these concerns by asking Herbert to travel to Poland. He said: “We would not join with parties that had unacceptable views. But we do recognise that, particularly in central and eastern Europe, there are parties that have still got some way to go on the journey of recognising full rights for gay people. We are helping them make that journey.”

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The Sun reports, with remarkable restraint, unusually: A SUPREME Court ruling now allows convicted sex attackers to appeal to have their details removed from the register following complaints that it breached their human rights. Do you agree?

President of the Supreme Court Lord Phillips said the Sexual Offences Act, which set up the register, was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights because it did not allow for a review of individual cases.

BBC report

The decision of the Supreme Court may be read here

Lord Phillips:

57. I have referred earlier to a number of situations in which the degree of risk of re-offending has to be assessed in relation to sexual offenders. I think that it is obvious that there must be some circumstances in which an appropriate tribunal could reliably conclude that the risk of an individual carrying out a further sexual offence can be discounted to the extent that continuance of notification requirements is unjustified. As the courts below have observed, it is open to the legislature to impose an appropriately high threshold for review. Registration systems for sexual offenders are not uncommon in other jurisdictions. Those acting for the first respondent have drawn attention to registration requirements for sexual offenders in France, Ireland, the seven Australian States, Canada, South Africa and the United States. Almost all of these have provisions for review. This does not suggest that the review exercise is not practicable.

58. For these reasons I have concluded that the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal were correct to find that the notification requirements constitute a disproportionate interference with article 8 rights because they make no provision for individual review of the requirements. I would dismiss this appeal and repeat the declaration of incompatibility made by the Divisional Court.

Scots Law Society boss rejects members’ decision over ‘Tesco law’

The Times reports: “Bitter divisions within the legal profession were laid bare last night when the President of the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) said he was “unable to accept” the emphatic vote of his members to oppose reforms of the legal system.”

The Law Society Gazette reports: CPS slows recruitment of in-house Crown advocates.

Figures obtained by the Gazette have revealed a steep decline in the Crown Prosecution Service’s recruitment of in-house Crown advocates as an alternative to self-employed barristers. CPS figures show that the number of Crown advocates in the CPS increased by only nine in 2009/10, to 1,086. Law Society Gazette

Interestingly, when I talked to Director of Public prosecutions Keir Starmer QC late last year in a podcast for my series with The College of Law Inside Track, Keir Starmer was bullish about his plans to recruit in-house expertise and be less reliant on the self employed Bar. The criminal bar is going through a period of great change, made more difficult by reductions in legal aid budgets, so this will be welcome news.  Serendipitously, I am due to record a podcast for the College of Law Inside Track with Nicholas Green QC, Chairman of The Bar.  I shall ask him if he welcomes this news. I rather suspect he will.

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Getting the old cabbage across

There is an old adage in teaching, and I suspect it works in most forms of communication, and it is this… Keep it clear, tell the listener what you are going to say in summary, say it and recap.  The key word, of course, is ‘clear’ and while there are many good ideas in the Conservative manifesto they are buried deep in the detail and do not appear to be getting out to the wider voting public.

The Guardian, no enthusiasts for a Tory government, report..

There’s no such thing as ‘big society’, senior Tories tell Cameron

Leader urged to scrap key policy idea as anxiety grips party.

The message is very definitely centred around Cameron – this was made even more clear when Cameron re-filmed his election broadcast in his back garden to combat the rise of Clegg.   The Tory high command, it is reported, are a bit anxious that the Tory message isn’t getting out – and they are right to be.  The Westminster bubble, the serious pundits know what Cameron means – The Sun does its best to reduce the message to clear principles (and they do a pretty good job – I am an admirer of tabloid journalism – if not always the more surreal content.  Making the complex clear and graphic is a high skill) – but busy people who are not poljunkies don’t always have time to investigate and discern the meaning.  The concept of reducing the size of government is sound – but the detail is not clear and such detail that has caught the public and parodist imagination  – electing police chiefs, for example,  is not that good an idea.

This quote from The Guardian is telling on two fronts: “We have some great policies but we’re not talking about them,” said one Tory. “I had no idea that we have a great idea to give 1 million more people access to an NHS dentist. What a great idea. Why aren’t we shouting about that … it’s is a great policy and nobody knows about it?” The second ‘front’ of course is.. if a Tory enthusiast didn’t know, how could a floating voter possibly know?

The Guardian continues: “A third Tory source was even blunter. “The ‘big society’ is bollocks. It is boiled vegetables that have been cooked for three minutes too long. It tastes of nothing. What is it?”

The old joke about Michael Howard, oft portrayed as Dracula by satirists and The Daily Mirror,  was..“how would you like your stake?”

This time, The Guardian suggests, the question  to the Party if Cameron fails will be… “What would you like to put on a stake?”

The Tories have form on replacing leaders, quickly, efficiently and ruthlessly. Et Tu, William?

And finally…the BBC reports (Actually… I hope they do push this point and VOTE …. but I am getting old and cynical)


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The InsiteLaw Newswire is now available for download

Sponsored by QED Law

Student Revision Course

“There are still places available at the QED Law revision seminars. Open to all students on LLB and GDL/CPE programmes they take place at University College London and there is a choice of dates in April and May. For more information

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Before I start on the law…..this video from Iain Dale and Total Politics is excellent. More please.

You be the jury — join our bribery poll

Times: British companies are not doing enough to prepare for new laws that could lead to unlimited fines if their employees pay bribes, lawyers say.

Try the poll…!

Call to change law after burglar death case

Independent: “The law should be strengthened to protect homeowners who confront burglars, the mother of a trainee builder cleared of murdering a teenage intruder said today. Omari Roberts, 23, was told by the Crown Prosecution Service that no evidence would be offered against him, the day he was due to stand trial for the murder of 17-year-old Tyler Juett.”

The professionals all say the current law is more than adequate to protect people in their own homes – yet the politicians want to change it.  Hopefully, they will have more urgent matters to attend to after 6th May.

House of Lords transformation plans leaked

• Elections for the second chamber would take place at the same time as general elections
• Number of Bishops sitting in the Lords would be halved from 24 to 12

The Guardian reports: The House of Lords should become a second chamber where just two-thirds of members are elected until fresh primary legislation in 10 years’ time decides whether all peers should be elected, according to a document drawn up by the government.

Whether these plans will ever see the light of day remains to be seen – but it would seem to my eye that Bishops should not be involved simply by virtue of their office in legislation and opportunity should be taken to remove a tier of honours – peerages – from our political life.  The Supreme Court welcomed Sir John Dyson as the 12th Supreme Court Justice yesterday.  Pleasingly (although perhaps not for him? I would hope that serving our country as a Supreme Court Justice is honour enough.  I rather suspect it will be) Justice Dyson will not be getting the usual peerage which went with elevation to what was the House of Lords Judicial Committee.   I think this is a step in the right direction – separating the Supreme Court from Parliament and honours of a political nature.

The big story for lawyers today is reported fully in The Times

Watchdog launches formal investigation into Goldman

The Financial Services Authority has opened a formal investigation into Goldman Sachs in a move which could further escalate allegations of fraud against the US investment bank.

The UK financial watchdog said this morning that it has decided to start a “formal enforcement investigation” into Goldman Sachs International, its London-based business, after an initial review of the case.

The FSA’s probe comes after America’s Securities and Exchange Commission shocked the market last Friday by accusing Goldman and one of its vice presidents, Fabrice Tourre, 31, of fraudulently selling bad loans to investors in a deal which lost $1 billion (£650 million).

The net is closing in globally on banking practices and it seems that the US is more than prepared to go for Wall Street.  Others in Europe and elsewhere will, surely, now follow? It can only work if there is global co-operation and the rule of law and regulation brings a degree of control.  Seaparting the retail banking side from the gambling side of banking might help as well?

BSB launches survey on the future of the profession

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) (16 April) launched a survey of the profession on opinions and expectations in relation to the new business structures permitted under the Legal Services Act 2007. The BSB has teamed up with leading market research group YouGov to create and administer the survey, which all barristers, clerks and practice managers will be invited to complete.

The survey follows the historic decision by the BSB last November to allow barristers to become managers of Legal Disciplinary Practices and in principle to form barrister only entities.

The BSB is now asking the profession to register interest in the full range of business structures that the Act will facilitate and to suggest what other elements of the current Code of Conduct should be relaxed to enhance the services that individual barristers can offer.

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Fairy Tales…

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Listening to the leadership debate and marvelling at the astonishing rise in the fortunes of the Lib-Dems following Clegg’s appearance with the two wolves –  I thought it might be useful to write something brief, but topical, on libertarian principle.

The quotation in the post header seemed to me a reasonable start and more important when coupled with this quotation:

“It is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve.”

Henry George

I may ‘outrage’ some who read what follows.  So be it.

The government banned Meow Meow last Friday following outrage in The Sun and elsewhere.  It will, of course, be a complete waste of time.  The chemists will simply produce another ‘legal’ and, in any event, those who want drugs will always be able to get them.  We waste fantastic sums of money – deficit increasing, industrial, sums of money fighting a pointless drugs war.  Much crime is driven by drugs.  If you don’t believe me have a look at the murder rate in Colombia and Mexico, the burglary and street crime rate in this country and in mainland Europe.

Will we ever win the drugs war?  I doubt it? Should we try?  I’m not so sure. Listen to my podcast with US federal Judge John Cane and consider the question after listening to it.  This experienced American judge has many years of judicial experience.  He is worth listening to.

I digress, but with reason.  I have one simple question:

What business is it of ‘Mythical Anecdotal Man’, cited by leading politicians to justify their governance over us, what I ingest, inhale, smoke, drink, eat  or do with my life so long as it does not do harm to others.

Maybe it is time for a smaller government, a government which does not respond to the dictat of tabloids, of banks, of corporate vested interests and which trusts people more to make their own decisions.  In the case of drugs, would it be such a terrible idea to address the drugs war by legalising drugs?  They may just reduce crime, reduce over regulation of people, raise additional revenue,  cut prison costs, allow police to be used to deal with the remaining crimes which worry people (much burglary and street crime may well be reduced as a result)  and trust people to make their own decisions.

Will any mainstream political party have the courage to trust people more and regulate less – and return to libertarian principles – by no means a monopoly of the Libertarians?  That is the thing about libertarians – they tend  to be tolerant of political views other than their own in so far as necessary government is concerned.

Jeremy Bentham had a theory of libertarianism… he called it a felicific calculus. it is worth looking at.

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Gordon Brown to take lead part in HMS Pinafore

SONG – CAPTAIN BROWN

CAPT.                    I am the Captain of the Pinafore;
ALL.                And a right good captain, too!
CAPT.                    You’re very, very good,
And be it understood,
I command a right good crew,
ALL.                     We’re very, very good,
And be it understood,
He commands a right good crew.
CAPT.               Though beholden  to a peer,
I can hand, reef, and steer,
And ship a Britstrandee;
I am never known to flail
At the fury of Iain Dale,
And I’m never, never wrong with stats!
ALL.                          What, never?
CAPT.                              No, never!
ALL.                          What, never?
CAPT.                              Hardly ever!
ALL.           He’s hardly ever wrong with stats!
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more,
For the hardy Captain of the Pinafore!

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Vatican: Britain gets new saint

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One can’t help but feel sorry for the people of Iceland.  Last year their banks blew up and earlier this week their country blew up….spreading ‘an arc of sulphurity’ from Iceland to the Nordic countries;  grounding aircraft and inducing panic buying in supermarkets for dust pans and brushes and soon, no doubt, food…  as people realise that we don’t grow a lot here and there aren’t any aircraft flying to bring food in.  I have, of course, gone long on chanterelles mushrooms, basil, extra virgin olive oil, ciabatta, olive bread and balsamic vinegar – not to eat myself, you understand, but to put in food parcels for my middle class friends whose diet is so rarified from years of foreign holidays they  can no longer metabolise ordinary British staples.

It was certainly That Was The Week That Was for Nick Clegg, propelled from relative obscurity by the Leadership debate to a point  where political pundits were hyperventilating on TV and the blogosphere about ‘Clegg introduced to the British people’.  One of many polls put the Lib-Dems equal with the Tories on 32% with Labour pushed into third place with 28% – a statistic which, to the anger and chagrin of many on Twitter, would still leave Labour with the largest number of seats.

You have probably seen it – but if you haven’t you may enjoy having a look at this excellent parody of Cameron and his ‘I met a man who told me..’  sound byte in the leader debate last week.

I even felt inspired myself, despite my post Twitter hangover of last night, to pen a Limerick (Called a Twimerick... by, a few people on Twitter who happened to see it…). I really will have to speak to my wine dealer, as I now like to call him…. some of his latest offerings have aeronautical properties.

I’ve just met a man from Belize
who helped us pay for our sleaze
When told this was so,
he said yes, this I know,
can I go to the Lords now, please

I am an enthusiastic reader of political blogs.  I  thought I would share a few good posts (there are many more good polblogs)  with you if you do not ordinarily spend your time reading polblogs.

Fat Bigot: Brillo brings the Knife from the Kitchen | Alastair Campbell : The election landscape has changed. Exciting times | Old Holborn 4MP: The ‘Stepford Leaders’ Debate | Tom Harris 4MP: How to avoid difficult decisions in government, by N. Clegg | Iain Dale: Why Did Cameron Play Safe? | Obnoxio The Clown: The Mass Debate | Dizzy Thinks: Cameron and Brown dismiss Clegg at their peril | Guido Fawkes: Guy News : Debate Debate Debate! | Emily Nomates: When Lovebombing Is Not Enough | The Spectator blog: Nick Clegg: the Hans-Dietrich Genscher of Britain | Al Jahom’s Final Word: Shameless, Boyo | ToryBear: Not Everyone Enjoyed the Debate…

Returning to the world of LAW briefly…. RollonFriday reports: Herbert Smith trainees disciplined for trolleyed sex frolics

Two trainees at Herbert Smith have apparently been disciplined after they were caught getting jiggy at a firm party.

The real estate team had thrown a – clearly very successful – “get to know you” drinks for trainees and had rolled in a trolley laden with alcohol to help with the mingling. And it seemed to help one couple in particular. RollOnFriday has heard various reports, ranging from them engaging in, ahem, a non-penetrative sex act in an adjoining room, to them spiriting the trolley away from the party, drinking all the booze and then celebrating their achievement by having sex on the empty trolley.

It is not known if one trainee said to the other “Shall I shake you or stir?”

And I can’t resist this, also from RollonFriday….

Lovells partner sends world’s most obtuse email : A partner in Lovells‘ New York office has sent the most convoluted email opener RollOnFriday has ever seen.

Marc Gottridge sent the following to the entire firm:

“Sorry for the broadcast email — and please do not read any further than this paragraph if you are either (a) a US-based Lovells lawyer who is joining Hogan Lovells US LLP effective 1 May or (b) a non-US-based Lovells lawyer, joining Hogan Lovells International LLP effective 1 May, who is not admitted to practice before any court in the US. In other words, please read the rest of this email only if you will be, from 1 May, a member of Hogan Lovells International LLP and are admitted to practice in any US jurisdiction.”

So thats, errr, US qualified lawyers not in the US? Or all US qualified lawyers? Or just those at Lovells? But only if there’s an “R” in the month? Clearly the chaotic post-merger structure has confused even the most intelligent partner. The firm better hope this is not a sign of things to come…

Ah well…. Obfuscation, dissimulation, evasion are but few of the many qualities needed by lawyers these days.  The dark arts of drafting  are, I am glad to see, still going strong.

A fine sunny day… I’m going to escape for a while… sit in the sun… but, be sure, I shall ensure that no volcanic ash gets into my wine glass or my lungs while I watch the world go by and smoke a few Marlboros.

Best, as always

Charon

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