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Archive for May, 2010

Government in action….

Unfortunate juxtaposition (above)….


Bizarre… (below) ….

Osborne meets US treasury secretary Geithner…

Credit and props to Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home

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Parliament opened to great pomp and circumstance yesterday in a ceremony that has remained largely unchanged for decades. The Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke, put the wig back on but did not back down the stairs.  He chose to turn his back on the Monarch and walk down the stairs sensibly after handing The Queen her speech.  The Queen dutifully unsaid all the things she said last time.

Black Rod was ill, so the Commons were summoned by another man in tights after carrying out the solemn duty of banging on the door slammed in his face.  Dennis Skinner, sometimes called The Beast of Bolsover, lightened proceedings…with an amusing quip, attracting immediate ire on twitter from some Tories who temporarily lost their sense of humour.  I thought the quip was excellent and summed up the “Primacy of the Commons’ nicely.

Clegg, largely invisible during Cameron’s address to the House – obscured from view whenever Dave stood up, did his best to see what was going on by bobbing up and to the viewer’s right.    Comical.   Carl Gardner, of The Head of Legal blog, tweeted that ‘these things aren’t done by accident’ – hinting at some clever Tory planning to hide Clegg from view!.

And so to the serious business of government covered well in all the newspapers. Here is the coverage from The Times.  Enjoy it free while you can.  The Times plans to go behind a ‘paywall’ in June.

And so to Law…

We must see justice done (more on rape and anonymity)

Carl Gardner writes:

It’s of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. So said Lord Chief Justice Lord Hewart in 1923, quashing a guilty verdict arrived at by magistrates in private with their legal adviser, who had a conflict of interest.

The principle has two aspects. First, the justice system must be visibly free of bias. But second, and more fundamentally, the workings of justice must be seen in the first place. Only if justice is carried out publicly can we know it’s being done fairly. That’s why you can go into your local Crown or Magistrates’ Court any day, if you’re not working, and listen to proceedings. It’s why I think criminal trials should be televised. And it’s why I’m against the government’s surprising new proposal to grant anonymity to defendants in rape cases.

I’m still thinking about my stance.  I think I am probably more inclined to allow anonymity until the moment the prosecution begins in the court. This may allow other women to come forward? There has been a tendency for the identity of suspects to be revealed before trial, which is clearly prejudicial if no charge follows and no publicity is given to that fact.  Mud tends to stick unless corrected with equal publicity.

I am, however, very clear on my stance on the Rape trial of the children.  Ken MacDonald QC, a former DPP, often hits the nail on the head with precision in his analyses and he did so eloquently.  His article in the Times is a ‘must read’ on this issue.   I agree and have nothing to add.

This spectacle has no place in a civilised land

We make fools of ourselves and demons of children by trying small boys for rape

Ken MacDonald QC

Son sues mother for ‘failing to protect him from childhood abuse’

Frances Gibb reports on an interesting issue…

Can we stay humane, even in the hell of war?

Moral lines have been blurred on torture: our leaders should remember how the Allies fought with integrity

The investigation into British complicity in torture will, hopefully, clarify exactly what has been done in our name over the past ten years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This thoughtful article is worth reading.  The present government has, rightly, set its face against condoning the use of torture.  Let us hope that we have not condoned the use of torture, directly or indirectly over the past government’s custody of our country.

Times article by Ben Macintyre

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Charon Self Portrait (In Three Colours) 2010
Acrylics on canvas board
20 x 16

Charon, with new tache,  goes to a field in a yellow shirt and jeans (and a weird hat)  on a sunny windy day in May and paints a glass of red wine.  That is all.

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Dear Reader,

I’m a bit late with my postcard this week.  This is largely because I had a most entertaining and enjoyable weekend chatting to great people.  On this day of CUTS announced by George Osborne and his ‘Igor’… David Laws, I thought I would do my bit for our country – see above.

I thought I would devote my postcard to you this week to ranting – randomly – about things which have caught my eye today while sitting in the sun on Battersea Square and World’s End, Chelsea.

Oh… how wonderfully tweet…
The first thing to catch my eye and set the tone for my febrile mind was the news that The Hay Literary Festival is to hold a competition for literary types to come up with guff or otherwise on twitter.  … Oh.. so achingly tweet? The competition is to be judged by?… yes.. you’ve guessed it…. the unofficial ‘King of Twitter”… Stephen Fry… as The Guardian described him. Some might say unofficial pain in the arse of Twitter.  I could not possibly comment for fear that he might leave Twitter again and people will want to hang me. I do, however, enjoy Stephen Fry’s stuff and to be fair… he doesn’t call himself the ‘King of twitter’…. does he?

Things could only go downhill  in terms of my more cynical side after reading that… and they did. I took regular breaks during the course of the day to have a coffee, read the papers and watch the world go…. by sitting first at a cafe where I have breakfast and then moving over to an Italian trattoria on the other side of the square, alternating between the two with each coffee break.  We haven’t had a lot of great weather in the last six months – so I am taking advantage.

Mid-morning I saw an attractive young blonde looking desperately serious in her black spandex running kit with obligatory bouncing blond ponytail poking through the back of a large baseball cap. She was running slowly… more like a jog, but looked ‘terribly serious and self important’ as she did it, as if  to convey to the baffled bystander,  who was probably more interested in her arse joggling away under the spandex than her ‘self inflicted pain and endurance of hardship’,  that only a runner can ‘understand’. I have no interest in the ‘pain’ of runners and cyclists.  If I want to go somewhere, I get on a bus, a motorbike or a tube and don’t look serious about it.


Then we have the hordes of people on a hot day wandering about or walking purposefully carrying bottled water. Why do they do this?  Are they at particular risk of dehydration?  Will they succumb to heat exhaustion as they travel between home and office or home and clothes shop?   I would say, from a limited statistical population, that it was probably a ratio of 8:1 in favour of women.  Stylish men who use grooming products may well carry bottled water about with them.  I didn’t see one ‘blokeish’ bloke carrying bottled water.  I suspect this may be because we rationalise that if life threatening thirst should take hold as the temperature soars towards 30C,  we can always nip into a bar and down a cold one. It is a most curious thing to do – carrying one’s own water supply around, I think.  And why would anyone PAY for water?   It comes out of taps and is free (apart from water rates).  I am going to join in and buy one of those old fashioned canvas water bottles they use on safaris and in the desert…. and fill it with water in the morning and Rioja for the early evening.

And then we have the ‘Tour de France’ nazis… the cyclists who think they own the roads. As a  real biker (fast motorbikes, as opposed to ridiculous leg powered things) I take the perfectly reasonable view that cyclists who wear spandex, yellow jerseys, and those stupid boat shaped helmets are the most dangerous road users.  They tend not to stop at red lights.  They ride on the pavements…sometimes, they shout at other road users, they are not identifiable (or accountable), they rarely signal and some of them even shave their legs… and not just, I am advised,  to avoid ingrowing hairs infecting the wounds when they inevitably get knockled over by a lorry or car.

I like people who ride bicycles and who look as if they are enjoying it. I think Spandex Man is related to Spandex Running Girl… suffering pain for their vanity and ego. I like the people who ride ordinary bicycles, wear ordinary clothes, don’t wear helmets.  I did see, in Chelsea – not today, but on Friday – a man in his late fifties or so, wearing a beautifully cut suit, brogues, riding a sit up and beg bicycle with a basket full of wine bottles…and he was smoking a small cigar.  He looked great and was, clearly, enjoying himself. He even managed to signal his intention to turn left.

And… inevitably.. there were a few lobsters about. Why do people who have wonderfully pale complexions, blonde hair,  ginger hair, think it is a good idea to burn themselves?  I heard a couple of women at the cafe warning each other of the perils.  They went into a lot of detail about Factor 50 creams. They must work because they looked normal and comfortable, unlike a few women and blokes who had spent much of the day on Sunday getting pissed in the sun and appeared to be walking burns victims today.  Of course, it wouldn’t be  Britain if the odd person did not complain about the heat…. and they were at it by midday.

I like Battersea Square.  I have met a few of the locals.  I have seen the people who use the Square…. very laid back and relaxed… and several regulars very amusing the other night, when I was sitting out with my ex over dinner at the Italian trattoria, who came over to chat.

I end my ‘rant’ and brief observations with some good news…

ASBO bans woman from lap dancing, pole dancing and prostitution

A woman alleged to have driven neighbours out of their homes by her sexual activities has been banned from inviting any men around for the night except for her brothers and the emergency services.

She is only allowed to invite her brothers over and the ’emergency services’?  How cool is that?

best, as always

Charon

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I am delighted to be able to report….

Dear Mike

Our QAA report has been published on our website since the end of last year (after we got permission from them to publish it):

http://www.bppuc.com/documents/DegreeAwardingPowers_001.pdf

Best

Peter (just off to have lunch, probably not sausages)

Peter Crisp
Dean, Law School
Chief Executive,
BPP College of Professional Studies Limited

Peter Crisp does have a sense of humour – this, I knew – so good effort for letting me know (albeit too late for my report last week, which I have now corrected.) I did have a look to see if the report had been published before writing.  Obviously, I did not look closely enough.  The publication of the report by BPP is a good thing and shows an open attitude which is to be applauded and encouraged.

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Today I am talking to Ted Burke about  the prospects for Freshfields and the legal sector in the short to medium term.  He looks at the increasing globalisation of legal work and the knock-on effect for younger lawyers going to work in the City.  He discusses emerging economies such as India, China and Russia and considers opportunities for lawyers to outsource.  As a US qualified lawyer, Ted gives his view on the value of young City lawyers being US/UK dual-qualified.  He considers how the Legal Services Act will impact Freshfields and the other City and commercial law firms.  He ends with a look at the Eurozone and the role of lawyers in clearing up the ‘mess’ and the future global regulation of banking.

Listen to The College of Law Inside Track podcast

All the podcasts I have done for The College of Law

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In a modern, free, society, freedom of speech is prized as a right but it is a right delicately balanced between the right to freedom of speech and the right of reputation. The civil laws of defamation, embracing libel and slander, are a powerful, blunt and ruthless instrument used by a very small group of specialist lawyers to protect the interests of clients – sometimes reasonably, sometimes to suppress information.

Libel reform is long overdue. In today’s Times, Lord Lester, a Lib-Dem peer and a distinguished lawyer puts a compelling case for libel reform in his draft Bill. The article is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in this area of law and freedopm of speech.

Lord Lester writes:

On Thursday my Private Member’s Defamation Bill will be published to help the Government to review the law. There will, of course, be professional resistance. Until now, libel law has remained the preserve of a small group of lawyers skilled in its complex rules and procedures. It has been left to judges to fashion the law, in concert with some piecemeal reforms in the 1950s and 1990s that never addressed free speech and could not have anticipated a culture of online publication and debate.

Current English libel law gives robust protection to reputation at the expense of freedom of speech. Its “chilling effect” on what people are prepared to publish has been aggravated by uncertainty about whether defences can be relied upon, and by conditional fee agreements that permit claimants’ lawyers to be unjustly enriched at the expense of writers and publishers. Claimants have been able to pursue claims where publication has caused them no substantial harm, and large corporations have brought actions against NGOs and newspapers without having to prove financial loss.

The government has plans for libel reform.  The removal of a ‘chilling weapon’ from the armoury of lawyers whose clients wish to use the law to suppress freedom of speech is long over due.  Perhaps the use of superinjunctions could be examined at the same time?

July 7 inquests will examine role of MI5

The Times reports: The activities and knowledge of M15 leading up to the July 7 bombings will be investigated as part of the inquests into the deaths of the 52 victims, the coroner ruled. Lady Justice Hallett said that it was “not too remote” to investigate what was known in the years before the atrocities took place.

“Plots of this kind are not developed over night,” the judge said at the High Court in London.

The scope of the inquests would therefore include the “alleged intelligence failings and the immediate aftermath of the bombings” She also ruled that the inquests into the deaths of the four suicide bombers would be held separately and she would sit without a jury.

I’m with William Hague on this one.  It is absolutely right that we examine closely the activities of our security services to ensure that we, as a country, are not complicit in Torture.  David Miliband has maintained consistently that we are not.  An investigatiuon into this and the activities of M15 more widely should establish the actuality one way or the other.

Replace House of Lords with experts to scrutinise legislation

Reform of the House of Lords is also long overdue.  I favour  abolition and replacement by a second elected chamber – where members will not receive outdated titles, be paid for their work and have a role in scrutinising (and improving legislation).  In the 21st Century, and in a modern democracy, I think it is quaint, but completely absurd, that men and women should wish to be called ‘Lord’ this or ‘Baroness’ that – pretty harmless, but if our second Chamber is just a way of rewarding politicians who have done their bit (often badly, given history) or as a reward for rich businessmen it isn’t really of much value to us as a second chamber.

The Times reports on an idea which may attract many: “A better solution would be to abolish the House of Lords and create a new statutory “commission for executive scrutiny” instead. It would not be a chamber of Parliament. Its members would be appointed, on merit, by an independent appointing body; they would be part-time and paid only a per diem allowance for attendance; there would be, say, 200 of them; there would be a gender, ethnic and party balance; a proportion of non-party members; and a spread of expertise to enable the commission to do its work well. Mandating or whipping would be forbidden.”

City firms welcome survival of the Financial Services Authority

The Times notes: “An almost audible sigh of relief swept through the corridors of banking and regulation departments in City law firms when the new Government jettisoned proposals to scrap the Financial Services Authority (FSA), one of the totems of the new Labour years and a personal creation of Gordon Brown.”

THE GUARDIAN DOES LAW… and it is good.

I am delighted to see that The Guardian has started a new Law section.  It is rather good.

Judge-only trials should be an option for serious organised crimes

Louis Blom-Cooper: Trial by jury has become a central feature of the coalition agreement policy on civil liberties ‑ but is it time for reform?

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