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Archive for June, 2010

Law Review: Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday: the Saville report live

• Saville inquiry strongly condemns behaviour of soldiers who opened fire and exonerates victims
• David Cameron issues apology on behalf of government
• PM will not say whether he thinks soldiers should be prosecuted
Read the Bloody Sunday report in full

And here is the section of the report with the principal conclusions – ie the 60-page summary.

I’m not going to comment about this for the simple reason that there were 40 years of troubles – rooted in many years of history before that – with the prospect now of peace in Northern Ireland.  I do feel that Lord Saville’s report is a remarkable undertaking and it is right that The Widgery Report is consigned, thereby, to history as a falsehood.  I do think it right that David Cameron apologised.  Our forces do much good, but it must be right, when they err and break the rules that they are held to account – whatever that form may or may not take in Northern Ireland.   They say both sides were forgiven in the Good Friday agreement.  We shall see if all sides are prepared to admit truth, apologise and move forward in peace.

Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, said about the publication of the report.

I think it’s a wonderful day for Ireland, and can also be a wonderful day for Britain, and for people everywhere who want truth and who want peace and who want justice.

I can see no point to going back  if there is hope for the future – but I am not from Northern Ireland and cannot hope to understand even the barest outline of what has been and what could be.  I hope that it is possible for all involved to find a future of hope rather than a future of fearful and horrific memories and discord.  What can anyone who didn’t exprience it say other than to express the wish of hope for the future?

The Lawyer notes…

Saville Report: the lawyers involved

The release of the Saville Report into the events around the Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry in 1972 has signalled the end of involvement for dozens of law firms and barristers.

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Bloody Sunday findings due to be published

While undoubtedly  a building block in the route to peace in Northern Ireland, the Bloody Sunday report chaired by Lord Saville, a distinguished law lord, has taken a considerable time to produce, exceeding the estimates given by Lord Saville himself by some margin.  The cost has also been remarkably high.  There is a risk, of course, that this report will bring conflict back to the forefront, not least should allocation of responsibility and guilt not be to the taste of those most affected by the troubles in Northern Ireland. The BBC notes: “Eight years after he wrote an enthusiastic article about the Bloody Sunday Tribunal and its legal implications, Professor Dermot Walsh is now disillusioned, believing that Saville’s findings have been “seriously diminished” by the length of time it has taken to compile them.”

And further down in the BBC report: In any case, Professor Walsh believes that the Saville Tribunals will be the last of its kind and that, he argues, will be no bad thing. Public inquiries, he says, should be “rare” and a “last resort” as a proliferation shows that something is wrong with the normal judicial system. “Normally when conflict or public concern arises over some aspect of government, it would be resolved through the courts or the democratic process…..If we are calling for inquiries more repeatedly, then we really need to ask what is so wrong with our courts, what is wrong with our democratic process that persuades us we need inquiries every time something goes wrong?”

Parliament Square eviction case a ‘collision of rights’

The BBC reports: The High Court has heard the Mayor of London’s attempt to evict Parliament Square protesters is a “collision of rights”. Over the past weeks tents and flags have transformed the green into what demonstrators call Democracy Village. Mayor Boris Johnson said he wants to “safeguard the rights of the majority to use and enjoy Parliament Square”. Protesters claims only the Queen has the right to bring such proceedings in relation to the central London square. Mr Johnson said he has a right, as the Greater London Authority owns the green space. The mayor’s counsel, Ashley Underwood QC, told Mr Justice Griffith Williams: “This is a case that deals with a collision of the rights of the minority to exercise free speech and assembly and protest in a public place and of the rights of others to use that same public place for that and other uses.”

I had a look at The Democracy Village blog. It was an interesting way to spend a few moments.  There appears to be another one.  This announces… “We are a group of concerned citizens who have gathered on Parliament Square to let the world know that we are deeply troubled by the way our taxes and resources are wasted on illegal and inhuman wars.” I rather lost interested in going further when I read this from the same blog…

Mass Pickets

Democracy Village

The Democracy Village currently occupying Parliament Square sends greetings to British Airways Cabin Crew currently out on strike.

Forward to Victory!

In comradeship

I’m obviously getting old – an initial preparedness to examine the issue and perspective on that blog laid waste by the mixed message and bollocks  about British Airways cabin crew on strike.  Hardly a matter of life and death and worthy of support in the same breath as the very important right to free speech, the right to protest peacefully and the serious issues facing this country in relation to the war in Afghanistan.  I have some sympathy with those who say that Parliament Square should be for all.  We shall see what the High Court makes of it all.  The case continues.

What will the Legal Services Board do about referral fees?

The legal profession seems to be in a bit of a mess on this issue – with what seems to be a bit of premature ejaculation in terms of the rush to ban them. The Law Society Gazette has an an article which is worth read if you absolutely must have your fix on referral fees. Neil Rose writes…“Is the referral fee debate over? Two reports submitted recently to the Legal Services Board (LSB) would make one think that it is, even though the board itself has still to reach a final decision.”

Anti-paedophile database halted weeks before launch for ‘commonsense’ reasons

Plans for a database of adults who want to work with children have been halted following a wave of criticism.  Ministers feared the Vetting and Barring scheme, designed to protect children from paedophiles and which was due to be introduced in England and Wales next month, would drive a “wedge” between adults and children. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will say on Tuesday that the scheme is being stopped, and will be redesigned along “common sense” lines.  (Telegraph)

Seems to be a start to the rolling back of the more excessive ‘knee jerk’ laws.  I gather that plans to get rid of the more ludicrous and oppressive laws of ‘Past Labour’ are now well under way.  This is good.

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Dear Reader,

I had not considered Danny Alexander a deadringer for “Beaker” until I saw the reference and pic on Guido Fawkes – so Hat Tip to Guido. This was largely because I didn’t even know, much less care about, who Danny Alexander was until the Tree Huggers found themselves lining up with fully paid up members of The Genghis Khan Fanciers Society after the election.  I can now see the resemblance all too clearly  I have to say, his public appearances on television have not been impressive.

Lord Phillips defends Human Rights Act

Reading the Law Society Gazette online I was interested in the report of Lord Phillips’ speech where he asserted that The Human Rights Act 1998 is ‘a vital part of the foundation of our fight against terrorism’.

The Gazette went on to report:

In a speech last week, the former lord chief justice said that senior judges were criticised by Charles Clarke when he was home secretary because, in Clarke’s words, ‘the judiciary bear not the slightest responsibility for protecting the public and sometimes seem utterly unaware of the implications of their decisions for our society’.

Defending the judges, Phillips told an audience at Gresham College last week that ‘Charles Clarke failed to appreciate that it is the duty of the judiciary to apply the laws that have been enacted by parliament. It was parliament that decreed that judges should apply the Human Rights Convention and, when doing so, to take account of the judgments of the Strasbourg Court’.

He added: ‘In my opinion, the enactment of the Human Rights Act by the previous administration was an outstanding contribution to the upholding of the rule of law in this country and one for which it deserves great credit.’

Discussing the cause of terrorism in Britain, Lord Phillips remarked that the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ was ‘not so much a military as an ideological battle’. He said: ‘Respect for human rights is a key weapon in that ideological battle.

I think Lord Phillips is right. We are in the midst of war which at best can, some experts say, only produce a temporary command and control over the Taleban and Al Qaeda.  The Taleban have often been quoted as saying that time is on their side.  Are we to wage a permanent war in Afghanistan at present rates of death and injury to our armed forces and those of our allies? – or should we press for more emphasis on talking, more emphasis on listening to why those who wage war against us wage such war?  One thing is for certain – a country without the human rights our law seeks to promote and protect is not a country that I would wish to live in.  Nor would I wish our country to engage in atrocity, to engage in torture, and if we do, I would expect our government not to sanction or condone it and bring those who engage in it to justice.  But there again, our  country would never do such things…would it?

I’m beginning to wonder if a preferred course of action would be to withdraw our troops, deploy our forces along the lines of a defence force , contain the problem here and start what will a long process, with others, to find a peaceful solution that is not reliant on the killing of so many… on all sides.   Hey… I’m talking rubbish.  The gung ho brigade would rather torture the bastards, electrocute their genitals and waterboard them until we get the truth, carpet bomb the fuckers back into the stone age and show them who is boss and sing Jerusalem… oh.. what a lovely war… oh what wonderful irony in the title of our so called ‘national’ song.  Utopia will never happen…. Rule Dystopia…Dystopia rules the f**cking waves.

I don’t really want to write more tonight.

best as ever

Charon

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Bar must step up competition with solicitors, chairman warns

The Law Society Gazette reports: “The bar must embrace direct access to the public to compete in a system that has been ‘calibrated and designed to hand the entire legal aid pot to solicitors’, the Bar Council chairman said last week. Speaking at a symposium last week to discuss the paper The Future of the Bar, Nick Green QC also suggested that it should be open to solicitor-advocates to join the bar. Green said the bar, and particularly the publicly funded bar, needs to modernise and adopt new business structures to cope with the rapidly evolving market, and challenging economic environment.”

Pundits have been predicting the demise of the bar since 1189, or time immemorial as academics like to call it in the history books. Looking at the trend, speaking to younger members of the Bar, it is clear that legal aid budgets being cut is affecting the work flow and the living of some young barristers is by no means lavish – with many waiting disgraceful amounts of time for solicitors to pay their fees.  With the Chief Justice calling for all advocates appearing before the higher courts to be governed by the same professional standards it must be only a matter of time before solicitor-advocates are invited to join the Bar.  Things are, indeed, changing in the legal landscape.

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Nicholas Green QC – Chairman of the Bar on the future of the legal profession
Nicholas Green QC outlines his vision for the future of the Bar, his optimism that it will continue to develop and grow and his belief in the need for it to become more commercial, while holding on to the highest professional standards. He discusses the impact of the Legal Services Act, including the ability of barristers to go into partnership with solicitors, the issue of direct access to the Bar plus the increasing flexibility of career routes into the profession.

Bar Council Chairman Sets Out ‘Radical and Progressive Vision’ for the Future of the Bar

Publishing a new blueprint for the profession – The future of the Bar – the Chairman called, amongst other things, for the Bar to:

  • Embrace new business structures that enable it to capitalise upon the opportunities presented by the Legal Services Act 2007
  • Work constructively with the Government on ways and means to save money which do not harm the administration of justice
  • See the Inns play a more prominent role in training for advocacy across the entire profession

Ken Clarke signals ‘more sensible’ prison sentencing policy

Guardian: Prison reformers welcome justice secretary’s claim that short prison sentences are ineffective in cutting reoffending rates

Prison reformers today welcomed what appeared to be a major shift in the approach to penal policy outlined by the new justice secretary, Ken Clarke, over the weekend. The lord chancellor questioned why the prison population – at 85,000 – was nearly double what it was when he was home secretary in the early 1990s. Clarke confirmed that he is looking for cuts in the £2.2bn prison budget and seemed to indicate that he did not regard short prison sentences as effective in cutting reoffending rates. He acknowledged that members of the public were still “very, very worried about lawlessness” but said that their “fear of crime” is probably out of proportion to what they actually face.

It is quite remarkable that the prison population has doubled in a matter of just under twenty years.  Are we, perhaps, putting people into prisons who shouldn’t really be there?  Do we have 85,000 people who are so dangerous they have to be ‘banged up’?  Would not some other method of penalty be more appropriate… perhaps very substantial property confiscation or fines which would have the merit of bringing in revenue rather than  costing us the £40,000 pa sum current estimates say it costs the taxpayer? By way of example:  Lord Archer was sent to prison some time ago for perjury.  What a complete waste of taxpayer money.  A substantial fine would have penalised him and brought substantial revenue in.  He did his time, wrote three excellent books about the system, and because he did his time a lot more people respected him when he came out  than did before he went down.  I count myself among that number. Vindictiveness and retribution  should not be part of our criminal process in all cases – although understandable in cases of serious offences of violence, child molestation, rape et al.

Prisoner rights to vote – time for the government to implement the decision ofd the European Court.

While it may well stick in the craw of many (particularly readers of tabloids and mania newsprint)  that prisoners should have the right to vote, the fact of the matter is that we are in breach of a European Court decision which declares the right to vote a basic human right.

I do not agree with Jailhouse Lawyer on many issues – and I would doubt that refusing to give prisoners access to the internet be regarded as a human right (a privilege to be earned, possibly?) – but he has argued consistently on the theme of prisoner voting rights and has taken our government to court and won.  Worth a read

The Sun wades in bringing Lord Pannick QC along for credibility and the ride…

TAXPAYERS could face a £60million bill as prisoners appeal against Britain’s refusal to let them vote.

Sixty cons are currently battling to force the Government to give them a say at the ballot box. But experts warn thousands of others could follow suit and file claims for compensation. One barrister estimated each claimant could receive as much as £750 – and there are 85,000 people in UK prisons. Lord David Pannick, QC, an expert in European law, forecast: “The bill, which taxpayers will be meeting, may be a large one.”
The Sun gives a bit of spin on this designed, no doubt, to make people throughout the land splutter onto their ‘Full English’ breakfasts…
“But a lag in one of the UK’s biggest jails told The Sun: “You can’t get hold of an Argos catalogue in here because everyone’s already choosing how to spend their cash.”

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MEMORANDUM

EYES ONLY PARTNERS

1. Wind Energy: It is unfortunate that none of our all male partnership is married to Nick Clegg or, indeed, any member of the Coalition largely all male Cabinet.  I can report that Miriam González Durántez, wife of the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has been appointed to join a leading wind-farm company.  There is, obviously, no connection between her being wife of the Deputy Prime Minister and the, reportedly, lucrative appointment with Acciona.  I was talking to a friendly MP the other day and he observed that Miriam González Durántez is into wind in a big way and living with Nick Clegg gives her an opportunity to study the many different and subtle qualities of wind on a daily basis – which, no doubt, is of considerable, but purely coincidental and ‘unintended consequentially’,  value to Acciona.

Be that as it may – wind energy is the future, not in terms of the energy it generates (25% operational value at best, experts say), but in terms of the work which it will provide for lawyers. Iain Dale, writing in his affluential blog today makes a compelling case for tearing down all the wind farms and he quotes Andrew Gilligan’s seminal article on the issue in the Telegraph.   Those who wish to erect wind farms – and they are legion and are being encouraged by wish-washy tree huggery of the best kind by the Lib-Dem members of the coalition –  will need highly complex legal advice.  There are many and varied issues – environment, planning permission, European Law, tax write-offs. I do not need to labour the point.

1.2. Those who wish to tear down wind farms – and they are legion – will also need legal advice. There are many and varied issues – environment, planning permission, European Law, tax write-offs. I do not need to labour the point.

1.3.  I have deployed three associates to examine this issue and to report back. If we need to do a lateral hire, I am sure that it will not be an insurmountable difficulty to find a partner at a competitor firm of sufficient standing to meet our world leading standard of venality and personal greed.

2. The Labour Leadership contest: I have advised The Partners on this issue using classic SWOT analysis. It seems that Diane Abbot has been fed into the mix by ‘ways and means’ which Partners of this firm will approve and, indeed, practice regularly when dissimulating with our own employees. I refer Partners to the many revisions of the Employees Handbook in the last three months, all of which, by inclusion of an expertly drafted provision,  are designed to take effect and be incorporated into the contract (and agreed to)  as if they had been present in the contract when the employee was originally engaged. Freedom of Contract is a wonderful concept.  On this, I am sure we are all agreed. There is little prospect of Diane Abbot becoming the next Leader of the Labour Party.  If there was, I am fairly sure that Mr Fawkes would be mounting a ‘Diane Abbot for Leader’ campaign.  (See below – or as I prefer, infra)

2.1 The difficulty we face is that if David Miliband is elected as Leader of the Labour Party there is every chance that Labour will be able to re-form under sensible, intelligent, and thoughtful leadership and be able to present to the country an entirely credible alternative government.  This would not be in the short to medium term interest of The Partners.  We must do all that we can to ensure that Britain continues to be governed by a curious mixture of members of The Genghis Khan Appreciation Society and Tree Huggers Anonymous.

2.1  Fortunately, assistance is available at absolutely no cost to ourselves: Guido Fawkes has started a ‘Vote for Ed Balls for Leader’ campaign.  I have every confidence, given his significant readership figures – some of which is made up of  Tourettes sufferers – that efforts on our part to promote this are simply redundant. I am, of course, aware of the ‘tastes and interests’ of all The Partners.  Some of our members may find the picture on Mr Fawkes’ blog post of particular interest.  Because of the curious voting methods of The Labour Party, the first past the post does not usually win.  It is, more often than not, the second or third placed candidate who ends up winning the coveted post of ‘Beloved Leader’. I am, therefore, confident, that we shall have no effective Opposition for some time to come yet, and certainly not until the Autumn.

2.2  This will allow Danny Alexander to demonstrate beyond peradventure that he should have paid more attention to his economics studies and he may well be replaced. Theresa May is already struggling with the Gary Mackinnon case.  One minute the government is saying that nothing can be done.  Today the government is saying that Cameron can intercede.  This gives them the worst of all worlds, of course.  Do nothing and they will be seen as ineffective and pusillanimous – especially after Clegg stood shoulder to shoulder with the Asperger sufferer’s Mother and said it was simply not good enough that Alan Johnson could do nothing to stop the planned extradition.  If Cameron intercedes it risks the possibility that Obama will kick off  and start calling ‘Bungling Petroelum’, ‘British Petroleum’ again.  My assessment is that The Partners will win either way.

2.3 Further to my last briefing memorandum, The Firm will be proud owners of BP shares again very soon and a decent return on our recent naked short selling.

Dr Erasmus Copernicus Strangelove
Partner and Director of Education, Muttley Dastardly LLP

Strength & Profits

Regular readers of Muttley Dastardly LLP briefings will be aware that there is no similarity whatsoever between Dr Strangelove of Muttley Dastardly LLP and the Dr  Strangelove of ‘Dr Strangelove’ the film.  It is pure coincidence that our Dr Strangelove looks like the Dr Strangelove character in the Dr Strangelove film. .

Readers coming across these posts from the internet should be advised that Muttley Dastardly LLP never gives any legal advice for free on their blog, or at all, and if you wish to get legal advice that works, pay for it.   We are very selective in the clients we take on.  If you are rich, we will take you on . If you are not fortunate enough to be sufficiently rich to seek our counsel – and those we hire in – please accept our condolences and  contact your local Law Society.

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Regular readers will be familiar with the fact that I am a 30adayDan in Smokedo. I still continue to practise the arcane art of smoking while I do weights and press-ups et al.  Now, a recycled elephant is in on the action.  Discerning viewers will note the subtle touch of using a match with the tip painted red for a Marlboro.

To be honest… I was a bit bored this afternoon.  There is only so much writing about Tort a man can stand.

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Although I always enjoy reading RollonFriday their story on the salaries being paid to The College of Law Chief Executive and others on the College Board does deserve a fair comment and reply on another medium.

Let me just say this – because of my past history founding BPP Law School with BPP Holdings years ago and having been asked by The Magic Circle firms in the early 2000s to do a report on the LPC and providers – I am surprised that the College of Law doesn’t pay them more.

I have no hesitation at all in saying this – that if Nigel Savage and the team that he put together had not gone into the College of Law those 12 or so years ago, I don’t think The College of Law would be the institution it is today – an innovative College which has the courage to try new ideas, admit errors, put them right and do their best for students – it would, quite possibly, have been a basket case.

* Disclosure.

I do podcasts for the College of Law. I am delighted to do so and I’m not even tempted to charge more than the very modest fee they pay to cover my time.  Had it been another institution… I would now  put in a deficit CUTS  busting tender for my next series, if asked to do one!  I won’t!

The podcasts I do for The College of Law – do listen – they are relevant to our profession!

***

And… another thing… RollonFriday reports…

And RollOnFriday can reveal he gets four times the pay of the chief executive of a certain leading private law school.

Excellent!  All I can say –  if this is true AND IF the certain leading private law school is BPP Law School –  is that Peter Crisp needs to go on a Negotiation course and speak to the Americans who now own BPP. I can’t remember what Peter got when I took him on at BPP when I was CEO (It was not peanuts)  – but if this report refers to Peter  Crisp at BPP… I’m most terribly sorry that Peter wasn’t able to leverage his position to greater effect over the past 15 years given the fantastic fees BPP charges their students.  I would also be very surprised if Carl Lygo, the Principal of The Law School et al, is struggling to get by on a salary less than that paid to the Prime Minister of The United Kingdom.  BPP doesn’t do Freedom of Information requests – so we will never know. On the other hand, Peter Crisp is a very fair man –  Carl Lygo also – so they may just refute this story, without revealing their private salaries, of their own accord!

Come on chaps….This is the legal profession we are talking about... Not many poor City Lawyers.

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So there I was, sitting at a table on Battersea Bridge Road, outside… at a cafe I go to, drinking coffee. Many cars went by with Ingerland flags on them.  Seated two tables to my left,  a group of builders…. getting over excited at the prospect of the World Cup.   To hear them talk… Ingerland had already won. I was almost tempted to take my VUVUZELA out of my jacket pocket….  but as I know absolutely nothing about football, I didn’t.

I will watch in the later stages, I am sure… but I will say this… that I do not share the desire shown by some of my fellow Scots (and other ‘celtic’ regions of Britain) to support *Anyone but England*.   That England was good enough to get into a World tournament – and other countries within our isle were not – is a pity for those who didn’t but the anti-English ‘thing’ (which I have seen all too often in the land of my childhood) is not something I will ever approve of.  I’m interested in history, but I’m not interested in bigotry and intolerance rooted in the history of many years ago.

It is unlikely that I shall be doing a commentary on the World Cup – largely because I don’t know anything about football… mind you… that doesn’t stop me commenting on other areas of human endeavour, including Law… so you never know.  For those of you who do enjoy football… enjoy… just remember… Family Lawyers do very well during World Cups as irate partners get bored with the lack of attention.

And… on that note… I shall leave you with some breaking news that I made up on Twitter…

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Ex Labour MPs and Tory peer lose expenses ruling

The BBC reports: Three former Labour MPs and a Tory peer are set to stand trial over expenses fraud allegations after a judge ruled they could not claim parliamentary privilege to stop prosecution.

Mr Justice Saunders rejected arguments by Elliott Morley, David Chaytor, Jim Devine and Lord Hanningfield that only Parliament could hear their case. There was no bar to a trial, he said. The four, who all deny charges of false accounting over their expenses, are to appeal against the decision.

Mr Justice Saunders  held that while the expenses procedure was covered by parliamentary privilege, the individual claim forms submitted were not covered. The Guardian noted: “The judge said the argument that submitting an expenses form was part of the proceedings of parliament, and therefore protected by privilege, was akin to saying that the coin used in a slot machine was part of its machinery.

“The decision that I have had to make has not been easy,” he said. “If the question of parliamentary privilege had not been raised, I would have initiated this inquiry myself, as I would have had to satisfy myself that the allegations to be investigated at trial were not covered by privilege.”

He added that the privilege was that of parliament, and not of any individual member, so the defendants would not have been able to waive it even if they had wanted to. He said the “extreme suggestion in some quarters that the fact that the defendants have raised this issue is some indication of guilt is not only misconceived but also unfair”.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Saunders said parliament does not have an effective procedure for investigating and deciding guilt, and the range of penalties open to parliament was “considerably smaller” than that available to the criminal courts. “If possible, it is preferable for criminal allegations to be decided by criminal courts who are equipped to deal with them,” he said.

The men charged are to appeal.  I’m not a specialist in constitutional law but I suspect that such an appeal is unlikely to succeed.  I haven’t had a chance to read the judgment of Saunders J – relying only on Guardian and BBC reports for the above.   If upon reading the full judgment I come to a different view I shall post on the issue.  The judge made an important point in reminding the media tyhat all charged before the criminal courts are innocent until proven guilty.  That, is at should be.

Thousands detained unlawfully in police stop-and-search blunder

The Times reports “that  Fourteen police forces have unlawfully stopped and searched thousands of people on the streets under controversial counter terror powers, the Home Office disclosed yesterday. The blunder occurred when police detained people without having permission to do so from a Home Office minister. On other occasions police continued to stop and search people for longer than they had been given authorisation under the law.”

This is likely to result in many claims for compensation being brought – and, in all probability, won.  More waste.  Hopefully, the need to cut costs will result in a considerable tightening up on the misuse of powers and those who do misuse powers being brought to account for it?  Baroness Neville-Jones, the Security Minister, said: “I am very concerned by these historical administrative errors. To maintain public confidence in our counter-terrorism powers, it is absolutely crucial all those responsible for exercising them do so properly.”

Given Baroness Neville-Jones’ background in security, her remarks are worth noting for future reference.

Deregulating the law profession

A conference on the future of the bar in England and Wales needs to ensure that those working in law can keep their independence

Joshua Rozenberg writes:

Lawyers are not alone in wondering whether they’ll keep their jobs when the cuts begin to bite. But, unlike most professionals, they have little idea what state their profession will be in by the time of the next general election in 2015.

Tonight barristers’ leaders are holding a major symposium on the future of the bar in England and Wales. The chairman of the bar council, Nicholas Green QC, will report back on changes the bar has made to meet the new regulatory requirements imposed by Labour.

“Our task is to modernise the bar and to ensure that it emerges from the recession all the stronger,” Green is expected to say. “I have no doubt that we can do this.”

His counterpart at the Law Society, the solicitors’ leader Robert Heslett, fears that the planned reforms will deprive the legal profession of the independence that has given it a “sky-high reputation across the world”.


I have done a number of podcasts on this subject which you may find of interest, if you haven’t already listened to them.

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Chris Kenny, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board
Today I talk to Chris Kenny, CEO of the Legal Services Board. Chris Kenny discusses the role and the function of the Legal Services Board and whether there is a need for it.  He talks about the opportunities and threats to lawyers and legal services over the next five years.  He looks at the impact on the Rule of Law given the proposed cuts to civil and criminal legal aid.  He discusses the globalisation of legal services and international regulatory standards.  Lastly, a bit of futurology, Chris discusses the likely legal landscape in the next five years.

Listen to the podcast

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Nicholas Green QC – Chairman of the Bar on the future of the legal profession
Nicholas Green QC outlines his vision for the future of the Bar, his optimism that it will continue to develop and grow and his belief in the need for it to become more commercial, while holding on to the highest professional standards. He discusses the impact of the Legal Services Act, including the ability of barristers to go into partnership with solicitors, the issue of direct access to the Bar plus the increasing flexibility of career routes into the profession.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast for Inside Track: Ted Burke, CEO, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – The Future of The Legal Profession
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

Law Society Gazette Podcast: Robert Heslett, President of The Law Society Today I am talking To Robert Heslett. We cover a wide range of topics from the rule of law, the opportunities and threats to the solicitors profession, human rights and Twitter and other forms of social media and how they could be of benefit to lawyers.

Listen to the podcast

College of Law Inside Track podcast: Professor Stephen Mayson on the legal landscape.

Today I talk to Professor Stephen Mayson. He considers the future of the legal profession and the legal landscape following the opportunities for alternate business structures and the opportunities for young lawyers coming into the profession over the next few years.
Listen to the podcast

Professor Richard Susskind OBE – Professor Richard Susskind paints a fascinating and vivid picture of the way the legal profession is likely to develop, based on his research and his best-selling book The End of Lawyers? This is a must listen to for all lawyers, prospective, newly qualified and experienced.Listen to the podcast

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MEMORANDUM

PARTNERS / EYES ONLY

From: Matt Muttley, CEO and Managing Partner

To: Partners

WEEKLY BRIEFING
1.  America: The BP saga continues and with it I am pleased to report that  our growth will continue on the back of this most unfortunate and tragic man-made disaster.  The CFO, Dr Hans Calculus, advises that our holdings in BP were sold at a pleasing price and on behalf of the partners I have sanctioned a naked short sell on the BP position which should net further profits, allowing us to increase our holding in BP at a future date – which I suspect will not be long in coming. President Obama appears to share the confusion which many Americans have about England, Britain and United Kingdom.  He now appears to be confusing BP with Britain.  Anti-British sentiment in the United States can only serve our interests at the firm however and our psyops unit will continue to ferment discord on twitter to further improve this position.  I have written to President Obama to this effect…

Dear Mr President,

BP is an oil company.  Britain is the schmUK  helping you with your war mongering in Iraq and Afghanistan.  You will note, being a lawyer yourself, that the words ‘helping’ and  ‘with’ predicate that we are your ally.   Our country is next to Europe on Google Maps. You may recall our former prime minister, Mr Gordon Brown,  referred to Obama Beach at a recent memorial  to celebrate the memory of those who fell in battle on D-Day.  You were there. That is Europe.

Kind regards

Matt Mattley,
CEO and Managing Partner, Muttley Dastardly LLP

Strength & Profits

2.  Government: I note with pleasure that Mr Cameron gave short shrift to President Rumplestiltskin of Europe on the matter of our European friends having a look at our budgets in advance.  I am pleased to report that consultancy advice we gave to the Prime Minister – for which we charged a deficit friendly fee, by which I mean the same fee but dressed up to look like a discount – went down well and that Europe is now to see the budget the moment the Chancellor stands up in Parliament.  The fact that everyone in Britain will be able to do the same on  BBC television  did not occur to The President of Europe, so Mr Cameron was particularly pleased at the humour in our advice and promises to consult again when he is troubled by the Europeans.

3. Law & Order: There have been some pleasing developments.  It is always a pleasure when government starts looking into Law & Order.  With the Human Rights issue being kicked into the long grass with a Commission, and confusion reigning at the Home Office and The Ministry of Justice on the ‘Kill a Burglar’ project it shouldn’t be difficult to ferment some discord on the issue of legal aid, extradition, rendition and the like to force some good old fashioned knee jerking changes in the law to benefit us and the legal profession generally.   I have asked our esteemed Director of Education, Dr Strangelove, to distribute some articles throughout the blogs and post on twitter about US use of torture, rendition and other matters which can only lead to further advice being requested of us by government ministries; impacting as it does on the role of our own government in such matters in the past.

4.  Politics: The Labour Party has saved itself from general ridicule by coming up with a plan to bring it further ridicule – by manipulating the rules and persuading MPs to nominate Diane Abbott so there is at least someone who doesn’t wear a navy suit, a white shirt and a red tie, standing for leader.  It would be most advantageous to us if Diane Abbott became shadow home secretary.  She knows a great deal about civil liberties and is better placed than anyone else on the Labour opposition front bench to give the government a hard time on civil liberties reform and secret evidence and the like.  Partners may have missed the election of Simon Hughes as deputy leader of what is still, bafflingly, called the Liberal-Democrat Party.  The implications are that Hughes will be a de-stabilising influence in the coalition.  This together with the ever simmering Vince Cable can only ensure a gradual parting of the ways and the beginning of the end for the coalition.  It is likely that an election will be fought not in the early part of 2011, but in the Autumn.  Labour may well be in a position to take advantage of the general ridicule of the electorate for the flawed policies of the present government as they start to reveal very real pain to many and general dissent and alarm in the land.

Partners will be interested in this observation by Guido Fawkes….in connection with Mr Hughes:

It looks like tuition fees, which Willets is less than subtly hinting are rising, will be the first coaliton dividing battle. Funny how obvious the correlation is between being disgruntled and being a failed former leadership contender. Ming, Kennedy and Hughes could whip up quite a yellow rage about this one, and many more to come…

I look forward to our lunch in the partners dining room at 1300 hours.  Eva Braun is laying on some entertainment for us.   I believe that she has found a dog which can sing Italian Opera and dance at the same time.

That is all.

MM

Strength & Profits

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MEMORANDUM

EYES ONLY PARTNERS

To: Partners

From: Dr Strangelove, Director of Education

RE: DIVERSITY – OUR POSITION

1.  I have been asked to provide a position paper on Diversity, the need for it and, in particular, the public PR stance to be taken by Muttley Dastardly LLP.  There is also the matter of the present government’s softening up of the British public as a prelude to Operation Blitzkrieg to close down some universities and raise the fees to sensible and acceptable levels. This will be considered, in preliminary form, in a further memorandum.

2.  I shall also take opportunity in my next memorandum to update partners on progress in relation to our discussions with law schools on the matter of a tailored LPC for our next intake of cannon fodder.

DIVERSITY

1.1  Clearly, we are not at all interested in diversity.  Our view has always been to recruit the best; over recruiting to take the very best out of the gene pool and, thereby, inconvenience other law firms.   Prudence dictates that our private practices remain private and, indeed, all trainees sign a marvellously incomprehensible non-disclosure document when they join which takes care of any ‘leakage’ to the press.   We have had no resistance to this NDA;  the trainees are easily bribed with  an extra £2000 and the prospect of a lunch with the managing partner at some point during their period of training.   We do have to have a public statement on diversity which will satisfy hacks from the law magazines and the more serious law bloggers.

1.2 Consistent with our practice of getting others to work for the greater good of our partnership, I would like to refer you to a piece I found on Lawyerwatch only this morning, while I was dissumulating and putting “psyops black tweets” out on twitter – a daily routine agreed at the last partner’s meeting…

The Bar Standards Board has “adopted” (their interesting turn of phrase) and published the report of a major review of pupillage training for the Bar The press release marking this occasion trumpets pupillage as the “best and fairest way of preparation for the profession and there are no plans to change its fundamental nature.”  Much is made of its fairness on the basis that

  • The numbers of men and women undertaking pupillage are nearly equal. Sometimes the proportion of women slightly exceeds that of men.
  • 22.4% of pupils were drawn from a very wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, exceeding the proportion of ethnic minorities found in other professions.

To be sure to ram the point home the press release further adds, “The Bar is proud of the diverse nature of the new entrants and the fact that access to pupillage appears based on ability and merit.”

The Lawyerwatch post goes on, interestingly, to make this point…

The report’s own research makes the point rather more clearly than the BSB appeared inclined to do(at p. 37):

  • “The profile of pupils tends to be less diverse than the profile of university students, with a significant drop in representation of working-class students.
  • “There are proportionately fewer female pupil barristers than there are female university graduates.”

A little ‘adjustment’ of the above, replacing ‘pupillage’ for ‘training’ and ‘trainees’ for ‘pupils’ should do the trick…and, after all, how long is a piece of string? and, as for the definition of ‘nearly’?!

We are, of course, ‘immensely proud of the diverse nature of new entrants and the fact that access to Muttley Dastardly LLP is based entirely on merit and ability’.  Only schmuks hire losers.  Fortunately, there are a few law schmuks out there. The fact that there are more women than men graduating makes it fairly clear that it is more difficult for women to get pupillages if the numbers are roughly equal, and it would appear that those from working class backgrounds continue to have a problem fitting in at the Bar.  I suspect the same is true for many City Law firms.  Fortunately, we could not care less here, so long as they have a work ethic and understand that they work for the greater good of the partners and not their self aggrandisement or career advancement.  The latter comes (in time), of course,  if they are made of the ‘right stuff’.

1.3  I think that addresses the diversity issue.   I can have this printed up, distributed and get it out on the usual press guff run.  Consistent with our ‘best practice’, I shall assume that if I do not hear from you, I am authorised, as a partner with you, to issue this on our collective behalf.

Dr Strangelove
Partner Muttley Dastardly LLP, Director of Education

Strength & Profits

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Two fascinating articles on the Afghanistan war today. I think Simon Jenkins has rather a good point. (Below)  The Times is covering the ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ theme.  I seem to recall, from my old history lessons,  that Alan Clark… he of The Diaries… wrote a book called The Donkeys.  (A good book… even if vilified by relations of Earl Haig and Michael Howard (Really?) as were his excellent diaries)

The Times coverage was interesting and thought provoking.  I have no idea, of course, if they are right…. who does?  I’m sure some out there know the true position or enough to give an objective view?  I can’t give you a link of course… because they are going behind a paywall.

My once-in-a-generation cut? The armed forces. All of them

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian: We are safer than at any time since the Norman conquest. Yet £45bn is spent defending Britain against fantasy enemies.

I really enjoyed reading this article.  It is not often I say that about serious newspaper coverage.

PS… do you like my new tache?  It is getting more absurd by the day. That is all.

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F**kART: F**k Nose?

F**K Nose?
Charon
Green nose, and playing card cut into a ? mark shape.
2010

I appear to be having a *Nose* period… and to complement my recent Who Nose?... here is another…. more subtle… a sense of scale being provided by a pint glass nicked from a pub, possibly, and a bottle of orange squash – empty.  The 1960s retro kitchen tiles provide an element of kitsch… but they aren’t mine… sadly.  The King of Clubs playing card (cut into the shape of a ? mark)  – from the 1960s –  was a deliberate choice… but I won’t say why.

I’d like to be able to say that amusement at recent Coalition government pronouncements on Justice  prompted the thought ‘Who knows?”and inspired the ‘piece’ … but that would just be silly… of course our new government knows what it is doing…..

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Far be it for  me to be cynical about governments and law, governments and  interference with the judiciary, governments and  their scant regard for the rule of law – I suspect those charged with the administration of justice at the Ministry of Justice and The Home Office find it most inconvenient when journalists and bloggers question their ‘efforts’.

The Coalition agreement trumpets a desire to get civil liberties back on track and repeal the hideously wasteful and repressive laws introduced by Labour.  While I am in full agreement that there is a raft of laws which need to be repealed, I had no idea the government planned to repeal *Law* per se…. and just take decisions without regard to the inconvenience of complying with law.

The government hasn’t got off to a very good start. The Guardian reports today….

Don’t delay deportation flight, government warns judges

Treasury Solicitor’s Department moves to head off last-minute judicial review calls that could hold up Baghdad-bound plane

Government lawyers have warned high court judges that last-minute legal challenges should not be allowed to “disrupt or delay” a special deportation flight to Bagdhad due to leave Britain early tomorrow.

A letter from the Treasury Solicitor’s Department asks high court judges to facilitate the scheduled charter flight by refusing to consider last-minute judicial review applications by detainees due for deportation. The flight is only the second of its kind ever to Baghdad.

In a letter dated 2 June, Andrea McMahon of the department says: “Because of the complexities, practicalities and costs involved in arranging charter flights, it is essential that these removals are not disrupted or delayed by large numbers of last-minute claims for permission to seek judicial review.”

While the letter was worded ‘respectfully’, we can disregard such nonsense.  This is a clear attempt to pressurise the junior judiciary. The Guardian notes…

The Treasury Solictor’s Department letter says that to “ensure the viability of this latest operation to Iraq” the usual rules, under which a judicial review will normally result in a removal being deferred, may not apply and the deportation will still go ahead.

Not a very good idea to try to influence the judiciary. They guard their independence jealously – thankfully.   If the government wishes to repeal existing laws it may do so.  Parliament may not bind it successors but is bound by the law of its predecessors until repealed.  If the government wishes to remove rights of deportees (or for that matter any law)  repeal the right, but by due process  – then, because law is public, we can see the cut of the jib of the government which governs in our ‘Big Society’ name.  This is not the way to go about it.  Shoddy or at the very least, incompetent.

Our Court service is creaking at the seams, legal aid is about to be cut back again, family lawyers just can’t afford to provide a service.  There is a danger that people charged with criminal offences will not be properly represented because of a desire to cut costs. (Please note that I do not say ‘criminals charged with criminal offences’.  There is a reason for this – we call it the ‘presumption of innocence’, a concept which those in government  and editors of tabloids often find most inconvenient.

And.. Damien Green MP (above and below?)  should really know better – he got a lot of support from civil liberties organisations and bloggers when he was put through an ordeal some time ago by the police

Sir Mark Potter: children in danger due to court service crisis

Guardian: Former president of the family division claims ‘poorly funded and overburdened system’ leaves children in violent environments

This is perhaps a more worrying story.  I am not a family lawyer , so I won’t make any comment.  Do have a read of it.  If Sir Mark Potter, known for his measured stance,  is worried, I think we should all be concerned.  This is a serious issue.

It is early days, but the new government seems to be making a bit of a hash of their law reform planning already. The proposal to increase the age of criminal responsibility does not seem, as yet, to be particularly well thought out or ‘baked’  and the ‘Kill a burglar’ nonsense does seem to be all over the place as well – the government, no doubt, does not wish to be seen to be taking a different line now from pre-election nonsense.

Fortunately, there is evidence of sense emerging… and I certainly won’t criticise the Tories for quietly burying this plan or refining it to be roughly what the law is today.  None to keen on licensed vigilantes in the street either!

Minister plays down quick change to self-defence law

And finally… some sense at last… a Commission to kick this particular half baked football into the long grass from whence it shall, hopefully, never emerge.  (BBC)

Human rights cave-in: Cameron pledged to scrap Act… now Clegg champions it under ANOTHER coalition compromise

Daily Mail

I await The Great Repeal Bill with interest – hopefully, there will be enough sanity and money to actually pay for it.?

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I haven’t become a Mason over the weekend – being on T’Square in this instance is a reference to Battersea Square.

At the end of a cold grey day, I went off to sit in the  Square with some paper to make a ‘to do’ list over a cup of coffee and a few Marlboros.  I soon got bored with my ‘to do’ list after solemnly heading it “To Do List” and underlining it in black felt tip. I crumpled it up and stuffed it into my ‘man bag’ – a rough canvas thing which allows me to transport all the essential of my life should I leave my Staterooms.  And then, at a table nearby, I heard a  couple of blokes chatting about football over a beer.  When I say chatting… it was more guttural;  a language and style I enjoy listening to but not wholly familiar with in terms of its finer points. Listening discreetly, and drawing on years of forensic nosiness experience,  I came to the conclusion that both men were suffering from terminal Tourettes.   There was mention of Lampard, Rooney, Ferdinand (this was accompanied by the commentary…“What a f**king wanker… wussy f**king f**ker for getting f**king injured….f**ker and the response… “Yeah… what a f**king f**ker.”) and Fabio… or Eyetieman as one of the blokes was calling him in a spirit of European co-operation and gratitude.

I am, of course used to this language – Chelsea and Chelsea FC being just across the bridge and….  being involved in the law, the nouns and adjectives used are  those I have heard in more august surroundings and Inn dinners and, indeed, in Leith’s at The Law Society.

I got my felt tip pen and biro out and a sheet of A4. The drawing of two blokes talking bollocks is too cruel for publication, so I crumpled that up as well.  I drew a Munch parody instead (with a twist of law … this being a law blog and that) – mustering as much detail as I could remember from my private study of ‘Fine Art’ many years ago – and there’s another racket if ever I saw one.

I’ve been studying minimalism over the weekend – I think I shall turn this into a very large painting… won’t take long. It’s not an original concept, of course – this style is used in fashion art, where I drew the influence from.  It could look quite striking on white canvas about 6ft x 3ft?

I do, however, have to try my idea of making a life size torso and head of a barrister out of wire coat hangers (my earlier post) first.  I suspect that this may prove beyond me… we shall soon find out.  I have to buy some wire clippers and solder.  This will give me an opportunity to buy one of those welding torches…. which could be interesting if I decide that I have to make ‘things’ with it later on in the evening.

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Coathanger Lawyers, Biro on paper
Charon

Thinking of making life size Torso and head of a barrister out of wire coathangers.  I have quite a few wire coathangers.

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Inside Track Podcast: Neil Kinsella, Chief Executive and Managing Partner of Russell Jones and Walker

Today I am talking to Neil Kinsella, Chief Executive and Managing Partner of Russell Jones and Walker.  Neil  reflects on the way his firm weathered the recession and discusses whether they are a full service law firm or specialists, before considering the impact of The Legal Services Act.  Neil discusses the importance of outsourcing, the increasing power of big clients and in-house or general counsel.  Neil gives a candid view of the opportunities for young lawyers at his firm. We discuss the impact of the new government and its intention to repeal laws, examine employment law and simplify tax and how this will provide many opportunities for law firms in the short term. He ends by looking at the likely legal landscape in five years time.

Listen to the podcast

Other podcasts in the Inside Track podcasts which I did with The College of Law

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Michael Mansfield QC awarded outstanding achievement prize

The Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards honour Michael Mansfield QC and other lawyers who show a commitment to publicly-funded work.

“Awards ceremonies can be tedious, but last week’s Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards proved to be inspiring and surprising, with the winners all demonstrating great commitment to their clients and an instant government response to a legal question.” Thus, started a report in The Guardian today on the award given to Michael Mansfield QC

The profession should pay for legal education and use of laws?  Discuss

I put forward the idea yesterday in my weekend musing that if we are to maintain the very high quality of education at the top of the university league table, we may have to cut costs at the bottom end.  This is, in all likelihood, something being considered by Vince Cable and his team across the university sector in all subjects.

I also out forward the idea that as law firms – especially the larger law firms – do well out of running their law businesses using publicly funded laws they should, perhaps, pay a levy on top of taxation for use of intellectual property in those laws and cases.  That law firms already pay lexis-Nexis / Westlaw et all does not address the benefit to the public, save in taxation.

Out of this came an idea that the legal profession could contribute more than it does already. Students invest heavily in paying for their university degrees in law. Law firms tend not, in the main, to sponsor students at degree level.  Many law firms do at LPC post degree level.   If they are lucky, students may well be able to get generous allowances and their fees for the LPC and Bar course paid by the firm.  I suspect that few, if any Chambers pay for students to do the BVC directly.

The more I think about this idea – the more compelling it becomes.  Significant profits are earned by law firms (I appreciate that the idea can apply to all sectors) and law firms are the recipients of the high quality of education provided by our leading universities.  Would it not be an idea to ‘think the unthinkable’ and get law firms to contribute to the cost of student education when they recruit law students?  It would be a relatively simple matter for them to take over the student debt as Carl Gardner argued in the comments section to my previous post and repay it to the government a responsibility linked to the length of time the law firm employs the student for, rather than the student having to out of earned income?

Only an idea – it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the fairness, practicalities etc. Over to you?

Age of criminal responsibility should be raised, says leading barrister

The Telegraph: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised to 14 to better protect the “truly young”, one of the country’s leading barristers has said.

Paul Mendelle QC, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said the current limit of ten is “awfully young” and runs the risk of a child being prosecuting for crimes they are too immature to understand. Mr Mendelle said the issue of children in adult courts also needs to be re-examined.

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