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Archive for August 13th, 2010

The BBC reports…

Eric Pickles announces plans to scrap Audit Commission

England’s public spending watchdog the Audit Commission, which employs 2,000 people, is to be scrapped.

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This is quite an interesting House of Lords decision…. I believe it refers to *Auditors* (HT @loveandgarbage)

Magill v. Porter Magill v. Weeks

I simply quote from the opening speech of Lord Bingham to remind you of the case in relation to Shirley Porter and then quote the speech by Lord Scott and say no more, at this stage, about *Audit* apart from highlighting the word *Audit Commission* below…..

LORD BINGHAM OF CORNHILL

My Lords,

1. The issue in this appeal is whether the auditor should have certified any sum to be due to the Westminster City Council from Dame Shirley Porter and Mr David Weeks and, if so, in what amount.

2. The appellant, Mr John Magill, is the auditor. He was appointed by the Audit Commission under section 13 of the Local Government Finance Act 1982 to audit the accounts of Westminster City Council for the years 1987-8 to 1994-5. He conducted a very lengthy and detailed audit and certified under section 20 of the Act that three councillors and three officers had, by wilful misconduct, jointly and severally caused a loss of approximately £31m to the council which they were liable to make good. All three of the councillors and two of the officers pursued appeals against the auditor’s decision to the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court (Rose LJ, Latham and Keene JJ). The councillors were Dame Shirley Porter, who was leader of the council at all material times, Mr David Weeks, who was deputy leader, and Mr Hartley, who from June 1987 was chairman of the council’s Housing Committee. The two officers were Mr England, who was the council’s director of housing, and Mr Phillips, who was managing director of the council. The Divisional Court upheld the auditor’s finding that Dame Shirley Porter and Mr Weeks were liable, although it reduced the sum certified; it allowed the appeals of Mr Hartley and the two officers and quashed the auditor’s certificate in relation to them: (1997) 96 LGR 157. On further appeal by Dame Shirley Porter and Mr Weeks, the Court of Appeal by a majority (Kennedy and Schiemann LJJ, Robert Walker LJ dissenting) upheld both appeals on liability: [2000] 2 WLR 1420. Robert Walker LJ, although in favour of dismissing both appeals against liability, would have reduced the sum of the auditor’s certificate: p 1504. On this quantum issue Kennedy LJ agreed with him (at p 1429) and Schiemann LJ (at p 1447) expressed no opinion. The auditor now appeals to this House seeking to reinstate the certificate issued against Dame Shirley Porter and Mr Weeks in the sum certified by the Divisional Court. Mr Hartley and the two officers are no longer directly involved in the proceedings. It is necessary to decide whether the Court of Appeal was right to quash the certificate issued against Dame Shirley Porter and Mr Weeks and, if not, in what sum that certificate should have been issued.

LORD SCOTT OF FOSCOTE

My Lords,

132. This is a case about political corruption. The corruption was not money corruption. No one took a bribe. No one sought or received money for political favours. But there are other forms of corruption, often less easily detectable and therefore more insidious. Gerrymandering, the manipulation of constituency boundaries for party political advantage, is a clear form of political corruption. So, too, would be any misuse of municipal powers, intended for use in the general public interest but used instead for party political advantage. Who can doubt that the selective use of municipal powers in order to obtain party political advantage represents political corruption? Political corruption, if unchecked, engenders cynicism about elections, about politicians and their motives and damages the reputation of democratic government. Like Viola’s “worm i’ the bud” it feeds upon democratic institutions from within (Twelfth Night).

133. When detected and exposed it must be expected, or at least it must be hoped, that political corruption will receive its just deserts at the polls. Detection and exposure is, however, often difficult and, where it happens, is usually attributable to determined efforts by political opponents or by investigative journalists or by both in tandem. But, where local government is concerned, there is an additional very important bulwark guarding against misconduct. The Local Government Finance Act 1982 (now repealed but in force until 11 September 1998) required the annual accounts of a local authority to be audited by an independent auditor appointed by the Audit Commission (sections 12 and 13). The auditor had to satisfy himself that the local authority’s accounts were in order (section 15(1) and (2)) and, also, had to “consider whether, in the public interest, he should make a report on any matter coming to his notice in the course of the audit in order that it may be considered by the [local authority] concerned or brought to the attention of the public … ” (section 15(3)).

134. If, in the course of the audit, it came to the attention of the auditor that municipal powers had been used not in the general public interest but, selectively, for party political advantage, it was plainly right that the political corruption in question should be exposed in a report under section 15(3).

You must draw your own conclusions about the value of the *Audit Commission* and *Audit*.  [Deceased… like that parrot in the Monty Python sketch from many years ago]


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Philip Green is the best man for the job

Guardian: Green’s formidable skills have been honed in the cut and thrust of the private sector. He should make an excellent efficiency tsar

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You have to hand it to RollonFriday – they are often on the money with bizarre stories about our wonderful world of law. This week they get Charon’s Palme D’or for this….

Exclusive: DLA Piper partner in public porno embarrassment

A partner at DLA Piper’s Amsterdam office has been publicly shamed after unwittingly displaying a porn collection at a client presentation.

The partner was giving a presentation at the office of Orangefield Trust, a major Dutch company. Unfortunately when he put his USB stick, which contained his presentation, into the laptop that Orangefield had provided, he discovered that it had an “autoplay” function. And the room was treated to an unstoppable slideshow of hardcore interracial porn.

The partner is….still a partner according to the RoF report.

The Ministry of Justice is considering lifting the age limit of 70 for jurors. I would prefer they allow judges to sit until 75, should the judge wish to.  Judges are none too keen, according to RollonFriday,  and RoF asks whether judges fear being hauled back into court when they retire to sit as jurors.  My father, against all the laws of medicine, and to the astonishment of numerous consulting physicians, managed to live to the ripe age of 78.  He drank a great deal of whisky, smoked professionally and seemed to enjoy much of his life doing these things.  I remember getting a call from Somerset Police to inform me that my father had been ‘talked to’ for driving his ‘mobility’ buggy down the pavement of the  quiet Somerset village he lived in for accidentally ripping mirrors off parked cars.  I was ‘looking after his affairs’ at this time and I compensated the three car owners who, it has to be said, were more concerned about my father than their mirrors. They knew him well and not one complained to the Police. I rather like the image I have conjured up of my old man, when 78, sitting in the jury box pissed and being ‘difficult’; sending notes to the judge, leaping to his feet to assist defence counsel with the questions (My father did enjoy a bit of Rumpole) and being warned for contempt. Come to think of it, if I reach that age, I wouldn’t mind a spot of jury service to pass the time and do my bit for Big Society.

Simon Myerson QC, author of the Pupillage and How To get It blog has an excellent opportunity for a prospective barrister. The noting position may have gone by the time to read this but I like the idea and the openness about the opportunity.  Having met Simon Myerson and having done several podcasts with him – I rather suspect that it will not only be an interesting experience but a pleasurable one. Have a look at *Wanted*

I am grateful to Bystander JP of The Magistrates’ Blog for drawing my attention to this *Heavy* handed action by police…

Couple painting fence fined £80 for criminal damage after ‘flecks’ ended up on neighbours’ side

Daily Mail

Even though it is Friday – investing a few minutes to read this excellent blog post by Jordan Furlong if you are a practitioner is a good investment!

How to kill a law firm

We aren’t very good at prosecuting coppers for manslaughter or for over stepping the mark with batons but this Special Constable was kippered well and truly…

Special constable jailed for £80,000 benefit fraud

And finally… Beau Bo D’Or on Blair’s *The Journey*

I’m not going to give you a thumbnail of  the excellent image here  – because I want Beau Bo D’or to have the pleasure of your company on his blog – the pleasure will also be yours with this excellent cover suggestion for Blair’s new book.  Do have a look 🙂

Have a good weekend…..

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The Law Society reported recently (25 May 2010):

Quinn Insurance: latest update for PII policy holders

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Member update: Tuesday 25 May

Following a meeting with Quinn and its administrators on 21 May, we can confirm that no decision has yet been made about whether Quinn will be renewing or issuing new professional indemnity insurance (PII) policies in the UK from 1 October 2010.

However, we continue to work on the assumption that Quinn will not be doing so. We will let you know if the situation changes.

We were also assured that Quinn:

  • continues to be able to meet its debts and liabilities, including claims under policies, as they fall due
  • has no current need to make an application to the Irish Compensation Fund but could do so if the situation changes

Therefore there is no reason for solicitors to hold any greater concerns than in previous weeks.

Practitioners may wish to have a look at the offering of Priest & Co. I will be doing a podcast with one of their team to look into the issue of insurance generally, and while I am appreciative that Priest & Co have sponsored some of the free materials on Insite (at my invitation) – they do have an interesting service.

Priest and co are registered Lloyd’s insurance brokers with a dedicated team of professional indemnity specialists who have been advising on solicitors professional indemnity insurance since the open market in 2000.

Whilst we specialise in the placement of professional indemnity insurance for law firms, we also recognise that the market place is saturated with brokers and can be a confusing and daunting place for law firms struggling to find the right cover. Therefore, rather than just acting as a broker, we are also happy to advise on how to approach the entire market, including those insurers we do not have access to.

The biggest mistake law firms make year on year is to flood the market with too many brokers. It is important that you use the market to your advantage rather than turn it away from you.

I plan to run a short series of guest posts on this issue for those of you who are interested as part of the Law review general coverage of legal issues.


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