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Archive for September 29th, 2010

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No word yet on what David M is doing…. he has until 5.00 pm.  Channel 4 reports that he is in casual clothes at home, prompting Krishnan Guru-Murthy to tweet that if DM is standing for Shadow Cabinet he (Krishnan) is a banana.

*Sláinte…To The New King Across The Water*… If DM doesn’t stand! ….*goes back to law stirring*

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ACS:Law is a United Kingdom law firm specialising in intellectual property law.  ISP Review notes: “Controversial solicitors firm ACS:Law UK (Andrew Crossley), which last week had all of its dirty email communication laundry leaked across the internet (here), is now facing more problems after Privacy International (PI) announced that it would take legal action against the firms breach of sensitive personal details.”

The modus operandi of ACS law against file sharers appears to have been to write to them offering the opportunity to settle matters on payment of £500.  It is interesting to note that ACS Law, according to Wikipedia, have not been successful in obtaining any court judgments – save for default judgments.

While I understand the convenience of a fixed ‘penalty’ to solicitors and client,  this course (rather than cause) of action smacks a bit of blackmail and is not linked to principles of justice in terms of damages for damage suffered by the client whose copyright has been infringed.  It leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth – a personal opinion which others may not agree with.

Those who live by the sword die by the sword is an oft quoted maxim…

ACS:Law could face £500,000 fine for porn list leak

The BBC reports: The UK’s Information Commissioner (ICO) has told the BBC that the firm behind a leak of thousands of Sky broadband customers’ personal data could face a fine of half a million pounds. The list, produced by ACS:Law, contained the names and addresses of more than 5,300 people alleged to be illegally sharing adult films online.

A most helpful Wikipedia entry provides some interesting commentary on this law firm and Mr Crossley. I have followed up many of the links, notably those involving the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.   The last time I tried, a few moments ago, the ACS Law website was down – hacked or pulled?

And…an interesting article on….

The “legal blackmail” business: inside a P2P settlement factory

Ars Technica:

UK pornographer Jasper Feversham was fed up. The Internets were sharing his films, quality work like Catch Her in the Eye, Skin City, and MILF Magic 3. He wanted revenge—or at least a cut. So Feversham signed on to a relatively new scheme: track down BitTorrent infringers, convert their IP addresses into real names, and blast out warning letters threatening litigation if they didn’t cough up a few hundred quid.

“Much looking forward to sending letters to these f—ers,” he wrote in an email earlier this year.

IPrivacy4IT – Clarinette’s blog

An excellent and comprehensive review….. of this issue on Clarinette’s blog

“Party is over” law firms warned at forum hosted by College of Law

General counsel from some of Europe’s leading corporations have warned law firms that “the party is over” and they must share the pain caused by the financial crisis with their clients.

Legal heads from top companies including Royal Dutch Shell, British Airways and Nokia Corporation outlined their measures to drive down expenditure on law firms in a bid to ease financial pressures at a breakfast forum hosted by The College of Law in London last week.

These included changes to billing methods, the move towards fixed fee arrangements rather than hourly billing and reductions in the number of law firms on their books.

Also taking part in the discussion on how the relationship between general counsel and law firms had shifted as a result of the global economic downturn were senior members of major law firms, including Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Denton Wilde Sapte, Linklaters, Norton Rose and Schillings.

The forum was organised by the Madrid-based IE Law School, one of the world’s leading law schools, as a launch event for its new Lawyers’ Management Program, the first global leadership programme for senior lawyers. The College of Law has recently formed a strategic partnership with IE and will host part of the programme at its London Moorgate centre.

I’ve watched the film – it is excellent and reveals the growing power of general; counsel – something which I looked at in a podcast I did for The College of Law with Tom Kilroy GC for Misys PLC some time back.

Get To Grips With Law Reports

This excellent presentation from Emily Albion , law Librarian at City Law School,  is excellent…… nuff said.

Have a look?

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The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse

Geoffrey Robertson QC

Penguin, 2010, £6.99

Cries to arrest high-profile figures, such as Henry Kissinger or Tony Blair, for ‘crimes against humanity’ are relatively commonplace among the placards of street protesters. But it is much rarer to find a sustained legal examination of the validity of such a course of action.

In his latest book, The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse, Geoffrey Robertson QC delivers a robust polemic aimed at just such an examination. The book is timed neatly to coincide with the first ever state visit by the Pope to the UK. It was initially born out of a column Robertson wrote last April, in which he set out to deconstruct the argument that the Vatican’s claim to statehood, and its corollary that the Pope, as its head of state, can claim immunity from legal action.

Robertson is certainly well placed to make the argument. Head of Doughty Street Chambers, he has appeared in an impressive number of leading cases concerning criminal, constitutional, and international law issues. He defended the last two cases brought for blasphemy in the UK against Salman Rushdie (R (ex parte Choudhury) v Bow Street Magistrates Court [1991] 1 QB 429) and Gay News (R v Gay News Ltd [1979] AC 617). More recently he appeared in Bowman v United Kingdom [1998] 26 EHRR 1, in which the European Court of Human Rights declared an electoral law inhibiting campaigns by Catholic pressure groups to be incompatible with the article 10 right to freedom of expression.

The central thesis which Robertson elucidates in The Case of the Pope is that the Catholic Church has been able to construct for itself the edifice of both statehood and a parallel jurisdiction within states under the guise of Canon law. The former has the effect of conferring immunity from liability for civil prosecution under the principle of state immunity. The latter has been used by the Catholic Church as a mechanism to bypass either civil or criminal prosecution and ensure the ‘pontifical secrecy’ of the victim.

Litigants who have suffered from abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy are thereby frustrated from bringing a claim of vicarious liability against the Vatican itself. This is problematic for two reasons; financial and psychological. First, the diocese in which the abuse was committed simply may not have enough money to make bringing such a claim worthwhile. Robertson points out dioceses which have declared bankruptcy in the US to avoid an otherwise potentially crippling liability. Second, many victims of abuse want the vindication that bringing a claim directly against the Pope would bring. This is especially as the current Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Defence of the Faith (CDF) between 1981 and 2005, and had responsibility for dealing with issues concerning alleged abusers.

The charge is therefore levelled against Benedict that, during his prefecture of the CDF, and under his direct authority, a policy was pursued whereby abuse complaints which were brought against priests were hushed up, with a combination of sending priests to far-flung parishes and refusing to submit complaints to the proper secular authorities for investigation. Robertson goes to some length in setting out the material condemning Benedict, and the infamous 2001 ‘Ratzinger letter’ and the so-called ‘New Norms’ laid down in 2010 are both set out in appendices. Indeed, Robertson goes so far to say that, even if one does accept the argument for Vatican statehood, then there is still a prima facie case that the Pope may be guilty of crimes against humanity, and subject to jurisdiction under international law.

While the book is astute at answering the technical legal issues which arise, the reader is left pondering a wider question posed in the opening pages, namely: “What moral blindness has made a church renowned for its benevolence so reluctant to root out and punish all the child abusers in its midst?” Robertson’s book provides a welcome dose of logic and rationality amidst the shrill voices of both sides of the debate. Ultimately, whether or not you agree with Robertson’s final conclusion, a contribution to the debate from such a distinguished international lawyer is to be welcomed.

Thom Dyke is a barrister

First published in Solicitors Journal

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