Archive for October, 2010

Kenneth Clarke and Lord Judge: a plain-speaking verdict on life after cuts

Joshua Rozenberg in The Guardian: Lord chancellor and lord chief justice share a talent for bluntness, but who is the most realistic about how the deficit will affect the legal system?

I’ve had a busy week – but this article by Rozenberg is worth a read.  I did catch the TV footage of Lord Judge appearing before he Commons justice committee.  He was excellent. Truth speaks to power! Mind you… easier if one happens to be Lord Chief Justice, I suspect…..

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Coalition in the dock over prisoner voting
Last week Joshua Rozenberg, writing in The Guardian, stated.. “The government can equivocate no longer, it is legally obliged to remove the blanket ban on voting behind bars…”
Will the Coalition government have a more refined taste for human rights than the last Labour government which declined to comply with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (or dragged a lot of feet to cover all bases)?  Joshua Rozenberg observes:  “To some extent, its hands are tied. Five years have passed since the European court of human rights decided that the general, automatic and indiscriminate restriction on voting by convicted prisoners was a breach of the human rights convention”

“The Prison Reform Trust submitted that the disenfranchisement of sentenced prisoners was a relic from the nineteenth century which dated back to the Forfeiture Act 1870, the origins of which were rooted in a notion of civic death. It argued that social exclusion was a major cause of crime and reoffending, and that the ban on voting militated against ideas of rehabilitation and civic responsibility by further excluding those already on the margins of society and further isolating them from the communities to which they would return on release. It neither deterred crime nor acted as an appropriate punishment.”

Today I am talking to ex-government lawyer Carl Gardner about the ‘Votes for Prisoners’ issue and two key cases on the matter United Kingdom v Hirst and the Frodl decision

Listen to the podcast

I covered this issue in a guest post by John Hirst – which generated a lively discussion.

If you wish to comment on this podcast – please do so – but NOT here. Please do so in the comments section for the original post. This will enable all the comments on the issue to be kept in one place.  (Please TRY to post on the main prisoner vote (link above)  post, as I can’t transfer them without doing so manually!))


Caselaw considered



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We wear red poppies to honour those who gave their lives and who serve in our forces so that we can enjoy a degree of freedom – and, rightly so.  Men and women serving in the forces today are risking their lives to protect our national interests, political and economic.  Most, play by the rules of war and the Geneva Convention to which we are signatories.  Some, however, do not.  Are we to sweep this under the carpet?  Are we to pretend it did not happen?  Are we to rage against Wikileaks as some US commentators are doing?  Do we want to see Wikileaks proscribed by the Americans so they can take the site down and regard Assange as a ‘hostile’ and use ‘non-judicial’ methods to ‘take him down’ – and for that read ‘assassination’?

Four stories from the Press today provide much food for thought….

Humiliate, strip, threaten: UK military interrogation manuals discovered

Guardian Exclusive: Methods devised in secret in recent years may breach international law

Iraq war logs: These crimes were not secret, they were tolerated

Guardian: Why did we not investigate allegations of murder and torture in Iraq at the time, when it was well known what was going on?

Fox News editorial: WikiLeaks employees should be declared ‘enemy combatants’

Leading the attack on whistleblower web site WikiLeaks, Fox News editorialist and former Bush-era US State Department official Christian Whiton said on Monday that the US should classify the proprietors of WikiLeaks as “enemy combatants,” opening up the possibility of “non-judicial actions” against them.

Read more…

Iraq war logs: Apache attack’s child victims speak out

Guardian: Cockpit video of gunship attack that killed 19 and gravely injured two children was first major leak of Iraq war material

I watched most of this video.  It was quite a shock – the brutality of war made stark. Again, I cannot help but put the point – if there are rules for war, we should observe them, even though others may not.  I also pose the question – If it is war, why are there rules? Is the maxim ‘All is fair in love and war’ right?

In the film you will hear soldiers on the helicopter which machine gunned 19 people say of a child injured ‘It is their fault for bringing children into a war zone.’  It transpired that the driver of van ‘taken out’ by the gunship was merely trying to help.  The occupants were not combatants.  They were doing what many would do – seeing if they could provide assistance. I could see no evidence of the occupants of the van carrying weapons.  All I saw was a wounded man being rescued.  The machine gunner on the gunship must have seen what we can see on the film.  They ‘took the van out’  Two young children were badly injured.

We would not have seen this film, of course, but for Wikileaks.

Rules of War…rule of law?

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I often listen to The Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 before heading for sleep.  Here is my Drinking Forecast, complete with ‘Drinking By’

listen (3-4 mins)

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Dear Reader,

It just becomes more surreal.  Not that I am complaining – a most amusing week.  Politicians explained the Comprehensive Spending Review – Beaker was filmed doing an interview (Above) with members of the public/activists… whatever…exercising their right to express their views, and twitter broke down, predictably, on tribal lines to debate the merits/demerits of the Coalition Government’s plan to *Wreck Britain/Save Britain* (You choose).  Cameron announced that a second aircraft carrier would be built after all – largely because it was too expensive to cancel – but there would be no planes to put on it because it now appears that General Dannatt and others think that aircraft carriers are too vulnerable and we don’t actually need them.   Then HMS Astute, a new hunter killer submarine, went aground during tests in the the waters off the Isle of Skye.  The good news is,  as we are not fighting the Russians in the plains of Germany, we have to plan what to do with 20,000 troops and 350+ tanks etc in Germany.  I would imagine that the Germans will be happy to see us leave?  A Russian submarine, however, was sighted 70 miles off the coast of Britain – but we couldn’t see it, because our Nimrods are being scrapped…and there is talk of the perfidious French helping to guard our shores – prompting inevitable comment about Trafalgar, Waterloo, Vichy France and general and sundry ‘surrender monkeying’.

And so… to other matters…

We don’t bribe people in Britain… well…. sometimes we may have done… when it comes to consolidating arrangements with foreign regimes in the the Middle East who buy a lot of arms from us.  And.. there is a new Bribery Act which is keeping City Co-Co lawyers busy and angst ridden in terms of what advice they can give to their corporate clients.  We want to host the World Cup soon…. possibly to ensure that we actually qualify for the first round. It appears that FIFA officials have been taking bribes.. who would have thought such a thing possible?  This week we have seen *Shrek Wreck*….. a saga of a rather thick footballer with a predilection for shagging grannies and tarts, apparently,…. posturing with the aid of his agent and, this very morning… pictured in the tabloid press grinning away with his new title of the World’s most expensive footballer on £250,000 a week. This is good news for The Treasury.  As Mr Rooney is widely believed to have enough difficulties with English – according to the popular press commenters – it is unlikely that he will be found doing a bit of tax-exiling in Monaco or other exotic parts where *foreign* is spoken. It does seem rather obscene that a footballer can earn so much, yet do so little for the England Team…I suspect that some of his fans, who may well be suffering real hardship soon.. may find the earnings a bit excessive? Hey.. what do I know..? I know nothing about football..and don’t actually care what he does or earns.

Expenses: police urged to reopen prosecution into Baroness Uddin

Telegraph: Police have been urged to reopen a prosecution into the expenses cheat peer who was this week suspended from the House of Lords after illegitimately claiming £125,000 in parliamentary allowances.

I was listening to Radio 4 recently where sundry Lords were explaining – rather earnestly – that The House of Lords had to restore credibility with the cap-doffing, forelock tugging, public.  The House of Lords, in my opinion, is an outmoded ‘form’  for the 21st Century and with one peer currently being prosecuted for fraud: Lord Taylor – and three peers being suspended this week, including the truly astonishing Baroness Uddin (quite apart from star jailbird performers from a bygone era,  Lords Archer and Conrad Black) the percentage of dodgy peers to ‘good peers’ seems to be growing.  Time to get rid of the whole shooting match, including the rather absurd titles, and replace it with a second Chamber where *grandeur*   is not part of the realpolitik of government.  I have no problem with the good peers putting themselves up for election.  There is, without question, a great deal of talent in the Lords.

And..finally… I invited John Hirst, aka Jailhouselawyer, to do a guest post on prisoner votes.  It has generated a lot of heat and a fair bit of light.  Tomorrow, I am doing a podcast with Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer and author of The Head of Legal blog, on this issue.  The Law is the Law – politics and sentiment, a quite separate issue.

Finally… been a long day…. the only cleb I follow on twitter…. at least he engages and I am enjoying his book!

and if you fancy an amusing article with a serious point … here is one from @suzannemoore197


Have a good one

Best, as always


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Submarine runs aground off Scotland

Guardian: No reports of injuries or environmental damage as HMS Astute runs aground off Isle of Skye

It is Friday and I felt like doing a quick  *Rive Gauche* post.  It is unfortunate indeed that a submarine named *Astute* has gone aground.

It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I draw your attention to a fellow tweeterer @Saryapples – who is going to abseil off a very high hotel!  If you would like to donate a modest sum (Even a £1 helps) you may do so here!


This is what Sarah says!:

So Rebecca & I have decided to jump off the 12th floor of a hotel in Newcastle!  Abseilling from the roof of the Vermont Hotel….. and we’ll be dressed in a suitably Halloweeny fashion… costumes to be confirmed!

I know that we all receive a lot of these requests… but even £1 would be SO gratefully received. The Stroke Assocoation does amazing work, for a condition that will sadly touch us all at some point -every year an estimated 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke.I can guarantee that the photos we’ll post after the event will be worth your sponsership alone! 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to visit our JustGiving page !!

You may donate here if you wish to

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