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Archive for November 10th, 2010

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

Albert Camus

George Bush announced on Monday that he authorised the use of waterboarding.  Many in our country applaud him, including parents of the victims of 7/7. I suspect, if there was a straw poll, that a significant majority would support the use of torture when interrogating terrorists. They say that a majority in Britain would be happy to see the return of the death penalty.  Does majority rule make it right?

I can, of course, understand and sympathise with the emotion and the concept that it is better to torture a terrorist to obtain information than to let people die. We can all understand the concept.  We can all sympathise.  But does that make it right? Does it reduce us to the same level as those who commit acts of terror against us?

We are signatories to The Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention prohibits the use of torture. Waterboarding is within the definition of torture.  Our government, confirmed recently by the head of MI6, Sir John Sawyer, will not employ torture in the interrogation of terrorists or prisoners of war.  It is possible that some members of our armed forces will stand trial for war crimes.

Phillipe Sands QC, professor of law at University College London and author of Torture Team, writes in The Guardian today…

Although it comes as no surprise, George Bush’s straight admission that he personally authorised waterboarding – an act of torture and a crime under US and international law – marks a dismal moment for western democracies and the rule of law. When again will the US be able to direct others to meet their human rights standards? Certainly not before it takes steps to bring its own house in order.

Bush claims that the use of waterboarding on Abu Zubaydah “saved lives”, including British ones. There is not a shred of evidence to support that claim, one that falls into the same category as the bogus intelligence relied on to justify war in Iraq.

The article is worth reading in full.

For my part, easy though it is from the comfort of my desk – a freedom enjoyed by the blood of our forbears in World Wars and recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, lives lost and destroyed through severe injury in all our wars and  to be respected at 11.00 tomorrow and on Remembrance Sunday – but I believe in the Rule of Law and I believe we are stronger as a nation, as a people, for not reducing ourselves to the level of those who seek to cause us harm.

The difficulty is… that it is easy to have fine sentiments when one has not been the victim.  But then I am reminded of the remarkable courage and dignity of the parents of Linda Norgove, killed in Afghanistan recently.  Their dignity and compassion inspired me.

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Supreme court rules expenses MPs must face trial

Guardian: Highest court in UK dismisses argument that expenses issue should be covered by parliamentary privilege rather than legal system

The supreme court has dismissed claims made by David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine that they should not be tried in a criminal court because their expenses are covered by parliamentary privilege.

All three deny theft by false accounting over their parliamentary expenses and their legal team has argued that the investigation and any sanctions should “should lie within the hands of parliament”.

The supreme court – the highest court in the UK – ruled they were not protected by parliamentary privilege. They will now face separate trials at London’s Southwark crown court, the first of which is due to begin on 22 November.

Nine justices fast-tracked their decision today to avoid overlapping with the criminal proceedings and will give their reasons for the ruling at a later date.

The Justices of The Supreme Court will provide reasons for their decision shortly

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Law Review: LPC numbers

A History of LPC Numbers

This excellent analysis from Richard Moorehead is fascinating

 

Has the Bar shot itself in the foot?

Richard Moorehead has also blogged on the subject of BTPC numbers……. a subject I did a post on last saturday.

Law Review: The Bar’s moral obligation to the number of new, Called, barristers

 

Richard Moorehead’s take on it here…

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NEW DRUGS & ALCOHOL ADVISORY BOARD ESTABLISHED

A new Hair Strand Scientific Advisory Board has been established by UK-based Trimega Laboratories. Its purpose is to analyse the fast growing database of information created from the 10,000 hair alcohol tests and 7,000 hair drug tests carried out in the UK each year, of which Trimega Laboratories is responsible for around 40%. As well as being the world’s largest resource relating to substance abuse from both hair and blood tests, the database also contains vital self-donor reporting information. This will assist the Board in analysing what drink and drugs individuals say they have consumed in relation to what is found in test results.

Furthermore, the database gives the Board unique access to historical information relating to the ‘combined marker’ hair alcohol testing system. This system, which measures both EtG and FAEE markers in hair, has become the UK courts’ preferred method for accurately determining long-term alcohol misuse. As a pioneer of the ‘combined marker’ system, Trimega Laboratories has been using it to compile valuable information around alcohol trends and demographics for the past three years. Indeed a smaller subset of this information, which looked at 644 cases relating to child protection in UK courts, was published in 2009* and contributed to a joint consensus being adopted by leading scientists from around the world…..

Read more…..

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