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Archive for April, 2011

Enjoyed Royal Wedding… I don’t really need to comment…..

AND… inevitably….. a Royal Wedding picture doing the rounds on twitter HT @Christianuncut

It must be difficult being a celebrity…..

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While I am more than happy for those who believe in what they believe to continue to do so without fear of harassment – I am not too keen on the idea that any religion should be a foundation or principle of consideration – in the promulgation or application of our law.

I read an article in the Law Society Gazette by Andrea Minichiello Williams this morning.

Ms Williams states… “I believe Christians are seeing the beginnings of persecution in the UK because, as a nation, we have forgotten our history, our heritage and our Christian foundations. For hundreds of years most of the great advances in public life, in health care, education and social provision, came as a result of Christian conviction that cares for the good of all. Social trends have come and gone, but the Christian foundations of our country are what have maintained true tolerance within our society, the dignity of every human being and great public service.”

While she makes good points about discrimination, these are, surely, already addressed by legislation?   I can see no justification, in a largely secular state, for any religion, to be given specific protection and I certainly do not feel comfortable with suggestions that sharia or jewish (or any other religious) codes be permitted to stand alongside or, worse, above our own common and parliamentary enacted law.

I am not prepared to accept at face value Ms Williams’ bald assertion…“The secular movement is a variant of the man-made philosophies that failed in the last Century – humanism, fascism, communism.”  I am not at all convinced that most atheists or secularists, for want of a better word, have been influenced by any ‘movement’, or wish to join such a ‘movement’.

Laws should be enacted for the benefit of society as a whole.  I would hope that our law makers and judges put aside their specific religious beliefs – which are not followed by the majority in this country – when enacting or applying our laws?

The UK Human Rights blog has an interesting post on Facebook and contempt of court….

Silence please: A Facebook contempt of court – allegedly

Heresy Corner – a blog well worth reading, particularly if you are a lawyer, has an extraordinary piece today…

Charging Alfie Meadows

The news that Alfie Meadows, the student who suffered a near-fatal brain injury during last December’s central London protest, is to be charged (along with several others) with the serious crime of “violent disorder”, has been greeted with predictable outrage on Twitter and elsewhere. It was my reaction, too, late last night….
To strike a topically Orwellian note, this chilling prosecution (it seemed to me) summons up a future of a boot stamping repeatedly on a human face – and then putting the face on trial for boot-obstruction.

Read….

Premier Grand Cru blogging from Carl Gardner on  John Hemming MP and breaking of superinjunctions

John Hemming, sub judice and the public interest: “no abuse of parliamentary procedure?”


On a similar note… The Ministry of Truth states….

Hemming is, in my opinion, wholly unfit to hold public office and his actions yesterday stand as a flagrant and unacceptable abuse of parliamentary privilege.

I am with Carl Gardner on this one.  I would prefer Mr Hemming to focus his attention on breaking superinjunctions where there is (a) a legitimate public interest, and (b) where there is no risk of ‘sensitive’ issues of family law being compromised?

Lord Neuberger MR is soon to publish a paper on the use of superinjunctions.  I doubt if the recommendations will include ‘abolition’, but we shall see soon enough.  The  issues of privacy law and libel reform (sometimes conflated  by the press and others) both need parliamentary attention.

Joshua Rozenberg, writing in The Law Society Gazette, has a thoughtful piece and sums up the point with the title of his article: Privacy law, not injunctions, should be on press’s agenda

It is not the injunctions that the press should be attacking, nor the judges who are bound to grant them.

It is the law of privacy, developed by the courts with parliament’s acquiescence.

Lord Irvine, the lord chancellor, alerted parliament when he introduced what became the Human Rights Act, requiring our judges to take account of European court rulings on the human rights convention.

Irvine told the Lords on 24 November 1997 that ‘the judges are pen-poised, regardless of incorporation of the convention, to develop a right to privacy’.

Irvine stressed that the judges were free to develop the common law in this direction.

The issue as ever, perhaps an issue which cannot be reconciled easily, is the balancing of freedom of the press and a right to privacy when conduct is not ‘a matter of public interest’.

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Cameron claimed that his use of the phrase *Calm Down Dear* at PMQs today to calm down an excited Labour MP…..was based on the old Esure advert by Michael Winner….  so I am fairly sure…..

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Today I am talking to Jeremy Hopkins, a practice manager at 3 Verulam Buildings, the Chambers of Ali Malek QC – a leading and well known commercial set.  Given the recent TV programme Silk (and the arguably  better version of Peter Moffat’s writing, North Square – both series featuring extremely cunning clerks at the very centre of the action… I thought it would be interesting to get an inside track on this world from Jeremy…. but first……. I would like to get a view on the real world of practice managers / clerks,  the state of the legal profession today and his thoughts on the changes to the legal landscape coming in the wake of the the coming into force of The Legal Services Act this autumn.

Listen to the podcast

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While I am happy to support (any) government against the absurd posturing of the tabloids on law, the rule of law and their agenda to control…[‘UNELECTED JUDGE’ FOUND ON THE MOON yada yada blah] I do wonder, sometimes…. if our modern politicians (who make the laws)… actually know any law / much about law or Constitutional history.

Our prime minister, David Camerondirect (TM), has come up with a few *stunts* in recent months which reveal, to my jaded eye, that law was not an option he took at Oxford or… frankly… which he has been over concerned with in his subsequent quest to lead our Scepter’d Tory-led Coalition fudg’d up isle.  I refer ‘members to  a blog post I made a few moments days ago’…. on privacy, prisoner votes… do I really need to mention any more examples?

Anyway.. there we are… if you want to listen to Professor Vernon Bogdanor on BBC  iPlayer talking about his new book…. The Coalition and the Constitution… without punting relentlessly,  like @Lord_Sugar on strong coffee, (Bogdanor didn’t appear to punt his book at all) … but talking some real…realpolitik…. sense.. try this short 15 minute programme.  You may not agree (and I didn’t agree with all the points) .. but… it was a pleasure to watch and listen to.

Link to BBC iPlayer Prog… may not be up for much longer… but it is tonight

***

Amusingly… Professor Bogdanor’s Wikipedia entry reports (I cannot verify the veracity of any Wikipedia entry – but, more often than not/ fairly often, they are fairly accurate?)

Professor Bogdanor has, however, expressed reservations about certain policies of Cameron’s, notably his proposal for a British “Bill of Rights”, about which Bogdanor said, “I believe it’s ill thought-out and confused…. He [Cameron] may have forgotten some of the things I’ve taught him. I’d be happy to give him a few more tutorials on civil liberties.”

Bogdanor taught Cameron at Oxford.

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High Court judge ‘sits’ in Tenerife: Sensitive child protection cases will be heard by telephone in hotel room

John Bolch, over at Family Lore takes up the issue…. with this pithy view: Perhaps not the best decision…

I have absolutely no idea if complex family matters can or cannot be dealt with by telephone and email.  But  The Mail on Sunday does report.. “Lawyer Mark Stephens, who has been involved in many injunction cases, said: ‘If you are going for an injunction over the Easter Holiday you will be going for one which is very important and can’t wait for someone to fly back from Tenerife to hear the case.”

BUT!…. Mark Stephens is reported as saying that he does find it remarkable that a judge can go away at this time.  Being blunt.. I am more surprised by the choice of destination.  Magaluf next?  Ibiza?  I don’t think we need to fear the imminent collapse of the family legal system.  The President of The Family Division, who is not in Ibiza or any other Club 18-30 party island resort… is available to deal with matters which require a judicial presence.  I will add, that practitioner friends of mine in family and other fields do not see this as an issue and gave the view that the judge could easily deal with most matters by email and telephone, should the need have arisen. So… another non-story from the Tory press, putting the boot into the legal system?  Mostyn J was a very experienced and successful family silk (QC).  I hope he will go on to be an equally successful judge.  I am more than happy to parody The Daily Mail for this nonsense.

In the meantime….. I rather like to imagine His Lordship enjoying his break and singing…  ( I fear… it unlikely, however)

Agadoo-doo-doo, push pineapple, shake the tree,
Agadoo-doo-doo, push pineapple, grind coffee,
To the left, to the right, jump up and down and to the knees,
Come and dance every night, sing with the hula melody.

UPDATE

I had an interesting and friendly exchange of tweets with Mark Stephens.  Mark Stephens is stating the norm for duty judges in the Daily Mail piece. Mark made the point that The Daily Mail did not  explain to him, during his interview, that Sir Nicholas Wall had agreed to cover.  Mark tweeted to me that he had even ‘(ventured) that other judges could cover’. This puts a very different complexion on the use of a quote from a well known lawyer.

While Mark stated in a tweet to me that I did not need to put an addendum to my post  because his ‘shoulders were broad enough’ – which I have no difficulty in accepting – the point I am making is that it is important, I believe, for newspapers with reach (and The Daily Mail certainly has a long reach with a large readership) to get the story right.

If Mostyn J could handle most matters from Tenerife by email – and the President of The Family Division was able (and prepared) to give cover in person, should the need arise –  what is the problem?  (May I make clear  that I like Tenerife. The reference is to the party island style – hence the disco graphic!)


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Dear Reader,

Being an atheist, I tend to find myself at a bit of a loose end on these extended Easter weekends… and…as I well know.. the devil makes work for idle hands.  I did, however, have an amusing Good Friday morning.  I decided that I would get into the spirit of things by having a breakfast of Rioja and hot cross buns.  I only do this on high days and holy days…and it certainly made my Good Friday morning more amusing than it might otherwise have been.  After all… I had not, previously, thought it would be a good idea at my age (or, indeed, at any younger age) to learn to be a tap dancer.

Google threw up some wonderful stuff.  After watching an ‘introductory film on the basic steps’, I rather lost patience. I am a bloke.  I don’t read instruction books.  Google then threw up some excellent videos of Gene Kelly tap dancing on roller skates, and, of course… the classic ‘Drinkin’ In the Rain’.  It was but moments before I graduated, assisted by another large glass, to “Puttin On the Ritz’. 

And now… I am a tap dancer.  Not a lap dancer… as a  friend of mine on twitter first read my tweets on the matter.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement on Thursday last on privacy law – described by David Allen Green in our Without Prejudice podcast as ‘legally illiterate’ (rightly) – continues to arouse ridicule, hyperventilation by those who support him,  and sane critical legal analysis by people who do actually know what they are talking about.

This informed piece by INFORRM – is a good one to read…. Case Law: OPQ v BJM – a privacy injunction “contra mundum”

And, as always, The UK Human Rights blog has a considered and accurate view.  Adam Wagner politely puts the boot in and reminds the prime minister that the ‘unelected judges’ (Do we really want ‘elected’ judges in this country – gawd help us?) are not actually running amok making new laws on a whim.  They are, in fact, applying the Human Rights Act according to the law and will of Parliament. But why let a mere detail get in the way of grand standing at election time when the ravening horde at the tabloids need feeding with a bit of raw meat?

Gagging on privacy

For my part, I don’t have any interest in knowing the name of the footballer or the actor involved in the latest superinjunctions. Lawyers have suggested that Eady J and others ‘may be over reaching themselves’.  Certainly ‘contra mundum’ – against all the world – is more of a legal fiction than a practical reality.  Whether judges like it or not, there is no practical way of enforcing breach if publication is in a foreign country – even if the writ of the English trial judge ran throughout the world.  It doesn’t.  It is, they say, fairly straightforward to discover identities of *The Superinjunctioneers* by using the net.

David Allen Green, Carl Gardner and our guest, former Lib-Dem MP Dr Evan Harris, considered the vexed issue of privacy law and the balancing of interests in our latest Without Prejudice podcast.  You may care to listen?

While The Bar may well have an oversubscription problem for the time being… the law schools are hyperventilating with this revelation by Alex Aldridge…

From oversubscribed to undermanned: are we facing a shortage of lawyers?

The Guardian: Since the Law Society’s 2009 warning that the profession was oversubscribed student numbers have fallen, possibly too far.

I shall do some serious thinking on this.  I am planning a podcast with Professor Richard Moorhead of Cardiff Law School.  Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law, has expressed enthusiasm for a podcast.. but I think it may be time to ask Des Hudson, Chief Executive at The Law Society,  if he would like to do his third podcast with me to get a balanced view.  I’m on the case.

Meanwhile… in VocationalWorldLand…  – a magic place reached via a bank manager’s office –  this… from RollonFriday.com

Exclusive: College of Law cancels JD course as no-one turns up

“The College of Law’s much-vaunted Juris Doctor (that’s the US legal qualification) course is not going to be running this year, allegedly due to low student take-up.  Sources have told RollOnFriday that the course – meant to be running for the first time in June this year – has been dropped and that students who had signed up were told that this was due to “low enrolment“.

Read…

Ex-offenders handed tents to live in

This story was drawn to my attention the other evening by  fellow tweeter @davemsund

Inside Housing reports: “Homeless ex-offenders in Nottinghamshire are being issued with tents by the region’s probation service.

The service confirmed it gave tents to five people last year when hostel accommodation could not be found.

Peter Anthony, accommodation, benefits and advice officer with Nottinghamshire Probation Service, said it would prefer stable accommodation for ex-offenders. But he added: ‘When there simply is no other option we will, if it is appropriate, provide a tent and sleeping bag.

‘If you send someone away from the office into the night and they have literally got nowhere to go, the chances are that they will commit offences.’ Mr Anthony added that bed spaces in the region were reducing due to the closure of a number of hostels. ‘This year we expect it [the use of tents] to increase exponentially,’ he added.

Read…

I am no expert in sentencing, probation, rehabilitation of offenders et al but…surely.. we can, as a vaguely civilised nation.. do a bit better than this?   This is a disgrace.  Funding is a problem… but do we really want to see ex-prisoners pitching tents in parks and then try to get jobs in the hope they can maintain themselves – somehow – to avoid re-offending.  I mention this latter because I am (obviously)  under the mistaken belief that The Ministry of Justice wants to reduce costs, reduce re-offending and bring ex-prisoners into the Big Society as useful tax paying members of the community.

I haven’t really got the enthusiasm to even vote on #No2Av / #Yes2AV (but I shall vote NO…. I like FPTP) – but bringing buffoons like Nick Griffin into the debate is just daft.

Well…. that’s about it for my postcard.  I may write another one tomorrow…… I wish you all a good Easter… and.. if you are on twitter... do please remember…. look on the bright side of life…

Best, as always,

Charon

I’ll leave you with this… which I knocked up some time back…..

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