Archive for April 12th, 2011

This new series by Obiter J on English legal history is a good read: Our legal heritage – No.1 – Early times and the Anglo-Saxon period

On a slightly more modern note, I was a bit baffled by this rather discouraging  research in The Guardian: Judges are more lenient after taking a break, study finds

“The adage that justice depends on what the judge ate for breakfast may not be far from the truth, according to a study of more than a thousand court decisions.

The research, which examined judicial rulings by Israeli judges who presided over parole hearings in criminal cases, found that judges gave more lenient decisions at the start of the day and immediately after a scheduled break in court proceedings such as lunch. Jonathan Levav, associate professor of business at Columbia University, who co-authored the paper, said: “You are anywhere between two and six times as likely to be released if you’re one of the first three prisoners considered versus the last three prisoners considered.”

Research is research, but, nevertheless, a rather worrying finding?

This post from Informm’s Blog is rather more interesting, given that we are soon to be able to read Lord Neuberger’s report into superinjunctions et al: Anonymised “privacy injunction” hearings – January to March 2011

How to fix the European arrest warrant system

Catherine Heard, writing in The Guardian: As the Commission now acknowledges, the warrant is only for major crimes and is being misused.

The European Arrest warrant came into public view recently in connection with the extradition request by Sweden in relation to allegations made about  Julian Assange. If there is one thing almost guaranteed to let the tabloid press and many others ‘kick off’ it is the activities / antics (Choose to suit your taste) of The European Court of Human Rights, The European Court of Justice, Europe generally, and now the European Arrest warrant.

Catherine Heard writes: “How is the EU going to stop the European arrest warrant, its fast-track extradition system, from being misused to prosecute bike thefts? At Fair Trials International we have been campaigning for years for a fairer European arrest warrant system, with a proportionality test to weed out trivial cases, as well as basic fair trial safeguards for people facing extradition….

And this wonderful extract…. “Take, for example, the case of a retired schoolteacher and grandfather facing extradition to Poland for going over his overdraft limit more than 10 years ago. The entire debt was repaid to the bank but he is still being sought to face trial for “theft”, although he has suffered three strokes and is in fragile health.”

and then this…“Time will tell whether this (building a proportionality test into the system)  is enough to stop the excessive use of this tick-box system by some countries (most notably Poland, which in 2009 issued 4,844 warrants compared to the UK’s 220).”

I’m with those who argue that the EAW should only be used for the more serious crimes. It is not acceptable for people to be extradited for minor administrative crimes like speeding, parking offences, or even minor criminal offences and, arguably, should not be used for matters which are not crimes in the country where the arrestee is resident at the time? .

Regular visits to the UK Human Rights blog are (a) good for the soul or, depending on your political viewpoint, (b) Good to get the blood running:  The sovereignty of parliament and property: this week’s human rights roundup

The UK Blawg Review is very much a new kid on the block. We have a fair way to go to catch up on Blawg Review –  a US centric blog, but generous in inviting law bloggers from many other jurisdictions – which celebrates six years this week of weekly reviews.  I have enjoyed participating in this original carnival of the law blogs six times so far and I very much hope it will continue.

Death by dangerous cycling law would not improve road safety

Erin Gill, writing in The Guardian, argues: Drivers and cyclists need to know dangerous behaviour will get them pulled to the kerb, but this proposed law won’t help

I don’t agree with Erin Gill.  I ride a motorbike.  I have to obey the Highway Code and all other road traffic laws.  I am subject to the full rigour of the law if I injure someone through careless riding.  I can see absolutely no reason why an aggressive cyclist (and they are legion on the road and, sometimes, on the pavements), who injures or kills someone, should not be subject to the specific offence of injuring or killing by dangerous cycling.  We would, of course, need to have registration plates for identification – and enforcement.

I suspect there would be few cases of death by dangerous cycling, but that should not preclude bringing law into play. I would quite like to see cyclists being prosecuted for riding on pavements. But I can’t imagine it will be easy to stop them in ‘full flight’ , and identifying cyclists may be a very real problem without licence plates.

East Park Communications has been a sponsor of my free student materials on Insite Law for some time, so I am more than happy to draw your attention to a series of four District Law Society journals.  I enjoy reading  them and students will also find it useful to have a look at the issues which arise in practice outside the metropolis!

Derby & District Law Society Journal | Norfolk Law Society Journal | Herts Law Society Journal | Worcestershire Law Society The Pears

Do contact Simon Castell at East Park Communications  if your law firm or local law society fancy having a journal.

AND finally… a bit of Muttley Dastardly LLP  on The Banking reforms…. Hugo de Vertback writes…. below…….

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Hugo de Vertback, Partner and Head of Capital and Private Wealth, Muttley Dastardly LLP – The Vickers Report for Reform of the Banking Sector

In the early morning of Monday 11th April, a group of hitherto unknown men and women – unknown outside City circles – filed into a room for a press conference and released a document which could, in time, be as subversive to the interests of bankers and City lawyers as Gallileo Gallilei’s  championing of Cupronickelism: when a large majority of philosophers, noble statesmen and assorted money launderers still subscribed (rightly in the view of the Partners at Muttley Dastardly LLP)  to the Citycentric view that lawyers and bankers are at the centre of the universe.

Students of law, philosophy and fundamentalist capitalism will recall that when Gallileo Gallilei later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two World Banking Systems, published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found (pleasingly)  “vehemently suspect of heresy”, forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

It is a matter of some regret that his thought descendants, among them one Sir John Vickers, will not be subject to a similar fate for this latest report into reform of our revered and world class banking system.

I read the article in Legal Week with mounting dismay, which turned to anger when I looked at some of the ‘extraordinary comments’ appended to this ‘article’.

I quote the apostasy and heresy put forward by Legal Week  for analysis:

“City lawyers have reacted critically to the Vickers report’s proposals for reform of the UK banking sector, highlighting the potentially damaging impact on the City’s status as a global banking hub.

Key proposals contained within the interim report from the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) include the suggestion that UK banks should ring-fence their retail divisions from their investment banking arms and that there should be increased capital requirements for “systemically important banks”.

The report also concludes that a higher level of competition is required in retail banking, and in particular urges Lloyds to sell off further branches.

The report’s proposals are designed to reduce risk in the banking sector, mitigate moral hazards, decrease the likelihood of future bank failures and promote competition in retail and investment banking….”

While a competitor (and ordinarily I would not, of course, do anything in public to advance the cause of a fellow lawyer),  I find myself almost in full agreement with Nabarro corporate partner Alasdair Steele who said: “The ICB acknowledges that implementing its reforms will cost the banks. Shareholders and investors are unlikely to bear the full brunt of these changes so, if they are followed through, we can all expect to pay more for our banking through higher costs and fees and lower returns on our savings.”

These are dark days for bankers and City lawyers. While bankers can f**k off to other countries to ply their profession;  global mobility isn’t quite as easy for City lawyers, despite the best endeavours of our empire building forbears.  For one thing, the Chinese have cottoned on to how easy it is to train lawyers and are producing millions of them.  India already has several million lawyers and appears none too keen to import any from London or even let us in as ‘tourists’.

As to the preposterous suggestion by Robert Van Persie in the comments section in the Legal Week report where he wrote: “I think that City lawyers are the last people who should be moaning about this since they were partly responsible for causing the financial crisis and have never been punished for it. The law is not just something for partners to make money out of – it was designed as a system to govern and protect society. That includes lawyers involved in corporate and banking law.”
“The law is not just something for partners to make money out of”  – Good grief. Does Mr Van Persie think that City lawyers studied so hard at university and later on the LPC to NOT make money out of law?

Some will be attracted by Mr Van Persie’s apparently sensible analysis. This is why such thinking is so subversive.  There can only be one response to this.  Lawyers are merely the instrument of the client’s desire – so long as such action is within the code of ethics, best practice and, of course, we should not forget,  ‘the law’.  To suggest that we lawyers were in any way responsible for the collapse of the  Western banking system and be held accountable along with bankers is, quite probably and possibly, actionable.  I have asked my fellow Partner – Dr Erasmsus Strangelove, our Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops –  to log onto Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw and refine his thinking on defamation.

As for the totally absurd idea, advanced by Mr Van Persie, that we City lawyers would buy a holiday home in Cyprus on the back of our billings to our revered banking clients – Cyprus?  Ludicrous. Cyprus is for holiday makers.  City partners do not buy villas in Cyprus.  We might try to buy Cyprus – but we would not be interested in the modest returns a villa would bring.

I rest my case.  We were only following orders.  We have not been punished – ergo, we are not guilty of anything at all.  Editors of national newspapers and the legal press should be most careful in publishing any subversive material which suggests that we are in any way complicit in anything. That is all.


Note to Editors:

Hugo de VertBack was educated at Eton, and Oxford.  He took a First in law and would have taken more, had he developed the skills for taking more in those early days of his career.  Muttley Dastardly LLP is a niche boutique City firm.  WE are known as ‘the Silent service’ because our clients know that we say nothing about anything at any time in public about them and regard it as failure to end up litigating commercial contracts or banking documentation in court.

If you would like a picture of Hugo de Vertback – please contact Eva Brown, PA to Matt Muttley, Managing Partner of Muttley Dastardly LLP.  We shall do our best to accommodate your request to have a non-exclusive temporary lease of the photographic rights.  We take Amex.


With thanks to the following for sponsoring the free materials for students on Insite Law magazine: Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark, OnlineWill.co.uk, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims

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