Archive for September, 2011

Bar Council Chair Warns Conservative Conference of Consequences of Legal Aid Cuts
Peter Lodder QC, Chairman of the Bar, will say at a Conservative conference fringe event next week:

“I repeat here what I have said to your Coalition partners in Birmingham, and in many statements to the press, the public and parliamentarians from across the political spectrum. The Government’s cuts to legal aid, coming on top of successive rounds of cuts under the last Administration, will seriously undermine the efficiency of the justice system.   Barristers operate on the front-line to ensure that our justice system works efficiently, effectively and, most importantly, fairly for all involved….”

The cuts to legal aid and, in particular, the Clause 12 issue on legal advice being available in police stations will have a significant effect on the rights and liberties of those who need effective high quality legal representation in civil and criminal matters.

Here is a selection of podcasts and blog posts on the issue:

Without Prejudice discussion with Francis FitzGibbon QCCharon podcast with John Cooper QC on Clause 12 LASPO  |  Charon podcast with Nic Higgins, Chair of The Young Barrister’s Committee on a range of issues including difficulties faced by young barristers

And a few blog posts:  Nick Armstrong, Matrix Chambers – The LASPO car crash |CrimSolicitor: If you would like legal advice please press #1 now…(and make sure you have your credit card details to hand) James Vine Guest post on Clause 12

And just before I go orf-piste… a new initiative to give all students a chance of getting work experience with law firms and a fair start?

LC.N Says – Claire Butler – Time working-class kids were PRIME candidates?
Well… that is the serious stuff.. but it is the weekend.. and we are in the middle of a heatwave… so time  for some Rive Gauche

UK Blawg Roundup #8 – Change!

An excellent round up of UK law blogs by Vic Moffat.  It is good to see that UK law blogging is not only growing in range and scope – but is healthy. It was kind of Vic Moffat to mention my blog.  I now feel like Methuseleh… and having a methuseleh.

And now… a bit of irony as reported by Rollonfriday.com…

“Law Society fined for disability discrimination ” “The Law Society has been found guilty of discrimination after making a disabled member of staff redundant. And in a devilish twist of irony, the person doing the firing was the Law Soc’s “diversity champion”.

Elizabeth Marshall – who suffers from cerebral palsy – had worked as a speechwriter at 113 Chancery Lane for eleven years before being summoned to a meeting with Stephen Ward, the Law Soc’s grandly-titled Director of Communications, Inclusion and Corporate Responsibility. During the meeting, it transpired her position was to be made redundant on grounds of business need. So that’s the Head of Inclusion getting rid of the sole full-time Law Society employee with a disability. Nice….”

Read more…

Alex Aldridge has a most interesting piece in The Guardian about Acculaw – a new initiative to cut the costs to law firms of training.  I’m still doing my thinking on this venture – but it is a good read from Alex.

“Today law firms seem to have figured out a way to spend less money on their young recruits. Last week a company called Acculaw – founded by a former lawyer and backed by several senior figures within the profession – launched a new cut-price lawyers’ training model. The firm will employ graduates on considerably less favourable terms than most current law recruits enjoy, then loan them out to law firms, where they will complete their training contracts.

Because Acculaw does not provide legal services itself, and has no reputation to protect, it does not have to worry about the PR implications of paying its trainees roughly half the salary of their peers at top firms. Nor does it lose any kudos by making no contribution at all towards its recruits’ law school fees. And, unlike law firms, Acculaw is under no pressure to provide a secure path into a permanent position once recruits have completed their training contracts

In one of the more bizarre law stories this week.. the wife of John Hemming MP is caught bang to rights on CCTC nicking a kitten from Mr Hemming’s mistress. 

The BBC reports: “Christine Hemming, wife of Yardley MP John Hemming, was filmed by CCTV cameras stealing a kitten from the Birmingham home of her husband’s mistress Emily Cox. Hemming denied burglary and said she was dropping off post and did not know there was a cat there. She said she tried to return the kitten when she realised she had it. The 53-year-old, from Moseley, Birmingham, was convicted at the city’s crown court.”

The film is remarkable….

AND FINALLY… who was it who said…

‘One thing that has become apparent to me in my years of Parliamentary service is that David Cameron is a complete c**t’.

The answer is here…

Enjoy the heatwave.. back at the weekend with a ‘Postcard From The Staterooms‘.


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Criminal Law Special

Sentencing in the wake of the riots and the forthcoming appeals

Contempt of Court

Troy Davis execution

Legal Aid and Clause 12 re-visited

Listen to the podcast


I’d like to thank Lawtel, WestlawCassons For Counsel, City University Law School David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Inksters SolicitorsIken, LBC Wise Counsel, Carrs Solicitors,  JMW Solicitors – Manchester, Pannone and Cellmark for sponsoring the podcast  – and the free student materials on Insite Law – appreciated.

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Lawcast 198: Catherine Bailey on Marketing The Bar

Today I am talking to Catherine Bailey founder and managing director of Bar marketing Limited.  With the changing legal landscape, the cuts in legal aid and competition from solicitor-advocates there can be no better time for barristers to market themselves within, of course, the rules of ethics prescribed by the Bar Council and Bar Standards Board.

We look at the opportunities open to the Bar generally, procurecos, direct access and the value of social media and the net.

Listen to the podcast


Catherine Bailey


And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.co.uk and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors , Contact Law UK Solicitors for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law.

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PM Camcorderdirect comes up with ‘Big Society’..and Miliband Minor… rapidly losing points in the polls… comes up with ‘Fast Buck Society’  and says his speech will be about a ‘Bargain’…

I can barely contain my excitement at the prospect of listening to his speech… and  shall lose absolutely no time in doing so.  This is the opening paragraph of a supposedly ‘leftie leaning BBC’ report on Ed’s speech….  I suspect that I am not alone in wondering what a “quiet crisis” is…

Ed Miliband will later declare war on “predatory, asset-stripping” companies and anti-social tenants, in a speech to Labour’s annual conference.

The Labour leader will set out his vision of a country where responsible “grafters” are rewarded.

And he will call for an end to the “fast buck” culture he claims has created a “quiet crisis” in the UK.

Meanwhile…. the Courts appear to be making it up according to this Guardian report into the riot sentencing orgy of recent weeks.

Courts mistreating cases as riot-related, says defence lawyer

Fiona Bawdon asks: “Is a Tottenham solicitor alone in having clients charged as part of riots, despite them having no connection other than being in the same borough?”

But.. it is not all doom and gloom…. especially for City lawyers…

Why the world sees London as the leading light in legal services

Neil Rose in The Guardian: Kenneth Clarke is right, the City is as much a legal centre as a financial one – but there are still jurisdictions to conquer…..Kenneth Clarke last week said that he is “almost as much of an enthusiast for English law as I am for English cricket” and described the rule of law as “one of our greatest exports.

Does Miliband Minor have City lawyers in his mind when talking about ‘Fast Duck Society’?

Jim Diamond, writing in  Legal Week has an article well worth reading…

How law lost its soul – the epidemic of over-charging clients by City law firms

Costs lawyer Jim Diamond (pictured) argues major law firms have over-charged their clients by £5bn in the last five years

Over-charging by major City law firms could be as high as £5bn over the last five years. I estimate that the flawed system that lawyers continue to use to produce bills has led to charges that are, on average, 5%-10% higher than they should have been across the board. And I believe that when the fundamentally flawed system finally unravels, it will make the MPs expenses scandal look like children taken a few loose sweets from a corner shop.

Read more…

Ah well… we may all be ‘ducked’…. especially if this ‘Fast Duck’ merchant gets his way….

Trader on the BBC says Eurozone Market will crash

Watch and marvel at the attitude to society of some who live within our shores…


UPDATE… it appears that the BBC was hoaxed!

Alessio Rastani: Is BBC Market Trader Really Yes Men Founder Andy Bichlbaum?

Huffington Post report  | BBC report


And… the reveal…as an occasional satirist… I have to *Applaud*…


BBC financial expert Alessio Rastani: ‘I’m an attention seeker not a trader’

You have to laugh… he fooled the world!

He’s become the face of the global debt crisis and an internet sensation. The self-styled City trader who stripped away the jargon and bluster of the financial world and summed up our woes in just three minutes. “I go to bed every night dreaming of another recession,” Alessio Rastani explained in a BBC interview. “It’s an opportunity.”

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Contempt of Court…

41 Prohibition on taking photographs, &c., in court.

(1) No person shall—

(a) take or attempt to take in any court any photograph, or with a view to publication make or attempt to make in any court any portrait or sketch, of any person, being a judge of the court or a juror or a witness in or a party to any proceedings before the court, whether civil or criminal; or

(b) publish any photograph, portrait or sketch taken or made in contravention of the foregoing provisions of this section or any reproduction thereof;

and if any person acts in contravention of this section he shall, on summary conviction, be liable in respect of each offence to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.

With this provision in mind, the imprisonment of a young man by Judge Barbara Mensah cannot be under s. 41 as reported in the press and must fall under the general common law of contempt – a common law, widely accepted as being subject to the requirement of ‘sparing use’.

Caveat:  In what follows, I am assuming that the facts reported on the BBC website and in the Press are accurate.  One cannot these days, unfortunately, always be sure of that.  There may be more to the ‘contempt’ than meets the eye and if more serious contempt is proven, then the judge will not have erred on the issue of sentence

Assuming for the purposes of this blog post that the contempt committed by the young man was limited to taking the photograph and other non-serious disruption:

CPS guidelines note:

A Crown Court may deal with contempt “in the face of court” when the contempt is committed either:

  • in the courtroom itself (for example, interrupting or interfering with the proceedings); or
  • in the court building where it has been reported to the judge (for example, threatening a witness waiting to give evidence); or
  • beyond the courtroom and the court’s precincts, when it is reported to the judge and it relates to proceedings whether in progress or pending (for example, improper approaches to witnesses or jurors).

The judge should exercise the power only when it is urgent and it is important to act immediately (Balogh v St. Albans Crown Court [1975] 1 Q.B 73). In Balogh, Lord Denning stated that, where there was not this urgency, the most appropriate course was to refer the matter to the Attorney General so that he or she could consider bringing proceedings in the Queen’s Bench Division.

While one understands the need for robust contempt rules in circumstances where a person in court is behaving in a manner which seriously disrupts proceedings or behaviour is threatening to judge, officials and witnesses, or in the case of  taking photographs involves witnesses – these conditions appear not to have been out in the present case.  If that is right – then, with respect to the judge, the sentence appears to be unduly robust and some may say, even harsh.

I am grateful to solicitor David Allen Green for sending me a pdf of the report in

The case is important in the context of this issue.  The court noted instances where the taking of photographs could result in a serious threat to witnesses or give rise to serious disruption of the trial.  What is interesting is the observation at the end of the report…

“In an appropriate case immediate imprisonment was likely.  There might be factors of mitigation such as a guilty plea.. the youth of the offender, a genuine apology, or ignorance or innocence on the part of the person involved.  Their Lordships were not impressed with the suggestion that the photographs were taken in ignorance of the prohibition on courtroom photography.

The potential for considerable disruption of this trial was clear. The sentence imposed (in Regina v D – 12 months) , although severe, could not be interfered with.

For less serious offences a shorter prison sentence may be appropriate.  In some cases the clang of the prison gates would be enough.

In others, for instance, where a tourist had inadvertently taken a photograph perhaps in ignorance of the law, then it might be that imprisonment was not appropriate and that a fine would be the correct sentence.”

You may read the full Times Law Report for Regina v D  here

We seem to be struggling in England & Wales with the ‘Rule of Law’ on several levels.  It is bad enough when Government seeks to roll back human rights, restrict legal aid and misquotes law to achieve a political end ( Infra) – but it really is not good enough when the judges over do it – if, as appears to be arguable – in the case here?

We do, of course, look forward to reading the many appeals likely from the sentencing orgy in the wake of the riots to see if our judges got it right or not.  The perspective of experienced appeal judges reviewing cases will provide resolution to the lack of detail in the press in recent weeks.  We shall see soon enough.

You may find this article from 2007 by Professor Gary Slapper well worth reading: The Law Explored: misbehaviour in court

I turn now to the extraordinary letter which appeared in The Guardian today critical of Mr Grant Shapps MP, the Housing minister.

Media and politicians are misleading about law on squatters

“We are legal academics, solicitors and barristers who practise in housing law acting for landlords, tenants, owners and occupiers. We are concerned that a significant number of recent media reports have stated that squatters who refuse to leave someone’s home are not committing a criminal offence and that a change in the law – such as that proposed by the government – is needed to rectify this situation. This is legally incorrect, as the guidance published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in March this year makes clear. We are concerned that such repeated inaccurate reporting of this issue has created fear for homeowners, confusion for the police and ill informed debate among both the public and politicians on reforming the law….”

The full letter is worth reading.

If a government minister is proved to have (a) poor knowledge of the law in his own portfolio field or (b) worse – has misrepresented the law to suit a political agenda – we do have a bit of a problem.

And this analysis of the issue by some experts on Housing Law is a must read: Well he would, wouldn’t he?



Photography and Contempt of Court

David Allen Green reveals that it may not be a bad law story – although he does suggest that two months may be excessive.  If it is not a bad judging story – then it was certainly a bad initial journalist reporting story.  They didn’t get all the facts right if David Allen Green’s source is correct.

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Clause 12
James Vine, Barrister
Author: The Bung Blog

Clause 12 of LAPSO has already, and rightly, raised the proverbial storm of protest from all corners of the criminal justice community.
There is universal concern at the ConDem’s attempts to reduce, if not eradicate, legal aid for representation of arrested persons in police stations.


One thing is very clear. This is NOT about lawyers protecting their own interests. In fact it could be said that if Clause 12 is responsible for reducing the legal aid spend on police station attendance, (which is presumably the reason for passing it in the first place) then lawyers stand to make MORE money rather than less, as they will be able to charge a fee significantly higher than the legal aid rate.

So when Ken Clarke (or the boy Djanogly) tries his usual distractionary bluster by claiming this is all about lawyers looking after themselves, we all know that he is being err… “Economical with the actualite”. (That means what the other Clarke, Alan, meant it to mean Ken.)

So what is it that gets me agitated enough to type a whole sentence in block capitals?
It is simply this.

If a defendant is in custody in a police station accused of crime, they are going to be interviewed by police about that crime.

If they fail to answer questions in interview, or fail to say something in interview that they subsequently rely on in court (in evidence or cross-exam of a prosecution witness) then the jury may be directed that they may draw an adverse inference, i.e. hold it against them.

A defendant is likely to be an amateur interviewee. A police officer is a trained professional and knows in advance what he/she is going to ask. What evidence he has up his sleeve and just as important, what he does not.

Those ignorant of the complexities of the issues usually chip in at this stage with a remark like, “well the defendant knows what he’s done, so why be afraid of answering questions if he’s innocent.”

We’ll come back to that canard later on.

This “crucial” point has its origins in the case of Condron. The defendants there argued all the way to Europe, that if they were advised by a solicitor to remain silent, then no judge could ask a jury to draw an “adverse inference.”

Not so said the court, a defendant can listen to a solicitor’s advice, and decide whether or not to accept or reject it. It’s the defendant’s choice.

The practice now is usually this, based on the authorities I have cited below.

If a defendant is awaiting interview in a police station, and has a solicitor present, the police should (not must) give advance disclosure to the solicitor of the nature of the evidence they have, and a general scheme that the interview will follow. They don’t have to do so in full, and they can try and do it bit by bit. They can even try not to give any disclosure at all, but this is very likely to backfire on them for reasons we shall see below. (R –v Roble)


BUT they give this disclosure so that the solicitor can give effective advice to the client on whether or not to answer questions, and if so, how.


If there is no solicitor to give advice to the defendant on what has been disclosed, then THE POLICE DO NOT GIVE DISCLOSURE TO AN UNREPRESENTED DEFENDANT.

What this means is that the unrepresented defendant is at a double disadvantage.

No legal advice, and no idea what is coming.

“Well he knows what he’s done so what’s he got to be afraid of?”

He knows what he’s done, but quite genuinely might not know if it is an offence, or equally might not know that something he has done or said could be relevant to the existence of a lawful defence. In both cases without legal advice, he may fail to mention something of vital importance to his case simply because he has not had proper advice which would have told him how important it was.

The police officer is not there to explore the full ambit of his defence case, and will not do so. He may well finish the interview with the usual “is there anything else you want to tell us?” but that is not enough for someone who is genuinely ignorant of the law.
If he has not had proper disclosure, he may well not be aware, if it be the case, that in fact the police investigation lacks vital evidence, without which they have no case. A solicitor would be able to probe and recognise this, and advise his client that it was not for him to provide evidence against himself, thus plugging the gap.

We live in the real world. We know that police officers are not above “remarking” to defendants already, that if they want a solicitor, they might have to wait for hours for one to get there, thus delaying the interview and therefore prolonging the stay in the police station. Of course the thought that this might persuade the defendant to proceed without a solicitor never enters their head. Ever!

The other issue is this, and it’s one that is going to cause concern to a lot of Custody Sergeants.

Time and again they must be asked the same question when they ask if a defendant wants a solicitor. “well what do you think I should do officer?”

The answer will always be the same. “I can’t give you legal advice.”

There is no-one to tell the defendant that if he has a solicitor, he is more likely to get pre interview disclosure, which is a major factor in the decision.

There is also a massive incentive for the slightly unscrupulous officer who knows he has a weak case which he is hoping to bolster up in interview without a solicitor’s advice, to try to hint at the advantages of going ahead without a solicitor.

Who is going to brief the civil servant to whom the telephone application for legal aid is made, at 3am? The officer.

Is the briefing going to be accurate? Is it going to be recorded? Is the civil servant going to question or test it? Will he care? What balanced input, if any, can the defendant have on the making of this application?

If there is any force at all in the Article 6 “Equality of Arms” argument, then Clause 12 makes a mockery of it.

Has anyone in parliament suggested yet that clause 12 is potentially incompatible with Article 6? Maybe they should.
PACE was introduced to provide safeguards on both sides, to protect police as well as defendants, and introduce a balance between the two sides.

Clause 12, if it leads to a significant reduction in representation at police stations, which it is bound to do, removes that balance.
The inevitable conclusion is a dramatic rise in miscarriages of justice and many more appeals to the Crown Court or Court of Appeal, which the MoJ will have to pay for.

If you want to save money Ken, keep legal aid for police station work!
If anyone doubts my cynicism as to the day to day approach of police to this topic, they need only look at the link below to a discussion thread started by a police officer who posed this question:
Hi everyone. With regards to disclosing evidence to the defence before interview, what are the legal requirments? I tend to tell them everything but sometimes I wish I didn’t. If I know the legal grounds for it then I’ll do it. Just don’t want to do it and then be asked by the defence is to why I didn’t tell them.

And then we can look at some of the answers from officers only interested in seeking justice:

Many briefs forget disclosure is at our discretion largely so don’t be bullied into revealing more than you want to. Try dropping the odd bombshell in interview, its great watching their reaction when its really devastating.

But you also get more sensible ones which demonstrate how useful to both side pre interview disclosure is:

For me it often comes down to the brief. If I know it is someone sensible and I’ve got a full deck of cards then I’ll show them all, as I expect then it’s more likely I’ll get a full and frank admisssion and save the criminal justice system and everyone involved a whole load of time, expense and effort.

So even some sensible police officers themselves can see the benefit of legal advice in a police station to all sides.

“Save a whole load of time expense and effort…” (Are you listening Ken and Jonboy?)
What about the law?

The Court of Appeal in R. v. Argent (1997),12 stated that the crucial issue is whether the police have given sufficient information to enable legal advisers to advise their clients properly. This was a matter for the jury to consider when deciding the wider question of the reasonableness (or otherwise) of the accused’s conduct.

If there is NO legal adviser  present then there will be no disclosure and no advice.

The kind of circumstances in which the provision of information might be so deficient as to make silence a reasonable response were considered in R. v. Roble (1997) Rose L.J. stated that: “Good reason may well arise if, for example, the interviewing officer has disclosed to the solicitor little or nothing of the nature of the case against the defendant, so that the solicitor cannot usefully advise his client, or where the nature of the offence, or the material in the hands of the police is so complex, or relates to matters so long ago, that no sensible immediate response is feasible.”

And yet as things stand at the moment, if there is no solicitor, there is no disclosure.

If Clause 12 is implemented, there will be far more unrepresented defendants, with no disclosure and no advice.
Advance bookings now being taken for the Court of Appeal.


You may find this podcast of some interest…

Lawcast 197: John Cooper QC on legal aid and the pernicious effect of Clause 12 LASPO

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You may find this essay by Christopher Hitchens of interest and value… Staking a Life

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Lawcast 197: John Cooper QC on legal aid and the pernicious effect of Clause 12 LASPO

Today, I am talking to John Cooper QC about legal aid and, in particular, Clause 12.  To set the matter in context let me quote a passage from a recent blog post by a practising solicitor…

CrimSolicitor writes:
“The recent Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has within it a clause that would appear to allow the government to vastly reduce the right to receive your advice in person, extending the number of offences that may only be dealt with by telephone advice. This is a worry, as this leaves open the possibility of a person being charged without ever having had a solicitor properly consider the strength of the case. Clients will and do say things in a police station for all the wrong reasons, because they are scared, bored or simply want to get out of an environment that is by definition hostile or are told by the police that they will have to wait for a solicitor to attend”

Listen to the podcast


And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.co.uk and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors , Contact Law UK Solicitors for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law.

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Photocredit: Minimum Cover blog

I don’t know much about Police work.  I suspect that few of us outside the criminal justice system do. 

May I ask you to read this remarkable blog post from the Minimum Cover blog? An extraordinary piece of writing about a very tragic situation which a police officer had to deal with.  It made me think – very moving.

Media and TV doesn’t always present a picture of the legal and police system in the raw – or even accurately…at the risk of offending the armchair generals on twitter et al.  It isn’t all riots, #G20 abuses, the Met using the Official Secrets Act to threaten a journalist’s right to protect a source (Although they have now pulled back from that brink) – far from it.

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Dear Reader

A bit late with my ‘Postcard’ this week. I decided to take a few days away from blogging et al.  Punctuation is elusive to some, challenges many, and is an obsession for a few.  This ‘Oxford Comma’ graphic is amusing.

Legal Bizzle turns his mind to the issue of  the role of GCs (General Counsel) and the topic of a talk at a recent conference delivered by Tom Kilroy: “Operating as your company’s ‘moral’ compass”.

Lawyers are called on these days to develop a number of skills.  I suspect, however, even in a country famous for ‘Le Vice Anglais’, that there will not be any continuing professional development points available for this extra-curricular work…

Prosecution lawyer moonlighting as ‘dominatrix at S&M events in skin-tight latex’ is suspended

It is rare for law students these days to study Roman law, Jurisprudence or The History of English Law.  It is good to see a fellow law blogger turning her expertise to this fascinating subject with a new History of English Law blog – well worth dipping into.

Hopefully, the right to professional legal representation before the courts, particularly the criminal courts, will not be consigned to history. Lawyers, rightly, are warning of the dangers of the current government policy of cutting back dramatically on legal aid. This letter from Jonathan Djanogly MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, reveals a degree of smugness.  Is he really saying that the government is satisfied that there is a sufficient supply of desperate barristers and solicitor advocates to provide the necessary levels of ‘manning’ to run our creaking criminal justice system?  Have a look at the letter and judge for yourself. It has a hint of ‘smuggery’ about it to my eye — but, I accept, that my eye is becoming increasingly jaundiced when it comes to announcements from this government.  I am, of course, assuming that the letter is genuine.  I have to admit, I had my doubts when I first saw it on twitter. [But… the title of my post is ‘Sardonic Tuesday’ – I did believe that it was genuine.]

The Metropolitan Police has taken up the sport of using the law imaginatively to suit their own ends – resulting in a flurry of outrage from lawyers and bloggers.  David Allen Green has considered the use of the Official Secrets Act by the Metropolitan Police to put pressure on The Guardian to reveal sources here – dismissing their tactic as ‘the stuff of parody’Adam Wagner asks if  the seminal Shayler case would be useful to The GuardianThe Guardian reports that the attorney-general will have to decide the matter.

It was National Talk Like A Pirate Day on twitter yesterday – providing opportunity on an otherwise dull Monday morning for some light relief.  Unfortunately, as is often the case with twitter, it brought out the tedious pedants and killjoys to remind us that pirates didn’t, in fact, talk like pirates.  The trouble with pedants is that they have little sense of joy and are obviously far too mature to be on twitter.

Fifteen briefs on a City arrest.
Yo ho ho and a bottle of Krug.
Coke and the Euro Crisis have done the rest.
Yo ho ho and a bottle of Krug.

AND FINALLY… just in case we are left in any doubt about the ethics of the present government… this astonishing story – assuming it is true – really is worrying…

Michael Gove faces questions over department’s use of private email

The Guardian: Education secretary facing claims that he and his advisers used private emails to conduct government business.

Quite apart from issues of compliance with law – is this the conduct we expect or deserve from a senior government minister?

A short one this week.  I shall return soon.

Best, as always


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Friday and the weekend provides me with an opportunity to look at some of the more surreal or even bizarre events in the legal world as well as covering a few law blogs. It seems appropriate to start with the theme of “Piss ups in breweries”.

As ever, RollonFriday.com does the business with: Exclusive: Irwin Mitchell offers training contract by mistake

There are red faces all round at Irwin Mitchell, after at least one applicant for a training contract was offered a job by mistake  – and then had the offer retracted. The student was phoned up and told that he’d been lucky enough to secure a training contract. And he then got another call the next day (presumably while he was shaking off the celebratory hangover) from an embarrassed HR manager, who said that it was all down to an “admin error” and the offer would need to be retracted. Nice….

I marvel that a well known law firm can make elementary errors of this nature and recommend my own online text on the Law of Contract and a series of free lectures.  The topic of Offer and Acceptance may be a good place to start?  If, of course, the offer had not been accepted – then communication of withdrawal of offer rules would apply.   Or… by some arcane regulation are training contracts and law firms exempt from the the Law of Contract?  I’d be delighted to know what rules and regulations govern this situation if the common Law of Contract does not? I’m a bit hazy these days on the regulations governing training contracts.  Perhaps a reader could enlighten me?  [Law student readers starting university this year – or studying Contract – may find my free materials on Contract of some use?]

Rather more serious than a piss up in a brewery is Clause 12

Anger at Coalition’s plan to limit right to legal aid

The Independent: “The Government plans to remove the “fundamental right” to free legal advice for people held in police custody – 27 years after it was introduced to stop miscarriages of justice.

Coalition MPs have voted through one of the most controversial sections of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill which would restrict access to legal advice for criminal suspects. Clause 12 paves the way for secondary legislation to introduce means testing for legal advice for those held in a police station. It would also see the director of legal aid, a post which does not yet exist, decide which detainees deserve legal aid in the “interest of justice” without any right to appeal.

It is part of sweeping changes which aim to cut the legal aid bill by a fifth. Legal campaigners argue clause 12 encroaches on civil liberties and will tarnish the reputation of Britain’s justice system. The right to free legal advice was enshrined in the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act after a swathe of miscarriages of justice involving the fabrication of confessions and intimidation of suspects by police in the 70s and early 80s….

This is a very serious matter.  Many are surprised that Lib-Dem MPs nodded it through.  The right to legally aided advice at a police station on arrest was brought in to curb Police abuses of due process and ensure that persons arrested were given clear advice on their rights. The Criminal Bar Association plans to go above the heads of government, according to a tweet by John Cooper QC earlier today,  and publicise this shocking piece of law reform.  I plan to do a podcast with John Cooper QC on the topic early next week.  I rather suspect that many Police officers are not that enthusiastic about the prospect that some of their ‘customers’ won’t be legally represented at the police station and, no doubt, criminal defence lawyers will focus closely on any abuse of process at trial?

This excellent piece by CrimSolicitor is worth reading… September 15, 2011 New Just one reason why telephone advice is not good enough…

But.. let’s get back to “Piss Up in a Brewery” territory. 

Hacking: Met use Official Secrets Act to demand Guardian reveals sources

The Guardian: Unprecedented move sees Scotland Yard use the Official Secrets Act to demand the paper hands over information

This excellent piece by David Allen Green, writing on his Jack of Kent blog, is marvellous stuff… Today’s Met Statement “This is the Met statement just released regarding the production order they are seeking against the Guardian. The last two paragraphs are the stuff of parody…”

Again… RollonFriday.com provides a bit of light relief in this case from a US lawyer relieving his customers by over charging to the tune of $100,000… Greenberg Traurig partner gets six years hard labour for overbilling

After all this nonsense… a bit of sensible review from the law blogs and recent developments.

Obiter J, as ever, provides good analysis with his latest post: Legal Roundup – mid September

The Ministry of Justice reports: Kenneth Clarke: UK should be lawyer and adviser to the world

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has reaffirmed his commitment to promoting the UK’s legal services to a worldwide audience, during a speech to legal and business leaders in London.

‘Law as an industry has sometimes felt itself to be overlooked in its treatment by government – certainly relative to financial services. So I want to make it clear that for this Government, the City of London is a legal centre – not just a financial one.

‘The rule of law is one of our greatest exports but there is more that we can do to help UK legal services thrive.

‘I am prepared to wear out much shoe leather promoting the UK as lawyer and adviser to the world, particularly in areas where protectionist regulations remain an impediment.’

All very laudable – and great for the legal elite in the City – but it is somewhat ironic that we are exporting our “Rule of Law’ ideals to a grateful world while our own legal system is being run into the ground by a Tory led Coalition hell bent on cutting costs and cutting access to justice by degrading the ideals of Legal Aid.

Mind you… there aren’t many cuts to be had in the prison service.  Quite the opposite in fact, now that politicians have taken up the sport of interfering with an independent judiciary in the wake of the recent riots.  The Guardian reports: English city riots involved ‘hardcore’ of repeat offenders, first analysis shows

There is, however, some good news.  The UK Human Rights blog reports: Lord Justice Jackson: legal aid should remain for clinical negligence

Joshua Rozenberg, in The Guardian, notes: Ken Clarke is right – the European court of human rights needs reform

AND FINALLY… a bit of dark humour… from John Bolch over at Family LoreVenal & Grabbit, Solicitors launch new client satisfaction survey…

1. Did we deal with your matter promptly?

Yes, very promptly

2. Were our charges reasonable?

Yes – you should charge more

AND… good to see former practising solicitor John Bolch adding to his repertoire on his excellent Famly Law blog by doing commentaries on the profession in a new series “In Practice” –  In Practice: Latest developments in the profession

Have a good weekend.. back with a Postcard from The Staterooms tomorrow or Sunday.

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I am always happy to promote anything which may help or be of value to lawyers.
Bar Marketing, run by Catherine Bailey, has news of a new initiative which may be of interest to members of the Bar


Today saw the launch of a UK marketing consultancy specifically for barrister chambers.  Bar Marketing Limited, led by Catherine Bailey, former Head of Marketing for IRIS Legal concentrate its skills on helping members of The Bar to compete in an ever changing and increasingly competitive market.

Bar Marketing offers a variety of strategic and operational chambers marketing services, including formulation of strategies, planning and multi-channel execution.

“Our expertise covers all aspects of chambers marketing strategy and operational marketing from the creation of marketing business plans and budgets, branding and communications through to value building which will resonate with chambers’ clients and prospects” comments Catherine Bailey “Operationally we can help sets with new business generation, client retention, press, PR and events, webinars, social media and the web.  Because we’ve been in the industry for the last 10 years working closely with chambers,  we have the depth of understanding of the way chambers work along with the technical expertise to really help them grow and retain their client bases”.

At a time when The Bar is coming under increasing pressure to compete with law firms, enter into ProcureCo’s and re-evaluate how they work generally, chambers need to be considering all the options open to them, including the possibility of outsourcing their marketing (wholly or partially).  Outsourcing  these time consuming and specialist tasks to organisations like Bar Marketing Limited enables chambers to benefit from years of legal market & legal marketing knowledge and experience without necessarily adding to their headcount.

As part of the launch activities, each clerks room will be sent some Bar Marketing promotional planes and will be asked to build, launch and photograph them.  They will be asked to visit the Bar Marketing Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bar-Marketing/189918634413592 and upload their photos.  For every photo uploaded, Bar Marketing will make a donation to the IBC benevolent fund.

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Lawcast 196:  Professor Gary Slapper – a round up on the Justice system and legal education

Today  I talk with Professor Gary Slapper about the extraordinary changes coming up in our legal system, the legal aid cuts, the streamlining of justice proposed by the Ministry of Justice, their plans to promote our ‘Rule of Law’ to a grateful world and we ask and try to answer the question:  “Legal Education – is it just a racket for the law schools – and their owners in the case of the private law schools?

Listen to the podcast


And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.co.uk and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors , Contact Law UK Solicitors for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law.

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Law Review: A potpourri of legal misery

Magistrates were told to send rioters to crown court, emails show

Owen Bowcott in The Guardian has an interesting article on how the ‘higher judiciary’ appear to have approved the departure from sentencing guidelines by allowing magistrates courts to send cases to the Crown Court. Bowcott writes: “Magistrates were urged to abandon sentencing guidelines when dealing with rioters last month because “nothing like this was envisaged”, according to court documents released to the Guardian. The text of two controversial emails circulated to justices’ clerks immediately after August’s disturbances raises questions about judicial independence and the use of blanket guidance irrespective of individual cases. One human rights group described the emails as “disturbing”.

The speed at which rioters and looters were processed through the courts has been seen by some, perhaps those unfamiliar or unwilling to be familiar with our laws, as a good thing ( a demonstration of Tory led Coalition power, perhaps) and by others as a worrying development – a fortiori,  the departure from sentencing norms.

This latest revelation is a worrying development. Bowcott writes: “Paul Mendelle QC, a former chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “The idea that established Court of Appeal authorities can be set aside or ignored by the secret advice from an anonymous civil servant strikes me as undemocratic at best and unconstitutional at worst.”

But to pile on the agony…may I urge you to read this excellent blog post from CrimSolicitor…

If you would like legal advice please press #1 now…(and make sure you have your credit card details to hand)

CrimSolicitor writes:

“The recent Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has within it a clause that would appear to allow the government to vastly reduce the right to receive your advice in person, extending the number of offences that may only be dealt with by telephone advice. This is a worry, as this leaves open the possibility of a person being charged without ever having had a solicitor properly consider the strength of the case. Clients will and do say things in a police station for all the wrong reasons, because they are scared, bored or simply want to get out of an environment that is by definition hostile or are told by the police that they will have to wait for a solicitor to attend”

BUT… do not fear… Commissioner Batman-Howe has been appointed to save Gotham City…

Hogan’s a hero: new Met chief chases and nabs bicycle thieves

The Evening Standard reveals…

New Scotland Yard chief Bernard Hogan-Howe chased and caught two suspected bike thieves weeks before being given the top job at the Met. The Commissioner, 53, who was appointed yesterday, chased the alleged teenage thieves to a housing estate and “relieved them of the bike”.

Details of the drama came as he was hailed as a “crime-busting machine” to take on London’s gangs. A City Hall source said: “It is what Bernard is all about. He takes a zero-tolerance approach to crime. It’s how he intends to run things at the Met.”

Mr Hogan-Howe was leaving City Hall after meeting Mayor Boris Johnson a month ago when he saw two boys aged about 16 on bicycles with a third bike and felt sure they had stolen it.

A City Hall source said: “He was with a local police officer and said, ‘Let’s get them.'”

My tweet du jour just has to go to..

And this tweet…!

@stokenewington @Charonqc Especially as it turned out they hadn’t. thisislondon.co.uk/standard/artic…

FINALLY.. if you thought we have problems… this from the United States (HT @loveandgarbage) should give us a sense of perspective…

SCHENECTADY — A man charged with murder got an unexpected note in the mail — a jury duty summons for his own trial in Schenectady County Court.

On Tuesday morning with his trial set to start, Visiting Schenectady County Judge Richard Giardino wisecracked that the defendant, Derrick C. Smith, told him he was more than willing to be part of the jury pool, and if selected could be fair and impartial.

Well… this should comfort us all.  In tomorrow’s edition of Without Prejudice We are joined by an experienced silk, Francis Fitzgibbon QC, and we shall discuss these and other issues.

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Lawcast 195:  Daniel Hoadley provides an insight into the world of the Law Reporter

Today I am talking to Daniel Hoadley, a member of the bar who went into law reporting for The Weekly Law Reports.  Daniel also blogs.

Listen to the podcast

Daniel Hoadley’s blog: Carrefax


And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.co.uk and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors , Contact Law UK Solicitors

for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law

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An old cocaine/hooker story about Chancellor Osbore has resurfaced today from Guido Fawkes about Mr Osbore’s alleged antics in an earlier life.  There is now an added #Hackgate and #Coulsontmakeit up spin. The Aussies have got in on the act with an interesting interview with the woman at the epicentre of the story – See @tom_watson  tweet  below.

Even Tom Watson MP.. he of #Hackgate (the only member of the DCMS Select Committee able to ask a decent forensic question) has got in on the act….with this tweet, earlier:

“Editor helped chancellor manipulate news.” bit.ly/r6n5UN (definitely worth a read).

Meanwhile…in the wake of the Vickers Report this morning on Bankers et al and their ‘Regulation’:  I have to award my *Tweet du Jour* to…

We do live in astonishing times.  We shall see soon enough if there are any leather thigh boot clad legs in this story.  Personally, I could not give a damn what Mr Osbore did or did not get up to when younger. I suspect that many of us did some pretty daft and unusual things in our youth.  It is rather more important what he gets up to today – managing the country’s economy et al – free from ‘undue influences’.


Guido Fawkes has pointed out that Osborne denied these allegations some time back – here is an old Guido blog post

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Dear Reader,

First a bit of culture from Prologue to the Satires….

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

“Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot” by Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

The technique of damning with faint praise is rooted, unappealingly, in English literature and culture – a  device used to wound, to condemn obliquely; a device used to cloak envy, jealousy and an inability to be blunt and to the point..or, in the modern idiom… to “Man up”.

Oscar Wilde had the right idea when he observed that..”A true gentleman is one who is never unintentionally rude.”

Late on Friday afternoon there was a fair amount of twitter irritation about an article written on tweeting lawyers by Alex Aldridge in The good old liberalesque Grauniad.  Aldridge managed to convey the idea that he was praising a number of well known legal tweeters: David Allen Green and Adam Wagner to name but two initially,  and drew attention to law student Ashley Connick’s success on twitter in promoting himself as a nice guy – which he is.

Aldridge, then managed to put the first boot in…“Other lawyers to have used the medium cleverly include Ashley Connick, a Leeds University graduate who landed a plum trainee job at one of the prestigious “magic circle” law firms partly on the back of his tweets about life as a wannabe solicitor”….and then, the coup de grâce“…Connick has found himself increasingly short of interesting things to tweet about now his hunt for a graduate job is over.”

This latter is nonsense.  I read Connick’s law and cricket and life tweets – Most amusing.

Not content with being offensive about a young law student who almost certainly got his training contract in a ‘magic circle firm’ by hard work and having the right qualifications – rather than his ability to tweet  – Aldridge runs ‘amok’ with the suggestion (as I interpreted it) that Felicity Gerry and John Cooper QC are propping up their careers in a difficult criminal law market by tweeting. [“Gerry and Cooper are both criminal barristers at a time when legal aid funding is about to be cut by a third.”].

I follow Felicity Gerry and John Cooper QC on twitter.  Indeed, I have had the pleasure of doing podcasts with both (See links supra) – podcasts which have had many thousands of downloads and have been well received because of the incisive commentary on diversity, the riots, sentencing issues provided by experienced members of the bar – comment provided by both free.   Their tweets are informative and they are both more than happy to engage and debate with lawyer and non-lawyer alike.   I have not seen either of them touting for work.

And then… most absurd of all… the incisive mind of Aldridge went to work on a popular media lawyer with a twitter following of 18,000 (even if he does at times wind a few people up and get a twitter kicking for his pains!), David Allen Green, who writes an excellent blog at Jack of Kent and provides incisive analysis and commentary as legal correspondent of The New Statesman.

Aldridge ‘opines’…“Pre-Twitter, Green was an anonymous journeyman lawyer, who, after starting out at the bar, re-qualified as a solicitor, and completed a series of relatively short stints at several law firms and a government legal department.”

All these facts delivered by way of prelude to the main event – the follow up to damning by faint praise –  by an omnipotent all seeing journalist  may well, at first quick reading blush, be true… but I was far from alone in finding this article shoddy, lacking research and downright rude to  lawyers who give of their time to debate law and assist non-lawyers  on twitter and elsewhere with understandable and authoritative commentary on the law.

I am surprised that Alex Aldridge, given his own background in moving into legal journalism after qualifying as a barrister, was so offensive – in the perception of many who took his article to be so. Aldridge has just been appointed ‘UK Legal correspondent’ for Above The Law – a good USA law satire and commentary site. Perhaps Aldridge thinks he will get ‘street cred’ by being edgy in The Grauniad and come from relative obscurity by tweeting?  That would be post-ironic.  Who knows..and who cares..if he is going to slag off lawyers needlessly?

I am all for calling out lawyers who behave badly, who rip off clients, who don’t do their jobs properly – but the lawyers in Alex Aldridge’s article are all good lawyers and are using their own time – free of charge – to enliven debate and bring light to legal matters which deserve being highlighted and brought to the attention of a wider public.  Adam Wagner’s contribution  (another lawyer singled out for an ‘Aldridging’) to ‘enlightenment’ in the excellent UK Human Rights blog may well bring him and others a higher profile – but it is all free and I am more than happy to see Wagner and others gain benefit should that happen as a result of the first class law blogging.

I rather suspect that there will be fewer lawyers bothering to read Mr Aldridge’s commentaries on the legal profession in future – and even fewer prepared to take his calls when he rings for interviews.  I shall certainly not be providing interviews or advice in future – unless he has the grace to apologise to Mr Connick.  The other lawyers damned with faint praise have years of experience in the law and are…more than able… to look after themselves; not that Ashley Connick is not –  but, in my view, Aldridge was particularly rude about Ashley Connick.

As someone must have said somewhere… it takes a big man to apologise. Being direct… and applying a mix of Oscar Wilde (above)  and ‘Dirty Harry’… I end with this..“Are you feeling apologetic, Punk?…Are you?”

An apology can be done by tweet…and would be the right thing to do.  Life is too short to piss off a lot of people needlessly.  Go and piss off the people who really deserve it, Mr Aldridge.  I’ll happily support you on that expedition.

I did promise a bit of other bollocks… and here it is… the great saga continues….

Judgment day looms for ‘Solicitors from Hell’ website

The Independent: “There is a fine line between fearless and reckless. Rick Kordowski appears to have ignored the line completely, inviting the fury of 120,000 of Britain’s lawyers, who are threatening to drag him before the courts. The 50-year-old from Essex provoked the anger of solicitors up and down the country when he set up his website Solicitors from Hell, which names and shames those members of the profession who are alleged to have provided a shoddy service. Thus far he has fought off repeated attempts by individual solicitors to shut the site down. Now, using their collective might, more than 100,000 solicitors represented by the Law Society have threatened him with legal action unless he shuts down once and for all.”

Mr Kordowski has responded to all this might by threatening, apparently,  to sue CEO of The Law Society Des Hudson for defamation… for calling him a criminal!  Whatever next?

Finally… another bit of bollocks coming our way… hence the captioned picture above..

Ministers ‘could get powers to overrule European Court of Human Rights’

The Guardian: A commission set up by the government to examine ECHR reforms has floated the idea of allowing ministers to strike out court rulings

As they say… you really could not make it up…

Well..there we are…peace and goodwill to all men and women… even tweeting lawyers.

Best, as always


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Lawcast 94: Nichola Higgins, Chairman of The Young Barristers Committee on the Mentoring scheme with young Zimbabwe lawyers

Today I am talking to Nichola Higgins, Chairman of the Young Barristers Committee about the new mentoring scheme for young lawyers from Zimbabwe.  We also take the opportunity to do a round up of issues affecting young barristers in the current climate, particularly those in public funded fields of family, crime and some civil litigation.

Listen to the podcast

Nichola Higgins Chambers website entry


And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.co.uk and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors , Contact Law UK Solicitors

for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law

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The meaning of the Greek word ψυχή, or psyche, was “life”. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote a treatise on the psyche;  in Latin De Anima and in English On the Soul.  Thoughts of Aristotle were prompted in Carver’s mind when a brown moth, small wings tinged with gold flecks, landed on his desk to the left of his iMac, settling but an inch in front of a half empty bottle of cheap claret. Carver watched the moth for several minutes.  The moth was very still………


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The BBC reports: The government is considering whether to allow some sentencing in English courts to be televised, it has emerged.

At first assessment it seems to be a sensible idea in part.  It will give the public a chance to see how our criminal justice system works and is all very worthy.  Many judges and experienced practitioners support the idea.

HOWEVER… this being Britain and the attention span for detail  (and *fact*) being limited for most of us in busy 21st century online overload lives, I suspect that it will be a short lived wonder. The TV companies and tabloids will want corrupt MP’s, ‘paedos’ and the flotsam and jetsam of a Hogarthian nightmare on trial.

After the Olympics in 2012… we may well have a stadium which could be employed by a Coalition government keen to give ‘free bread’ to the people of Britain to distract them from yet another failed government.  Let the Games…begin.

Ave, Camcorderdirector, morituri te salutant“…

“HAIL..PM Camcorderdirect…We who are about to be sentenced as a spectacle for the British people, a once proud liberal people after the Second World War, the European Convention (which we had a major part in drafting)  and the Human Rights Act, salute you.”

History is a wonderful thing… especially when it is used for brutal entertainment.  Personally… I don’t care for justice as spectacle for the ravening horde.  I thought we were were beyond  such human degradation.  Obviously, I am wrong.  Mea culpa.  That I am wrong and in the minority, perhaps,  troubles me not a jot.  Go for it… my fellow Britons… it is your country…democracy is great… innit Gr8.. ROFLMFarkinAssangeO…LOL blah blah blah?

The televised proceedings in the Supreme Court have been interesting to watch, but I will confess, I find it easier to read the judgments – fascinating though it is to see top judges in colour!

Again.. being Britain… we really do need a host in a tuxedo…. how about former hangman Sir Bertie Pierrepoint?  WE could have a panel of judges in full kit with implausible names… Mr Justice Noose? and we could certainly bring in audience participation by reprising The Golden Shot…. “Up a bit… down a bit” … or at the very least…. “Ask the audience” from “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”.

That is all.

Meanwhile… in Rule Britannialand…

Riot jail sentences in crown courts longer than normal

The Grauniad... gawd bless their cotton wikisocks reports: …….

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