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Archive for September, 2011

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

Charon

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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

NEWS RELEASE

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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