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Archive for January, 2012

Welcome to the Without Prejudice special with Professor Gary Slapper, Director of  New York University, London and Global Professor at NYU.  We look at the Jury and proposals to restrict the right to trial by jury, meddling European judges and Gary Slapper’s most entertaining new book…. “More weird cases”.

Listen to the podcast

If you wish to purchase Gary Slapper’s book – you may do so from Amazon or Wildy’s

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In association with The Lawyer

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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Welcome to the first Without Prejudice of 2012.  We plan to resume the fortnightly series on Thursday 2nd February with a full panel – but tonight  I am going to review some topical issues with Carl Gardner (Head of Legal blog)

The Justice & Security Green Paper – Abu Qatada – The Occupy judgment  – Contempt of court and a quick look at the legal issues involved in the Scotland Independence referendum proposed by Alex Salmond.

Listen to the podcast

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In association with The Lawyer

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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The clearest way to show what the rule of law means to us in everyday life is to recall what has happened when there is no rule of law.
Dwight D Eisenhower

The Bloody Assizes were a series of trials started at Winchester on 25 August 1685 in the aftermath of the Battle of Sedgemoor, which ended the Monmouth Rebellion in England.  At the risk of understatement – not a particularly creditable part of our long and rich legal history.

Henry Porter, writing in The Guardian, notes:  “Kenneth Clarke, the secretary of state for justice, the man who set up the commission last spring to investigate a new bill of rights – no doubt with half an eye on the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015 – is also responsible for the justice and security green paper, which threatens to deprive us of one of the vital traditions of common law, guaranteed by Magna Carta.”

Porter notes that the key proposal will  “provide a magic cloak of protection for any minister or government agency that wishes to cover up a wrong, most significantly for members of the intelligence services.”

Justice isn’t blind.  Justice isn’t the tool of the State.  Justice is a concept of laws to underpin a fair and democratic society; prosecuted, in the case of criminal trials, by lawyers with no interest in the outcome and administered by judges who are independent of the executive, according to the laws made  by our elected representatives. And therein lies the rub – for it is within the power of government to bring in laws which then have to be applied by the judges, subject, thankfully, to the dictates of The European Convention – in particular, the right to a fair trial set out in Article 6:

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, including the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within reasonable time, the presumption of innocence, and other minimum rights for those charged with a criminal offence (adequate time and facilities to prepare their defence, access to legal representation, right to examine witnesses against them or have them examined, right to the free assistance of an interpreter).

The proposal being put forward by The Secretary of State for Justice strikes at the very heart of our rule of law – a rule of law based on open trials, where guilt or innocence is determined by a jury.

Porter notes: “Dinah Rose QC summarised the obvious advantage to ministers in her Atkin Memorial lecture last year. The legislation would, she said, “permit courts to try common law claims for damages using a closed material procedure, whenever a government minister, who is, of course, likely to be party to the action, decides that disclosure of particular material would be damaging to national security”.

… We are following America, where the state secrets privilege results in the exclusion of evidence from the proceedings simply on the basis of affidavits delivered to a court by the government, and this is going to make life very difficult for serious journalism in Britain.”

So much for the much vaunted Bill of Rights…talked of by Nick Clegg and others which, as far as I can see, has not appeared as yet in any meaningful form.

On the theme of The Rule of Law – Rosalind English provides an excellent note in the UK Human Rights blog on a decision which will, no doubt, be an irritant for the present government: Suspected terrorist may not be deported to Jordan – Strasbourg rules

And.. if you need further evidence of the slow erosion of our rights..under Magna Carta.. or otherwise.. this from Michael Mansfield QC is worth reading:

Bashing trial by jury is pathetically predictable

The Guardian: Governments needing a facelift often attempt to curtail jury trial. Quick-fix supermarket justice must be resisted

And… a bit more?  Obiter J notes: “Extradition is in the news again.  The USA is seeking the extradition of Sheffield student Richard O’Dwyer and a judge, sitting at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, has ruled that there is no bar to his extradition – see Daily Mail 14th January.  The US authorities allege that Mr O’Dwyer listed on a website places from where pirated films and TV programmes could be downloaded.  This case – like that of Gary McKinnon – brings into focus the Extradition Act 2003…”

[ PS… Happy Second Birthday to Obiter J and his excellent blog – many happy returns to come! ]

While the McKinnon case and the O’Dwyer case may be distinguished – McKinnon is alleged to have hacked into Pentagon computers.  O’Dwyer set up a website linking to copyrighted material – in a manner not dissimilar to a search engine… Google, for example – it is clear to many that our extradition arrangements with the USA, designed to combat terrorism, are both one sided and are, arguably, being misused in the O’Dwyer case for purely commercial ends.  For my part, at first blush – without a deep understanding of the background to the O’Dwyer case as yet, perhaps our government should be more protective of the rights of citizens when it comes to handing them over to the Americans?

Without Prejudice podcasts resume this Thursday!

Well… there we are.  British justice.. being created by a democratically elected government – with a weak opposition which seems more concerned with party leadership issues and train fare prices than issues of civil liberties.

Mind you… Ken Clarke, apparently, thinks that bloggers are just a load of nutters and extremists.  I don’t think we are.  I wonder if Ken has actually read some of the leading Human Rights and Civil Liberties blogs… has he read Carl Gardner’s Head of Legal?  Has he read Jack of Kent?  Has he read the  UK Human Rights Blog ? Has he read Obiter J?

More to come as the week progresses.

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“A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a thousand men with guns.”
Mario Puzo

And today there is news of a barrister facing jail after admitting stealing £81,500 from his Chambers in Manchester. Manchester-based lawyer David Friesner, 46, admitted theft when he appeared at Leeds Crown Court for the start of his trial today – Manchester Evening News

And RollonFriday.com has news of another Manchester barrister up to no good: Top barrister done for drink driving

Unusual behaviour from M’learned friends is not confined to Manchester barristers.  RollonFriday writes about an outbreak of festive hooliganism at a law firm Christmas party: Exclusive: Fight erupts at DLA Piper Christmas celebration

A pre-Christmas night out for DLA Piper staff turned into a brawl, with a senior member of staff hospitalised.

Members of the firm’s marketing department were having a few festive pints at The Gables on Moorgate when a pissed-up reveller (with no connection to the firm) tried to crash the party. After making repeated advances to female members of the group, which were ignored, he announced that “one of you is going to get my cock“. The silver tongued charmer.

And… the judges get in on the act as well…

Judge publicly reprimanded over driving ban

Lord Justice Thorpe did not tell judicial authorities when he was banned for eight weeks after going through a red light

 

In the wake of my astonishment (reported below and here)  at the new logo being sported by BPP Law School earlier in the week, Alex Aldridge picks up the baton, inspiring some amusing comments in his Guardian piece: Law schools should focus on student job prospects, not new logos.

After commenting on BPP’s new ‘Lion’ logo, Alex Aldridge goes on to dissect the performance of a few of the law schools taking extracts from recent Bar Standards Board reports.   I have read all the BSB reports now and they make interesting reading.  I plan to do an analysis next week in some detail.

Solicitor and journalist  David Allen Green  has an interesting piece on the recent fisting Obscenity trial: Obscenity victory

The jury at Southwark Crown Court has returned unanimous Not Guilty verdicts on each of the six charges under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 against Michael Peacock.

The prosecution failed to convince a single juror that any of the DVD material distributed by Peacock was “depraving and corrupting” under the 1959 Act. The DVDs contained sexual practices such as fisting, BDSM, and so-called “watersports” depicted between consenting adults.

It is an important case – one where the jury revealed the flaws in an out of date Obscenity act and took a more tolerant attitude to sexual behaviour among consenting adults.

Law blogger Obiter J asks the question in a thoughtful piece in Legal Week: Do we need the Obscene Publications Acts?

The UK Human Rights blog also reports: Making a Fist of It: The Law and Obscenity

The internet has become an important work and social tool for many.   Adam Wagner considers the issue:  Is internet access a human right?

And finally – a useful round up of some of the UK Law blogs from Shireen Smith: UK Blawg Roundup #9 – Legal Services Act and Alternative Business Structures

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This Japanese sale sums up my attitude to today… spent too long being bored to near death by medics…very dull…. no blogging today.

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I had to uncork the hip flask after discovering the new BPP ‘Lion’ logo this afternoon.  I was running BPP Law School when BPP Holdings PLC Chairman Richard Price revealed the last logo.  I thought the last logo was a bit dull – but this new one is, to my eye, simply astonishing… as is the reputed £300,000 price tag.

I shall spend the afternoon on clipart sites, knock a few logos together…and see if I can flawg them orf to The College of Law and other providers.  I suspect I shall be given the ‘V’ if I do ring the other providers.

RollonFriday.com – as ever – are on the case, with an amusing ‘assessment’.

The students at BPP have given their verdict on BPP Law School’s Facebook page…

I particularly liked this comment…

“Emily Gardner What a waste of £300,000. It’s almost as bad as the new tagline “Where legal eagles come to hatch”.”

I have no idea what the marketing department is smoking…. but if they would be kind enough to let me know where I can get some… be sure, I shall do so.

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With the new year well under way and showing some early promise of demonstrations of the dark side of the human condition, I thought I would start Rive Gauche this week with a story picked up by RollonFriday.com….

Foul-mouthed judge resigns rather than face the music
RollonFriday.com reports: “A crown court judge who turned the air blue after appearing in court on a dangerous dog charge has resigned. Judge Beatrice Woodcock-Bolton hit the headlines a year ago when her German Shepherd, Georgina, bit one of her neighbours in the leg. Woodcock-Bolton was hauled before Carlisle Magistrates Court where she chewed gum, described the verdict against her as a “f**king travesty” and complained that she would “never sit in a court of law again“…..”

Rather than face the inevitable sack, Judge Woodcock-Bolton resigned on medical grounds…”The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice have decided no further disciplinary action is required.”

And then there was #Abbottgate – allowing twitter to explode in a frenzy of some real and largely imagined offence-taking. It was, perhaps, unfortunate timing but a day after the verdict and sentencing in the Stephen Lawrence trial for her to tweet “White people love playing divide and rule. We should not play their game,’ and referring to ‘tactics as old  as colonialism’. I gather that Diane Abbott, after Ed Miliband gave her a ‘dressing down’, then remarked on the tendency for London cabbies to drive past black people.

For my part, whatever it is worth, I don’t think that Diane Abbott MP is a racist.  Her tweet was a bit careless.  But not as careless as Ed Miliband’s wonderful tweet on hearing of the death of Blockbusters game show host Bob Holness:

@Ed_Miliband
Sad to hear that Bob Holness has died.  A generation will remember him fondly from Blackbusters.

I understand that the tweet was deleted fairly sharpish and replaced with one without the typo – but The Sun, ever keen to pick up on the the political faux pas of labour politicians caught the tweet just in time.  While I have voted Labour for thirty years, I am not keen on Ed Miliband as a future PM.  I tweeted this morning that he reminded me of a Police Community Support Officer keen to inspect car tax discs.

This week also brought ‘Fisting’ to the fore on twitter: Obscenity trial – the law is not suitable for a digital age

Myles Jackman in the Guardian: “I welcome the jury’s verdict but the OPA means the state is still capable of acting as a voyeur in the bedroom”

I need not trouble you with the facts of R v Peacock.  The coverage has been extensive in the press.  I have no doubt that meedja lawyers and others will blog about it.  Suffice it to say two things:  (1) That I can’t for the life of me see what business it is of the State’s to get involved in private matters between consenting adults and (2)  I have not managed to get around to this particular activity in my 50+ years on the planet. It is unlikely that I will need to develop skill with this technique.  It doesn’t appeal.

Obiter J, in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence trial has an interesting blog post: A look at racial murder, hate crime and the criminal offences available.

Professor Richard Moorhead, Cardiff University Law School asks: Does the legal profession need scholars?

“If we leave the question at ‘do lawyers need to be scholars?’ it is a relatively simple answer of no. We do not need practising lawyers to be devoted purely to the pursuit of knowledge. We cannot expect it of them, nor would it be in their client’s best interests. Lots of lawyers do not have to think or learn in the scholarly sense. They understand, research, diagnose, advise, act.

We should also understand that much of what legal education does is filter students. What firms are really interested in is the best candidates. They go to the universities they regard as the best, and those universities pick whom they regards as the best students. There are flaws in the judgements of universities and firms, but the reputation and quality of UK universities is a key part of the reputation of UK firms. And the ability of UK universities to attract the best students – which will be an increasingly global not national competition – will be a key part of that.”

Bitcher & Prickman cartoons are always worth a look – from US lawyer Charles Fincher Esq

A pleasure to see that family lawyer John Bolch is continuing to provide a remarkable online resource with his coverage of family law matters in Family Lore….@familylaw: Three thousand followers can’t be wrong…

Professor John Flood over at his RATs blog… continues to probe the legal profession’s future with his latest post:  PI(I)GS Might Fly!

The Troika is upsetting big bar associations because it is demanding the liberalization of professions in countries it is bailing out. Key complainers are the American Bar Association and the CCBE. (Thanks to Peter Lederer for the H/T).

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported that the ABA and CCBE have written a letter to Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund and former head of the world’s largest law firm, Baker & McKenzie, asking her to pass on their concerns at the end of independence of the bar to the heads of the European Union and the European Central Bank…..

AND finally… The White Rabbit could not help himself….

“American born but long term UK resident photographer Eve Arnold has died aged 99. She spent a lot of time photographing Marilyn Monroe. As – erm – can be seen. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself…..”

Read more…..

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