Archive for May, 2013

Pic from a Buzzfeed article – amused me. HT @ChristianUncut

One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.
Groucho Marx 

Communication has been occupying my mind for a few days.  This morning on BBC Breakfast they were taxing their minds with ‘spelling’ and one of the presenters was asked to spell *Supersede*.  Like many before him, he had a crack at it and came up with *Supercede*.

With way too much time on my hands early this morning , I made myself a cuppa and, as I did so, came up with the thought “One precedes, but one supersedes.”  This was enough to set me up for a sardonic day and knowing that bananas can walk has set me up nicely for a weekend of  Sybaritic pleasure drinking tea (not Earl Grey) and… in Britain we  spell it ‘grey’ not ‘gray’ when referring to the colour or our skies.

But does spelling matter?  Can you read this?

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it

Well…there we are…

ON to the law blogs…with a bit of dead tree press action to kick off…. 

In the wake of the tragic murder of April Jones we had the predictable call for ‘something’ to be done in relation to internet pornography.  A view that the state should not intervene in sexual activities between consenting adults which cause no harm to others – an old fashioned Benthamite utilitarian stance to be sure – seems a not unreasonable starting point for debate.

The Guardian editorial on the subject was pretty ropy and ill thought out and careered toward the Ban It stance of human thinking. Ironically, The Telegraph took a more reasoned view.

Given that our government has developed the skills of the whirling dervish and a predilection for U-turns, one hopes that there is not a pandemic of Kneejerkitis acutis toriensis on the  part of the shield munching beserkers  (pictured right) on the Tory benches, forcing yet more ill thought out snap reaction legislation, when Parliament eventually gets back to work again.

On the subject of the so-called ‘Snoopers Charter’ being revived in the wake of the murder of Lee Rigby, and the decision by the BBC to shunt Anjem Choudary onto Newsnight, David Anderson QC provides wise advice to government in this article from The Guardian: Anjem Choudary controversy sparks debate over TV censorship – “anti-terror law reviewer David Anderson QC says broadcasters should decide whether to show radicals on their channels.”

It seems that the Police are also getting in, rightly, on the sensible, cool headed, side of the debate. The Telegraph reported: MI5 failures over Woolwich probably ‘misjudgement’ not lack of snoopers’ charter, says Sir Chris Fox


And now for the law bloggers….

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen asks the (necessary) question: 

Why Does Everyone Want to Go to Law School?

For some reason people in America and the UK people have come to regard Law School as some sort of panacea. The pinnacle of academic learning and the route to meteoric career earning: the ultimate career backstop that offers glamour, big respect and guarantees a bulging bank balance.

Let’s call this ‘Law School Think’: the reason why everybody wants to go to law school.

However it’s all a myth.

The idea of Law School being a panacea is a perception ingrained so deeply that young men and women enrol in the face of hard facts that scream out: “Don’t go to Law School!” Slate writer Eric Posner provides a great prefatory note here.

Senior Partner and Director of Education, Muttley Dastardly LLP

Dr Strangelove wrote this some time ago.  It still seems to reflect the current state of affairs?

Dear Prospective Applicants,

It is that time of year again.  You are back at university.  The long summer holidays are over.  Binge drinking in Cornwall is a long distant memory.  Your *Gap Yah* is finished and your parents are now able to get on with what is left of the rest of their lives knowing that you are safely on the treadmill called life.  Now you are back at your cash poor universities or are attending one of the shiny new reassuringly expensive law schools doing your LPC.  If you haven’t already been snapped up by one of the big law firms,  sponsoring you, you are probably sick with worry about your future prospects – and, frankly, you have every reason to be.  We are not out of the bears shitting all over the credit crunch woods yet… Lord Browne is about to release his entirely predictable report to allow the Vice Chancellors to increase their fees, law firms are still reeling from  the credit crunch… well…some law firms are…we at Muttley Dastardly LLP are not..in fact, to be honest, we are rather enjoying it.

Over the next few weeks, on The Lawyer, Legal Week and LawCareers.net websites you will be able to find lots of shiny brochures to download from BIG law firms and BIG law schools – implausibly showing pictures of glossy potential lawyers smiling away….possibly even sitting on the grass…although why they should be sitting on the grass when they should be inside working is a matter of some surprise to *US* at Muttley Dastardly LLP.

There will be lots of pictures of young people in suits, carrying briefcases, looking busy and important. Our Psyops team has replicated the genre below…. we’ve gone for the lawyers happy on a beach look… (right).

OK… we talk straight… expensive… but straight at Muttley Dastardly LLP.  Listen up…. and, I cannot resist using that dreadful phrase so beloved of cliche ridden writers…and smell the coffee.

1.  The economy will improve

2. Law firms will recover

3. Universities will raise their fees – and so will the BIG law schools for you (although not for us!)

4.  The Legal profession is changing – read the journals and keep up to date.

5.  You have to get a 2.1 to even stand a chance of selection for a decent law school at LPC level and, being honest, a decent university if you are going to get into a City law firm or any major commercial firm.

6. Being really honest… you haven’t a chance of getting into Muttley Dastardly LLP unless you went to Oxbridge or a top Russell Group university – why would *WE* take second best?

7. Be realistic… City practice is not for everyone – there is a wonderful world of law out there for lawyers who don’t want to be rich beyond the dreams of avarice, who don’t want to be movers and shakers in the City and business world, who don’t want to rub shoulders with the likes of Duncan Genocide from The Dragon’s Den. [Good one, Harry & Paul] We don’t have a clue what these lawyers do… but hey.. there must be a Facebook group.. or Twitter hashtag… and you could always Google?!  FTW!…as, I believe, some say…..  LMFAO, ROFL  etc etc etc…..

8.  We will always be honest with you…. if we take you on as a trainee, you will be worked beyond the limits of The Human Rights Act, you will learn a great deal about *OUR* type of practice and if you don’t cut it… we will give you a black plastic bag to take your belongings away in and that’s it.

Good luck with your studies this year.  I look forward to hearing from you… if you think you are hard enough.

Dr Erasmus Strangelove

Strength & Profits

Having been involved in legal education for thirty odd years – and continue with a Churchillian stance of ‘buggering on’ through blogging – I do get the  feeling that the law schools, particularly those providing vocational courses for the BPTC and LPC, are more concerned with their own profits and survival and this may outweigh their ‘corporate social responsibility’ to those they eagerly seek to enrol – and who may, despite all the third party advice on offer, be eager to enrol.

Interestingly: The Lawyer reports: 

Law students have reacted with anger and disappointment to the news that the National College of Legal Training (NCLT) has discontinued its legal practice course (LPC) and graduate diploma in law (GDL).

The NCLT announced last week that it is to stop teaching the LPC and GDL, blaming market conditions and a drop in the number of students for its decision (24 May 2013).

Legal Cheek had a good piece by David Banks this morning:  ‘JOURNALISTS PROBABLY DEAL WITH MORE LAW THAN ANYONE ELSE – INCLUDING LAWYERS’

Professor Richard Moorhead has an interesting post: Does legal education impact on how small businesses see the world?

“There are some interesting findings on attitudes risk and the incidence of legal problems in small businesses in the new study done by my colleagues Pascoe Pleasence and Nigel Balmer for the Legal Services Board. That study has drawn attention principally because it suggests a large latent market for legal problems. Small businesses have a large volume of legal problems which are not tackled with the assistance of legal advice. The median value of such problems was of the order of £1,2000 (though the mean value was much higher). Interestingly, also, whilst solicitors dominate service to this sector, accountants appear close behind…..”

Read more…

Practitioners may be interested in Professor John Flood’s article: Institutional Bridging: How Large Law Firms Engage in Globalization

“I’ve just posted a new paper to SSRN titled “Institutional Bridging: How Large Law Firms Engage in Globalization“. It’s for a symposium put together by the Boston College Law Review and the Boston College International & Comparative Law Review on Filling Power Vacuums in the New Global Legal Order.”

And that is probably enough for a Friday evening…back with Part 3 of my review of and from the law blogs at the weekend.


Read Full Post »

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
George Bernard Shaw 

Law blogging, despite the predictions of the gurus and prognosticators, continues to thrive.  Whether law blogs influence opinion is not of particular concern to me (nor, I suspect for  many law bloggers), for I blog for pleasure – but I would hope that the opinions and thoughts of my fellow bloggers at least provide food for thought.

The UK Human Rights Blog even considers  the right to blog in: Right to Blog, Lord Chancellor’s Legacy and Accountability for War Crimes – The Human Rights Roundup

Many law bloggers have been pre-occupied recently with the Legal Aid reforms.  Patrick Torsney has a comprehensive listing of some very good writing on the subject.

theintrigant continues to provide a dash of black humour to the proceedings with this Third Letter to The Lord Chancellor


@Mark_George_QC Tweets: 

One very angry #LegalAidWarrior comes out fighting http://www.gcnchambers.co.uk/content/download/2561/17348/file/Response%20to%20Transforming%20Legal%20Aid%20Consultation%202013%20-%20Mark%20George%20QC%20GCN.pdf … One of GCN’s responses to the worst Ld Chancellor in history

Francis FitzGibbon QC, who blogs at  Nothing Like The Sun, has a strong piece entitled Short Cuts in The London Review of Books.  The opening sentence should draw you in:

A fundamental shift in the relationship between the government and the governed is taking place: by restricting access to the law, the state is handing itself an alarming immunity from legal scrutiny.

But what of other matters?…..

Although the Ministry of Justice has apparently denied any intent to ‘privatise the courts’ – they merely want the courts to have more ‘commercial freedom’ – Obiter J considers the matter : Privatisation of the courts?

Obiter J also considers: Citizen’s Arrest – a limited power

@TheCustodySgt  asks: “Think Mark Bridger deserves the death penalty? My views from Sept last year on a US execution.”

The most high profile media case of the week was Lord McAlpine’s claim against Sally Bercow. 

Informm Blog considered this in their excellent weekly round up: Law and Media Round Up – 27 May 2013

And – Antonin Pribetic, writing from Canada, wrote a thought provoking piece on the matter as a guest on my own blog:  McAlpine v. Bercow and a New Era of ‘Twitter Chill’

David Allen Green, writing at his Jack of Kent blog, considers: The law and culture of phone hacking

The UK Human Rights blog analysed the decision in R (on the application of Sandiford) v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs [2013] 168 (Admin) – read judgment : DEATH PENALTY LEGAL FUNDING REFUSAL: APPEAL COURT CONFIRMS LIMITS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACT


But it isn’t all serious on the law blogs….and I end this first (of several) reviews of and from the law blogs which I shall try and put together over the next few days…

Legal Cheek, as ever, continues to comment, provoke and amuse…

Last month, retiring Court of Appeal judge Sir Alan Ward (pictured) used his penultimate judgment to deliver a wistful nautical-themed allegory about departing the Royal Courts of Justice.

It wasn’t the first time that he’d made lawyers smile. Here are ten of his best lines…

Legal Cheek’s article….

And..mea culpa… it would be remiss of me to miss out a ‘tribute to our revered Lord Chancellor’ wot I did t’other day…

Back soon with more from the law blogs…

Read Full Post »

Tour Report #25:  The role of Information technology in modern legal practice

Yesterday I talked with Charles Christian, Editor in Chief of Legal IT Insider (both available online and in print), about the role of technology in the practice of law and the information  tools used by lawyers in the modern era.

We looked at:

1. The consumerisation of legal software – why Facebook is so easy yet MS Word so difficult when it comes to training

2. Asked why don’t legal publishers adopt the iTunes approach to content – you buy the chapter you want, boot the 19 chapters you’ll never need

3. The use of social media

4. The gamification in continuing education and training, making it more fun to learn

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

(We had bad signal issues on Skype yesterday so in parts the sound broke up briefly.  Beyond my control unfortunately)

Read Full Post »

Pitfalls of US-Style Deferred Prosecution Agreements must be considered
Paul Lewis is a partner solicitor at David Phillips & Partners

The long awaited Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) expected to surface in the UK by 2014, will benefit all involved if executed right – but we should learn from the American experience and be mindful of the warning signs.

What is a DPA?

The entire concept behind DPAs stems from America. Under a DPA, a prosecutor can pardon the defendant, if the latter conforms to a set of certain terms. So, if you’re charged with serious fraud, you could effectively avoid court punishment, by agreeing to the prosecutor’s conditions.

Such conditions would be reasonably outlined between the parties, with legal representation present on both sides. A common resolution in fraud cases is for the defendant to repay owed monies over time, along with a fine. By carrying out the requests under the DPA, the defendant is relieved of any charges attached to that particular case.

If the Crown Prosecution and Serious Fraud Organisation determine the conditions of a DPA to be appropriate, the charge will be successfully deferred. If the terms of the DPA are not then met by the defendant, the charges will recommence.

Why are DPAs coming to the UK?

Serious fraud cases are complex to say the least. Currently, some cases can go on for over seven years, only to result in a guilty plea at the last minute – this reportedly costs the Serious Fraud Organisation more than £1.5million each time.

DPAs will streamline the entire process but their introduction is not a ‘silver bullet’ in any way – fitting this American legal model into the UK will be a delicate process.

Getting it right

DPAs will not only afford security to the victims of corporate corruption but will also protect the defending cooperative establishments who, currently, can jeopardise the position of their associates (employees/clients/executives), who have nothing to do with the actual crimes of the company.

For solicitors, DPAs will allow for a more efficient settlement procedure and clients will be put at ease early – instead of enduring years of legal proceedings.

It is very early days and when you consider how often economic crimes involve two or more parties from different countries, it is difficult to determine how DPAs will work on an international scale. It is critical the UK DPA model will be robust enough to instil a confidence into British corporations who have entered the plea, that they will remain exempt from fully fledged prosecution overseas.


About the Author

Paul Lewis is a partner solicitor at David Phillips & Partners and a Higher Courts Advocate who regularly conducts trials in the Crown Court and acted as both leading and junior counsel in cases of national prominence. Paul has directed many serious criminal cases, including murder, drugs, commercial & serious fraud and sexual offences.

Read Full Post »

Ringing the changes to client call handling

Joanna Swash, Director at Moneypenny, discusses the growing trend of Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) being undertaken by firms keen to raise service levels, achieve regulation compliance and reduce overheads.

In your opinion, why are more and more firms embracing LPO?

I think a combination of the recession and the arrival of Alternative Business Structures mean firms have been forced to embrace the idea of outsourcing administrative tasks to stay competitive and deliver client choice. I would certainly hope the thought has been worse than the deed and that in the majority of cases, LPO has enabled firms to reduce the cost and turnaround time of high-volume professional work. Dare I say it, many may even be asking themselves: ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’.

Give an example within your industry of a law firm who has implemented LPO effectively.

One of the most recent examples relates to the launch of our 24/7 service. The firm in question had a dedicated project team, which included a Business Continuity expert, who worked tirelessly over a number of months delving into all areas of our business and testing our resilience against anything we might be faced with. It was a clinical approach and we were extremely pleased with the conclusion that we had robust processes in place, capable of dealing with any problem that might arise.

Our 24/7 service is delivered by our own UK receptionists who have been seconded to our office in Auckland for six months at a time. We currently provide this firm with a dedicated team working solely for them as a fully outsourced 24/7 switchboard service –saving them over £65,000 per year.

What could law firms learn from businesses in other sectors, such as yours?

That client experience is paramount and customers precious. Every touch point should be considered. Yes, this starts with the initial telephone enquiry being dealt with promptly and professionally (research suggests that 79% of callers hang up when prompted to leave a voicemail message so it’s always worth having a person at the end of the line) but what about the ongoing client journey? Does everyone in your office understand the importance of delivering high customer service at all times: be it via email, telephone or in person?

At Moneypenny, we place a huge amount of emphasis on creating a positive work environment for our team because in our minds, a smile can be heard. Also, don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to business continuity and DR (although regulation compliance is making it harder and harder to ignore this issue). A client-centric mentality at all times is the order of the day.

What are the main things firms can implement to become more profitable / efficient?

Understand that clients expect the right experience and are more demanding than ever. Set out clear and achievable objectives to meet these expectations, as well as time to review performance regularly. Implement management ownership of Key Performance Indicators to help everyone stay focused. Prices are being squeezed so work smarter when it comes to processes and structures within your firm: develop a good rapport with sound suppliers for mutual benefit and never delegate these relationships. Everyone in your firm should approach their work with a mind on retaining business, selling to clients and seeking new business opportunities.

Outsourced switchboard provider Moneypenny knows a thing or two about answering telephone calls. Endorsed by the Law Society, the award-winning company offers a dedicated legal team that currently works with more than 700 UK firms. To find out more visit www.moneypenny.co.uk/law-firms

Read Full Post »

Defend Yourself against a Personal Injury Lawsuit
By Denver Burke


Accidents do happen, and sometimes, the injured party can point the finger at you. And because no-one wants to find themselves with a lawsuit on their hands, it’s good to be prepared. You can dramatically reduce your risk of being forced to pay out vast sums of money by soliciting advice from a personal injury lawyer. However, we’ve compiled some tips for you:

Take Pictures

Even if you don’t take your camera with you everywhere, most people have a lens on their phone. Always take pictures of the scene where the accident took place. This is singularly important if you’re involved in a motor-related incident, otherwise you may be accused of something that wasn’t your fault, with no solid evidence to show your innocence.

Err On The Cautious Side

Particularly when it comes to car accidents, you better hope that your vehicle is up-to-date on all its safety checks and is 100% road worthy. If you’re involved in a motor accident and your car isn’t up-to-scratch, you may be accused of liability. With a properly maintained vehicle and sensible driving, you’re very unlikely to get suckered into a personal injury lawsuit, but nevertheless it should still act as a strong deterrent against careless or even wreckless driving.  

 Get In Touch With Your Insurance Company

 When you’ve been in a traffic accident, you should get in contact with your insurance company as soon as possible. Insurance normally covers your legal fees too. Being quick about reporting the incident always works in your favour. 

Due Diligence

If you are responsible for others, then sticking to the health and safety guidelines is a must. Keeping everyone secure should be your main priority, as it could end up reflecting badly on you in a court of law, if you didn’t do everything humanly possible to keep your charges out of harm’s reach.

Around the workplace, this may mean teaching employees how to lift objects safely, clearing up mess, and making sure everyone knows where the fire exits are. Without taking these precautions, you could be found liable for their injuries. If you’re in any doubt about which health and safety guidelines you have to adhere to, contact solicitors in Ellesmere Port for further information.

Personal Property

Possibly one of the most unbelievable ways someone can take you to court is if they injure themselves on your personal property. You can avoid this by having a routine inspection of your grounds for any legal hazards. Better yet, make sure that your personal property is insured against such events. Or you can just build an impenetrable fortress around your land. 

Emergency Services

If you find someone injured, always call emergency services, even if the person doesn’t appear to be too harmed, or at least offer to find a way to transport them to the hospital. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you are shown to have done everything possibly to make sure the injured party received medical attention, it always counts in your favour. Be the nice guy/gal.

Read Full Post »

Well…at least some people know a bit….

The Telegraph reports: Leading barristers warn over legal aid cuts – Dozens of Britain’s leading barristers have warned that reforms of the legal aid system by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, will “seriously undermine the rule of law”

AND… Anna Raccoon has a say: Judicial Chicanery

(Back later with a podcast with Charles Christian, editor of Legal IT Insider, on developments in information technology for lawyers)

Read Full Post »

McAlpine v. Bercow and a New Era of ‘Twitter Chill’

Antonin I. Pribetic, B.A. (Hons.), J.D., LL.M., FCIArb.
Litigation Counsel
Steinberg Morton Hope & Israel LLP, Canada

Author:  the Trial Warrior blog

The decision of Mr Justice Tugendhat in McAlpine v Bercow [2013] EWHC 1342 (QB) (24 May 2013) [“McAlpine”]  is a stern admonition to Twitter users about the perils of practising comedy without a license.

Seriously, in my view, the UK court’s  judgment will have a chilling effect on free speech on Twitter and will likely devolve into an era of social media self-censorship for Twitter users, particularly in the UK. A form of libel chill, or, perhaps “Twitter Chill”.

It also highlights the legal chasm that exists between the American and UK judicial approaches to balancing freedom of expression and protecting reputation. The decision also raises the spectre of a “popularity metric” to determine whether the alleged maker or republisher of the defamatory tweet has gazillions of followers or is just some shlub with 4 followers, three of which are porn bots.

I wrote about the scandal involving British peer, Lord McAlpine who threatened to sue the BBC, ITV and thousands of Twitter users over false accusations of pedophilia in a post entitled: Lord McAlpine and Twitter Libel: Does failing to sue when a libel is first published raise a defence of waiver, estoppel or acquiescence? In the post I posited:

“Recall that Lord McAlpine also has threatened a libel action against anyone who tweeted or retweeted (RT’ed) the BBC Newsnight program, ITV broadcast, or the tweets by British celebrities such as Sally Bercow, the wife of the Speaker of the Commons, and George Monbiot, a columnist for the Guardian.

There are stories circulating on various blogs and on Twitter referring to similar, if not identical, allegations made against Lord McAlpine back in the 90’s by a now defunct British magazine and a well-known British writer and public speaker with a penchant for conspiracy theories. [note: I am deliberately not providing links to the articles in fairness to my UK readers. If you really want to know more, then Google it yourself].

Some have asked, perhaps rhetorically, why Lord McAlpine did not sue anyone before when these allegations, now established to be false, were made?

My question is: Does failing to sue when a libel is first published raise a defence of waiver, estoppel or acquiescence? “ 

Reading Mr. Justice Tugendhut’s decision, it is obvious no one bothered to address my brilliant insights.

In any event, the upshot of the McAlpine decision is that innuendo is sufficient to attract liability for defamatory statements, even where the individual does not link or endorse the original source of the defamatory statements.

In this case, Tugendhut J. found that many of Bercow’s Twitter followers shared her interest in current affairs and would have been familiar with the Newsnight story.

The learned judge further held that Bercow’s inclusion of the phrase *innocent face* told readers that she was being “insincere and ironical”; she was not asking a simple question as argued by her counsel. Accordingly, the UK court held that it was reasonable to infer that she meant Lord McAlpine was “trending because he fits the description of the unnamed abuser”.

Therefore, by process of implication, there was repetition of the accusations of sexual abuse broadcast on Newsnight. Following the UK’s ”repetition rule”,  Bercow, admittedly a celebrity of some sort, is to be treated as if she had made the original allegations herself, but with the addition of Lord McAlpine’s name.

Aye, there’s the rub which rubs me the wrong way.

With all due respect, the learned judge’s logic is tortuous. It attempts to connect dots on a map to a treasure buried under a sea of improbability.

Tugendhut J. surmises,

84. In my judgment the reasonable reader would understand the words “innocent face” as being insincere and ironical. There is no sensible reason for including those words in the Tweet if they are to be taken as meaning that the Defendant simply wants to know the answer to a factual question.

Ask yourself this question: what would have happened if Bercow did not add the phrase “innocent face”?

Frankly, I’ve been on Twitter for over 4 years and I never got the “facial innocence” memo and would not have made the connection. That said, the following sums up the UK court’s analysis :

***1.  Newspaper incorrectly identifies a public figure as a pedophile ;

2. Thousands of individuals post links to the story on blogs, Twitter and who knows where else;

3. The public figure’s name starts trending on Twitter (presumably in the UK only, but for argument’s sake, let’s say it trends worldwide);

4. Thousands of private individuals, many anonymous, follow a celebrity and see his or her tweets and are compelled to follow the trail of bread crumbs. Actually, all they have to do is to do a search of the Twitter hashtag;

5. Since the celebrity’s Twitter reach is extensive due to a large number of followers, the result is that the celebrity is liable for republication of the libel.

Does anyone else see the gap in logic here? Whether Bercow has 65,000 followers or 6,500,000 or only 6 followers does not proveanyone actually read her tweets or further investigated the story.

Bercow did not say: “Lord McAlpine is a pedophile”, which is, of course, a falsehood and unequivocally defamatory.

She also did not say: “Dear Followers, here is a link to the reports of the Newsnight story.”

The BBC UK reports:

In a statement, Mrs Bercow responded: “I will accept the ruling as the end of the matter. I remain sorry for the distress I have caused Lord McAlpine and I repeat my apologies.

“I did not tweet this with malice, and I did not intend to libel Lord McAlpine. I was being conversational and mischievous, as was so often my style on Twitter.”

She went on: “I very much regret my tweet, and I promptly apologised publicly and privately to Lord McAlpine for the distress I caused him. I also made two offers of compensation.

“Lord McAlpine issued proceedings and the last few months have been a nightmare. I am sure he has found it as stressful as I have. Litigation is not a pleasant experience for anyone.”

Mrs Bercow said she had learned her lesson “the hard way”, adding that the ruling should be seen as “a warning to all social media users” because comments could sometimes be “held to be seriously defamatory, even when you do not intend them to be defamatory and do not make any express accusation”.

The tort of defamation, a strict liability tort in common law, deals with recovery for reputational harm, without need to prove the defendant’s fault. As such, damages are presumed. It appears that the impugned tweet was not libel per se, but rather libel per quod, which requires extrinsic evidence such as inducement or innuendo.

Ultimately, Bercow’s tweet was ill-advised, but to conclude that anyone who read the tweet was induced into believing what Twitter itself, through its trending algorithm, perceived as “popular” or “informative” or “newsworthy” implies that trending somehow cloaks the content as “true”.  Of course, it’s not. It’s just Twitter.

The UK’s  piecemeal, haphazard approach to libel reform notwithstanding, unless free speech is constitutionalized to reflect a semblance of the U.S. First Amendment, then many are 140 characters away from an expensive libel claim lawsuit.  Oh yeah, I forgot. Britain does not have a written constitution. Nevermind.

Well, how about imposing an actual malice requirement for public officials and public figures?  Most are familiar with Supreme Court’s 1964 decision of New York Times v. Sullivan376 U.S. 254 (1964), which held that a public official could only prevail in a defamation action if the public official proves that the defendant either knew that the statement was false or recklessly disregarded whether the communication was false, a fault standard known as “actual malice.” Without constitutional constraints, free speech is an illusion. I sympathize with Lord McAlpine. The false accusation was egregious. However, he has settled with a number of large media outlets and the subsequent coverage has repaired any damage, however, significant, albeit transitory.

In the end, Twitter is ephemeral. If you don’t believe me, just try to search for one of your tweets from a few months ago. Good luck with that. In the meantime, how to best strike a fair balance between freedom of speech and protection of reputation remains elusive. The McAlpine decision adds nothing to the free speech/reputation calculus.

As a postscript, the Birmingham Post reports that Bercow has settled with Lord McAlpine, however, “The amount of damages was not disclosed”.


As pointed out by Jon Baines on the Twitter: @bainesy1969:

Twitter   bainesy1969   APribetic You say  Newspaper ...

Hugh Tomlinson, Q.C. over at Inforrm’s Blog adds:

In the circumstances, a reader who knew the background – the “Newsnight” broadcast, the media reports and Lord McAlpine’s status as a “Conservative politician from the Thatcher years” – might well have inferred that the Tweet meant: “Lord McAlpine is trending on Twitter because he is the child abuser is the subject of the Newsnight report“.  In other words, such a reader might well have understood the words as conveying a serious defamatory imputation.

It difficult to see how, in this case, a reader of the Tweet who had, for example, paid no attention to the media between 2 and 4 November 2012 could possibly have understood the tweet as making a defamatory allegation against the claimant.  The question of the absence of an “alternative explanation” mentioned by the Judge ([85]) cannot assist on this point: the reader who had paid no attention to the media would simply not understand what the tweet was about.  It would doubtless come across as another, unfathomable, twitter “in-joke”.”

Related articles

Read Full Post »

Dear Reader,

Our Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Basil Grayling,  continues to provide food for thought for serious commentators and fodder for  satirists alike with his ill conceived plan to destroy legal aid and the criminal justice  system with it.  G4S, Serco, Tesco, Stobart et al – if Grayling’s plans go through  – will probably kill off the high street solicitor specialising in Crime, reduce the pool of lawyers available to the public (You won’t be able to choose your solicitor anyway and the criminal bar will be significantly reduced in number) and….. well let me leave the detail to two experienced barristers who express their views robustly in recent podcasts with me.

Do listen if you have the time.  Jerry Hayes, former Tory politician is very direct in his criticism, as is Michael Turner QC – but Jerry, inevitably,  adds a sardonic touch to the commentary- which certainly amused me.

Podcast with Jerry Hayes

Podcast with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of the Criminal Bar: Tour Report #21:  Podcast with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association,  on the legal aid reforms

And lawyer or non-lawyer, if you would like to sign the petitionyou may do so here

And… you can keep up to date with developments by following @TheCriminalBar on twitter

The privatisation of ‘Justice’ by the back door seems to be the order of Tory play and, thus far, the ‘blockers’on the Lib-Dems don’t seem to be that interested – but, apparently, opposition to Grayling’s plans is now Labour Party policy.

@TheCriminalBar: Ex LJ with 40+ yrs experience of Legal System says reforms a disaster Ambitious Minister with 0 yrs says No #GoFigure http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/402682/Justice-Secretary-Chris-Grayling-defends-legal-aid-reforms …

I suspect that few lawyers with experience of libel law will have been taken by surprise by Tugendhat J’s judgment in the Sally Bercow Tweet case (judgment here) – Joshua Rozenberg covered the matterSally Bercow learns the social media rules the hard way in McAlpine case “Twitter users are learning what a dangerous weapon they have at their fingertips, as Sally Bercow’s 46-character tweet shows.”

David Allen Green, writing on his Jack of Kent blog notes Sally Bercow’s statement after the judgment was handed down.

Barbara Ellen writes in The Observer: Twitter at its worst is not Bercow, but the braying mob – The Twitter villains are the bullies who feel scant responsibility and a lack of interest in fairness

Patrick Strudwick forecasts doom: Sally Bercow’s Lord McAlpine libel: Twitter is over. O.V.E.R. – “The great modern sandpit will now have to rein it in, tamed by knowledge that the whiff of a suggestion could land you in court”

And… The Tweeting Lawyer has a view:  Lessons from #McAlpine v #Bercow

Finally for today ( I will return on the morrow…perhaps…hopefully etc etc)… from Legal Cheek – a prolix and rather pompous statement from a young pupil barrister.  (Are we sure that this is not an Alex ‘spoof’? Certainly worthy of output from the Muttley Dastardly LLP *Psyops* unit. )


Legal Cheek reports…

Enjoy the sun and the bank holiday

Best, as always


Read Full Post »

Today I am talking with Jerry Hayes a former Tory MP and practising barrister about the purpose and likely impact of the cuts to legal aid being proposed by Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

Much has been written about the legal reforms in the dead tree press and the law blogs. (Patrick Torsney has a comprehensive listing of blogs written by lawyers and others from the legal blogging community. )

We discuss the need for the protest by lawyers outside parliament and the likely impact on society in terms of access to justice.  It is not about ‘lawyer fatcattery’ – the proposals being put forward by the Lord Chancellor will impact on many in our society in terms of a fair trial and access to good legal representation – and they will, directly or indirectly, affect us all – not least in terms of the ‘Rule of Law’ so lovingly used by the prime minister, foreign secretary and other senior ministers when promoting Britain overseas or lecturing despotic governments abroad.

Jerry Hayes is a former Tory MP who knows the back benches of the Tory party and its workings well.  Jerry is also a practising barrister.  He is not shy in putting his robust views on Chris Grayling’s reforms – nor is he shy in coming forward to comment sardonically.

Please listen to the podcast – lawyer or non-lawyer.   There is a serious message here – but there is also fairly ribald ‘analysis’.  It  was a most enjoyable podcast to do.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

Best viewed in the Chrome browser


PLEASE SIGN the petition so that Mr Grayling has to answer before Parliament for his ill conceived reform plans.

>>>>Sign the petition – please, if you haven’t already.

The verdict is in: FailingGrayling LC guilty of attempted murder of Legal Aid

Read Full Post »

Hat Tip to Catherine Baksi ‏@legalhackette “Over 500 find Christopher Grayling guilty of attempted murder of legal aid at #saveukjustice demo”

Catherine Baksi interviewed the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice – interesting and well worth a read.  

The demonstration and #SaveUKJustice campaign on Twitter is not about ‘fatcat lawyers’ – indeed, many criminal lawyers make a very modest living by providing representation and advice in the field of criminal law – it is about access to justice, the right to choose a solicitor, the right to a fair trial, the right to be treated fairly by the state.

Many bloggers have written on the subject.  Patrick Torsney has a comprehensive listing of blogs written by lawyers and others from the legal blogging community. 

The Guardian was quick to report: Lawyers protest outside parliament against legal aid cuts
Hundreds, some wearing wigs and gowns, demonstrate against justice secretary’s plans, which they say undermine UK justice

The London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA) provides pictures of the event on their Facebook page

I did a podcast interview with Michael Turner QC recently: Tour Report #21:  Podcast with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association,  on the legal aid reforms

The demonstration generated a great many tweets and you may follow them here

I provide a few…

Jules Carey ‏@Jules_Carey : This reminded of Tony Hancock sketch: “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?” #SaveUKJustice
Northpod Law ‏@northpodlaw : Client choice remarks from Grayling described as enshrining mediocrity. #justiceforsale #saveUKjustice
deffostepho ‏@deffostepho :  Room full of lawyers and they’re all angry. #saveukjustice pic.twitter.com/hcQCPU9eNK
The CBA ‏@TheCriminalBar : We are turning public opinion. 70% public fear losing #legalaid

I am doing a podcast interview with ex-MP and barrister Jerry Hayes (pictured below) about the demonstration – and the need for it – on Friday.  Jerry is a good speaker and will, I feel sure, be robust and direct in expressing his views!

The reforms to legal aid will impact on the legal profession, but as wiser heads than mine have observed – lawyers can get other jobs.  Will a person in need be able to afford representation, let alone get a good lawyer if the good lawyers are forced to move away from practice within the field of criminal law?

And here is a storify of #SaveUKJustice tweets at the demonstration this morning from  Shoaib M Khan ‏@UK_HumanRights3m

PLEASE SIGN the petition so that Mr Grayling has to answer before Parliament for his ill conceived reform plans.

>>>>Sign the petition – please, if you haven’t already.

Read Full Post »

Legal Salary Survey

Legal Salary Survey 2013

An interesting infographic on salaries from Sellick Partnership


Read Full Post »

What do you do if you’ve worked with asbestos in the past?
Paul Rooney Legal, Solicitors

Asbestos is the greatest cause of work related deaths in the UK, and work related exposure is the most common source of contact with asbestos. For this reason, it’s vital to be aware of the dangers of exposure and the steps required following diagnosis of an asbestos related disease.

Asbestos exposure can occur in various places of work, including:

  • an asbestos mine or asbestos processing plant
  • working in a high-risk occupational surroundings, such as construction, painting and decorating or automotive industries
  • serving on military facilities, including ships, where asbestos has been used in construction

It’s important to note that it generally takes recurrent, heavy exposure to asbestos to be at risk. Working in a building where asbestos was used in its construction, but is suitably sealed, is not likely to result in contracting an asbestos related disease, as not a high enough dose of asbestos will be inhaled.

In the UK, the greatest risk of asbestos related lung disease arises from insulation work, although some work activities are more highly associated with asbestos exposure. For instance, the use of power drills and work that involves the physical disturbance of asbestos is more likely to create a significant concentration of asbestos fibres in the air. DIY activities can also cause exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, develops from triggered biological changes in the body after asbestos fibres have accumulated. As it can take some 40 years or more to manifest, new cases are expected to rise and experts believe that by 2050, there will be 90,000 deaths attributed to mesothelioma in the UK.

Diagnosis of mesothelioma is difficult, but symptoms include breathlessness, chest pains, weight loss, fatigue and persistent coughing. While these symptoms are not always signs of lung cancer, it is advisable to consult your GP if you have them.

The outlook for mesothelioma is poor, often because of the advanced stage it is at when diagnosed. According to the NHS, most people with the condition will die within three years.

In 2010, there were 2,347 deaths from mesothelioma in the UK. Asbestosis is not as common, causing 189 deaths in 2009, while 1,015 people with the condition were assessed for industrial injuries disability benefit in 2010.

Cases of asbestos related diseases have also emerged from living near asbestos factories or washing the clothes of a loved one who works with asbestos. High risk areas are shipyards, railway engineering and factories.

If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, it is strongly recommended you speak to your GP as soon as possible. If you know, make sure you tell them the dates of possible exposure, the type and likely amount of asbestos you’ve been exposed to.

Understandably, if you are diagnosed with an asbestos related disease, you will be worried and scared. You will want the best medical care and you might be entitled to compensation which could help with your medical care.

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to asbestos, you can contact the British Lung Foundation Helpline on 03000 030 555.

Read Full Post »

The need to move away from our John Major and Del Boy image
Richard Powell, Solicitor

If you were to ask a member of the public what news stories they remember from the past week, what would they think about?  Chances are, it’ll be about Fergie’s retirement, the three women rescued from captivity in Ohio or the latest allegations against April Jones’ supposed killer.

What I can guarantee with pretty much absolute certainty is that nobody, unless they are a lawyer or a barrister, will be thinking about the reduction of fixed fees in road traffic accident personal injury claims.  There will be nobody who’s turned to a friend and exclaim “gosh, I wonder what this means when combined with the new legal Bill that came into effect in April.”

Nobody will be thinking this outside the legal profession because, quite simply, it isn’t interesting enough to be in the mainstream news.  I wish the truth was less brutal, but there it is.  To anyone outside of the industry, Personal Injury is seen at once as the John Major and the Del Boy Trotter of the legal world.  We are either grey and boring, or we are boorish and brash, with none of the lovability of the latter and about as much charisma as the former.

What gets bums on seats in news terms is not how your access to justice may be affected when lawyers in their droves can’t handle your personal injury claim and you have to go it alone (until a spectacularly massive scandal of this nature breaks).  It is not even what will happen when hundreds of lawyers and ancillary staff are put out on the dole because of the combined effects of the LASPO Bill, fixed fee reforms or when a form of Grayling’s whiplash proposals are passed.  It is personal tragedy.  It is outrage.  It is the moral paucity of the politicians elected in by an increasingly apathetic population.  What most people remember about John Major’s time in power is not Black Wednesday, but his affair with Edwina Curry.  The scandal, not the substance.

When one of the biggest shakeups to legal aid came in last month, in the form of the LASPO Bill, a couple of stories came out about the impact the changes would have on Medical Negligence and Family Law cases.  There were no stories about how it would impact on people making personal injury claims and that they’d lose a big proportion of their compensation award paying their lawyer’s fee.  Nothing about the fact that people with claims that are meritorious but not straightforward would probably not get taken on by any lawyer unless said lawyer wanted to run the case at a loss…and as much as Failing Grayling might expect us to do this, some of us do still have bills to pay.  We’re not unlike our clients in that respect.

Even if the small claims limit for road traffic accidents gets raised to £5,000 next year, it is unlikely this will be covered, even though that will effectively end no win, no fee claims in these kinds of cases.

Until the industry starts to be viewed as an interesting, positive force, our stories will forever languish at the bottom of the media pile, going unnoticed and unloved.  If we are to move away from John Major and Del Boy, we need to start making Personal Injury Law appealing to the mainstream.  We need a new celeb comparator now, before it’s too late.  Personally, I’d rather be Daniel Craig, but I’m open to suggestion…


About the Author: Richard Powell is a personal injury solicitor at YouClaim, who specialise in compensation claims ranging from clinical negligence to road accidents. Connect with Richard on Google+ or LinkedIn.

Read Full Post »

Twitter is a marvellous medium for making friends – virtual and ‘real life’ – and for news, comment, analysis and amusement.  However, as The Blog That Peter Wrote notes in an excellent article:

Criticism: Telling People Off on Twitter

Twitter can be unpleasant.  Below is a caption pic I did some time ago….

Read Full Post »

Making You More Aware of Money Laundering and Immigration Fraud Risks
Denver Burke

Last February, a scam orchestrated by solicitors involved shipping Eastern European women over to the UK and marrying them off to men from non-EU countries, for as much as £14,000 per bride. A solicitor was jailed for ten years after the scam was discovered during a money laundering and drugs racket bust-up performed by the police.

In a huge breach of immigration law, the solicitor was charged with receiving criminal proceeds. The solicitor and his team even went as far as to fabricate fake documents. This allowed participants of this illegal activity to claim UK benefits and to live in this country. The solicitors were accused of taking advantage of the pressure on the UK Border Agency.

The judge presiding over this case accused the solicitors involved of breaching the public’s trust in the legal system. Approximately 1,800 men were allowed to live in the UK thanks to sham marriages conducted over the space of 8 years. These couples usually had never met before their wedding day.

Some of the men included members of the Albanian mafia. More than 8,000 immigration applications were handled through this law firm between 2004 and 2011.

The women who were flown into the country often didn’t share a common language with their husband-to-be. The clients would then travel to Devon and Scotland to have their marriage in a registrar office. The company would provide fake employer references, forged files, and fraudulent tenancy documents as part of a ‘marriage package.’

In the end, only £2 million of unaccounted income had been found. It’s thought that the rest of the funds were smuggled out of the country. The brothers who ran the programme had undergone marriages arranged by the firm.

Money Laundering Risks

UK laws on money laundering are stern and you can be convicted of this crime just by unwittingly having criminal cash in your possession or spending it. You’re required, by law, to report any suspicious behaviour that might indicate organised criminals are targeting your firm to create sham marriages and fraudulent visa documents.

If you even slightly suspect that criminal activity of this nature is taking place, you will be accused of fraud and money laundering, if you don’t report it to the police.

Although you may not be conducting the fraud yourself, the proceeds of the crime will be going towards your income, so you will also be enjoying the benefits of fraudulent activity also.

Protect Your Firm from Money Laundering

Always appoint a Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) or money laundering lawyer who can safeguard your company from criminal activity. Staff should be aware that they can report to the MLRO at any point with concerns. An MLRO will be able to assess any money laundering or immigration offence risks and will point out any information that could lead to suspicions of fraudulent activity.

You may have to part with certain clients, in light of any suspect information.

Read Full Post »

Asons Solicitors

A debate on the Liverpool care Pathway took place on the 8/1/2013 introduced by conservative MP Mr Glynn Davies a supporter of the Pathway who said that it is ‘certainly not and must never be any form of euthanasia by the back door’

The Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) is a standard model of palliative care for patients, including children, in the last days of their life and was meant to ease the suffering of the dying by guiding a humane, dignified and pain free. The aim of the pathway was to bring into hospitals etc. the standard of palliative care being offered in hospices so that wherever a person dies they can expect to receive quality and dignified care. In a hospital environment the mind-set is to save the Patient and death is seen as failure culminating in what was thought to be overaggressive treatment of the dying.  The LCP is recommended as a best practice model most recently by the Department of Health and 130,000 of the 450,000 who die in hospital have been subject to the LCP. The Pathway has however been hit by controversial media coverage and Instead it is being labelled by some as potentially an ‘assisted death pathway’  after it has been reported that thousands of Patients have died prematurely after being placed on the Pathway. Why the controversy?


  • As a supposed incentive for clinicians to use the pathway and provide this quality of care financial incentives reported to be in the region of £30M have been offered to hospitals to use the pathway. There is increasing concern that this incentive instead of promoting quality care is actually being abused and resulting in patients being placed on the LCP unnecessarily for ‘perverse bonuses’
  • Patients are also being placed on the LPC without their or their families’ knowledge or consent. The audit carried out last year by The Royal College of Physicians and Marie Curie Pallative care institute found: 44% of patients who were conscious were not consulted before being placed on the pathway. A 1/3 of families were not consulted before the decision was taken
  • It is alleged that Hospitals are placing patients on LPC without a proper understanding of it and without training their staff
  • The LPC provides a check list to guide medics through the care of the dying. It is alleged by some that this is being utilised as a tick box exercise. In some instances this has led to abrupt withdrawal of feeding and hydration leading to allegations that patients have been ‘put to their death’. The LPC does provide a blanket policy for the withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration. It is however deemed as treatment as are antibiotics and can be withdrawn where it is in the best interest of the patient.
  • Dr Bee We President of the Association for Pallative Care said some hospitals appeared to be treating the Pathway as ‘just another thing to be done’ rather than something to be handled with extreme care.
  • Despite being placed on the Pathway some Patients have known to survive after questions were raised by the family over the standard of care being offered. ‘Predictions’ that someone is going to die imminently are frequently known to be wrong.
  • It is alleged that the LCP entails increasing doses of sedatives and narcotics making improvement in the underlying illness being difficult to detect.
  • It is also reported that the pathway is actually being used as a euphemism for dying. Patients and families are informed that there is to be a move to the Pathway instead of actually advising that the patient is actually dying.
  • The media coverage has worried Patients and families so much that some are even refusing hospital care worrying what might happen to them


Experts in palliative care have hit back at the criticism. They say that the pathway provides

  • a dignified death freeing the patients from the paraphernalia of feeding tubes etc. It also prevents patients from being neglected.
  • They also report that good quality palliative care actually extends the life of patients.
  • It is misguided that the PCP precludes the use of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration. Infact the LCP prompts clinicians to consider the need for this and to tailor decisions in the best interest of the patients which may not have taken place in the absence of the pathway
  • The guidelines promote good record keeping which was often lacking in these situations.

Professor Irene Higginson of Kings College London added ‘We have to bottom out what the concerns are that people have. What we don’t really know is whether it is the way that the LPC is being used and the environment that it is in or whether it is something within the LCP which has confused people or made the use it in a not work well’ .

Is the Pathway a victim of sensationalised press coverage or has it simply failed in what it set out to do?  Have you have been affected by the LPC either positively or negatively? We would like to hear what you have got to say.  Please e mail us with your views  


For Further Information :

see: For record of Parlimentary debate 8.1.13 ( Page reference 35WH to 58WH)

see: For further Information on the pathway from The Marie Curie Institute for Pallative Care

Asons Solicitors specialise in clinical negligence claims, so if you feel that you or a family member may have been the victim of Clinical negligence please contact our team on Tel 0844 840 8013 and they will be more than happy to assist you.

Read Full Post »

Enjoying a Responsible Gaming Environment

Casino gaming has long been a preferred pastime for many people around the world. It used to be to enjoy your favourite casino games, one had to travel to the nearest land based casino. However, this is no longer the case as many people now get their casino gaming from online casino sites. This makes it much easier to access gaming whenever the mood strikes. Given this ease of access, it makes it important to follow some basic guidelines to ensure a responsible gaming environment.
When playing at an online casino site, time can pass rather quickly. Sometimes this can occur without someone really being aware of it. Therefore, it is vital that gamers effectively manage their time. Taking periodic breaks during a gaming session it ideal to clear one’s head and simply move the body. Rather than participating in an extremely long gaming session, it may be wise to break it up into smaller sessions. This can prevent a player from becoming fatigued which can of course adversely affect the outcome of their gaming session. By taking frequent breaks, one’s mind can maintain its freshness which can only help gaming.
When playing on online casino sites, frequent breaks are especially helpful when playing certain casino games that employ strategic thinking. For instance, games such as poker and blackjack do require players to have some knowledge as to what course to take depending upon the cards on the table. In the game of blackjack, players can split certain hands. This means when a player is dealt two of the same card, they can be split into two different hands. While this sounds appealing, it is not the best course of action for every hand. Typically, the best hands to split are two aces or two eights. This isn’t to say some daring players do not split other hands; this is the recommended hands to split.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

Legal aid cuts prompt top lawyers to leave the bar for careers on the bench

The Guardian: Applications to become judges double as squeezed barristers and solicitors head for the ‘purple lifeboat’ of the judiciary

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »