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Showing posts from April, 2011

Taking the piss

I saw a man working at a riverside juice bar yesterday wearing a high visibility jacket with the words, "Community Payback" on its back.

I can only assume that either he or somebody else sentenced to do unpaid work stole the jacket during the sentence... now that is taking the piss!

Speed kills... just not that often

What I am about to say may well be controversial to some; however I think it is well worth saying: speed is no where near the main cause of accidents in the UK.

It is worth taking the time to think about what we mean by the claim that "Speed Kills".  Do we mean that going very fast will kill you?  If so then that is demonstrably rubbish.  The fastest I have ever driven a car is 180MPH (at Silverstone race track before anybody suggests I would ever exceed a speed limit).  I have travelled at close to 600MPH and despite both I am still alive.  Others have gone much faster and lived to tell the tale.  So, speed itself is not a killer.  How then does speed kill?  Well, the culprit is not speed but inappropriate speed.  I accept that the warning "Inappropriate Speed Kills" may not have the same ring to it.

The Institute of Advances Motorists has just released research on the various contributory causes of accidents and I have to say that the main causes are far more fri…

Emergency

Every now and then the police release their most extraordinary 999 calls for us to laugh at and, presumably, learn when not to dial 999.

We solicitors also have emergency numbers for clients who have been arrested and need urgent advice, usually outside of normal business hours.  At least that's what I thought the emergency phone was for.  My clients' families usually think it's for something different.

I've had the emergency phone for the first time in a little while this week and so far have had a number of people calling in the middle of the night believing that when this is just another line to the office and that all of the solicitors sit together in the office in the dark during the night... at least I assume that's what they think when they phone late at night asking to speak to X, Y or Z and then seeming surprised that the person they want is not with me in bed.  Last night, I had one genuine emergency from a man arrested for an assault he said he did not c…

Technology is not the answer

I admit that typing the above title seems ironic given that I am sitting in a coffee shop waiting for my motorbike to be repaired while typing using a wireless bluetooth keyboard into my iPad and am connected to pretty much all of the information known to our species thanks to WiFi technology that I barely dreamed possible as a child. So, maybe I should be more specific as to what exactly it is that technology is not the answer to.

Techonology is not the answer to all/many of societies problems; however, I am going to suggest that technology is a wonderful way of making it look like a) you care about something; and b) you are doing something about the thing that you care about.

Anyway, the point - yes there is one - is that the Government is now talking about requiring all dog owners to have their doggies microchipped to reduce the number of aggressive dogs on the streets and the number of dog attacks.

This is a classic example of politicians logic (for those who didn't watch &qu…

Welcome Learned Friends

I would just like to take a moment to welcome My Learned Friends at the Bar of England and Wales to the officious world of the Legal Services Commission - a true bureaucracy that has no purpose other than to create more red tape and expense.

Quite recently, the LSC took over the handling of the Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme (basically how the Bar gets paid for Crown Court work).  Previously, such things were handled by a single or sometimes small team clerks at the Court where the work was conducted and payment would be authorised and made within a short time-scale of a few weeks in most cases.  From my own experience, the court staff were usually efficient, friendly and made few mistakes - if they adjusted a bill they were right 9 times out of 10.  My own experience of the LSC (who have been handling all types of solicitors claims for years) is that they are almost never efficient, staff may or may not be friendly and they make a huge number of mistakes - for example, I recently had…

Expert witnesses

There are whisperings of a crackdown on expert witnesses in the form of a toughening of the rules governing the evidence they give to the court.



Currently expert evidence is governed by Rule 33 of the Criminal Procedure Rules as well as by the guidance issued by individual governing bodies, for example this is the General Medical Council's advice.  Other less well regulated areas have different, less or no real guidance for 'experts' to follow.  Even where guidance exists that doesn't mean it will be followed well, properly or even at all!

A few years ago, I was counsel in a big cultivation of cannabis case where one of the central issues revolved around an accounting ledger written partly in English and partly in Vietnamese.  There was a dispute over whether a particular word translated into "grass" or "aunty".  The Crown contended the word was "grass" and referred to cannabis sales.  The Defence line was the word meant "aunty" …

Bullet proof vests for sale

On my ride to work I often pass Dallas Clothing, a slightly odd clothing store in Whitechapel.  I say it's odd because the entrance is a small doorway that leads to what I assume to be a shop in a windowless area above a beauty saloon called Afreen.

This morning, I noticed a sign on the door advertising bullet proof vests and gloves.  Call me an old cynic, but I can only think of one reason that you'd want to be buying bullet proof vests and that is because you are somebody closely associated with gun crime... in which case, I wonder whether simply leaving a store that sells such equipment would provide reasonable grounds for a stop and search under s. 1 PACE?

Appeal

Seems that the DDP has decided to move onto my territoryand has started advising people to appeal their convictions.

I don't really have much to say about this, except to wonder why the protesters have not already received such advice from their own solicitors?

No wonder pubs are closing down

I regularly hear how pubs are closing all the time and that is something that genuinely worries me as I happen to quite like pubs!  But, given the comments of Daniel Griffiths when discussing how two gay men were thrown out of a Soho pub for kissing I'm not surprised that pubs are being shut down if his establishment is as authoritarian as he makes it sound.

Maybe the landlord of the John Snow and Samuel Smith brewery (owners of some of the worst pubs in the UK and produces of some truly horrific beers) don't like gays in their establishments but then maybe they should have thought twice before opening up shop in Soho... for those who haven't visited Soho it's not overtly gay like Brighton or Canal Street in Manchester but it is a place where you will find just about anything and everything happening and like as not you'll see as many openly gay/lesbian couples as you will heterosexual couples.

All I can suggest to James Bull and Jonathan Williams is to try anywher…

Why Scouting for girls is like criminal law

I'm watching BBC Breakfast and they have a piece about the fact that more girls than boys have joined the Scouts this year for the first time ever.

It's good news for the Scouts that they remain so popular, but it got me thinking about the funny way that sexual equality works.

When I was a boy the Scouts were exclusively for boys - the handbook may even have still been called "Scouting for Boys".  While I was still a member the UK leadership changed the rules to allow girls to join, but left the choice of whether to admit girls to individual troops.  We had just one enquiry from a girl and the leader asked us to vote whether the troop should admit girls.  The vote was a unanimous no and as I remember the main reason was because we all just wanted somewhere we could all go that was just for us boys (I was about 10 at the time so maybe the reasoning wasn't quite so clearly defined as I recall).

Something that has always intrigued me is why there was a call for the …

Legal aid boosts the number of lawyers

According to the Daily Mail, the UK now has more lawyers that police officers because of legal aid.

One of my favourite hobbies is to flick through my mum's copy of the paper and show her that everything is definitely the fault of the Jews and anyone with a slightly dusky skin tone... how silly am I going to look next time I do that and it turns out that all the ills of the world are now my fault?

No doubt the Mail's stories are always rigorously researched, but in this case something is quite wrong.  For a start apart from the headline and an incorrect claim that the Law Society opposes cuts to legal aid, when in fact the LS have suggested cuts of £384M compared to the Government's cuts of £350M (they only oppose what is being cut not the cuts themselves), the story doesn't appear to be about legal aid at all, not that the Mail makes that clear.

The Mail points out that there are 165,000 lawyers compared to 142,000 police officers... is that a complaint about legal ai…

Job searching

After watching the news where they discussed the plight of the unemployed over-50's who are trying to get back into work and reading something similar in the Law Society Gazette about prospective trainees who have trouble finding work I thought I'd mention my recent search for staff.

There are a two jobs on offer, first for duty solicitors.  There's no upper limit to how many we'll employ at the moment.  We have adverts in all the local court robing/advocate rooms and are putting an ad in the Gazette.  So far we have had zero applications. 

The second job is for a 3-day a week receptionist/office junior.  We ran a single small ad in the Evening Standard for one day only.  At the last count we had received approximately 1,200 applications.  The vast majority of the applicants have been wildly inappropriate (e.g. people massively over-qualified, those living in inappropriate places by which I mean it would cost them more to get to work than we would pay them such as Brig…