Archive for January, 2012

There are still days when I wonder if I want to be a barrister. I think that’s healthy. If I didn’t question my own professional worth then I’d let ego or destiny take over.

Ego is easy to give in to. There are moments of sheer glory in your wig. Heart stopping moments when a jury announces a not guilty verdict; when your opponent agrees a consent order; where a parole board releases your client. There are moments when people who you hardly know will throw their arms around you; grown men will cry; people will come up and shake your hand congratulating you for a wonderful performance.

It can be like a drug. After all there’s no doubt that we have adrenalin rush moments.

Can you keep a balance between ego and self-confidence? If ego takes over then you will lose professional perspective. If you lose all self-confidence then you’ll lose the confidence of your client, professional and public.

‘Silk-Cut’ , my mentor, is going to be a QC. He’s brilliant, the legal professional press says so. Clients, professional and public, love him. But even he has moments of doubt, gloom for the future.

But he will always tell aspirant barristers if you want it, if you can do it, you will.

Do you want it?

I won’t bore any of you with the statistics. Becoming a barrister is hard. There are more potential pupils then there are pupillages. There are fewer tenancies than there are pupils. The numbers indicate you’re taking a hard route.

But for the moments I mentioned above it is worth it. If I get a result for a client, I imagine it is the same feeling a doctor gets when he cures a patient.

But, the first thing you must remember is not all patients pull through.

Dead on arrival

Some cases that land in your pigeon hole are dead on arrival. The client has no defence or can not make a claim. Can you accept that? Can you accept that no matter what you do you are bound to fail?

For those going toward criminal types of work, the acquittal rate in the Magistrates’ Court is low. In extradition, I have no idea what the discharge rate is  for European Arrest Warrants but I imagine it is very low.

In immigration, asylum is regularly refused from people who come from countries which we cannot imagine living in.

Brave people are given a cold shoulder by the dispassionate law.

Sleep at night

You have to be able to switch off. I lose sleep before big cases, I dream about trials that will never happen. But after a case, I can generally switch off as if I didn’t I’d never be able to focus on the now and the next case.

So, you have to be in one sense as dispassionate as the law is and on the other hand show your client that you care enough to listen to their story.

Mercenary not miracle worker

Barristers especially get described as being mercenaries, going into battle to fight for a client for money. Factually that’s right, but we’re humans too, honestly.

I remember being in a conference room in my old chambers, one of my first cases which really required proper weeks and months of preparation. My client was a 12 year old boy, who was in tears, who didn’t really understand what was happening. His mother was full of anger and hurt. His solicitor full of outrage that things had got so far. I wanted to take that 12 year old boy home, I wanted to go to his school and sort things out. I couldn’t, it’s not my job. I got that boy the result he needed. But that doesn’t mean I’ve solved all his problems, it doesn’t mean that I’ve saved his life.

If you’re a barrister you cannot cure a person of their drugs problem. You cannot take an abused child away from their parent. You can’t erase their past. You can only help mould a moment of their future.

If you want to be a barrister you have to accept that you won’t be able to do everything for everyone.

It’s a rare case that changes the world

A rare case indeed, that would change the world. But some do. So it’s from one extreme to another. At this stage in my career I doubt I’ll ever be potent enough, clever enough, persuasive enough to hold on to a case which can change the world. There are people in my chambers who have had such cases, real moments in British history. I have unlimited respect for them.

Could you ever be strong enough to shoulder that kind of case? And, if you did, could you remember that the case never really belongs to you but to your solicitor and lay client?

Extreme

You know if you want to be a barrister that hours will be long. You know that your finances will be tough. You know you’ll go from ecstasy to agony in the same month, week, sometimes even day.

You can be the golden boy one day and the next you can be out of favour.

Barristers drink too much. Barrister smoke too much. Some eat too much. Some eat too little. Some trade children for fulfilling professional potential. Some can balance everything, never really having a moment for themselves.

Some change history. Some do little more than earn an average living.

Can you?

Risk several years of your life on your wig? By the time you add it all together it’s a decade long commitment to really give it a go from start to early finish.

You might be spat at.

You might be screamed at and insulted. There have been moments when I have walked across a court foyer with everyone’s eyes on me full of hate or distrust. Shoulders back, head up.

You might be dropped by a solicitor for a single tactical choice that you’d still stick to. You might be dropped by chambers because you forgot to shine your shoes one morning. You might not get pupillage because you answered a single question in a way which the panel didn’t quite like.

Do I still want to be a barrister

I still love my job. If I stop loving it I will do something else.

Tick box exercise

If you’re not sure about being a barrister then please don’t take the risk.

Once you’ve ticked all the boxes

x Don’t mind job insecurity

x Don’t mind financial insecurity

x Don’t mind long hours

x Like travel

x Like the public

x Like the law

Then tick a final box. Can you adopt the mentality of a barrister?

FTD

On 28 January 1953, 59 years ago, Derek Bentley was executed at HMP Wandsworth in South West London. British execution was by way of hanging.

Like many defence briefs I’ve been shown by today’s gaolers where the gallows used to stand. It’s a cold spot. Surrounded by grey stone. Rather bland for a place so important in our country’s history.

59 years ago, at 9am on that spot, Derek Bentley was hanged by the neck until he was dead. Protests outside the prison led to arrests.

Protests outside the criminal justice system led eventually to his posthumous pardon in 1998

Why we defend

The Derek Bentley case is one that I had read about before I went up to Oxford. It’s one that most law students in this country have at their fingertips and it still features in practitioner texts.

It’s a case that fascinates me and is an important reminder that the doctrine of ‘joint enterprise’ remains one of the most controversial in the English criminal law. For a thorough read on the doctrine, please go to Francis Fitzgibbon QC’s article at the Justice Gap: http://thejusticegap.com/2011/12/joint-enterprise/

The case of Derek Bentley

In November 1952, Derek Bentley was 18. He was an epileptic having received a head injury during the blitz. At aged 4 he was injured having fell from a lorry.

He had few previous convictions. Minor things. Having been sent to an approved school for a stint he was released. He was a functional illiterate and his IQ had been assessed as being 77. He had been rejected from national service as being ‘mentally subnormal’.

2 November 1952

Bentley and another young man decided to go out and steal from the local confectionery factory in Croydon. The other lad was a 16 year old, Christopher Craig. Craig had a service revolver in his pocket with bullets which didn’t properly fit.  Whether Derek knew that Christopher Craig had the revolver is still a matter of debate.

Arriving at the factory, they set about their burglary. Unbeknownst to them a hawk eyed local girl had spied them. The police were on their way.

DS Fairfax was one of the first on scene. He climbed a drain pipe and challenged Bentley, grabbing hold of him. Bentley broke free for a moment. Christopher Craig revealed the revolver.

Let him have it Chris

The police say Bentley said. In 1999 Christopher Craig still denied that Bentley said it. Bentley always denied uttering the words.

In any event, Chris Craig fired. Striking Fairfax in the shoulder. Despite the wound, DS Fairfax kept hold of Bentley. He was restrained. When,

There were more shots

And whilst the injured Fairfax had hold of Bentley, one of those shots fired by  Christopher Craig struck a PC Miles in the head. He died instantly.

At the trial it was clear that nobody was sure how many shots had been fired and by whom. Some of the officers present that evening were armed.

Nobody could agree what, if anything Bentley shouted. And if he did shout, ‘let him have it’ what it meant.

I, as Bentley’s barrister did at the time, question whether or not he could be responsible for what happened whilst he was effectively under arrest by DS Fairfax.

Indeed, as too should we question whether Bentley was able to participate in the trial process with such a low level of intelligence.

The verdict

It took the jury 75 minutes to convict. The jury recommended mercy.

Christopher Craig, the alleged gunman could not be executed because of his age.

Derek Bentley could. Despite the Lord Chief Justice expecting a reprieve to be given, Derek Bentley was executed.

The ongoing appeal of Derek Bentley

The Bentley case concerned the public at large. The execution of a man who had not pulled the trigger did not sit well outside of the legal community.

And then, in the 1970s the evidence was analysed again, there were questions as to whether this could simply have been a case of the PC being caught in the cross fire. Indeed, it was concluded he could have been killed by a Met Police pistol.

In 1998 the Court of  Appeal quashed Bentley’s conviction. The jury had not been properly directed about joint enterprise. The conviction was not safe.

The Bentley case is still important today. How responsible should Bentley be for Craig’s act? Should he be responsible if he knew he had a weapon?

Could Bentley have a fair trial? If someone is functionally illiterate and of such a low IQ, could they possibly participate in a criminal trial in the Old Bailey? Are there anyways we can adopt the criminal justice process further for those who are mentally impaired? Should we insist on putting people with limited cognitive capacity on trial? Afterall, we assume those under age of 10 cannot be liable.

So 59 years after Bentley’s execution we still in this country are not sure of two things:

1) Should X be responsible for the criminal action of Y

2) Should X be tried in a Court of law when he cannot properly follow or take part.

The Bentley case continues to be important. There can be no doubt that he is the victim of English justice. All of us involved in the justice system must fight for the Derek Bentleys.

FTD

In the evening news tonight, the Government’s response to the increase in metal theft was featured as a news item. Police powers ought to be increased so they can shut down naughty metal yards. I see.

Metal theft is bad. Yes, I understand that. Metal theft causes a great deal of inconvenience. Yep, I definitely understand that, I spend a lot of my life on trains.

We should do something about metal theft. Yep, alright, fine.

But what about the news

In the last week two young offenders have committed suicide in Young Offenders Institutions.

Jake Hardy, 17 years old, died on Tuesday. Alex Kelly, 15 years old, died on Wednesday.

I care that they died.  I expect the Government to care that they died. They died whilst in the care of the state.

All the prison service have announced is an investigation. An investigation that they will not even carry out you must remember.

What remedial measures are the Government putting in place? Is funding going to be increased for YOIs? Are the Government going to ask the Church, the Samaritans or Childline to help? Are Prison Governors going to be given extra resources to ensure that more prison staff are available to watch children on suicide watch more closely?

I don’t know either boy

Even if I did, I couldn’t tell you. I know HMP Cookham Wood, it started life as an adult prison. It wasn’t purpose built for young people.

This was written by a victim of Alex Kelly’s on the Kent Online website:

I am sorry that this young man has been let down by so many, mainly, ‘HappyFeet,’ his parents in the first place. This young man was a very troubled individual when I first met him five years ago. He was let down by his parents,his foster parents, and the social services.
I know why he was inside and he caused a lot of people a lot of trouble and expense by his actions. I was a victim of these actions but once again I say I am so sorry he felt that there was only one way out to deal with his problems. I have no sympathy whatsoever with his family because they were the reason he was were he was.

Alex Kelly was 15 years old and was locked up for burglary and theft. He will have failed to engage with youth offending if he was locked up at that age. But it doesn’t sound as though anyone has ever tried to engage with him. He was placed in custody for acquisitive offences, offences which inconvenience (but do not necessarily hurt victims).

Locking up the 15 year old boy killed him. Sentencing policy of this country killed a 15 year old.

Shouldering the blame

A 15 year old boy can make his own decisions. No doubt he made several bad decisions. He was held criminally liable for those decisions. I don’t excuse him for that.

But, I excuse any child who isn’t being properly supported by society. If parents don’t bring him up, then society’s responsibility is to do so. If we as  a society fail to bring him up properly then it’s our fault.

If a child has parents and commits an offence, those parents can face criminal sanction and cost.

If we fail to properly look after a child then they certainly ought not be locked up. Why? Because wider society must be to blame to some degree.

I’d rather my taxes

Were spent on investing in support networks for these children then inadequate prisons. Why should I throw good money after bad?

Start them early, then the only figures of stability in troubled young people’s lives will be prison officers. They deserve parents.

I don’t care about metal theft

Because two young men took their own lives this week. They took their lives whilst in the care of my country.

Metal theft inconvenienced my commute, it didn’t end anybody’s life.

It’s not fashionable to care about kids who commit crimes. Cameron has stepped back from hugging hoodies. But if we did care, if we did properly invest in them then perhaps they wouldn’t grow up to commit more serious crimes. Perhaps they would be able to contribute to society. Perhaps they wouldn’t be stealing metal…

We signed on the dotted line

The United Kingdom signed up to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it says clearly imprisonment of a child shall be used “only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”

Let’s focus our youth justice system in this way. Let’s think about how we can avoiding locking kids up – they’ll be much less of an inconvenience in the long run.

I am yet as a barrister to lose a kid to custody, it’s something I’m very proud of.

As a wider company we ought to aim to constantly reduce young people coming into the criminal justice system and be proud when we reduce numbers of children in custody.

FTD.

I fell into extradition law. I was at my old place and I was asked to cover one day. The clerks knew I did prison law and public law, so they thought send FTD.

Extradition is a bit of a different world. Everyone talks in numbers. The numbers you later learn are section numbers from the Extradition Act 2003. People talk about cases constantly too, and they’re ever changing.

I have been in the North for the past few weeks. My opponent was asking me about my weekend. I told him I had gone down to the Mags to do three new extraditions. Because of his location, rather than anything else, he had never done one.

To him, he assumed it was all big offences, big cases like Pinochet and such like. In my new set I do a lot of extradition, I post this so people have a flavour of the reality.

The reality

At my level at least the cases are far from high profile. The extradition offences are quite often things you and I would consider minor.

The favourites? Stolen mobile phones. Pickpockets. Minor assaults.

Of course, they’re all offences. Somebody has been inconvenienced or hurt.

But what about these:

Insulting a police constable. Sorry? What?

Or how about this, going over drawn on your bank account. Yep.

Trivial pursuit

Imagine you’ve gone over drawn on your account. You move across Europe. You have been in another country quite legally for five years, you’ve worked, you’ve paid taxes. And then one day the police knock on the door. You’re handcuffed. Within 24 hours you’re taken from one end of England to another. You meet a lawyer you don’t know. You appear in front of a Judge. And at that moment in time, they can send you abroad, away from your family, life and job.

Or, you go on a hen weekend in a European City. You get in a Friday night fight. Handcuffed, sleep off the booze in a cell. The Coppers kick you out in the morning, tell you that’s the end of it. Three years later, back in Blighty you have a bump in your car. The police turn up, they check you on the police national computer. The cuffs go on, you’re wanted on a European Arrest Warrant.

You’re barred

If you’re lucky then an argument can be raised that your extradition is barred. But in terms of a European Arrest Warrant there’s a presumption you’ll get a fair trial, there’s a presumption that you’ll be held in a prison which is humane and safe.

To bar an extradition to Europe is very difficult indeed. The presumption is, you’re going.

The presumption is our European partners will act properly and not abuse the system.

Triviality is no bar

In European cases, if someone is accused of offence it must carry a sentence of 12 months in the requesting country. If they’ve been found guilty in their absence then you can be extradited on a 4 month sentence.

Imagine how much money has to be spent in arresting that person. How much money it costs to put them through a Court process. How much money it costs to imprison them. How much money it cots to transport them back to the requesting state.

It’s an awful lot for what, by our community standards may well be a trivial offence.

Mutual trust

The whole system of European Arrest Warrants is based on mutual assistance and trust. As ever, trust can be abused. The hawk eyed amongst you will have noticed a flaw above.

In an accusation case the crime must carry 12 months imprisonment or more. Imagine low level offences, just because they carry 12 months doesn’t mean someone is going to get 12 months when they get back to the requesting country.

The time spent in an English prison counts.

Spend 3 months in an English prison. When you get to the requesting country you might only get a 3 month sentence. We’ve just paid to carry out the sentence of another country’s Court.

England could become Europe’s gaoler.

And the law might presume…

That you’ll get a fair trial. That you’ll be held in a decent prison. I don’t.

The old law contained a bar to extradition on the basis of triviality. Sir Scott Baker when he reviewed this country’s extradition law concluded that there were far too many trivial cases.

There should be no harbour in our neighbour’s borders for those who commit serious crimes here.

But we should not become Europe’s gaoler. We should not extradite people who work hard here, who pay taxes here, who have children at school for trivial offences. Especially offences which have very little resemblance to anything within our own criminal law.

The real debate about extradition is not Pinochet, Assange or McKinnon. It is whether we should be obliged to take part in the pursuit of other European Citizens for very trivial offences.

FTD.

 

Coppers has become compulsive viewing for anyone who works in the criminal justice system. It is by far the most honest portrayal of policing. And, refreshingly it shows the view of individual police officers without the PR spin of senior ranks.

Tonight’s episode is the first where I haven’t shouted or screamed at the TV.

Why? Because I felt some of the frustration that those officers described. Barristers and solicitors on either side have to deal with ‘community crime’. Often we cannot believe how something has got to Court. Particularly neighbourhood disputes. Harassment. Low level public order offences. Why are we here?

These offences too generate hundreds of pages of paperwork and it would seem hours of police work.

Then, we see as tonight, a neighbourhood dispute where one of the parties refused to engage in mediation. I rolled my eyes. I remember doing a case similar, in a rural Magistrates’ Court. I was paid privately, it cost my client a lot. It cost the tax payer even more. On the second day the Prosecutor had simply had enough. He invited the Magistrates to bind both parties  over and they were sent on their way. Told to keep the peace.

PC Porter

Is the police officer who has to spend time trying to solve this dispute. I have a great deal of sympathy. He was there trying to invite the parties into mediation. One party wouldn’t give.

At the same time, the chair of the Magistrates’ Association has been talking to Frances Gibb of the Times about the role of the Magistracy in this century, outside of Court rooms.

An easy solution in my view is this: train the Magistrates to be mediators. Magistrates could directly engage with community members. They can warn individuals what the consequences might be if they continue in their behaviour. And, the cost of training and their deployment would be less than that of deploying police officers or lawyers.

Indeed it could well be an attractive qualification for younger people and bringing them onto the Bench.

Soft touch

There was a slight hint that PC Porter was a little soft. But, when it came to dealing with the Mother and Son on tonight’s episode I think he was bang on. A number of London areas have a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence. The young lad who had hit his mum was an example of domestic violence. It is policy often that arrest is inevitable, despite the wishes of the victim.

PC Porter’s intervention had helped the family. The lad clearly has issues. What would be gained from dumping him into the criminal justice system? This was an example of proportionate, clever policing.

Again, my lawyer readers will have been there when they’ve been instructed to represent a son or daughter  alleged to have thumped or threatened a parent. Court often turns into an episode of Trisha. Or, one of the parties does not attend. Time and money are spent in the Courts which often has no real positive outcome.

You’re under arrest Danny

Local alcoholic and drug addict Danny was well known to the police. His ASBO caught him out on each occasion. The local police did genuinely seem to want to help but as their Inspector pointed out they don’t have the training.

Again, ASBOs provide very little protection to the public. Instead, they’re an expensive means of taking problematic people off the streets.

Having worked with individuals who misuse substances before and during my time at the Bar, I think treatment must be rapidly rethought. Some individuals want to change and can be motivated sufficiently to get help. But, some aren’t. Rather than lock them up in the generic prison system, why not think about secure community facilities where they might detox?

Again, expensive, but surely cheaper than police time, court time and prison places.

Muggers, rapists and murderers

PC Porter said, the public want him to deal with the muggers, rapists and murderers of our society. And of course we do. But I’m happy too for him to act as a peace officer. Keeping the peace in these more minor disputes avoids escalation. Escalation to more serious violent offences.

Preventative measures in the community require sometimes unpopular decisions. It means not prosecuting some people. It means talking to people rather than punishing them for doing unpleasant things. It means trying to force some people to act in a way which is good for them.

It is also means capital expenditure. But capital expenditure now will save budgets in future.

If Magistrates are looking for a role in the heart of communities then it could be as mediators.

No need to scream at Coppers tonight as it would seem that some agree with a pragmatic and proportionate approach like me.

FTD

In most towns in the UK hidden down a backstreet or in a disused civic building you can find the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Actually, you can now find them in Australia, New Zealand, Israel and the United States.

The CAB is a charity dedicated to two things:

The twin aims of the Citizens Advice service are:

  • To provide the advice people need for the problems they face.
  • To improve the policies and principles that affect people’s lives.

Trained volunteers and a small paid staff help people with everyday problems. Debt, employment, consumer complaints. All sorts of things. And, they campaign on and litigate bigger things.

They don’t charge people, they offer a confidential service and they are impartial.

Something for nothing

People who can’t afford lawyers, or people who just need a little know how – get something for nothing. They get a wonderful service.

Last year though that wonderful service was reduced across the country. In Cardiff the service closed. There was a political brawl in Birmingham.

And now the Legal Aid bill looms, paid staff who rely on an income from the legal services’ commission will find themselves unemployed as smaller areas of legal aid are no longer funded.

Get what you pay for

Citizen’s Advice Bureau staff are on the most part not paid. But it costs a lot to train them.

As a student I was a CAB advisor. It was a first for my rural bureau. The deal was I would work more days a week than the average advisor during my university breaks. It took about 8 months for my training to be completed. I was sent on a variety of courses in a variety of places.

I came out of it a person trained to deal with the public, to process information and to explain difficult concepts to sometimes difficult people. For the first time too I was trained to give bad news as well as good.

A lot of my soft skills as a lawyer were developed in a tiny little consulting room in a house converted into an advice centre.

I kept up my side of the bargain. I worked in the local bureau and did some work in the Oxford bureau too where I was studying.

The risk the bureau manager had taken, had paid off. She had an active advisor. CAB now have access to a barrister to help point them in the right direction when things get technical.

Pay your way

Many students looking for a career in the law start in CABx across the country. If you’re looking to improve your CV and your client skills I cannot recommend it enough.

But chambers and law firms are getting a lot for nothing.

City bashing is rife at the moment. If you’re in a big city law firm, why not consider a donation to the bureau that trained your new trainee in their soft skills. Part of the reason you’ve employed them is because of their CAB experience.  So reward the CAB. Pay them a premium for training they have done which you do not have to.

Large chambers – why not do the same? Or, why not release your non-practicing pupils to the local CAB to offer help at an evening session (it counts toward pupillage).

Local firms – adopt a CAB? The biggest solicitors’ firm in each town could adopt a CAB. Again, a wonderful training experience for trainee fee earners, a brilliant opportunity for PR. Indeed, an opportunity to generate potential clients. In return?  Help that CAB with their legal obligations, tax, charity status. Help them keep the lights on by running events for them. Invite their advisors to training and workshops so external trainers do not need to be paid.

The legal profession ought to do their bit. In particular when so many of us started life under the blue and yellow circle of the CAB.

It’s not sexy but it is important

As part of a firm’s PR strategy it might be important to say we let so many billable hours go to help local children, or to build a building elsewhere in the world.

But, justice is important. And justice isn’t just about the big cases and the headlines, we in the wigs or them in the big glass buildings.

Justice is getting the right DLA payment for a person injured. Helping the minimum wage worker get their proper holiday pay.  Stopping a landlord illegally harassing a tenant. Helping someone fill out a form.

It may not be sexy. It is almost always not glossy. But it helps people.

Help CAB

CAB have helped so many people with so many things. CAB have helped so many lawyers get their first job. CAB have helped firms and chambers by providing trainee lawyers with a set of real world skills.

It’s time for barristers and solicitors to help CAB.

I’ve just started, ‘Lad’ has text me wanting help with his tax return – he’s made an awful lot last year. Will be persuading him to make a donation.

Next time you haven’t got your wheelie bag and you think about taking a taxi, hail a different CAB and donate:

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/support-us.htm

FTD

 

 

You may have just coughed up your tea when you read the title. Or screwed your face up in surprise.

Why is FTD arguing for a police officer? Not only that, but a police fed rep!

Contrary to popular belief…

… FTD does not hate cops. He just hates bad cops.

And PC Nick Manning is not being disciplined for being a bad cop. He is being disciplined for tweeting.

From what I can see

Evidently, I am not representing PC Manning or else I wouldn’t be blogging about it. However, I’ve found out what I can courtesy of our friends at Google.

In short, PC Manning is a response PC within Dorset police. He has received a notice under the Police Conduct Regulations 2008 that he is to be investigated for his tweetery.

The offensive tweetery

Not really looking forward to the reaction of the membership. Tories have got revenge for sheehy. Disgusted in Dorset. (January 9)

• Xmas evening has been soured by 1 of my colleagues taking a kicking by a family of *******. Single crewing is the future apparently. (December 25, tweet now deleted)

• Just having a brew and checked the system. The guvnor who told us all to stay on has gone off duty himself. Brilliant. (December 12)

• In a touch of brilliance while we battle gale force winds and flooding our inspector just did a broadcast ‘drive carefully’ uh, cheers guv. (December 12)

• Those striking tomorrow. Please remember. Police are in full agreement with you. Please don’t treat us like we are the enemy. #strike4us2. (November 29)

• Our new Mottos in Dorset are ‘Committed to a safer Bournemouth’ and ‘let’s make Bournemouth feel safer’ so #noconfidenceintheresamay here. (October 14)

• Last 3 nights in North Dorset 3 cops covering everything north of the A31, the public here should have #noconfidenceintheresamay. (October 14)

• Dorset already suffering with cuts, key staff gone and cops stuck in nicks doing their work no wonder there’s #noconfidenceintheresamay. (October 14)

• Police wasting money on backroom posts? How about halving the amount of C.Insps and above? Trust me the frontline will probably benefit. (September 5)

• 3 hrs wasted last night taking a crook home from Poole custody seems we really ARE a taxi service for ‘risk averse’ custody skippers. (June 21)

Underlined theme

I’ve underlined three of the publish tweets which might cause the police concern.

In the first, he names a particular family (I am told – I don’t know). Evidently that is not appropriate. This could prejudice a future judicial process. However, it is now deleted and the information would end up in the public domain in any respect if the individual(s) concerned were convicted.

As for the second and third, the schedule of Police Conduct Regulations 2008 requires officers to

” treat information with respect and access or disclose it only in the proper course of police duties.”

So perhaps those other two tweets touch upon that

But

I’d like to know if I lived in a rural area and there was extremely limited policing.

In those last two tweets he has simply highlighted what he sees as poor resource deployment, or lack of resources.

North Dorset MP Bob Walter said: “Obviously policeman should not be expressing party politics views in their capacity as police officers.”

Well hang on, I do believe that the police ought to be politically independent. But it is this very Government who are politicising the police. Soon we will have party political elections for crime commissioner roles.

How is what PC Nick Manning said different to what a teacher might say? A teacher might say, they are concerned about a class size. A Dr might say, they are concerned about a waiting list.

Nick Manning hasn’t (as far as I can see) sat in his police car abusing Theresa May over twitter all day. He has simply tweeted  feelings about police resourcing.

How is that different from me or ‘Silk Cut’ commenting on legal aid? Or, ‘TV Blonde’ saying he objects to cuts to the arts budget.

Especially when PC Nick Manning is a fed rep. As far as I can tell, he was not using his twitter account in an official police capacity as some do like @SgtGaryWatts or @ScillySergeant .

PC Nick Manning is entitled to express his views about his profession.

Words of advice

Many of my police twitter followers know how words of advice irk me so. But, this surely is a case for it. The deleted tweet was wrong. He should never have mentioned an individual’s name. The other two highlighted tweets perhaps, just perhaps crossed into a breach of information handling.

But the rest? The rest were simply expressions of opinion. Political opinion. And we in this country do not punish people for that.

Unless you show me some offensive tweets, by which I mean some tweets which give away operational information or details of the public.

I throw my wig in the ring for PC Nick Manning.

FTD

So says Imad Ghalioun a Syrian MP who defected today.

The image of Syria he describes is terrifying. He told Channel 4 that ‘the law is dead.’

Elections rigged. Defecting soldiers murdered. Snipers keep some sort of oppressive order.

The path of repression is a dead-end

“I say again to President Assad of Syria: Stop the violence. Stop killing your people,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said over the weekend. “The path of repression is a dead end.”

Qatar says Arab League Troops ought to be deployed.

I couldn’t agree more.

If necessary the UN must take steps to force Assad to stop.

Hawk in sheep’s clothing

Most people assume because of my profession and my strong support of human rights and civil liberties that I do not believe in the use of force.

They’re wrong.

My view is that the United Kingdom in the 21st century maintains armed forces for three reasons:

1) To protect British subjects and their interests.

2) To aid in disaster rescue and humanitarian efforts.

3) To protect others who are subject to unlawful force

No 1

It is in our interest to defend the civilian population of a potential trading partner.

No 2

“Ghost town full of horror.”  The description Ghalioun gives of his home town.

No 3

If the UN is the dinner lady, and the US is the big kid, we’re the clever little kid standing behind them.

And we’re a lucky little country, because we can protest, we can argue, we can tweet and blog. If we don’t like the Government we can say so. Government employed snipers don’t put us in their cross hairs because we speak out.

We’re protected by the law

You have the right to life. The people of Syria must do too.

If a Government starts to unlawfully end the lives of its people, then by necessity that Government ought to be stopped.

International law only has some sort of punch if there’s an international policeman to do the handcuffing. It’s an unpopular view but I believe it. Until Assad’s Government are stopped then the international criminal law is dead too.

And once Assad is in handcuffs and is on trial, I believe that he deserves the best defence possible – because he has rights too.

Universal human rights are meaningless until those of us who enjoy those rights make sure that our neighbours do too.

FTD

Dr Cliff Arnal (interestingly qualified psychologist) says that today is the most depressing day of the year. Aspirant barristers take note, this was my day:

Just another manic Monday

Wasn’t a terrible start. I packed my suitcase, robes, wig, laptop, papers, spare tunic shirts, a week’s boxers and socks. And I started to rolllllllll the plastic suitcase into the most depressing day.

You see, I’m meant to be up North. But for reasons I can’t discuss right now, Monday was a no go.

Before I leave the Housemate is pottering. Bothering because we’ve got someone coming to house. He starts to rearrange my desk. PUT THE FUCKING PAPERS DOWN – NOW.

The Clerks booked me on Monday, even though I’m mid case. Quick job, short application, privately paying, no bother.

Or so we thought, Court Clerk was trapped in another Court, so was HHJ. Client didn’t arrive. Solicitors hadn’t been told everything. Urgent phone calls follow. Back and forth with Judge. He was very nice. Still lost. But by the time we finished, it was gone 1pm.

There was a bonus

I saw Silk Cut my mentor (and the man I blame for my love for the wig), he was in same Court, doing something very important. Being led by a gentleman QC from my old set.

But of course, was manic Monday, so I said hello to QC and to Silk Cut. Neither of us could talk. He was dashing about, I was trying to get my iPhone to work indoors (every Court has a sweet spot).

Can you be a hero

Note to self, if the Clerks ask you to help you say yes (even Silk Cut has to). If the Clerks ask you to be a hero, then you put your suit jacket over your head and pretend it is a cape.

Can you go to ‘Other End of City Inconvenient’ Magistrates’ Court? Yep, was off. But of course was late. And there were no rooms and the client didn’t want to give instructions through the wicket.

The District Judge gave the exact sentence I had advised the client.

By now it was 4.30pm.

No lunch, and I’m meant to be up North.

Heavy suitcase. Down ramp. Up ramp. Upstairs. Downstairs. Shoulder hurts.

Other end of London.

Organic sandwich

If I have an organic sandwich I’ll feel better.

Why is there a sun-dried tomato in my all day breakfast sandwich? Urgh.

Elderflower presse – I’d rather have a bottle of full fat coke and one of those massive richmond cigarettes that clients get from somewhere.

Training

As soon as the train board lights up, I leg it to train. Get one of the disabled friendly seats. Loadsa leg room. Yes. Train empties out at Stevenage. I have pre-booked ticket, saved legal aid fund money, feel righteous.

Odd couple get on and keep eyeballing me. WHAT.

Pre-booked ticket apparently doesn’t work on that train. It’s a peak time. But the train is empty? £70. I’m a lawyer and I don’t understand the ticket terms and conditions.

Feel depressed.

Yay – smutty text from ‘Lad’. Smiled.

Wonder about texting ‘Pretty Boy’ – no, it’s a Monday he’ll have to work until at least 3am.

Yay – amusing series of texts from ‘Banter & Hedges’ – she registers a complaint, her relationship survived pupillage – there you have it, noted.

Oh, the lights have gone out in the train carriage.

Legal question from ‘Favourite Solicitor.’

Arrive in Leeds, phone call from ‘Favourite Solicitor.’

Is this a real Park Plaza?

‘Welcome to the Park Plaza’

‘Yah, hi’

‘Name?’

‘FTD’

‘Two nights?’

‘I may be staying all week’

‘You’ll have to pay’

Oh right, you don’t say, I have to pay to stay in a hotel. Thank you.

Grrr.

My hotel room smells. Why does it smell. Why are there pieces of card with costs on every surface. I’ve already paid. The man made me pay. Leave me alone.

Room service? Hmmm, no I don’t want that. Mini bar? £2 for a kit kat chunky. Yeah, alright. Probably should eat something proper.

No, I’ll have a burger king.

Then I’ll shout at Coppers on Channel 4.

‘Oh you can’t do that.’

‘No, that’s illegal.’

Ho hum.

… Favourite solicitor is ringing…

Life in a wig

It’s better most days – honest.

FTD

 

I was twittering away the other day from Court. The world needed to know that I had seen ‘lovely solicitor’.

‘Lovely solicitor’ does not instruct me, we hardly know each other. But back when I was first on my feet ‘lovely solicitor’ and I would spend many a miserable Saturday morning together in the smelly cells of a London Magistrates’ Court.

‘Lovely solicitor’ is always smiley, always asks how I am. She’s brilliant too, she fights for her clients and is clever.

Yes, I have a crush on ‘lovely solicitor.’

But I’m not alone, a number of male junior members of the Bar have their own ‘lovely solicitor.’ (Back off mine lads).

Most of my barrister friends are single, most of my non-barrister friends are not, here’s a scientific sample.

Our survey says…

The non-barristers

TV blonde – TV employee, skinny jeans and boots, uber wit – girlfriended , nice nurse girl

Lad – Hardcore corporate attorney, Northern lad, no messin – girlfriended, for years and years and years

Pretty boy – Square jawed silk tie solicitor boy, minor sex pest – single, but often lucky

The barristers

Shaggy dog – From north of Watford, somewhere very North, has bad ties but good humour – single.

John Bull – Criminal hack, real ale slugger, – sometimes dates, repeat bookings occasional.

Smiley face – Hugs a hoodie, cares a lot, nice guy – long term girlfriend, date night tonight boys

Scientific analysis

Having conducted my extremely scientific survey I can announce the following results: 66% of male junior barristers are single, compared to only 33% of male professionals of comparable age.

Theory

Truth is that barristers have very different and quite often odd working patterns. Thursday I worked until midnight. Friday, I arrived back in London late, went straight to the pub, went home worked until 2. Saturday, worked all day, finished just after midnight. Monday, will start the day in London, will end it up North – not long how long I’ll be gone for.

It’s not conducive to dating. Some of your best mates get rather irked with the constant cancellations.

If someone did do a scientific survey of how many romantic relationships survive pupillage I imagine it would be very few indeed.

It’s not something they tell you when you’re signing up for your wig. If you’re thinking about life in horse hair it’s something you ought to think about. Life/work balance is virtually a myth at the junior bar.

Maybe I should just…

…man up and ask out ‘lovely solicitor’ – after all my pupil mistress was married to an instructing solicitor.

Until I pluck up the courage I will be stood up by ‘smiley face’ in the barrister boozers of London. I’ll listen to ‘lad’ tell me about how he misses his single days.  And I’ll dance badly with ‘pretty boy’ in our pinstripe suits on a Friday night.

FTD