Blawg Review #290

twitter - courtesy of Rosaura Ochoa on flickr

twitter - courtesy of Rosaura Ochoa on flickr

Welcome to Blawg Review #290 which hails this week from Blighty, where we offer a warm welcome to the libel tourist and the would-be-wealthy divorcee alike. In a week of exploding aircraft and travel chaos there has been much said on twitter (#twitterjoketrial and #iamspartacus) and across the blawgosphere about the conviction of Paul Chambers for making a joke about exploding airports and travel chaos on twitter. Even ex-poet laureate Betjeman has offered his posthumerous support and no doubt David Allen Green (Chamber’s own solicitor, who has acted pro bono throughout) will add his two penn’orth in due course either via his Jack of Kent blog or whilst wearing his New Statesman hat (UPDATE: he now has). Comment on the conviction of Chambers for so-called ‘menacing’ remarks from both blawggers and bloggers (and pupil blawgers and more bloggers) alike has been pretty much universally condemned as a sorry indicator of the corrosive effect of terrorism on our approach to civil liberties. The judge has yet to tweet a response but no doubt it will simply be a matter of time. Other examples of crap jokes gone nuclear, resulting in arrest or legal action and a social media song and dance abound.

Also this past week we celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”,  and the 50th anniversary of the first judgment handed down by the European Court of Human Rights. It seems only right therefore to take as my theme this week “the trouble people get into for saying stuff”. Funny stuff can turn out to be dead serious and vice versa The ironic collision of both anniversary and verdict is not lost on Charon QC, but then not much gets past him, other than ducks.

libel reform

courtesy of englishpen on flickr

Libel reform then: Jack of Kent hosts a post from libel survivor Simon Singh in a plea for further signatures on the libel reform petition. In a trans-atlantic libel case reported on Afua Hirsch’s Guardian Law Blog, lawyers in London have obtained judgment and an award of damages in a defamation action relating to remarks on a US website viewed in the UK. Question is, how will they enforce it, and do they care? Nonsuch reflects on the Paul Chambers twitterstorm and the current libel reform campaign in the UK, opining that such in the US, where people are reasonable (allegedly) and where legal principles are rather different, many such potential storms would amount to no more than a gust.

Also in trouble for apparently saying stuff he oughtn’ta done was a firearms officer giving evidence at the inquest into the death of family barrister Mark Saunders, alleged to have played the lumberjack game whilst testifying, by quoting song titles (I attribute my 2:i entirely to the repeated use of the word lumberjack in my finals). Much bluster in print media and online, skillfully deflated by (yes, again) David Allen Green on The Staggers.

Popehat continues to entertain with its exposes of hopeless spammers, in this instance via The Bloggess (thank you popehat for that introduction). And also with its thoughtful posts about adoption, here a recent post about what not to say in response to difficult questions about adoption. Legal Satyricon also know’s that it’s hard not to be an asshat when it comes to speaking out to protect your kids, also covered by abovethelaw (spot on about Eyes on the Prize btw, important to watch). We are reminded also that on the internet stealing other people’s words is liable to result in a ‘web justice driveby’ if not an action for copyright infringement. Scott Greenfield covers the same story, with language in technicolor. Web justice drivebys involving such linguistic artillery are clearly commercially very dangerous (the jealous guarding of recipes for apple pie is it seems, a tradition as American as – urm – apple pie**). Damola Awoyokun, writing on has so much to say to his unborn daughter that he writes her a letter. She will have a thoughtful teacher in life, but it will be many years before she is able to fully understand the importance of To Kill A Mockingbird.

There is a raft of Parliament related stories, all of which raise interesting political and legal questions. Firstly, in a spot of bother for saying stuff in election material he probably shouldn’t have is the now ex-MP Phil Woolas, as reported by Head of Legal. Who knew there even was such a thing as an election court? Head of Legal also reports on the ruling that the three MPs being prosecuted for expenses fraud cannot rely on parliamentary privilege to avoid a prosecution. And thirdly, the e-storm (she said, struggling to find the collective term for a combined twitterstorm and frenzied blogging / media interest) surrounding Tory MP Nadine Dorries, her “70% fiction” blog and her apparently contradictory accounts to constituents v the public accounts committee continues. A good summary of why this matters can be found here, and those with stamina will wish to immerse themselves more fully in this may begin by visiting both Dorries’ own blog and  this counter blog – warning: caffeinate first. Finally, a councillor called Compton tweeted a ‘menacing’ joke about stoning Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death and has wound up arrested (totally predictable outcome, both ought to know better). It is a long established proposition that stoning jokes should only be attempted by highly skilled comedians.

On the subject of public servants with controversial online activity: in Michigan the sacking of the Assistant Attorney General was definitely not for exercising his right to free speech (h/t The Daily Show, although only a little h/t since we can’t view your clips in the UK so I haven’t linked to it. Tsk). No, it was for engaging in conduct unbecoming a public office including calling someone a radical homosexual, a Nazi and Satan’s representative by internet.

The excellent UK Human Rights Blog runs a piece on the future of control orders including a speech on the topic by Mr Justice Silber to the Bar Council Annual Conference.

courtesy of infrogmation on flickr

The Guardian reports on the Feminist Judgments Project, a “dynamic and innovative research project in which a group of feminist socio-legal scholars have written alternative feminist judgments in a series of significant cases in English law. Rather than simply critiquing existing judgments, the participants have put ‘theory into practice’ by engaging in a practical, ‘real world’ exercise of judgment-writing, subject to the same constraints that bind appellate judges. In doing so, they have pioneered a new form of critical socio-legal scholarship, which seeks to demonstrate in a sustained and disciplined way how judgments could have been written and cases could have been decided differently“. What a brilliant project. The recently published book is on my christmas list – a sort of ‘what they should have said’.

Sometimes of course it’s not talking that can get you into trouble. And Family Lore reminds us that sometimes you just have to think the wrong thing before it causes all sorts of unfortunate consequences. For US troops who don’t want out of the forces it seems the love that dare not speak its name must remain unspoken.

Lowering the Bar offers tips on what to say under the voir dire in order to skyve off of jury duty.

Binary Law gives up on trying to use words to tell us he’s got the social meeja blues, and resorts to diagrams instead. Here’s hoping he climbs out of his trough of disillusionment soon.

cows - romantic

cows - romantic (that's my ex-dog Zachar by the way)

And Cari at Rincker Law (a food and agriculture law blog – who knew?) offers the best argument yet on why it is romantic to say ‘I do’ to the prenup before tying the knot. A gal needs to know who’ll get to keep the cows apparently. My clients’ concerns tend to focus more on such important items as cheap leather sofas, flat screen tellys and (in the really big money cases) gas barbecues. The bovine descriptor is usually reserved as a romantic epithet for one’s soon-to-be-ex; the male equivalent most often as a descriptor for the quality of his disclosure. We are still grappling with the Radmacher decision over here, which seems unlikely to make it much easier to predict how many head of cows with which one will exit a marriage, and certainly will not help us carve the one scrawny old knacker that many families have in the pot to feed the family. I know, there’s only so far you can take a cow analogy. I’ll stop.

Well, I hope this blawgreview has given you a few things to ruminate on, some moos and views (sorry – can’t help milking it). It’s been fun (some blawgreviewers enjoy it a little too much), but sadly I can’t afford to give up the day job just yet, although we family legal aid lawyers may be on the scrap heap before too long.

bell ropes - courtesy of amanda slater on flickr

bell ropes - courtesy of amanda slater on flickr

I’ll end on this: in these times where so much is said and written and at such pace (all ) Armistice Day / Remembrance Sunday prompts us to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation of the really important things. I rang for the Remembrance Service today and even with my cackhanded assistance our 8 sounded beautiful half-muffled, though not quite as grand as these (iplayer recording of bells at Westminster on Remembrance Sunday- 6 days left). I’m not religious (no good bellringer is although, in truth, I am not a good bellringer), but sometimes in quiet moments just listening and breathing your perspective is different – perhaps it’s all be no more than tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?

Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

**Food related tenuous aside: This weekend I myself have been dry running a recipe for cornbread in advance of thanksgiving: my husband of 10 years having recently remembered he is a US citizen it seems we are celebrating it this year, notwithstanding that I have not the remotest idea what I am supposed to be giving thanks for (tweet me a summary of thanksgiving in 140 characters please). Celebration of thanksgiving it should be said was not in our pre-nup. But the cornbread was pretty damn tasty. Incidentally, and by way of translation I can confirm that corn meal does = polenta. Still, whilst I have been whirling around the kitchen baking, whilst simultaneously frantically typing hilarious, informative etc blawgreviews in a display of multi-tasking Sunday awesomeness, the kids have been well looked after.

7 thoughts on “Blawg Review #290

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by blawgreview, Brian Inkster and UK Human Rights Blog, lucindee. lucindee said: New blogpost on Pink Tape #familylaw: Blawg Review #290 […]

  2. Excellent and enjoyable. And not just because you linked me.

  3. Kenton Mann says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    January 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Family Law v Hostile Aggressive Parenting

    For the attention of the ministry of justice family law review board, Lord Justice Sir Nicholas Wall and family law professionals. My father-ship under the present dis-functional system was systematically dismantled and destroyed for my children by the experts, the family law system, HAP (hostile aggressive parenting), long period of child – father separation and delays. These so called experts and system work primarily for the mothers interest and not for the children. This is most defiantly not in the best interest of the child. The system is utterly unfair and inhumane for children as it stands. Here is what Sir Bob Geldof has to say about the current family law system Sir Bob Geldof in the Telegraph

    My proposals for Lord Justice Sir Nicholas Wall’s and the ministry of justice family law review boards consideration under the UK family law review and savings to be made by my proposals. They are devised from my experience of the present system, which is only objective as l see it.

    1 …That direction hearings are abolished, as this could be undertaken by the courts office, ie. court papers (evidence), statements, people to attend, disclosures. All of this could be done as a administrative paper exercise by the two opposing barristers and solicitors. Then signed off by the Judge making it a binding order. This would save a vast amount of court time and stream line the system. Call it an ” Administered Order ”

    2…..Opposing barristers should not come from the same chambers by a new law or written into there code of professional conduct, as the plaintiff would not use the same solicitors practice as the defendant, but this is common conduct at present and is rather questionable at best, if undertaken this would bring better work ethics. That barristers, solicitors and courts must update there common thought that the best interest of the children are served when they reside with the mother.

    3….. Experts (who are trying to stop conflict within the family for the children) should always by law come to court to give verbal evidence at the first hearing, after there expert report has been provided. This gives the Judge cogent justification in a decision that Judge may wish to make against the reports findings, that is if the Judge chooses to do so. This would avoid many appeal hearings saving court time, leading to quicker resolution for the families involved, plus avoiding costs against the family in high court proceedings. This also if considered would stop the continuation of proceedings at county court level after an appeal which if it had to be conceded at the high court of appeal on this technicality or fought and lost.

    4…. Mediation would only work with parties who would accept the mediation. All my experience of proceedings is that the Mother in a vast majority of cases, who is the sole custodial parent is overtly hostile (HAP parent) to the other parent the Father (Target parent, but not in all cases as demonstrated below in 6). Mediation would not work in a majority of cases and only be another huddle in already lengthy process adding to the delays, which would work for the hostile Mothers favour of trying to separate and alienate the father from the children by long time delays (this is not the answer in my view)
    5…… There needs to be an early assessment of whether HAP (hostile aggressive parenting) is present and is the most likely cause of the problems being encountered by the family. See this very useful site with many useful diagnoses and resolutions to the very real problem that the courts, experts and social services do not understand or even recognise .

    6….. Both parties mother and father could fill in the form or something similar, here Comparing the answers would help the court to understand what was going on in the family and identify HAPs presence early. (l will refer how to deal with this later). My problem as with many Fathers is the constant false allegations made by the Mother and any siblings she can enlist, this is dealt with in the HAP links above because again the false allegations are part of HAP. Once the allegations are proved false at a fact and finding hearing, this would start the the sanctions for that parent engaging in HAP as l suggest in 8 below. The current system only deals with the symptoms and not the cause, it needs to deal with the issues. Lord Justice Ward acknowledges the issues of false allegations and the inability of the present system to deal with HAP. Lord Justice Ward’s interview here with the Sunday Times showing what happens when HAP is not dealt with and left to ravage a family, my story is hauntingly similar. Lord Justice Wards Interview With The Sunday Times

    To prove my neutrality and reason for this blog which is children’s suffering, l am going to give the most terrible and most extreme consequence of HAP as an example. This is of a Father with its worst form. Everyone has heard of ” Fathers For Justice ” and there media antic’s. Here is the founder Matt O’ Connor and why he disbanded the organisation in the Sun newspaper Matt O’Connor in the Sun Fathers For Justice Disbandment

    The symptoms may have been prevalent in the father Brian Philcox. The children were at Critical Risk of HAP from him, here at the bottom of the page link below you can see the risk level. Immediate intervention and removal of the children would have protected them, which the current system failed to recognise.Examples of Critical Risk Behaviours/Indicators

    7……. Proceedings should have a time limit of no longer than six months because ALL the damage is done with DELAYS, delay tactics by the opposing barrister should not be tolerated by family courts and punitive punishments for them doing so be made law.

    8…….Sanctions for parents who disobey court orders, these should not be custodial. It can be dealt with in 3 phases of increasing parenting course lengths. During this time of parent retraining and understanding of what that parent is doing to the children, the children would reside with the other parent until the course is completed. If this does not work after the third course of increased intensity and time apart, then a change of residency should be considered as the HAP parent will not refrain from the mental abuse of there children. If this is designed well it will stop a majority of trouble before it starts.
    9 …. Why does the government charge VAT on legal bills when they are not a VAT chargeable commodity, an EU treaty is to blame l have been informed by the minister responsible, but why can’t we set our own rate lower ?. It is not right that tax profits are made from these most terrible problems, it is just unacceptable in a modern democracy. This policy should be adopted by a political party as it would be a vote winner and show some political interest, which these problems need if anything is going to change.

    10…..That the UK government should move towards as in Europe the principle of “50/50 parenting”, this does not mean cutting the children in half or there time with each parent. The label should be “responsible 50/50 parenting”. Both parents putting the child needs and the now separated family first. As a duty of care as the parents they must set aside there own negativity toward each other. May be a ” Children’s Parenting Charter of Care” can be signed by both parents at the divorce or separation stage, this would set out there responsibilities and conduct to there children as divorcing or separating parents, which the courts would be able to refer to if future problems are encountered.

    [Edited to remove details of commenters own family proceedings] My children are 13 and 15 both girls and we have had many happy times together, my divorce was 10 years ago, I am single and intend to stay single, l hold no bitterness with my ex wife all l do is struggle with what has happened and only wish to help others, all of this trouble started shortly after my divorce. I have no contact with either of my daughters now, even though l have had full contact with them at a level where l would have them every weekend from Friday night to Monday morning, half the school holidays and mid week after school for 7.5 years after divorce.
    May be this blog could be passed to Lord Justice Sir Nicholas Wall or the ministry of justice family law review board, l would be very happy to meet him or them, if only l could just change one thing my efforts would not be wasted. Thanks for reading my views

    • Thanks for your long comment – I’m sure you can still email your comments to the Family Justice Review Panel – I’m not sure they’re reading this blog!

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