Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In the news...

An unusual defence of duress? Expect the usual "Loophole Lawyer" shenanigans from this story. While I have sympathy with anyone whose domestic pet is trapped beneath the floorboards, who on earth drives an eighty grand poor person squasher, but doesn't have a screwdriver at home?

Drug prohibition doesn't work, and never has. Another person has bravely spoken out as he leaves one of the few positions where he may have been able to actually do something about it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Expenses, part eleventy million

The Court of Appeal has spoken, and the Honourable Gentlemen (sic, for now) will be standing trial in the usual way in due course. Except they're going to appeal to the Supreme Court. Who, fingers crossed, will be as scathing as their brother judges in the Court of Appeal.

If they make it to the hallowed ground of Southwark Crown Court, they're royally fucked*.

*This is not legal advice, and should not be treated as such. It should not be relied upon as investment advice, and the length of your sentence can go down, as well as up.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Death by a thousand cuts

Or, more accurately, unemployment by a single cut, for 1,800 CPS employees.

The Government, perhaps wisely, has told the CPS to cut costs by 25%. The guff in the leaked memo aside, the vast bulk of cutting costs will come, as usual, from sacking people.

Senior Crown Prosecutors making 50-60K a year, who are still knocking about in the mags courts, are extremely high-cost. I can phone chambers and get a third six pupil or junior to cover a court for a hundred and fifty quid. 5 days a week = 750 a week, and if court sits for 48 weeks a year, that's 36K. People earning that much need to be in the Crown Court, saving fees if they are to justify their existence.

But no sick pay, no pension, no training costs, no travel and subsistence. The Bar is starting to look like good value again.

If the budget cut is 40%, however, it's not just 1,800 jobs, it's 3,300, which will cost £70M...


the Anonymous Soon-To-Be-Ex-Prosecutor

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ian Tomlinson

I suppose I should say something about this.

The facts are set out clearly in that report. What isn't mentioned is the fact that the police originally asserted that the paramedics were pelted with bottles and prevented from treating Mr. Tomlinson by the crowd at the scene. That didn't happen. Although, given the police officers = bastards starting point that a lot of people take, I can understand a defensive attitude. Porky pies cross the line, however.

Anyway, the DPP didn't want to deal with that, but I'm a shite sight less sensitive or politically exposed, so there you go.

The decision itself...well, it's fully argued, and appears to be from someone who has carefully read the papers. It's in the minority there.

The part I'm struggling with is this:

The separate strike with the baton was also considered. It had left patterned bruising. But where injuries are relatively minor, as these were, the appropriate charge is common assault in accordance with the CPS Charging Standard, which is applied nationally. This Charging Standard was applied in another incident arising from the G20 where a police officer had struck the complainant twice with his baton.

What it doesn't say is whether it was applied to not charge that officer, or whether it was applied to charge the officer. Slightly unclear phrasing, perhaps.

So what do the Charging Standards actually say?

16) However, there may be cases where the actual injuries suffered by a victim would normally amount to common assault, but due to the presence of serious aggravating features, they could more appropriately be charged as actual bodily harm contrary to section 47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

17) Such serious aggravating features would include:

a) the nature of the assault, such as the use of a weapon, biting, gouging or kicking of a victim whilst on the ground, or strangulation which is more than fleeting and which caused real fear to the victim; or

b) the vulnerability of the victim, such as when the victim is elderly, disabled or a child assaulted by an adult (so that where an assault causes any of the injuries referred to in sub-paragraph (vii), other than reddening of the skin, the charge will normally be assault occasioning actual bodily harm, although prosecutors must bear in mind that the definition of assault occasioning actual bodily harm requires the injury to be more than transient and trifling); or

c) other circumstances when though the injuries are relatively minor the existence of aggravating features mean that the sentencing powers of the court may not be adequate. Refer to the section on Defences to assaults below.

I would suggest that a) - c) do not form an exclusive list and the fact that the suspect was an on-duty police officer could properly be said to be a serious aggravating feature. I have also decided on previous occasions that, for instance, using a piece of wood justifies a charge of ABH where the only injury is minor bruising. This is a matter of opinion, and the DPP clearly doesn't share mine.

So, then. Why didn't we charge the officer with common assault?

Common assault does not require proof of injury, but it is subject to a strict six month time limit. That placed the CPS in a very difficult position because enquiries were continuing at the six month point and it would not have been possible to have brought any charge at that stage.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sir Richard Mottram

Rumour has it that 150 mags courts will be closed, and a further 30% lopped off the legal aid budget.

To quote a phrase widely attributed to the abovementioned gentleman in the wake of the 9/11 news-burying fiasco;

"We're all fucked. I'm fucked. You're fucked. The whole department is fucked. It's the biggest cock-up ever, and we're all completely fucked".

For "department", read "legal aid system and the Magistrates' Court".

I would apologise for my language, but if you're more offended by a spot of anglo-saxon than the gross injustice that will inevitably result from such cuts, you need your head examining, and merit further such language, probably questioning your parentage and breeding.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

POW! Right in the kisser.

This, for me, encapsulates the dilemma of lone police officers. The officer cannot control two people at once, and has to make decisions very quickly. He can't call for back up, because he's fully occupied trying to restrain a dangerous master criminal suspected of crossing the road other than on a pedestrian crossing. This isn't about jaywalking laws and personal liberty, though.

Any police officer is trained to be paranoid, on either side of the pond, and for good reason. You just don't know what people are carrying, and being surrounded by an angry crowd is extremely dangerous.

So the officer did what he clearly felt necessary in the circumstances as he perceived them. He had the first girl's arm in a swan neck hold -- holding the forearm vertical and pushing the hand inwards towards the elbow. Another person intervened, and he punched her in the face. I make no comment as to that -- he was there, essentially fighting with two people. I have the luxury of watching it on the internet, with a slo-mo replay.

The real point of this story is that the Seattle Police Department who sent him out alone have accepted that their policy has consequences, and have supported the officer, by saying it's up to him what force he uses. Metropolitan Police Service, take note. If you pursue single-crewing, one of your officers will end up being filmed using Home Office approved distraction technique number 15 -- a punch in kisser. When that officer ends up on Youtube, please have the courage to support their actions in preserving their personal safety, caused entirely by your policy.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Four parlimentarians who were caught with their hand in the cookie jar, have been asserting that their claims are subject to parliamentary privilege, and that they cannot stand trial. A judge in the High Court has just thrown that claim out, noting that there is 'no logical, practical, moral or legal justification' for expenses claims being covered by privilege'. Ouch.

They have permission to appeal, and will be doing so. Court of Appeal will take a while, but I'll keep my eyes open.

The charges are interesting -- false invoices feature in some! The 'a bigger boy made me do it' defence, as given short shrift by headmasters everywhere, is one thing, but just forging documents is quite another. Hopefully the sentencing will match this disgraceful behaviour.

Planning, erosion of public confidence, abuse of trust, sophisticated offence, high value, long duration...lots of aggravating features racking up against the Right Honourable Gentlemen and the Noble Gentleman. I'll add suitably mocking quotation marks around 'honourable' and 'noble' if they get convicted.

Extraordinary behaviour.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


The Conservative-Liberal coalition is busy cutting budgets, but somehow the CPS managed to a sum in excess of 370,000 of your English pounds to spend on its website. In five years. That's design, creation, maintenance and hosting.

That's just the wedge that went to the IT peeps. Doesn't include the money spent / wasted on internal staff coming up with "user-targeted content" or whatever they call 'copy' these days.

Now, quality design is not cheap, and I'm not one of those idiots who thinks that any old idiot can design a website. It contains a lot of information, it's OK to use, and I do use it regularly (charging standards and that).

But 370k? Worse, they won't say who tendered for the project. The Guardian helpfully chipped in with a FoI Act request, in which my employer kindly pointed out that they carried out a tendering exercise for a 3-year, £45,000 project.

Quite how that became a 5-year, £370,036.35 project is a little beyond me, but then I'm just a hack lawyer -- what would I know?

I recommend the full story, which can be found over at the Guardian.

But it's all OK, because we're about to 'name and shame' those who earn more than 55 grand a year. Which will include every Crown Advocate in the country. Fiddling while Rome burns, perhaps?

DECLARATION OF INTEREST -- I will not be appearing on the list. In an entirely objective and not at all bitter way, I will be examining it closely, however. I shall report any interesting findings here. Don't hold your breath.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rape and anonymity

The Lib-Cons have opened up a rather old can of worms with this particular idea -- giving those accused of rape the right to anonymity.

It has been branded an insult by some groups, who feel that the focus should be on low conviction rates, and not on the few claims that are false. But on what basis do they say that few claims are false? On what basis do they say that most of the claims are true?

To find out whether there is any truth in a claim, it must be tested in court, and tested rigorously. And they are. And the conviction rate is not high.

The conviction rate for rape cases that go to trial is lower than for other crimes: 44% in London, as against 80ish% for general crime. Why does this gap exist? Simple. Jurors are believing alleged victims of rape less often than they are believing alleged victims of other crimes.

To change this, you'll need to change how jurors think. Which is a slightly bigger issue than can be solved by getting judges to make so-called "rape myth directions".

A jury must be satisfied so that it is sure that the facts constituting the offence took place, and that the mental element of the offence, where required, was present. When one considers the consequences for those convicted -- incarceration for many years -- it is only right that the allegation made against them be tested thoroughly.

Conversely, when one considers the particularly abhorrent nature of the crime of rape, and its potential for lifelong effects, it is only right that those convicted are incarcerated for many years.

As things stand, the conviction rate in London is below 44%, and it's 58.2% nationwide. That's a lot of men who have stood trial for rape, and a lot of women who haven't been believed by the jury, for whatever reason.

Given the effect of an unfounded rape allegation, and the publicity that can ensue, if more than half of the men who stand trial for rape in London are being acquitted, maybe anonymity's time has come. Again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Racism, yet again.

Anyone remember that chap I wrote about a little while back? The one who had a quiet word with the papers?

Apparently the CPS gave him the old heave-ho. Gross misconduct, my sources say -- making up racist complaints.

You couldn't make it up. Apparently, he did. If half of what I hear about this racism thing is true, I'd like to know when to expect my automatic evil white man promotion...I fancy a crack at being DPP if that's OK, boss?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Tory Lib-Dem Coalition

The last few days have been an extended lesson in what passes for a constitution in this country. Rolling news channels have been explaining the protocol to the masses, and the masses still don't care. I am relieved that the country now has functioning government.

In case you were under a rock, the Tories have struck a deal with the Lib Dems to govern. No sooner have they begun than they have gerrymandered parliament to protect their weakened mandate -- the 55% rule. 50% + 1 MP used to be required to force a vote of no confidence. Now it's 55%. Why? Because the Tories and the Lib-Dems can muster 46%, or thereabouts, thus ensuring that they are safe as long as the coalition holds.

And how long will that be?

William Hague, if my memory serves me, campaigned under the slogan "24 hours to save the pound" in 2001. He's now the Foreign Secretary of a coalition with the Lib Dems. Clegg speaks five languages, has a Spanish wife, a Russian grandparent, and has worked in Brussels. It's time the Tories faced up the reality -- we signed our sovereignty over ages ago, beginning as far back as the Treaty of Rome. It's far better to seek a strong position in Europe than deny the truth.

New government:


No more ID cards. The ID card database was a data protection catastrophe waiting to happen, not to mention a totalitarian wet dream.

Some sort of posturing in the direction of civil liberties / rolling back the surveillance society.

Dominic Grieve QC is the new Attorney-General. Well-regarded within the profession, a 'lawyers' lawyer' as the papers are saying.

ELECTORAL REFORM -- the big one! Hurrah, our votes will be worth the same, and the in-built advantage for Labour is gone. I don't have anything against Labour, but getting 4% more of the popular vote, but five TIMES more seats than the Lib Dems is just crap. Although I note that the Tories will whip through the vote on the referendum, but leave MPs free to campaign against electoral reform. Sneaky buggers.

No more pre-charge advice for summary offences, as per Tory manifesto. Hopefully, the sergeants in the local nick will continue to do what they've always done -- apply common sense, rather than the niceties of the latest diktat from Whitehall. If a complicated harassment comes in (summary), they'll be on the phone / lurking near my desk. If a big punch up comes in and they can see the CCTV, then hopefully they'll just get on and charge it, maybe a quick phone call to check that a black eye is summary only, or an opinion on mode of trial for a broken nose.


Erm, where to start? The usual crap in the manifestos of both sides.

The Tories bleat about building prison capacity, but there isn't the cash for that. They say that they are going to 'let criminals know that they can expect a prison sentence for carrying a knife'. Except that that's what we already have. Sentencing guidelines saying something worthy, and courts giving the sentence that they feel appropriate. If parties really wanted to get tough, it'd be a mandatory five year sentence for knife carrying, just like guns. The truth is, nobody's that bothered.

Lib Dems -- probably going to be disappointed on everything except electoral reform, and that too if Murdoch throws his not inconsiderable weight behind the Tories in a campaign to keep first past the post.

Hopefully, they'll begin with the bonfire of laws they've been promising. I hope we can trust the Lib Dems to keep the Human Rights Act 1998 away from the lighter fluid.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Makes you proud, doesn't it?

The government (last government, now) is chipping away at certain aspects of justice, and riding utterly roughshod over others.

The latter is behaviour more suited to a banana republic than England. Hopefully this sort of thing will help the new lot to remember that we can be as bad as anyone else.

Don't hold your breath, though.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Election Fever

It's been a while since I've had anything worthwhile to say. In lieu of something worthwhile to say, let's talk politics.

Traditionally, historically, it's been along the lines of "Vote Tory, Vote Hanging", with other parties taking a more liberal stance.

Since Blair, however, the rules have changed. "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime"? Labour. "Hug a Hoody"? Tories.

Blair and his motley crew, despite most of them being qualified lawyers, have succeeded in thoroughly shafting the criminal justice system. I don't say that lightly. Legal aid is dying on its arse from a thousand cuts. The courts are bursting, prisons likewise. The government announces a new crack-down every day, without providing the funds for these people to be represented or held in custody if they're convicted and sentenced in that way.

Worse, the only disposals with a realistic chance of reform, like drug or drink treatment orders, are even less well funded.

To top it all off, they've used the spectre of MUSLIMS COMING TO KILL US IN OUR SLEEP to pass a whole raft of thoroughly illiberal and unnecessary laws. They have created literally thousands of criminal offences. They've armed under-qualified officers with lethal tazers, they've introduced PCSOs (two whole weeks training!), they've allowed disgraceful policing of peaceful protests (kettling, etc.), and they've presided over the introduction of the targets culture.

And don't even get me started on the illegal wars.

The question is, though, would anyone else do better? I won't waste anyone's time going through policies, because as fine upstanding citizens, you should all be doing that in the process of deciding how to cast your respective votes.

The reality is, Labour didn't put any money aside during the good years, and now the lean years are here (hastened, in no small part, by their 'light touch' regulation of the financial markets), there's nothing in the storehouse. So whoever takes power on May 6, it's a bit of a poisoned chalice -- cuts aplenty lie ahead for all of us, and especially those of us in the public sector.

So, to those who have a vote -- consider your options carefully, but know this -- it's a bumpy ride ahead.

To those who are part of the criminal justice system, in any capacity whatsoever, and earn their living from it -- God speed and good luck -- you're going to need it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Assault with a deadly weapon?

That's what the Americans call it, anyway. I don't quite know how I'd have been able to open this case. I don't think I can trust myself to say any more on the subject, or this post will just degenerate into jokes about truncheons.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Tyrant's Gambit

Milosevic, Hussein, Charles I, and many others have refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the various courts that tried them. Charles I found his refusal to enter a plea taken pro confesso, i.e. as a guilty plea. He was executed, and that was the end, for a short while, of the idea that rex WAS lex. Still, Charles II sorted out those uppity lawyers, mainly by killing them in a variety of horrible ways.

Geoffroy Robertson QC has written many books dealing with war crimes, all of which deal with the refusal by a toppled leader to recognise the jurisdiction of the court to try him.

The Bill of Rights holds that "proceedings in Parliament" shall not be discussed before a court. The three members of the lower House, and the one peer to have been charged in what has become known simply as "The Expenses Scandal", are all backing the same horse. They will argue (and the issue will no doubt be decided as a preliminary issue at the beginning of the trial proper) that their claims for expenses to which they may or may not have been entitled were "proceedings in Parliament", and that the principle of the separation of powers should not be infringed, and the judiciary should not interfere with the legislature.

MPs are free to make all sorts of slanderous statements on the floor of the House, their freedom of speech is well-protected, and rightly so. Where, though, is the line to be drawn? Is the separation of powers a constitutional principle to which the judiciary are so highly attached that they will cast the defendants upon the (apparently abundant) grace of their internal disciplinary proceedings?

I would tentatively suggest that the highest courts in the land will be asked to rule on this issue only when we are well into the next parliament, however that may be constituted. Much ink will no doubt be spilt. All I will say at this very early juncture is this; claiming many hundreds of pounds a month in interest repayments on a mortgage that was long-since paid off is clumsy at best and criminal at worst. It certainly won't win you many votes.

I will also add that my cockles were well and truly warmed when I heard that the application for the men to remain in the well of court was given the short shrift it deserved. Such applications rarely succeed, unless the defendant is in a wheelchair, deaf, or has some other inherent incompatibility with being in the dock. The Right Honorable (sic) gentlemen had no such difficulties, as far as I am aware.

Given the publicity that will inevitably attach to the first appearance by members of parliament before the criminal courts since the 17th century, it seems that they and their lawyers failed properly to consider the public relations ramifications of such an application.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Penelope Schofield

In answer to a question previously posed, the county in which a practising coroner has a conviction for perverting the course of justice is...drumroll please... West Sussex.

Take a bow, Ms Penelope Schofield, a former prosecutor. Ms Schofield went to prison for lying to protect her detective boyfriend.

Unsurprisingly, her stay in Holloway wasn't a pleasant one.

West Sussex had the following to say:

West Sussex County Council has no reservations about the coroner's suitability for office. She fully disclosed details of her background when she was interviewed for the position. Members of the Appointment Panel were able to give the facts full consideration. The decision that she was the best candidate for the position has been reinforced by the outstanding professional abilities she has brought to the role.

At least she's a good coroner, eh?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A lay bench or a DJ?

The Bystander blog, written by an anonymous magistrate, has a readership to envy. However, the comments section will quite often degenerate into serious discussion and legal analysis, neither of which have any place on the Internet. On a recent post, an apparent colleague held forth thusly:

"...Most prosecutors breathe a huge sigh when a bench wanders into court. Id rather a DJ any day. At least the work gets done quickly and by applying it to the sentencing guidelines instead of a bunch of middle class volunteers trying to square a round hole into their concept of justice...."

So, do prosecutors prefer a lay bench or a DJ? Well, in a typically lawyer-like fashion, the answer is, "it depends".


If I haven't had time to read the files (perish the thought), then a lay bench known for a fondness of tea and biscuits is a blessing. I have time to read, and they may occasionally have to retire to consider a decision when a DJ wouldn't have to do so.

External events can also have a motivating effect. An extremely popular London and Western Circuit DJ has, for example, been known to speed proceedings along to such an extent that the afternoon session of the final day of the fifth test was enjoyed in full. By those of us who have time for such fripperies, and didn't have to scurry back to the office, that is.

As HMCS continues its drive for efficiency, or "churning", as I rather disparagingly call it, such matters will continue to be important, and speed will continue to be the "benchmark". But what about the quality of justice?

Quality of justice

That is such an ephemeral notion that regrettably, a little discussion is unavoidable. Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent, the Lord detests them both (Pr XVII.XV). That is the nub of the problem. Short of the very highest court, before which, we are told, we each make but one appearance, the best we can do is to examine the evidence with rigour and a scrupulous lack of bias.

I have been reading Souvenirs from the Crown Court, a book by Andre Gide about his jury duty. The jurors at the turn of the last century were regularly voting to convict people they felt were guilty of something, if not this particular crime. Such practices, I hope, are rare today.

I have, thus far, been extremely lucky in my career, and have rarely encountered a bench which has given me cause to stop the drinks trolley on the train home. Occasionally decisions don't go your way, and you're convinced they're wrong, but that's the point -- it's their decision that counts. I will add that it's basically a waste of type stereotyping a lay bench; the diversity is astonishing. I have appeared before a Harvey St consultant, a director, and an unemployed single mother, all on the same bench.

Slightly more often, however, I have had reason to believe that one or both of the wingers are, let's say, a little sharper than the chair. Experience has taught me that it's not sensible to say "Look, just ask your wingers, Sir, they've got it already, and I'm about to miss the fast train back to town."

That said, the quality of decisions is very high. I rarely encounter decisions that I think are wrong, and I rarely encounter wild departures from the sentencing guidelines -- DJs are more prone to that, if anything.


I relish a good legal argument with an interventionist DJ who clearly thinks I'm wrong. I love winning such arguments even more, even if that seldom happens. Such pace and to-and-fro legal debate is rare (but not unheard of) with a lay bench. For a long list or a juicy trial, you can't beat a good lay bench. They are well-trained, sensible, unvaryingly polite, usually quite jovial, and I have almost always enjoyed appearing before lay benches. They have a healthy dose of cynicism where required (namely, when the prosecutor is making legal submissions), and usually grasp the human aspect of the case very quickly.

So, in summary, it depends.

The future?
I find it quite sad that the government seems so intent upon eradicating lay benches entirely. For me, a sensible way forward would be to extend their sentencing powers to two years, keep more work out of the Crown Court, which is by far the more expensive way of doing things, and have more lay benches doing trials.

More racism

That poor Commander Ali Dizaei is, as predicted very recently, having a torrid time in one of Her Majesty's less comfortable hostelries.

The only surprise is that it took someone this long to attack him, and that it wasn't more serious. In fairness, he was sentenced to custody, not to having his lights punched out, and having the contents of a slop bucket chucked over his head.

Not that my local DJ doesn't look like he's fantasising about being able to impose such a sentence...

How long before Dizaei accuses the prison of racism?

Monday, February 22, 2010


Firstly, I will declare my interests. I am white man, who saves his black Wine Gums for last, uses black ink on white paper, prefers white meat when Christmas comes round, and who would not describe himself as a racist. But then again, who would? Even the BNP are now accepting non-white members.

A little while ago now, a Ms Halima Aziz was awarded £600,000 in compensation. She arrived at court in the days following September 11th 2001, and made a remark to the security guard about Osama Bin Laden. A scuffle of some sort broke out between two groups of youths at the court, of differing minorities, who were, as I understand it, present to answer charges relating to the Oldham race riots. Ms Aziz was accused of starting what was described as a 'riot', and was suspended.

As a result of the way the CPS treated her, she was awarded £600,000. The award was in relation to racial discrimination. Including costs, that little shambles cost you and I, the humble taxpayers, more than a million quid. We all have an interest in that sort of thing not happening again.

Now, the CPS is again being accused of racism.

Lewisham CPS is the borough with the dubious distinction of having received a little bit of a kicking in the most recent inspection by Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate. The CPS, by way of Gary Dolby, the Borough Crown Prosecutor in charge of Lewisham, issued a press release.

To my mind, the Independent article simply doesn't ring true. For example, Ms Riley alleges that the management "undermined her when she was in court prosecuting cases". Management never get within undermining distance of a court room, so that bit at least, has got to be rubbish.

So, it's clearly a troubled borough. But is it a racist borough? Mr Ebuzoeme and Ms Riley clearly think so. A few anonymous phone calls to my equally anonymous sources have established that the two individuals are both off on long-term sick leave, so I can't probe any further into the detail of their complaint.

Before we delve any further into the murky and perhaps racist world of the CPS, I will become serious for a moment, and say that I sincerely hope that neither of my colleagues are suffering from anything serious, and that they are both able to return to being effective front-line prosecutors in the near future. Their colleagues could do with the help, it seems.

Anyway, curiosity, other than being that which killed the cat, is a character trait that any lawyer would do well to cultivate. It struck me as odd that these two individuals would consent to the Independent publishing their full names and place of work, plenty enough to obtain very personal information, e.g. home address, number of children (on the electoral roll, for some reason), company directorships, etc. etc.

So, I decided to see what their full names could get me. I started with the most useful of research tools, Google.

Tycia Riley's name appears only on French and Belgian sites, in relation to the terrible murders of Bonomo and Ferez. It is reported that she was the lawyer who dealt with the initial remand hearing for Nigel Farmer.

Mr Ebuzoeme's name appears more often. In the Nineties, he stood trial for an affray. There is nothing at all unusual about that. There are plenty of prosecutors with convictions, so a prosecutor who has previously been acquitted is a bit of a non-story.

It seems, from my rapid Googling, that there was a wider context of an employment dispute. Given today's article in the Independent, I was curious. The CPS has a good policy about complaint handling, and investigators are appointed from senior management in other offices to ensure impartiality. The spokeswoman to whom the Independent spoke was clearly adamant that the claims were spurious and / or had been dismissed by internal investigation.

I wanted to know, does Mr Ebuzoeme have a history of spurious complaints, as the CPS seems to imply? Were there previous racism complaints? Does that make any difference to how I should view my employer? Was he just the victim of racism on two occasions in his life (unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence)? Can I, as a white man, expect a promotion over my non-white colleagues? Or at least nicer biscuits?

More googling, and it turns out that Mr Ebuzoeme, during his academic studies in the Nineties, was involved in student politics. He was elected to a sabbatical office by a London university, and then dismissed. A complaint was made and proceedings brought. Almost ten years later, preliminary matters were still rumbling on in the House of Lords, which was hearing an appeal against various striking out orders from lower jurisdictions. Their Lordships directed that the matter be given a full hearing.

It received a full hearing in 2003, some two years after the Independent says Mr Ebuzoeme joined the CPS. I found the judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal here, on Bailii, a wonderful and free legal resource. It makes interesting reading.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal was said by the EAT to be "unassailable" (paragraph 88). Neither tribunal found that there was any discrimination, and rejected the evidence given by Mr Ebuzoeme in respect of alleged racism by members of the university. In particular, a Mr McCormack, a South African gentleman, was accused of having "...a background in the South African Army or Police or in the administration of the apartheid system in South Africa. These allegations were rejected by the Employment Tribunal which found on the contrary that he was firmly anti-apartheid."

Mr Ebuzoeme, then, has previously made allegations of racism. The Employment Tribunal rejected them, and the EAT upheld that decision. He represented himself as far as the House of Lords, in an area of law not his own. That takes some courage, as appearing before higher courts is a nerve-wracking experience. He now accuses the CPS of seriously racist behaviour, far beyond that which was previously alleged; going as far as actual segregation of lawyers by colour.

Which is it? Is he a vexatious litigant, relentlessly pursuing spurious claims of racism? Or is the CPS an institutionally racist organisation, within which he has suffered, in the 21st century, segregation? Only time will tell, and I look forward to the Employment Tribunal's decision in the latest matter.

And at a million quid a pop, the taxpayer should care, too.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Commander Dizaei

It seems that a particularly odious bully, who was abusing his position of trust, has received his just desserts. Four years might not seem a long time, but for a man of good character, two years in prison, of whatever category, are going to be distinctly unpleasant. For a policeman, it's going to be even worse.

He'll certainly lose weight, let's put it that way. Maybe he'll be joined by some MPs in due course?

On a side note, can anyone guess in which county a practising coroner has a conviction for perverting the course of justice?

Friday, February 5, 2010

HP Sauce

Well, well, well. I have to say, I am slightly surprised by the outcome of the expenses scandal. The high-profile stuff doesn't come anywhere near me, obviously, so I know nothing of the details, but I fully expected the usual flannel; "not enough evidence for realistic prospect of conviction, blah blah blah".

Anyway, here we are, three MPs and a peer have been charged. They are to be served with a summons to the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, which is of course their local. It's on Horseferry Road, a short walk from the Sovereign's Entrance (although I strongly doubt they'll be walking there).

The magistrates will send the matter to the Crown Court, as it is triable on indictment only (I am open to correction on this last point, as I don't have my Archbold at hand, and am guessing at the mode of trial.) There will, I imagine, be no indication of plea, and all four men will have jury trials in due course.

Section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 makes it an offence to furnish information for any purpose, produce or make use of any account, or any such record or document, which to that person's knowledge is or may be misleading, false or deceptive in a material particular. This must be done dishonestly, with a view to gain for himself or another, or with intent to cause loss to another.

"Dishonesty" is according to widely prevailing standards, basically. It's called the Ghosh test, named for the reported case of the same name, funnily enough, and is pronounced with a long 'o', like a frightfully posh person saying "gosh".

The standard is that of "ordinary decent people". The phrase used to be "man on the top deck of the Clapham Omnibus", but I suppose times have changed, and such people may be more likely to relieve you of your wallet than be honest. In any event, if an act is dishonest by that standard, it is only dishonest in the Ghosh sense if the accused must have realised that what he was doing was dishonest. Then, and only then, may the jury convict.

It's not a simple definition, and as you can see, the right 'honorable' gentlemen concerned have a certain amount of wiggle room.

My learned readers will note that I haven't discussed the destruction of records part of the offence. That was a deliberate decision, based solely on a wildly uninformed guess that the facts weren't anything like that. So there.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Partly inspired by the previous post about bomb-non-detectors, I'm expanding into general frauds.

Account take-over fraud

Broadly speaking, someone impersonating you will telephone your bank, give the right answers, and transfer the money in your account to their own, then withdraw it.

Alternatively, they may obtain fake ID in your name, open a joint account with a confederate, then transfer the money across, leaving the hapless confederate to go to a branch and attempt to withdraw £10,000 in cash. That didn't work too well, the confederate got two years inside.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Have passwords that are difficult to guess (no pet's names, kid's names, dates of birth, address, 1066, 1966, 1945, etc.)

This type of fraud is similar, but distinct from...

Identity theft

Someone assumes your identity, obtains official documents, bank accounts, etc. and eventually arrives in a position where they may apply for credit in your name. They do so, taking the money, and allowing you to clear up the mess. Forget the mortgage, you probably won't be able to a mobile phone until this one gets cleared up. Even *attempts* at ID fraud will show up on your credit record, as it is usually committed by applying for credit.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Shred ALL personal correspondence before disposing of it. Guard your personal data with your life. It's not paranoia if they're really after you. I've opened a bank account before now using nothing but a mailshot about car insurance. It's harder these days, but not by much.

Advanced fee fraud

The 'classic' or 419 scam. 419 is the provision of the Nigerian Penal Code prohibiting such behaviour in Nigeria. Most of the fraud is from Nigeria, for some reason. 419eater.com is worth a read if you have a spare afternoon and need a laugh.

How does it work? First, the carrot -- a cash lottery prize, a suitcase full of money, a box of gems, gold bullion, money in escrow accounts, whatever. The hook is, they want to share it with YOU, yes YOU.

Touched, you correspond at length. It turns out they need to bribe customs officials / pay registration fees / whatever. Would you please wire the money to me, by Western Union? Ta. Needless to say, you never hear from them again.

MORAL OF THE STORY: If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Deposit fraud

Particularly relevant for flat-hunters or car-buyers, this one. You see a nice one, cheap, good area / low miles (alarm bells should be ringing already...).

Anyway, they want to show it to serious punters only, so prove you've got the money for the deposit please. How? Oh, why don't you just wire some money to your mate, by Western Union, and email me a picture of the confirmation slip?

You do so, and they just take the money -- the picture of the confirmation code is all they need. Off they trot to their local Western Union branch, and jackpot!

MORAL OF THE STORY: avoid Western Union like the plague.

Cheque fraud

Many and various forms. Generic principle: the fraudster must engineer a situation by which you need to give him some money or valuable object, like a car. This may be by overpaying you for something, the excess to be sent to him from your account. This may be by him giving you a cheque in exchange for your nice motor vehicle.

In all variations, your money / valuable consideration is handed over against a cheque. This cheque will be stolen or forged. The money will appear on your bank account. Many banks call this 'pre-clearing' or some such rubbish. It's nothing of the sort. The cheque can be reversed up to a week later, and the money will magically disappear. By which point, of course, your money is long gone.

MORAL OF THE STORY: nothing valuable should leave your possession until the cheque has cleared. A UK cheque takes SEVEN WORKING DAYS to clear. Even electronic transfers can be reversed on occasion. Cheques drawn on foreign banks take MUCH longer.

And finally, in reply to one of the comments on the previous post, about cheque fraud...

Arnold, saying 'you don't have to be stupid or greedy to fall for a scam' is not entirely accurate. The lawyer scam you mention, is in fact entirely typical. The fraudster contacts a lawyer purporting to be a director at a prestigious company. The lawyer checks it out online, it looks good, mentions in newspapers, etc.

They need help collecting debts from recalcitrant clients of their, which funds are then to be forwarded on to the company.

They give contact details of the 'non-paying customer', who is, of course, the fraudster by any other name. They 'pay up' using a stolen or otherwise fraudulent cheque.


I've put the stupid bit in capitals to help you out. Actually, the really stupid bit is not checking the client out properly. Best thing is to ask for a name, call the listed number for the company, and ring them, asking to be put through. If it's a scam, "no-one by that name works here, I'm sorry", if not, one satisfied client, impressed by his cautious and thorough lawyer.

The lawyer described himself in the following terms; "I'm a capital 'D' Dumbass". For a man with 23 years' experience, that's probably a little harsh, or at least I hope so, for his clients' sakes. He dropped his guard, and didn't verify a client's identity. And it cost him $182,500. Ouch.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Be careful, everyone.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Confronted with this story, I could only exclaim something rather rude. Turns out that James Randi, famous sceptic, has offered the man $1,000,000 to prove it works. The Beeb are saying he made $85M out of something that doesn't work, so I don't think he'll be after the million bucks any time soon.

There's a happy ending, though. Actually, happy for everyone other than the manufacturer.

I am very envious of the prosecutor that will get to open the facts for that particular case. The 'bomb detector' appears to have been an RF tag, as seen on frozen chickens and bottle of booze in this part of the world, and NO OTHER FUNCTIONING PARTS. Bloody hell.

So, I started wondering how so many people were taken in for so long. And then reality came crashing back in. Fraud relies on stupid people, on people who will believe anything. Suitcases full of cash in Nigeria that need customs fees paying. Lottery prizes for lotteries you haven't entered. Genuine examples, of course, which keep me in business to a certain extent.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unfortunately, if you're reading this, the chances are you don't need the warning. And if you have no idea what I mean by that, then you should know that I have a package in customs with uncut diamonds in it, and I just need £12,800 to get it out. It's worth £14M, and I'll give you half. Wire me the money and I'll let you know.

It wouldn't be fair to bay for someone's blood (in a legal sense, of course), without giving him a right of reply. So here's an excerpt from his blog...please don't read it if you're of a scientific bent, as your head will explode.

Dear Annon. Your statement is totlally away from what the basic concept of how the product works. You are over-complicating the simplicity of the devcie as it is not detecting the 'static-electric' fields of any of the substances.
Simply explained....the unit is acting like a pure passive receiver. It is emitting nothing but 'tuning' to the the substance being detected. However, because of the very low emitions given off by the substance, it is necessary to generate a very high voltage that can only be created by something lke static-electricity. It is the combination of both this and the units 'receive' to detecting these very low emitting signals.
I hope this may explain.

To this uninformed, ill-educated observer, it appears to be, as we lawyers say, 'utter balls'. I will follow with interest.

Click if you dare, for more.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sun! Sand! Definitely no sea!

And to cheer you up, something from sunnier climes, Arizona, to be precise. It seems the state legislature failed to pass a statute that presumes delivery of anything that the State says it's posted. So unlike this great country, unless a speeding fine is served on you personally, it will expire. Seems quite sensible, as it means the police will concentrate on the more serious offences. The law of unintended consequences has swung into action, and the state has ninety MILLION dollars of fines outstanding. Outstanding!

Lest we all get teary-eyed at the prospect of getting out of second gear and above the six miles an hour we've all been doing recently, consider this: more than 40,000 people a year die on the road in America.

My strictly amateur analysis is as follows: deaths per distance unit travelled, the Yanks are way ahead because of the huge distances they drive. For example, in 2004, it was 1.46 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles travelled. In 2007, in the UK, this was 48 per 100 million vehicle kilometres. So per mile, it's above 60. Three years apart, yes, but that certainly doesn't account for the difference.
I can't find a decent comparison per journey or per driver.

Any statisticians out there want to volunteer an analysis of whether this is meaningful, or simply a big number I've added to a blog post to make a point?


Yes, I'm belatedly excited about the snow. Custody vans not going anywhere, videolinks becoming very necessary, courts closing because there's no heating in the cells, the whole country does indeed grind to a halt whenever we get snow. But at least it's proper snow this time. There was even a snowman outside one police station. I wish I could say it was still there.

Starter for ten: is it criminal damage to destroy a snowman?

This particular snowman was built by another person, on public land, with snow that fell on public land. The snowman does not constitute a nuisance or danger, as the considerate builder has located it out of the way of what little passing traffic there is. We can assume the planner inspectors won't be troubling Frosty either.

Answers on a postcard, in the DX, or in the comments section. I'd love to say there'd be a prize, but I just don't care that much.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

My apologies for the sporadic posting, the festive season being what it is, the chances of a coherent post being published between the 24th December and today are slim, to say the least.

Still, now we've finished celebrating the incarnation of Santa Claus, and have performed the modern equivalent of ritual self-flagellation; queuing for the sales, we can look forward to 2010.

What will 2010 hold for the CPS, the criminal justice system, and indeed, more widely?

Firstly, less money for criminal lawyers, obviously. The CPS has already started gearing up for redundancies -- the compensation scheme has been changed, and it's now cheaper to fire people. Voluntary redundancies offered already, compulsory ones aren't far behind. Further legal aid cuts seem likely as the government tries to stem the flow of money.

A Tory government handing charging back to the police -- discontinuance rates will soar to start with, and then settle down.

A new government will take a dim view of recruiting highly-paid higher court advocates with massive pension liabilities in such dire times. Cutbacks ahoy!

Those who cause death with a single punch, or with a single incidence of careless driving will get longer sentences.

The Tories will have to ditch their ridiculous promise to ditch the Human Rights Act.

More generally... foreign wars over silly finite energy sources to continue, the Higgs boson discovered and supersymmetry proven, medical science will continue to advance apace, Google will move ever closer to world domination, speculation in the biscuit market will cause a shortage of those ridiculously tasty caramel digestives, the ban on hunting with hounds will be repealed, televised political debate will fail to generate interest, and fewer people will vote in the General Election than voted in the X-Factor final.

Happy New Year to you all, may 2010 find you in rude health, free from oppression, famine, disease, injustice and suffering.