Saturday, 31 October 2015

USA in Syria: absolutely no chance of mission creep. No none at all.

U.S. to deploy special-ops forces in Syria to fight ISIS

"President Obama will deploy a small number of special operations forces to Kurdish-controlled territory in northern Syria as part of its effort to fight the Islamic State, the White House announced Friday, framing it as an enhancement of current strategy. Obama had long been opposed to putting boots on the ground. Up to 50 troops will be assisting and advising moderate rebels. More than a dozen parties involved in the Syrian conflict, including the U.S. and Russia, agreed Friday to work toward a cease-fire" - From the Week.

At first it was observing events, then supporting "moderate" rebels, then "targeted" bombing, then saying Assad may be allowed to to remain in any "interim" period having spent years saying he was the root of all evil, then co-ordinating bombing with Russia, then talking to Iran, then talking to everyone having sworn blind they wouldn't, now "up to 50" US special forces to be deployed. There are probably more there now anyway as even we are suposed to have some operating forces there.

What's the betting that in a few months they'll be a few more helpers. And so it will go.

A case of history repeating itself.

What a massive mess Syria is.


Friday, 9 October 2015

Memo to Corbyn and Osborne on the deficit

Summary: UK deficit still absolutely massive. Corbyn seems to think the state can spend more using the old borrow to invest line. He's wrong. Osborne keeps getting away with claiming that while hard he's a genius with the deficit. He's wrong.

From Guido Fawkes and IMF: New figures published by the IMF yesterday report Britain’s government deficit this year will still be bigger than Greece’s. The UK’s deficit in 2015 will be 4.25% as a percentage of GDP – Osborne’s preferred metric – while Greece’s will be 4.17%. The only advanced economy with a higher deficit than the UK this year is Spain…

Before the election Osborne was skewered on how Britain’s deficit compares with Greece in his worst TV appearance of the campaign. For all the talk of austerity and swingeing cuts to tax credits, the Chancellor has failed to meet his deficit targets or match the rest of the developed world…


Tories Target The Undeserving Rich?

Interesting article by Tim Montgomerie in CapX on what the Tories are going after. We shall see if they practice what they preach. Certainly the banks episode showed a problem with their set up and remuneration committees must be a racket as they appear to do little but say yes to pay rises and bonuses. You scratch my back and I'll scratch mine. Good for the few involved.

"In Manchester on Sunday, Sajid Javid paid tribute to Labour’s leadership on increasing the international aid budget. Iain Duncan Smith saluted Tony Blair’s decision to introduce the minimum wage. Ruth Davidson travelled even further back in time when asked to identify a great achievement by a previous Labour administration. The leader of Scotland’s Tories praised the Attlee government’s 1948 National Assistance Act – which established a safety-net for those not covered by earlier national insurance laws. But it was probably Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, who made the most audacious intervention.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Legatum Institute and on the fringe of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester Mr Gove called on Conservatives to draw a distinction between the deserving and the undeserving rich. He talked about a deserving rich who work hard, who are creative and who add value to society but his target was an undeserving rich who play the markets, rig rules and sit on each other’s remuneration committees. He called for today’s Conservatives to tackle the undeserving rich with the same determination as the monopoly-busting Teddy Roosevelt demonstrated when he tackled the anti-competitive practices of his time. Mr Gove specifically singled out people at the World Economic Forum in Davos who lecture the rest of the world on the importance of competitive markets but still get handsome reward packages if and when they fail. (Mr Gove makes his remarks at 33 minutes into this video.)

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, was quick to agree with the Lord Chancellor’s analysis. No free market Conservative should begrudge people who have risked everything and built a business and created jobs from being handsomely rewarded. But, IDS continued, in recent years capitalism became associated with a financial system that was quick to punish small business people or private households who fell into financial distress. Someone who didn’t pay back their loans on time were blacklisted in credit checks for many years, for example. But when those same banks and financial institutions got into trouble themselves they were bailed out by government and a different set of rules seemed to apply. If the rich can’t get poorer because the system protects them, the system loses legitimacy.

When the former Labour leader Ed Miliband waded into this territory a few years ago – drawing a distinction between producer capitalism and predatory capitalism – many Conservatives and business groups were appalled. In part, they were appalled because the intervention came from a politician who demonstrated no real understanding of wealth creation. There were legitimate fears that Mr Miliband was an old-fashioned tax-and-spend politician who would use the misbehaviour of some businesses to create an economic environment in which all businesses would suffer. The party of Gove, Duncan Smith, Javid and Davidson is in a very different position. The cuts it has made to corporation tax, its deregulation agenda and its reforms of employment tribunals are a few examples of measures that have helped Britain to become more competitive. The party will be given more leeway by the nation’s wealth creators to do things like introduce the National Living Wage and, perhaps, make a distinction between the deserving and undeserving rich. It’s typical Nixon-in-China territory.

Michael Gove hinted at one practical implication of his deserving / undeserving rich distinction: monopoly-busting. We may need stronger competition policy to break up the big banks or other large companies that, because of their size, are too big to fail, are able to squash competitors by predatory pricing or are able to afford heavy regulatory regimes that start-up enterprises cannot.

Reform of remuneration committees is another possible policy application. Why do so many CEOs receive golden parachutes as well as golden hellos? For some top CEOs it’s heads they win, tails they win. It’s all ladders and no snakes in the salary game with no clear connection between what managers pay each other and how the companies they manage perform.

I would add reform of the property and planning system to the list of necessary reforms. So many people are growing rich in London because of over-regulation of the land market. People who are already rich are getting much richer simply because they own homes in a market where heavy regulation favours the already propertied over those without a foot on the property ladder. Releasing much more public sector land for housebuilding – including compulsory purchase of the uglier parts of Britain’s greenbelt – will create a proper housing market and end the rigged one we have at present.

Speaking in the main conference hall today Sajid Javid declared that he would “come after” “bad practice”:

“Whether you’re a bank rigging interest rates; a car manufacturer cheating on emissions; or a company not paying your fair share of tax be warned: we will come after you. Because free enterprise is not a free-for-all.”

In most cases it is the absence of free and fair competition – rather than its existence – that produces undeserving riches. The politicisation, regulation and bureaucratisation of the economy may be the biggest factors blunting the system of profit and loss that keeps free markets honest. But, as the Business Secretary Sajid Javid stated, the Tories are the party of law and order rather than the law of the jungle. Unethical business has to be punished."



Tim Montgomerie is a columnist for the The Times, a Senior Fellow at Legatum Institute and co-founder of the new website The Good Right. His “reform of capitalism” report for the Legatum Institute is published on 4th November.


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Washington Post Neologism contest

A neologism is the name for a relatively new or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. Neologisms are often directly attributable to a specific person, publication, period, or event. Neolexia ("new word", or the act of creating a new word) is a synonym.

The term neologism is first attested in English in 1772, borrowed from French néologisme (1734). A proponent of a new word or doctrine may be called a neologist. Neologists might study cultural and ethnic vernacular. A neologism may also be a new usage of an existing word, sometimes called a semantic extension. This is distinct from a person's idiolect, one's unique patterns of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.


Washington Post Word Winners



Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Letter of the day

Below is a letter to the editor of CapX published on the 6th October which is full of insight. There is life outside the EU if we are just confident enough to seize it and not be stifled by the EU:

    "Declan Ganley paints a rosy, predictable and overworn picture of major economies all rushing to engage in trade deals with the EU’s 500 million people. He must come and visit us on the European Parliament’s International Trade committee to see the reality: I am trying to push the EU-India Free Trade Agreement which has stalled yet again after 8 years negotiating. No trade deal with China has even started, only an investment deal – and excessive EU human rights and sustainable development clauses would make an FTA a non-starter. China and India are on record saying they prefer bilateral deals – that’s why George Osborne was in China. In reality, if UK left the EU under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules it would be guaranteed a Most Favoured Nation WTO deal already enjoyed by Japan, China, India, the USA (now), Canada (now) and Australia. Dan Hannan has it right."

    David Campbell Bannerman (MEP), Norwich, UK

He makes some good points not to mention the fact that contrives from Iceland to Australia have managed to make major trade deals without the help of EU vested interests. Let's not also forget Britain is the 5th largest economy in the world. It's worth trading with us.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Tuesday Truth: Criminal Law

Below is an excellent open letter to the "Leaders" of the Bar it is published on The blog is by a senior criminal solicitor although the author of this week's Tuesday Truth apparently wanted to remain annonymous:

Dear Leaders of The Bar

I write this letter out of complete and utter despair. I write this in the hope of stopping the absurd two pronged attack that criminal solicitors (and to some extent the Junior Bar) are faced with from the MoJ and the stance that you have adopted in recent times.

I am a Solicitor and have been for over thirteen years. I am proud of what I do. I have an All Courts Higher Rights qualification which I obtained through the examination route. I am a Duty Solicitor and I am police station accredited. I am no less qualified than any member of the Bar. I am not second best to anyone and neither are any of my Solicitor colleagues. I should never have to say this or set it out in an open letter. I have complete respect for my Barrister colleagues whether Junior or Queens Counsel. I would like to think that they have the same respect for me. Why is it then that Solicitors are continually made out to be a 'poor relation', either by the government or through the recent consultation paper that you helped to draft.

Personally I choose not to use my Rights of Audience at the Crown Court but that is very much a personal choice. I have specialised in criminal law for my entire career and I have had many clients ask me to conduct their case in the Crown Court. I have always refused. I instruct Counsel on 100% of my cases. I choose the appropriate Barrister for the case. I have never, ever been instructed by a client who has asked for a particular barrister. The simple fact is that the client instructs me because of my reputation and in turn they trust me to pick the barrister. To try and suggest that I might pick someone who isn't suitably qualified to deal with my client's case is absurd. I want that client to come back to me or if not to recommend me to everyone that they know. I want to ensure that, together with my chosen Counsel, we get the best result for that client. This is how our business operates; we get results, we get a good reputation and so we get more work. It is a simple concept but it is one that you choose to ignore.

For the last two years the Solicitors profession have been through the most torrid time and it doesn't get much worse than the last week. At the moment there isn't a criminal legal aid solicitor who isn't beside themselves with worry about the future. Whether they are a firm owner or an employee, whether they are part of a firm who have bid or not they are all united by an uncertain future. The very last thing that the profession needed was announcements at the eleventh hour about a consultation designed purely to rid the Courts of Solicitor Advocates. A completely unnecessary diversion at this point in time but one that you have persuaded The Lord Chancellor is of paramount importance.

The irony of your failure to focus on what is really important is that you have completely ignored the consequences that two tier will have upon the Bar. You see if two tier is introduced larger firms who don't need an own client following will be given a guaranteed volume of work. Once those firms get the guaranteed volume then results matter less. In fact they don't need the client to return to them because they have a guaranteed replenishment of clients. This means it will matter less who they instruct at the Crown Court and due to the further cuts the solicitors profession are about to incur, in some cases they will be forced by financial constraints to keep more and more work in-house.

Your failure to deal with two tier means that you are complicit in the downfall of the Junior Bar via two tier. Please don't get me wrong I understand that you think that by commissioning self-serving reports about Crown Court advocacy and assisting with consultations you will somehow preserve the Bar but the reality is you won't. Your best chance of supporting and preserving the Bar is through working with the Solicitors profession instead of consistently doing them a disservice.

The fact is we are two halves of the same profession. One should not have to exist without the other. One should not want to exist without the other. I read an interview with a QC recently who boasted of his close friendship with The Lord Chancellor and was suggestive of the fact that one of the main problems within the system is Solicitors with Higher Rights. With the greatest of respect this is nonsense. The Bar might well find Solicitor Advocates undesirable because of the additional competition but equally Solicitors find Direct Access Barristers undesirable. The blurring of our roles is what causes fragmentation amongst the profession, however it is sadly a case of cause and effect and rather than addressing the cause you seem to ignore that in favour of focussing upon the effect. The cause that you should be focussed upon is cuts and latterly two tier. The fact is that criminal legal aid solicitors have sustained nothing but cuts for the last twenty years and they just cannot take any more. The employment of Solicitor Advocates might well pose a threat to the Junior Bar but the greater threat is what forces the employment of them. It is for this very reason that the timing of the consultation is interesting. You see the scheme that you propose quite simply cannot work with Two Tier. Some of the firms who have bid for two tier have done so knowing the scandalously low rates they will receive for police station and Magistrates Court work, never mind the LGFS post January 2016. They have calculated that they can undertake the work because in order to survive they will keep Crown Court advocacy in-house. This might well be something that neither you nor the MoJ are approve of but this is the consequence of two tier and cuts.

This leaves us with an interesting dichotomy; two tier and cuts or quality advocacy in the Crown Court. This is by no means an acceptance of your underlying assertion that Solicitor Advocates are a poor quality substitute but simply repetition of the fact that two tier will be the demise of the Junior Bar.

The consultation raises a number of interesting issues, not just for Solicitor Advocates;

1. Referral Fees. How big is the problem actually? In thirteen years I have never come across anyone paying or receiving referral fees. I don't doubt it happens but where is the evidence that the practice is increasing? If, as you say, the practice has increased because of legal aid cuts then surely you should tackle the issue of the cuts.

What actually constitutes a referral fee? Do we now put an end to Chambers parties or to Chambers sponsorships of Solicitors events?

2. Client choice. When advising the client about their choice of advocate should Solicitors now make all clients aware that their Barrister may not always be available to cover each and every hearing whereas an employed advocate will? It has been a common and frustrating point for years. Solicitors having to manage their client being annoyed at the last minute change of Counsel. The availability of in-house Counsel for every hearing is undoubtedly a positive benefit for a client. Should we now insist that every hearing is covered only by the Barrister instructed to create a level playing field? If we were to adopt this approach then it would have exactly the same effect as no returns and think of the damage that would cause to the Junior Bar

The problem is that the consultation is largely self-serving and because the Solicitors profession have been deliberately excluded from it the consequences have not been properly considered. It is QASA through the back door but without the much maligned plea only advocates which let’s face it was always a great bug bear from it. Parts of the consultation are an affront to those of us who do the job properly. It is beyond offensive to try and suggest that briefing work in-house may constitute a conflict of interest. It is also unhelpful to the Junior bar, some of whom seek to put the uncertainty of self-employment behind them by seeking the security of in-house employment.

You should not misunderstand the purpose of this letter. It is not, as you might think, a piece written in defence of Solicitor Advocates or the increased use of them. I am also not ignoring the fact that there are firms in existence who do use HCAs purely for financial gain and with little regard for whether that person is the most appropriate advocate for the client’s case. I do not condone that. I am not so naïve to think that there aren’t inexperienced HCAs put in the most awful predicament by their employers by being instructed in cases that are way beyond their capabilities. This is something that shouldn’t be allowed to happen. The bottom line is that I accept all that but trying to restrict the use of HCAs after cuts and two tier is a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

It is about time that the Leadership of the Bar actually looked at the issues that affect their Junior Members and worked out the best way of dealing with them. Two tier will increase use of In-house Counsel whether you like it or not. One wonders what will happen to the Chambers who have submitted tenders as a consequence of your suggestions of a conflict by briefing in-house? Your consultation and two tier are like trying put a square peg in a round hole. They just don't fit together. Many of us only want to see quality HCAs appearing at the Crown Court as the poor ones or the less capable do nothing for our reputation, in the same way that Barristers paying referral fees do nothing for yours. We are, however, best placed to address these problems together. What Solicitors and Junior Barristers do not need is a transparent attempt at restoring an ancient closed shop for Crown Court advocacy by the Senior Bar.

The fundamental point is that we all want a quality profession. We all want to be properly remunerated. We shouldn't be at each other's throats. Solicitors are tired of fighting off attempts to see them out of business from every angle. The Leadership of the Bar should respect this and offer support, after all we are both here to provide the same service. We don't want you to fight our battles for us, what we want is for you to understand that our battles are your battles.

Yours sincerely

A Solicitor


Thursday, 1 October 2015

A tale of everyday life in today's Criminal Courts

Below is an acute observation of the failing nature of the Criminal Justice System. A system upon which the foundations of the country are built. Without law and order and the proper administration of justice there lies trouble. Well we are reaching that point.

It's a really very good blog - jaimerhblog

A Tale of Everday Life

A courtroom somewhere in England. Her Honour Judge Christine Jones-Smith presides. The case is listed for mention with the defendants to attend from custody. The Prosecution are represented by Mr Justin Messenger. The defence are represented by Miss Fi Owens and the ever busy Miss Rhea Turner.

The case is called on and only one defendant is produced in the dock. The present defendant is identified and the parties are introduced.

HHJ CJS: Miss Owens, where is your client?

MISS FO: I am told by the custody staff that he has not been put on the van. In fact my learned friend Miss Turner informs me that my client shares a cell with her client and when the officers came to their cell this morning they called upon the co-accused but, despite their insistence that they were both required, they only placed the co-accused on the bus.

HHJ CJS: I see, a case of “your name’s not down so you’re not coming out”…. never mind…. it is only 10 am, still plenty of time to get him here….

MISS FO: I have made enquiries and it is thought he could be here by 3pm.

HHJ CJS: 3pm!?! 3pm!?! The prison is less than four miles from here. Who says it will take them until 3pm?

MISS FO: I spoke to the staff downstairs who work for 3PO. They spoke to GeeForceAnnie who are the ones that bring them here. It took a while for them to speak to SecurGroupitas who run the prison. Apparently the next GeeForceAnnie van available is one that is currently delivering someone missed from yesterday’s list at the other end of the County and 3PO cannot speak to that van directly, because it is not their van, so SecurGroupitas have to contact GeeForceAnnie head office to get them to arrange it. All of which takes time. Apparently.

HHJ CJS: There seems little I can do about that so let’s see what progress we can make in his absence. Mr Messenger, this case is listed today to see if the problems that have beset this case have been ironed out. Now then, the defence have made several requests to have the exhibit in this case examined scientifically. The exhibit is a weapon is it not? In fact, a most unusual weapon. I believe the witnesses describe it as a “broadsword”. So Mr Messenger, has that examination now taken place?

MR JM: I am afraid not, Your Honour.

HHJ CJS: Why not, Mr Messenger?

MR JM: Because we’ve lost it….

HHJ CJS: I’m sorry Mr Messenger, did you just say you’ve lost it?

MR JM: Not me personally, I am only the messen…..the conduit for that information. It has been lost in the Police Property Store.

HHJ CJS: A broadsword?

MR JM: Yes, Your Honour.

HHJ CJS: The broadsword in this case? How? How did the police lose a broadsword? I mean it’s not as if there has been a sudden spate of immortals running round shouting “there can be only one” in a Frenchly Scottish accent whilst trying to lop the head off total strangers, has there? There can be only one broadsword…in the possession of the police…you don’t just lose that in an officer’s desk drawer…

MR JM: No. It went into the Property Store. It was logged into the Property Store. The computer says it is still in the Property Store. But…..

HHJ CJS: What, Mr Messenger? But what?

MR JM: The Officer has had a jolly good look for it but can’t find it.

HHJ CJS: Perhaps he should hang around the lake and see if any shimmering ladies emerge carrying Excalibur….Thankfully the last time the case was listed for trial it was discovered that there was, contrary to what the police had originally said, there was CCTV of the incident, if I recall correctly…

Miss Turner gets to her feet to assist.

MISS RT: Your Honour is quite correct. In advance of the last trial date the the Officer in the Case provided a statement in which he described how he had viewed the CCTV from the premises but that it showed nothing and was not capable of being downloaded. However on the day of the trial the owner of the premises provided a statement saying that the footage did show the incident and that it had been burnt on to a disc and handed to the same Officer.

HHJ CJS: At least that means we can see the invisible broadsword in action. Please be the bearer of good news this time Mr Messenger? Have we located the disc?

MR JM: Yes, Your Honour, there is a statement from the Officer. The disc was logged into the Property Store…

HHJ CJS: Why do I have a sense of dread, Mr Messenger? Was the disc lost by any chance?

MR JM: No, Your Honour.

HHJ CJS: Recorded over with Coronation Street so the night shift didn’t miss it?

MR JM: No, Your Honour. It has…..

HHJ CJS: No, no, Mr Messenger, I am keen to guess. Is it in a format incompatible with any known playback system?

MR JM: No, You Honour.

HHJ CJS: Has it been mistaken for a broadsword and stored down the back of a radiator?

MR JM: No, Your Honour.

HHJ CJS: Come on then, enlighten me.

MR JM: It has been destroyed.

The Judge indulges in some uncharacteristic eye rolling.

HHJ CJS: How, Mr Messenger? How was it destroyed? No. Why? Why was it destroyed? In fact, both. How and why.

MR JM: The Officer asked about it at the Property Store and was told it was there. When he went to collect it three days later it had, unfortunately, been destroyed the day before. Apparently where an item is not listed as an exhibit or as unused material in a live case they are automatically destroyed after six months. It is a rigorously effective system. It is all in the Officer’s statement.

HHJ CJS: Can I see it?

Mr Messenger takes the opportunity to do his own eye rolling. He speaks deliberately and slowly. Each word is separately formed and clearly enunciated.

MR JM: It. Has. Been. Destroyed….


MR JM: Yes, Your Honour, and a little bit of no.

HHJ CJS: Sorry?

MR JM: You may see the statement, but only in due course. At the moment you cannot.

HHJ CJS: Don’t tell me Mr Messenger. Lost? Destroyed in game of Rock/Paper/Sword at the Property Store? Written on incompatible parchment? Touring the County like the missing defendant?

MR JM: Nothing so simple I am afraid. The CPS printer is broken.

HHJ CJS: But it was only last week that it broke down and was repaired.

MR JM: Again, a little bit of yes and a little bit of no. It certainly broke down last week but has not been repaired in the interim. And now it is more broken than it was before.

HHJ CJS: Do they not have someone who can repair it?

MR JM: Not on the payroll, Your Honour. Rather than have a specialist waiting around to do the specific jobs that arise it is much cheaper to use outside contractors to come and do the work according to their experience and ability. You avoid pensions, sick pay and get to pick just the right person.

HHJ CJS: We are still taking about printer repair are we? What has been done?

MR JM: The Caseworker present in Court contacted the area business manager who is the person to whom such faults should be reported…..


MR JM: The Caseworker was told to sort it out himself.

HHJ CJS: What do they expect him to do? Find a repair person or get out his screwdriver and do it himself?

MR JM: Not entirely clear Your Honour. The Caseworker did point out to the Business Manager that he was looking after two courts today and that Your Honour had nine mentions dealing with trial readiness where the relevant correspondence and memoranda were only available on the Caswworker’s laptop and he had no means to print out that information and ended the telephone call by asking whether the Business Manager also wanted him to shove a broom up his …… well, the conversation ended without the problem being resolved.

The CPS Caseworker in court attracts Mr Messenger’s attention.

MR JM: If You Honour will forgive me for a moment, I am just receiving some instructions.

Mr Messenger leans forward and has a whispered conversation with the Caseworker.

MR JM: It transpires that the contract to repair the printer is held by GeeForceAnnie. So perhaps the van that brings the absent defendant can also bring the engineer…..

The telephone on the Court Clerk’s desk rings. She answers it and conducts her own whispered conversation with a cupped hand concealing her mouth. Once she finishes the conversation she stands, turns to face the Judge and relays the information to Her Honour. The Judge sighs.

HHJ CJS: I have just been told that the Court does not have a Judge available to hear this trial tomorrow. I am also told that there are only four jurors not currently engaged on trials available. So we have no Judge, no jury, an absent defendant, missing exhibits and missing statements. Miss Owens and Miss Turner it would appear that we are missing most of the essential ingredients of a trial and you would say that it is impossible to have a trial tomorrow?

BOTH: Yes, Your Honour.

HHJ CJS: On the defence application I will adjourn this trial…..

Both Miss Owens and Miss Turner look a little bemused. The Court Clerk eagerly ticks the box on the monitoring form indicating that the trial was adjourned upon a defence led application.

This is not the first imagined Courtroom Scene I have written. But this is not totally imagined. They are all problems that have arisen in cases in which I have been involved. And yes, that included a lost broadsword. Obviously they do not all happen in each case but they happen with such frequency that there is something very obviously wrong in the system. Things that will not be solved by endless Practice Directions. If nothing else, you can also play “spot the Monty Python plagiarised lines”…..