Monday, 27 April 2009

More good news

I mention Boy every now and then, but I try not to say too much about him. After all, this is my blog and not his, and so I try and respect his right to privacy and all. However, on this occasion, I simply must tell all and sundry who is willing to listen to me!

Boy left a rather cushy job in another country, where he had a 15 min walk to work and was listed as a rising star in the legal directories there. He left this job to come over to the grim South Eastern Circuit, where he had no guarantee of getting advocacy work and was not interested in joining a firm. He was subsequently a "self-employed person without any work" for rather longer than is comfortable (more than a few months, less than a year). It was starting to look as if we'd both end up Trainee Baristas at Starbucks, any day.

But Lo! A forward thinking and innovative set has decided it will take a chance on him. He had a sort of tenancy, sort of pupillage arrangement. At a set that I could only dream of I should add, because his credentials are rather more stellar than mine. His CV gleams like fireworks in the night sky, whereas the sparks in mine are more remniscent of a toddler sticking a screwdriver in a socket*.So well done him!

* I did once do this. I was not a toddler, but more at the thick end of my teens. I was shot across the room, and the tip of the screwdriver melted. And so ended my flirtations with DIY, and began my relationship with frizz-reducing hair serums and anti-twitching** medication.

PS - I realise, embroiled in applications as we all are at the moment, that this qualifies as the sort of thing that people don't want to be hearing about. But - and this goes out particularly to the mature students amongst you - he is non-traditional. Very non-traditional, and certainly non-Oxbridge/public school. So, it should be encouraging that his set took a punt on him, and reflective of some sort of progress at the Bar. I'm certainly encouraged by this.

**That bit is a joke. But I could still enter a Dom King lookalike competition.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

I smell a rucus a-brewin'

I wonder if it'll get down to 'yo mamma' stylee mudslinging match?

My tutor gave me a copy of the judges comments, which Michael at Law Actually and Charon QC have posted about today. The Solicitor Advocates in question have responded.

They say the judge was:

"“hostile to us all, me included, the whole way through. Much of
this was conveyed by facial expression and vocal intonation, and therefore won't show up on the transcript. It was obvious from the first day of trial; none of us said anything until halfway through day 3, so the hostility predated anything we said or did. He would not look at any of us or address any of us directly; he referred to us innumerable times as "solicitors"in tones of contempt.” By contrast, he treated the only barrister in the case (prosecuting counsel) with perfectly proper courtesy."
Pretty hefty accusations all round.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Starting as I mean to go on

I've just had my first appearance in a hearing before a real judge in a real case at the Employment Tribunal*.

Even more shocking, it was my first win. This is how it went:

- I was absolutely terrified.

- I was well prepared (this would be a surprise to my BVC colleagues, but apparently I can pull it out for a real life client dependent on me. Yay for not being negligent)

- I said very little (see above, terrified), the Judge took the best possible view on the law which meant that the Respondent had an uphill and pretty much impossible struggle to show that our presentation of the facts was not credible.

- It was a Friday afternoon, and the Judge was mindful that we (he) didn't want to hang about ideally and so was very proactive and crucially, did not let the Respondent dilly dally too much or get away with asking my client any questions that weren't relevant in the strictest sense possible. He didn't know what had hit him.

- The Judge was incredibly sharp. I'm not saying this just because he decided in our favour; I was most impressed.

The potential issues I had prepared for did not come up, but it was there in case I had needed it and obviously, it is essential to avoid any sort of surprise. I was a tad disappointed I didn't get to do a bit more Examination in Chief, and indeed any Cross Examination - but it was a good result for my client on this preliminary issue. It was also a fairly gentle first court room experience.

Finally, I loved every minute of it. In the midst of all the application mumbo jumbo and compulsively cross checking my skills against the qualities required there have, admittedly, been the occasional periods of self doubt as to whether I could actually do this, or whether I would be happy doing something else such as being a solicitor if the elusive pupillage fairy persists in eluding me; the fickle and flighty fae that she is.

Not a bit of it. I'll happily fight the other 1,645** odd applicants to feel that mix of terror and excitement*** throughout my career.

* In Watford. It don't get more real, bros.

** Obviously, esteemed colleagues in the blogosphere, I do not mean you. We can set up our own set where we will champion Human Rights, break ground in Chancery work, right the wrongs of the family law system, and there will always be chocolate Hobnobs in the kitchen.

***Yes, I could achieve this by doing lots more FRU. But I'm sure the terror and excitement is even more when your professional reputation, mortgage, and career are on the line everyday as well as the client's neck.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Police brutality?

For a modern police force, in the last 10 years the police have had a few major incidents which have very seriously affected their public image. There was the Steven Lawrence case and subsequent inquiries which highlighted institutional racism, and the De Menezes case in 2007 showed up a whole raft of problems- not least, the tendency to cover up problems.

Will the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests prove to be a similar case? Charon QC posted this link today. The video is pretty shocking. It seems Tomlinson died minutes after being pushed about by the police. Earlier police reports made no reference to this incident.
I find the video quite shocking. I lean towards a natural suspicion of all authority figures, especially the police, but essentially I think that our Police force probably does a better job than most. However, we keep being told how they've moved on from the bad old days however, and act proportionately and according to the PACE codes of practice. Has there been a cover up?

Have the police learned nothing from the spate of enquiries in recent years - most crucially the De Menezes case?

If the Police did push Tomlinson unnecessarily, as the video seems to suggest, and this is shown to later have caused his death (I believe he died of a heart attack) what would that mean? Did the stress of that encounter cause that heart attack? The Guardian are pushing for an inquiry, but is there a question of civil or criminal liability? The eggshell skull rule comes to mind.

We've just covered abuse of process on the Advanced Criminal Litigation option on the BVC. I wonder what practitioners would say about Police ethics today.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Thou shalt not make graven images. Not with our toys, anyway.

I rarely read this publication, but this story made me smile. It's in the theme of Big Bad Company uses legal rights in an unnecessarily repressive way.

A German priest has been using Playmobil (I guess that's lego?) figures to recreate Biblical scenes. Check out Jesus with his crown of thorns, above. It's the wee lego smilie that gets you.

The suggestion seems to be that Playmobil are worried about non-Christians being offended by this usage. Perhaps their fear is not unreasonable given the massive outcry concerning the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed and similar incidents. I don't think it's all that commonly known but Jesus is the second most important Prophet in Islam, second only to Muhammed. They're like, BFFs, in modern parlance. The prohibition against portraying him is just as strong, and indeed in films made in the Middle East an actor playing Jesus, or other prophets would typically have a light beaming from his face or something, so as to obscure his features.

I caught Ben-Hur on the telly last week, and noted that you never saw Jesus' face on that either - or heard his voice. Presumably the Christian audience for that film would also have felt that showing Jesus' face was taboo. Perhaps this is something that has changed over time, I'm not sure.

Nevertheless, I think Playmobil have overreacted a tad. Many people will probably think that it is wrong to represent Jesus and other prophets in any form, whether by Lego toys, in painted glass, or in cartoon form. Most people however, will probably see that the intentions behind this priests actions were not to offend anyone, and certainly meant no disrespect to anyone. And gosh darnit, they're pretty cute.

Although, I do find the smiles a tad creepy!