Alan Turing: a strain’d quality of irrational and arbitrary mercy

Alan Turing's office | David Fisher | Creative Commons

In July I argued against Lord Sharkey’s proposed statutory pardon for Alan Turing, for a number of reasons.

First, the pardon proposed was not intended to affect Turing’s conviction. I wondered why not. Although the Crown’s prerogative power to grant a pardon is traditionally limited to miscarriage of justice cases

once Parliament decides it should act, there’s no reason for it to feel bound by the limitations of prerogative powers. Parliament is sovereign. If MPs and peers want, by Act of Parliament, to disregard Alan Turing’s conviction, they can do so. So why don’t they? …

Parliament can, if it likes, retrospectively repeal the legislation under which he was convicted, and make everything done under it a legal nullity (if need be making clear that no legal action can now be taken against anyone for anything they did under it).

More importantly, I thought the proposal wasn’t about Alan Turing at all, but about us:

Peers and the government just want to do something symbolic. But who benefits from the symbolism? Not Alan Turing. This pardon, well-intentioned though it undoubtedly is, is not only pointless but self-indulgent. It would make only us only feel that we’re relieved of the burden of the past.

Well, now there’ll be no statutory pardon at all. Instead the Queen has granted one under the prerogative power of mercy, on the advice of the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. In reality, the government has decided unilaterally to pardon Alan Turing.

If anything, there’s even more reason to object to this than there was to Lord Sharkey’s bill, whose second reading government whips objected to in the Commons last month. Lord Dubs complained about that in the House of Lords the following week, and last night Lord Bassam made the same point on Twitter:

This pardon won’t touch Turing’s conviction any more than the statutory one would have. But the new argument against the government’s approach is that, in order to claim the main credit for this PR gesture, it’s had to monkey with the traditional grounds for exercise of the prerogative of mercy.

The reason Lord Sharkey introduced his bill was precisely because a Royal pardon wasn’t an option. As the then justice minister Crispin Blunt explained in the Commons

It is the long-standing policy not to exercise the royal prerogative of mercy where a person was correctly convicted under thelaws that existed at the time. The applicant must be technically and morally innocent, as my hon. Friend has said. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South has said that we should clear Alan Turing’s name. A pardon under the royal prerogative of mercy would not actually affect Alan Turing’s conviction; only a court can quash a conviction and, in that sense, clear someone’s name.

Much as we now feel it outrageous that Alan Turing’s behaviour was treated as a criminal offence, he was guilty of the contemporary offence. To grant him a pardon under the royal prerogative would change the basis on which such pardons are normally given.

How does the government explain this departure from its own policy? In its press release, it says

A pardon is only normally granted when the person is innocent of the offence and where a request has been made by someone with a vested interest such as a family member. Uniquely on this occasion a pardon has been issued without either requirement being met, reflecting the exceptional nature of Alan Turing’s achievements.

Turing’s achievements, then, provide the only reason for doing this; and no reason whatever is given for the suggestion that this pardon be unique.

But why should mercy be so strain’d? If the prerogative can now be exercised in favour of one man convicted historically under a law we now think oppressive and wrong, why shouldn’t all those convicted under the same law be treated the same? Why shouldn’t those convicted of abortion-related offences in the middle of the twentieth century be pardoned too? And why not those convicted of witchcraft-related offences in centuries gone by? Many if not all those victims of lawful atrocity must have been tortured before being killed. Ministers surely can’t deny them pardons just by asserting that Alan Turing is “unique”. That’s a question-begging reason, so no reason at all. Why is Turing “unique”?

Even if some new, wider approach to mercy applies only to offences of gross indecency (which would be hard to defend rationally), and only applies to people of exceptional achievement (why should it?), there’s still the case of Oscar Wilde to be considered. I suppose an argument could be made – I certainly wouldn’t make it myself – that Wilde’s plays, poetry, essays and fiction are minor achievements compared to Alan Turing’s. But whatever you think about that, the prerogative of mercy should not depend on a cabinet game of Great Britons. If it’s right to grant this pardon at all, then some conception of justice should motivate it, not one person’s arguably unique individual merit.

So I’m afraid this arbitrary departure from policy is this government’s latest constitutional whim. It’s certainly not the first.

But the pardon’s wrong anyway. Alan Turing was a great man, treated with shameful cruelty and ingratitude by this country. We ought to feel shame and sorrow about that, now and every time his name is mentioned in future. One of the objectionable things about this pardon is that on some dimly-perceived cultural level it implies official permission to stop feeling that way; it’s a formal announcement that something’s been put right, as though the Alan Turing story can be rewritten with a happy ending. But unless you get your moral sentiments from Hollywood you know nothing’s been put right or ever will be, and that it’s no good cheering ourselves up by pretending it has.

I’m against this irregular, irrational and arbitrary prerogative pardon, even more than I was against the proposed statutory pardon I wrote about in July.

Head of Legal

Landlord Law Blog looks back at 2013

Merry-Xmas-400-300Its here.  The big one.  The one where I look back at the whole year on the blog and give links.

Gulp.

I then get to have two weeks off when there will be NO posts at all.

Yay!  Its great writing the blog but it will be nice to have a bit of a break.

So – here goes.

snow2January

It looks as if the very first post was a book review of Homelessness and Allocations done by Ben (he liked it).

However, we were soon looking at blog clinic questions from landlords not sure what to do with tenants possessions left behind, writing about the 2013 Conference, and reaching H is for Harassment in the landlords A-Z (which I have yet to finish.  I think about it from time to time).

Over in Ben Reeve Lewis land, he had been given a juicer to try to recapture his 32″ waist.  Hmm.

We had the case of the letting agent charging the £420 renewal fee and I did an information post on when a letting is a tenancy and when it is a license.  Not for the first time or the last time …

Something I don’t write about that often was this post on TV license issues, and I also introduced my e course for tenants (still very popular and going strong).

I reported on a great visit to the Conference venue, and Ben forgot to write his column. Heigh ho!

paperworkFebruary

February starts with Ben saying ‘If I hear the Green Green Grass of home one more time …”,  having a go at mortgage companies (so whats new) and later doing a whole column on the Bedroom Tax.

Samir wonders if the concept of homelessness is compatible with human rights, the OFT do a report on complaints about letting agents, and I write one of my favourite posts of the year – this one on common law rules re rent. Followed by six tips on using s21 notices.

Blog clinic questions include the cost of clearing drains, a landlords four questions about rent arrears, and what to do when a tenant keeps cancelling viewings.

Conference 2013March

March starts with Ben taking a visit to Landlord Law Towers to talk training, followed by a nightmare week where he faces the prospect of having to wash his own pants later in the year.  Be afraid, be very afraid …

Samir starts what turns out to be a very interesting and popular series on Property Guardians, with me looking at legal issues here, followed by Ben looking at the reality.

However March was of course our Conference month!  With a monster liveblog from Samir, pictures from me and later on the wonderful Property Tribes videos eg here and here.

Blog clinic questions included questions about tenants rights on tenancy deposits, a landlord wondering how she can find out if her tenants have left or not, and what a landlord can do about an unwanted HMO.

gravesApril

Ben Reeve Lewis discovers why he bothers and discusses inspirational Judges.  A later post discusses Gavvers and features a protest song on the bedroom tax.

I take a look at UK landlords discussion forums, and announce a new guide for landlords on how to get rid of your letting agent (legally of course).

We start to feature a few clips from the conference talks recordings such as this one from David Smith on HMOs, and landlords sigh with relief at the outcome of the Johnson v. Old case on when a payment is a deposit and when it is rent (in this case it was rent).

Blog clinic questions include who pays the rent after a tenant dies, what landlords should do if a tenant goes into prison, and the landlady who returned the deposit in cash through the letter box (witnessed by the police) so she could serve a s21 notice after failing to protect the deposit (one of my favourites).

Section 21 noticeMay

Ben loses his voice completely at the start of the month,  considers the governments plans to turn landlords into immigration inspectors, and discusses property problems for posh people.

I launch a new little free site on how to evict your tenant, look at three misunderstandings about tenants rights when s21 notices are served on them, and am interviewed by Property Geek.

Blog clinic questions include having to pay benefit back to the council (its called clawback and is why direct payment of benefit is not always a good idea), and tenants insisting on using an unsafe boiler.  A question about whether a payment is a holding fee or rent gets a lot of questions.

The Law CourtsJune

The time has now come for Ben to wash his own pants as Frazzy suns hereself in the Caymens.   However he has the London Assembly report to cheer him up.

I introduce the Landlord Law Blog Fast Track blog clinic (its been used by a few) and do articles on what happens if you don’t have a tenancy agreement (“hiss through teeth”), regulations on furniture in rented properties and a new case on unfair terms in tenancy agreements.

This is the month when the Superstrike case burst upon us, which I wrote about here and here.

Blog clinic questions included whether a landlord can come in and out as he likes (no), whether a landlord is liable for electrical works done without his consent, whether a landlord can be charged for boarding up the property due to the tenants ASB and whether tenants HAVE to sign a new fixed term agreement.

bespoke tenancy agreementJuly

Ben talks about being threatened at work and the shadowy world of SARB (sale and rent back to you), daftness  and we publish some of his TRO Confidential posts as an ebook.

He also does a post about Councils and landlords working together and Samir writes about the CLG select committee report.

I talk about Credit Unions and preparing for Universal Credit,  landlords as immigration officers and four ironclad rights tenants have if their landlord wants to sell their property.

Blog clinic questions include a landlord claiming for re-decoration of a whole room if there is a scratch on the wall, whether tenants can be forced to rehome their dog, the most important rule re landlords right of entry and whether a landlord should provide more than one set of keys.

flowersAugust

Ben considers retirement issues, gets VERY bored in the silly season and feels depressed about pointless prosecutions,

I warn landlords to beware fraudsters mortgaging their property, look at why a periodic tenancy arising at the end of a fixed term is really a new tenancy, and write about a prosecution of landlords over a damp and mouldy flat in Lambeth,

Meanwhile Samir considers the law regarding water meters and tenants rights.

Blog clinic questions include whether you should disclose to a lodger that you are not the property owner, pets clauses in tenancy agreements, the procedure for landlords wanting to reduce the rent, and what tenants should do if they suspect their landlord is illegally letting to them.

cannabisSeptember

Ben talks about beds in sheds, posh sheds, and London housing being promoted in Malaysia.

Samir writes about utilities and tenants rights and housing and the local government information unit.

I announce my collaboration with Anthony Gold solicitors. and give three tips for landlords on Data Protection.

Blog clinic questions include tenants not able to use a room due to the landlords boxes, agents charges for frivolous calls and maintenance, sitting tenants rights, and whether tenants can refuse access to their landlord.

Oxford StudentsOctober

Ben gets angry about councils ditching affordable housing schemes, considers hugging a thug, and wonders if the sacking of real and shadow housing ministers at the same time is carelessness or just good luck?

We have a post from David Smith on HMO fees in Oxford and getting your money back,  and I write about Davids successful HMO Workshop in Norwich.  I also report on a visit to Essex Property Network and review David Lawrensons book.

Samir discusses racism in letting agents and then sets us off on another series, this time on the anniversary of the Housing Act, writing about rent control, while I look at section 21 and Ben wonders if its time for a change.

Blog clinic questions include ones on sky satellite dishes, unfair clauses in tenancy agreements (from David Smith), tenancy deposits being returned to the wrong tenant and whether a tenancy is binding if the tenant has never paid rent.

ThunderstickNovember

Ben discusses candidates for room 101, changes his job and talks about the day he lost his TV career via email.

I start a new series on tenancy agreements looking at bog standard ASTs,  rooms in shared houses, resident landlords and company lets and re-launch the evicting squatters kit.

Samir discusses housing law in Germany and Brazil.

Blog clinic questions include the rent needed to use the rent arrears repossession ground, landlords refusing to pay compensation for disrepair, claims for damp and charges to tenants for inventory frees.

Xmas TreeDecember

And so the year comes to its end.  Ben finally has a holiday  and does a Christmas column.

We have our first post from tax expert Steve Simms who will be writing more regularly next year.

I write about tenancy agreements for tenants with pets, do a workshop on Ending Tenancies, launch a new Legal Kits website, ask if landlord & tenant law should be taught in schools and write about a new case on s21 which changes all the rules.

We announce that the Landlord Law Conference 2014 is open for bookings (just go www.lllconf.com).

Blog clinic questions include problems re drying clothes indoors, payment of deposit to lead tenants (who don’t pass it on), the rules when selling a property with protected tenants, and whether a landlords letting agent is doing enough to get the annual gas inspection done.

Did we really write all that?

Big thanks …

Go especially to Ben – Ben has NEVER let me down – even when he forgot to write his column that week, he just sat down and wrote it there and then.  He is always entertaining and relevant and the blog would not  be the same without him.

Thank you Ben!

Thanks also to Samir for your always interesting contributions, and to Steve who we hope to see more of next year.

Especial thanks go to all of you who write comments.  These contribute enormously to the value of the posts and keep me on my toes.  Please keep commenting (unless of course you are advertising viagra, slimming products or are spamming the site in some other way – you won’t get through as all comments are moderated).

But our ‘proper’ commentators are ALWAYS welcome.  Thank you.

And thank you also to all you readers.  I hope you have enjoyed the site and please come back next year when we start up again.

If you want anything else to read on tenancy stuff over the holidays I would recommend:

  • Property Tribes – the  best forum out there
  • Property 118 – great articles and readers questions
  • Nearly Legal – always good value.  And finally of course you could always read
  • Last years Christmas retrospective 2012

The Landlord Law Blog will be back on Monday 6 January 2014.


The Landlord Law Blog

Personal Injury Compensation Claims – be aware of the time limits or risk losing out

Guest PostPersonal Injury Limitation PeriodIn the UK, there is a general time limit of three years in which a personal injury claim for compensation must be made. If proceedings are not started in a court within this time frame, then the case becomes statute-barred and cannot be pursued.

Usually, the three year timeline starts either from the date of the accident or from the date that the person becomes aware that the injury is linked to the original incident. This is referred to as ‘the date of knowledge’. This ‘date of knowledge’ can be extremely useful for cases that involve exposure to a toxic substance, such as asbestos which may not reveal itself until decades later.

However, there are some variations about when the time limitation is set. For example, in fatal cases, the three year limitation begins from the date of death or from the date the death was linked to the original incident, be it an accident or exposure to a toxic substance. In addition, if a person dies part way through making a claim for compensation, the three year deadline begins from their date of death, enabling their family to continue with the claim if they wish to.

There are special rules too for children and for people being treated under the Mental Health Act (1983). In such cases, the time limit does not begin until their ‘legal incapacity’ is removed. For a child, this is at eighteen years old and for a patient being treated under the Mental Health Act, the date of their discharge. The three year time limit still applies. Therefore rather than having three years from the date of the accident in which to pursue a claim the law states that a ‘child’ has three years from the date of their eighteenth birthday, that being the age of maturity, in which to bring a claim. Their claim, therefore, must have either settled or court proceedings have been issued before the child/adult reaches the age of twenty one. This rule gives the parents or guardians of the injured child a choice, at the time of the accident, as to whether to pursue a claim immediately (and have any compensation awarded to the child placed in a court fund until the child reaches the age of eighteen) or to wait until the child reaches the age of maturity and let them make their own decision as to whether to pursue a claim for compensation for the injuries they sustained as a child.

A peculiar anomaly to this is if an accident occurs on an aircraft. The limitation period in this instance is only two years from the date of the accident.

In order to minimise the risk of your claim being prevented in law from being made due to the statute of limitation it is advisable to seek legal advice from an expert personal injury solicitor as soon as possible after the accident. Similarly, if a child has been injured it would be beneficial for the parents or guardians to talk through the options with a solicitor who specialises in child injury claims so that they are clear about what action they need to take.

For those who have had the misfortune to be in an accident or have been exposed to a toxic substance, it is also a good idea to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. In this way the injured party can avoid the risk of becoming statute-barred and have the best chance of making a successful claim for compensation.

Close Thornton Solicitors have a team specialising in personal injury claims. For further information, please contact Shaun Burke on 01325 466461 or email shaun.burke@close-thornton.co.uk

Law Actually

Personal Injury Compensation Claims – be aware of the time limits or risk losing out

Guest PostPersonal Injury Limitation PeriodIn the UK, there is a general time limit of three years in which a personal injury claim for compensation must be made. If proceedings are not started in a court within this time frame, then the case becomes statute-barred and cannot be pursued.

Usually, the three year timeline starts either from the date of the accident or from the date that the person becomes aware that the injury is linked to the original incident. This is referred to as ‘the date of knowledge’. This ‘date of knowledge’ can be extremely useful for cases that involve exposure to a toxic substance, such as asbestos which may not reveal itself until decades later.

However, there are some variations about when the time limitation is set. For example, in fatal cases, the three year limitation begins from the date of death or from the date the death was linked to the original incident, be it an accident or exposure to a toxic substance. In addition, if a person dies part way through making a claim for compensation, the three year deadline begins from their date of death, enabling their family to continue with the claim if they wish to.

There are special rules too for children and for people being treated under the Mental Health Act (1983). In such cases, the time limit does not begin until their ‘legal incapacity’ is removed. For a child, this is at eighteen years old and for a patient being treated under the Mental Health Act, the date of their discharge. The three year time limit still applies. Therefore rather than having three years from the date of the accident in which to pursue a claim the law states that a ‘child’ has three years from the date of their eighteenth birthday, that being the age of maturity, in which to bring a claim. Their claim, therefore, must have either settled or court proceedings have been issued before the child/adult reaches the age of twenty one. This rule gives the parents or guardians of the injured child a choice, at the time of the accident, as to whether to pursue a claim immediately (and have any compensation awarded to the child placed in a court fund until the child reaches the age of eighteen) or to wait until the child reaches the age of maturity and let them make their own decision as to whether to pursue a claim for compensation for the injuries they sustained as a child.

A peculiar anomaly to this is if an accident occurs on an aircraft. The limitation period in this instance is only two years from the date of the accident.

In order to minimise the risk of your claim being prevented in law from being made due to the statute of limitation it is advisable to seek legal advice from an expert personal injury solicitor as soon as possible after the accident. Similarly, if a child has been injured it would be beneficial for the parents or guardians to talk through the options with a solicitor who specialises in child injury claims so that they are clear about what action they need to take.

For those who have had the misfortune to be in an accident or have been exposed to a toxic substance, it is also a good idea to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. In this way the injured party can avoid the risk of becoming statute-barred and have the best chance of making a successful claim for compensation.

Close Thornton Solicitors have a team specialising in personal injury claims. For further information, please contact Shaun Burke on 01325 466461 or email shaun.burke@close-thornton.co.uk

Law Actually

Blogosphere in the Judgosphere

Today, “blogosphere” entered the judicial lexicon and I appeared in my first reported judgment. Shame it wasn’t for anything I’ve done in court but hey ho. I think it is the first time that a legal blogger has been quoted in a judgment, which is something to tell the grandchildren (yeah, whatevs gran).

Of course, trivia aside, behind this is a serious judgment about a serious and heartwrenching case, as the judgment in question is that of the President of the Family Division, Munby LJ, in connection with the Reporting Restrictions Orders in the case regarding the child of Allessandra Pacchieri.

You can read it here: P (A Child) [2013] EWHC 4048 (Fam) (17 December 2013). (You can read my earlier posts on this topic here here and here).

The case is interesting for two main reasons:

  • because it makes the timeline in the case a little clearer, and we can therefore extrapolate a little more about what is likely to happen in future.
  • because it tells us the direction of travel for future cases of press and public interest

As Suesspicious Minds observes however, it is not the rollicking b*llocking of the press that some had anticipated it would be (although Munby sounds pretty thin lipped about the quality of their reporting when he prays in aid my little quote he is right to observe that it is no business of the courts to monitor the free press).

Munby asks at pa 44:

How can the family justice system blame the media for inaccuracy in the reporting of family cases if for whatever reason none of the relevant information has been put before the public?

before going on to say we can’t go on like this (finally) – we have GOT to publish more (I paraphrase). About time. Although, if this is a solution to a problem, I think the question of causation is rather more complex than the solution suggests. It is not as if one can say “but for” the absence of publicly available information inaccurate or tendentious reporting would not exist. If that were the case the many inaccurate articles published before the publication of Mostyn J’s Court of Protection case would by now have been corrected. They have not been. If that were the case there would not have been widespread reports that Munby was calling in the case to “demand an explanation” from social workers, based on a media release that said no such thing (see the judgment for detail of this). No. Whilst it is not the role of the judiciary to curtail press freedom on the basis of the quality of reporting, nor to enter the arena and criticise them for the quality or tone of their reports – that does not mean there is not a legitimate public debate to be had about the role and conduct of the mainstream press. I am pleased information will be publicly available both to the press, to legal bloggers and to the public – but I don’t think that excuses reporting that is knowingly based on incomplete information, that is expressed in trenchant and inaccurate terms and misleads the public about matters of genuine public interest – either before or after any transparency reforms. The press could have sought further information. They could have waited. They could have employed appropriate caveats. I have doubts that the publication of judgments will entirely resolve the problem – because for me it is caused not just by lack of information but by a lack of incentive to report all the facts and to do so in a measured way. It is a feature of the press that there should be a story, a sellable, gaspworthy story. Judgments are plodding, laborious and intricate. Cases rarely involve clear cut villains and heroes (except in our submissions).

It also concerns me greatly to have been made aware (from two different sources) of information suggesting that an individual (who I will not name but who ought to know better) published information on the internet in this jurisdiction on Friday evening (at a point where the interim RRO had been renewed, but prior to the publication of the judgment and order confirming that renewal) which named all three of Ms Pacchieri’s children. That was clearly a breach of the RRO, although I do not know if it was with knowledge of the continuing existence of a RRO, that person must have known it was likely such an order would be renewed. It is plain from Munby’s judgment that there can have been no legitimate public interest or necessity to publish those names and nor can there have been any justification. And yet it was done (although it has now been removed). (Please do not speculate in comments about this, I will not publish any comments about the identity of the person in question).

So to sum up. Yay for more published judgments. But lets see how it goes eh?

This judgment will of course be wielded by those who wish to suggest that it is precisely this sort of high profile reporting that is necessary in order to get information in the public domain, to drive the reforms that Munby has now acknowledged are so pressing – it will be said the judgment vindicates the conduct of the media. But frankly, they were pushing at an open door and would have been pushing at an open door in relation to publication of information in this particular case had only they asked at the outset. As Munby said in his judgment “it is hard to imagine a case which more obviously and compellingly requires that public debate be free and unrestricted.”. Indeed. And it is no more obvious and compelling for all the lurid headlines. It was always obvious and compelling. They should have asked.

On the future, Munby’s actual words at pa 45 were these:

“This case must surely stand as final, stark and irrefutable demonstration of the pressing need for radical changes in the way in which both the family courts and the Court of Protection approach what for shorthand I will refer to as transparency. We simply cannot go on as hitherto. Many more judgments must be published. And, as this case so very clearly demonstrates, that applies not merely to the judgments of |High Court Judges; it applies also to the judgments of Circuit Judges.”

I agree. But I also worry about these things:

  • what about district judges who are now routinely dealing with care cases?
  • what about Magistrates who have always routinely dealt with care cases?
  • what about the resource implications? the process of preparing a judgment for publication is laborious and time consuming for both judge and court staff. The process variously involves the location of court recordings, obtaining of transcript, amendment and approval of transcript, anonymisation of it etc, or the preparation of an appropriately anonymised reserved judgment on a computer in the first instance. Even the preparation of Magistrates’ facts and reasons takes a considerable length of time – in some local courts Magistrates are listing an additional half day for each full day of evidence to consider and prepare their facts and reasons.

These are not reasons not to do this but they are really quite large practical and financial problems to which I don’t know the answer.

And whilst we are in the business of saying we cannot go on as hitherto – judgments relating to reporting restrictions orders in cases of public interest should be published promptly and to the public at large. The article 10 points about freedom of speech in cases of public interest apply as much to legal blogging as to more traditional forms of writing, and form a part of the modern ecosystem of legitimate public debate. In the interest of informed and balanced debate, those without press cards or access to Copy Direct must be in a position to know what they can and cannot report in order that they do not either inadvertently breach some unseen order or (more likely) so that they might feel able to report on matters which are likely to be subject to some specific but limited restrictions.

I hope in due course there will be a Practice Direction regarding the routine publication of Reporting Restrictions Orders and associated judgments in one central location, and setting out the appropriate mechanism for journalists, legal bloggers and other interested persons to find out what restrictions are in place in any given case.

Finally, to return to the specifics of this case : we now know that Mother spent some time after the making of care and placement orders pursuing proceedings in Italy, although it remains unclear what those proceedings were based on. She made no appeal against the orders in this jurisdiction. It is also now known that the child has been placed for adoption AND that there is presently no outstanding application concerning this child before the court. The significance of this is as follows. Since the child has been placed for adoption – but not yet adopted – Ms Pacchieri cannot apply to revoke the placement order. It is too late. Since the application for adoption has yet to be made by the adopters she cannot presently make any other application. Only when that adoption application is made will she be able to apply for permission to oppose the making of the adoption order. The longer that the child is placed prior to the application being made the harder in general terms it is likely to be for Ms Pacchieri to succeed in obtaining leave to oppose (because of course the child will be more firmly settled in her proposed adoptive placement). The Italian Government has indicated to the court a wish to intervene, but there is presently nothing to intervene into. So I think that we can expect things to go quiet on this for a while in terms at least of the english adoption proceedings. Issues relating to the alleged failure to comply with international obligations relating to consular assistance may continue to rumble but those seem unlikely to impact on the substantive orders for placement.

pinktape.co.uk

A bit of the ‘Rive Gauche’ for you…..

The resemblance is, indeed, remarkable. The stuff of nightmares?

The Spectator has the story: Exclusive: David Cameron IS related to Catherine the Great

But to inject a bit of the festive season – please do have a look at Cassons for Counsel -  excellent Christmas video.

Perhaps not quite so festive – but certainly very useful from Cassons - East Lancs tax expert’s social media warning

It will take a fair amount of ‘bloviating’ from Alex Salmond and his plans for Independence and ‘Independent Scotland’ starting life as a part of the EU  to get around this ruling from the EU:

Herman Van Rompuy deals EU blow to Alex Salmond’s independence plans

And so we move on to the events in Chancery Lane at The Law Society : Law Society leadership in chaos as solicitors pass no-confidence vote

And from there to news: 

Eddie Izzard on going into politics: ‘Why shouldn’t I be mayor of London?’

I am a fan, as many are, of Eddie Izzard and have had the pleasure of seeing him perform live several times.  I think it would be rather fun to have Mr Izzard as London Mayor…  Ou est Le Boris?  Le Boris est dans l’arbre ? 

The Guardian has the story

 

Simon Myerson QC writes: The Risk We Run

“On 6th January the Criminal Bar is going on strike. Or, more accurately, they aren’t going to turn up for work in the morning. On 6th January I start a civil trial. I will be working on that day because the Court has listed the matter and my client is paying me to be there. I make this declaration because I want to talk about what is going to happen. I should also be spending this evening doing the Opening for that trial and I very much fear that I will pay for this post with a 3am finish some time soon. Still, it’s important.

As you would expect the Bar Standards Board has published guidance about the 6th January. It says that not attending Court is a disciplinary offence.”

Read the full post here

No rational basis for denying all prisoners the vote, concludes joint Parliamentary Committee : UK Human Rights blog

But it is the festive season – so time for a bit more of the bizarre…

Burglar trapped hanging over toilet says “please help. call the police”

The Police were called.  Apparently, this burglar isn’t very good at crime.

I am often surprised by Mr Grant Shapps MP.  Apart from his double identity life of the past – I find it remarkable (a) That he is Chairman of The Tory Party and (b) That his constituents elected him.  But, be that as it may.

His latest antics are covered in this remarkable story from The Guardian: “Grant Shapps tried to prevent housing plan for airfield where he keeps plane. Local council wants to build 700 homes on Panshanger airfield where Shapps keeps his £100,000 Piper Saratoga aircraft”

 

 

 


Charon QC

Are my agents doing enough to get my annual gas inspection done?

It is important that gas appliances are safeHere is a question to the blog clinic from Tony who is a landlord

I have a problem and I am not sure how to the address it, I would be grateful for any advice which you can offer.

I am a landlord, recently the gas safety check came up for renewal at my property. I have been using the same agent for the past nine years, they have always organised the gas checks on my behalf and arranged with the tenants directly.

The current tenant is a single lady with two young children, she is refusing to allow any contractors unless they are accompanied by a certain member of staff from the agent.

The agent is not duty bound to do this and has said either I need to attend myself, which is not feasible because I live several miles away, or In pay an extortionate fee to attend for me.

The tenancy agreement states that the tenant must allow access for contractors etc whenever necessary and my agreement with the agent says nothing about accompanying contractors onto the premises.

No progress has been made and the certificate has now expired, my agent has sent me an email saying that because of this, they cannot take any responsibility and I must address the matter myself.

My question is, can the agent do more in this situation, after all I am paying them to manage my property? And if I do pay them to accompany the contractor, can I pass this cost onto the tenant?

This is an unfortunate situation which needs to be resolved otherwise you are open to prosecution for failing to comply with the gas regs.

Getting the annual gas inspection and certificate done is something which comes within the general duties of a letting agent and I would suggest that this would be implied into the agreement even if this is not specifically set out.

However when push comes to shove it is YOU who will be prosecuted so you can’t just sit back and blame them.

I think your agents probably should be doing more to get this situation resolved.

Standard things to do are to write to the tenant explaining the reason why a gas inspection is needed at all – to keep the property safe for her and her children.  Does she know that tenants have died due to ill maintained gas appliances?  Why is she putting her children in this position?  Etc, etc.

It could also be made clear to her that you will not be willing to renew the tenancy at the end of the term unless she c0-operates and that if she does not, and if you are requested to provide a reference to future landlords, her unhelpful attitude will be notified to them.

Turning to the agents, I am unhappy about the extortionate fee being charged for the lady member of staff to go along on the inspection.  Surely if this is going to resolve the situation they should just arrange for her to attend without using this as an excuse to get another fee out of you?

I am also interested to know why the tenant will only allow this particular member of staff along.  Is it because the other people at the agency have upset her in some way?

The general wisdom on ‘tenant failing to allow access’ situations is to make three documented attempts to get access and then inform the Heath & Safety Executive (who police the regulations).  So you need to find out how many documented attempts have been made by your agents.

At the end of the day, your ultimate remedy is to apply for an injunction to allow access against the tenant (the threat of this may make her see sense) and also to say to your agents that unless they do more to resolve this situation, you consider that they are not acting properly as your agents and that you will be taking your business elsewhere once this tenancy has come to an end (or even earlier).

Finally, if you do pay the agents the extra fee, I don’t think this is something you are entitled to claim from the tenant as it is not covered in the tenancy agreement.

However, if several contractors have been booked and you have had to pay extra call out fees due to her failing to allow access, this is probably something that could be charged.

What do readers think about this and what would you do in these circumstances?


The Landlord Law Blog

Festive Makeovers and Choosing Christmas Trees

Law Actually has been given its annual festive makeover today. I made a conscious decision to try and keep the design at the minimalist end of the spectrum, steering well clear of my usual tendency to use a hotchpotch of ill-suited colours and elements.

Quite where it ranks in the all-time list of Law Actually headers is anyone’s guess but it’ll do.

The house decorations are proving more of a headache. Rather unwisely, we decided to head out to B&Q* yesterday evening to pick up our Christmas tree. It was dark, blowing a gale and bucketing it down – hardly conducive to picking the perfect tree.

Christmas TreeIn all the circumstances, I thought we’d done a pretty good job of selecting a nice looking and well-proportioned specimen. Having successfully manhandled it in and out of the car, we duly plonked the tree in the shed overnight (without a bucket of water I might add – it, like us, was wet enough already).

Anyhow, I had quite a shock this afternoon when I took it out of the shed to erect the fine-needled beast in all its glory.

As Christmas trees go, it’s been blessed with looks only its mother could love. Darkness, wind and rain aside, I’m still rather bemused how we managed to overlook the fact its trunk is about as straight as quasimodo’s back.

Still, it’s got character, I suppose.

We haven’t had chance to decorate it yet – that delight awaits us later on this week.

Just like every other year, I had to look online to remind myself of the recommended method for trimming a Christmas tree’s trunk to aid optimal water absorption.

It seems that 90 degrees is the generally favoured approach. Although some recommend cutting the trunk at a shallow angle for maximum surface area, angled cuts seem to have fallen rather out of vogue.

So there you go.

*Other DIY and hardware stores are available. Consult your yellow pages the Internet. :p

Law Actually

Book Recommendation: An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

They lied to protect their country. He told the truth to save it. A gripping historical thriller from the bestselling author of FATHERLAND.

January 1895. On a freezing morning in the heart of Paris, an army officer, Georges Picquart, witnesses a convicted spy, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, being publicly humiliated in front of twenty thousand spectators baying ‘Death to the Jew!’

The officer is
The Barrister Blog

Human Rights

Human Rights! A political hot potato if ever there was one. A favourite target of the Right if you analyse British politics today. Only last month appeared the headline “Human Rights and an Affront to Justice” in Mail Online, to be followed by an article denouncing compensation payments to criminals, sanctioned by that much pilloried institution, the European Court of Human Rights. Shift the focus to world politics though, and Human Rights will be fully embraced. Foreign Secretary William Hague at this year’s Conservative party conference championed this view when he said: “Human Rights defenders languishing in the prisons of repressive regimes are not forgotten because of British NGOs”. Think other parts of the world – Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Rwanda, North  Korea, to name but a few – and the defence of Human Rights goes hand-in-hand with the defence of democracy and decency. That war and terrorism are still prevalent in so many pockets of the world perhaps speaks for itself: that there has indeed been little progress in the achievement of Human Rights on a global scale.

Of course, Human Rights’ issues and concerns go back long before 50 years. The writings of the major religions of the world explored them. Aren’t we all familiar with the basic human rights embodied in the Ten Commandments? Respect for the dignity of one’s fellow human beings and a code of ethics to promote harmonious co-existence is at the root of Human Rights. When these are breached war, conflict and terror take over. No wonder it was the years immediately after the horrors of World War 2 and the Holocaust which saw the greatest attempt to date, to establish a global organisation devoted to defining and upholding fundamental and inalienable Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN National Assembly in 1948, must stand as the yard stick by which to measure the achievement of Human Rights in today’s modern world.

Without doubt, the 1948 document, with its thirty articulated rights was an inspirational and idealistic dream. That all have not been achieved in every country of the world is not surprising. That they still set the standards for decency in the democratic world is a measure of the progress that has been achieved. Institutions which represent such progress include the United Nations itself. From the original 51 member states of 1948 there are now 192. United Nations’ institutions such as the International Court of Justice and its Security Council do much to uphold the basic rights of 1948, and to maintain peace in the world. The United Nations’ 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child surely marks progression; its attempts to alleviate tension where there is war and suffering also exemplify on-going, albeit slow, progress. Its effort to act as a watchdog and advisory in the Syrian conflict is but another example. Work is still on-going in areas such as strengthening Labour Laws to achieve economic and social rights. For the optimist, the existence and efforts of the United Nations are the evidence that progress has been achieved in the field of Human Rights. Another institution which works hard for progress in the field of Human Rights is Amnesty International. Further evidence that progress has been made, at least in the Western democracies, is the existence of courts and laws which support the ideals. The European Union has its court at Strasbourg to oversee and uphold Human Rights; in the UK the Human Rights Act of 1998 codified these into UK law. (Of course, as touched upon in the introduction, there will be political nuances when judging the need for and success of such measures.)

At the heart of the debate on Human Rights is the tension between internationalism and nationalism. What right do international organisations have to intervene in the affairs of a nation state?

The pessimistic view that there is much that has stagnated, and indeed regressed, in the achievement of Human Rights is supported by an examination of scenarios where Human Rights continue to be violated today. Economically there is still much inequality and there is still starvation. Access to fundamentals such as clean water and medicine is still not available for everyone. Women are still struggling for equality – think only of Malala and how she was shot by the Taleban in Pakistan. Child labour, female genital mutilation, tribal genocide …..  the list could go on, evidencing the case that there has indeed been regression in the achievement of Human Rights. The World Bank has provided some statistics to support this failure: more than 64 million have been living in extreme poverty since 2007; 1 in 8 children in sub-Saharan Africa die before the age of 5; 1 billion people go to work hungry every day.

50 years on the fundamental and inalienable Human Rights remain the same. How to achieve them remains the political, economic, social and humanitarian challenge. What can you suggest?

If you're looking for professional lawyers to help you in areas unrelated to human rights, try Brahams Dutt Badrick French LLP, employment solicitors in London ADD: 23 Austin Friars, London, EC2N 2QP TEL: 020 3586 3330