Thursday September 3 2020 Late Lunchtime publication Edition 24
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and arts from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
I had plenty of things lined up to say about the legal world this week but in the light of the Secret Barrister’s withering attack on the press in their book published today (see below) I think I had better skulk off for a while to the shadows where I really belong.
More mistruths next week – but with a slightly earlier publication date of Tuesday.
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
It’s a big day today for the legal publishing business with the release of the Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies the latest title (and sure to be best seller) from the Secret Barrister, the highly successful super-blogger.
His/her/their target this time is the waywardness of the press in reporting how the law is exercised in this country. The most damaging misrepresentations of the law in England and Wales by the media, according to The Secret Barrister, include:
· The length of sentences being handed down by judges to criminals
· Defending yourself in your own home against a burglar
· The cost of courts, legal aid and prosecution to England and Wales
· The amount of compensation awarded to injured parties
· The amount awarded to employees at employment tribunals
· The decisions made by courts around children’s medical care
· The treatment of victims in court compared to the treatment of defendants
· The Humans Rights Act
· The Supreme Court’s ruling about Parliamentary sovereignty in the Brexit ‘Miller’ cases
· Using ‘rough sex’ as a defence when assault has resulted in injury or death
As the SB’s publicity maestro points out, whilst almost three quarters of Brits (72%) think that judges are giving increasingly soft sentences to criminals, as reported by the media, the average length of custodial sentences imposed by the criminal courts has been increasing year-on-year for more than a decade (which probably accounts for why the jails are so over-crowded).
So rather than being the heroic upholders of free-speech who tell truth to power (as we hacks rather like to believe) journalists are really the purveyos of falsehoods acting for our own nefarious purposes. Who (as we say these days) knew?
Fake Law is published by Pan Macmillan
Une belle rentrée?
The Legaldiarist always enjoy the upbeat tone of the publicity messages which it receives from the Linklaters press office in Paris.
So as everyone (correction; some, a few, almost no-one) gets back to the office this week as part of the annual great ‘re-entry’ the firm chirruped out ‘Le cabinet Linklaters et Publicis Consultants vous souhaitent Une belle rentrée’, It was almost as if there was no Covid, or thousands of deaths let alone a suggestion of a fresh spike on the horizon. Instead it was a jolly ‘Nous espérons que vous avez passé de bonnes vacances’.
Plus, of course an invitation to take advantage of the firm’s experts in ‘Private Equity, Arbitrage, Finance, Energie, Restructuring et M&A, Gouvernance, Propriété intellectuelle, Santé, Technologie et protection des données privées, Concurrence, Immobilier…’ Which in itself is a reminder that while the UK might be leaving the EU (definitively subject to another U-turn) this country’s legacy will remain in so much of the continent’s legal language.
Except, of course, legal English itself owes so much to French historically – with Law French continuing into the seventeenth century – that we can scarcely claim any rights to the Propriété intellectuelle. All we have added, maybe, is a little ‘je ne sais pas’.
PE a force for good?
Travers Smith has just announced the arrival of Simon Witney, as a senior consultant, in its private equity team. Nothing particularly unusual in that you might think. Except that is Witney has pretty exceptional credentials as a member of the Council of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association and previously chaired its Legal and Accounting Committee. He is also a past Chair of Invest Europe’s Tax, Legal and Regulatory Committee and a current member of its Professional Standards Committee and Financial Services-Regulatory Working Group.
So all highly gilded. But even more interesting in some respects was the mood music around the way the firm made the announcement. Over and beyond Witney’s personal track record are the comments about what the private equity business is looking for these days.
“The private capital market is undergoing a significant change,” says Travers Smith’s Senior Partner Kathleen Russ.“Prompted by the current economic outlook, many asset owners and asset managers are increasingly looking to adopt more diversified strategies for deploying their capital. At the same time, private capital providers are becoming particularly focused on sustainable finance, responsible investment and stewardship. For some, this translates into impact investing.”
Meanwhile Simon Witney himself added, “As business leaders and investors continue to embrace the inexorable move to more sustainable strategies and responsible business practices, I strongly believe that an active ownership model will thrive. In a world that increasingly expects business to play its part in creating a fairer and better society, private capital will be a force for good as economies recover from the COVID crisis.”
Let’s face it, private equity does not always enjoy a great reputation. You might even say that the arrival of PE ownership ins some sectors is the sure sign of the beginning of the end. So let’s hope that what Travers Smith says is true,
Rescue all at sea
Writing today for Huffpost UK, Nicola Burges (a lawyer and the legal director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants), comments that “While there are people starving to death due to a broken immigration system, there will very much be a need for lawyers who are prepared to hold the government to account. Who here is trying to bend the laws? If these claims had been dealt with promptly and competently there would have been no need to settle these disputes in court. Litigation should be a last resort, but sadly in many cases, it has become inevitable.”
Surely one of the signs of a civilized society is that laws must be followed but there must also be scope for laws to be changed through a democratic process. Shortcuts and chicanery whether by government agencies or ‘activists’ are likely to bring the whole system crashing down.
Goal Line Decision
The future of two ‘storied’ football clubs have been hanging in the legal balance this week. On the one hand can top global club Barcelona use the law to thwart the departure of Lionel Messi? On the other could (the only slightly less distinguished) Charlton FC, now in the estimable third tier of English football, evade the clutches of a potential buyer Paul Elliott. who has already failed the English Football League’s owners and directors test.
Anyway, one of these two gripping stories has now been resolved. After an initial hearing in Manchester which went well into extra time, Judge Richard Pearce effectively gave Mr Elliott a red card. Organising the defence masterfully for Charlton was Daniel Gleek, Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution at Axiom Stone Solicitors, who pointed out that had the decision gone the other way, “The likely effect was that the Club would be unable by 12 September 2020 – the start date of the new English Football League season – to satisfy the EFL about its future funding and risk extremely serious sanctions being applied, including the possible expulsion from the League.”
So, much relief all round south east London. Maybe Barca should call in Mr Gleek to settle their little dispute?
Data breaches have now become a commodity business for lawyers and this is no better illustrated than the rise of Hayes Connor Solicitors . Based in Widnes it embodies the way we both live and work now not least against a background of Covid which itself is likely to have an accelerating effect on data claims. As the firm comments “[We’re] at a really exciting time in the world of data breach and cyber security, when small value claims may become the pervasive force. Now, we are looking to the future with fresh eyes, and are ready to work on all claims, whether they’re worth £100,000 or £1,000.”
This reflects the way the firm is involved in a whole series of group action claims against organisations ranging from Easyjet and British Airways to Dixons and T-Mobile. Its plain speaking, get-to-the point approach will probably reassure its increasing number of clients who might be nervous of dealing with a traditional lawyer. Reflecting the firm’s growth it has just announced a number of staff and organisational changes in an equally no-nonsense way. “We’re more than excited to be rejigging our team; it’s a well overdue change, “ said Jon Else, the firm’s Shareholder Director. Not quite the kind of revelation I would expect to hear from Linklaters.
For more go to https://www.hayesconnor.co.uk/
Over the next few weeks The Legal Diary will be coming from Italy – but please do keep sending your news and comment to