Last update09:22:08 AM GMT


The stresses of earning a good living add polish to a dull life

Your Expert Witness blog logoThere is a hackneyed sentiment expressed in varying forms by football managers and some players when asked by sports journalists how they feel about the 'pressures' managers are under. The assumption seems to be that those who are paid vast sums of money to bring success – and are dismissed when they fail – are constantly subject to what used to be called 'executive stress', whereas someone toiling to make ends meet is somehow free from such feelings.

The response in question is a variation on: "I'm not under pressure. It' people with no jobs and children to feed who are under pressure." I think it was Sir Bobby Robson who expressed it most eloquently in response to a question on the radio, waxing lyrical about how he was paid large amounts of money to do something he loved. Waking up in the morning and not knowing how you're going to feed your kids: that's stress!

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 18:35


Which government wants to snoop on internet activity? Not that it matters now the world has ended

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe use of social media sites as both a political campaigning tool and a method of intimidation has burgeoned in recent years; and authorities' attempts to keep the lid on the internet, particularly in countries with regimes we would consider outwith the pale, has been stepped up since the so-called Arab Spring.

The latest was reported by the BBC and concerned new laws introduced in China to compel internet users to 'fully identify themselves' to service providers.
According to the report: "The announcement will be seen as evidence China's new leadership views the internet as a threat.

"The Chinese authorities closely monitor internet content that crosses its borders and regularly block sensitive stories through use of what is known as the Great Firewall of China."

Last Updated on Monday, 04 February 2013 17:18


Government proposals are like lambs to the Slaughter, while Leveson seeks new targets

Your Expert Witness blog logoNot long ago the name Andy Slaughter was not a household one. His constituents knew who he was, as did the wide circle of followers of Parliamentary and political intrigue; now, however, Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary has been catapulted into the limelight, thanks to a series of controversial proposals to save money in the judicial system by making the process more difficult to access.

First there was whiplash, with the aforementioned Mr Slaughter finding himself an unlikely bedfellow with Karl Tonks of the personal injury lawyers (tip: if Googling for APIL whiplash, DON'T let it search instead for 'April Whiplash'). Then there came the proposals from Chris Grayling to implement Dave's attacks on judicial review.
Seems that everywhere he looks, there is a sacrificial lamb just heading his way.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 December 2012 17:39


A salutary day for the press, but we’re not all bad.

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe Day of Judgement has arrived! At 2pm on 29 November Lord Justice Leveson began to deliver his report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. The report makes salutary reading for those involved in the dissemination of information via the printed or broadcast word. The behaviour of a small number of newspaper journalists in flouting the law has led to the biggest inquiry into the ethics of the press in history.

There is heart to be taken from the fact that his Lordship did not reach the conclusion that the press have no ethics: that's something. Nor is there any kind of intimation that the great bulk of reporting and publishing within the local and trade press, as well as the lighthearted sort of journals that pack newsagents' shelves, have been hacking phones, offering bribes to policemen or hobnobbing with politicians.

Last Updated on Friday, 30 November 2012 16:09


Judges might think they’re hard done by on pensions, but mine’s just disappeared!

Your Expert Witness blog logoSince I last posted this column a momentous event has occurred: I celebrated my birthday. To mark the occasion the Department of Work and Pensions sent me a letter telling me I had been selected by this Government to be among the first to be denied the state pension until I reach 66. In other words, the Government is going to filch a full year's pension from me in comparison to those who are just over a month older. It puts me in mind of the ne'er-do-wells who used to hang around near post offices waiting for the the old folk to emerge every Thursday.

With delicious irony, this act of daylight robbery was communicated to me soon after an article appeared in the Law Society Gazette by its editor-in-chief Paul Rogerson, on the subject of judges' pensions. Under the headline Stop moaning about your pension, m'lud, Mr Rogerson pointed to the unrest among the judiciary because of the scandalous notion that they may like to contribute a little more to their eventual retirement.

He wrote: "Judges have hitherto paid less than 2% of their salaries (in all but a few cases) to accrue a final salary pension at the rate of 1/40th for each year of service, up to 20 years. This is quite staggeringly generous. Let's say you're a judge earning £170,000 a year – halfway up the ladder. For a modest outlay of about £34,000 before tax at current prices, you can retire after 10 years' service on an annual pension of £85,000 for life."

The increased contribution will, it appears, be modest, but there is still talk of legal action.

Another issue causing consternation among the legal elite was the role or otherwise of the Legal Services Board, which seems to be following in the footsteps of Lord Jackson in thinking that if it upsets everybody it must be doing something right. First of all the chair of the Bar Council, Michael Todd QC, called for the abolition of the LSB, saying it had acted beyond its brief and was burdensome. His sentiments were echoed at the same meeting of the bar by Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who had raised the issue with the Justice Secretary.

Mr Grieve said: "The LSB is not exactly flavour of the month with any of the professions. I think there are justifiable concerns that it may at times tend towards micro-management. I do share the bar's concern with that."

No sooner had that attack been rebuffed by the MoJ than the president of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, disagreed publicly with the LSB's chair in his Lord Upjohn Lecture to the Association of Law Teachers.

Speaking of the Legal Education and Training Review, His Lordship said: "I cannot share the view which David Edmonds was reported in The Guardian as expressing in March this year, namely that he would be 'extremely disappointed' if the LETR only made minor recommendations. That suggests a conclusion that major reform is both necessary and proportionate, reached in the absence of any evidence and analysis."

It seems the 'super-regulator', which overarches the regulatory bodies for the various legal professions, is getting it from all sides.

Chris Stokes

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 17:28