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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A modern-day "conchie"

Published in Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, vol 176, 3 March 2012, p 135

Conscientious objection to military service has provided much drama in both fiction and real life for many years. In fiction one finds examples in the recent Downton Abbey, or the gentle Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army, and countless other works as well.

The most famous non-fiction example is possibly Mohammad Ali, who chose jail rather than serving in Vietnam against an enemy he did not know on behalf of a state that declined to afford him full civil rights.

Recently the case of R v Lyons [2011] EWCA Crim 2808 raised the same issue in the context of Britain’s modern wars.

Lyons held the rank of leading medical assistant in the Royal Navy. In May 2010 he was told he would be deployed to Afghanistan. He formed the view that the UK’s involvement in the conflict was wrong and that it would be morally wrong for him to take part. He therefore applied for discharge on the ground that he was a conscientious objector. The application was refused and he appealed. Before his appeal was determined, he was ordered to undertake a pre-deployment weapons training course. He refused to participate. He was court-martialed and found guilty of intentionally disobeying a lawful command contrary to s 12(1)(a) of the Armed Forces Act 2006. He was sentenced to seven months’ military detention, demoted to able seaman and dismissed from the service. He appealed against sentence.

Historical background

Objection to war – a particular conflict or warfare in general – on religious or secular grounds is no doubt as old as war itself. In Britain the armed forces have historically been recruited on a volunteer basis. Full-scale conscription was unknown in this country until the Great War, when the British army found itself drawn irrevocably into the sort of full-scale conflict on the Continent which it had spent a century planning to avoid. By contrast, most Continental powers had had compulsory military service for generations, the modern origins lying in the French Revolution and the subsequent creation of the Grande Armée.

It is therefore noteworthy that Britain was the first amongst European powers to have formal legal recognition of conscientious objection. Mention was made in the Militia Act 1757, but the story in modern times begins with the Military Service Act 1916, an Act which simultaneously introduced conscription and the recognition of objection on the ground of conscience.

During the Second World War, nearly 60,000 registered as Conscientious Objectors. After national service ended at the start of the 1960s, formal procedures for dealing with conscientious objectors fell away, until in 1970 the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objectors (ACCO) was formed as a non-departmental public body to advise the Secretary of State for Defence.

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cross about work

The headline in today's Telegraph (10 March 2012) warns of an impending ECHR case in which the claimants want to establish the right to wear a cross at work, as a symbol of their religious faith.

A few questions:

- should the state have anything to do with workplace clothing regulations?

- if so, should it allow exemptions on health and safety grounds, or for any other reason?

- if so, who is going to decide what is a genuine symbol, or someone taking the mickey?

- what of religious institutions such as faith schools?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Assisted suicide again

For Halsbury's Law Exchange

UPDATE: see this morning's Telegraph for a potentially interesting development.

Recently Halsbury's Law Exchange (HLE) concluded its student competition by asking the five finalists to provide a video submission on whether or not assisted suicide should be legalized. The videos were all of a high standard and can be viewed on Youtube.

Predictably the videos proffer views as strongly expressed as they are disparate. The fact is that assisted suicide is an issue about which one cannot be uncontroversial. Either one believes that there are certain circumstances in which a person should be permitted to end his or her life, with assistance if necessary, or one does not. Either way, one will encounter passionate, articulate and determined opposition. There is no fence to sit upon.

Elsewhere on HLE an opinion piece by Jacqueline Laing was recently reproduced from the New Law Journal. It argued that assisted suicide equals institutionalised murder, nothing less, no exceptions. There has also been the policy paper for HLE prepared by John Cooper QC, which argues that the existing guidelines released by the Director of Public Prosecutions following the well known Purdy case (R (on the application of Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2009] UKHL 45, [2009] 4 All ER 1147) are adequate even if they go further than was strictly required by the Purdy decision.

For a different perspective, the formidable Becker-Posner blog has recently posted on the issue (see here and here), both authors supporting some form of assisted suicide based on the rather different perspective of economists, as did the well-publicised paper prepared by Lord Falconer with the support of Dignity in Dying.

It seems to me that there are two broad questions. The first is whether any form of assisted suicide ought to be legal in the first place. This involves questions of philosophy and religion that have been debate more or less throughout recorded history without anything like a consensus emerging. If one answers in the affirmative, then the second question arises of how to devise a legal framework to allow it. This involves defining the permissible circumstances and providing a safeguard against abuse – and abuse in this context equals murder. The second question is almost as difficult as the first.

Needless to say, I cannot attempt a full exposition of either within a blog. For the former I would refer readers to the Philosopher's Brief, filed by a number of eminent United States' authors for a Supreme Court hearing in the 1990s. In common with them I believe that there are indeed circumstances in which assisted suicide one should be permitted.

The cornerstone of the philosophers' argument is the concept of individual autonomy (note that they had to structure their argument to constitute a legal submission in the context of the United States’ constitution rather than an abstract moral philosophy paper). To my mind, however, the key point is that one is already permitted to refuse medical treatment even when certain death will shortly follow - a transplant operation, for example, or taking some form of vital drug. There is something approaching a consensus that that rule is morally just. If, therefore, one may refuse medical intervention even though the consequence of refusal is virtually immediate death, then I would argue that it follows that in certain circumstances one ought to be able to accept treatment with the same result. This is the point that my co-author and I made when writing about the issue for Criminal Law & Justice Weekly in 2010.

The terminally ill Dianne Pretty faced a drawn out and excruciating death due to her degenerative illness. When the courts refused to accept that she might be assisted in suicide at a time and place of her choosing, she had no choice but to suffer precisely the ghastly death she had gone to court to avoid. I would not have wished to have been the one to deliver the news to Ms Pretty about the fate she was to endure. Rather less would I wish to receive the same news if I developed the same illness as Ms Pretty.

All that, however, is not to belittle in any way the strength of the opposing argument. The very idea of a medical professional assisting someone's life to end seems counter-intuitive, to say the least. But it seems to me that the strongest arguments against assisted suicide come when considering how an acceptable legal framework might be developed to permit it. It is not difficult to envisage circumstances whereby continuing to live in ghastly circumstances would be beyond the endurance of any of us. Indeed there is no need to imagine - Diane Pretty faced an actual example. But it is equally easy to imagine circumstances in which permission for assisted suicide might be abused: the aforementioned New Law Journal article does just that. If it transpires that the risks of abuse are too great, then even supporters of assisted dying would have to concede that it should not be permitted.

We must therefore address the second question identified above. Again, I would refer readers to Mr Cooper QC's policy paper for a detailed treatment of the development of how the law has developed to date and the Commission on Assisted Dying for a consideration of how it might be altered in the future.

I would note that while suicide was legalised in 1961, assisted suicide remains illegal. Nothing in the DPP guidelines on when prosecution will be undertaken changes that. While it is fundamental that the Attorney General retains the discretion whether or not to prosecute in any individual case, he and his subordinates have no power to impose a blanket decision never to prosecute. If it transpires that no prosecution ever takes place, despite prima facie evidence offences having been committed, then the DPP may well be found to have been acting unlawfully.

The risks that any legal framework must guard against are obvious. The very elderly or the terminally ill are ipso facto among the more vulnerable members of society. Ms Laing writes that:

“Once enshrined in law, the practice invariably involves a move towards the elimination of those who have not asked to be killed, those who are unwanted, those who are lonely and low-income (KNMG Dutch Physicians Guidelines, Position paper, 23 June 2011), and those whose deaths offer some advantage to third parties controlling the process. It does so because it involves a radically altered mindset.

Organs for transplant are an ongoing incentive for active euthanasia. So too is cost-saving, litigation and payout minimisation, bed clearing, medical research, improper individual concerns about inheritance and even political Malthusianism. In this environment, failures of transparency, ie lies and deception, are both pragmatic and inevitable.”

Can safeguards prevent abuse of this nature? I would observe that the law already has to frame questions of equal magnitude and difficulty elsewhere. Legalising suicide in the first place opens the door to possible abuse. Perhaps more pertinently, the law of self defence, or defence of another, allows what would otherwise be murder. Unlike assisted suicide, the state’s approval has to come after the fact, where the circumstances are harder to reconstruct and therefore the claim of a prospective defendant that he or she was indeed acting to save him or herself or another person is much harder to assess – leading to obvious potential for abuse. Yet no-one suggests that the defence should be removed, because it is a fundamental right to protect one’s life, even if that may entail ending the life of one’s assailant.

Or there is the emotive issue of abortion, with recent newspaper reports suggesting that there are cases of “gendercide” in this country, where some wish for cultural reasons to have sons rather than daughters. This, or any other form of abuse, has not (or not yet) led to a suggestion that abortion should never be allowed.

More detailed suggestions are made in the paper issued by Dignity in Dying. The paper can be accessed on their website. I would suggest that these should indeed be sufficient if rigorously policed and enforced, and preferable to the present situation where all seems to turn on the DPP’s interpretation of its own guidelines.

Inordinately pleased

Yes indeed!  The Vogue Leaf Yoke Top is done, and I love it!

And I'm going to enjoy wearing it.  My next task is to finish the jacket which I think it will look good with, and figure out how to slot it into my wardrobe.

But for the moment, let me share with you why I'm pleased with these edges.  The neckline and arm openings are finished with i-cord.  It's devilishly clever (although I followed Vogue's instructions which are slightly different from those illustrated in the video).

I changed the hem, thanks to the very generously shared ideas of others who had made this and posted about it on Ravelry.  Vogue wanted a turned back hem which I thought would be bulky.
10 rows of simple lace & i-cord at the hem

Things I learned:

  • Trust the math.  The pattern called for a gauge of 19 stitches and 26 rows in a 10cm square; my yarn swatch showed 24 stitches and 30 rows in the same space.  I realized that if I knit according to the size large, the finished garment would be the right circumference.  
  • If it's not right, rip it back and re-knit.  It doesn't actually take very long, and the not-quite-right feature would really bug me.  I think I knit the front just below the lace yoke 3 times before I was satisfied.  I knit the lace and i-cord hem twice. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tweedy-plaidy-bouclé jacket

I have a bumper crop of finished objects this week.  Here's my latest jacket, as I wore it today.  You might recognize the top...

After my pattern modifications (reducing dart take-up in back, lengthening at hem in back, adding width through the midriff, inserting light shoulder pads and sleeve heads) I am left with this quite lovely shape.  It's fitted without being tight, and the collar sits nicely away from my neck.

I'm wearing this with my black pants; I have some dark navy pantweight wool in stash.  It would look better with the blue-green wool.  I just have to find it.  And make the pants.  I wonder if I can do it before July?

Now that I've got this lovely new rather thick wool jacket, temperatures in the 20s (C) are forecast.  It figures.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

IRS allows deducting expenses for conventions held in Panama

Part I
Section 274.—Disallowance of Certain Entertainment, Etc., Expenses
26 CFR 1.274-1: Disallowance of Certain Entertainment, Etc., Expenses
Rev. Rul. 2011-26
Rev. Rul. 2007-28, 2007-1 C.B. 1039, identified each of the following jurisdictions as a beneficiary country for which there was in effect an agreement with the United States as described in section 274(h)(6)(C)(i) and for which there was not in effect a finding by the Secretary of the Treasury that the tax laws of the beneficiary country discriminate against conventions held in the United States: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Since publication of Rev. Rul. 2007-28, the “Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Republic of Panama for Tax Cooperation and the Exchange of Information with Respect to Taxes” entered into force on April 18, 2011. See Treas. News Release at http://www.treasury.gov/presscenter/press-releases/Pages/tg1144.aspx (April 18, 2011). This new agreement qualifies as an agreement described in section 274(h)(6)(C)(i). Panama is a beneficiary country, and no finding is in effect by the Secretary of the Treasury that the tax laws of Panama discriminate against conventions held in the United States. Therefore, Panama is included within the North American area under section 274(h)(6) as of April 18, 2011.

Three other beneficiary countries -- the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and Saint Lucia -- have entered into tax information exchange agreements with the United States that are not of the type described in section 274(h)(6)(C)(i) because of certain limitations in the scope or implementation of those agreements. Accordingly, these three beneficiary countries are not included as part of the North American area under section 274(h)(6). In the case of Saint Lucia, certain transition relief has been provided, as reflected in the Holding below.
For purposes of determining whether deductions are allowed for expenses incurred in connection with a convention, the following areas are included in the North American area as of the effective date of section 274(h) except as otherwise indicated:
Panama April 18, 2011

Not so free speech

For Halsbury's Law Exchange

No sooner had HLE published a post on the joke (in every sense) trial of Paul Chambers than another story appears which leaves one wondering how many in officialdom have even heard of free speech, let alone understood it.

According to this report in the Independent newspaper:

A teenager will appear in court after allegedly making comments on Facebook about the deaths of six soldiers in Afghanistan last week, police said.

Azhar Ahmed, 19, according to West Yorkshire Police, posted the comments on his profile page and has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence, according to West Yorkshire Police.

A police spokesman said Ahmed, of Fir Avenue, Ravensthorpe, West Yorkshire, was bemoaning the level of attention the British soldiers who died in a bomb blast last week received compared to Afghan civilians who have died in the war.

The offending post has been uploaded by Spectator blogger Alex Massie here.

Leaving aside Ahmed’s fairly shaky grasp of the English language, his post might reasonably be described as offensive. It certainly does not express views I would share, though as it happens I think our stay in Afghanistan has probably outlived its usefulness.

Yet none of that is of any relevance. Ahmed’s published views might properly be called offensive, but if free speech is to mean anything at all, it has to include the freedom to offend. In a democracy, the view of the majority rarely needs defending. The majority has the power to vote away anything with which it disagrees (or disagrees sufficiently for someone to organise a political campaign). It is the ability to offend the majority, challenge the powerful and contest the status quo which needs defending.

It is hard to think of which is worse – prosecuting Paul Chambers because he made a joke, or Azhar Ahmed because he made a statement about the war in Afghanistan. Without dissolving into cliché, it might be observed that one of the key differences between our society and that of the Taliban is that the latter tends to execute anyone not on message politically or religiously. In Britain on the other hand free speech is one of the cornerstones of our society.

It is true that free speech has not always been as robustly defended in Britain as in the United States, but if it has come to prosecutions of inane facebook updates or tweets then we have reached the lowest point since the days of mediaeval persecution. (Incidentally our overworked criminal justice system will likely explode or implode as well.)

Of course there are limits to free speech – protecting intellectual property, or state secrets, or preventing harassment of another – but no sensible restrictions would include making jokes (which are painfully obviously jokes such as Chambers’) or remarks, offensive or otherwise, about the rights and wrongs of the actions of soldiers or the war in Afghanistan.

Extraordinarily basic introduction to free speech over. All that has been offered by way of explanation by the police (quoted by Alex Massie in the article linked above) is that Ahmed:

“... didn’t make his point very well and that is why he has landed himself in bother.”

Assuming the quote not to be severely out of context, it does not deserve a response. Instead I would direct the spokesperson to Art 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the history in this country of Lollardism, the Reformation, Milton, JS Mill and much else besides. Alternatively, they could just recall the following quote attributed to Stephen Fry:

“So you’re offended. So f+++ing what?”

Friday, May 25, 2012

You did ask...

Thank you for all your lovely compliments on my latest projects.  Like about 100% of bloggers, The Sewing Lawyer loves comments, so keep them coming!

DIGS slyly asked me how my dress is coming along.  Well, as you can probably guess, my dress is still in flat folds on my sewing table!  However, I've been doing some mental sewing which is all part of the project prep, don't you agree?  

In this case, part of the mental prep is coming to terms with the fact that if the evidence is confronted, by the time I can finish the dress, the just-finished bouclé jacket will be far too heavy to actually wear with it.  So I dug into stash to see if I had a lighter-weight jackety fabric to go with the turquoise wool crepe, and I do.  Surprise!   It's a nubbly, multicolour raw silk tweed.  Not only that, the china silk fabric I had earmarked for lining the bodice of the dress looks kind of nice with the tweed.  So the dress could be next in the sewing line-up.  I'll let you know. 

But in the meantime I started another pair of socks, toe up this time.  One down, one to go.  

Ahem.  I'll take another sewing question.  In response to the post about ripping out sleeves and matching plaid, Lena Merrin asked: "Just curious, your sleeve still has ease even though the fabric stripes are matching, right?"   I suspect you asked because of Kathleen Fasanella's famous post, Sleeve Cap Ease is Bogus.  It's a very thought provoking article but you can match the plaid in a sleeve cap to the jacket body, front and back, even if the sleeve cap seam line is longer than the seam line of the armscye (i.e. even if there is some ease in the sleeve cap).  My jacket is the living proof, but here's my take on the geometry.

This is a quick and dirty draft from PMB with some pretend plaid drawn on top.  The program drafted a total of 2cm of ease in the front of the sleeve cap.  Because the armscye seam is more vertical than the sleeve cap seams, the distance between the plaid lines where they hit the seam line on the sleeve cap is greater than the distance between the same lines where they hit the seam line of the armscye.  When you ease in that extra distance the plaid lines can be made to match (more or less).

Clear as mud?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Teaser pictures

The Sewing Lawyer loves to show off her just-completed creations but the latest one's a LBD and it's after dark, so the fashion shoot will have to wait.  In the meantime, here are some hints of what's to come.

The LRD (aka muslin)
Those of you in the Burda know will instantly recognize this as the colour-block dress from February, 2012.

I traced off the size I should be these days and flat pattern measured.  Hmmm.  I added wider (1" or 2.5cm) seam allowances at the side and CB for insurance.

I needed it.  I am happy with close fitting, but skin tight?  Not for me thanks.

I had this red wool blend doubleknit in my stash.  It's medium substantial, but has a definite stretch factor.  I sewed the side seams at 1.5cm below the waist.  I like the "muslin" well enough to sew it up properly.

This inside-out photo shows the only surprise fitting issue, which is that the midriff piece needs shortening at the upper edge.

My black fabric is a pure wool doubleknit.  It's very substantial and much less stretchy than the red fabric.

The zipper started out way too long.
But The Sewing Lawyer has access to pliers
 and isn't afraid to do a little zipper dentistry.
I needed those extra-wide seams even more.

My dress was going to have an ordinary CB seam but I changed my mind when I found the perfect zipper, thanks to being able to sneak 30 minutes for shopping on a recent business trip to Toronto.  I raced to the  Leather and Sewing Supply Depot, a store I had never heard of before K-Line raved about it.  It's a great spot for finding elastic, trim of all kind, interfacing, tools, purse hardware, leather bits, etc. etc.  Check it out, if you are ever in the neighbourhood.

Anyway, the zipper.  My fashion slavery definitely doesn't extend to applying the zipper tape on top of the garment.

The CB seam is reinforced and stabilized with fusible woven tape, then the seam allowances are pressed back.  Finally the pressed edges are sewn down over the zipper tape, which stays underneath and out of sight where it belongs.

Finally, to avoid the bulk of the facings Burda suggests, I cut the facing pieces out of a fusible interfacing with a soft, slightly brushed face, and used the interfacing as the sole facing, fusing it down very carefully.

I think it worked.  The edges are nice and crisp and very thin, and there's no bulk at all in the crossover!

Stay tuned for the fashion shoot...

HLE Event – Law Reporting in the New Media Age

Halsbury's Law Exchange, in partnership with international law firm Eversheds, is hosting an expert panel discussion on how legal reporting is changing in the new media age.
The seminar will focus on the influence of new media, where the law stands now and how it is likely to develop in the future. Topics for discussion will include the impact social media and legal blogs have had in making the law more accessible and widely discussed; the televising, tweeting and real-time blogging of cases; libel, contempt of court and the implications of international blogging beyond the jurisdiction.

Speaking at this event will be:
Joshua Rozenberg (chair) – Legal commentator, blogger and BBC Law in Action presenter
Siobhain Butterworth – Freelance lawyer, writer and Guardian blogger
Katy Dowell – Senior reporter, The Lawyer
David Allen Green – Solicitor, Jack of Kent and New Statesman blogger
Andrew Sharpe – Solicitor, Head of Commercial at LexisPSL and blogger
Adam Wagner – Barrister and founding editor of the UK Human Rights Blog

More details including the rsvp address are at www.halsburyslawexchange.co.uk

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cutting out the deadwood

For Halsbury's Law Exchange

Pub quizzes often include a round or two on old laws supposedly still in force – the likes of being able to drive livestock over London Bridge, or to have cakes and ale during exams, or whether the death penalty is still in force for arson in the Royal Docks. A number of future answers are about to be altered at the behest of the Law Commission, which has compiled a long list of statutory deadwood to be felled this summer by an axe in the form of the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill.

According to the Law Commission’s press release, the Bill

“... will repeal 817 whole Acts and part repeal 50 other Acts. The Bill covers a diverse range of subjects, from poor relief and lotteries to turnpikes and Indian railways. The earliest repeal is from around 1322 (Statutes of the Exchequer) and the latest is part of the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010.”

The press release goes on to list much interesting historical doggerel due to be culled, including:

• An Act of 1856 passed to help imprisoned debtors secure their early release from prison

• A 1710 Act to raise coal duty to pay for 50 new churches in London

• 38 obsolete Acts relating to the various railway companies operating in British India and the wider East Indies

• 40 Acts relating to the City of Dublin and passed by the UK Parliament before Ireland was partitioned in 1921

• A 1696 Act to fund the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of 1666

• An 1800 Act to hold a lottery to win the £30,000 Pigot Diamond

• 57 obsolete Acts to raise money for the parish poor, including a 1697 Act to run a workhouse in Exeter

• 295 obsolete railway Acts.

• 16 Acts passed between 1798 and 1828 to impose duty on every pint of ale, beer or porter brewed or sold in parts of Scotland

• A 1696 Turnpike Act to repair the roads between Reigate (Surrey) and Crawley (West Sussex)

The dilatoriness which seems to have accompanied the funding of St Paul’s Cathedral would probably not have surprised Sir Christopher Wren, since Parliament withheld half his salary for the project for 14 years in the hope of spurring him on. Meanwhile internet researches suggest that the Pigot diamond, named after the former governor of Madras (now Chennai) Lord Pigot (1719 – 1777), was reduced to powder on the orders of its owner Ali Pasha, thus rendering the 1800 Act a legal fiction. Nowadays it is not debtors so much as undeserving creditors (in the form of disgraced former bankers) who receive public opprobrium ...

One could go on. But there are two serious points to be made about long forgotten but still surviving legislation. The first is that it cannot be assumed that an Act of Parliament or any other legal rule has disappeared just because it has not been used for many decades or longer. By the 1950s, for example, the Court of Chivalry had not sat for two centuries, and most assumed it had ceased to exist. Yet it was revived in the celebrated case of Manchester Corporation v Manchester Palace of Varieties Ltd [1955] 1 All ER 387: since no case or legislation could be found which had formally abolished the court, it had to be extant.

An earlier and more dramatic example might be Ashford v Thornton (1818) 106 ER 149, where the defendant in a murder case managed to escape liability by invoking the ancient right of trial by battle. As with the Manchester Palace case, the right (to the mode of trial) had not been explicitly abolished by Parliament, and the court accordingly had no option but to rule that it was still available. The plaintiff, a slight chap unwilling to try his luck, declined to join battle, and so the defendant effectively escaped a murder charge.

More recently the Guardian newspaper managed to generate a headline for itself by dredging up before the courts the Treason Felony Act 1848, a remnant from the days of European revolutions which must have alarmed those in Westminster at the time. On the literal reading of s 3 of the Act it appeared that even a publication which called for peaceful overthrow of the monarchy might constitute a criminal act. The Guardian sought, amongst other things, an assurance from the Attorney-General that no prosecution would ensue if it printed some articles advocating Britain becoming a republic. When that was not forthcoming it brought judicial review proceedings, which ultimately made it to the House of Lords (R (on the application of Rusbridger and another) v Attorney General [2003] 3 All ER 784).

The law lords made it clear that the litigation had been a waste of time since no prosecution would ever have been brought, but the Guardian was able to point to the fact that s 3 had never been repealed despite everyone agreeing that it should have been.

It is therefore worth spring cleaning the statute book lest anyone try something similar.

The second reason is that it is a step in a direction the law has always wanted to head, but rarely ever does – simplification. It is pie in the sky to assume that the law will ever be comprehensible to anyone other than experienced professionals, but even they have their work cut out with a statute book that is overlong and clogged up with ancient sections that no-one ever reads and would have no relevance even if they did.

Periodically there are calls for a particular area of law (or even all the laws) to be codified, or better consolidated. Ironically in the days of Empire this is something that Britain usually did for the colonies, who therefore ended up with a better structured statute book than Britain ever managed for itself. For many reasons it is probably unlikely we will ever end up with much codification, but that does not mean that small steps to improvement along the lines of the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill are not worthwhile.

Fashion shoot

So I wore the dress to work on Monday.  The good news is that it was supremely comfortable and attracted a few favourable compliments.  The maybe bad news is that sitting all day in a 100% wool doubleknit dress bags the bum out a little bit.  Not enough to deter those favourable compliments however.

Of course a quick steam brought it all back into place, before I took these pictures.  The curve is simply following my shapely backside.  (Right!)

Contrary to my conservative expectations, I really like that zipper!

Goodness it looks like I am maybe six feet tall.  I'm not.

Nor did I have any idea that light could penetrate black wool doubleknit.  The late afternoon sun was pretty strong.

And I'm pretty sure my legs are really not that white.

I got a new camera which allows me to take self-portraits untethered from the power outlet.  Welcome to The Sewing Lawyer's living/dining room.

But I should check for stray shoes in the background before setting up.

The only side-effect of sewing this dress with extra-wide side seam allowances is that the colour block seams don't line up exactly.

I'm pretty sure nobody will notice.

Stylish stretch pants?

Another TSL living room view
I thought there was only one errant thing
(a musical instrument) in the background.  But no!
Spot the shoes...
Is there such a thing?  The Sewing Lawyer likes to flatter herself that the answer may be yes.  See the evidence for yourself.

I may have mentioned before that the February, 2012 issue of Burda Magazine is probably the very best in more than a year.  I'm in the process of confirming that, as these pants are the second garment made from that issue.  I could use more of these!  They are comfy, fit nicely, and, made from a black rayon-poly-lycra ponte knit, will go with almost anything.

However, you have to really look for this one in the magazine; it's a gem that Burda seems to have deliberately hidden. They do it fairly often, in my experience.  A brilliant pattern is shown only once (the pattern insert says twice, but in fact they seem to have substituted another pattern for these to coordinate with the grey sack-like top, yellow socks and clunky loafers).  And there, it's outshone by the other flashy garment it is being shown with (the "Miss Butterfly" kimono on p. 17). Bonus: it's sewn up in black, so its features completely disappear on the page.  Why, Burda, why?

I know you may think I am also guilty of hiding the many virtues of this lovely pattern by sewing it up in black, but at least I've tucked in my top so you can see the basic outline.  Here's another view and the line drawings again.

I think you can click on these to enlarge them tremendously.

The side/back, showing seams

So, as you can see there's a deep V back yoke, high waist and fly front opening.  The sides are a strip approximately 10cm (4") wide.  I traced with 2.5cm (1") seam allowances just in case, but after trying them on, decided they fit if sewn on the intended lines except at side front, below the waist.  So in effect, my pants are 4cm bigger around than Burda intended at the hip, and 2cm in each leg.  In the result, they are slim but not tight.

I used a woven cotton for the fly shields and facings to reduce bulk and eliminate stretch.  As I've been doing recently, I constructed them on my sewing machine using a tiny zig-zag (1.5 x 1.5 mm), rather than on the serger.

I can't think of anything else to say, except:  Run and make your own pair!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Brewer v Mann: another vintage Bentley

No sooner had my earlier article on Old Number One Bentley been written than I had the pleasant surprise of reading about another mechanical survivor from the blood and thunder days of the Bentley Boys featuring in court. Once again the question of originality arose in the context of a classic Bentley whose purchaser alleged it was not the car they had thought it to be.

The case was brought by the ironically named Mercedes Brewer against the well-known vintage Bentley dealer Stanley Mann, his company and a finance company. Mrs Brewer, with the finance company’s help, paid £425,000 for a 1930 “Speed Six” model sold by Mr Mann.

After a year’s happy motoring Mrs Mann suddenly stopped paying the hire instalments. She contacted an auction house, who said that the car was unworthy of the description “Speed Six”, because that applied to a particular type of engine which had only been added to her car during a later restoration. Meanwhile, the finance company had repossessed the car and sold it back to Mr Mann for the same price as Mrs Brewer had paid. Mr Mann then restored it further and sold it on for some £675,000.

At that point, one might have assumed, there would be no dispute – Mrs Brewer had disposed of the car, the finance company had got its money back and Mr Mann had made a profit. Yet the first two were still unhappy: Mrs Brewer felt she had been misled, while the finance company had incurred costs of about £61,000 in recovering and storing the car before Mr Mann bought it back. Mrs Brewer was first out of the blocks issuing proceedings.

Continue reading here or see the New Law Journal, vol 176, 6 & 13 April 2012, p 510. This article will also form part of my forthcoming book Law Stories.

My new dress (to be)

I was going to call this post "introducing my new dress" but I decided that would be cruel.

A bit further along than flat folds
At least it's cut out...

This will be the sleeveless dress with the asymmetrical faux-closure from February's Burda.  I'm making it from turquoise wool crepe, which will be underlined with silk organza. The bodice lining is the China silk print and the skirt will be lined with slipperier Bemberg.

Since taking this photo, I finished basting the underlining in place and construction has begun.

"Harmony" knitting pattern
by Nadia Zarrouk - available
on Ravelry
However, again I've been sidetracked by knitting.  My new project is a pattern found via Ravelry.  So far I've done the 2nd cable twist row and it's looking good.  I have some stash fabric lined up to coordinate.  More on that later.

I'm making the top from a silk and linen blend (70-30%) fingering weight yarn, which I ordered from ColourMart.  Oh my, if you are a knitter, you should check out the CM site!  They have lots of really luxurious yarns (cashmere, fine merino, silk etc.) for very down-to-earth prices. Four cones, each about 500 metres of 100% silk yarn for $22 (shipping included), were delivered to my door on Friday.

100% silk DK in maroon
Here's one of them, auditioning with a scrap of a beautiful wool bouclé from stash.  Did Chanel knit?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Antigua dissatisfied with US position on Internet gaming

Published: Tuesday April 17, 2012
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer says the United States (US) has not done enough to settle a long outstanding Internet gaming dispute with Antigua and Barbuda.

The Antiguan PM met with the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk on the issue on the weekend, but expressed disappointment that, although the case was first adjudicated in 2003, Antigua and Barbuda and the US are yet to find a "mutually agreeable solution to settle the case".
Spencer said Antigua and Barbuda had put forward several options to settle the case but that "there has been no fairness in the proposals received from the United States to date.
"Antigua and Barbuda's Internet gaming sector has been decimated by the actions of the United States, and we believe that we must be fairly compensated for those losses," Spencer said.
In an effort to bring a fresh perspective to the case, Spencer said he urged the trade representative to accept Antigua and Barbuda's recent proposal to take advantage of a "good offices" mediation effort by the director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Spencer said Kirk acknowledged that a solution to the case had been elusive but assured him that "the United States remained committed to working with Antigua and Barbuda in finding a solution to the case".
The Antiguan leader said Kirk "expressed the willingness of his office to review the latest proposal from Antigua and Barbuda and to hold further discussions with Antigua and Barbuda's Ambassador in Washington, DC, over the next few days so that a strategy for further action could be discussed."
In 2005, the WTO ruled that the US had violated international trade agreements by prohibiting operation of offshore Internet gambling sites.
Antigua claimed that it lost US$3.4 billion a year due to the US action, but the WTO awarded Antigua US$21 million.
- CMC http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120417/business/business2.html

Antigua considers new case against USA at World Trade Organization
Steven Stradbrooke
April 9, 2012
Many in the gambling industry thought they’d received an early Christmas gift following December’s surprise announcement by the US Department of Justice that the Wire Act pertained only to online sports betting. For the nation of Antigua, it was like getting a Christmas gift they’d been promised years ago, but appeared to have got lost in the mail. For Antigua, the DoJ opinion appeared to be the first serious acknowledgement US authorities had given the World Trade Organization’s ruling that America needed to get its online gambling house in order.
Mark Mendel, Antigua’s lead attorney in the WTO dispute with the US, told CalvinAyre.com that the DoJ’s pre-Christmas bombshell had “vaporized … the entire defense. The American government has now admitted that we were right all along in our assertions about US gaming law. It is going to be very hard for them to fall back on the ‘old reliable’ that they ban all remote gaming because it is incapable of regulation. I am hopeful that they will realize at this point that settlement is in everyone’s best interest and engage on a constructive basis with Antigua.”
Problem is, as Mendel knows all too well, “to date, [the Americans] have simply ignored the whole thing.” It’s tempting to conclude that the US attitude towards the WTO is like how Robert De Niro’s character in Casino described the betting habits of Joe Pesci’s character Nicky Santorro. “When he won, he collected. When he lost, he told the bookies to go fuck themselves. I mean, what were they going to do, muscle Nicky? Nicky was the muscle.”
Looking ahead, Mendel says Antigua is considering a number of options, including “commencing a new case altogether.” In arriving at the $21m annual compensation figure, the WTO used a formula that considered only Antigua’s theoretical share of the US online horse wagering market. Given the imminent expansion of online betting options in the US, that horse-racing-only formula now seems even more insufficient.

Full text in http://calvinayre.com/2012/04/09/legal/antigua-considers-new-case-against-usa-at-world-trade-organization/

See also:
WTO Antigua dispute still smoldering
• http://www.antiguawto.com/   WTO online gambling trade dispute brought by Antigua against the United States - Measures Affecting the Cross-Border Supply of Gambling and Betting Services (DS285) ("US-Gambling") case papers.
WTO official case page

The zipper

I've had a few questions about the zipper I used in my all-black colour block dress.  Mostly, the questions break down into two types:  where/how did I find the exact perfect length zipper, and is it comfortable to wear a dress with a big metal zipper that runs from neckline to hem?

I had no great desire to add the zipper to the dress until the perfect zipper, a silver-coloured metal two-way separating zip presented itself to me in a tiny semi-basement Toronto store stuffed with fascinating notions.  I blogged about my flying trip to the Leather and Sewing Supply Depot here.

Now the zipper wasn't the right length - it was too long by about a foot.  But when you're dealing with zippers, too long is not really a problem.  If you have pliers and aren't too intimidated, it's pretty easy to remove teeth and replace the zipper stops where you need them.  There are how-to videos on You-Tube and other sites.

Replacing the slider if you accidentally pull it up above where you removed the teeth (oops) is a little bit harder but also not a show-stopper.  I had to do this - not, I hasten to say, because I pulled the slider off accidentally, but because the zipper I bought had the top slider on the inside of the zipper so I had to take it off and replace it on the other side.  I would explain how I did it, but I'm afraid it would be pretty incomprehensible.   My advice, if you ever need to do this, is to search for a video on line.

As to wearability, apart from the first little frisson of cold when I put the dress on, the zipper is completely comfortable to wear - it's not even noticeable.

And on another zipper-related topic, today is the 132nd anniversary of the birthday of the inventor of this ubiquitous and essential notion. His name was Gideon Sundbäck.  Google commemorated this great event with one of its animated home pages.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Another pattern from my past

The Sewing Lawyer developed an early interest in tailoring. It's hard to believe, but in those ancient days when she was in high school, a course in tailoring was in the public school curriculum.  Thus, as has been mentioned before, in grade 12, she made a plaid coat.

When you are young and fearless, you just carry on and do the most amazing things.  So I went on tailoring, not realizing that this was actually pretty hard to do well.  Attending the University of Toronto brought with it an introduction to the wonderful nearby garment district and the mysteries of the stores that supplied real tailors.

And in the 1970s, it wasn't considered all that strange for a student to wear a 3 piece suit, on occasion.

In my memory, it was perfect.  Luckily I don't still have the suit.  I'm pretty sure the tailoring wouldn't measure up to my current standards.

This pattern is on offer at Lanetz Living today.  Only $3.00.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Halsbury's Law Exchange event

Published on Halsbury's Law Exchange here

Last night Halsbury’s Law Exchange, in partnership with the international law firm Eversheds, hosted its first panel discussion. The subject was “Law Reporting in the New Media Age”.

It was chaired by HLE chairman Joshua Rozenberg, with the panel comprising Siobhain Butterworth of the Guardian, Katy Dowell of The Lawyer, David Allen Green of the Jack of Kent Blog, Andrew Sharpe of LexisNexis and Adam Wagner of the UK Human Rights Blog.

The panel discussed how blogging and tweeting are changing the way law is presented to the public. The event was opened by Neil Mohring, head of Eversheds’ Media Group, who observed that while new media presents significant opportunities, the legal profession is traditionally conservative, which leads to questions about how it can and will adapt.

Interesting accounts were given about how some of the panellists’ blogs began. David Allen Green’s readership, for example, took off after he drew attention to the Simon Singh libel trial and, modelling himself on science bloggers he admired, began to explain to the general public how and why it was the trial had come about. Adam Wagner, for his part, began by modifying an updater service his chambers was already running, and a short time later his blog has attracted over one million visitors.

One of the first questions was why lawyers blog, when blogging doesn’t pay. Years ago a similar question was asked as to why such a high proportion of letters to the Times came from the clergy, which prompted the reply “vanity and an excess of spare time”. In the case of the lawyers the former might often be present but the second is generally not. For example, despite the considerable popularity of his Jack of Kent blog, David Allen Green disclosed that it is largely unremunerative, to put it mildly. Andrew Sharpe observed that a blog he ran whilst he was in private practice was successful in terms of numbers of followers, and raised the firm’s profile accordingly, but there was no way of measuring the effect in a tangible fashion such as increased billable hours.

No blog, therefore, seems likely to displace the day job of a barrister or solicitor. It follows that legal blogs show another side of lawyers somewhat contrary to the public stereotype: doing something of public benefit, and fulfilling the lawyer’s natural desire to set the world to rights. Indeed, the reason LexisNexis established and continues to support Halsbury's Law Exchange itself (which is a non-profit, independent think tank) is part of a commitment as a business to supporting the rule of law.

Further questions included whether blogs and tweets can or should be regulated so that the public are not misled. It was quickly pointed out that most blogs contain a disclaimer that they do not offer legal advice! It was then observed that well-known legal bloggers operate a sort of informal peer-reviewing group, who are quick to correct each other. Also, any blog found to be making egregious errors will quickly lose credibility and readership along with it. Moreover, as Adam Wagner observed, blogs written by practising barristers will fall within the jurisdiction of the Bar Council.

A related question was whether jurors can or should be shielded from the internet and restricted only to what is said in court. The consensus seemed to be that it is simply not realistic in the age of smartphones and near-universal internet access. We therefore may as well face up to adopting the American model where jurors are subject to far fewer restrictions, and are instead urged to exercise their own judgement.

Another can of worms concerns who might be liable for blogs, tweets and retweets that are libellous or in contempt of court. The last word is yet to come on that, one suspects. Siobhain Butterworth opined that even bad mistakes should not attract prosecution if they are quickly withdrawn.

Katy Dowell, speaking from the perspective of a trade magazine, pointed out that the internet has rendered breaking news the exclusive preserve of online media, and in particular twitter, due to the speed of publication. This leads to scoops being given away for free, on the simple pragmatic basis that if one person does not tweet a story, then chances are someone else will.

The debate was fortunate to attract a distinguished audience as well as a distinguished panel. Simon Bucks from Sky News, for example, spoke about his campaign for cameras to be allowed in court, which attracted almost unanimous support, though possible difficulties were acknowledged (for a related post see here).

Many other interesting points were made, and we hope to continue the discussion on this site and in future events.

All of us at Halsbury’s Law Exchange would like to thank Joshua Rozenberg for chairing the event, the panel for lending their expertise, the audience for attending and Eversheds for supporting HLE by kindly hosting the event.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The ECHR and democratic legitimacy

Two interesting articles on the UK Human Rights Blog recently raised once again the question of the legitimacy of the European Court of Human Rights.

Both are thoughtful contributions and therefore welcome relief from a debate which at times descends into variations on Godwin’s law. On the one side argument often reduces to xenophobic insults about the impudence of Europe telling anyone else what to do. On the other side some lawyers seem to respond to criticism of the ECHR with the sort of arrogance that one associates with Latin American military dictatorships of years past, who insisted that they had specialist knowledge and experience that justified their undemocratic hold on power.

To begin with, it is worth reiterating that the Convention was drafted by English lawyers and that by and large it reflects the values of the common law as they had evolved over centuries. Moreover, for all the tabloid fodder, not all of Strasbourg’s decisions (or domestic decisions made pursuant to the Convention) offend majority public opinion by any means. In fact almost all applications from Britain fail to get past the admissibility stage, and of those which do only a handful attract media interest (raising a separate issue about the advice and funding behind the multitude of failed applications – perhaps a similar provision to the requirement of permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal could be introduced at the domestic level).

It might also be argued that incurring some uncertainty in our domestic law and living with the odd derisory decision is a price worth paying for all of Europe – including former Communist countries with a shocking history of governance in the past century – to be subject to a regime of rights and freedoms based substantially on British values. If Britain considers itself above decisions with which it happens to disagree, then the entire institution of Strasbourg will weakened and other countries with less regard for the rule of law will follow suit.

Yet there remains an objection which needs to be confronted, and which, incidentally, will not be answered (merely replicated) by a British Bill of Rights. Fundamental questions involving freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to life, the right to vote and so forth have come before the courts in recent years. Until the Convention was brought into domestic law, most of those arguments would have been held before and settled by Parliament. In those days the true guarantee of freedom in Westminster countries was usually said to be the regular ballot box rather than the judiciary.

Two questions follow: first, whether the Convention and the Strasbourg court have sufficient democratic legitimacy, and secondly, more generally, whether the courts are a better forum to determine hotly contested ethical, moral and religious questions.

As to the first question, the democratic authorisation of the European Court comes from the fact that it was Parliament who passed the Human Rights Act 1998 and thereby brought the Convention within the jurisdiction of the domestic courts. Parliament always retains the option of withdrawing, though there would be turbulent international and domestic political fallout if it ever did so.

It should also be remembered that tyrannous regimes have sometimes come to power through elections. Further, the rights of the majority are rarely threatened: Convention rights, it can be argued, are needed to protect the unpopular minority.

As to the second question, irrespective of whether one agrees with the answers they come up with, courts can only flesh out the broad detail of Convention rights slowly, as and when cases come before them, which leaves much uncertainty (uncertainty being an obvious and damaging blow to the rule of law) as well as handing significant power to the judges (“government of the people by the judges for the lawyers” went a saying when I was at law school).

Moreover, the Strasbourg court is seriously in need of reform. It is severely overburdened, with many thousands of applications outstanding. It is composed of one judge from each member state – meaning that tiny political enclaves make the same contribution as countries with enormous legal resources such as Germany and Britain. The appointment process of some member states’ judges is also questionable, as (consequently) are the qualifications of some judges. These points exist whether or not one supports the court all, and I would add that logically Strasbourg’s supporters should also be the strongest advocates for its reform.

There were other possibilities for bringing British law into line with the Convention whenever it fell short. A cross-party committee primarily composed of legal experts could have studied Strasbourg decisions and advised whenever domestic law needed to be altered, for example. This would have answered any question about democratic legitimacy since any substantive change would have had to go through Parliament.

In this regard readers might consider the Australian position. That country does not have a Bill of Rights, though in a series of five cases in the 1990s the Australian High Court controversially found an implied constitutional protection of freedom of political discourse, despite no precedent for any such right being found in the ninety years of the Constitution’s history to that point. Moreover, the Constitutional Committee of 1898 had specifically rejected a proposal to incorporate a US-style Bill of Rights in the constitution.

A national human rights consultation took place in Australia in 2008 - 2009, and recommended the introduction of a Human Rights Act. The government rejected the recommendation, but did introduce a 'human rights framework', which among other things changed the way in which legislation in the Commonwealth Parliament was scrutinised by reference to international human rights instruments.

Australia is anything but a tyranny compared with the vast majority of states past and present, so its experience merits consideration. But it may be – and it remains my own view - that the best step would be for Britain to remain subject to the ECHR, but advocate strongly for its reform to clear its backlog and improve the standard of appointments.

Note: see also this interesting contribution on the UK Constitutional Law Blog.

Qatar Law Forum 2012 overview

For Halsbury's Law Exchange

I enjoyed the privilege over the weekend of attending the 2012 Qatar Law Forum, held in Doha. The theme of the conference was “The rule of law in a time of change”. The conference was attended by over 400 delegates from approximately 60 jurisdictions, including many leading figures from the legal profession in this country. Here are a few thoughts on some of the sessions I attended and the conference in general.

The first Qatari Law Forum, held in 2009, had focussed largely on the international financial crisis. Needles to say that crisis has still not been resolved, but a second international event gained much of the attention on this occasion, namely the Arab Spring. Delegates were present from many of the affected countries, including Egypt, Bahrain and Libya. Almost all took the revolutionary bull squarely by the horns. A robust consensus held that the causes of the Spring were corruption and an absence of human rights, including - but not limited to - the ability of ordinary citizens to participate in the political process. There was also a consensus that removing dictators was only a means to an end, and unless fundamental changes were made those who led and participated in the revolutions would resume their civil unrest.

As to the ongoing financial crisis, a specialist session on Islamic Finance suggested that Islamic banking offered an alternative model which had the attraction of being based firmly on ethics. It was countered that the Western banking system was not value-neutral, being based on notions such as freedom of contract, freedom of property and social responsibility, including liability for negligence and breach of contract. At this point in time, however, even the strongest defenders of Western law (of whom I count myself one) have to concede that one of the central factors behind the financial crisis was failure of regulation, and it behoves Western law makers to think laterally – and look to alternative models – when trying to formulate a system which might avoid a repeat. Whether that be Sharia law or something else is another question, but reshuffling the deck chairs on the vessel of old regulatory models may not suffice. On the other hand, the Islamic financial experts expressed a wish to find a way of creating more exotic banking products in a Sharia-compliant fashion.

Of course one of the most significant regulatory changes in the United Kingdom of late has been the new Bribery Act. This was discussed in the first session of the conference, chaired by Baroness Scotland, under the theme of international corruption and how it damages the rule of law. Here a stark obstacle was identified: how to find an internationally acceptable definition of the term “corruption”. From the floor Lord Scott was blunt and unequivocal: one man’s corruption is another man’s standard business practice, and it is hopeless to think that very different business cultures can ever be reconciled on that point. I have to say I fear he is correct, though other delegates were more optimistic and most seemed to think the nettle of an international definition had to be grasped however difficult.

Staying with the theme of corruption, the panellists were not so idealistic - or legalistic - as to assume that any form of corruption would be fatal to the rule of law. Low level instances of bribes here and there will probably not bring the system down. What is certainly damaging, however, is when the guardians of the rule of law are themselves corrupt. The obvious example is that of the judiciary: if judges are not conspicuously independent and fair-minded, there will be no confidence in their decisions and hence the legal system as a whole. The executive too is a key player in this regard: it has to respect and enforce judgments; an order without enforcement is building a castle not so much on sand as thin air.

Here too a note of realism was sounded. It is all very well demanding that the judiciary be independent and set the highest standards. But one delegate told of a Chief Justice in a developing country whose salary was roughly $35 per month. Another spoke of a senior judge who was a single mother of three but whose failed state had not paid her for nine months. Is it really so easy to criticise people in those conditions for taking money placed in front of them? Others told of judges whose personal details, and those of their families, were published in the press, with the clear inference that their enemies would know where to find them. Again, pious principles of legal philosophy might dissipate somewhat in those circumstances. It follows that integrity and independence are not enough. Proper remuneration and protection are required as well, along with ongoing training and resources.

At the Chief Justices’ panel it was asked what those holding such office could do to promote the rule of law internationally. Quite properly it was suggested that travelling, giving speeches and otherwise lending expertise should all be encouraged. My own modest contribution at this point was to argue that the best method was by the day job. The most important contribution any Chief Justice can set is to try cases – and equally importantly be seen to be trying cases - fairly and openly, irrespective of the wealth, political connections or other importance of the defendant.  By that means judges promote public respect for the legal profession and the rule of law.

To that end I tried to stress the importance of free speech and open justice. The former was the subject of the final plenary session, which was headed “Freedom of communication and expression in times of change”, and included HLE chairman Joshua Rozenberg on the panel. The panel rehearsed the familiar points about limits to free expression, the need for the media to act responsibly, and the debate in the UK presently taking place in the form of the Leveson inquiry. In the ensuing discussion Sir David Keene pointed out from the floor that in the age of the internet it may prove impossible to prevent publication of anything, even if a consensus exists that something should be suppressed (the identity of a victim of abuse, for example).

That is a point which I have made before, and I remain of the same view now. The very weapon identified by earlier speakers as an important part of the overthrow of dictators during the Arab Spring (who could not suppress evidence of better political systems elsewhere, nor communication between dissidents) might also undo legitimate constraints on freedom of expression in a free and democratic society.

In this regard, however, no-one could disagree with Lord Judge LCJ, who observed as a concluding remark in the Chief Justices’ session that no-one in the room was in a position to predict what would happen even five years hence in terms of technology.

A short summary of the conference can be found in the LexisNexis newsletter which was produced each day, and otherwise on the Conference website.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Changes to Panama foundation taxes

The Panamanian government has increased the government tax for Panama Companies and Private Interest Foundations.
Effective May 9, 2012, all new companies must pay US$300 at the moment of incorporation instead of the usual US$250; the annual government tax after the first year remains unchanged at US$300. The first annual tax for Panama Private Interest Foundations increases $100 to US$350 at the moment of incorporation and every year thereafter will increase to US$400 yearly.
All companies that do not pay its annual maintenance fee for two consecutive years will incur on a penalty of US$300.00 in addition to the current penalty of US$50 for each year of non-payment.

Non-profit associations, Unlimited Liability Companies and unregistered Trusts will continue to be exempt from the flat tax. All entities will continue to be exempt of Panama income tax on transactions sourced outside of Panama and interest earned from bank accounts.
These changes do not affect our rates for Resident Agents and Independent Directors. Other options can also be provided from Belize and other jurisdictions at competitive rates.
For further information regarding these changes please contact us or download here a free brochure with additional information.

About Lombardi Aguilar Group
Lombardi Aguilar Group was created as an alternative for clients worldwide who seek fast, innovative and effective solutions to their legal problems. The firm currently provides services to individual and corporate clients in Panama as well in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Its partners maintain a commitment with professional ethics and social responsibility by participating in the board of directors of groups such as the Panama Bar Association, the German Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) of Panama and the Association of Chinese-Panamanian Professionals.
The firm centers its law practice in private client services and asset protection (Private Interest Foundations, Trusts), business structures (Offshore Corporations), tax planning, real estate and e-commerce. It also advices in areas of Law such as Corporate, Commercial, Intellectual Property, Maritime, Tax, and Immigration Law as well as related litigation.
For more information, contact +507 340-6444, e-mail aaguilar (at) laglex.com, or visit: Lombardi Aguilar Group http://www.laglex.com/
See also the updates in Linkedin and Facebook .

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Motion to Reconsider Urges Court to Resurrect Art Museum Mummy Mask Case

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan
Source: USDOJ
Reopen the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) mummy mask case. That is what the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri is asking a federal district court judge to do.  In a Motion to Reconsider filed today, U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan's office seeks to resurrect the case of United States v. Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer.

A judge dismissed the suit last month, claiming that the government's legal complaint to forfeit a mummy mask from SLAM was insufficient.  The complaint failed to articulate how the mask was stolen and smuggled, or how it was brought into the United States "contrary to law," the court ruled.

But the prosecution says in today's motion that the complaint does not need to be more specific about how the mask was stolen or smuggled. And the government does not need to prove any more than probable cause to believe that the mummy mask was stolen.

Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Richard Finneran writes, "While it is true that the Verified Complaint does not disclose the identity of the thief, the exact date of the theft, or 'why' the Mask was stolen, it does allege circumstances that reasonably give rise to the inference that the Mask was unlawfully taken from Egypt’s possession without its permission, and is therefore 'stolen' property  ...."  The AUSA adds that "the United States . . .  must merely establish probable cause to believe that the property is subject to forfeiture" then "the burden then shifts to the Museum to prove the lawful importation of the Mask by a preponderance of the evidence."

The prosecution describes that "one may rightfully infer the stealing of property without direct evidence of all the circumstances underlying the theft."  An analogy is given:  "If a homeowner were to return from a trip abroad to find that all of the electronics in his house were missing, it would certainly be reasonable for him to conclude that they had been stolen, even if he could not identify the thief or the exact time of the theft."

In its motion to reconsider, the prosecution also attempts to correct the court's conclusion that the government "should have alleged the [specific] law under which the Mask should be considered 'stolen.'" AUSA Finneran argues that "Section 1595a itself prohibits the importation of stolen property into the United States, regardless of whether any other law has been violated in the process of importation."  That statute, 19 USC 1595a, states:

Merchandise which is introduced or attempted to be introduced into the United States contrary to law shall
be treated as follows:
(1) The merchandise shall be seized and forfeited
if it—
(A) is stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported
or introduced . . . .

The government says that its arguments are sufficient to renew the forfeiture case.  But if not, prosecutors are asking the court to allow the filing of an amended complaint.  AUSA Finneran writes that "the United States believes that an amended complaint could allege numerous alternative bases to believe that the Mask’s importation was 'contrary to law' . . . if such allegations are deemed necessary."

The prosecution says it can offer additional allegations in an amended, verified complaint:  "Among other things, an amended complaint could more explicitly allege the approximate date range and location from which the Mask was stolen. It could also allege additional and alternative bases to believe that the Mask was imported 'contrary to law,' including facts relating to the absence of records and licenses reflecting the lawful import or export of the Mask, the content of the applicable Egyptian cultural property laws, and circumstances relating to the Museum’s purchase of the Mask from its seller. Finally, it could identify particular statutes, regulations, and provisions of foreign and common law which establish that the illegality of the Mask’s importation." 

The prosecution draws the court's attention to the generally accepted principle that "[d]istrict courts routinely do not terminate a case at the same time that they grant a motion to dismiss; rather, they generally dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint without prejudice and give the plaintiff at least one opportunity to amend its complaint."