Thursday, June 06, 2013

Guilty: Barristers watchdog (looking into the Leveson lovers scandal) is condemned for its shoddy handling of complaints

Lawyers look after lawyers

Failures and flaws in the way barristers handle complaints against themselves are leaving  the public at risk, an investigation has found.

A scathing inquiry from a state watchdog said that the Bar Standards Board – which regulates the elite of the legal profession – has failed to reach satisfactory standards in every area in which it operates.

It said the findings raise a question mark over the legitimacy and legality of the complaints system.

The strongly worded verdict from the Legal Services Board is a blow to the legal profession at a time when lawyers are trying to demonstrate the bodies through which they regulate themselves are working.

Criticisms levelled at the BSB, which is run by barristers, include delays that see hundreds of complaints against lawyers unresolved for years – with some still unfinished after almost a decade.

Two in three of those who complain to the BSB think they are treated unfairly, the investigation found.

The charges come at a time of political controversy for the Bar Standards Board.

Following the publication of the Leveson report, which calls for an end to self-regulation of newspapers and the imposition of Press regulation laws, it emerged that two of the barristers who worked on opposing sides during the Inquiry were having an affair.

David Sherborne QC, who represented celebrities and others calling for state regulation of the Press,  and Carine Patry Hoskins, who represented the Inquiry, went for a break together to the Greek island of Santorini four months before the Inquiry ended.

The pair have said they went on holiday to discuss the possibility of a future relationship, decided against it, but changed their minds later on.

And Lord Justice Leveson rejected any suggestion that the Inquiry may have been compromised, and has said it is for the Bar Standards Board to settle a complaint from senior Tory MP Rob Wilson over the conduct of the lawyers.

The BSB, which was launched seven years ago, has come in for repeated criticism. Nevertheless, last year its chairman Baroness Deech insisted it was in ‘rude health’.

But the report from the Legal Services Board said one survey had found more than two thirds of people who complained to the BSB about the conduct of barristers thought its methods were neither open nor fair.

The BSB, which polices the conduct of 15,000 barristers, ‘has very little evidence’ about the views of ordinary people who pay them, it found.

However, user satisfaction surveys showed ‘a significant number of those that have had reason to complain about an individual regulated by the BSB do not consider the process open and fair’.

The figure was 67 per cent, or two out of three complainants.

During 2013, the Legal Services Board said, the BSB has been handling 316 complaints about barristers which date back to 2010 and 2011.  There were a number of even older unresolved cases, with one going back to 2004.

‘Such delays are not fair to those regulated by the BSB who face such allegations for such a long period and raise risks to consumers who receive services from barristers who may be unfit to practise or need to undertake remedial action,’ the report said.

The inquiry questioned the independence of the BSB because its purse strings are held by the Bar Council, the organisation which speaks for barristers.

The Bar Council can reject any item of BSB spending, must approve any cheques for more than £1,000, and can veto staff appointments.

The report said in some incidents the watchdog had ‘been concerned about the Bar Council’s attempts to fetter this independence’.

It added: ‘Involvement of the representative body in regulatory matters raises risks to the legitimacy of the independent regulatory body’. It might also break the law, the report said.

The inquiry also criticised the way the regulator operates through eight different committees with 130 members, adding the Legal Services Board ‘does not believe that it can deliver effective or efficient governance’.

The Bar Standards Board currently claims that by the end of 2013 ‘the term BSB-regulated will be an assurance of good, honest, independent advocacy and expert legal advice’.

However, the Legal Services Board said the BSB had in reality promised only to achieve satisfactory grades in all areas by the spring of 2016 and that even this task was ‘ambitious’.

It said some improvements would need ‘culture change’ and in other areas the BSB ‘has painted an overly optimistic picture about the progress it has made’.

BSB director Dr Vanessa Davies said: ‘The report praises the BSB’s self-assessment and progress in this area while identifying areas for improvement.

She added: ‘Like any organisation that serves the public – and this one does so at no expense to the public – we want to improve constantly.

‘We welcome the fact that the LSB agrees with how we have analysed our progress so far and how we are going to continue to modernise.

'We know that is ambitious and tough: but we also know that the public deserves no less.’


57,000 suspects are left in bail limbo as police 'drag their feet' with one man waiting three-and-a-half years to find out if he will be charged

Thousands of criminal suspects are ‘left dangling’ on police bail for months before they are told if they will be charged.

More than 57,000 people are on this type of bail – where conditions are set by the police rather than the courts – including 3,000 for more than six months.

One fraud suspect is still on bail three years and seven months after being arrested, a survey found.

Many of those arrested and bailed will ultimately not face charges. In some cases, suspects are suspended from their jobs while allegations against them are investigated.

The Law Society, which represents solicitors, is calling for a 28-day limit on police bail, after which it said officers should be required to go before a magistrate to justify further bailing of a suspect.

Freedom of Information requests by BBC Radio 5 Live found at least 57,428 suspects were on bail in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while 3,172 have been on bail for more than six months. In Scotland, bail is set by the courts, not the police.

Scotland Yard has more than 12,000 suspects on bail, including 910 for over six months. In London, a man, 45, has still not been told if he will be charged after he was arrested in October 2009 on suspicion of fraud.

Senior police officers appear divided on the issue, with Andy Trotter, the head of the British Transport Police, calling for a six-month limit on bail. However, the Association of Chief Police Officers said that bail was an ‘essential tool in securing justice’.

Richard Atkinson, chairman of the Law Society’s criminal law committee, said: ‘It is not unusual for people to be on bail for several months while fairly routine investigations meander their way to a final decision.

‘Because there is no requirement for the police to act within any time, there is an attitude among some officers of “let’s put off until tomorrow what we could have done today” and things are just left to drag along.’ He said one suspect accused of stealing a bicycle had been left on bail for seven months.
Peak: The largest number of bailed individuals are in London, with 12,178 waiting to hear from the Metropolitan Police

The largest number of bailed individuals are in London, with 12,178 waiting to hear from the Metropolitan Police

Civil liberties campaigners have condemned the excessive use of police bail, which allows officers to restrict suspects’ activities. This can include forcing them to live at a certain address, handing over their passport and making them report to a police station on a regular basis.

There is no time limit on how long bail can continue and how many times it can be renewed.

Earlier this month, Mr Trotter told The Mail on Sunday: ‘In the past, police have released people without bail and that hasn’t stopped us continuing the investigation, particularly if they are unlikely to abscond. We have re-arrested them at a later stage when we have had sufficient evidence. That way, they are not left dangling.’

But Chris Eyre, Acpo spokesman and chief constable of Nottinghamshire, said: ‘Police bail  is an essential tool in securing justice. It allows investigators to ensure every possible avenue is explored, while those arrested need not remain in custody.’

Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said the lack of resources made it more difficult for investigations to be concluded quickly.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We continue to keep police bail provisions under review to ensure they strike the right balance between protecting an individual’s right to civil liberty and allowing police to carry out thorough criminal investigations.’


Church leaders may ask Queen to dissolve Synod if it continues to oppose creation of women bishops

Senior bishops have raised the prospect of asking the Queen to dissolve the Church of England’s ‘Parliament’, the General Synod, if it continues to oppose the creation of women bishops.

The unprecedented proposal was made in a confidential meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury last week and reflects Church leaders’ frustration with the Synod for narrowly defeating legislation in November to allow women priests to become bishops.

The House of Bishops unveiled fresh plans on Friday to push through the historic reforms within two years and is preparing for a battle with traditionalists.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby held a confidential meeting last week about the issue

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby held a confidential meeting last week about the issue

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are due to urge the Synod, when it meets in July, to accept a law that will allow women to be consecrated.

But some bishops fear that opposition can be overcome only by dissolving the Synod and electing new members who are more sympathetic to reform.

One senior traditionalist said last night: ‘It seems the new Archbishop is determined to steam-roll this through, but if he is not careful he will be risking another disaster.’
The Archbishop is to urge the Synod to accept a law that women should be concentrated in July

The Archbishop is to urge the Synod to accept a law that women should be concentrated in July

As in Parliament, elections to the Synod are normally every five years, but the Archbishops can in theory seek an early dissolution. To take this step, they would have to petition the Queen, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, who has the power to force new elections.

Sources said, however, that the idea had not ‘gained traction’ with the majority of bishops because they were confident the Synod would not be able to defeat the motion again.

In November, the reform was defeated despite widespread support by only a few votes in the House of Laity, one of the three houses of the Synod alongside the Houses of Bishops and of Clergy.
Sources are confident that the Synod, (pictured) will defeat the motion as it did in November

Sources are confident that the Synod, (pictured) will defeat the motion as it did in November

The fallout was highly damaging to the Church’s credibility and MPs have threatened to impose women bishops by passing legislation in Parliament if the Church fails to resolve the crisis.

The Synod can reject the Archbishops’ proposals in July, but observers said the mood is now strongly in favour of introducing women bishops as quickly as possible and that the traditionalists will try only to gain favourable terms.


The fate of Sally Bercow suggests it's all too easy to side with the baying mob

Sally Bercow is a nasty Leftist bitch who grievously and falsely defamed a prominent British Conservative

'It follows that, for these reasons, I find that the Tweet meant, in its natural and ordinary defamatory meaning, that the Claimant was a paedophile who was guilty of sexually abusing boys living in care.” Thus the conclusion of Mr Justice Tugendhat’s judgment in McAlpine v Bercow, on whether or not the now infamous tweet from Sally Bercow was “defamatory at law”. He has ruled that it was.

Since Mrs Bercow had tweeted “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*” at the height of the furore over (false) allegations aired by Newsnight (that a senior Conservative had been involved in child abuse in the 1980s), this is a judgment that for once is entirely consonant with common sense. There is a huge difference between “Why is Lord McAlpine trending?” and the same words with the addition of that faux-naive “*innocent face*”. To suggest otherwise defies credulity. Faux-naivety is the hallmark of the modern Left-wing smart alec (think Radio 4’s The News Quiz). Only a Martian could fail to recognise the semantics of the form.

So, good: justice for the McAlpine One. I do think, though, that the case exemplifies a problem for humans that is ancient and universal, but which, thanks to technology, is more dangerous than ever. The tendency to rush to judgment, and the desire to be part of the crowd.

After all, Mrs Bercow was hardly alone in casting aspersions on Lord McAlpine: the Twittersphere had decided it knew who was the subject of the BBC’s sensational report. Why not join in? The temptation is hard to resist (it’s one reason I gave up on Twitter for a while; I’m not immune to the phenomenon). No one wants to be left behind; everyone wants to cast those stones.

A man I know well recently found himself in disagreement with the rest of his work-team. The issue would sound trivial compared with allegations of child abuse, but the same sort of dynamic was in place. All the team wanted to do “X”. The pressure on Tom to conform was enormous, but he thought “X” wasn’t merely sub-optimal; he found it ethically troubling.

He’s a good man: he didn’t back down, and was ultimately successful in convincing the team to change course. But even he felt the pressure to shrug and get on with it. If everyone else says 2+2 = 5, not only is it hard to disagree, it’s hard not to say “I believe 2+2 = 5, too”. Big Brother (one of Mrs Bercow’s friends, I recall) ruled because people wanted to belong.

A nagging worry about the baying mob has been growing in me since the Jimmy Savile revelations. Some victims are finding long-delayed justice. But other innocent people must (where “must” is a statistical term denoting high probability) find themselves publicly ruined. I can feel the mob smack its lips with every “revelation”. Remember the paediatrician whose house was vandalised in 2000, most likely because of the root of her profession’s noun? Television personalities who may turn out to be falsely accused are no less deserving of concern.

A more serious point, this most awful of weeks. Given that we know this human desire to side with the loudest majority, what on Earth was the BBC doing giving Anjem Choudary a platform to spew his filth? An invitation to appear on Newsnight (that “flagship” programme, again) is so prestigious that a form of legitimacy is conferred on any studio guest.

Was the day after the most shocking atrocity in London since 7/7, the day the victim was named, a good time to confer such a status on Choudary? Not only in terms of its effects on those of us who worry about Islamic extremism from the outside: what do you imagine his interview, hard on the Woolwich horror, caused someone sympathetic to the EDL to feel? More inclined to demonstrate, or less? But also (and more important), didn’t anyone contemplate its consequence on those who fight that extremism from within? What about those who are fighting it within themselves?

I’m not arguing “no platform”, like some (sheeplike) student activist. There’s a time to allow the extremists to hang themselves, metaphorically, in debate. But we know that humans have a tendency to gossip (and that while gossip is not always deleterious, it often is); know that humans are more prone to wicked behaviour once their individuality is rolled up into a herd; know that we all wish to belong to a herd; know that the media confers legitimacy upon those subjects it chooses to feature; know, too, that the gossip contingent upon that legitimacy can circle the world in a second. Thus the creation of a mob. Thus the entirely predictable injustices. Shouldn’t we be more careful with our words?

Because a mob can now form, worldwide, in the time it took me to type this sentence. “Did you see Newsnight? What’s trending? I think that too! LOL.”



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


No comments: