Thursday, January 26, 2012

Online challenges to the right to a fair trial

The Guardian are reporting that a juror has been jailed for having conducted online research into a defendant and then shared the results of that research with the rest of the jury. The principle of protecting the fairness of the trial as of paramount importance makes complete sense. But what the case raises is how very difficult it is to police such fairness. In the past, simply by controlling the press through the contempt of court laws this would have eliminated the vast majority of the risk associated with people reading prejudicial material. But when everyone has access to google, Twitter and Facebook it becomes a lot more difficult to enforce unless I guess they started having juries locked away in complete isolation. But imagine that possibility for jurors facing a fraud trial which could potentially last several months. It really is a difficult conundrum all ways round and I really don't know what the answer is going to be. But however difficult the principle of a fair trial is becoming to protect we must never lose sight of its over-riding importance to our system of justice.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book recommendation: 'A Certain Justice' by P D James


Although A Certain Justice begins with news of a murder, the victim isn't set to die for another four weeks. Publicly respected but privately loathed, Venetia Aldridge has far more enemies than a brilliant London criminal lawyer should--and at least one of them is determined to do her in. Venetia plies her superior trade in courts that harbour "the illusion that the passions of men were susceptible to order and control," but her past and private life are exceedingly unruly. Her married lover is intent on giving her up; her daughter loathes her; her fellow barristers are determined that she not become the next head of chambers. Even the cleaning woman seems to have something on her. The outline alone of this complex novel would take pages (as would the eclectic inventory of players), but P. D. James makes us admire far more than her brilliantly developed plot. James in fact creates a crowded gallery of surprisingly decent suspects, along with one suitably vile creature--who happens to be Aldridge's last client. A superior murder mystery, A Certain Justice is also a gripping anatomy of wild justice. James's characters can be overcome by hate, but she is equally concerned with love's manifestations--human, divine, destructive, and healing.

Available from Amazon.co.uk

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sponsored post: Transport Committee fails in its overly generalised analysis of whiplash claims

The House of Commons Transport Committee have very recently published its follow up report on the cost of motor insurance. One of the matters it covered was whiplash claims and it said in particular that it was "not convinced that a diagnosis [of whiplash] unsupported by further evidence of injury or personal inconvenience arising from the injury should be sufficient for a claim to be settled. I n our view the bar to receiving compensation in whiplash cases should be raised." it also said that if the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill did not reduce the number of claims then "there would be a strong case to consider primary legislation to require objective evidence of a whiplash injury". As someone who spent ten years practising as a personal injury barrister and representing both sides of the industry, the immediate problem with this sweeping statement is what type of objective evidence they are talking about? Whiplash is notoriously difficult to identify objectively and may well be one of the reasons why it also sometimes gets associated with fraud cases. But medical evidence is currently required to prove a personal injury in any event. So, perhaps the point may have been better made by encouraging more rigorous examination by GPs and consultant orthopaedic surgeons during the period of the injury. But for what it's worth, even this can raise difficulties in claims since the doctors that a patient initially visits are not usually for the purposes of litigation but instead for treatment. In those circumstances, their duty is to the health and welfare of the patient and not an insurance company. It's a great shame that having examined all of the evidence the Committee didn't make a more detailed analysis of this issue rather than leaving the impression of somewhat shooting from the hip. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book recommendation: 'Wind, Sand and Stars' by Antoine Saint-Exupery


In 1926 de Saint-Exupéry began flying for the pioneering airline Latécoère - later known as Aéropostale - opening up the first mail routes across the Sahara and the Andes. WIND, SAND AND STARS is drawn from this experience. Interweaving encounters with nomadic Arabs and other adventures into a richly textured autobiographical narrative which includes the extraordinary story of his crash in the Libyan Desert in 1936, and his miraculous survival. 'Self-discovery comes when a man measures himself against an obstacle,' writes Saint-Exupéry. This book he explores the transcendent perceptions that arise when life is tested to its limits. Both a gripping tale of adventure and a poetic meditation.

Available from Amazon.co.uk

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Law and Peace reviewed at RollOnFriday

Very many thanks to Laura at RollOnFriday for reviewing my book Law and Peace. You can read the review here or below. You can buy the book on amazon.

"Former barrister Tim Kevan's follow up to last year's Law and Disorder, provides the next instalment  in the life of fictional junior barrister BabyB. Having schemed and plotted his way to tenancy, BabyB discovers that keeping his nose out of trouble now he is a fully-fledged member of chambers is easier said than done.

Still struggling with pressing financial problems (readers of Law and Disorder will remember that BabyB's poor old Ma risked bankruptcy to put him through law school), BabyB is put to work on a case involving pensioners with ASBOs. Before long he's back to his old tricks and when an unscrupulous solicitor, SlipperySlope, offers him a way out of his impecuniosity he (with few qualms) merrily jumps into a world of blackmail and insider trading.

There are dodgy dealings, financial misdoings, ridiculous courtroom capers and even a love story as BabyB realises he must win the heart of his best friend. The book is certainly a hectic scramble through some of the more implausible practices of the bar but that's the joy of it. It's a fun, frivolous, funny page-turner and you know it's all going to turn out fine in the end."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do we really need economic growth?

There's a fascinating recent article in The New Scientist (£) which mentioned the book The Limits to Growth from 1972 which was updated in 2004. It used a computer model to analyse what would happen if growth continued. Would it eventually come to an end? The model suggested that eventually population growth and over-use of resources would mean it would come to an end. The problem though was that it also suggested that, as with many economic matters, there would be an overshoot so that rather than smoothly tailing off, it may well result in a sharp decline. Whether or not this is all accurate and wherever we may be in that cycle, it does raise the question as to why growth in itself should be a goal? Now, I fully understand why it might be at the moment whilst the country is in a mess and without drastic spending cuts growth might seem the only way forward. But looking beyond the horizon, an end to growth doesn't necessarily mean an end to innovation and entrepreneurial zeal. On the contrary it could mean more competition and efficiency savings as companies chase shares of a static pie. But beyond that, the bigger question is why we need to keep on increasing our consumption? One of the few positives to come from the recession is that it does feel that lots of people are now starting to ask the same question from all political sides of the spectrum and maybe as we move forward, a greater emphasis will be placed on families, communities and the environment in which we live and less on conspicuous consumption and a celebrity driven media.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Scottish independence would mean Tory rule in England and Wales

Am I the only one to question the Tories' line on Scottish independence? They say they're strongly in favour of the union. But they're also a political party above all focused on getting into and wielding power. So it's hardly cynical to point out that getting rid of Scottish seats from the House of Commons is far more likely to bring electoral success to the Tories south of the border. In fact, I seem to remember someone telling me that even in 1997 John Major polled a greater share of the overall vote in England than Tony Blair. Whatever its accuracy it does highlight the point: that Scottish independence could well mean permanent Tory rule in England and Wales. It still foxes me as to why the Labour party didn't grasp this pretty basic idea when introducing devolution. Maybe they thought that they could contain nationalist sentiment in Scotland with the sop of a separate parliament? But in my view those who argued at the time that devolution would inevitably lead to independence will be proven to be right.

Mention of BabyBarista's partnership with ICLR at Nick Holmes' InfoLaw blawg

Nice to see a mention of the partnership between BabyBarista and the ICLR online at Nick Holmes' infolaw.co.uk.

Monday, January 9, 2012

David Cameron will struggle to tackle health and safety culture

I seem that David Cameron is setting his sights  on the so-called health and safety culture. It'll be interesting to see how he manages to draw back any of the regulations. One of the biggest problems is that whilst it's very easy to bring in new regulations, perhaps in reaction to this or that, it's much more difficult to get rid of them. The problem is that one pressure group or another will be quick to point out that if so and so regulation is withdrawn it is likely to cause x number more injuries or even worse. With politicians ever more keen to swing with the vagueries of front page headlines and day to day opinion polls, I'm looking forward to seeing how he manages to pull this one off. My bet is: with great difficulty.

Plough Service at Saunton Church

I went to the Plough Service yesterday at the beautiful little church at Saunton (left). The service was to celebrate Plough Sunday which is a traditional English celebration of the beginning of the agricultural year and attended in particular by the local farmers. You'll see the plough at the front of the church and as well as that and hymns such as 'We Plough the Fields and Scatter' and 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' one of the farmers also asked Vicar Anne to bless the seed which she duly did. The service is traditionally held on the Sunday after Epiphany which is therefore the Sunday between 7 January and 13 January. The tradition was that work in the fields did not begin until the day after Plough Sunday: Plough Monday.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Article on Surfing in North Devon for Exmoor Magazine

Thanks to Exmoor The Country Magazine for allowing me to re-publish an article I did for them recently on Surfing in North Devon (below). You can find out more about the excellent magazine here.


SURFING IN NORTH DEVON

Tim Kevan explains why people paddle out into the sea even in the middle of Winter and goes on to give a guide to North Devon’s main surfing beaches

When people think of surfing they might think of Hawaii, California or the Beach Boys. Yet there is an altogether different culture which is on our doorstep in North Devon. It’s one in which people move away from good jobs for the opportunity to live by the sea and paddle out in the middle of Winter in thick wetsuits in order to catch the best swell in the right conditions. Yet despite its obvious pull, it’s often hard to put it into words exactly what it is that makes it different. For everyone it is to get away from the day to day and capture those moments on a wave which seem to take us outside of time and yet live on in our memories forever. But it’s also to sit out the back beyond the waves and watch the rise and fall of the sea as if counting time to the heartbeat of the world. To see oyster catchers playing or maybe catch a glimpse of a porpoise. In a world full of noise, bureaucracy and a vacuous celebrity culture it is to experience silence. To immerse yourself fully into the beauty of the natural world. To feed the soul and admire the beauty of the creation which surrounds us.

But as with fishing, foraging, or any other such activity which take us out into the countryside, it’s also about patience. Being prepared to get out there even without the guarantee of any reward and enjoying the quest for the waves almost as much as their capture. Working out what the wind and swell forecasts will mean for different beaches and then taking account of both the times of the tide as well as their size. But above all else, it’s perhaps about paddling out into the sea with your friends, sharing a few waves and then having a quiet beer afterwards which best sums up the experience which is surfing.

For my part, having been brought up in Minehead, I first caught the bug in North Devon as a teenager in the 1980s. But having become a barrister in London, I found myself only able to surf on long weekends and in the holidays. It was therefore a great relief after some ten years of practice to move back to the West Country and in particular near to the surf a few years ago after having got a book deal to write my first novel.

The history of surfing goes back to the ancient Hawaiian kings and their word for it explains its meaning to them. It is he’enalu which splits into two. He’e means to run, flow, slip, glide and also to flee as well as to ride a surfboard. Nalu means to suspend one’s judgment, to think within oneself and to search after any truth or fact as well as the surf itself. As for its discovery by the rest of the world, it was as far back as 1777 that canoe surfing was described in an account of the voyages of Captain James Cook in the following way: “I could not help concluding that this man felt the most supreme pleasure while he was driven on so fast and so smoothly by the sea.”

In North Devon surfing has been popularized by the rise of the local surf shops and the people who run them. The pioneers were Tim Heyland and Dave Aldridge-Smith who established Tiki in the 1960s and they were followed by the likes of Gus and Ross Thomson who founded Saltrock in the 1980s and Jules Matthews who set up Gulf Stream surfboards the following decade. These people and their products have helped to get not only the locals into the water but also to popularize the sport for those travelling from much farther afield. So much so that surfing today is a mainstay of the economy of North Devon.

As for the best conditions, the perfect day would be a big groundswell with offshore Easterly winds (ie blowing form the land to the sea) to clean up the breaking waves. But it certainly doesn’t need to be like that in order to be catching waves, particularly for beginners who are mostly catching just the white water crashing towards the shore. Then there’s sites such as MagicSeaweed.com and WingGuru.com which help with predicting the conditions and webcams provided by Tiki and Eyeball Surfcheck which help in checking them out on the day.

THE BEACHES

Saunton Sands
The huge stretch of beach which backs onto the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Braunton Burrows is not only stunning but also the best beach for learning due to its gentle gradient and relatively slow waves as well as the fact that there’s plenty of space to walk down the beach and away from the crowds. Beginners should keep away from the rocks on the right hand side as there’s a rip current which could drag the unwary out to sea.

Croyde
Famous for its left-hand barrels or hollow waves, it’s also a place where beginners in particular need to be especially careful. As well as the crowds on this relatively small beach, waves often break quite powerfully in shallow water, particularly at low tide.

Woolacombe
This is another long beach like Saunton where you can walk further down and avoid the crowds. But again, be careful of the rip currents and of the rocks on the right hand side.

Putsborough
This gets shelter from the prevailing South-Westerly winds, particularly at high tide. But again, be careful not to get caught on the rocks, this time on the left hand side.

Weekend video: 'Ally McBeal Cast Reunion'

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mulberry Finch review the BabyBarista series of books

Very many thanks to Henry Oliver at Mulberry Finch for reviewing my book Law and Peace. You can read the review  Mulberry Finch   or below. You can buy the book on amazon.

"If you want to relax on Boxing Day by laughing at your lawyer (a great way to let all that pent-up anger out), then you can’t do better than reading Tim Kevan’s excellent Baby Barista books. For those who are as yet uninitiated, this is the latest addition the twentieth/twenty-first century genre of legal fiction. Rumpole is the most well known, having been made into a television series; and at the other, more serious end of the scale, is the set of novels about an Edwardian family headed by a City solicitor, The Forsyte Saga. (People interested in more details of legal fiction can find a good selection in this blog by Simon Myerson.) Writing and the bar go hand in hand: John Mortimer and John Galsworthy were both at the bar; one wrote because he hated it, the other because he couldn’t get any briefs. Tim Kevan has had an altogether more successful legal career. He practised for ten years, being described as having “an unsurpassed knowledge of the law.” But he now lives by the sea. His day job, as well as running a legal training business, is to write brief sketches for his blog (published by The Guardian). The best recent example is his wonderful skit on Collective Nouns for Lawyers. Whether he was disenchanted with law, or compelled to write doesn’t matter. He is seriously funny. Like all the best comic novels the real wit comes from the trumped-up but still accurate  dialogue. The main character is our duplicitous narrator: he looks and sounds like an innocent, struggling but ambitious, young lawyer. We instinctively sympathise with the perils of the bar faced by young pupils, and want our hero to succeed whatever the cost. But we realise that the cost is high. He is not as green as he looks: devious schemes, and underhand tactics, cheating, and getting through scrapes provide all the fun and thrills in the plot. And it is all held together in the great non-villain of the lead character. Even his young, innocent name (Baby Barista), which is misspelled so as to try and emphasise a complete lack of malevolence in his character, is an act of deceit; it hides his ability to be devastatingly self-interested. But good for him we cheer! He is surrounded by greedy, grasping, horrid lawyers, all of them as cunning and mendacious as he is – but not as likeable. This is a well paced, crisply written, funny book that shows the gloomy side of the law without being cynical or ignoring the better bits. If you’ve ever sympathised with Shakespeare when he said, “First thing we do? Let’s kill all the lawyers!” then this pair of novels is the perfect stocking filler for you."

Book recommendation: 'The Warden' by Anthony Trollope


The book centers on the character of Mr. Harding, a clergyman of great personal integrity, whose charitable income far exceeds the purpose for which it was intended. Young John Bold turns his reforming zeal to exposing what he considers to be an abuse of privilege, despite being in love with Mr. Harding's daughter Eleanor. The novel was highly topical as a case regarding the misapplication of church funds was the scandalous subject of contemporary debate. But Trollope uses this specific case to explore and illuminate the universal complexities of human motivation and social morality. This edition includes an introduction and notes by David Skilton and illustrations by Edward Ardizzone.

Available from Amazon.co.uk

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cassou - French Legal Artist

Nice to see a French legal artist called Cassou who has put her content online at Blog de Cassou. This picture is called 'Animaux Domnestiques' though what she thinks a judge, a dinosaur and a snail have in common who can imagine!