Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Canine Claims: is the law an ass? Who struck the dogs out?

Hat tip to Legal Cheek for spotting the judgment in the Moosun case that no doubt livened up an otherwise dull day in the High Court Chancery Division two weeks ago. Mrs Moosun, having evidently spotted a clear opportunity to further her quest to be declared a vexatious litigant, chose not only to add her infant children to her £5.5 million claim against HSBC and solicitors’ firm Shoosmiths, but also her two dogs, identified for the record by Mr Justice Snowden as Goldie, aged 18 months, and Diamond, aged 2 years.

In deciding the outcome of HSBC’s application to strike the claim out, Snowden J demonstrated ample reserves of patience. He observed for the record that Mrs Moosun had not appeared “and neither do any of the other persons and animals named as claimants in the proceedings”. Moving on, he dispensed with the canine claimants in succinct fashion: -

“Miss Wilmot-Smith also makes the obvious point that dogs are not capable of bringing legal proceedings. Among other things, Part 2.3(1) of the Civil Procedure Rules defines ‘claimant’ as a person who makes a claim, and a dog is not a person. I also cannot see how a dog could give instructions for a claim to be brought on its behalf or be liable for any orders made against it. There are a whole host of other reasons why proceedings by dogs must be void, and accordingly I am satisfied that in so far as the claim purports to be made on behalf of the two dogs it should also be struck out.”

The things judges have to do to make their judgments appeal proof. And to ensure that they are not seen to have dispensed ruff justice. (I will permit myself one hideous canine pun and leave it at that.)

But Mrs Moosun, and indeed Goldie and Diamond, may have missed a trick. If they had made the effort to attend court, they could have drawn the judge’s attention to the 1979 judgment* of the great Lord Denning M.R. in Grenouille v National Union of Seamen, in which he determined that a frog was a person in law and accordingly had the necessary standing to bring injunction proceedings before the courts, especially where the respondent was a wicked and irresponsible trade union. In particular: -

“The decent member of the community – frog or human – who has fallen victim to injustice at the hands of dangerous, unchristian, wicked and irresponsible conglomerations of power…..must have the right to seek help from the courts, and the courts must offer a remedy. For them to do otherwise would be to betray those revered men who, so many centuries ago, gathered in that silent meadow at Runnymede. To those who said that frogs were beyond the law, the answer was that if frogs were beyond the law, then the rule of law existed no longer. [I am] in no doubt that that could not be so, and that frogs, for all legal purposes, were persons able to sue and be sued in the courts of Her Majesty.”

Had Goldie and Diamond fallen victim to injustice? Were the bank and the law firm irresponsible conglomerations of power? We will never know…

*A piece of classic satire from the law reports section of Not Yet The Times, published when The Times was not appearing because of a strike, reflecting the distinctive literary style and content of Denning judgments. Would Mrs Moosun have realised this? Again, we will never know…

Friday, 18 September 2015

Craven Conflict: now published on Kindle Direct

Delighted to confirm that my new legal suspense drama "Craven Conflict", finally emerging after two and a half years' worth of creativity and 25 years' worth of mixed memories and experiences in the legal profession, has now been published via Kindle Direct.

From the back cover: -

Barely days after recruitment consultant Karen Rutherford’s right hand man suddenly quits, she is horrified to discover the theft ...of her database and an underhand campaign to entice her clients away and destroy her business. Anger turns to disbelief when immediate legal redress fails. Her livelihood threatened to the core, she finds herself locked into a courtroom battle escalating into bitter conflict when a fraught episode from her private life pours oil on already troubled waters.

Not far away, legal executive Paul Craven can hardly believe his luck and his headhunter’s skills when he lands his dream job. Or so he thought. As the cold reality of the new workplace sinks in, it slowly dawns on him that his deepest personal secret - his affliction with Asperger’s Syndrome - may be impossible to keep to himself any longer. Amid the turmoil, being drawn into someone else’s legal dispute was all he needed.

Craven Conflict. Unwelcome choices. Harsh decisions. Barely lesser evils.

Thanks to Book Cover Cafe for producing a great cover.

Know anyone else who likes John Grisham, Michael Connolly or Jeffrey Archer, and who might be interested in something similar but different? Feel free to share a link.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Pre-Paid Funeral Plans: opportunity or scam?

Not for the first time, I sense the need to write about scams.

A few days ago, I was alerted to an incoming email on the subject of “Pre-Paid Funeral Plans for as little as £6 per week”. Well, not quite. The email title described the product in question as “Pre-Paid Fuineral Plans”. Moral of the story for scammers: learn how to spell and you might stand a chance of catching a few more innocent victims.

The glossy ad embedded within the email set out to promote the virtues of a pre-paid funeral, citing average costs here and now and concluding with high praise for the benefits of fixing the funeral cost at today’s prices, all wrapped up with “reassurance for your loved ones”. At the foot of the email, a copyright notice in the name of “Plan My Funeral” and the registered office details for “Plan My Funeral Limited” (co.reg. 9447388). Its website link led to a page with a call to action, “Invest in a pre-paid funeral plan today!”, and used dramatic large print for the rallying cry “Do something AMAZING for your family and loved ones TODAY!

Tasteful, eh? Inspired by the possibility of telling the company’s (unnamed) directors what I thought of their advertising, it took me around two minutes to find out their personal details on Companies House (which I will withhold) and to ascertain that the company was only formed in February 2015, a veritable corporate youth.

Hang on a minute. The APPLY NOW and PROTECT YOUR LOVED ONES NOW tabs within the email evidently did not lead to Plan My Funeral Limited’s website. The destination link was a mystery web page belonging to “” – coincidentally the email address suffix for the sender. Nothing to do with funerals, if Google is to be believed – more like fishing for entrants for questionable online competitions. It probably spoke volumes that Google’s autocomplete came up with “scam” when the search terms went into the box. Second moral of the story for scammers: you’d better work harder on your disguises.

Back to prepaid funerals. The AMAZING act that will PROTECT YOUR LOVED ONES is evidently all about making weekly payments to an intermediary. The deceased in waiting is invited to rest assured (not in peace, well not yet) that his payments will by necessary implication be forwarded at some stage to an undertaker, who will do the honours in due course. Hmm. What advantage flows to the individual contemplating the financial consequences of his inevitable demise by doing so this way, rather than tucking his weekly funeral instalments away in one of those boring old building societies where he can keep an eye on the fund at all times, safe in the knowledge that it has not been spirited away?

“Oh, but it’s for your peace of mind”, the prepaid funeral providers may respond, “you won’t be tempted to dip into it, your loved ones will be protected…” Well, here’s a thought. Just suppose that the funeral funds, which might not of course be needed for the sombre event for many years, were not in fact tucked away in a safe place awaiting the undertaker’s bill for services rendered to the grieving family. Who would have entered into the prepaid funeral contract with the intermediary, thereby becoming the only party truly entitled to sue for breach of contract? Yes, that’s right, the deceased. OK, there’s always scope to sue in the deceased’s name, but who would want to prolong their grief in circumstances where the funds had vanished? Especially if the intermediary had conveniently gone bust in the meantime?

So are prepaid funeral plans a thoughtful, golden opportunity for peace of mind, or a product that ought to be buried six feet under? Discuss.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Craven Conflict - a new work in progress

I am in the process of finalising my third book, working title "Craven Conflict". From the back cover: -
Barely days after recruitment consultant Karen Rutherford’s right hand man unexpectedly quits his job, she discovers to her horror that he has stolen her database and launched an underhand campaign to entice her clients away and destroy her business. Her anger turns to disbelief when the law fails to come to her immediate aid. With her livelihood threatened to the core, she finds herself locked into a courtroom battle that escalates into bitter conflict when a fraught episode from her private life pours oil on already troubled waters.  

Not far away, legal executive Paul Craven can barely believe his luck and his headhunter’s skills when he lands his dream job. Or so he thought. As the cold reality of the new workplace sinks in, it slowly dawns on him that his deepest personal secret - the fact that he is afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome - may be impossible to keep to himself any longer. Amid the turmoil, being drawn into someone else’s commercial dispute was all he needed…

Craven Conflict. Unwelcome choices. Harsh decisions. Barely lesser evils.
Interested? Like to read the opening section? Just click on the Prologue: Craven Conflict tab (above).
If you would like to receive an alert when it's completely finished and ready for publication, please use the Contact Me link (above).

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Royal Blood and Keane: an intriguing echo

At first sight there’s little or nothing in common between Keane, best known for the alternative sounds illustrated by “Everybody’s Changing”, and the hard rock band of the moment Royal Blood who announced their arrival in uncompromising fashion at the Brit Awards. It’s an interesting coincidence that both bands are from Sussex, with only a short distance separating their home towns of Brighton and Battle. But there’s something else that links their respective debut albums.

If you take perhaps the two most instantly recognisable songs from Keane’s debut “Hopes and Fears”, namely “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Everybody’s Changing”, what’s instantly noticeable? A very distinct piano introduction. Listen to the whole album, without knowing the back story, and you may be wondering what happened to the guitar. Incredible as it may seem for what became the second best selling UK album of 2004, the lead instrument throughout the album was the piano, without use of a guitar at all. And yet it worked.

Now let’s imagine someone with a fair grounding in traditional hard rock is listening to Royal Blood’s eponymous debut, without any prior knowledge of the band. What’s to be found? Plenty of bludgeoning riffs in Black Sabbath style, for a start. The energy of the new wave of British rock trailblazers from the early 80s. A touch of ZZ Top boogie in “You Can Be So Cruel”. But none of the downside of thrash metal. Quite the opposite – it’s not too far fetched to think that “Figure It Out” could have been ideally suited to Robert Plant in his prime, or even in his mature years.

This is where it gets all the more amusing. Picture a hard rock version of that dreadful BBC show “The Voice”, with a panel member swivelling his chair to confirm his approval of the band and seeing them in the flesh for the first time. Likely reactions: “Where’s the rest of you?” Closely followed by “where’s the lead guitar? Are you taking the mickey?”

Well, no. There are only two of them. And the entire guitar sound comes from a bass. But the fact that Mike Kerr’s instrument is two strings short of a lead does not in any way leave the band sounding two beers short of a six pack. You’ll probably end up listening to the debut album over and over again to spot the gaps that a conventional band would have filled in with a bass behind the lead. And realising why such a legendary guitarist as Jimmy Page believes they are taking rock to a new realm.

Any connection between the Keane and Royal Blood debuts and fiction writing? Just this. There was a time when a conventional mainstream publisher was considered as essential to an author as a lead guitar to a band. Evidently no longer.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Katie Hopkins, Voltaire and the Despots

What to make of ‘My Fat Story’, in which former Apprentice candidate Katie Hopkins deliberately set out to gain four stone in order to lose it all again and thereby make a point about obesity?

One thought immediately springing to mind is that what might have worked over that defined timescale for KH, both in the gain and the loss, is not of demonstrable scientific relevance to anyone who is trying to lose weight personally or who (in KH’s forceful opinion) ought to be doing so. Another is that KH may in fact have looked better at the end of the trial, having involuntarily failed to shed all the weight she put on, than at the beginning. And when KH is caught on camera saying “I hate you, fat people, for making me do this”, we can only hope that once again she was setting out to provoke reaction, rather than seriously believing in the logic of her agonised comment.

But this of course gives better insight into what this may really have been all about. Let's go straight to the scene where KH entered into debate with four ‘fat activists’. Yes indeed, yesterday’s Not The Nine O'Clock News satire as embodied in Proud To Be Stout and their extremist offshoot Fat Louts Against Bikinis had become today’s reality. Reality that was illustrated amply by the attempt of one of the activists, under sustained provocation from KH, to report her to the police for a hate crime.

And if we tie this in with KH’s further recent attempts to rattle cages via Twitter, succeeding not only in antagonising professional offence takers so far that they reported her (again) to the police but also in bringing about a pompous police announcement to the effect that social media crimes will not be tolerated, this may only show what a valuable role she is playing in modern Britain. Namely, a professional offence giver, testing the UK's long proclaimed defence of free speech against ever increasing encroachments.

To adapt the saying that is frequently attributed to Voltaire but was probably devised by his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it, even if it makes you sound like a bit of a prat at times, and especially if it really annoys the DESPOTS* in our midst”.

* Dangerously Earnest Squadron of Professional Offence Takers - look down to the recent "Delilah" post for explanation.