Category: Random

Happy Birthday

Today marks the end of my third year of blogging and what a three years it has been!  Through blogging and the wider social media world I have met so many great people and experienced things that I would not have otherwised experienced.  There have been some downsides to blogging, but the ups definatley outweigh the downs.

My social media presence in that time has expanded from one blog (this one) to three blogs, two podcast streams, twitter and plans to enter into the world of vlogging (whenever I get round to getting myself something with which I can video myself).

Anyway, I do not plan to be dissapearing from the social media world anytime soon and look forward to seeing what my fourth year of blogging brings.  Thank you for reading, especially my many rants, and I hope that you will be sticking around with me for the next year!

Basic legal education at School

In 2005 I took part in the National Bar Mock Trial Competition.  This was a nationwide competition run by the Citizenship Foundation with assistance from the Bar in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as well as the respective court services.  In November 2005 I spent one Saturday at the High Court of Justiciary building in Glasgow prosecuting and defending a fictional case in the Scottish Heats of the competition.  While we never made the final in London it was great fun and really cemented for me that I wanted to go into the Law.

The Citizenship Foundation has the following to say about the competition on its website:

The Bar National Mock Trial Competition gives young people an exciting and innovative insight into the workings of the legal system. Now in its 20th successful year, it involves over 2,000 students, 300 barristers/advocates and 90 judges from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Taking part in the competition gave me a real insight into the workings of our criminal legal system.  We were coached in how to appear in the Court, we wore wigs and gowns kindly brought along by the supporting Advocates and had some of the country’s top QCs and Sheriffs giving up their Saturday to preside over the cases.  The regional final was presided over by Lord Hodge.  Everyone from the Court services staff to Senators of the College of Justice were involved in helping to give us an “exciting and innovative insight into the workings of the legal system.”

Competitions like this are fantastic, but they really are limited in what they can do to educate people.  The numbers of people who can take part are limited to somewhere in the region of 140 pupils per year for the whole of Scotland.

The legal system is vitally important in our lives.  It places involuntary obligations upon us, it can remove our freedom and our liberty, it can be used as redress when people have wronged us and be used to help prevent wrongs from occurring in the first place.  Why then, is it that the legal system is almost non-existent in our education system in Scotland.  Why do we not get at least basic legal education looking at matters of Human Rights, Criminal and Civil wrongs, how it all links together and how we as citizens can use it?

In England and Wales some students can elect to sit an A-level in Law which can help to give them an understanding of the legal system and how it affects them.  That’s all very good, but again the numbers of people who this benefits is limited to the number of students who elect to study such a course, which is not available at all educational establishments in the country.

Why do we not have something a little more universal?  Why not build it into Personal, Social and Health Education or into the 5-14 Modern Studies syllabus, therefore, ensuring that every pupil in Scotland benefits from  learning basic information about our legal system.  I’m not necessarily suggesting anything particularly complex, but rather topics such as the Human Rights Act, the make-up of the legal system (i.e. what fits in where), the difference between civil and criminal matters, how Scots Law fits in with the rest of the United Kingdom and Internationally and so on.

I just feel that it is tragic that people leave school with no real understanding of the very system that governs almost every aspect of their daily lives and really do think it is time that some basic legal education is compulsory in Scottish schools before the age at which a child can leave full time education.

I would love to read what you, my readers, have to say on this subject and would encourage you to get in touch by E-mail or post your comments in the comments section below.

Blog Stats: A review of 2010

Here is a round-up from the stats from my blog.  This year has been the busiest year I have had traffic wise on my blog.  Since 1 January 2010 8,720 hits have been recorded.  The busiest month was October with 1,286 hits.

I have complied two lists, which I will present you with below.  The first list will be the top 10 posts published since 1 January 2010 while the second list will be the top 10 posts regardless of the date of publication.

Top 10 published in 2010

In May this year BBC Scotland aired the first two episodes of four in a series about life on a housing scheme in Kilmarnock.  The tenth most popular post published on my blog in 2010 was a critical look at “The Scheme” and was published on 28 May 2010.  The final two parts have yet to be aired having been frequently postponed due to criminal proceedings against “stars” of the series.  I suspect that they will be permanently postponed.

Coming in at number 9 was a post on the subject of the Diploma in Legal Practice and Traineeships in Scotland.  More specifically the lack of Traineeships compared to the number of Diploma places offered.

At number 8 is the first of many posts to feature in the top 10 for this year.  One of the most important decisions impacting upon the Scottish Legal System came in October 2010 from the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in London.  The case of course was Cadder v Her Majesty’s Advocate.  This is one of the many posts I published on the blog about the case and was published on 30 June regarding the general subject of access to solicitors while in police custody in Scotland.

At number 7 was a post relating to the issue of Television Cameras in Court and was published on 15 January 2010.

At number six is a second post on the case of HMA v Cadder.  This post was relating to the interim guidance issued by the Lord Advocate on the subject of access to Solicitors pending the decision of the UK Supreme Court.

At number 5 is a post on the General Election that took place in May, specifically relating to whether a Hung Parliament would have been a good thing or not.  This post was published on 20 April 2010.  This of course was prior to the election and before we knew the result.  The post was titled Hung Parliament:  Good or Bad?.

At number four is a third post on the case of HMA v Cadder.  This time written following the decision of the Supreme Court and published on 27 October 2010.  This post was titled Police Detention in Scotland: after Cadder.

At number three is a post on Jon Venables.  This post was published on 8 March 2010 and was concerned with why his new identity should remain a secret following his recall to prison.

The post at number two was published when I still wrote under a pseudonym and was published on 26 March 2010.  There isn’t much detail to it; in fact it is simply a copy of a letter I received from the UK Border Agency.   The post was titled UK Border Agency Letter

There is little surprise as to what is at the top of this list.  One of my many posts on the subject of Cadder v Her Majesty’s Advocate is the most popular post of 2010 on my blog that was published during the course of the year.  This particular post was published on 18 September 2010, before the judgment of the court was issued in October.

Top 10 posts of 2010

This list is based on 2010 hit stats and includes posts published at any time during the period of time this blog has been running.

At number 10 is my post looking at the issue of Television Cameras in Court.  The post was published on 15 January 2010.

The post at number 9 was published on 16 June 2010 and is on Lord Advocate’s Interim Guidance on Access to a Solicitor by Suspects.

At number 8 was my post on whether a hung Parliament was a good or bad thing.  It was published on 16 June 2010.

At number 7 was my post on the matter of Police detention in Scotland: after Cadder.  Published: 27 October 2010.

At number 6 was my 8 March 2010 post on Jon Venables.

At number 5 is a post which I published on 27 March 2009 answering the question “is a paracentamol overdose quick?”.

At number 4 is my post titled “Guide to Prison Officer Selection Process: SPS”. This was published on 29 August 2009 and was based on my very nearly successful application to the Scottish Prison Service for a position as a Prison Officer.

At number 3 was that March 2010 response from the UK Border Agency to a letter I had previously sent them.  This post was published on 26 March 2010.

At number 2 is my September 2009 post on Cadder v Her Majesty’s Advocate.  The date of publication was 18 September 2010.

At number 1 is a post I published on 15 November 2008 on Breach of the Peace.  It is the most viewed post on my blog ever and is visited on a near daily basis, normally by way of a search engine.

Christmas 2010

Wishing you a very merry Christmas.  I hope that you will have an enjoyable day and that you will make many happy and everlasting memories with those in your life whom you love and care for!

It’s Back: Track of the Day!!

Yes, after an absence of almost 18 months I have resurrected my “Track of the Day” feature.  You can see todays track on the right side of the page, just above my bio.  If you miss a day you can find an archive towards the bottom of the menu on the right of this blog!

If you have any suggestions for possible tracks, feel free to drop me an E-mail!

Diploma and Traineeships

I was reading the latest issue of The Firm Magazine (August/ September 2010) this morning before lunch and couldn’t help thinking about the huge problems facing those of us in our Undergraduate years when we eventually try to enter the profession.  The situation with traineeships is all the more problematic for those beginning their Diploma in Legal Practice this month.  At my stage in the LLB it is probably too early to begin thinking about traineeships in specific terms, but it’s never too early to be thinking about them more generally.

The Diploma is not cheap, with fees of around £5000 for a course lasting around 6 months and then books and materials on top of this it is a large outlay for anyone, not least someone who has just completed four years of undergraduate level study (or maybe even 6 for those who qualify in another discipline and then study on the accelerated LLB programme).  Most, if not all, would not grudge paying this as the return on that investment in theory is quite lucrative: a career in the Scottish legal profession.  However, this is not the case for everyone.

The figures provided by Neil Campbell in his article in the latest edition of The Firm are quite frankly worrying.  It is clear that we are unlikely to be in a position where we need 900 new lawyers in Scotland.  The numbers gaining traineeships every year appears to be around the 450 – 475 mark.  This leaves a significant number of people who have went through the expense and hard study of the Diploma without a job at the end of it.

It would make much more sense to limit the number of diplomas available to a figure that is more representative of the numbers who are likely to be successful in gaining a traineeship.  The problem, I think, does not lie with the number of providers of the Diploma, but rather in the number of places available.  6 providers are offering 900 places per year, giving an average cohort of 150 per provider.  Having a range of providers of the Diploma is, in my view, a good thing.  Students are told right at the very start of their LLB (or certainly in my experience at two separate institutions) that gaining an LLB is no guarantee of a place on a Diploma course, and subsequently, the successful completion of the Diploma does not guarantee a traineeship.  However, the true scale of the problem is not made known to students early enough.

Students need this information so that they fully aware of just what they are letting themselves in for.  With almost double the number of Diploma students than traineeships available, it is imperative that from day one of the LLB students are taking part in activities that strengthen their CV and will set them apart from everyone else.  Good academic grades are simply not enough for students to progress forward, they are of course essential, but cannot and should not be relied upon by the student as their sole way of gaining a traineeship.

There are, of course, the traditional things seen on the CV of a Law Student:  mooting, debating, summer placements and such like, but everyone is going to have these activities on their CV if they are truly focuses on entering the profession as a career.  These things are not going to help you stand out against the crowd of graduates applying for that elusive traineeship.  Students must look elsewhere for things that strengthen the skills and abilities required to be a successful lawyer, but at the same time are different and will make their application stand out in the pile of applications being looked at by firms.  Doing this will certainly strengthen a student’s chances of obtaining a traineeship, but one problem remains to be solved:  the number f Diploma places available.

There should be a cap on the number of places that can be offered by each of the accredited providers to ensure that we are not left with literally hundreds of students thousands of pounds out of pocket with little hope of securing a traineeship in the future.  The exact workings of the cap are something for discussion as we must ensure that there is sufficient provision of newly qualified lawyers to ensure that the justice system continues to effectively operate.

I am sure that many people will disagree with me on this matter, and as usual I would love to hear your views either in the comments below or on E-mail.

How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb Act 2010

Such number as may be deemed to perform the stated task in a timely and efficient manner within the strictures of the following agreement:

Whereas the party of the first part, also known as ‘The Lawyer’, and the party of the second part, also known as ‘The Light Bulb’, do hereby and forthwith agree to a transaction wherein the party of the second part (Light Bulb) shall be removed from the current position as a result of failure to perform previously agreed upon duties, i.e., the lighting, elucidation, and otherwise illumination of the area ranging from the front (north) door, through the entry way, terminating at an area just inside the primary living area, demarcated by the beginning of the carpet, any spillover illumination being at the option of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) and not required by the aforementioned agreement between the parties.

The aforementioned removal transaction shall include, but not be limited to, the following steps:

  1. The party of the first part (Lawyer) shall, with or without elevation at his option, by means of a chair, stepstool, ladder or any other means of elevation, grasp the party of the second part (Light Bulb) and rotate the party of the second part (Light Bulb) in a counter-clockwise direction, said direction being non-negotiable. Said grasping and rotation of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) shall be undertaken by the party of the first part (Lawyer) with every possible caution by the party of the first part (Lawyer) to maintain the structural integrity of the party of the second part (Light Bulb), notwithstanding the aforementioned failure of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) to perform the aforementioned customary and agreed upon duties. The foregoing notwithstanding, however, both parties stipulate that structural failure of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) may be incidental to the aforementioned failure to perform and in such case the party of the first part (Lawyer) shall be held blameless for such structural failure insofar as this agreement is concerned so long as the non-negotiable directional codicil (counter-clockwise) is observed by the party of the first part (Lawyer) throughout.
  2. Upon reaching a point where the party of the second part (Light Bulb) becomes separated from the party of the third part (‘Receptacle’), the party of the first part (Lawyer) shall have the option of disposing of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) in a manner consistent with all applicable state, local and federal statutes.
  3. Once separation and disposal have been achieved, the party of the first part (Lawyer) shall have the option of beginning installation of the party of the fourth part(“New Light Bulb”). This installation shall occur in a manner consistent with the reverse of the procedures described in step one of this selfsame document, being careful to note that the rotation should occur in a clockwise direction, said direction also being non-negotiable.

NOTE: The above described steps may be performed, at the option of the party of the first part (Lawyer), by said party of the first part (Lawyer), by his heirs and assigns, or by any and all persons authorized by him to do so, the objective being to produce a level of illumination in the immediate vicinity of the aforementioned front (north) door consistent with maximization of ingress and revenue for the party of the fifth part, also known as ‘The Firm’.

New Government. New Politics.

So, the result of the General Election is known. We have a new Prime Minister in the form of Conservative Leader David Cameron. Something I never thought I’d type/say is that our new Deputy Prime Minister is leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg.

Yes, that’s right: the Lib Dems are part of Her Majesty’s Government! The most unlikley of coalitions has been formed between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrat Party. I must say that I am quite excited about this administration, something I am surprised about given that David Cameron is now Prime Minister.

Having been born in the late 80s I have no real memory of the last Tory administration in the UK. I’ve grown up in a New Labour world and have developed my political ideals and beliefs in that world.

I am really excited to see some real political reform and look forward to both campaigning and voting for a change in voting system. While the propsed system is not my first choice of PR, it is a sure step in the right direction.

I’m also excited about other plans to reform our system, especially the idea of fixed term Parliaments and around MPs expenses.

The plans around civil liberties also excite me and the ideas to take us away from the nanny state do also.

At today’s press conference, both Cameron and Clegg looked at ease and as if this is a partnership that will work. There will of course be bumps and scrapes along the way, but that’s simply part of life in a coalition government! Those of us in Scotland are very much used to these arrangements having had two Labour-Lib Dem governments.

An interesting and exciting time in British Politics!