Exposing a lack of clarity in conventional thinking
In 2009, I started writing comment pieces for this website and (since 2021) for my associated newsletter. Examples range from the offside rule in football () to banning people from social media (); from Prince Harry’s bottom () to politicians battling with lawyers over human rights ().
At the end of a seventy-year reign, few people have anything but praise for the late Queen. It wasn’t always so. But now is not the time to remember the occasional lapses in concentration that brought criticism. Overall, she played a blinder.
Some would say the accession of the new King has gone without a hitch. But has it?
Pannick in Downing Street as Boris faces contempt charge
Blow me down with a feather. Boris Johnson and Lord Pannick QC have teamed up in a way, and at a time, that I didn’t see coming. Perhaps no one did! It would be more than I could bear not to weigh in on the subject of this unexpected coupling. I don’t think you should blame me for doing so. I hope that some of you might even welcome it.
The heartbroken parents of Archie Battersbee believe they have been denied their rights. A lawyer would say that, having had their case looked at by a bench full of judges – all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court (twice) – their rights have been fully protected. But perhaps that is to miss the point. Archie’s parents (presumably) believe that it is the law itself that is at fault, not the decisions handed down in their case.
Compare the Eurovision audience’s delight at the banning of Russia with the behaviour of the two tennis bodies, ATP (men) and WTA (women). Both organisations currently adorn their websites with ribbons in the colours of Ukraine, but they have chosen to take action against Wimbledon for excluding Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament.
Sometimes we think we can spot a liar because of the way they behave. It’s encouraging to think that everyone displays signs, or “tells”, that might give them away when they are not speaking the truth.
In the recent plagiarism case against Ed Sheeran, the judge was faced with deciding the veracity of Sheeran’s evidence by comparing what he said at one time against what he said at another and testing both against other known facts or inferences. The judge’s thought process makes for a fascinating read but, in places, I found it thoroughly unconvincing.
Pretty much everyone seems to think the Chancellor’s wife got it wrong. But why?
When companies generate income around the world but are found to pay little tax in the UK, there is frequently an outcry that tax should be paid in the countries where the profits are generated, not the country where the company has its home. But when an individual does the same thing – the wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Akshata Murty, for example, taking advantage of the so-called “non-domicile” status – there is an outcry for the opposite to happen.
In my previous offering on these pages, I concluded with an example of two judges seeking to assert – quite unconvincingly, I suggested – that their decision in a case was simply the result of legislation enacted by Parliament. The judgment was, I thought, a rather convoluted legal analysis arriving at a result that few, if any, MPs would have contemplated or intended. My attention has since turned to another example of a senior lawyer trying to suggest that responsibility for his own reasoning lies with others.
Reading reports from the BBC, Sky News or the Guardian, one could be forgiven for thinking that the judges had ruled that the police should have allowed the vigil for Sarah Everard to go ahead. They did not.
The judges decided only that, in arriving at their decision, assorted officers at varying levels of seniority messed up in different ways over several days. The court very deliberately stopped short of saying whether a correct analysis would have resulted in a different decision. That would, I think, have required the court to hear expert evidence from doctors, epidemiologists and mathematical modellers before applying its own jurisprudential expertise.
Far better, the court decided, that such matters be left to Scotland Yard on a Thursday afternoon before the Saturday evening vigil.
I’m a big tennis fan. Back in January, I was glued to coverage of Djokovic’s thrilling on-court tussle with the Australian government. I even downloaded several of the legal documents to get a better understanding of the evolving scoreline. (I do stuff like that.) But what on earth did the Beeb think was the breaking news story yesterday?
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