Rule of Law, not Mob Rule

Now, more than ever, we need the judiciary to stand up to the political pressures of the executive branch of government. David Cameron has just voiced his support for the measures taken by Wandsworth Council to evict the family of a defendant charged with offences relating to the riots that took place this week. If the judiciary is to maintain any credibility at all, it must stand up and strike this down.

Reaction to the riots has been both understandable and predictable. The “bring back hanging” brigade have had time while the dust settles to kick up a fuss, and magistrates have used the riots as an “aggravating factor” to justify sending defendants to the crown court for tougher sentencing. This in itself is not a major issue, but we have to hope that this is nota symptom of systemic acceptance that public opinion and political pressure should play a role in the judicial process. It should not.

What’s the problem? There are several issues with Call-me-Dave and Wandsworth Council’s apparent tough stance on the riots. Firstly, and most obviously, this would be a double-punishment. The individual in question is in court facing judgment – criminal punishment should be a proportionate deterrent response taking into account the mitigating and aggravating factors about the crime. Furthermore, the rule of law dictates that punishment should only be administered once. This legal principle is as old as the hills and is the heart of the famous “double jeopardy” laws which crop up in the media from time to time – the guiding principle is that nobody should face the criminal law for the same alleged conduct twice.

Political divides debate the acceptable scale of punishment along hackneyed lines, but all sides (largely) agree that once you have been punished, that’s it. It is a criminal’s “debt to society”, and debts are only paid once. The problem with evicting a criminal from their council accommodation is that this is a secondary punishment. This wouldn’t matter, or at least it would matter less, if it was a universal punishment – we are all familiar with the idea that crimes can attract a custodial sentence and a fine, for instance – the problem is that the sentence is not imposed by the courts under law. It is a different governmental branch using powers not conveyed on it by statute to inflict a secondary, arbitrary punishment which lacks precedent and principle.

Secondly, the punishment is to be inflicted on the suspect’s family. This too falls foul of the rule of law and the principle of individual autonomy and criminal responsibility. It has long been a Daily Mail cliché that we should “blame the parents” in these situations, but that a large number of right-wing people hold this as dogma does not make this a sound legal principle. Should young people convicted of theft be given sentences and their parents forced to repay the victim from their own income? Personal responsibility is taken for granted in the criminal law, which has a presumption of sanity and refuses to permit the defence of duress to a murder charge. “Take responsibility for your own actions!” demands the criminal law, “blame the benefit-sponging parents!” cry the tabloids. As we have seen over the past months, the “responsible media”, at least as far as tabloids go, is a mythological construct. There is no legal, moral or other basis for imposing punishment on the family of the suspect. It is knee-jerk, it is illogical, it is a populist outcry from a politician who has very little mettle to back up his sound bites and airbrushing.

A third issue, and the final one that I want to cover, is closely linked to the first. Since this is not a judicial punishment imposed by a court, there is no way of standardising the sanction. This may sound obvious, but rich people do not live in council houses. There is, therefore, a disparity in the punishment being handed out to the poor and the rich. This is nothing more than we have come to expect from this government, and it is why we need a judicial stand to be taken, to dismiss in the strongest possible terms the eviction notice that has been issued by Wandsworth Council. The rioters were not, as many believe, benefit scroungers after a new telly and an ipad – their ranks included the daughter of a millionaire (try taking her parents’ property away from them and see where that lands you) an army recruit and a white-collar call centre worker. This punishment is not fair and it is not proportionate. Once again, it is against the rule of law.

So why does the rule of law even matter? It matters because it is what gives our judicial system credibility worldwide. By enshrining the right to a fair trial, equality before the law (a noble goal alas made all the more difficult thanks to the Tory attack on legal aid) and by seeking to balance the competing interests of certainty and flexibility, our legal system is looked upon approvingly by the rest of the civilised world. This punishment fails to respect the rule of law in so many ways that it simply cannot stand.

I only hope we’re in for one of Dave’s famous U-turns. If not, it could leave our legal credibility in tatters and further damage our international reputation, already marred by the troubles.


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The value of Lexacquila

Well, today’s exam day but naturally I’m more concerned about the damn football situation than I am about passing these exams. Latest news is that £20m is going to be spent on a young lad from Wearside as a reward for him kicking a ball in a particular fashion which is liked by another man on Merseyside. Jordan Henderson is, I believe, only 20 or 21 years old. This means that since he’s been born, he has accrued about £1m of value every year. I tried to work out what my own personal value would be in real terms. In line with the acquisitions mantra that a company is worth “what a buyer is prepared to pay”, I’ve considered a few different means of valuing myself. With nothing but a framework for valuation, hundreds of baseless assumptions and a lot of questionable mathematics, I’ve taken the results, averaged them up and come up with my “net worth” to society.

Method 1 – The “Kicking a Football” method of valuation

They reckon that to reach your potential, you need to have 10,000 hours of coaching behind you. Now, since I was a young lad I’ve had maybe a grand total of 100 hours of coaching. At least 50 of those were in the back garden with my dad, though (who hasn’t yet earned his coaching badges) so I’m knocking off 50% of those hours to make a total of 75 hours all told. That’s 0.75% of my potential realised. Now, I can get on the bench of the College of Law’s football team with that rating. If we assume that the standard of football doubles every league you go up, and that we’re about 12 leagues off the top, it means my standard has to go up 2^12 or 8,192 times to be premier league football sub material. Since I’ll reach that level after just 6144 more hours of coaching, it’s fair to say that I can look to at least be a starter. Of course, that’ll rely on me doing that much training. Assuming footballers do about 20 hours of training a week, that means in just over 307 weeks, I could be a top premier league footballer. Since the season’s only 40 weeks-odd long, dividing that it means I’ll be top level in just over 7 and a half years.

Jordan Henderson is arguably worth £5m the way he plays at the moment, but the difference is that he’s expected to become a better player in a season or two’s time. Given that I have the potential to reach premier league level in just 6,144 hours of coaching, and therefore won’t even be at my peak, let’s say that my base cost when I do peak will be around the Christiano Ronaldo level of £80m. Henderson is being bought for £20m based on his potential, so let’s assume that’s what they think his value will be in two seasons’ time. Given the time that I’ll take to peak, it’s a fair bet that my value will increase at 2/7 the rate Jordan Henderson’s increases, towards an £80m peak. Jordan Henderson is going up at double each season (£5m to £10m to £20m), so my rate will be 2/7 of 200% – 57% a year. Working backwards from £80m, that means that my value after 6 seasons will be £51m and so on until we work back to today and come to my current value – £3.4 million.

VALUE – £3,400,000


Method 2 – Debt free/cash free


This is a method of valuing a company before a valuation based upon what someone would pay for the company if it had no debt and no cash (basically). It’s a method of looking at a company and saying what are we prepared to pay to get the company, as it is, with no cash and no liabilities attached. Applying this to me, if I was just a hobo on the street with no money, but no student loan to repay, what would I be worth? Well, I’ve had £20,000 worth of legal training, so that’s got to count for something. I can also play the violin to the extent that I could earn at least £5 p/h if I charged to stay quiet. As an investment, I’d say that for 10% of future earnings someone would be prepared to pay, maybe, £150,050.10 for me on the assumption I’ll probably be working til I’m 70, so should be able to make good on that return (working as a lawyer on weekdays, and playing violin at the weekends). Given this figure it seems logical to assume, then, that for 100% they’d pay £1,500,501.00. Simple maths, isn’t it?

VALUE – £1,500,501


Method 3 – Assets-based valuation

This is based entirely on what a company’s assets are worth. Since that kid inAsiasold a kidney for an ipad 2 and a laptop (about £850 for argument’s sake) I could sell both of them for £1,500 (bulk discount). There’s not much market for lungs, so I’ll donate them to a worthy cause (tax deductible!) I can probably sell my liver – donor livers are fewer on the ground than kidneys, so lets assume that’ll be the same value as both kidneys so that we’re up to £3,000. my heart’s got to be worth something to an old-school satanic cult, so call it £100 for that, my ears can be cured for dog treats – £3.50 apiece, and my teeth aren’t great, but they’d make a great set of discount dentures (£30, lets say). I could sell my wardrobe for the best part of twenty quid (most of that for the amusing t-shirts) and my violins would fetch about £600 second hand bought together. My laptop’s pretty much scrap, my DVD collection could go for maybe £45 (.50 a DVD) so all told that makes…

VALUE – £3,802


Now, taking these all into account (and since they’re all such accurate and fair representations of a person’s worth it’d be folly not to)  my average worth to society is…


Not bad! I wonder if I could sell the equity in myself to someone to fund a new laptop…



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Who’d win in a fight…

During my exam today I found myself wishing that I could control time. It got me thinking, just what is the best superpower? I should probably have been focussing on the exam in front of me, but I personally think I spent the time much more productively like this.


1. Time control


As this was the first one I considered (unless I actually *do* control time and it was actually the third one I considered) it seems natural to put it here. Firstly, defining our terms, by “control” of time I mean the ability to move backwards (not forwards) in time, slow time down or pause it (think of it like watching TV with a sky box, you can’t go past where the live TV is at but before that it’s fair game). Obviously, going back too far would have serious causality issues so I’m going to limit it to, say, an hour or two. Now, this may well be one of the most powerful superpowers you could have. It’d be possible to go back to save loved ones’ lives, perform under pressure at a much more relaxed pace, and make a killing on sports accumulators and the lottery. The problem with it is there doesn’t seem to be too much practical you could do to actually protect the public, fight crime or any of that malarkey. After all, assuming your abilities don’t actually improve and that if you die you die and can’t go back to change it… it’s a bit rubbish for anything other than personal gain really. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. There is of course the danger of premature aging if used to excess, too, as well as the normal clichéd consequences of time travel. Nevertheless, metaphysical dilemmas aside, the novelty would take a long time to wear off.


2. Flight 

This is one of the most popular superpowers people choose but I don’t think they’re thinking it through properly. Think about it, what do you actually get? Assuming this just gives you the ability to fly (I’m talking fast flight, but by no means supersonic) what would you actually do with it? Of course the first thing you would do would be fly around the world, right? Well you’d better wrap up warm – it’s cold up there in the air. Even when the temperature problem is sorted, what about food? I can’t go a two hour flight without being desperate to nibble on a bag of peanuts, and that’s without me doing the actual flying part. What happens when you get peckish over theAtlantic?  No thank you. That’s not even getting into the hassle that checking the flight patterns would cause. Bird strike was not the way I thought I’d go…


3. Invisibility


Good old fashioned invisibility. We’re not talking incorporeal here but the ability to turn on and off your visual presence. This would be a pretty cool one here, though there are a number of potential problems. The most obvious being the old chestnut of “will my clothes turn invisible too?” assuming the answer to that is ‘yes’ there’s still the possibility of an awkward moment or two when you’re spying on your friends and knock something over. Other than that there’s the danger that you forget you’re invisible and try to cross the road at a zebra crossing…


4. X Ray Vision


Seriously, who came up with the idea of this as a superpower? “Oh, wow. I see a skeleton… again.” Not to mention the fact that you’d keep bumping into walls, you’d be unable to see anything that wasn’t lead or bone, and anyone that you looked at more than a few times a year would be at risk of developing cancer… 

Worst “superpower” ever. 

5. Mind Control


Now we’re talking. I’m talking the ability to read people like the proverbial book, use the power of suggestion to put them to sleep, or make them work for you. Basically, we’re talking being Derren Brown here. This has to be the best option. Stop crime? You’ve got it. Just get the bad guys to renounce their evil ways. Need a mortgage? Look into my eyes, bank manager… There’s also nice scope here for you to go on an evil rampage and take over the world. The great thing about it, too, would be that you could make everyone think that it was their idea. Power, wealth, fortune… and unbeatable at Trivial Pursuit. Magic.



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Lexacquila v Advertising: Round two – Grammar

I can’t work out if I’m getting smarter, the world is getting dumber, or whether it’s always been this bad. It upsets me that in the age of virtually limitless information available at our fingertips, the people paid to grab our attention are such flipping numskulls.


Now, I’m not a linguistic purist per se – I use hyphens when I should really use brackets, for instance – but simple spelling and simple grammar really really need to be taught better in class. Why is it that reasonably intelligent people become gibbering imbeciles when faced with a keyboard, phone or other piece of technology? It seems to be the modus operandi for anybody under the age of 18 using technology to abbreviate “you” to “u”, “thanks” (itself an abbreviation) to “thanx” or worse, “fanks”, and a plethora of even more spine-chillingly inept uses of our beloved language.


I can cope with some abbreviations. I’m not averse to the odd “lol” simply because it’s hard to impart a sense of mild amusement without using onomatopoeic expressions such as “ha ha” or “chortle” which are, if anything, even worse. Incidentally, I don’t buy the argument that they aren’t necessary because people coped before the development of electronic telecommunications without using them, largely because you would never send a courier on horseback half-way across the country with a piece of paper saying “lol” on it.


That being said, there is a time and a place. Back in the early naughties it was understandable – you only had a couple of hundred characters to play with and texts were about 10p each, space was precious, but even then there are limits. Getting a text even back then that said “k. C u der” would make my blood boil. It’s just flaming rude. What that says to me is “your time is less valuable than my time. I could put that in English, but that would take precious seconds when I could be ‘lol’ing at someone else. I’d rather you spent the time translating at your end because you clearly have nothing better to do.” The odd “u” in the place of “you” when you’re on the cusp of your limit is just about ok, but even then, I prefer to go back and cut words out elsewhere. I can’t see the letter “u” being used as a word without a cold, clammy fear that someday, there will exist a generation of people that genuinely believe this is right. For goodness sake, the first generation of young people who grew up with mobiles are at the age when they’re going to become teachers! Imagine the first time a parent gets their kid’s report card back and it says “mus tri 2 b beta. U hav not tot ur kid vg”. Even more worrying, imagine the first time a parent gets that report card and doesn’t bat a goddamn eyelid.


Because* it’s people in positions of authority bastardising the English language that I fear the most. When I see, for instance, an advert on mugbook telling me that “there is a women out there for you” I want to go back in time and throttle the grandmother who spawned such a line of feckless idiots. There is a women? I can be having this women? Crikey, these are people who have jobs in advertising. They are being paid to attract attention – well they’ve bloody attracted mine and no mistake. Things being on websites gives things a sense of authority (at least I hope so, otherwise this rant is just a stream of consciousness which has no impact on real life! Oh, wait…) and it’s that sense of authority which legitimises such awful, awful use of the language. People seem to take a bit of naïve pride in being idiots – consider:

“I was never any good at maths”

“I’m not much of a reader”

“I don’t get all that science-y stuff…”


Now if that’s true, that’s fair enough. I wasn’t terribly good at PE, but I accept that. I’m not proud of it! We’ve all met someone who’s said one of the above with a shameful pride in their own ignorance. To me that’s tantamount to admitting:

“I never could make it to the bathroom without soiling myself!”

“I’ve never given a woman an orgasm in bed!”

“I’m an opinionated moron who lets the Daily Mail do my thinking for me!”


Now for some people one or more will be true (an unhealthy proportion of the population in the latter case, I’d imagine…) but there’s more social stigma attached to admitting these kind of things. Why? Why can ignorance ever be acceptable? The only possible answer is that it’s easier to be proud of your ignorance than to do something about it, and that’s shameful.




*Never start a sentence with because.**

**4 NE1 hu dont no, dat meens dont strt a txt wif da word bcuz! Lolol.


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Stop CafePestering me…

Ok, what the hell.


I made the mistake earlier in the day of clicking on an Ad for a CafePress t-shirt that I liked, and they’ve been following me around ever since like some kind of crazy advertising-ninjas. I wish I knew whether the advertising they’re paying for is per-click, because if it is, I’m going to bankrupt the scumbags. CafePress wants to sell me t-shirts? Fine, I’ll bite… 700,000 times. And I won’t even buy a bloody t-shirt from you at the end of it. Even if they earn £.01 per-click that’s still going to hurt them – seven grand must be at least twelve t-shirts worth of profit to them…

Can you imagine if advertising followed you around in real life? If I went in to Boots to buy some shower gel and some bloody berk in a sandwich board followed me round suggesting other shower gels that I might like to try, I’d probably follow him home at night, ring his doorbell, smack him in the face, leave, and come back every night to post leaflets through his door about “other bodily harms that he might like to experience”.

Who the hell writes the advertising regulations for the internet, because whoever they are, they need to take a good, long look at the kind of idiot-fleecing they’re permitting. Normally, I’m all for letting idiots get themselves fleeced (anyone who can genuinely think they’ve been the millionth visitor to 12 different websites in one day frankly deserves everything they get) but by preying on the idiot majority the relatively sensible, cynical and suggestion-proof minority of people have to cope with thousands of adverts for weight loss methods featured on the BBC (probably the One Show) or for a secret a Mom discovered that dentists don’t want you to know.

What, now the dentists are conspiring to maintain the façade that dentistry is a hard discipline requiring many years of gruelling training? How can that be, when one mom (who probably earned $5000 a month from home, too) knows that the entire secret to their profession is to gargle a bloody bottle of Domestos after cleaning your teeth? This is bigger than Watergate! I must know the truth RIGHT NOW!





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