Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’

Rumpole exhales

Author John Mortimer on the U.K.’s new ban on smoking in pubs: “I have now been pushed by a parliamentary majority of snivelling puritans, who seek to control every moment of our lives, to increase my consumption. …The best part of it is that governmental disapproval now adds considerably to the pleasures.” (“Snivelling Puritans make me fume”, Daily Telegraph, Feb. 16).

Update: U.K. Commons revolt on bill curbing religious speech

Civil libertarians take a stand in Britain: by single-vote margins, the House of Commons has surprisingly voted to water down significantly the bill introduced by the Blair government to attach legal penalties to various types of speech critical of religion. In particular, the bill “was stripped of measures to outlaw ‘abusive and insulting’ language and behaviour as well as the crime of ‘recklessness’ in actions that incite religious hatred.” Earlier, the House of Lords had heeded protests from free-speech advocates including comedian Rowan Atkinson by lending its support to amendments to the bill. “In a humiliating blow to Mr Blair, who has a 65-seat Commons majority, 21 Labour rebels voted with Opposition MPs while at least 40 more were absent or abstained.” (David Charter, “Religious hate Bill lost after Blair fails to vote”, The Times, Feb. 1; Greg Hurst and David Charter, “Racial hatred Bill threatens our civil liberties, say rebels”, Feb. 1; Greg Hurst and Ruth Gledhill , “How comic’s supporters kept their heads down and used their cunning”, Feb. 2). Earlier coverage: Jul. 16, 2004; Jun. 11, Jun. 27, Aug. 17, Oct. 19, and Oct. 29, 2005.

The Blair government’s primary motivation for the bill is considered to be to cater to the sensitivities of British Muslims, and many commentators (such as Charles Moore) make the obvious connection with the situation in Denmark (see Feb. 1). Meanwhile, violent threats continue against Danes, cartoonists, and liberal-minded Europeans generally. And some 500 lawyers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are supporting a project “to take legal action against” those who insult or demean the founder of their religion with one goal being “to enact laws that would incriminate abuse of religions and prophets in all countries,” as a spokesman puts it. (P.K. Abdul Ghafour & Abdul Maqsood Mirza, “Lawyers Vow Legal Action in Cartoons Row”, Arab News, Feb. 4). Michelle Malkin has much, much more (plus this).

Torchlight procession? Try glowsticks

Officials in Looe, England, “have told organizers of a traditional nighttime Christmas procession to replace flaming torches with glow sticks.” The procession, a 20-year tradition, attracts about 500 people. “Local officials said they feared they might be sued if there was an accident caused by the torches, so they paid about $600 for 500 glow sticks. ‘It’s an absolute joke,’ said John Andrews. ‘How can you have a torchlight procession with glow sticks? We’ll be the laughing stock of the county.'” (“U.K. torchlight possession bans flames”, UPI, Nov. 19)(via van Bakel).

One QC’s view

Distinguished British lawyer Arthur Marriott QC, as quoted by Richard Ackland in the Sydney Morning Herald, and perhaps not entirely irrelevant to the situation in some other countries too:

The great ideas to assist the poor and bring about access to justice, such as the introduction of legal aid, have been met with an explosion in the number of lawyers. Other schemes such as no win-no fees encourage predatory lawyering. The payment of lawyers on a time basis does not provide an incentive for the efficient conduct of trials. And finally, efforts to reform the litigation system have systematically been sabotaged and wrecked by lawyers. As Napoleon said, the administration of justice is too important to be left to lawyers.

(“The rise and rise of the predatory lawyer”, Nov. 18).

U.K.: “over-promoted” bodyguard wins $50K

While on the subject of Britain: “A black police bodyguard who protected the Duchess of Cornwall has won [A]$70,000 compensation [roughly U.S. $53,000] after suing Scotland Yard for ‘over-promoting’ him because of political correctness.” Sgt. Leslie Turner’s “representatives argued he landed the prestigious job as Camilla’s bodyguard only because he was black. It was claimed that as a result of being over-promoted and not receiving proper training and support, Sgt Turner made mistakes which led to him being re-assigned….Had Sgt Turner’s case reached a tribunal, potentially embarrassing secrets about Charles and Camilla’s lives may have been aired.” (“Camilla’s protector paid out”, Daily Mail/Melbourne Herald Sun, Jan. 8)(via Taranto). Writes Gary Collard at SarcastiPundit (Jan. 10), “The amazing thing is that it wasn’t a US trial lawyer who first thought of this.”

Most dubious public-liability claims

A list from Britain includes “a bin man who made a claim against his council after being ‘startled’ by a dead badger which fell out of a bag, a shoplifter who sued because she fell down stairs while running from the scene of a crime, and a motorist who claimed he did not see a traffic roundabout in daylight – despite there being a large tree in the middle.” (Patrick Barkham, “The wronged trousers, and other scams”, The Guardian, Jan. 3; “Dubious insurance claims ‘rising'”, BBC, Jan. 2).

Update: Richard Branson not the only Virgin

News from Australia: “A Federal Court judge dismissed the conglomerate’s application to ban a small businesswoman from using the word ‘virgin’ in the name of her internet service provider and website-developing business, and lambasted Virgin for dumping ‘an ocean of unnecessary and unhelpful material’ on the court.” (Vanda Carson, “Branson loses his Virginity”, Dec. 27). For other far-reaching claims by Branson’s company to uses of the word “Virgin”, see Jul. 29.

Update: UK fun licensing

Despite warnings that it could imperil the livelihood of musicians, Punch-and-Judy stalls, buskers and traveling entertainers generally (see Apr. 1, 2004), the British government in November put into effect new regulations requiring licensing of temporary public amusements. Now the Guardian reports that critics’ predictions are coming true, as the rules have begun to strain smaller circuses, neighborhood music venues hosting jazz or ethnic music, street artists and charity Christmas carolers. “The only exemptions were for morris dancing, travelling fairgrounds and garden fetes.” (Mark Honigsbaum, “Circus performers get caught in the act”, The Guardian, Dec. 28).