A Short Guide to the Legal Position of Fracking

Extracting natural gas from shale – fracking – is an investment opportunity, an opportunity for a nation that has shale gas deposits to be more energy independent, and could bring environmental benefits if natural gas replaces coal for electricity generation. There are, however, many legal issues involved and what follows is a short guide to those issues as I understand them. Continue reading

Desmond Tutu Is Right – We Cannot be Selective about Justice

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a good man who has won the Nobel peace prize (one of the Nobel Committee’s better decisions) and who is not afraid to speak his mind. There are many offensive things to the good, as well as many pleasant and happy things. One of the most offensive things is hypocrisy. Mr Tutu, who last month refused to share a speaking platform with Tony Blair, has now suggested that Mr Blair and Mr Bush should stand trial at the International Criminal Court for starting the war against Iraq. Continue reading

Making Meaningful Rules

Politicians never learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. They also waste their time and our money preparing statements of policy and law which are no more than pious hopes. The latest is a proposal that local authorities (municipalities) in the United Kingdom should have a statutory duty to combat climate change. This, to my mind, falls within the same class of useless legislation as, for example, the statutory duty that the government has to abolish fuel poverty or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by so much by a certain date. These are laws or proposed laws that have no penalty for the breach of them and serve no purpose Continue reading

Perverting the Course of Justice

When I was a very young lawyer I as part of my duties I attended and observed a trial of policemen who were charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. One of the policemen was Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher. I attended the trial almost every day, and for the days when I did not attend, I read transcripts of the day’s proceedings and analysed them. D/S Pilcher was, at the time that the charge against him was concerned, running the Drugs Squad at Scotland Yard and was in the habit of arresting famous rock musicians, some of whom alleged that he planted evidence against them. Continue reading

We will do it because we can!

If in the 1960s a government had proposed that every person who wrote a letter had to, before posting it, file details of their name and address and provide details of the person to whom they sent the letters, and deposit a photostatic copy of the letter, which the government would not open without permission from a judge, the hippies and the establishment would have united to prevent such a plan. It would not matter how much the Home Secretary protested that the plan was to prevent the IRA blowing us all up and prevent organised criminals like the Krays from operating it would not have been enacted. Continue reading

Whisper who dares: Bideford Council is saying its prayers

When someone becomes a High Court Judge in England and Wales the appointment is usually of someone who has great legal intellect. The best of Judges are able to summarise great principles of law in a few words. The law is littered with complex doctrines which are explained in pithy sentences. There are all the maxims of equity, which a layman can understand, for example “he who seeks equity must do equity”. It is a well expressed statement of the law. Continue reading

Freedom of Speech

I am shocked and appalled that it is now an offence in the United Kingdom to distribute pamphlets entitled “Death penalty?” suggesting that homosexuality should be criminalised (perhaps I should say re-criminalised) and that homosexuals should be subject to the death penalty or some other punishment. There is a strong tradition of pamphleteering in this country and prosecuting pamphleteers was a field sport that I thought had become obsolete, but for governments anxious to control the moral behaviour of the governed old habits die hard . Continue reading