The Scots Law Student

The SLS : Life and trials of learning law in Scotland

Category: General

Not to mention Westlaw searches

Yay, exams are over! All that’s left of my degree is nail biting.

And now for something completely different

H/T: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal



Ian Tomlinson – unlawfully killed

I’m currently working very hard for final exams so I’m just making a short update.

Yesterday an inquest jury unanimously found Constable Simon Harwood’s actions surrounding Ian Tomlinson’s death to be unlawful, reported in the Scotsman as “saying he ‘deliberately and intentionally’ shoved the newspaper seller to the ground. He was found to have acted illegally, recklessly and dangerously, and used ‘excessive and unreasonable’ force in hitting the man with a baton.”

They also request a thorough review of the CPS decision not to prosecute, which makes sense given that an entire lay jury agreed the actions were wrong.

In background news the Press Gazette published a report from Paul Lewis, the journalist who tracked down the eyewitness accounts and video of Ian Tomlinson being shoved to the ground, headlined “Met told us to ‘lay off’ Tomlinson story” which just doesn’t cover them in glory as an organisation.

I hope this judgment goes some way to getting the police out of this mess and that some lessons are learned for the future. There’s no need to lean on journalists to lay off stories and throw away evidence.

H/T: The Scotsman


The lack of empathy

I’m currently working on a criminal law essay which was:

  • started early enough not to be a panic (it’s worth doing this), and
  • on a question which encompasses most of everything (I was thinking that the sermon at mass yesterday was relevant)

One of the unexpected resources I’ve come across, which I won’t directly cite, was an Independent article on empathy.

The problem with “root of all evil” arguments is that it’s important to work out if the person speaking really has stumbled upon the root of all evil or if they are just a man who only has a hammer. I can’t quite make up my mind about Simon Baron-Cohen’s (cousin to that Baron-Cohen) contention that empathy (and the lack of empathy) determines basically all problems. People who put themselves in other peoples’ shoes don’t hurt other people.

I think that’s partly obvious but partly things are more complicated than that. I can put myself in others’ shoes reasonably well but I still hurt people (more than I’d like, frankly) so I don’t think I can put it down to being exposed to too much testosterone in the womb. Empathy is a tricky thing to make into a characteristic and I have a feeling that empathy is something you do rather than something you just have.

I have a well developed fear of heights and every time I climb somewhere high I can feel myself working out what it would take to fall off. In fact the way that I can climb anything is by obeying a mental “precariousness limit” and I find that sounds sane enough that I suspect everyone stops climbing when it feels too precarious. I wonder if I do a similar, unconscious, thinking process for empathy — I don’t pull the legs off flies because I’ve worked out that must hurt.

Disappointingly the article mainly focuses on the newsworthy examples – psychopaths – rather than the interesting cases – overly empathetic people – and it’s a tale of slavery and Nazis for the most part. I’d like to see why deeply empathetic people (level six empathy) can still do bad things.

H/T: Rock, Paper, Shotgun



On words

“A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstances in which it is used”

Holmes J, Town v Eisner 245 US 418

Egypt suspends constitution

There is a lot of attention being paid to Egypt just now, and for very good reason. One of the more startling events recently is that the military have stepped in following the resignation of the, nominally, elected president after 30 years of rule.

In a situation that is probably more the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend than anything else Ayman Nour, an opposition leader who was jailed in 2005 after challenging for the presidency said, “It is a victory for the revolution.”

I have watched enough military coups in various countries around to have a reaction of “uh oh” whenever a military regime sets itself up. It is rarely a good thing when generals sweep in, dissolve the parliament and suspend the constitution.

Based on that it is very unusual to see the actions of the military being welcomed and this probably says more about the perception of Mubarak’s reign more than anything else could. They claim that they are only going to hold power temporarily until there are elections in six months or so and I sincerely hope that is true. Only time will tell.


The problem with deathlists

Mrs Palin has been criticised by some US commentators for continually using gun imagery in a way that – as they have made perfectly clear – would not have directly influenced the Arizona murders, but were certainly not designed to make people like each other.

But in a video posted on her Facebook page, the unofficial leader of America’s Teapot movement hit back saying she had been ‘sprayed with dishonesty bullets fired from the liberal media’s .357 Magnum of unfairness and America-hating’.

Daily Mash, Palin ‘hit with dishonesty bullets from .357 Magnum of unfairness’

Today’s post is about common sense and thinking about the potential consequences of your actions. I’m not even thinking of the big ones (other people might get hurt); I’m thinking about you: you might get hurt.

There comes a time in life when you need to realise that the problem with publishing a list of 20 people and then taking the time to put cross hairs over where they live is that, when someone on that list comes to be shot, you may have some awkward questions to answer. You should of course feel free to get in the habit of drawing up deathlists but I’m just saying that kind of list can stay in a drawer at home.

What thoughtful politics looks like

It’s not that you’re responsible for the killings when the people on that list you wrote start to get picked off one by one but other people might think it’s a reasonable question to ask just, you know, given your actions with the list of names and the cross hairs and such.

It’s the old “Did you get on with the victim?” “No, I ran a national advertising campaign that published a list of names with a rifle target over hers shortly before she was shot in the head along along with 19 other people and 6 people died” liberal bias.


Sounds exhausting

A scrupulous writer in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly

– George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

That sounds difficult, are there any shortcuts?

But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.

Ah, that’s not good.


Reblog: Some (Non-Mainstream) Thoughts on the Crib Recall (via FreeRangeKids)

I strongly disagree with the idea of legislating to assuage guilt. One example that particularly got me was a ban against cords on blinds (they now have to be break away models). This was due to some highly effective lobbying by the parents of a baby who had died by being strangled by a blind cord in a freak accident.

Fundamentally, if you can call it a freak accident legislation is not necessary to deal with it.

Free Range Kids has posted about the ban on drop-side cribs. Firstly it’s a ridiculous ban, you can’t sell, re-sell or manufacture a drop sided crib in the USA. Secondly it’s because 32 children have died in the past nine years. Each one is a major tragedy for the family involved but lying in bed remains one of the safest things a human being can do.

Some (Non-Mainstream) Thoughts on the Crib Recall Hi Readers — I'm going to be blunt: The ban on the sale, resale and manufacture of all drop-side cribs does not make sense. Here's why: Over the past nine years, 32 children have died in these cribs. That is tragic. My heart sinks thinking about it.  But — and yes, there IS a but, and this "but" does not make me a heartless bean counter, or a crazed Free-Ranger who laughs in the face of danger (I am, at base, a nervous mom) — we are talking ab … Read More

via FreeRangeKids

Too discriminatory to stop

How do we know self-regulation of the media is an ineffectual farce?

This guy

The Palestinians are the pikeys of the Middle East. If they must have a homeland, give them part of Saudi Arabia, because the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Jordanians and the Lebanese don’t want them either”.… “No more hand-wringing. It’s time for neck-wringing”.

There is a lot of debate about if Richard Littlejohn is a

  1. professional troll,
  2. horrible bigot,
  3. free speech campaigner,
  4. genuinely unaware of what he’s saying.

I propose another option. Richard Littlejohn is trying to destroy the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) from the inside.

When I went to Sunday school, a million years ago, we were taught to love our neighbour.

I don’t recall ever being told that we should take an ‘eye for an eye’ literally. Or that the punishment for homosexuality was death.

Aged six, we didn’t even know what homosexuality was, even though we’d been warned to steer clear of that chap who was always hanging round the swimming pool.

A little while ago (the guy is prolific) he managed to imply that homosexuals abuse children. As a result quite a few people complained to the PCC. The PCC did not claim that what he said didn’t discriminate against homosexuals but that it merely discriminated against all homosexuals and that’s apparently ok.

The complainants were concerned that the article implied that homosexual individuals were paedophiles.

The Commission acknowledged the complainants’ concerns that the columnist had equated homosexuality with paedophilia. However, while the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) prevent newspapers from making prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s sexual orientation, it does not cover generalised remarks about groups or categories of people. Given that the complainants were concerned that the article discriminated against homosexual individuals in general, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice on these grounds.

Basically, it’s starting to look like no matter what Littlejohn writes the PCC won’t do anything. Staggeringly Richard Littlejohn is showing us that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Why do we need the PCC again?

H/T: Tabloid Watch
Enemies of Reason


This is what your licence fee pays for

It almost sounds like a Chris Morris bit- “But you were wheeling towards the police in a menacing fashion….?

I think I have a reasonable amount of chutzpah and brass neck but even I have never quite worked out how to justify dragging cerebral palsy sufferers from their wheelchairs.

I especially never quite worked out how to blame the cerebral palsy sufferer for it. But that is obviously why I don’t work for the BBC.

Seriously, you’ve likely never had a better reason to write to OfCom and the PCC than this sound investment of licence fee money:

Opinions vary widely, even on YouTube which is remarkably good at not having crazy racist comments this time, about whether this is ridiculous or not. I’m firmly in the this is ridiculous camp. Look at it, it just is.

This is 20 year old Jody “Revolutionary” McIntyre being interviewed by Ben Brown of the BBC. They show him being taken from his wheelchair by a decent sized (I’d feel pretty special with that level of attention) group of riot police and made to lie on the ground. It’s not immediately clear why they’re doing that — was he running about or something?

He is, jaw droppingly, accused of “rolling towards the police in his wheelchair” and, apparently, this being the reason that he was yanked out of the dangerous vehicle. Please God make that not be true.

It’s clearly nonsense because the guy can’t move his own wheelchair — he’s got cerebral palsy. He can’t make it roll towards anything. He’s then asked if he was throwing any bricks towards the police, which was awesome to hear from a serious journalist questioning someone with a serious disability. Does the BBC have a disability awareness policy? What happened to it?

I’m impressed that the guy never said “wait, what?” when these questions were asked and having, to reiterate that there was a bad thing that was done to him by the authorities. That is not how it usually works. When’s the last time any person complaining about mistreatment was expected to defend comments on their blog? The blog’s irrelevant; riot police don’t pull you from wheelchairs because of your blog.

A lot, an awful lot, is made of him “being a revolutionary” which was the weirdest thing of all. I really don’t think he’s a terrorist BBC, but thanks for being vigilant.

There is a perhaps unkind stereotype of police officers picking on vulnerable people because genuinely scary people are genuinely scary and it’s much safer and easier to pick on the elderly, disabled, young, foreign or some other group. I doubt it’s true on the whole (you get bad eggs sometimes) but, pro tip, this does not help shift the stereotype one bit. There were people setting fire to cars and “poking” the Duchess of Cornwall with a stick and what looks like half a dozen riot police lying a disabled 20 year old down on the pavement for “rolling towards them in his wheelchair”.

Nice try lads. Now how about catching some real criminals?