The Scots Law Student

The SLS : Life and trials of learning law in Scotland

Tag: Guardian

Tesco price checking

It’s hard to overstate how important good information is in business and this applies equally to why Masters of the Universe are tempted to go in for insider trading as it does why we have Go Compare adverts.


This is not here for its musical chops

The competition for supermarkets in Britain is pretty limited and customers have a particular disadvantage here.

The only solution to this is to sit down and try to address the information disadvantage. There’s various ways of doing this and one way is to do primary research. Unfortunately, canvassing all products in all supermarkets in a reasonable amount of time is a massive task and, being give-up-your-day-job labour intensive, it won’t save you much money. It has only just become practical to do it this way because the internet, of course, has made it practical to crowdsource supermarket comparison shopping. Suddenly everyone can share small samples of prices that they found while going about their lives and combine them together into a database.

Supermarkets, as rational actors, do not like this. So much so that they have taken some big steps to stomping it out. People writing in notepads or taking pictures of shelves have been asked to leave stores because it’s against the law.

The Guardian comments come to our aid here:

Just for the avoidance of doubt, in legal terms this is what is technically known as ABSOLUTE BALLS.

The interesting thing is the Tesco staff quoted in the article’s approach to this. They explicitly say that you are allowed to track the prices of things you buy but not things still in the store. This is naturally a fantastic option for Tesco.

H/T: The Guardian

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Masterclass: How to keeping digging when in a hole

The police officer connected with the death of Ian Tomlinson during Operation Glencoe in 2009 has given evidence about his role in the event.

My principle reaction to Tomlinson’s death was that, regardless of what really happened that day, the authorities couldn’t have made themselves look guiltier if they tried — they seem to choose the dodgiest pathologist available to examine him, drew out investigations, refused to bring charges that were in time  and missed deadlines to bring others — and I expected the people involved to really pull out the stops in proving that there’s not a huge conspiracy involving the CPS and the Met ganging up to kill random members of the public going on here. This new evidence suggests they’re not even trying.

In particular, The Guardian reports that there was a sequence of questions designed to clarify the differences between the initial statement that the officer gave at the time and the photos and videos that emerged of the event.

Video footage and photographs shown to the jury, however, appeared to cast doubt on many aspects of Harwood’s account of the incident.

Asked whether he stood by his initial account of what had happened, Harwood appeared to struggle. The judge, Peter Thornton QC, who is an acting deputy coroner, interrupted to clarify matters.

“At the time I wrote this, I thought I fell to the floor,” said Harwood.

“At the time I wrote this, I thought I fell to the floor” ? This is a police officer who has had two years to get his story straight. That’s not acceptable for someone in a position of executive power in a first world country. He’s either lying about it for some reason[1], which we cannot have in the police, or he’s not got the brains to know when he falls over and we don’t particularly want that in the police either.

The judge seems to screw down the lid a bit more:

“Do you now accept that this is not correct?” the judge asked. “Yes,” Harwood replied.

“That you lost your baton – that is not correct?” the judge asked. “Yes,” Harwood replied.

“That you received a blow to the head – that is not correct?” the judge asked. “Yes,” Harwood replied.

“And that there were violent and dangerous confrontations – that is not correct?” the judge asked. “Yes,” Harwood replied.

When asked why he made so many errors in his account he could only manage a wimpy:

“Because at the time that is what I believed happened, from the information I had, that is what I believed happened to me.”

I frankly expect a better class of suspended-pending-investigation copper in my country. I can only wonder what the jury is making of this.

H/T: The Guardian

[1]. The next question is why did he say these “not correct” things?

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The human cost of control orders

There is a tremendous story in today’s Guardian about two men, best friends, sitting outside one of their homes talking, drinking and eating snacks.

They cannot go inside.

One of the men lives under a house arrest condition and the other is the juror who. along with 11 other people during a seven month long trial, decided that he was guilty of precisely nothing.

It’s a tragically beautiful story involving quite remarkable sacrifice — Lawrence Archer has voluntarily registered himself as a “known associate of terrorists” to be an approved visitor to the home of Mouloud Sihali who has spent the past decade being pursued by the authorities for various things he’s pretty clearly not done at massive personal cost (20 hour curfews, allowed only approved visitors etc).

The reason they met was that the jury, having sat through half a year of evidence about the guy and deciding nothing was criminal, felt that its acquittal was being ignored by the authorities and they sought the exonerated people out to make their views heard. The awesome thing is that the foreman and the man in the dock immediately hit it off.

The jury found themselves facing a situation where their assumptions about the security services were shaken as they faced the wrong end of the authorities.

Before the ricin trial, Archer was almost entirely apolitical, but seeing the criminal justice system at close hand has transformed him into a vocal critic of the use of secret evidence against terror suspects. “I’ve become much, much more cynical about the way the government and security services operate,” he says. Archer also speaks from experience. Once when he was sitting on Sihali’s porch, a team of immigration officials arrived and demanded his name and address. “It was as if I’d gone from being an upstanding citizen to being suspicious. That was quite nasty.”

In the Guardian.

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If someone kills me I want someone to check why

I’m politically liberal, I believe in a small state and I believe in the right to autonomy. Therefore, you’d assume, I’d be one of those wondering “how could a bereaved mother [Kay Gilderdale] be put through the agony of a trial for attempted murder?”

In fact, I think one of the most vital things that the state should limit itself to doing is, when it finds one citizen attempting to end the life of another, to come along and ask in a comically plummy voice, “what’s going on here then?”

I was reading Gilderdale’s trial was horrific but necessary to retain a vital principle – Madeline Bunting in today’s Guardian and thought that she was really spot on. I have my own issues with assisted suicide but I think her observations are vitally important too, particularly in that it’s important not to subtly (or not) encourage people to end their own lives. I’d hope you wouldn’t tell a man on a bridge to jump, so you wouldn’t do it to an elderly relative either.

I think calls that the Gilderdale trial was a mistake are entirely wrong. I think that we need to be careful to watch who we put on trial but if someone is connected with the suspicious, non-natural death of a human being (let’s hypothetically say my death) they should damn well have to explain what they were doing. People who try to end others’ lives are not the sort of people we need to keep out of court. I don’t like the idea of accepting things which let you kill people – I don’t think it ends well.

I think if you kill someone in self defence you should have to show that it was self defence, if you were provoked you should have to show that you were provoked. Self defence lets you get away with murder, we really need to be careful with that. I think if someone claims they killed someone to end their suffering they should equally have to show that they did it to end their suffering and regardless, because every single murder victim in history was going to die eventually anyway, if they were actually OK with living in suffering that should never ever be a defence.

The problem with all of homicide defences based on the victim’s conduct (self defence, battered wife syndrome, assisted suicide etc) is that it is very hard to get the victim’s side of things afterwards. It’s hard to say you didn’t hit your wife after your murder, for example, and it’s also hard to say you didn’t consent to your death. If someone wishes to escape responsibility on the basis that you wanted to die and they were only carrying out your wishes I would humbly want someone to check that out.

We don’t have a legal right to die, we have an absolute certainty to it. What we do have is a right to life. If someone dies, potentially in very violent circumstances, it is a big deal and we should accept that. There are many reason that a carer might kill their patient, or even a mother might kill her daughter which have nothing to do with dignity or choice or love or anything else that is good.

I would hate for my murderer to get off because I was sick. Don’t just take their word for it.

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Woman dismissed from jury for Facebook postings

There was a short piece in Monday’s Guardian:

Juror shares trial details on Facebook

“A female juror was dismissed from a trial after posting details of the case on Facebook and asking friends whether they thought the defendants were guilty.

The woman went against strict rules forbidding jurors from discussing cases with family and friends by posting details of the sexual assault and child abduction trial on the social networking site.”

I think a number of issues are quite salient here – firstly it’s the seriousness of the case, I don’t like the connections that the two charges conjure up personally and I think it’s pretty horrible if she was posting this. Especially since the regular media would be working with a child protection restriction due to the age of the victim. Secondly it’s the fact that she was asking for other peoples’ opinions on the case. Think about the ramifications of this – for a few, short hours or days there was a poll on Facebook that actually meant something. This is a very unusual state of affairs indeed.

The next issue is the effect that the additional scale of democracy would have had on the legitimacy of that trial – if 12 peers is enough to convict a person of a crime, then what does 100 votes on the matter mean?

While it’s clear that there is no way that the people from Facebook would have had the information required to make any sort of reasoned judgement it’s an interesting thought – benches of 5 judges produce more persuasive case law that judges sitting alone, does this extend to juries too?

Facebook, Jurors and the Veil (Law Actually)