Archive for Law

Recent developments in the world of law

  • The question has been raised about whether the age of retirement for law lords should be raised by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers.  Currently, those who have been appointed since 1993 have had to retire at the age of 70.  But with judges being appointed later and later in their careers, should they be able to remain in their posts for a longer time?
  • As of June 2009, new accounting rules governing M&A transactions (mergers and acquisitions) will be put into effect, which will put commercial lawyers under further pressure to reduce their fees.  The new rules, which are designed to create greater transparency in the system, will force companies to record the fees they pay to lawyers, bankers, etc. as a separate entry in their accounts rather than simply being included in the overall price.  
  • Lord Bingham of Cornhill attacked the Bush administration for ‘cynical lack of concern for international legality’ regarding the Iraq war and the War on Terror.  He stated that there was no clear legal justification for the invasion of Iraq, and moreover criticised the legal advice of Lord Goldsmith who stated that a second UN Security Council resolution was not needed for the invasion of British troops in Iraq.  Lord Bingham cited such reasons as a serious violation of international law, which reflected deficiencies in the international sphere.
  • There could be a potential breakthrough in copyright law following a recent agreement between Google and American publishers regarding copyright issues relating to Google’s book search service.  Following proceedings being launched against Google in 2005, both parties agreed to settle out of court last month.  Providing the new settlement is approved by the courts, Google will set up a new Book Rights Registry which will allow holders of American copyrights to register their works online and receive compensation in exchange for Google’s usage of it.
  • The Law Commission has last week proposed a radical reform of bribery laws, which could make British companies liable for prosecution with regards to their activities overseas, for example for corruption or bribery.  The law will also extend to foreign nationals who live in and conduct their business in Britain. Such changes will eliminate the distinctions between private and public law in such instances, and will furthermore adopt a more hardline approach on the current laws which are unclear and uncertain.  This will therefore allow official to more effectively deal with cases such as the abandoned inquiry by the Serious Frauds Office into the BAE systems in Saudi Arabia.

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Currently interning in an immigration law firm for these past 2 weeks; has been a pretty interesting experience.  Although the workload has been slightly less than I have experienced in the past, it has given me the opportunity to spend time reading up on cases and to listen to the other lawyers advising clients over the phone as there is an advice line phone operating in the office.  

Last week I was asked to phone various DNA testing services to enquire about a paternity test that needs to be done for a father and 2 sons for immigration purposes.  The situation was that mother is in Pakistan unlike the father and sons who are in the UK, however she had signed a consent form to allow the paternity test to go ahead.  However, when I was later asked to phone one of the companies to find out if the consent forms were approved, the guy told me that the affidavit needed to be apostilled by the Pakistan High Commission for it to be valid.  Not having any clue whatsoever as to what those terms meant, he may as well have been speaking in a different language to me, but Google enlightened me considerably.  Basically from my understanding an affidavit is a statement sworn under oath.  However, this does not mean it is automatically accepted as a legal document in another society, and therefore may need to be apostilled which certifies the legalisation of the document for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents.  This is now the general requirement for most affidavits when used for cross border issues.  I’m sure this will all be very familiar to a lot of people, particular those with a knowledge of the law, but just some new terminology for me 🙂

Last Friday I was asked to deliver some bundles of documents to some barristers’ chambers.  After the inital shock of the heavy load I had to carry on to the tube with me, it quickly became a very fun experience.  Got off at Chancery Lane, first stop = Lincoln’s Inn.  It was such a beautiful place… such a kodak moment.  If only I had my camera!  Next place was Hare Court down the road.  Seeing these beautiful places made me want to be a barrister even more!!  It was just such a beautiful, fascinating place.  The next place I hope to visit next is the Royal Courts of Justice which I haven’t had the chance to see yet!

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A ‘Legal Pluralism’

I was reading the news and it was saying that apparently religious/ethnic courts are gaining momentum in the UK, which are able to enforce, for example, Somali customary law, Islamic law, and Jewish law.  The article used the term ‘legal pluralism’ to describe this.

For example, the Jewish Beth Din court hears divorce settlements, contractual rows between traders, and tenancy disputes.  Whilst they cannot force anyone to come within its jurisdiction, if someone agrees to settle a dispute in Beth Din, they are bound by English law to abide by the court’s decision, with English law recognising Beth Din as an agreed third party.

Sharia law is another controversial issue in this respect.  Currently, Islamic courts, like Jewish courts, are confined to only rule on civil matters; for example Islamic marriage/divorce and inheritance.  In this case, I wonder if allowing this system would disadvantage women, who are generally seen as inferior in these cultures?  I am sure it would not be legal if it heavily contradicted English law, however perhaps it could be leading in that direction?  For example, in some countries, an Islamic court’s punishment for adultery is death.  Whilst I am not condoning adultery, it is an unmistakable fact that it is now perceived as overall normal behaviour in Western society.  In emigrating to this country, many people, particularly 2nd generation immigrants, will adjust to the culture in the UK and settle in with the community.  So how can they then be held in court under the rulings of an ethnic court who may perceive their actions differently to that of an English court?  

I attended an LSE lecture last February entitled ‘Is Islamic Law Ethical’?  One of the questions the lecturer addressed was whether Muslim values inevitably clash with values of liberal democracies and civil societies of the west?  I do not believe that this is entirely true – the Qur’an does contain sharia, but not in any legal sense of the matter – that is a result of juristic activity.  As with many religions, including Christianity, there are always different interpretations of the text and thus, as the lecturer pointed out, sharia law cannot be said to be simply a monolithic and unequivocal expression of God’s will.

Therefore, is having a pluralised legal system within the UK really the answer?  Perhaps I am being narrow minded in this sense, but I personally feel that in a particular country people should abide by that country’s laws only; all cases should go through a normal UK court.  Perhaps instead of creating a plural legal system, the UK should instead simple take its multi-cultural nature into account in its legislation.  Even the Muslim Council of Britain says it will not support a dual legal system.

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