This blog posting represents the views of the author, David Fosberry. Those opinions may change over time. They do not constitute an expert legal or financial opinion.

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Kevin Spacey Gets Screwed By US Court.

Posted on 7th August 2022

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Whilst I am in no sense an apologist for Kevin Spacey, I feel that the court case reported on by the BBC is rather unfair on him.

Mr. Spacey was the star of the hit TV show "House of Cards" when the press found out about his various sexual misdemeanors. As a result, the producers of the show decided that they had to remove him from the show (probably a good call). On Thursday a court in Los Angeles awarded MRC (the production company) $31m for the costs of that removal.

Kevin Spacey began his illegal and inappropriate activities before he signed the contract with MRC. Although knowledge of this was not at that time in the public domain, it was generally privately known (or at least suspected) in the industry, so MRC got into the contract with there eyes open; they took a calculated risk, but when it all turned to doggy dos, they demanded compensation. That is not how the law is meant to work. If there is genuinely unknown and undisclosed information when a contract is signed, one can expect to be compensated, but when the issues are known (even if not provable at the time), the risk belongs to the party that suffered the loss. MRC was making lots of money from "House of Cards", and hoped that would continue; they gambled, and lost, and should bear the costs themselves.

This case sets a dangerous precedent for future compensation cases.

Is This Data Privacy Ruling Correct?

Posted on 24th May 2022

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I find this decision by the UK's Privacy Watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), reported here by the BBC, to be quite bizarre. Clearview AI has been fined more than £7.5m for collecting and using public data (more than 20 billion facial photographs and names) in their facial recognition database.

Whilst I am no fan of facial recognition databases, I find it odd that a company can be punished for collecting and using publicly available data. Once something is published, protections under copyright and privacy regulations are usually very limited. For example, if you upload your photos to Facebook, you have granted Facebook (Meta) ownership of the copyright of your photos (which is why I no longer upload my photos to Facebook); the same applies to many other social media platforms.

I would not be surprised if this decision was successfully challenged.

Germany Is Fed Up With Paying Compensation For World War II.

Posted on 1st May 2022

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According to this report on the BBC, Germany is taking Italy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to stop Italian courts hearing cases for compensation for Nazi war crimes during World War II, and to prevent those courts from seizing properties in Rome owned by the German government to finance any resulting compensation payments.

I can understand the German position: there was a huge war-crimes trial in Nuremberg to determine blame, and since then Germany has paid billions in compensation. Germans still feel huge guilt for WWII, but are done with paying compensation. There was an ICJ ruling in 2012 that that determined civil claims by Nazi victims could not be brought against Germany in non-German courts (a few more details about that ICJ ruling can be found here, on Euronews), but Italy is not abiding by that ruling.

Germany is the richest nation in Europe, contributing more to the EU budget than any other member, and bailing out various countries (Italy, Greece and several others) when they get into financial difficulties. I can see that flow of cash becoming much more restricted in future, if the claims for compensation don't stop. After all, even Germany is feeling the pinch due to the fallout from the Ukraine war (Germany doubled its military budget at a stroke because of the war) and the sanctions against Russia that followed.

The Judge Said What?

Posted on 5th December 2021

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This article on the BBC reports on the acquittal of a coach accused of domestic violence against French Olympic judo champion Margaux Pinot.

She was badly assaulted (see the photos) and is probably lucky to have escaped with her life. Nevertheless, the man was acquitted. One of the case's three judges said there was not "enough proof of guilt". He also said "A court is never there to tell who is telling the truth and who is lying".

What? In most criminal cases, the defendant pleads not guilty, in which case the core of the role of the court is precisely what this judge said it is not: to decide who is telling the truth and who is lying.

This judge is clearly an idiot and should be fired.

Overreach by the Australian Government.

Posted on 4th November 2021

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This story on the BBC is rather worrying.

The report is about a decision by the Australian government that Clearview AI must remove all photos taken in Australia from their facial recognition database, and stop collecting anymore such photos.

Leaving aside the arguments about the invasion of privacy posed by facial recognition, this decision seems to be extreme overreach by the Australians.

If I go to Australia, and while there take a photo of someone who is also not resident in Australia, the government there clearly believes that they have the right to decide what my photograph may be used for. I strongly disagree.

I own the copyright of all photos that I take. People in my photos also have an established legal right to constrain what I do with them. The government of the country in which I took my photos has no legal right to decide what my photos may be use for.

The help pages of this web-site include this statement:

"The copyright of all photographs on this site remains the property of the original copyright owner: either the person who took the photo, or the publisher of the photo. In most cases this means that the copyright is owned by me or by Sheryl. In addition, copyright also belongs to any people appearing in the photos.

Photos on this site are free to reuse for non-commercial purposes. To reuse for commercial purposes, or to get full resolution copies, you must license them ..."

If Clearview AI have copies of my photos in their database, that would constitute commercial use, and would be a breach of my copyright. Such a breach would be a civil legal issue between myself and Clearview AI, not a matter for the Australian government.

Federal Judge Dismisses Anti-Vax Suit By Medical Workers.

Posted on 13th June 2021

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This story on USA Today reports on the hearing in a Houston federal court on the law suit by medical workers at Houston Methodist Hospital.

After months of warnings, Houston Methodist had put more than 170 of its 26,000 employees on unpaid suspension Monday. They were told they would be fired it they weren't vaccinated by June 21.

In the meantime, a 117 of those staff had sued the hospital on the basis that the vaccines were experimental and potentially unsafe. I blogged about their ridiculous law suit here.

The judge dismissed their suit, saying "This claim is false, and it is also irrelevant". Good for him.

Since this hearing was in federal court, it counts as legal precedent for the whole of the USA, although I suspect that there will be an appeal, so the issue is not completely closed yet.

The Biggest Fines After Three Years Of GDPR.

Posted on 30th May 2021

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I found this article on the BBC interesting. It lists the 5 largest fines so far under the EU's GDPR regulations.

Some of the offences are the kind of thing I had expected; others are rather shocking. In summary:

  1. Google (€50m) in 2019, for failure to make its statements about its consumer data processing policy easily accessible to its users, and for not seeking the consent of its users to use customers' data for targeted advertising campaigns.
  2. H&M (€35.3m) in 2020 for secretly monitoring hundreds of its employees.
  3. Tim - Telecom Italia (€27.8m) because customers received a large number of unwanted (nuisance) promotional calls.
  4. British Airways (£20m) (the most shocking of the list) in 2020 directed its website users to a fraudulent site, allowing hackers to to harvest the personal data of about 400,000 people (the leaked data included login and travel booking details, names, addresses and credit card information).
  5. Marriott International Hotels (£18.4m) (also shocking) suffered a hack dating back to 2014, but not uncovered until four years later, exposing the personal details of about 300 million customers, including credit card information, passport numbers and dates of birth.

What this tells us is that companies are unable to protect the data of their customers, and that legislation like GDPR that limit the data collected and held, and puts requirements for data security on those companies regarding handling and storage are very much needed.

There is only one type of organisation that has proven to be less secure than even commercial companies in handling and storing data about us: government agencies.

Hospital Workers Sue Hospital Over Vaccine Mandate.

Posted on 30th May 2021

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The lawsuit described in this Washington Post report is laughable.

Employees of a Texas hospital are suing their employer, who has mandated vaccination of staff, with the argument that they have a right to not be "experimented on" by being given an unproven Covid-19 vaccine.

Given the number of people who have now been vaccinated against Covid-19, both in the USA and worldwide, and the vast amount of data which has been gathered on those people, the vaccines in question are far from unproven, and administering the vaccine to them is not an experiment.

Continuing to collect data about levels of protection and side-effects of these vaccines does not mean the vaccines are "experimental".

Even if it was a case of experimenting with an unproven vaccine, these people work in the health-care industry; patients have a right to be be as safe as possible from infection with the coronavirus when being treated at this hospital, which means all the staff, medical or other employees, having been immunised.

I hope the judge who hears this case throws it out.

Illegal sanctions by US against the ICC

Posted on 21st June 2020

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Not only is the USA the world leader in extraterritorial legislation (see my previous posts on the subject here and here), but when there are no legislative avenues open to them, they resort to blackmail!

I am referring to this article by the BBC, which reports on the sanctions that the USA has imposed on those members of the ICC (International Criminal Court) involved in the investigation of possible war crimes by members of the US military in Afghanistan. These sanctions have been imposed not only on judges, prosecutors and investigators, but on all ICC employees involved in the case, and their family members. The sanctions include blocking the assets of International Criminal Court (ICC) employees and barring them from entering the USA.

Although the USA is not a signatory to the ICC agreement, all of the EU, plus Afghanistan (where the crimes are alleged to have happened) are (see the list of signatories here). That means that the court has legal jurisdiction over the location of the alleged crimes, and also that the ICC employees are acting within the law.

Generally, war crimes are defined by the Hague Conventions and the Geneva Conventions, all of which were signed by the USA. US law even allows the prosecution of US military personnel for war crimes (see here). President Trump has, however, pardoned US troops who had been prosecuted in the US for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

Since those presidential pardons did not convince the ICC (not surprisingly, since Donald the Hutt has no jurisdiction in The Hague or Afghanistan) he has now decided to illegally sanction members of the ICC, in the hope of halting the investigation.

A president who blackmails his friends is no friend, and should be treated accordingly (as in this, unfortunately fictional, movie scene).

Amanda Knox and Malicious Accusation

Posted on 28th January 2019

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As reported here, by the Guardian, Amanda Knox is in the news again; this time because she has just been awarded damages (€18,400) by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for failures by the Italian justice system.

What concerns me about the article is the issue (still not resolved) of her conviction for malicious accusation. This law, either in its very concept or in its application in the Amanda Knox case, seems inherently flawed.

Given that, in so many cases in so many different countries, investigators fail to properly look into alternative suspects, pointing the finger of blame at someone else is sometimes the only defence that the accused have. Indeed, in some cases the police actually ask the suspect "if you didn't do it, then who did?". In Italy, however, it seems to be against the law to suggest another suspect.

This issue seems to me to undermine people's basic human rights. It also calls into question the basic legal principle of conviction only when it is "beyond reasonable doubt".

Since most western nations already have legislation against slander and libel, I do not see any reason for there to be additional laws against malicious accusation.

I will be adding Italy to my growing list of countries in which to avoid getting arrested.

President says it's OK to grab women's private parts!

Posted on 22nd October 2018

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This report on SFGate got me thinking.

Apparently a man on a flight on Southwest Airlines flight sexually assaulted a sleeping woman; not once but twice. When the flight landed, the man was arrested and charged with abusive sexual contact.

After his arrest, the perpetrator said (meant to be interpreted as in his defence, I assume) that the president of the United States "says it's OK to grab women by their private parts."

Good point. If the guy from the Southwest was arrested and charged, why is it that the retard president has not been arrested? After all, there is a video of The Donald admitting that he did so. In such a case, there is probably no need to even identify a victim.

Surely, the President of the USA is not above the law? [In case you are not sure, yes, that is sarcasm.]

BHP Billiton Shareholders Are Suing?

Posted on 26th July 2017

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This story on the BBC reports that BHP Billiton shareholders are suing BHP Billiton. They are doing this to recover their losses due to the slide in share prices (around 22%) after the dam collapse at one of the company's mines in Brazil in 2015.

The dam failure at the Samarco mine (jointly owned by BHP and Vale, a Brazilian company) killed 19 people and led to Brazil's largest ever environmental disaster (supposedly - forest clearance is arguably Brazil's worst environmental catastrophe). Now shareholders are suing to recover lost shareholder value.

There are, however, several things wrong with this picture.

  1. It is well known and well publicised that share prices may go up, but may also go down. This is the risk that you take when you invest in shares. On that argument alone, the shareholders should expect to just eat their losses.
  2. The shareholders effectively own the company. This means that they are liable for damage, clean up and loss of life. They should consider themselves lucky not to be sued by the Brazilian government and the families of those killed.
  3. As the owners of BHP Billiton, they also effectively run the company. The shareholders' meeting appoints the directors. If the directors misled the stock market, broke the law and/or mismanaged the company, not only are the directors answerable, but so are the shareholders for appointing the wrong people, and being gullible enough to not see through the directors' lies.

Owning shares is not some children's game, where you make money if everything goes well, but if something goes wrong you will be bailed out by the courts or a government. Is is a game with potential rich rewords, but significant risks, and also with responsibilities. The power mostly lies with the big shareholders, not the small hobby investors, but these large shareholders are precisely who is behind this lawsuit.

Time to either get out of investing in shares, or man-up and face the consequences.

What Kind Of Legal System Do They Have In Spain?

Posted on 3rd November 2017

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Irrespective of which side you feel is right in the Spanish Catalonian independence crisis, I think you can probably admit that it is chaos, and is bringing out the worst on both sides.

There is, however, something in this BBC report that especially concerns me. The story describes how the prosecutor asked that 8 Catalonian politicians be jailed (and they have now been jailed), and another granted bail (he was jailed until his bail was paid). The same story also states that none of these politicians have yet been formally charged.

I don't know of any other western country where it would be legal to jail someone, or to require bail, when they have not been charged. Spain must have a very bizarre and antiquated legal system. Do they still have the "Spanish Inquisition"?

Trump Again Attempts To Undermine The US Constitution

Posted on 3rd November 2017

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This piece on The BBC reports on a recent tweet by President Donald Trump that he feels the New York truck attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, "should get the death penalty".

Maybe he should be put to death; maybe he shouldn't, but the US president (especially the president) should keep his opinions on the matter to himself.

See here for a concise summary about the three separate branches of the US government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial). This embodies an important principle; the independence of the Judiciary. It seems to that the Donald is trying to influence the courts on the sentencing of the accused, in a case that is only just beginning (meaning that Saipov has not even been found guilty yet).

I think the judge in this case should make it his or her first order of business to fine the president for contempt of court, for preempting the judgment, and attempting to influence any sentencing that may result. It is time people started pushing back on the ranting moron.

Time To Fire This Judge!

Posted on 21st October 2017

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I am shocked at the ignorance displayed by Justice Robert Smith, an Ontario Superior Court Judge, as reported here by the BBC. The man doesn't seem to know the law at all.

In a rape case brought by a woman against her husband for multiple instances of non-consensual sex, the judge ruled that, despite being convinced that non-consensual sex had taken place, the man was not guilty because the prosecution failed to prove that the accused knew his behaviour was criminal.

Is he crazy! It is a well know and well established legal principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse: you don't have to know that your actions are against the law for those actions to be criminal; except, apparently, in Justice Smith's court.

This degree of ignorance of the law would be bad enough in a junior judge or magistrate, but this man sits on the Ontario Superior Court, at which elevated position we should expect and even demand higher standards of knowledge and good judgement. Disciplinary action is called for, as well as revisiting the rape case. Maybe even firing the judge is called for.

Texas City Blackmails Its Citizens!

Posted on 21st October 2017

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The situation described in this BBC story is disgusting.

The city of Dickinson, about 30 miles (48km) south of Houston, has imposed conditions for seeking government money for repairs after the category 4 Hurricane Harvey. The conditions are that "... the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement." The city argues that they have to do this because of a Texas law, known as the Anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions) bill. Similar laws exist in other states.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called this "an egregious violation" of free speech rights under the First Amendment. "The First Amendment protects Americans' right to boycott, and the government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression".

The attempt by the city of Dickinson to make aid money conditional on not boycotting Israel is blackmail, clear and simple. Blackmail is a crime, even for government.

Also, it seems clear to me that these Anti-BDS laws are illegal, being in breach of the constitution. There is a well established process for dealing with laws that are themselves illegal, which is to break the lower-level law, and honour the higher-level law (in this case, the constitution), and if/when someone makes a legal challenge of your actions, to fight it in court, if necessary all the way to the Supreme Court. The fact that the city of Dickinson has not chosen this course, shows us that they actually approve of the Texas Anti-BDS law.

Whether or not Israel is right or wrong, and whether or not you believe that the state of Israel deserves to be boycotted, has nothing to do with this case. People have a right to hold and to express their opinions, up to and including boycotting. No-one has a right to tell the citizens of Dickinson what they are allowed to spend their money on.

An important legal principle, practised in virtually all western nations, is the separation of the legal system from government, and for very good reason. In this case, those boundaries have been crossed by the city of Dickinson, in their choice of which law to uphold, and which to break. I hope that the politicians involved are held to account, both in court and at the next election.

Rapist Gets Joint Custody Of Victim’s Child!

Posted on 11th October 2017

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I am almost speechless after reading this report from the BBC. It is wrong in so many ways.

A man in the USA, Christopher Mirasolo, was convicted of raping a woman, who was 12 years old at the time. The woman became pregnant, and now has a son, who is 8 years old. Mirasolo was sentenced to one year in jail, but only served six-and-a-half months.

Since then, Mirasolo has been convicted of other crimes: he sexually assaulted another victim between the ages of 13 and 15 and was jailed for another four years.

A DNA test has recently shown that he is the father of the victim's son, and the judge has therefore granted Mirasolo joint custody of the boy. He has ordered that the birth certificate be updated to show that Mirasolo is the father, and has ordered the mother and son to move from Florida back to Michigan, presumable so that Mirasolo can have easy access to the boy.

The real sting in the tail is that Mirasolo is a registered sex offender, and his supervision conditions include having a "responsible adult" present if he is with a minor.

It must be clear to anyone with at least half a brain that this man is not fit to act as anyone's parent, and it is not safe for him to have custody of or visitation rights to any child. Even if none of these issues were there, I do not see how it could ever be fair to force the mother and child to move the length of the country so that the father can have access.

The judge in this case should, as an absolute minimum, receive appropriate retraining, and actually should probably be fired.

Competition Watchdog Creates A Monopoly

Posted on 12th May 2017

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What a great job by the UK's competition watchdog (the Competition and Markets Authority, or CMA), as reported by this BBC news article!

There are only two companies still in the business of providing pager services in the UK: Vodafone and Capita. Pagers are still used by hospital staff, and are therefore considered essential. Pagers are not making much money, because of the small market, so Vodafone wanted to sell their pager business to Capita.

The CMA objected to the sale of Vodafone's pager business to Capita, because it would have created a monopoly, and blocked the sale. The result of their intervention: Vodafone have decided to close down their pager business, thus creating a monopoly anyway. The only impact of the CMA's intervention is that Vodafone has been prevented from making any money from the closing down of the pager operation.

One has to wonder why the CMA continues to exist, given what poor service they deliver. I think I know why the CMA is so bad at their job, though: they are a monopoly!

The Meaning Of Justice And Impartiality

Posted on 17th April 2017

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This story on the BBC is both upsetting and worrying.

A judge in Bradford in the UK, Jonathan Durham Hall QC, has been disciplined for offering to pay a victim surcharge penalty for a girl who admitted attacking a man who had sexually assaulted her when she was younger, after the judge imposed a two-year youth rehabilitation order. The judge is accused of failing to demonstrate "impartiality".

It seems to me that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice fail to understand the meaning of impartiality, and the role of a judge in balancing the requirements of both enforcing the law and ensuring justice.

The girl has been censured and punished, and that is on her record. A judge has a degree of discretion in deciding sentence, but there are some things that are imposed as a matter of administrative procedure, such as the victim surcharge. If the judge decides that payment of this surcharge is not just, it is his right and his duty to offer to pay it. Failure to do so would have been a dereliction of his duty.

If judges are prevented from exercising their discretion, or punished when they do, then we are no better off than if we had the science-fiction scenario of a robot judge who simply follows predefined rules. If we end up with that system, it will be a sorry day indeed.

Overcharging At Supermarkets

Posted on 16th February 2017

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This Guardian news story describes how Tesco have been overcharging customers.

An undercover reporter was overcharged on multi-buy offers at most of the stores (33 out of 50) visited, because marked promotions were out of date and no longer valid at the tills. Tesco has now said that it will check the prices of every item at its 3,500-plus stores across the UK, which is a major task.

This kind of problem is not uncommon. I had a very similar issue recently at Netto (a discount supermarket in Germany): they have a promotion on boxes of 6 bottles of several wines, and I bought one last week, and was charged the per-bottle price, not the multi-buy price, due to a mistake by the check-out clerk.

The law, however, is quite clear on this, all across Europe: shops must sell you goods at the advertised price, whether it is advertised in a promotion brochure, on-line, in-store, or on the shelf or product itself. If you don't want to be overcharged, you need to check the price that the check-out clerk rings up, and if it is wrong, complain. In these days of bar-code check-outs, if the price is actually wrong in the check-out system, this can create quite a problem at the check-out, involving a supervisor being called, but you just need to insist.

Many people don't like to complain, but sometimes it needs to be done.

A Very Dangerous Precedent

Posted on 29th November 2016

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I wonder whether the German courts, government and people understand exactly what kind of precedent has been set by the case described on this BBC story.

Oskar Groening, known as "the bookkeeper of Auschwitz", has been convicted by a German Federal Court for being an accessory to the murder of prisoners in the Auschwitz death-camp, despite him only having witnessed (and presumably provided logistical support for) the murders.

The ruling surprised many, because of a ruling handed down in 1969 that being aware of the murders and working at a death-camp was not proof of being an accessory to murder (the case in 1969 was against a camp dentist, who was deemed not guilty). The protection afforded by that ruling now seems to have evaporated.

This means that a whole host of trades and professions could now be prosecuted: people working at the camps, either civilian or military, as doctors, dentists, nurses, lawyers, supply and delivery staff, cooks and washers-up, cleaners, translators and interpreters.

It could also mean the prosecution of any civilian who had witnessed such murders, or even those who had reasonable grounds to believe that such murders were taking place: basically the whole German nation at the time (more than just citizens of Germany as we now know it, but also most of the Volksdeutsch in Poland, The Czech Republic, Austria, etc.).

I think (and I know I am not alone in this) that it is time that the Germans got over their guilt about the war. It was a very long time ago, when the world was very different. Seeing how easily the modern world swings back in the direction of nationalism, fascism, and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, as evidenced by Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, UKIP, Geert Wilders, etc., it is hard to view the Nazi years as a uniquely German problem.

I remember a conversation with a German friend, a few years ago, about the national guilt over WW II. He said that, of course, German people felt guilty for electing Hitler (although Germans are quick to point out that Hitler was Austrian) and the Nazis, and following them to war, but that a possibly even greater guilt was that, having decided to wage a world-war, "Well, we are Germans, so, of course, we should have won".

Can Governments Be Sued, Or Not?

Posted on 20th May 2016

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I am a little confused by the contradiction between these news stories:

  • In this BBC report the Saudi Arabian government is issuing warnings of the dire consequences of opening up governments to compensation suits;
  • But in this BBC report Amanda Knox is planning to sue the Italian government for their mishandling of the prosecutions against her, and the resulting "abuse";
  • And in this report from "Our Children's Trust" 21 teenagers have been given leave to proceed with their lawsuit against the US Federal Government, for causing climate change and for their failure to protect them against environmental impact.

I had thought that the situation was as described in the first article: that civil compensation suits could not be filed against governments. For this reason, legal history is full of cases against individuals and corporations, rather than the governments that were really to blame. If this is indeed the legal situation, then the Saudis are right to warn of the consequences of changing the rules (so that the families of victims of 9/11 can sue the Saudi government for compensation). The US government has a long and horrific history of meddling in wars and politics in countries around the world, and setting a precedent allowing governments to be sued could open them up to compensation claims for actions in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Japan, Grenada, Egypt (CIA funding of the Muslim Brotherhood), Africa (for tipping off the apartheid government about the location of Nelson Mandela, causing his incarceration for 27 years), South America (for DEA actions to combat drug production and smuggling), and even Germany (for the post-WWII partition of Germany), to name but a few.

The second and third stories, however, show that it is possible in the USA to sue a foreign government and also the domestic government. I think we could be seeing a whole programme of legal action, especially as a result of the new 9/11 law suit legislation described in the first story. It is about time that bad intelligence, and funding of revolutionaries/terrorists had consequences. Governments and their various agencies should never be above the law.

The Millionaire And The Policeman

Posted on 4th February 2016

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I imagine that public opinion is very divided, in the case reported in this BBC story.

Sir Harry Djanogly (a millionaire, although I am not sure why the BBC deems that relevant) was pulled over by the police for speeding. He was speeding because he was rushing his wife to hospital, believing her life to be in danger. The report does not clarify what the hospital's diagnosis was, or whether her life was actually in danger, but legally, it is her husband's belief that her life was at risk that is relevant, not her actual state of health.

Sir Harry explained (twice) to the police officer the reason for him speeding, and invited the officer to follow him to the hospital. The policeman then ordered him out of the car, and when Sir Harry refused, lunged through the driver's window (apparently dislodging the driver's foot foot from the brake onto the accelerator and getting dragged down the road, for his trouble).

For me, the legal situation seems quite clear: the policeman, by preventing the wife reaching the hospital, is committing assault and actual bodily harm (potentially grievous bodily harm and even attempted murder) against her; his action in lunging through the car window adds assault against the driver to his count of offences. Sgt Robert McDonald should be charged for these offences.

The police are required to act within the law. They are also required to listen to and take into account the information provided by the members of the public whom they deal with. That doesn't seem to have happened in this case, and an example needs to be made; the alternative puts the UK on a slippery slope to becoming a police state.

Still, Sir Harry Djanogly should be thankful that he doesn't live in the USA. In this scenario, a US policeman would probably have shot him.

Yes, Lying is a Crime!

Posted on 18th August 2015

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What a bizarre statement. In this BBC story about the Glasgow garbage truck crash on 22nd December 2014 in which 6 people died, is a statement by Ronald Conway, the lawyer for the family of one of the victims: "Telling lies is not a crime; telling lies to the medical profession is not a crime.".

Although it is not a crime in every circumstance, it is a crime in quite a few situations. Mostly, in cases where a statement to a medical professional forms part of a claim for money (e.g. an insurance claim), an investigation of a crime or an application for a licence (basically any case where the statement results in assignment of responsibility), then lying is a crime.

Based on the above definition, it seems to me that the truck driver, Harry Clarke, lied in circumstances that made lying a crime, and more than once. It may seem harsh, but I feel that he should be punished, not least to discourage others from doing the same.

Legal Hypocrisy

Posted on 23rd March 2015

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I found the contents of this report on "in5d" very hypocritical.

It seems that research has shown that CBD (Cannabidiol, one of the components of marijuana which is not psychoactive) is effective in the treatment of cancer. It also turns out that "In 2003, the United States government filed a patent on CBD as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant useful in the treatment of disease". Despite this, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug in the USA, and the government's position is that marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use".

If it has no medical use, then why did you patent it for medical use? If that is not hypocrisy, then I don't know what is.

Under US law, money made from illegal drugs may be seized. I think this is a good solution: if the US government ever makes any money from its CBD patent, without first legalising marijuana at least for medical purposes, then that money should be confiscated (I will look after the money, if no-one else will).

Boris Gets Tough!

Posted on 26th August 2014

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Whilst I see nothing wrong in principle with getting tough with terrorists, I think that Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) might have gone too far with his statement, reported in this BBC story.

I was going to write in reasonable detail about what is wrong with his ideas (reversing the presumption of innocence until proven guilty), but the BBC has updated the story and it now covers the subject in detail.

I do find it hard to accept that an experienced and successful politician such as Boris Johnson could consider a system of guilty until proven innocent as a "minor change" to the law. Perhaps he lives in a different Britain to the one where I grew up, maybe on the planet "Shoot first and ask questions later". Either way, I think the original photo tells it all, although the BBC has also updated that to one where he is not in a full-on rant.

Bank of Scotland guilty of double-billing

Posted on 24th August 2014

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The situation described in this BBC story is utterly outrageous.

A court has just ruled that mortgage customers of the Bank of Scotland were unfairly double-billed when they fell into arrears, although the bank plans to appeal.

What the bank did, when customers fell into arrears, was what is called capitalisation: the arrears amount (including and surcharges for being in arrears) were added to the capital amount owed. This standard practice has the obvious effect of increasing the amount that customers owed, and the time it would take to pay it back. This all seems perfectly fair.

The problem was that the bank then continued to pursue the arrears as unpaid charges (presumably including additional late fees) and in some cases even started repossession action against the borrowers.

The judge seems to have been quite scathing in his judgement, and rightly so. I suspect that the bank may appeal on technicalities, because as far as I can see, there is no way to see this as anything other than double-billing.

A "bribe" to close a bribery prosecution

Posted on 7th August 2014

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I found this BBC story rather amusing.

Bernie Ecclestone, who runs Formula 1 racing, has been in court since April on a bribery charge. The BBC report describes how a deal has been reached, whereby charges will be dropped against Mr. Ecclestone in consideration of a payment of €100M: the case is closed with neither a guilty nor an innocent verdict.

Excuse me for being naïve, but isn't it at least a little hypocritical to close a bribery case with what is, in effect, a bribe?

Also, the payment seems rather small. The original bribe was €33M, and impacted the control of Formula 1, which is worth rather more than the €100M that Mr. Ecclestone paid. Bernie Ecclestone is, according to the report, worth $4.2bn (€3.15bn), and so could probably have afforded to pay more.

I suppose we could chalk it up to the oddities of German law, of which there are more than a few: many cases have no jury; if you are sent to prison for debt, there is an exact formula for how long a sentence to clear a given amount of debt; all law enforcement is done by the police (there is no system of bailiffs for local laws, so police are involved in cases of unpaid tax, if you recycle improperly, if you do laundry on a Sunday - illegal in some areas - or if you fail to get all your neighbours' permissions before trimming a tree which overhangs several gardens, to name but a few examples).

Everyone is at fault in Polish abortion case

Posted on 10th July 2014

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No-one comes out smelling of roses in this BBC report.

The doctor, Professor Bogdan Chazan has a right to his beliefs, and to refuse to perform an abortion, but he most certainly does not have the right to impose his beliefs on his patients. If patients have a right to an abortion, as they do in Poland, then he has an obligation to correctly inform patients of those rights, and to refer patients to another doctor who is willing to perform one. It seems that he did not refer the patient in question to another doctor, and also seems to have lied to her about the law on how late in a pregnancy termination is allowed. Yes, he deserved to be fired.

The government seems to have failed in its duty to provide adequate information to patients about their legal rights to abortion. There should have been information leaflets easily available (i.e. on display) at the doctor's surgery. Given what happened, it seems that the patient did not know her rights.

The patient also has to take some responsibility. Why didn't she get a second opinion? In the end, she had the baby, even though she didn't want to (she had good reason, due to her child's chances of survival because of facial and head defects being slim), because Professor Chazan refused her an abortion.

Bank repossesses wrong house; owner wants $18K

Posted on 27th July 2013

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According to this story, a bank in Ohio repossessed the wrong house while the family were away. The family returned to the house to find that the locks had been changed and many of their belongings were missing.

Home-owner Katie Barnett wants the First National Bank of Wellston to give her $18,000 for the lost items, but she says the bank wants her to show receipts for everything that's missing; it seems that the bank doesn't believe her.

Time for a reality check, First National Bank of Wellston. $18K is a bargain for the bank. Take the deal while the offer is still on the table, because:

  1. Mrs. Barnett can argue that she had all the receipts, but the bank took them while clearing out the house.
  2. If the bank don't reach a deal, she can file criminal charges (which will cost them more than $18K, once legal costs and fines are paid).
  3. She can also file a civil suit for damages. Whatever she can make the court believe is the cost of the damage that the family suffered (loss of property, temporary impact on life-style, stress/peace-of-mind, etc.) will most likely be augmented by punitive damages (i.e. multiplied by 3 or 4 to discourage others from making the same mistake), plus, of course, legal costs again.
  4. There is the small matter of bad PR (which has already started with the various news articles - if I were a customer of the First National Bank of Wellston, I would be strongly considering "voting with my feet"), the financial impact of which could easily exceed $18K.

There is an expression which seems applicable here: "When you're in a hole, stop digging".