29 September 2009

Continuous Flow Reactor Conference

I envy the attendees of the forthcoming "Continuous Flow Reactor Conference in Madrid this October.

Follow the link to get some idea of what will be discussed.

Hanscombe on a Hiding to Nothing?

The Independent reports, "Rachel Nickell: Boyfriend plans legal action,

The partner of murdered Rachel Nickell said he had instructed lawyers to try to bring the police to account for their failings in the case.

Andre Hanscombe's son Alex witnessed the murder and sexual assault of his mother on Wimbledon Common on 15 July, 1992 at the hands of Robert Napper.

Napper was convicted in December last year, 16 years after Miss Nickell's death.

I don't know if this will get anywhere.

The problem is that, in general, it isn't possible to sue the police in negligence. In Hill the Yorkshire Ripper murdered someone; at the time, and in hindsight, the police should have caught him. It was said to be due to the negligence of the police that the Ripper went on to kill. Hill tried to sue the police in negligence for the loss of their daughter - but failed.

When establishing negligence, the claimant has to establish that the potential tortfeasor owed a duty of care, one of the factors that determines whether or not this duty of care exists is public policy. In Hill, Lord Keith of Kinkel explained that the imposition of this duty of care may not be in the public interest, since it could impede the functioning of the police,

"From time to time they make mistakes in the exercise of that function, but it is not to be doubted that they apply their best endeavours to the performance of it. In some instances the imposition of liability may lead to the exercise of a function being carried on in a detrimentally defensive frame of mind."

Hill was reviewed in Van Colle where the Cox J said,

"Those cases in which, on their particular facts, the existence of the Article 2 positive obligation to protect life would impose a disproportionate or impossible burden on the police, would inevitably be cases where no duty of care would be held to exist at common law. Those cases in which the claimant succeeds could well be cases in which, as Lord Nicholls observed in Brooks, the absence of a common law remedy in negligence, sounding in damages, would be regarded as an "affront to the principles which underlie the common law.""

Is the Nickell case an affront to those principles?

Bear in mind that the Hill ratio still stands when talking about a duty owed to the general public, rather than a specific individual.

28 September 2009


"# A few months later on the night of 6th/7th September 2008, he was in town in the company of two others. They had all been drinking and they were cross because they had been, no doubt justifiably, refused entry to a further public house. In that state of mind they saw a group of people on the balcony of some nearby flats who were in the course of enjoying themselves at a party. They conceived some entirely unreasonable objection to them. They made an attempt to enter by kicking down the door of the building and when that failed they invaded the balcony by climbing a lamppost. There they assaulted the people seen. This man, Barratt, assaulted three people. He punched, he bit, he kicked and he used his head.

# The group which was attacked happened to be Polish. The offender added insult to injury and made his offence worse by shouting abuse at them based on their country of origin and did that from the outset of seeing them. After the event when the police were called the group of which this offender was part boasted to the police of having got the better of some foreigners and suggested, falsely, that they had been under attack. In interview he suggested that he had been provoked by being spat at from the balcony.

# The three victims of these assaults suffered some, but happily not lasting, injury. One of them had very nasty bruising and a black eye, together with discomfort and pain for which he had to take painkillers for several days. Another had superficial lacerations. A third had a degree of concussion, bruising around the eye, and a possible fracture of the cheekbone and, for safety's sake, was detained in hospital for two days.

From the Attorney General Reference No 45 OF 2009 [2009] EWCA Crim 1759.

This sort of thing happens every other weekend up and down Blighty.

27 September 2009

Lawful Debate

It was Cranmer who first drew my attention to story about the hoteliers who "were arrested and charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and Section 31 (1) (c) and (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, for using threatening, abusive or insulting words’ that were ‘religiously aggravated’", in a post headed, "Christians face trial for criticising Islam".

Taking a closer look at the charges we have:

Public Order Act 1986

"5 (1) A person is guilty of an offence if he

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby."


Crime and Disorder Act 1998

"31 (1) A person is guilty of an offence under this section if he commits


(c) an offence under section 5 of that Act (harassment, alarm or distress),

which is [F2 racially or religiously aggravated] for the purposes of this section."

To write comments about this story in the absence of the facts, as discovered by a court, is pointless.

Let's wait for the court case to see what happened and whether or not the defendants have a defence.

Here's the latest from the Daily Mail,

"They all but called me a terrorist ... Muslim woman hits back over race row with hotel couple."

Again, this provides only half of the story.

Baroness Scotland to go?

The BBC has just issued a Profile of Baroness Scotland.

"Page last updated at 12:43 GMT, Sunday, 27 September 2009 13:43 UK"

Is this a another Jane Standley moment?

25 September 2009

Laxton's Intention Found

I've been following the misfortune of Laxton of the FO since February.

In short, he had an outburst at his local gymn while watching news footage of Israeli aggression in Gaza. His outburst consisted of him using the admitted language, "f***ing Israelis" and the reported but denied language, "f***ing Jews". For this he was charged with 'inciting racial hatred'.

I found the statute and found that one of the elements of the offence was that he would be guilty if he "intends to stir up religious hatred".

At first I was quite puzzled as to why he would be charged; having a tantrum didn't suggest to me an intention to do anything. But upon further reflection I wondered about oblique intention. An oblique intention is said to occur if you can foresee the certainty of a consequence of your action. The standard explanation in law books is, if you saw threw a stone at someone behind a window, with the intention of hitting that person with the stone; you have an oblique intention of breaking the window. That is, the consequence of your action can be foreseen with certainty.

Returning to Laxton. It is foreseeable with certainty that a consequence of having a tantrum in a public place such that inflammatory language is used can stir up racial hatred. Laxton didn't know who was in the gym at the time; other people who may not have been as civilised as he may have been watching the same news channel, his outburst could have lit the blue touch paper.

In my original, well, updated post; I gave odds of 60:40 for conviction. Laxton was convicted yesterday and given a £ 350 fine.

22 September 2009

Guido's Gaffe

Guido trumpeted the news of Baroness Scotland's inability to read the small print of one of the statutes that she subjected herself to in a post titled,

But Guido makes a similar hash of his legal analysis.

He writes, "[t]here is only one statutory defence against conviction for employing an illegal worker under section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996".

The gaffe arises because section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 was repealed by the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (c. 13) (see Schedule 3) and it is section 15 of the 2006 Act that applies.

Even though Guido provides a satisfactory link from the Daily Mail in his note, he doesn't appear to have read it.

While the necessary code of practice (see section 19 of the 2006 Act) is found here with Appendix 1 giving the documents required for the statutory defence.

Of course, this still leaves the Baroness in a very poor position.

Dawkins Evidently Ignorant of the Law

Ella Guru's Congregation

The headline from yesterday's Times says it all,

The story tells how Richard Dawkins is asking for a change to the libel laws because a number of reputable science writers are being sued for criticising what are thought to be pseudo-scientific alternative therapies (eg Simon Singh is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association).

There may be a lot to criticise with regard to libel laws but the criticism of the law should be aimed at the law surrounding how evidence is treated by the courts.

Lets quickly recap:-

In order for a trial to be lawful, it has to be fair: see Lord Diplock in Sang. One aspect of ensuring fairness in a trial is to ensure that evidence which is more prejudicial than probative is excluded from the trial. Another aspect of ensuring fairness is to exclude evidence based upon opinion: that is, except for evidence based upon expert opinion. However, an area of evidential law where evidence may be more prejudicial than probative may occur when scientific expert witnesses submit evidence in a trial. This is because a jury tends to believe an expert witness without question: would they be fulfilling their role if they didn't?

An example of evidence that was highly prejudicial but because it went beyond the witness's area of expertise, and so had no probative value was delivered by Professor Meadows in Clarke, 2003. The defendant was accused of murdering her two children who had died from cot-death. During the defendant's trial the expert wrongly gave the odds of two cot deaths occurring in the same household as one in 73 million. The defendant was convicted, subsequently freed on appeal but ended up meeting an early death (see Sally Clarke).

If expert opinion is allowed how do we know what is an expert opinion? Relating the question back to Dawkin's criticism; how do we know what is scientific expert opinion? Even though the courts allow this evidence; they aren't sure how to define it.

I appreciate that this beggars believe but consider what Weir J said in Hoey,

"The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published on 25 July 2005 the Government's response to the Committee's Report "Forensic Science on Trial" which had been published on 29 March 2005. At paragraph 55 the Committee's comments on validation are repeated together with the Government's response. Both merit reproduction here:

"55. The absence of an agreed protocol for the validation of scientific techniques prior to their being admitted in court is entirely unsatisfactory. Judges are not well placed to determine scientific validity without input from scientists. We recommend that one of the first tasks of the Forensic Science Advisory Council be to develop a "gate-keeping" test for expert evidence. This should be done in partnership with judges, scientists and other key players in the criminal justice system, and should build on the US Daubert test."

Hoey was the Omagh bomber case: a very distressing and emotive case that had to consider the scientific method of low copy number DNA. Mr Justice Weir very properly (and bravely) rejected the evidence gained from this technique but under very difficult circumstances - see his quote, above.

Weir J pleaded to have a Daubert - like system in-place, so what is Daubert?

It was a court case from the US that clarified how scientific expert opinion was to be classified and hence it gave criteria as to its admissibility. A woman fell pregnant, she took some morning sickness tablets; her child was born with a deformity (the baby had only one thumb and finger on one of its hands). Was this the fault of the drug company?

During the court case two scientific expert witnesses came to contradictory opinions which were tendered to the court: but which of the two opinions was admissible? The court case gave a number of criteria that allowed the judge to decide which of the opinions were scientific:-

"Faced with a proffer of expert scientific testimony ..., the trial judge, ..., must make a preliminary assessment of whether the testimony's underlying reasoning or methodology is scientifically valid and properly can be applied to the facts at issue. Many considerations will bear on the inquiry, including whether the theory or technique in question can be (and has been) tested, whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication, its known or potential error rate, and the existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation, and whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community. The inquiry is a flexible one, and its focus must be solely on principles and methodology, not on the conclusions that they generate."

The case also gives as a criterion Popper's idea of falsifiability. But note that this only provides a persuasive precedent in our jurisdication.

In summary, the libel laws may be at fault but so are the admissibility of evidence laws and in the case of the admissibility (or otherwise) of scientific opinion evidence, in the presence of Daubert, glaringly.

21 September 2009

QE 1601

Quantitative easing is described in wikipedia and analysed in blogs such as cynicus economicus: it is a process of creating money ex nihilo (out of nothing).

So, why consider the process in 1601?

Hans Pawlisch explains in, Sir John Davies and the conquest of Ireland, how in 1601, the English government decided to debase the Irish coinage from 9 oz of fine silver to 3 oz of fine silver. The government didn't withdraw the old sterling from circulation and failed to persuade people to accept the coin at face value.

This sort of thing has happened before and since but the reason that this particular instance is of importance is because it led to the case of mixed money.

In this case an Irish merchant purchased wares to the value of £ 100 from an English merchant. When time came for payment, the Irish merchant tendered base (3 oz fine) money; the English merchant refused to accept this money and sued for breach of contract.

The suit revolved around three issues: the prerogative; nature of sterling money and the time of payment. In this case it was found that the crown could alter the intrinsic value of money in the absence of a state legislature. Just as a king can enoble a humble man to an aristocrat thus could he enoble a base coin to a fine one. It was found in the case that it wasn't the intrinsic value of the coin that gave it currency but that it had the stamp of the soveriegn: bonitas extrinsica (face value) was more important that bonitas intrisica (metallic content).

By establishing through etymological analysis that sterling meant 'of Viking origin' and that the Vikings had imposed their currency on both Ireland and England, it was discovered that the base Irish coin was currency.

Lastly, it was found in the case that current money was whatever currency was current at the time when the payment was due - not when the contract was concluded between the parties.

In this way case law became a source of law for the legitimacy of fiat currency.

This case was used as a precedent in other cases; such as ones after the Civil War in the US when people did not want to take Union dollars.

It was also used in the case of Treseder-Griffin 1956. In this case a contract that was signed in 1930 contained a gold clause - when it was signed Britain was still on the gold standard. A clause was put in the contract that had the effect of giving one of the parties the right to be paid in gold sovereigns if Britain came off the gold standard. It took until 1954 for someone to try and enforce this term but unfortunately, on the basis of the case of mixed money, paper money could be substituted for gold.

17 September 2009

Meering and Murray Consider Fake Reality

In the Common Law world false imprisonment is a tort; that is, a wrong. The ingredients of this tort can be found in Bird v Jones [1845] EWHC QB J64. As explained in the following text book:

"Part of Hammersmith Bridge was closed off for seating to watch a regatta. Mr Bird insisted on walking on that part of the Bridge and climbed into the enclosure. He was prevented from getting out at the other end. There was nothing to stop him from going back the way he had come and crossing the Bridge on the other side which had not been closed off."

In this case it was said that, "[a]prison may have its boundary large or narrow, visible and tangible, or, though real, still in the conception only; it may itself be moveable or fixed: but a boundary it must have; and that boundary the party imprisoned must be prevented from passing; he must be prevented from leaving that place, within the ambit of which the party imprisoning would confine him,"

This ruling contains some obvious points and a not so obvious one. The prison may be "in conception only". That is, it may be entirely imaginary, such as being placed under arrest by someone who hasn't got the power to do so.

What about if you have been imprisoned but you don't realise it?

In the following story,

"Women rescued from fake reality show.

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish military police said Thursday that they had stormed an Istanbul villa to rescue nine women held captive after being tricked into believing they were reality show contestants.

... were the women falsely imprisoned?

Katoey by Bill Lewis.

Imagine that the charade had reached its conclusion and the women were allowed to leave, would they have been falsely imprisoned? Assuming that they were being imprisoned throughout the charade, then, even though the women were not aware of their imprisonment, they were falsely imprisoned.

It was found that "a person can be imprisoned while he is asleep, while he is in a state of drunkenness, while he is unconscious and while he is a lunatic" by Atkin LJ in Meering v. Graham White Aviation Co.Ltd. [1919] 122 Law Times 44.

Further, it was said that, "I cannot agree with the Court of Appeal that it is an essential element of the tort of false imprisonment that the victim should be aware of the fact of denial of liberty" in Murray v Ministry of Defence (Northern Ireland) [1988] UKHL 13.

16 September 2009

Contactor Separator

Browsing the chemistry journals I came across a paper titled, "Continuous Chiral Separation of Amino Acid Derivatives by Enantioselective Liquid-Liquid Extraction in Centrifugal Contactor Separators" (DOI: 10.1021/op800074w. The paper discussed the technique of enantiomerically enriching a substance based upon the greater solubility of one diastereoisomer over the other.

A closer reading of the title reveals the word continuous and it is the apparatus that the authors use to do this continuous process that is of interest.

The apparatus used by the authors was a contactor separator.
They reference US patent No 5,762,800 from 1998.

As its name suggests, the apparatus does two tasks: contacting and separating. The contacting means mixing. Take a cylinder and rotate it inside a close fitting tube; if you introduce two liquids between the gap they will mix.

The paper above is mixing two immiscible solutions(water and 1,2-dichloroethane) in order to partition the diastereoisomers between the two (remembering that there is a solubility difference and hence chiral discrimination between the two of them).

The next stage is the separation of the two immiscible liquids. In batch mode, in the lab, a chemist would do this in a separating funnel. (Or, on the plant, the reaction vessel). The solutions are put in the separating funnel, shaken (the contacting above) and left to settle.

In the continuous flow apparatus, the apparatus has the inner of the two cylinders rotating. This produces a centrifugal force (pedants not welcome on this point), which separates the two immiscible liquids. The apparatus is configured so that one liquid can be transferred to one vessel, the other liquid to another vessel.

This kit has many useful applications. The authors mention that the apparatus has been used for preparing biodiesel: this is a vast improvement on the hobbyist's batch technique. It is a lot safer, one can imagine building a piece of apparatus that only produces one or two litres of biodiesel per day which could be plumbed into your garage. Connect the oil and dilute solution of sodium hydroxide in methanol to the apparatus, flick a switch and collect a couple of litres of biodiesel the next day.

There are other examples in the patent literature where this apparatus has been used; some of which do not appear to be non-obvious and here are some links to suppliers, here and here with more explanation.

PhD Thesis of student who did the work, Enantioselective liquid-liquid extraction in centrifugal contactor separators (2008) Schuur, Boelo (apart from the hidden chapter, very useful).

15 September 2009

Is Shields Innocent?

The story "Jailed Liverpool fan Michael Shields granted royal pardon" is a bit dated but there is something that is of interest.

The report in the Times says that, "... Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, overturned his previous decision not to exercise the royal prerogative and agreed that Mr Shield was "morally and technically innocent"."

I think that using the word innocent is wrong.

Don't be misled by this note; I know very little of the case and I don't wish any ill will toward Shields. Instead, I'm interested in the use of the word 'innocent' by Straw.

The case that pathed the way for Shields to receive a pardon, Shields, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice [2008] EWHC 3102, explains that in, "R v Foster (1984) 79 Cr. App. R 61, it was held that the effect of a free pardon was to remove from the subject of the pardon "all pains, penalties and punishments whatsoever that from the said conviction may ensue", but not to eliminate the conviction itself."

The point may be pendantic and to many irrelevant. But Shields has been convicted in a court of law, this conviction has not been overturned; Shields, therefore, is not innocent.

Michael Shields: press statement by the Justice Secretary

Update. The Ministry of Justice has just published a review of the Royal Perogative powers, "Review of executive royal prerogative powers: 15th Oct 2009." This report, at paragraph 56, explains that,

"[a] free pardon does not, however, quash or overturn a conviction. Even where a free pardon was given, the conviction remained."

and, at paragraph 59, explains

"[t]he courts’ powers to quash a conviction provide a more satisfactory means of rectifying miscarriages of justice. Once a conviction is quashed innocence is presumed."

Medics and Power Laws

Data from Wikipedia

Power laws are explained in wikipedia and elsewhere. As the links explain, a power law describes a distribution - it appears that the distribution is of something of which there is a shortage. Hence, power laws can be illustrated by the distribution of money among a population.

Imagine that Bill Gates is the richest man in the world, to illustrate a simple power law (with an exponent of 1/2), there will be two people in the world who have half as much money as him; four people who have a quarter as much; eight people who have an eighth, etc, etc. The exponent could be anything, it has to be determined empirically but it gives a simple illustration of a power law, which can also be plotted.

Do power laws exist with respect to murder within the medical profession?

Take Dr John Bodkin Adams, he's supposedly killed more than 160 people during the mid-forties and mid-fifties. If there's a power law that describes the number of murdering medics, then at the time, and assuming that the exponent of the power law was 1/2, there were two medics who had murdered 80 people, four medics who had killed 40 people, eight how had killed 20, and so on. It isn't clear whether or not there is a power law that describes this phenomenon; further, even if there is a power law, the value of the exponent that helps to describe it isn't known. Changing the exponent changes the shape of the curve.

It's disturbing and difficult to think about. It's disturbing for the obvious reason that someone who we would reflexively trust is not to be trusted. But it is difficult to consider because of the issue of euthanasia. What is the distinction between releasing someone from an agonising few months of suffering by giving them an overdose of diamorphine, and giving someone an overdose of diamorphine 'just because you can'?

Untangling the cases of negligence and euthanasia from those of murder leaves us with people such as Adams. But bringing in the idea of power laws suggests that there are others who have not been caught and are still murdering.

The last one to be caught was Dr Shipman: how many more are undetected?

10 September 2009

Unfitness to Plead

The Daily Express reports, "HANDLER MAY BE LET OFF FOR POLICE DOGS THAT BAKED TO DEATH IN CAR," in which the reporter explains that the police officer who allowed two police dogs to die in his car during a heatwave may not have to face trial. The story is also covered by other news outlets.

The police officer is being prosecuted, in a private capacity, by the RSPCA using section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which carries a potential penalty of imprisonment (for no more than 51 weeks), a £ 20,000 fine, or both (according to section 32 of the same Act).

Animal cruelty is frowned upon in England and Wales; the BBC reports that when a 19yr old man put a cat into a draw-bag, blew cannabis smoke into the bag, and swung the bag around he was sentenced to a three months prison sentence, suspended for two years (see Cat cannabis attacker sentenced).

So how come the police officer can "get away with it"?

It seems that in the UK the police have a convenient route of avoiding prosecution, Step 1 is to pretend to be mentally ill, not mad but depressed or under stress. This paves the way for the "fitness to plead" process to begin.

The Crown Prosecution Service explains,

"Section 11(1) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 and section 37(3) Mental Health Act 1983 enable magistrates courts to make an order in respect of an either way or summary offence without a trial, provided that the court is satisfied that the defendant did the act or made the omission with which he or she is charged."

This process has begun, in less than four weeks (section 11(2)) the police officer will be signed off as unfit to plead by a psychiatrist. The police officer will then take early retirement (with no loss of pension) and everything will be forgotten.

The fitness to plead route, according to anecdotal evidence, is quite often used by offending police officers.

09 September 2009

Re-print Wanted

I spent many hours (hundreds ?) reading this book in the University library. I never bothered buying it at the time: this was pre-Amazon days.

I was going to buy it but it's too expensive. Does anyone know how to persuade publishers to consider a re-print?

ps - try using Amazon's search inside facility and try some of the problems.

McBride's Business

Image from the Guardian

There are many reports that Nadine Dorries (eg here, here, here, amongst others) has served McBride and Draper with libel writs and is sending a writ to No 10 for Sir Gus O'Donnel.

A couple of points that struck me about the story so far: why only libel?

Didn't their behaviour create any other causes of action or charges? Eg, misfeance in public office (see Three Rivers) or misconduct in public office?

Secondly, in the middle of a recession, how come McBride gets to walk into a job as a "Business and Community Manager"?

This begs a couple of question of the school that employed him:

Is this is a new position?
Was it created specifically for McBride?
How well advertised was the position?
Why employ him over someone else?
Is it appropriate for a school to be employing someone who left his previous position under the circumstances that McBride left his last position?

The Others

I have previously written about Lord Alton of Liverpool and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department.

For the record, the others are ...

Lord Alton of Liverpool, David Amess, MP, The Rt Hon The Lord Archer of Sandwell, QC, Henry Bellingham MP, Brian Binley MP, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, Lord Dholakia of Waltham Brook, David Drew, MP, The Rt Hon The Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, QC, Roger Gayle, MP, David Gauke, MP, Dr Ian Gibson, MP, Roger Godsiff, MP, Baroness Gould of Potternewton, Mike Hancock, CBE, MP, Baroness Harris of Richmond, Lord Inglewood, QC, Lord Joffe, David Jones, MP, Lord King of West Bromwich, John Leech, MP, Andrew Mackinlay, MP, Baroness May Blood, Ken Purchase, MP, The Rt Hon The Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Taverne, QC, Professor Lord Turnberg, Baroness Turner of Camden, Dr Rudi Vis, MP, The Rt Hon The Lord Waddington, QC, Mark Williams, MP


- and -


Secretary of State for the Home Department

It looks as though, after laying down their arms, these people are being set up for some sort of Sabra and Shatila massacre.

See, eg The Attack on Camp Ashraf.

(Search for Camp Ashraf in your newsfeeds).
Update 15th April 2011. Well, not as bad as Sabra and Shatila, "Iraq raid on Iranian exiles' Camp Ashraf 'killed 34'"
"The United Nations says 34 people were killed during an Iraqi army raid last Friday on Camp Ashraf, the base of an Iranian exile group."
I would imagine that there is more death to come.

08 September 2009

Police Payout for What?

The BBC reports, "Hunt Protesters Get Police Payout" explaining that some anti-hunt protesters were arrested under, "the Trade Union Regulations Act for disrupting a lawful activity", according to the protester's solicitor.

A search for these Regulations / Act (?) didn't reveal anything sensible. However, broadening my search gave,

section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which provides,

"(1) A person commits an offence who, with a view to compelling another person to abstain from doing or to do any act which that person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, wrongfully and without legal authority—

(a) uses violence to or intimidates that person or his wife or children, or injures his property,

(b) persistently follows that person about from place to place,

(c) hides any tools, clothes or other property owned or used by that person, or deprives him of or hinders him in the use thereof,

(d) watches or besets the house or other place where that person resides, works, carries on business or happens to be, or the approach to any such house or place, or

(e) follows that person with two or more other persons in a disorderly manner in or through any street or road.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.

(3) A constable may arrest without warrant anyone he reasonably suspects is committing an offence under this section.

It looks as though there has been some mis-reporting down the line. The local newspaper, the Derby Evening Telegraph reports the same story, with the same mistake. I wondered who copied from whom.

Interesting that the police are using "trade union" legislation; remember Brown using "anti-terror legislation" against the Icelandic government to retrieve monies from collapsed Icelandic banks.

I will update when I find out what supposed powers the protesters were arrested under. In the meantime, consider the payouts: one person got £ 3,500 compensation. If I came along and arrested you, under some bogus powers, would you be happy with that amount of compensation?

05 September 2009

Mandla's Ethnicity

In a quickly moving story, Politics.co.uk reported on Wednesday, " BNP forced to pay legal costs in white membership case" explaining that the Equality and Human Rights Commission were seeking an injunction against three officers of the BNP since, in its view, the eligibility for membership breaches the Race Relations Act 1976.

The article went on to report that the BNP's "2005 constitution states that: ""Membership of the BNP is strictly defined within the terms of, and our members also self define themselves within, the legal ambit of a defined 'racial group' this being 'indigenous caucasian' and defined 'ethnic groups' emanating from that race as specified in law in the House of Lords case of Mandla V Dowell Lee (1983).""

So, what is an 'ethnic group' according to Mandla (Sewa Singh) v Dowell Lee [1982] UKHL 7?

Well, Lord Fraser of Tullybelton said,

"For a group to constitute an ethnic group in the sense of the 1976 Act, it must, in my opinion, regard itself, and be regarded by others, as a distinct community by virtue of certain characteristics. Some of these characteristics are essential; others are not essential but one or more of them will commonly be found and will help to distinguish the group from the surrounding community. The conditions which appear to me to be essential are these: — (1)a long shared history, of which the group is conscious as distinguishing it from other groups, and the memory of which it keeps alive; (2) a cultural tradition of its own, including family and social customs and manners, often but not necessarily associated with religious observance. In addition to those two essential characteristics the following characteristics are, in my opinion, relevant; (3) either a common geographical origin, or descent from a small number of common ancestors; (4) a common language, not necessarily peculiar to the group; (5) a common literature peculiar to the group; (6) a common religion, different from that of neighbouring groups or from the general community surrounding it; (7) being a minority or being an oppressed or a dominant group within a larger community, for example a conquered people (say, the inhabitants of England shortly after the Norman conquest) and their conquerors might both be ethnic groups.

A group defined by reference to enough of these characteristics would be capable of including converts, for example, persons who marry into the group, and of excluding apostates. Provided a person who joins the group feels himself or herself to be a member of it, and is accepted by other members, then he is, for the purposes of the Act, a member.

If the BNP really accept the law on this matter then if someone applied for membership who was not white then they would accept them. More relevant perhaps, if someone who was not white claimed that they were Anglo-Saxon, since an ethnic group is capable of including converts, they couldn't object.

The story has moved on and the BNP are stating that they will change their membership rules. I'd be curious what they are ... if the BNP were smart, and some of them certainly are, they'd use this as a Clause 4 opportunity.

Another aspect of the Mandla case that I found fascinating was the following where Lord Fraser makes the obiter comment, "... within the human race, there are very few, if any, distinctions which are scientifically recognised as racial."

For a long time I've drawn the distinction between objective reality and subjective reality. For a long time I've been of the opinion that either there are as many races as there are people (taking into account identical twins) or there isn't such a thing as race. I refuse to subordinate myself to such a crude demarcation as skin colour when it comes to science. However, I thought that I was quite alone in this view. It isn't something that is particularly easy to work into a conversation. Anyway, I was quite pleased that someone in the judiciary is of this opinion.

03 September 2009

Thionyl Chloride in Water

This is a useful paper. The material safety data sheet of thionyl chloride tells us that it "reacts violently with water" but here we have it being added to water.

The paper is impressive because the safety people who helped to develop the chemistry are obviously competent. Rather than treating hazard evaluation work as a paper exercise they support the chemistry that the chemists push. The paper is also interesting because it shows some incongruous thought: someone thought to themselves, "yeah but what would happen if ..." or "I bet that this would work" and they are lucky enough to work in an environment that allows them to explore these off the wall ideas.

On a related note, someone was loooking for a solvent to do a Friedel-Crafts reaction; he proposed toluene. Everybody laughed at him but his substrate was an anisole; it was a lot more reactive than toluene, the proposed reaction worked.

I wonder how many useful ideas are lost to the small minded ignorance of hierarchical superiors.

02 September 2009

Onion Chemistry

When I started this blog I anticipated writing equally about law and chemistry; as it has turned out, I have written more about law / current affairs than chemistry. I'm still pondering as to why this should be. My understanding of chemistry is a lot greater than law; perhaps I find law/current affairs more interesting because it stretches my understanding of the world: whereas in chemistry, very little comes along that surprises me, and perhaps because of this I subconciously think that anyone reading this blog will not be interested in these posts.

Here's an example.

The other day I was cutting onions and my eyes began to stream. As a chemist I wondered what the substance was called that had this effect. I reached for my copy of Clayden and found everything spelled out for me.

page 1272

page 1273

Don't get me wrong; the work is fascinating. The subtle chemical differences between garlic and onion; specifically, the allylic and the vinylic sulfur compounds and the remarkable difference that they make are fascinating. But to blog this would be just to repeat what is in the text book.

Anyway, if you are interested in this work, have a look at amazon's search inside facility at the pages given of Clayden's book. And after reading and understanding that, you can read about how onions have been genetically engineered to stop you from crying in,

Silencing Onion Lachrymatory Factor Synthase Causes a Significant Change in the Sulfur Secondary Metabolite Profile.

(Impressive work: read it and w———).