28 February 2010

Is Binyam Mohamed Pointing To Greshornish House?

One thing that the Binyam Mohamed case and the Lockerbie bomber case had in common was the use of Public Interest Immunity Certificates.

Of course, some would say the abuse of Public Interest Immunity Certificates.

In the Lockerbie case this, in part, lead to the Greshornish House Accord, (Isle of Skye, 16 September 2008) being drawn up (background from the Independent Law Journal) under the steam of Robbie the Pict.

The second accord states,

"In the event that the Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate is upheld by the Court and evidence is withheld from the Defence, we consider that this would render the conduct of a fair appeal impossible. We believe that, in actuality and in the public perception, such a denial compromises the principles of a fair hearing, which depends significantly upon equality of arms. ..."

Although the accord is narrowly drawn with respect to the Lockerbie trial; it contains an important point of principle. That is, the witholding of evidence by a Public Immunity Certificate can render the conduct of a fair trial impossible.

In order to maintain the pretence that a trial is fair (and hence lawful) under this regime, one has to imagine that the Executive is being truthful and honest. Binyam Mohamed [2010] EWCA Civ 158 now makes this extremely difficult: not only in that particular case but in general. Although the agents of the Executive (in the Mohamed case, the Foreign Secretary) may be honest, if he is basing his decisions on tainted information (eg from MI5/6) then the PII regime is flawed to such an extent that it may render a trial unlawful.

Background reading here - Human rights groups call for reform of government's security committee

Cannabis Raids In The North East

View Cannabis raids in the North East in a larger map

A fascinating and impressive effort by someone called Colin George (I think he's a journalist for a local newspaper).

One of the things that it says to me is that there is a massive decentralisation of this particular crime and profits from this particular crime: unless of course, a substantial amount of these properties are coordinated by particular groups.

It supports (for me) the thesis that, as technology becomes more available to the average Joe (in this case sophisticated hydroponic systems), crime will decentralise.

Contrast the above with "Two arrested after Peruvian cactus seized in Newcastle" which explains that the men were trying to (or did?) produce mescaline from the cactus. If they had the capability of making mescaline by chemical synthesis, no doubt they would have done so.

25 February 2010

Apparent Truth

A bit of trouble at the coroners inquest court, Reuters explains,

"At one stage during the dry legal technical to-ing and fro-ing on Thursday, a relative of one of the innocent victims made an emotional plea for the term "apparent bombers" to be dropped after one of the lawyers repeatedly used the term.

"For more than four-and-a-half years, the whole world has known that four sick and evil men killed 52 lovely innocent people," said Ernest Adams, whose son James died between King's Cross and Russell Square.

"Yet now lawyers are talking and writing about 'apparent bombers'. Your inquest is not going to be about 52 apparent deaths, it will be about 52 real deaths caused by four real bombers."

He said the description was "very upsetting and insulting."

The coroner, Lady Justice Hallett, said they would look at coming up with a phrase that did not cause distress.

No doubt the process for the bereaved is extremely upsetting but until the process is complete, the accused bombers are merely accused; that is, apparent bombers.

The twisting and distortion of the process from the outset suggests that the truth will not be revealed.

What's more important, a comfortable fiction or an uncomfortable truth?

22 February 2010

All Very Civil

Civil partnerships, through the Civil Partnership Act 2004, gives same sex couples legal recognition of their relationship.

Although the Act is discrimatory - it doesn't provide for heterosexual couples - it is neverless considered to be a huge step forward for equality with regard to sexuality.

Moving from affairs of the heart to those of the wallet, Gay Finance explains,

" The financial advantages of entering into a civil partnership are many, especially when it comes to tax. Pre-civil partnership law means that same-sex couples often suffer severe hardship because tax law does not recognise their relationships. For example, if one partner dies, leaving everything to the survivor, the survivor may have to sell the couple’s home in order to pay the inheritance tax (IHT) bill. This gross unfairness will, happily, soon be a thing of the past! For couples who choose to register a civil partnership, the position will be exactly the same as for married couples. If one dies, leaving everything to the other, the survivor need not pay a penny in inheritance tax, even if he or she inherits millions!

In addition, registered civil partners will, in future be able to take advantage of tax planning techniques that have previously only been available to married couples.

But ... what's all this about being gay? Is it compulsory to be gay in order to enter a civil partnership?

It appears that anyone is eligible provided that they are the same sex, not already in a marriage or civil partnership, over sixteen and not within a prohibited degree of relationship (brothers and sisters etc).

But do they have to be lovers?

It isn't clear. I don't see why it should be a requirement: it doesn't say so in the Act. So, confirmed bachelors like Holmes and Watson could become civil partners; not to fulfil some homosexual love but simply to make sure that the tax man doesn't get hold of a part of the pre-deceased's estate.

All very straight forward. It may not be the intention behind the Act but so what?

Lets take this a step further - is this already happening?

Are people taking advantage of the Act in order to avoid paying tax, especially inheritance tax?

Check out the stats from the Office of National Statistics with regard to Civil Partnerships. One of the tables gives the stats of civil partners by age.

YearAge At FormationTotal
200580 and over98
200680 and over234
200780 and over80
200880 and over53

There's been at least 50 or so civil partnerships formed every year by people over the age of 80 and over.

I don't know whether these relationships are affairs of the heart but if I were in an old persons home with no family visiting me and with a healthy contempt of the tax system; I'd go into a civil partnership with one of my mates! Hopefully, with a view that another civil partnership would be formed after the death of one of us, ad infinitum, so that the tax man would not be able to get his hands on either of our estates. Nor of the estates subsequent to the original arrangement.

I do!
I do, too!

18 February 2010

No Future For Cocaine

I wrote a note in October 2009, "Whose Profits Would Home Made Sublimaze Threaten?", speculating on the effect that synthetics such as sublimaze would have on the market for drugs such as heroin.

"... is heroin so cheap that it is cheaper to import rather than manufacture a more potent substitute, ie fentanyl?"

I suggested that the market as-is doesn't make sense.

Curiously, while reading McMafia by Misha Glenny, I came across the following quote on p302,

"Cocaine has no future. Wherever amphetamines and synthetic drugs have arrived on the market, like China, South-East Asia, Mexico, then there is always a big boom and it replaces everthying, cocaine, heroin, the lot. ... So the future is in the new drugs. The market will change and determine this. They don't need the narco-traffickers. The furture will be completely different."

This quotation is from someone called Dr Sandro Calvani who is the Director of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).

I wonder how fast this will change and what are the drivers.

The quote above suggests personal preference by the consumer as one of the drivers but lurking in the background is cost of production. Cost of production, of course, being predicated on production techniques, primarily (in my view) continuous flow processes.

The latter technique enables non-experts to produce high quality product provided that the necessary parameters for doing so have been predetermined. Just as using a mobile 'phone allows one to use incredibly sophisticated technology without an in depth, nuts 'n' bolts understanding of the process.

Expect to see equipment being seised by the police that can produce ca 20 g (or less) of pure synthetic product per day; expect the equipment to be about the size of a microwave oven and expect the controller of the equipment to be supplying a relatively small number of people.

The battle will then shift to controlling and tracking raw materials for these processes.

Watch this space.
25th June 2010 ... pertinent to my analysis above is the following, Synthetic drugs popular as use of opiates wanes - UN, from the BBC.

"Drug use is moving away from cocaine and opiates and towards synthetic drugs such as amphetamines, the UN says.

In its World Drug Report it says it expects that soon there will be more people using synthetic drugs than opium, heroin and cocaine together.

Of interest from a chemistry point of view is whether any of these synthetics will be made by continuous flow techniques as described above.

16 February 2010

Dissent In Style

Oceanbulk Shipping & Trading SA v TMT Asia Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 79 is a case about the without prejudice rule.

"This appeal raises the question whether evidence of "without prejudice" communications and discussions can be given if there is a dispute about the interpretation of a written settlement agreement."

The majority tell us that these communications and discussions cannot be used for the purpose of interpreting the settled agreement.

Burnton LJ explaining, "... in the absence of a claim for rectification, antecedent without prejudice correspondence cannot be adduced in evidence for two reasons: privilege and irrelevance. These reasons are independent: the privilege applies even if the correspondence is relevant. If relevance alone displaced the privilege, the privilege would have no content."

However, the minority view, given by Ward LJ is worth repeating in full.

"36 The factual background to this appeal can be very shortly stated. There was a dispute about liability under the forward freight agreements, and the wagers under which the parties made – or lost – substantial fortunes. They entered into without prejudice negotiations to resolve that dispute. These negotiations were successful. They reached a settlement agreement which was reduced to writing and signed by them. Now there is a dispute about the meaning of that agreement. The respondent wishes to adduce evidence "of what had been said or done during the course of negotiating that agreement" for the purpose of establishing "a fact which may be relevant as background known to the parties" and thus serve as an aid to construction in accordance with Chartbrook Ltd v Persimmon Homes Ltd [2009] A.C. 1101 at paragraph 42. It matters not for the purpose of this appeal what those background facts are and whether or not they will triumphantly carry the day or, as is suggested, simply obfuscate the issue. It matters not because this appeal gives rise to a pure point of principle, namely whether the veil of privilege can be lifted to admit evidence of without prejudice negotiations to establish background facts known to the parties as an aid to the construction of the settlement agreement reached in the course of those without prejudice negotiations.

37 In Unilever Plc v Proctor and Gamble Co. Ltd [2000] 1 W.L.R. 2436, 2444 Robert Walker L.J. set out instances when the without prejudice rule does not prevent the admission into evidence of what one or both of the parties said or wrote. His non-exhaustive list included the without prejudice communications which result in a concluded compromise agreement, the negotiations which showed that an agreement apparently concluded between the parties during the negotiations should be set aside on the ground of misrepresentation, fraud or undue influence; and also, even if there is no concluded compromise, a clear statement which is made by one party to negotiations and on which the other party is intended to act and does in fact act so as to give rise to an estoppel. It is common ground that one can add rectification to that list. So, if you can use the antecedent negotiations to prove the agreement, to rescind it, or to rectify it, why on earth can you not use the negotiations to establish the truth of the what the concluded contract means? Not to do so would strike my mother as "barmy". Perhaps I should simply say it strikes me as illogical.

38 Lord Griffiths told us in Rush and Tompkins v Greater London Council [1989] A.C. 1280, 1300 that "The rule is not absolute and resort may be had to the "without prejudice" material for a variety of reasons when the justice of the case requires it." Surely justice demands that truth prevail. What is the justice of a self-imposed rule that one is not allowed to look at the facts which will establish what the parties truly meant by their compromise?

39 I am not for a moment suggesting that "relevance alone displaces privilege": see [35] above. That would be obviously wrong. It was rejected in Ofulue v Bossert [2009] 1 A.C. 990 where the offer to purchase was clearly relevant but properly held inadmissible because it was a statement in the course of negotiations which did not result in agreement. If the very purpose of clothing the negotiations with privilege is to facilitate, in the public interest, the settling of disputes by compromise, then once that purpose has been served there seems to me to be no justification for continuing to wrap the negotiations in this cloak of secrecy. Again I do not wish to take this too far. That I would be prepared to lift the cloak as between the parties to the negotiation is no justification for the peeping Toms outside the negotiations, like the sub-contractors in Rush & Tompkins, to sneak a look at what was happening beneath the cloak. But if one is allowed to lift it at all, it should be lifted high enough to see in all its raw detail the truth of what previously was remain unseen. That seems consistent with the rationale for this privilege. I take that from Lindley L.J.'s judgment in Walker v Wilsher (1889) 23 Q.B.D. 335, 337:

"What is the meaning of the words 'without prejudice'? I think they mean without prejudice to the position of the writer of the letter if the terms he proposes are not accepted. If the terms proposed in the letter are accepted, a complete contract is established, and the letter, although written without prejudice, operates to alter the old state of things and to establish a new one. A contract is constituted in respect of which relief by way of damages or specific performance would be given."

I repeat the limitation I impose on that rule: it applies only where a new order between the negotiating parties has replaced the old. Where compromise has been reached, the purpose has been served and the inhibitions fall away.

40 In Ofulue Lord Hope of Craighead restated the basis for the rule in these terms at [2]:

"Where a letter is written "without prejudice" during negotiations with a view to a compromise, the protection that these words claim will be given to it unless the other party can show that there is a good reason for not doing so."

Logic and justice seem to me to be good enough reasons to remove the protection.

41 There is little point in expanding upon these reasons for I am outnumbered, nay outgunned, by the commercial colossi seated either side of me. I prefer the instincts of the youthful Stanley Burnton J. before he became corrupted by the arid atmosphere of this Court. It goes to prove what every good old-fashioned county court judge knows: the higher you go, the less the essential oxygen of common sense is available to you. So I am unrepentant. With, of course, great respect to my Lords, I dissent. In my judgment Andrew Smith J. was absolutely correct for the reasons he gave. I would dismiss the appeal.

(The dissenting argument although compelling would lead to further litigation which is contrary to public policy).

Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft

According to, The Air Navigation Order 2009 (No. 3015),

"167. — (1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.
(2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are—
(a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
(b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
(c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or
(d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.
(3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.
(4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.
(5) In this article ‘a small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.

Which is all very clear.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)


An "eye in the sky" arrest of a teenager fleeing from a stolen car using a surveillance drone could land police in court after it emerged it did not have permission to be in the air.

Pathetic isn't it?

(Oh, and why is it could and not will land police in court. When was it not in the public interest for those who are supposed to uphold the law to be accountable to the law?)

Tax Benefits

Q In the UK, how do you get £100,000 per annum tax free?

A Through the UK benefits system.

The Express is running a story - FURY AT MUM ON £100,000 A YEAR BENEFITS - about someone who is receiving a massive amount of money from the benefits system.

"Yesterday, outraged politicians called for an overhaul of the system which allows Miss Marjan to legitimately claim £1,600-a-week in housing benefit, adding up to £84,000 a year.

She also receives an estimated £15,000 a year in other payouts, including child benefit. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Theresa May said: “We cannot go on with a situation where families on housing benefits live in million-pound mansions.
[Even though they have been in power since 1997]

“We plan to review the whole system to make sure it is fair. Families on benefits should not be able to live in houses that people in work and not on benefits can’t afford.”

The last paragraph betrays the cruelty of the system. People who work are hammered by taxes and rarely are able to bring in this amount of money. Older people who need extra care due to illness and/or infirmity are expected to sell their homes to pay for the care. Yet, we have this anomally.

I wonder how the average wage compares to the average income from the benefits system.

I wonder if part of the problem with the benefit system is that benefits such as housing benefits are middle class benefits. They do not enrich people such as Miss Marjan; the money goes straight to the landlord.

06 February 2010

MES and Chem

Fascinating propaganda video for the Marie Curie Outfit from the MES / Mouse On Mars Combo, Von Sudenfed with "Flebermaus Can't Get it On.

What else is there to say?