Water companies are public authorities and must therefore disclose environmental information

Originally posted on UK Human Rights Blog:

water_tapFish Legal v Information Commissioner and others (Information rights practice and procedure) [2015] UKUT 52 (AAC) Charles J – read judgment

Water and sewage utility companies are “public authorities” for the purposes of the environmental information regulations, and are bound by them accordingly, the Administrative Appeals Chamber of the Upper Tribunal has ruled.

Fish Legal is the legal arm of the Angling Trust. In 2009 it asked United Utilities Water plc and Yorkshire Water Services Ltd for information relating to discharges, clean-up operations, and emergency overflow. Emily Shirley is a private individual. Again, she asked Southern Water Services Ltd for information relating to sewerage capacity for a planning proposal in her village. All three companies denied that they were under a duty to provide the information under Environmental Information Regulations. Both Fish Legal and Mrs Shirley complained to the Commissioner. In 2010 the Commissioner replied, explaining that as the…

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Case Law: Reactiv Media Limited v The Information Commissioner, “Cold Calling” company fined £75,000 for breach of privacy – Rosalind English

Originally posted on Inforrm's Blog:

TelephoneAlthough an individual’s right to privacy is usually thought of in the context of state intrusion in one form or another, in reality the real threat of intrusion in a society such as ours comes from unsolicited marketing calls.

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When your customer forgets to collect a repaired laptop

Like everybody else, I occasionally take items to repair shops to have them repaired. I have done that with shoes, with stereo equipment and with computers, including a laptop.

laptopI always collect my stuff timely. Sometimes, the shop owner will text me when the item is ready for collection. If not, then the shop owner will have already given me a date from which I can collect the item. I usually give the shop an extra day to make sure that the product is indeed ready. If I am too busy to stop by sooner, then I collect my goods at the first available occasion.

But what are you as repair shop owner to do when a customer forgets to collect an item? It may sound incredible, but there are customers who still show up ten months later and ask for their stuff. Continue reading

The case of the stolen painting

This claim came before the Court of Appeal in 2003, from the Central London County Court via the High Court. Professor Norman Palmer represented the claimant.

This may be what the painting looked like.

This may be what the Jan Steen painting at the centre of this claim looked like.

If I travel to your town, pick your lock, take a lovely locket from your home and make sure to leave no trace of my presence, go to the post office and post the locket to my home or to someone else’s address, can you sue Royal Mail for having shipped the stolen locket if you somehow find out and can even prove that Royal Mail transported your locket? “Of course not.” I can hear you say it.

Royal Mail was just doing its job for which it had been paid (postage). It had no way of knowing that the box or envelope it shipped contained stolen goods. Royal Mail has no obligation to check whether the contents of a shipment might be stolen. If you tried to take it to court, you likely wouldn’t get far but the whole thing could cost you quite a bit of money. Continue reading

Why your stuff is my specialism

First of all, I often – but not always! – find these matters delightfully clear-cut, once I have all the details.

dancingThey’re also attractive to me for other reasons. They are matters of people acting, sometimes in bad faith, sometimes in good faith. They involve communications or the lack thereof, misunderstandings and assumptions.

They are matters that can happen to anyone. Rich or poor, black or white, straight or any other variation of private inclinations, British or foreign, blond or brunette, Tory fan or UKIP voter, company or private citizen, loyal to Labour or to LibDem, thief or saint. It does not matter who you are.

Anyone’s stuff can get stolen, lost, destroyed, vandalised, misplaced, delivered to the wrong address, sent to the wrong address, left behind in a pub and then found by someone else or otherwise interfered with in a manner that does not make you – the rightful owner – a happy bunny.

What these cases all require is sufficient evidence. There is the inevitable “he says she says he says” component in these cases. Those arguments can certainly make a difference, but evidence plays a key role. Evidence can sometimes still be found even when people think they have none, however. What’s worse, people may even automatically assume they have no rights or options in these matters!

The cases I like tackling are about “stuff” that it not attached to mother earth. So it’s not about cottages and sky scrapers themselves, but about what happens to the stuff in and around them. This used to be only tangible stuff, but there is a progression going on into other forms of stuff such as intellectual property rights and digital “stuff”.

It may not surprise you that these cases often have some overlap with other areas of law. They can be the result of a wrongful eviction, for example, or of a rightful eviction, of a mistake made by an online store, of being fired from your job. They can also have human rights aspects.

Trespass to land – which is not a crime as opposed to what many people think – can be involved as well. I tend to stay away from any form of interference with people, though, because I strongly feel that that is a specialism in its own right and such matters are often of a very different nature. They are sometimes heinous crimes, in fact.

Stress and the litigation process: how can lawyers make matters better?


From the original post:
“For us lawyers litigation is a technical process. For the litigants the effect of the litigation can have a major impact on their lives. ”

From a comment:
“It still amazes me that to date, as lawyers, we fail to appreciate the importance of actively listening and showing empathy when engaging with clients.”

Originally posted on Civil Litigation Brief:

There is a very useful article in the Solicitors Journal on stress and litigation (to avoid hyperbole I will not use the word “brilliant” but it deserves it.)  Hugh Koch analyse the sources of stress for litigants.  This made me think how little attention is paid to the “litigant’s view” of the litigation process. For us lawyers litigation is a technical process. For the litigants the effect of the litigation can have a major impact on their lives. There is little in our training (as barristers or solicitors) that helps us put ourselves in the litigant’s place and examine ways in which we can ease the stress to our clients.


The article examines the 24 main reasons for stress.  Some of which lawyers can deal with, some not.


Interestingly the number one reason for stress is “Being asked about the event again and…

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The case of the destroyed art

A few years ago, in 2009, an interesting case came before the High Court. It was interesting because like so many claims involving interference with goods, it was a story about people, about mistakes they make, misunderstandings between them. and things that can happen to them. It was also relatively complex because it was a claim against three defendants, with a fourth defendant in a Part 20 claim brought by two of the original defendants, with the first two defendants and the third also pointing fingers at each other.

The claimant was sculptor Terry New.

Nidus Sculpture at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Nidus Sculpture at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Continue reading

The “Empower” initiative launched today!

Have you seen this article in The Guardian today?

Read it.

Empower16% of UK households have no internet. But many people in those 16% heavily depend on internet access!

Are you a “has”? Well, after having read the Guardian article you know where the “hasnots” hang out and you can empower them. That’s what the Empower initiative is about.

Go to the library during your lunch break or on Saturday morning or during the week after work and connect with a “hasnot”. Invite him or her into your home to use your computer and your internet connection at a time that suits both of you and when neither of you mind if the session runs over.

You’ll both learn a lot from it! Heck, you may both enjoy it a lot too!

  • Don’t assume that everyone who uses the library computers is a “hasnot”, though. (You can find me there too at times. People who move house sometimes end up without internet for a while and there are many other reasons why you can find a “has” at a library computer.)
  • Worried about “mustavoids”? Bring your laptop along to the library and offer someone use of your laptop on the spot.
  • Don’t assume that the many free courses about how to use the internet out there are actually useful.

Not only is access to the internet a government requirement for many people, the legal landscape is changing quickly with Online Dispute Resolution marching forward. Do you like the idea of living in a society that you can love and be really proud of? Well, that society is you.

The future of the legal landscape

Several reports say that the legal sector in the UK is about to change radically. They say that in only five years’ time, the situation will be very different from now. Everyone knows that it will involve automation as well as a great deal of self-lawyering for consumers. Let’s take a closer look. Continue reading

The real Alicia Florrick

I know Alicia Florrick in real life. She consists of two people.

One of them is a Dutch woman in Amsterdam. A long time ago, she was my next-door neighbour, in the year in which she had her first child. That daughter was named after me, because the parents liked the name. I still remember how the new dad knocked on my door one morning, asking me to spell my name while he wrote it down on a piece of paper in a hurry.

His partner had gone to law school, but something must have happened – or maybe she just had some doubts – and she quit. The couple later split. The woman had another child, a boy this time. She was a stay-at-home mother for many years, just like Alicia Florrick.

When the children were older, she went back to law school. She was allowed to keep her single-mother’s benefits. She and I were friends for a while; I too had gone back to university at a later stage in life. I was present at her graduation ceremony in one of Amsterdam’s university buildings, a former church in the city centre, near the Spui.

After graduating, she first had several temp jobs, mostly as a legal secretary. Then she struck gold and was hired by a government organisation. She went on to become one of the country’s top lawyers in health insurance issues. Now earning well and her children gone off into the world, she continues to live in the same house. At first sight, unpretentious and even a bit dowdy-looking and certainly not a smart dresser, she has none of the glamour that surrounds Alicia Florrick, but she goes on fancy vacations and is dating a medical doctor.

The other woman funnily enough may also have the Dutch nationality, but she lives in England and I think that she grew up here. She too experienced some kind of gap in her career. She had a small business for a while that had nothing to do with law. I don’t remember whether she went to law school later in life, or took a break from the law after graduating. It doesn’t matter.

She has all of Alicia Florrick glamorous appeal. Smart as a whip, kind, driven, flawless appearance, working internationally, looking very attractive, living in a top location married to a man she met within a professional context, now a mother, and heading a department in one of the world’s top ten law firms.

Both women started their law careers after a break in their lives. Both women went on to rise to the top. It is hard for me to imagine two women who look more different on the outside. If you saw them side by side on a street in London or while on vacation, you’d think that they have nothing in common. But they’re both Alicia Florrick.


Julianna Margulies

In a previous post, I talked about the many faces of the law. In my daily dealings, I often encounter persons who find law terribly stuffy and outdated and who have almost no grasp of legal concepts. Most people know much more about astronomy than they know about law, to my astonishment. Isn’t that odd?


Attorney “Alicia Florrick” played by Julianna Margulies in TV series “The Good Wife”

Of course, the legal profession has always been very reluctant to change and kept its circles closed. Law firms were not among the first to embrace word processing either and the idea of wigs and gowns alienates the public. The mythical aura that still surrounds the area of law reminds me of what science used to be like. Esoteric and incomprehensible.

Yet both science and law constantly affect our daily lives. Every time you go to the supermarket or to the cinema, you engage in contract law. Every time you bake a cake or fry an egg, you carry out science. Science has already managed to break out of its armour. Law is bursting at the seams.

The predictions are that the practice of law will change radically in the next five years in the UK. Consumers will increasingly become active participants, the way they now ask their GPs questions they didn’t dare consider a few decades ago. The public will develop a much clearer view of the workings of the various legal disciplines.

Many factors shape people’s ideas of what law is and of what lawyers do. Actress Julianna Margulies is one of them. She has played a lawyer several times. First as Neena Broderick, she portrayed lawyers as unscrupulous. She also starred as Elizabeth Canterbury, revealing a very different type of lawyer, fiercely defending innocent clients in her role of criminal defence lawyer.

These days, most people will know her as Alicia Florrick in “The Good Wife”. Alicia Florrick goes from being a former lawyer and housewife to heading up her own top firm together with character Cary Agos in a very short time, dealing with civil matters, and then she becomes State’s Attorney.

Does it surprise you to hear that Julianna Margulies is married to a lawyer? And not just any lawyer, but one who went to Harvard Law School? (And whose father is the former Director of the John L. Thornton China Center and who now works in Foreign Policy and Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institution, in Washington, D.C.?) In an interview with The Scotsman, she commented:

“When I am learning my lines at night, I often get him to explain some legal term so I don’t have to look it up”.

Julianna Margulies grew up in Paris (France), Sussex (England), New York and New Hampshire.

Law is sexy

Law is boring, is what many people think. They connect it with their grandmother’s estate or with the paperwork for their first home. They may also remember stuffy wording.

Law is scary and creepy, is how many other people feel. It makes them think of crime and police, of burglaries and violence, and perhaps of victimhood.

But in the eyes of a third large group of people, law is sexy. They gobble up law on telly like their lives depend on it. While on vacation, they read one legal thriller after the next in their beach chairs. The Pelican Brief. The Good Wife. The Client. Ally McBeal. LA Law. The Firm. Silk. Perry Mason. The Lincoln Lawyer. Matlock.

Many writers of these legal thrillers are former lawyers. John Grisham practised criminal law for about ten years. Peter Moffat, the creator of series like Silk and North Square, is a former barrister.
Others covered a crime beat as a reporter, such as Michael Connelly.

Law is what you make it. What’s it to you?

Family court without a lawyer

I just stumbled upon a series of excellent videos about going to court on your own in family law matters. They are good to watch for litigants in person tackling other areas of law too.

I recommend going to the court at least once before the day of your hearing. That way, you will know where to go on the day of the hearing and you’ll know how long it takes you to get there.

Take into account that a hearing can suddenly be scheduled in a different building for logistic reasons if there are several courts on the same location. Always check with court staff in which room (and which building) your hearing will take place (and listen to any announcements on the public address system, if there is one).

Our Pay-Per-Period assistance package can include some practical training focused on several aspects of going to court on your own. As our assistance is tailored to our clients’ specific needs, this differs from client to client.

High Court bedroom tax victory

Picture a man and a woman who have been living in their home for nearly 30 years.house

The man has serious heart problems and arthritis and uses a stick. His wife also suffers from arthritis , has had multiple surgeries and is expected to need a wheelchair soon. Sometimes, the man’s mother, who suffers from dementia, stays in the home. It has been fully adapted to accommodate for the couple’s health problems.

Bring in the wretched bedroom tax and the retired bus driver
and his wife lose 25% of their housing benefit. Add a local council that acts unreasonably in its decision regarding a discretionary house payment (DHP). To cut a long story short, the High Court ruled for the couple, declaring the council’s decision “unlawful”.

You can read the High Court decision here and a related article by Ben Hurst in the Birmingham Mail here.

Active tampering is commonplace, says Google

So if you wondered if, perhaps, law firms are sloppy and that is why they have cyber security incidents, think again.

You can read more: here, on CNET. Chris Palmer, a security programmer on Google’s Chrome team, said it last month.

Active tampering is commonplace

That’s why Google is big fan of encryption and is using Chrome to achieve it. That’s not about e-mail, but about web sites … that you access (read more here).

If you’re into computers and want to know a heck of a lot more about what is going on in the real world out there, dive into a book called “Hacking exposed”.

By the way, most of you really do not want to read the latest Pew report about cyber harassment and cyber bullying, so I am not giving you the link to it. The internet used to be a great place when I was busy building my first web sites. My first web site had voice chat, but almost no one had a microphone or headset attached to their computers in those days.  If they had a computer. That’s how long ago it is when the internet was still really cool.

“Solicitors should not use email at all”

In an article in Computing News last year about the warning ICO issued to the legal profession after a series of data breaches, Richard Anstey, CTO EMEA for collaboration tools provider Intralinks, was asked for his input on ICO’s top tips for barristers and solicitors. computerHe said the following:

“instead of ensuring email is encrypted or password-protected, solicitors shouldnot use email at all”

You can read what he recommends using instead in the article in Computing News and possibly follow it up by going here. (I don’t know how accurate the information is on that site, but it will get you started.)