You are not to blame

But you should be aware of what yesterday’s Panorama talked about.

cyber security guy or hackerAmong other things, Panorama told the story of a woman who received an e-mail from her solicitor, informing her that the solicitor’s firm had changed bank.

Could she please pay the £47,000 into the new account instead of to the old account? She did.

The e-mail was spoofed, a genuine-looking but completely fake e-mail, headers (source) and all. She had willingly paid £47,000 into the bank account of a hacker. Continue reading

Presentation skills training for litigants in person

Once a month, I offer presentation skills training for litigants in person. In consultation with the participants, I will find a date and location that suits all participants. A session will go ahead as soon as five participants have committed.

If not, then the fees will be refunded in full before the end of the month.

£149 per person. Lunch and refreshments included. Please indicate nutritional requirements, such as “vegan”, and your preferred month and county.

Tentative schedule:

November 2015: Dorset
December 2015: Kent
January 2016: Hampshire
February 2016: Surrey or Sussex
March 2016: Devon
April 2016: Somerset
May 2016: Wiltshire
September 2016: Berkshire, Oxfordshire or Buckinghamshire
October 2016: Bedfordshire or Hertfordshire
November 2016: Gloucestershire
December 2016: Essex

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Panic attacks

How can you prepare yourself for court situations as described in this long article in The Guardian?

Make sure that you feel comfortable in the court room.

You can do that by going to the court house – any court house – as often as you can. Enter the building, empty your pockets, go through the metal detector, and walk around in the building. Attend other people’s court hearings as a member of the public.

Pay a great deal of attention to how you feel and which things make you feel anxious. Or angry, or confused. Ask yourself why they make you feel that way and what you can do about it. Do not fight the feelings that well up in you. Most of the stress comes from trying to suppress feelings. That internal battle drains your energy and overwhelms you.

Go back into the court building time and time again, and teach yourself to look at your emotions from a distance, not seeing them as good or bad but as, heck, potted plants or tumbleweeds. Over time, they’ll probably disappear or show up briefly and then dissipate.

Teach yourself to stay calm in your court hearings.

This is the hard part. You can make sure that the people you will have to deal with in the court room, such as your ex, do not make you feel as panicked as one of the persons the article in The Guardian talks about.

You can do that by sitting in a room at home, with no one else around. Relax and picture yourself in the court room. Look around, and imagine seeing for example your ex there, and the other side’s barrister, and the judge, and everyone else.

Again, pay a great deal of attention to your feelings. Feel the panic and anger come up? The sorrow? The powerlessness? Let them be. Do not fight them.

If you do this over and over and over again, your feelings of panic and anger, powerlessness and pain may slowly start to disappear. It is hard work. Do it! It is worth it. Also, try not to look at your situation in terms of what you stand to lose, but in view of what you may gain, if that helps you.

Easy for me to say? Yeah! But I’ve been there. After my second court hearing, I walked into the ice-cold December sea because I felt terribly powerless. Useless. Later, I’ve stood in a court room’s toilet area, shaking, very nervous before yet another hearing.

I have also witnessed that lawyers themselves can get just as nervous and shaky and upset as you when they are the defendants in civil proceedings. It is a shocking sight. A moment of truth. The lawyers for the other side, too, are merely humans. They are not that different from you and me. They get tired and cranky and weepy, just like we do. But they don’t show it in the court room. Because they’ve taught themselves to remain as calm as possible in the court room.

It is not a matter of suppressing or fighting your feelings. It is a matter of acknowledging your feelings, accepting them and allowing them to come out – embracing them – when they don’t hamper your calm effectiveness. Particularly for Britons, who historically have been taught to abhor emotions, that can be very hard.

A word of warning

There is a great deal of information on the internet for those who go to court without legal representation, but not all of it is accurate, even when it’s published by a reputable source.

mouseJust before I went to my first court hearing as a litigant in person (in legal proceedings that I had started), I quickly double-checked something on the web. What I then found was not what I remembered about it, but as the web site on which I found the information was high-quality, I assumed that I had remembered things incorrectly.

The judge set me straight. The information I had remembered was correct; the information I found on the reputable web site was out of date. it did not matter in this case, but it could have been important. Mistakes like this can get a case thrown out of court.

Also, even court staff such as ushers sometimes deliberately give you the wrong information, by way of joke. It is not supposed to happen, but it does. Be prepared for that.

Don’t pay too much attention by what that you’re told in the pub either. Many Britons may be excellent bullshitters, certainly when they’ve had a pint or two, but don’t get fooled by appearances. Don’t instantly discard everything you’re told, but don’t blindly take it for the truth either (or the opposite: the person you consider stupid may be smarter than you can imagine).

Rely on solid information. Be your own authority on the law and the legal process. That’s how you need to operate as a litigant in person. You set the course.

Court system overhaul?

“While those with money can secure the finest legal provision in the world, the reality in our courts for many of our citizens is that the justice system is failing them – badly,” Mr Gove will say in a speech in London.

The new Justice Secretary will deliver a damning verdict on the “creaking and dysfunctional” court system, warning that is riddled by inefficiency and bureaucracy which compounds the suffering of crime victims.

In his report last year, which was commissioned by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Leveson said: “Our conduct of criminal trials was designed in the 19th century with many changes and reforms bolted on, especially over the last 30 years.”

“The result is that it has become inefficient, time-consuming and, as a result, very expensive.”

In The Independent this morning. It all focuses on criminal justice only, but may have consequences for civil cases too. Read the rest of the article.

Relief from sanctions, late witness statements and litigants in person


The judgment of Mr Justice Warren in Chadwick -v- Burling [2015] EWHC 1610 (Ch) highlights some important issues in relation to relief from sanctions in general, and the position of litigants in person in particular.

Reblogged from Civil Litigation Brief

Originally posted on Civil Litigation Brief:

The judgment of Mr Justice Warren in Chadwick -v- Burling [2015] EWHC 1610 (Ch) highlights some important issues in relation to relief from sanctions in general, and the position of litigants in person in particular.


The applicant in the case was the trustee in bankruptcy and bringing an action for possession and declarations of ownership in relation to a number of properties.  An order was made for the filing of evidence. The respondents did not file any evidence. A peremptory order was made that evidence be served by 5th August 2014 or the respondents be debarred from relying on evidence.

The second-respondent was the former wife of the bankrupt. She did not file evidence. She stated that she did not recall receiving the order, but did not positively state she did not receive it.

An application was made for relief from sanctions. That application was refused by the…

View original 3,463 more words

Commonly agreed-on human rights

  • the right to medical care
  • the right to education
  • the right and the duty to perform socially useful work
  • the right to good working conditions
  • the right to such public help as may be necessary to make it possible for a person to support his or her family
  • the right to social security
  • the right to good food and housing and to live in surroundings that are pleasant and healthy
  • the right to rest and leisure

What if you click but don’t collect?

Many retail chains offer a click-and-collect service. You select and pay for your purchases online, and on the following day or even later on the same day, you can go to a branch near you, or tube station or community location, and collect your purchases.

tomatoesBut what happens if you don’t collect your goods because another car collides with yours on the way to the store and you end up in hospital? Or simply because your train or plane is delayed? Continue reading

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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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

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