26 April 2009

Update 01 Misconduct And Or Misfeasance In Public Office?

Earlier this month, like everyone else in the noosphere/blogosphere, I blogged about Damien McBride, see "Misconduct And Or Misfeasance In Public Office?

The latest is that Nadine Dorries has,

"... instructed and proceeded with legal action.

Obviously, I am not going to say anything at all at this stage, other than that

Unfortunately there aren't enough details as to her cause of action, etc. But I hope to post more, as and when.

The story is covered in The Guardian but this only builds upon Dorries' blog post, see Tory MP Nadine Dorries to sue over Damian McBride 'smear' emails.

Hattip to Liberal Conspiracy.

Update 30th Oct 2009

MP wins damages from McBride (£1,000 damages, £2,500 costs). As more details emerge will update.

25 April 2009

Update 01 Hidden Laws

Back in January I blogged about, Hidden laws.

In short, there was an attempt to prosecute people under laws that did not exist.

The story continues with other cases coming out of the woodwork in the following report from The Times Online, 23rd April, "Tobacco-smuggling confiscation orders under review."

Which explains,

"Confiscation orders made under old regulations in tobacco-smuggling cases had to be quashed because the prosecuting authority had overlooked the fact that new regulations had narrowed the categories of persons liable to pay excise duty."


THE VICE-PRESIDENT, giving the judgment of the court, said that these were the first cases to reach the Court of Appeal following its discovery in R v Chambers ([2008] EWCA Crim 2467) that in a number of instances, a change in the regulations which applied to tobacco-smuggling cases had been overlooked at the time of making confiscation orders following conviction.

The report also makes a point about seeking a remedy for your bogus conviction and the powers of the court of appeal.

"Where there had already been an appeal against sentence to the Court of Appeal and no reference had been made to the point under discussion, that court had no power to undertake a second appeal or to reopen the hearing. The only route was to invite the Criminal Cases Review Commission to consider the case, which was also the only possible route where a previous application for leave or an appeal had been launched and abandoned."

The report also says,

"The Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office was undertaking a review of every case in which a confiscation order had been made in a tobacco-smuggling case since June 1, 2001, to identify any case in which the wrong regulations were relied on or indirectly relied on ..."

Bun and Sixpence

The Royal Society of Chemistry's flagship blog, Chemistry World tells us that,

"Hagan Bayley from the University of Oxford was announced as the 2009 Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year."

Now, I don't have anything against Hagan Bayley, per se; in fact, following the link it is obvious that his work is very worthy.

Nor do I have a problem with the Royal Society of Chemistry having a Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year award. This is the very sort of thing that they should be doing; so, well done from me.

The problem with the story is that this appears to be an example of an academic having one full time paid up job and being allowed to become rich from doing his day job. I don't know the exact details with respect to Bayley, maybe the following is true of him, maybe not. I'm not interested in singling out an individual; I'm complaining about the phenomenon.

The beneficial interest in an employees' work belongs to his employer (for an exception see, Kelly v GE Healthcare).

If you want to be an entrepreneur perhaps you should consider ...
  1. Quitting your job.
  2. Raising your own capital.
  3. Not using any intellectual property gained from your previous employer for five years.
  4. Not using any contacts obtained from working for your employer for five years.

You know, the sort of hurdles that the rest of us have to try and surmount.

21 April 2009

The Lone Vandal

I posted about an aspect of sousveillance the other day. I quoted the head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) who said that photographic and video evidence from peoples' mobile 'phones and similar was invaluable as evidence.

But then I started pondering.

Hang on a minute, what were the fourth estate up to? Those fearless ladies and gentleman of the press?

Particularly when the head of the IPCC, Nick Hardwick,

"Adopting unusually strident language, ... attacked the "unacceptable" practice of officers covering up their identification numbers at the demonstrations and said that the police needed to remember that they were "servants, not masters" of the public",
... in a story in the Telegraph, "IPCC chief criticises G20 policing as fresh brutality claims emerge".

Why didn't they send out all of their photographers with the instructions that they should be taking photographs of police officers who had removed their identity numbers?

Aah, that's why ...

The press were too busy attending the pre-arranged performance art.

Hat tip to Stef for the pic, from "Does something about this scene stink? Or does something about this scene stink?"

Update 12th February 2010. Phillip Georgopoulos, 26 - one to watch.

19 April 2009

Pack Of Lies

In February I blogged about The Law and Subversion and Insurgency Suppression.

I focused upon the difficulties of applying the law impartially when the court does not have access to all the evidence it needs.

I said, "[t]his is simply because the expert evidence (Foreign relations, intelligence) may be a complete and utter pack of lies (recall the Matrix Churchill affair)."

My note was based upon the court case Mohamed, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs [2009] EWHC 152 (Admin).

Months later, The Times reports, "Government apologises for torture cover-up"

"THE government has apologised to two High Court judges after discovering that an MI5 officer misled them over the case of a British terrorist suspect allegedly tortured while in America’s extraordinary rendition programme.

Lawyers for David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said it was “a matter of great regret” that during “a full and independent review of the case” they had uncovered 13 new documents suggesting that the official account of Britain’s knowledge of what was happening to Binyam Mohamed was inaccurate.

This is very troubling; neither the newspaper report nor this blog do justice to the story.

Updates -
  1. The Times from 22nd April has,

    "Binyam Mohamed challenges secret evidence ruling"

    "This week lawyers for Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantánamo detainee, return to court to challenge the ruling that he cannot see secret evidence that, he maintains, is central to his claim to have been subject to torture with the consent of the UK intelligence authorities.

    In February two High Court judges refused reluctantly to release the material after being told that disclosure could put at risk intelligence co-operation between the UK and the US Governments.

    Yesterday Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones were urged to revisit their ruling on the ground that it had been made on the basis of information since shown to be false.

  2. The Guardian, from the 23rd April has,

    "David Miliband claims of US threat over torture case 'slippery', court told"

    "David Miliband, the foreign secretary, was accused yesterday of seriously misleading high court judges by claiming that the United States would stop sharing crucial intelligence with Britain if they agreed to disclose CIA documents showing how a UK resident was tortured.

    Lawyers acting for Binyam Mohamed, who says MI5 was complicit in his torture, and for media organisations led by the Guardian, accused Miliband and his officials of making "false assertions" and "astonishing" and "extraordinary" statements to the high court.

    Criticism centred on the threat that Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones said Miliband had claimed existed - namely, that if they ordered the disclosure of CIA information relating to Mohamed's treatment and Britain's involvement in it, the US would end intelligence co-operation with the UK.

  3. The Press Association from 23rd has,

    "Time limit on detainee case

    "A court has put a deadline on the Government defence to test case damages claims by seven ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees, including five London men.

    Binyam Mohamed, Bisher Al Rawi, Jamil El Banna, Richard Belmar and Martin Mubanga claim rendition and torture.

    The High Court said a defence must be served by July 10 and relevant documents disclosed by October 9.

  4. PRESS RELEASE 08 May 2009

    Release date: Immediate

    Binyam Mohamed ruling: Judges will re-consider public disclosure of UK complicity in torture
    "The High Court has announced that it will re-open its original judgment that details of the torture of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed should remain secret in the interests of national security."

  5. 17th October 2009. Pathetic.

    "Binyam Mohamed ruling is a victory for justice - but now David Miliband censors judges"

    "The High Court last week dealt a humiliating blow to Foreign Secretary David Miliband's attempts to keep secret an official account of the torture of Binyam Mohamed, stating that his arguments had 'no rational basis' in a democracy governed by the rule of law."

Who Guards The Guards?

I've previously blogged about sousveillance (watching from below). The recent G20 summit has shown the burgeoning power of sousveillance. As sophisticated monitoring and recording equipment is available to every tom, dick and harry then the guards can be effectively guarded if the political will is there.

"Hardwick [the head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, IPCC] also revealed that the widespread use of mobile phones by protesters to take photographs and video footage of the clashes was providing invaluable evidence."

In a story from the Guardian, "IPCC chief slams tactics of G20 police at demo" Hardwick makes clear that a large number of failings occurred during the policing of the G20 meeting.

"He [Hardwick] made clear his concerns about incidences of officers disguising their identifying numbers, which should always be displayed on the shoulders of their uniforms, arguing that colleagues should have reported such wrongdoing.

"I think that raises serious concerns about the frontline supervision," Hardwick said. "Why was that happening, why did the supervisor not stop them? What does that say about what your state of mind is? You were expecting trouble?

"I think that is unacceptable. It is about being servants, not masters: the police are there as public servants."

He said such infringements were within the IPCC's remit "and we will deal with it".

Whether or not this is empty rhetoric time will tell.

18 April 2009

Will Unwitting Evaders Be Shamed?

The Guardian reports that, "Alistair Darling to publish blacklist of UK's biggest tax evaders."

"Tax cheats who deprive the exchequer of sums greater than £25,000 are to be named and shamed by the government in a crackdown on evasion to be unveiled by Alistair Darling in the budget on Wednesday.

The chancellor will announce that Revenue & Customs will publish a blacklist of individuals and companies deemed to be serious defaulters, and force small businesses to provide extra information for five years if found guilty of tax offences.

Yet, earlier in the week, care of Current Awareness, we had the story from Out-Law saying that,

"A court ruling has thrown into doubt a company's right to reclaim VAT relating to goods that it later repossessed. The ruling could undermine the usefulness of businesses retaining the right to repossess goods they supply to other businesses."

The article explains that Ford sold some cars to a dealership and as is customary in commercial contracts, Ford held on to the legal ownership of the cars until it had been paid.

Unfortunately, the dealership went bust but Ford were still liable for the VAT to be paid on the cars. In this particular case, "[t]he Court said that the facts uncovered by the Tribunal were not sufficient to make a definitive ruling."

So, Darling's proposals, as reported above, will not be as simple or as fair as they first appear. On the face of it, Ford would be one of the companies to be named and shamed. They are quite sensibly avoiding the payment of tax because they believe that they don't owe it.

What happens if this happened to a company that was smaller than Ford?

Or rather, this happens to companies all the time. They think twice about submitting invoices to failing companies because they don't want to be liable for the VAT on those invoices. But now there may be the extra burden of being named and shamed.

Think again, Darling.

Brunel Motor Company Ltd v HM Revenue & Customs & Anor [2009] EWCA Civ 118

17 April 2009

Is The Closed Source Publication Model Charitable?

Will closed source publishing fall foul of the Charities Act 2006?

Charities Act 2006

Consider the Wellcome Trust (Charity No 210183) who has as one of its charitable heads, "TO ADVANCE AND PROMOTE KNOWLEDGE AND EDUCATION".

An impressive example of this work can be seen here,

"Blocking BRAF: developing enzyme inhibitors as cancer drugs"

Watch the video. It gives a good overview of their work. Further, follow the blog, KinasePro for other examples of important work done in this field.

So, what's the problem?

After viewing the video, scroll down the page and have a look at the publications,

Searching for the last one, J Med Chem 2008;51(11):3261-3274 takes us to ...

... and this is where the problem can be found.

Substantial numbers of people cannot get to this vital information.

The charity is transferring substantial amounts of wealth to a publishing house to the detriment of its charitable status. The charity even needs to pay to access the information that it generated!

I think that this process of publication is in breach of the Charities Act 2006.

The Act has to be interpreted within the current factual matrix; providing education for the few is not within the public interest.

Obviously, curing cancer is within the public interest but there's more to it than that. A lot of drug companies are trying to cure cancer but they don't try and claim charitable status.

Watch this space for the Charity Commission's opinion and perhaps a subsequent judicial review.

Bear in mind that if this process of publication is found not to be charitable, pressure will fall upon other funding agencies, ie government, not to fund institutions that publish research in closed access journals; the resulting domino effect could end pay for content scientific journals as we know them.

16 April 2009

Politician Heckled

The Times reports that,

"30,000 pay respects at Anfield, then Andy Burnham turns grief to anger.

More than 30,000 turned up at the football ground to grieve, to mourn and — unexpectedly — to express their anger. The occasion was hijacked by politics. But hijacking is a dangerous business. It’s likely to go wrong.

The surprise speaker was Andy Burnham, the Culture and Sport Secretary. The appearance of a government minister provoked a strong response. His words pricked the bubble of grief and pushed an emotionally charged occasion into the realms of fury.

This incident immediately reminded me of what happened on the 25th commemoration of the Bologna bombing on 2nd August 2005.

In a report titled, Sons of Darkness: Bologna, 1980 the authors describe ...

"The public disdain that reigned 25 years ago has barely abated. Bologna’s ... crowds invariably heckle Rome government officials when they visit the city in August to pay homage to the victims. They do so in part to protest bureaucratic Italy’s ongoing tedency to conceal more than it reveals, spawning confusion, resentment and passionate accusations of complicity."

The comparisons between the two events, as well as the contrasts, are striking.

15 April 2009

Is Addiction A Disease?

I just wanted to comment on the story,

"James Purnell says: alcoholics should seek help or lose benefits".

It's of interest because it is such a strange story. "Alcoholics may have benefits withdrawn from them unless they agree to go on a government treatment programme, the work and pensions secretary, James Purnell, suggested yesterday.

"The government is already piloting plans to require drug addicts to go on treatment programmes or lose benefit, ...

The problem is, "Purnell has asked Glasgow University to work up practical proposals on how to define alcoholism, what treatment alcoholics would be required to take and how to judge whether they were taking it seriously."

So there is a government policy in the offing to coerce people to take treatment for a disease that the government cannot yet define?

What are the chances that the definition of the disease is going to be scientifically objective? This isn't a criticism of the academics who will be charged with the task rather it is an allusion to the way in which this government has treated academics in the past.

Recall the story, "Jacqui Smith slaps down drugs adviser for comparing ecstasy to horse riding". The government sought expert opinion; the government got expert opinion; it wasn't to the governments liking.

"Jacqui Smith today hit out at the government's top drugs adviser for suggesting that taking ecstasy was no worse than riding a horse.

The home secretary accused Professor David Nutt of "trivialising" the dangers of drugs and showing "insensitivity to the families of victims" of ecstasy.

What if the academics came back to the government and said that the cure for addiction was to build everyone a rat park?

Reference - The Myth of Drug-Induced Addiction

Update - The straight dopamine theory could be up in smoke:

"There is now growing evidence that cannabis use causes a small but reliable increase in the chance of developing psychosis. Traditionally, this was explained by the drug increasing dopamine levels in the brain but a new study shortly to be published in NeuroImage suggests that the active ingredient in cannabis doesn't effect this important neurotransmitter."

14 April 2009

Heart Rending ...

A desperately sad story has just surfaced in the Daily Mail.

"Location, Location, Location star Phil Spencer's property firm went bust owing over £500,000."

"Television property expert Phil Spencer's company owed more than £500,000 when it went into administration.

Papers signed by the Location, Location, Location star reveal the full extent of his company's financial turmoil.

When it folded in February Garrington Home Finders owed creditors £576,052."

Like tens of thousands of others in the UK, Phil took advantage of complicated economic conditions brought about by New Labour's running (ruining?) of the economy to try and become rich. The failed economic polices meant that inflation in the housing sector led to people buying houses which rose in price, this meant that they could borrow more money on the basis of this rise in price. On paper, they became very rich indeed.

This was anticipated to go on forever.

Sadly, for reasons too difficult for most people to understand these economic conditions had to come to an end.

The government are currently doing all they can to try and get lending levels back to normal. They have transferred fantastic amounts of money from the taxpayer to the financial sector in order to keep Phil's delusion alive but this has failed miserably. Sadly, the taxpayer will not be able to get their money back for this folly.

Of course, it isn't only Phil who behaved in this way. Down at the repossesion courts, Mr Justice Gerlis said, "[w]hat is also intriguing is that a substantial number of defaulting borrowers are those who have taken out mortgages in the last couple of years, including a sizeable number who have not paid a single penny since the mortgage was taken out." (It isn't clear whether or not they were taking advice from Phil and his tv partner, Kirsty).

If only New Labour could take more taxpayer's money in order to help these people who had no interest in making any mortgage loan repayments.

On a happier note, Phil's co-presenter, Kirsty, from 'Location, Location, Location' a television series which purported to show people the contribution that they could make to society by becoming property developers is expected to be financially sorted.

She comes from a monied aristocratic background.

12 April 2009

Misconduct And Or Misfeasance In Public Office?

The former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, draws our attention to the crime of misconduct in public office in the post, "McBride, Whelan and Watson Must Be Arrested."

Damian McBride

(Background to the story from The Times, "Revealed: e-mails that toppled key Brown aide.")

He argues that the three should be prosecuted for misconduct in public office and gives links to the CPS website which explain the elements of the offence.

Of course, Ambassador Murray, or anyone else, could launch a private prosecution. Again, the Crown Prosecution Service provides helpful links, "What Are Private Prosecutions?"

"Individuals have long had the right to bring private prosecutions in court. This right (with certain exceptions) was preserved in the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985."

and "Private Prosecutions."

Another useful link from the perspective of legal analysis is Standard Note: SN/PC/04909 which, "briefly sets out the history of the common law offence of ‘misconduct in public office’. It looks at recent use of the offence in prosecutions and considers proposals to place the offence on a statutory footing."

This is recommended reading for any law-bores who are interested in this story.

What is also of interest, from the same source, is the following ...

"There is also a tort of misfeasance in public office, which is a civil offence. This has been defined in the leading case of Three Rivers D.C. v Bank of England (no 3). Lord Steyn explained that there were two different forms of the tort: First there is the case of targeted malice by a public officer i.e. conduct specifically intended to injure a person or persons. This type of case involves bad faith in the sense of the exercise of public power for an improper or ulterior motive. The second form is where a public officer acts knowing that he has no power to do the act complained of and that the act will probably injure the plaintiff. It involves bad faith inasmuch as the public officer does not have an honest belief that his act is lawful.

In such a civil case, a person injured by the action would need to begin proceedings. Archbold 2008 notes the Attorney General case of 2004 where it was held that the tort is committed by a public officer acting as such who wilfully neglects to perform his duty or wilfully misconducts himself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse in the public’s trust in the office holder. However, the court noted that the threshold was high.
" (references in original).

This raises a number of questions: 1) will those who have been smeared launch a civil action; and, 2) if not, why not?

Update - link to News of the World coverage, "Vicious and Vile" and to Guy Fawkes' blog, where the story broke, "He Who Lives By the Smear…"

11 April 2009

Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe

The title speaks for itself. The link to the paper ...

Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe pp.7-31 (25) Authors: Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones, Kevin R. Ryan, Frank M. Legge, Daniel Farnsworth, Gregg Roberts, James R. Gourley, Bradley R. Larsen
doi: 10.2174/1874412500902010007

... can be found here (or simply follow the doi link above).

"Based on these observations, we conclude that the red
layer of the red/gray chips we have discovered in the WTC
dust is active, unreacted thermitic material, incorporating
nanotechnology, and is a highly energetic pyrotechnic or
explosive material.

It will be interesting to see how this work is received.

09 April 2009

Naphthoresorcinol Answer

Molecule of the Day talks about naphthorescorcinol, explaining that it was used as a spot test for aldehydes. In the presence of acidified aldehydes a red adduct is formed.

I posted a response but it didn't work.

So here's my tuppence worth ...

... is the molecule that would be formed from acidified benzaldehyde.

Image generated courtesy of Daylight's Depict and the following smiles string O=C(C2=C(C=C/3O)C=CC=C2)C3=C\C1=CC=CC=C1

Does Gail Wynand Like Mark Lombardi?

Gail Wynand is a character from the A Rand novel, The Fountainhead.

He was a rich newspaper proprietor who went about seeking and buying up art; he did this so that the masses would not be able to have access to it.

We've all seen the "iconic" Che Guevara image and other such tiresome trash but how come posters of Lombardi's Narrative Structures are so hard to find?

If anyone knows where to get posters of Lombardi's work, please drop me a line.

08 April 2009

Reading DNA

For the chemists who may happen to come to this blog, this note, "Chemiotics: Chemists — masters of the Cartesian dualism and the two links within it are worth reading.

"The information in DNA depends on how it's read (one way by the ribosome reading mRNA to make a protein, another by the splicing machinery to determine what mRNA is made, and a third way by microRNAs to determine how long the mRNA hangs around)."

Follow the link, above!

Are CCTV images electronic communications?

Just a thought with regard to The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009.

Can CCTV images be construed such that they fall under the Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations of 2009?

If they can and they are transmitted over a public network then it is incumbent upon the network provider to make copies of them and retain them for a year.

Further, regulation 7, in part provides,

"Access to data retained in accordance with these Regulations may be obtained only—


(b) in circumstances in which disclosure of the data is permitted or required by law.

In other words the images can be used by anyone who has a right of discovery.

If the copying was done automatically this would make it so much harder for the police to lose CCTV images.

Even if this regulation doesn't cover CCTV images; have I just made a compelling argument for the copying and storing for a year of CCTV images such that the original images are out of the hands of the police?

Addendum - the question above has been asked of the Information Commissioner's Office. Will report back with any news.
Further thoughts, 20th Nov 2009.

In these regulations

"4.—(1) It is the duty of a public communications provider to retain the communications data specified in the following provisions of the Schedule to these Regulations— ..."

While, section 2 has it that,

(e) “public communications provider” means—

(i) a provider of a public electronic communications network, or

(ii) a provider of a public electronic communications service;

and “public electronic communications network” and “public electronic communications service” have the meaning given in section 151 of the Communications Act 2003

While section 151 of the Communications Act 2003 defines,

"“public electronic communications network” means an electronic communications network provided wholly or mainly for the purpose of making electronic communications services available to members of the public;"

In short, police CCTV cameras cannot be construed as being part of a "public electronic communications network".

Power is asymmetry - in this case, asymmetry of access to information.

But for ...

"Shocking video footage of a newspaper seller being knocked over by police minutes before he died of a heart attack during the G20 protests emerged last night.

Ian Tomlinson, 47, was hit with a baton and pushed to the floor by an officer in riot gear after getting caught up in the demonstrations in the City of London last Wednesday.
" Reports Tom Kelly in the Daily Mail.

In law, the but for test is the test of causation.

'But for' the assault on Ian Tomlinson, would he be alive today?

If the answer is yes, then the person who assaulted him is liable for his death.

Addendum As far as I can see, the person who hit Tomlinson is liable for battery under the civil law and assault under the criminal law.

He may be liable for manslaughter or murder depending upon the outcome of the but for test.

07 April 2009

Admissibility of Expert Opinion Evidence

The Independent reports, Crackdown on expert witnesses,

"Scientists, doctors and other experts are to be stopped from giving misleading evidence in court after a series of miscarriages of justice involving unreliable testimony, under proposals published today.

The proposals being found in, "The Law Commission Consultation Paper No 190 THE ADMISSIBILITY OF EXPERT EVIDENCE IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS IN ENGLAND AND WALES A New Approach to the Determination of Evidentiary Reliability A Consultation Paper".

Before any comments from me, a quotation from the conclusion of the paper,

"5.1 The present common law approach to the admissibility of expert evidence in criminal proceedings in England and Wales is unsatisfactory and should be replaced with a new statutory test."

A Couple of Points

Point 1)

Replacing the common law with statute tends towards setting the test in stone: the test needs to be sufficiently flexible for it to work.

My tuppence, with regard to the admissibility of Scientific expert opinion evidence - one needs to come up with the current definition of science. How can one decide upon the scientific basis of something if the word science is not defined. I stress the word current since what constitutes science has changed over time and is expected to change as time passes.

Murphy (2006) says,

"As long ago as the mid-sixteenth century, Saunders J was able to express pride in the readiness of the law to accept guidance from suitablbly qualified experts. In Buckley v Rice Thomas (1554) Plowd 118, 124, he said:

... if matters arise in our law which concern other sciences or faculties, we commonly apply for the aid of that science or faculty which it concerns. ...

In Folkes v Chadd (1782) 3 Doug KB 157, Lord Mansfield confirmed that the opinion of scientific men on proven facts may be given by 'men of science within their own science'.

So, what did the word science mean in 1554, 1782 and what does it mean now (Folkes v Chadd has been reaffirmed in Turner (1975))?

Did it, or does it bear the same meaning?

Anyone with an understanding of the history of science and anyone who understands language will realise that the meanings of words change over time.

Point 2)

The consultation paper talks about incorporating the criteria found in Daubert for deciding the admissibility of scientific expert opinion evidence. If this was taken up, fingerprint evidence would not be admissible as evidence due to lack of validity.

Murphy P (2005). Murphy on Evidence. 9th ed, OUP: Oxford.

Update Why the Law Commission is worried about expert evidence

05 April 2009

Thoughts on Truck

A while ago someone asked me why, in the nineteen-eighties, it wasn't possible for workers to be paid in cash anymore. Prior to this time the employee could insist upon being paid in cash. But now, to be paid, the employee has to have a bank account and to accept payment by cheque, money transfer or similar.

I tried to find the answer but didn't get very far for a while.

Finally, to cut a long story short, I realised that section 11 of the Wages Act 1986 repealed the Truck Acts which had ensured that an "artisan" (a worker) had the right to be paid in money. With the Truck Acts gone, the employer and employee had freedom of contract to negotiate how the employee was going to be paid by the employer; ie, it was a case of take a cheque or get out.

This was the sort of thing it was hoped that the Truck Acts would prevent. In fact, they were supposed to prevent other abuses; namely, the use of the truck system.

The truck system is described by Hilton (1960) as, "the name given to a set of closely related arrangements whereby some form of consumption is tied to the contract of employment." In practice this meant that the employee would not be paid in cash but instead, be paid in tokens that were redeemable for goods sold at the company shop. Of course, the price of the goods in the company shop was usually inflated compared to elsewhere but, since the tokens were not redeemable elsewhere the employee had no choice but to pay these higher prices.

My initial perception of the truck system was partly captured in the painting by Herkomer, Hard Times (see above): imagine the chap in the picture negotiating his wages with a mill owner; the mill owner could simply say to him, you've got two choices, either have the job with the truck system or don't have the job at all.

However, reading Hilton's (1960) description of the system leads to a much fuller picture. He describes how large profitable employers did not use the truck system because they were in competition for labour - if they used the truck system the labour would go elsewhere. Hilton described how it was the less profitable employers who used the truck system in order to subsidise their concerns, and he described how the prevalence of the truck system was related to market conditions. During periods of deflation the truck system was used to claw back the value that was transferred to the employees by paying higher value money in wages.

Hilton continues by explaining that the wording of Truck Act of 1831 (eg s3 'All wages must be paid in current coin of the realm.') should not be confused with its intent. The Acts principal support came from major employers "bent upon putting down their lesser rivals who were securing a cost advantage out of the truck system." The Act and subsequent Truck Acts were considered to be failures at what they attempted to do. During times of economic prosperity the truck system fell into disuse; during times of deflation, some employers used the truck system.

This situation continued, under various different Truck Acts until they were repealed by the Wages Act 1986.

For me, that's not the end of the story. One of the things that wasn't analysed by Hilton was that when people are paid by crediting their bank accounts, the employee doesn't get any money. Instead he gets a chose in action; the right to sue the bank for the money if they don't pay up.

Consider what Lord Goddard CJ said in R v Davenport [1954] 1 All ER 602, 603:

"Although we talk of people having money in a bank, the only person who has money in a bank is the banker. If I pay money into my bank, either by paying cash or a cheque, the money at once becomes the money of the banker. The relationship between banker and customer is that of debtor and creditor. ... I have a chose in action, that is I have a right to expect that the banker will honour my cheque, ..."

To a lot of people, this situation doesn't matter.

Of course, if the bank goes bust it matters since they are at risk of not being able to convert their chose in action to cash. This almost happened with Northern Rock and it happened with an Icelandic Internet bank. As is well known, the UK gov rescued Northern Rock and, as far as I'm aware, it redeemed money for people who deposited into the failed Icelandic bank.

The other point that sticks in my craw is that under these circumstances, people are being forced to lend their money to a bank. That is, morals aside, people are being forced to put their money at risk for very little reward.

When the Wages Act 1986 was debated in the House of Commons, David Nellist mp said, "I have just discovered that 7 million workers are paid in cash and that only half of them have bank accounts. The high street banks, considering the prospect of 3.5 million new accounts, must welcome this legislation because of the extra profits that those accounts would generate."

So, at least 3.5 million people could survive without a bank account.

Now, who does this situation benefit; those people, or the banks holding those people's accounts?

Herkomer, Sir H von (1849-1914). Hard Times. Manchester City Art Gallery.
Hilton, G W (1960). The Truck System. Cambridge: W Heffer & Sons.

01 April 2009

Datchworth Overseers

The Royal Society of Chemistry's theme for 2009 is the relationship between chemistry and food. They explain that while researching their theme they came across the story of the deaths of the Eaves family in the village of Datchworth in Hertfordshire, 1769.

Village will commemorate the family it allowed to starve to death[,] 12 March 2009

"The bodies of James Eaves and his wife, one of their two sons and an infant daughter were discovered naked and skeletal on straw in a filthy parochial Poor House, a hovel bereft of roof and window panes.

Crawling amongst their corpses was found their surviving 11-year-old son, who descended into insanity from which he was not to recover.


In searching for historical examples of starvation in England, the society located in the historic documents section of the British Library a pamphlet written by a former soldier called Philip Thicknesse who witnessed the cadavers of the family and who then set about demanding that the village authorities be brought to book.

Thicknesse, believed to be a friend of society artist Thomas Gainsborough, visited the scene and afterwards foiled an attempted cover-up by the village.

He later prepared, and paid for, a pamphlet, containing a drawing of the hovel death scene, hoping to jolt the Establishment into action and to bring about changes in the law, as well as to pursue the parish officers he regarded as responsible for the deaths and who tried to hush up the incident by burying the bodies clandestinely.

But those who had reportedly failed to do their parochial duties to the poor by allowing the family to go without food and water for weeks were never prosecuted.

In the pamphlet, headed 'An account of four people starved to death in Hertfordshire 1769', archives Philip Thicknesse says that it was written by himself as "one of the jurymen on the inquisition taken on the bodies, printed for the benefit of the surviving child."

The image of the five is captioned "a View of the Poor House of Datchworth in Herts addressed to the Overseers of England."

The family, he said, "perished from want of food, rayment, attendance and a habitable dwelling."

The bodies were "emaciated beyond any conception, lying on a very small quantity of dirty peas straw spread on the bare earthen floor."

They were, he reports, discovered by a shepherd boy accidentally.

The parish officers attempted to bury them before an inquest could be conducted but were thwarted by Thicknesse after he halted a cart into which the corpses had been cast and covered by straw.

He went to the rector, referred to only as Dr S_________, now known to be the Rev William Smith, of Clare College, to remind him of the consequences of the "dark transaction"

The bodies were taken to the church and the next day examined by a local surgeon brought from nearby Hatfield who commented that he "had never seen bodies so emaciated".

The mother, the account relates, had been seen crawling to the village pond for water but she was too weakened to convey the filled kettle home and that was the final sighting of any member of the family.

He wrote: "These four unhappy persons died a more miserable and cruel death than the felons who we broke on the wheel or those who are tortured to death by the Inquisition in Spain or Portugal."

He concludes that the narrative was "so shocking to humanity and so alarming in this Christian country."

There is a lot that is disturbing about this story.

The title of the picture above, "a View of the Poor House of Datchworth in Herts addressed to the Overseers of England[]" should have been addressed to the Overseers of Datchworth but I'm getting ahead of myself.

From what I can gather from supping at the fount of google (not to be taken as the Pyrean spring) is that overseers were borne of the Elizabethan Poor Law 1601 (43 Eliz C2),

"Be it enacted by the authority of this present parliament, that the churchwardens of every Parish, and four, three or two substantial householders there, ..., shall be called Overseers of the poor of the same Parish".

According to the Act the overseers had to find work for people who couldn't find it; provide relief for people who needed it and pay for all of this out of local taxes which they levied.

So, who were the Overseers in Datchworth in 1769?

The names of these people will be recorded. Why wasn't there any prosecution of these people? Again, this should be a matter of historical record, at least the names of the people who should have and could have prosecuted them will be known to someone.

Setting the story into its then political and legal context gives resonance to our society today. It brings into question the RSC's food campaign. Is it really true that the Eaves family starved because there was a famine? Not as far as I am aware.

This sort of thing continues to the present day. I remember when I used to work in Cambridge; one winter evening a sixteen year old homeless boy froze to death in a bus shelter.

Yes, science is important. Economics and hence politics are predicated upon it.

But with a political consciousness that can allow these things to happen ...