Monday, 26 September 2016

Is Lord Grabafee of BHS the nadir of the House of Lords - or the High Court?

What to do about the BHS scandal?

Over 80 stores closed and 11,000 jobs lost and a pension black-hole of £500M. A business sold for a quid by Philip Green styled as Sir Shifty by the Daily Mail, and Lord Grabiner the Chairman, styled as Lord Grabafee by the Financial Times.

The backdrop of Dominic Chappell a serial-bankrupt buying the business for a quid seems as absurd as it is crooked.

For crooked is what BHS seems to be – not just a business deal gone wrong. BHS was producing lavish profits while the sale was lumped in with various other Green property deals.

Fishier than the fish swimming around his super-yachts on his Summer holiday.

And most dubious of all if not downright criminal was secret shareholders not listed in the plc accounts – who were also suppliers to BHS.
A rat’s nest of financial jiggery-pokery it what it seems to be.

But there’s more.

Not content with destroying BHS, Lord Grabiner still sits on the woolsack in the House of Lords, presiding over legislation and policy and issues.

And worse (and how did this ever arise) he’s also a High Court judge – in theory sitting on cases such as BHS.

And worse (how does this go on) he’s also a QC with his own firm of lawyers, One Essex Court, passing cases through to himself and his judicial colleagues.
Something stinks.

Sure it’s Grabiner – he protests only lightly at being billed as Lord Grabafee but the problem is systemic.

Not just within One Essex Court: Grabiner’s colleagues, Leaver or Glick QC (another of the strange conflation of lawyer and judge) and Hollingworth.

Hollingworth is the rather bizarre part-time magician – sleight of hand a speciality no doubt - and a self-confessed High Court fraudster.

His word may be good for rabbits out of a hat or handkerchiefs up his sleeve, but worthless in the courts.

A Hollingworthless in effect.

Glick is perhaps just old and doddery and incompetent rather than out-and-out crooked. Still less than ideal for High Court material though.

They've been caught out they just want to remain silent.

The final absurdity is both Glick and Hollingworth are taken under Grabiner’s wing in his rather disreputable firm - and provided with parliamentary business(!) on tax reviews and so on.

But within the legal profession itself something has gone wrong if the publicly-provided justice system has in effect excluded the public to leave it as a mere plaything and ATM for lawyers.

By that I mean:

• closed courts
• end of jury trials
• regulatory authorities constituted of lawyers and barristers: SRA and BSB rather than normal Trading Standards or Police and CPS investigations
• cod-courts of disciplinary or review tribunals
• barristers termed self-employed yet working in a firm and acting together as employees – a rather strange variant of zero hours contracts
• junior judges and masters who also serve as lawyers – as with Grabiner prosecuting cases they’ve generated for themselves or friends
• a random approach to their own rules – the High Court for example is only supposed to try cases over £100k or serious public interest
• uncapped and unregulated lawyer fees – not just increasing the cost of courts but chilling justice

Simply put are we allowing lawyers too much of a free hand in self-regulation?

Should we be striking off or jailing more of them?

And do the courts need closer scrutiny and oversight?

A judge like Grabiner left to his own devices in court – or the Lords, never mind the BHS boardroom - can cause a lot of damage.

And frankly I’d expect more of Keir Starmer the Keir Hardy of the courtroom, a cloth-cap QC and now MP but also former Director of Public Prosecutions.
What’s he waiting for on legal reform? A Lenin Starmer to come along?

Apart from any of the above points, minor tweaks such as cancelling the death penalty in the Commonwealth nation could easily be done given UK is the Supreme Court for many of those nations.

Why would a DPP and QC and MP perpetuate, that given the UK death penalty was abolished decades ago?

While Norman Fowler the new Speaker of the House of Lords has urged a “get on with it” approach to Lords reform: few doubt it’s over-stuffed at 800 Lords or elderly with more Lords over 90 than under 40, and old-fashioned with hereditary lords.

And bishops – a system found nowhere else except Iran or the last absolutist monarchies in Dubai and Brunei.

Nothing more complex than a combination of voluntary resignations and names out of a hat could reduce the Lords to the size of the Commons before Xmas.

Appointed or elected Lords and tenure is a separate matter – but if jury service is banned after age 75 there’s a useful benchmark.

But surely the disgraceful Lord Grabafee incident highlights the need for wider reform.

Should Grabiner continue to sit as a Lord? Or a High Court judge? Or even a QC or lawyer?

I’m not sure I’d want him preparing legislation or handling court cases given his evasion over BHS and criticism from Parliament.

Why has he not sacked Hollingworth or Glick or called in the regulators given the confessions from fraud?

And if self-regulation of the Lords and High Court is supposed to work why hasn’t the same “get on with it” approach resulted in Grabiner already been struck off?
After Jeffrey Archer and Mountfield has the nadir of the Lords and High Court being reached?

Time for Change


• an interesting Transparency International report on local government secrecy and corruption: as at TDCC it’s clear the FOI reforms needed reform with details of contracts etc simply refused or hidden. And an interesting point in the report on the cost of public sector workers placed on other duties/suspended rather than sacked

• The Ramsgate Port admitted £500k GIAA/OLAF fraud seem sot have disappeared into the ether with the Pleasurama and election fraud

• Good the Ramsgate Deputy Mayor has bene sacked for the Moslem racism – UKIP in Kent is simply an irrelevance – stale and crooked pensioners and failed Tories led by the nose by the civil servants and pretending they’re doing something

• The first ever UK councillor in Ian Driver fined £23k and threatened with jail over secret council documents - and prosecuted with public funds - is outrageous

• The silence on Thor mercury and Infratil contamination is merely corporate manslaughter allowing the public to be polluted

• Manston runway still not dug up – nor the housing at Discovery Park science park cancelled or focus on vaccines

• Good AMR raised: vaccines in farm animals a key issue for supermarkets and butchers and farmers over the next few months – the good folks of Waitrose already beginning on delivering on AMR-friendly meat

• An improved Ramsgate pedzone and seafront on illegal parking – no cars after 10am on any day needed, and cars clamped and removed if parked on pavements

• Impressed with Thailand’s OTOP and Kenya’s Artisan Fashion programmes – the latter Vivienne Westwood handbags etc with crafts and cow-horn etc

• No news as yet on Kent Orchids and UK-Lao postage stamp designs

* Horrifying the USA admits using phosphorous in Iraq and now Russia using phosporous, napalm and cluster bombs in Syria - war crimes trials must be needed and stockpiles in Egypt, Sudan, Angola etc:

* a fascinating BBC documentary on the Lairg Asteroid impact crater in Scotland and USA crater, requiring far more UK Space research:

Time for Change

Misc points:

* July Updates:

* Working on a misc issues: Magellan Anniversary - Spain and LatAm, Almeria Universities links and Kent-Thai orchids

* Also Solomon Islands cruise ships

* Benelux strategy: Panasonic and Phillips - DNA bathroom mirror

* One Essex Court and Inns fraud: Grabiner, Glick, Hollingworth, Leavor etc

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