Sunday, 18 January 2015


I was wondering when the Purdah Period would kick in this year - that special pre-election period when HMG almost grounds to a halt, because making any big decisions which would prejudice an incoming govt of a new stripe (or at least different configuration in these times of coalition) is put on hold until a new Govt is formed.  I consulted the closest we have to a written constitution, The Cabinet Manual, but that is as clear as mud as to timing  (extract below) because the Cab Office issues guidance bespoke to each election.

Looking at previous guidance, 6 weeks before the election looks to be about the norm - so 26th March looks about right - which is 4 days before Parliament dissolves (which is now fixed by section 3 Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 as amended in 2013 by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013) we have 9 weeks to go.......

Government activity between the start of an election period and polling day

2.28 In the period immediately preceding an election, the Cabinet Office publishes guidance on activities in the run up to polling day.

The Prime Minister writes to ministers in similar terms.

During this period, the government retains its responsibility to govern, ministers remain

in charge of their departments and essential business is carried on.24 Ministers continue

in office and it is customary for them to observe discretion in initiating any action

of a continuing or long-term character. This means the deferral of activity such

as: taking or announcing major policy decisions; entering into large/contentious

procurement contracts or significant longterm commitments; and making some

senior public appointments and approving Senior Civil Service appointments, provided

that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or

wasteful of public money. If decisions cannot wait they may be handled by

temporary arrangements or following relevant consultation with the Opposition.

Friday, 16 January 2015


retires today:

His Honour Judge Brian John Barker QC retires as Senior Circuit Judge and the Recorder of London with effect from 16 January 2015.His Honour Judge Barker QC (70) was called to the Bar (G) in 1969, took Silk in 1990 and elected a Bencher in 1999. He was appointed a Recorder in 1985 and a Legal Member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal, Restricted Patients Panel, in 1993. He was appointed a Senior Circuit Judge in 2000, Common Serjeant of London in 2005 and the Recorder of London in 2013.

As Judge Barker did before, the current Common Serjeant will take up the reins:

The City of London Corporation has announced the appointment of His Honour Judge Nicholas
Hilliard QC as the next Recorder of London. Judge Hilliard, the current Common Serjeant, will take office in January 2015, in succession to His Honour Judge Brian Barker QC, who has served as Recorder of London since February 2013. In addition to duties as the senior judge of the Central Criminal Court (known as the ‘Old Bailey’), the Recorder of London is the Senior Law Officer of the City of London and officiates at key City elections. He also has official duties on State occasions where the City acts as host.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Voltaire had it right.......

"It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God?"

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

David Holgate QC appointed High Court Judge...Goldring LJ retires but will carry on hearing Hillsborough Inquest

Joint Head of Landmark Chambers and oft sitting Deputy High Court Judge, David Holgate QC has been helped into the red judicial dressing they used to say.  He is to replace Ramsey J, although I would suspect not in the TCC, but in the Admin or Planning Court where he is more at home, although you never know......

Taking off the black and gold space suit is Goldring LJ who has retired from the C of A but not from being Assistant Coroner for South Yorkshire (East) and West Yorkshire (West) for the purposes of the Hillsborough Inquest

The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of David John Holgate Esq QC to be a Justice of the High Court with effect from 1 December 2014 on the retirement of Mr Justice Ramsey.
The Lord Chief Justice will assign Mr Holgate to the Queen’s Bench Division.
Notes for editors
Mr Holgate, 58, was called to the Bar (M) in 1978 and took Silk in 1997. He was appointed a Recorder in 2002 and is approved to sit as a deputy High Court Judge.
Mr Justice Ramsey was called to the Bar (M) in 1979 and took Silk in 1992. He was appointed an Assistant Recorder in 1998, a Recorder in 2000 and a judge of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court in 2005.
Lord Justice Goldring retires as Lord Justice of Appeal with effect from 10 November 2014. His appointment as Assistant Coroner for South Yorkshire (East) and West Yorkshire (West) will continue until the completion of the inquests into those who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Lord Sumption gets into his groove....

The Home Sec, with Foreign Off advice, keeps excluding a leader of the Iranian Opposition (Mrs Maryam Rajavi) living in France, from our shores, on the Royal Prerogative grounds of her presence not being conducive to the public good.  Some peers wanted to meet her in the UK and thus engaged their freedom of expression rights under art 10 ECHR by way of a JR of the decision to exclude: Which brought into question the old question of when Judges should question the Executive's superior and more constitutionally appropriate opinion on what is and what is not conducive to the public good,although with a new twist re how the old law applies when convention rights are engaged......

In direct contrast to Lord Kerr for the minority (of one), Lord Sumption encapsulates the traditional and in my view, correct if not only possible (if the current constitutional peace is to be kept and respected) response to such issues.

Neuberger P and Hale and Clarke JJSC follow him in the result, although Hale and Clarke in particularly make it clear that they morally support Kerr but feel forced on the law to follow Neuberger and Sumption.

This is just a flavour of an exceptionally sharp and well crafted judgment:

This gives rise to what is surely the central issue on this appeal. How is the court to determine where the balance lies if (i) it has no means of independently assessing the seriousness of the risks or the gravity of the consequences were they to materialise, and (ii) the Secretary of State is not shown to have committed any error of principle in her own assessment of them. For that is indeed the position in which the court finds itself. We are not in point of law bound to accept the factual assessment of the Foreign Office about the impact on our relations with Iran of admitting Mrs Rajavi to the United Kingdom. But if we reject it we must have a proper basis for doing so. In this case, there is none. There is no challenge to the primary facts. We have absolutely no evidential basis and no expertise with which to substitute our assessment of the risks to national security, public safety and the rights of others for that of the Foreign Office. We have only the material and the expertise to assess whether the Home Secretary has set about her task rationally, by reference to relevant matters and on the correct legal principle. Beyond that, in a case like this one, we would be substituting our own decision for that of the constitutional decision-maker without any proper ground for rejecting what she had done. All the recent jurisprudence of this court has rejected that as an inappropriate exercise for a court of review, even where Convention rights are engaged. Yet that appears to be where Lord Kerr’s analysis leads. “We do not ask whether the Secretary of State’s view is tenable”, he says (para 158), “but whether it is right.” Notwithstanding the respect which in earlier parts of his judgment Lord Kerr has acknowledged is due to the executive’s assessment of questions of
national security, this is in fact nothing less than a transfer to the courts of the constitutional function of the Home Secretary, in circumstances where the court is wholly incapable of performing it.

Friday, 24 October 2014

New Senior Master of the Queen's Bench and Queen's Remebrancer

Barbara Janet Fontaine,  solicitor admitted in 1978 ( now aged 60) and the first ever female Master in the High Court (Deputy in 1997 and full time appointment in 2003) has been appointed Senior Master and Queen's Remembrancer.  Primarily the lead interlocutory judge of the Queen's Bench, but also the Central Authority for the civil proceedings liaison we conduct with other jurisdictions, Senior Master Fontaine will also hold the oldest judicial office in England and Wales ( now that the L Ch no longer sits judicially) first appointed in 1154, the Queen's Remembrancer is the last remaining Judge of the Court of Exchequer, abolished as a full time Court in 1882, but from time to time reconstituted to receive some ancient rents which the City of London render to the Crown for various bits of land, including the Manor of Southwark.  She will also preside over a trial of the coinage of the realm
to make sure it is being made to standard and will also appoint the Commissioners of the Forest of Dean.  She is the keeper of Mr Osborne's seal held as Chancellor of the Exchequer.  She will be responsible for the pricking of the non-Duchy of Lancaster/Cornwall sheriffs and will also present the City Sheriffs with their writs of approbation from the monarch as well as presenting the city dignitaries to the LCJ and other senior judges at the end of the Lord Mayor's Show.

Perhaps more realistically, she will set the tone and tempo for the administration of civil justice at the highest level and will have case management responsibility for the biggest QB cases each year, as well as responsibility for deciding applications for Group Litigation Orders sought in the QB.

Most of the Masters have a foible of two, the last Senior Master had some sort of wind organ in his room.  Eastman has a helicopter, Eyre had a keen interest in grammar and Leslie a very loud clock. Senior Master Turner was always taking phone calls in the midst of an advocate's submissions.I look forward to the new Senior Master's touch of individuality.  I note she has already installed herself in the famous room E101 (used to be where you went to see a High Court Judge in chambers in an emergency or to get bail, but now the room of the Senior Master) although today she is on official business:



Friday 24th October 2014

At Half Past 10

Official Business - Sitting
(Master Eastman sitting on behalf of Master Fontaine in Room E116)

At 2 o’clock

Official Business - Sitting
(Deputy Master Trent sitting on behalf of Master Fontaine in Room E106)

No doubt she may also make sure that her brethren and sister (Master McCloud) keep their diaries in order given the untimely demise of her immediate predecessor.

She also gets to wear this as modelled by her predecessor but one: