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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:

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Former Chairman of the Bar replaces Field J

Maura McGowan QC of 2 Bedford Row and Lincoln House, criminal silk and former 2013 Chairman of the Bar Council has followed the well worn path from that representative office to the High Court Bench, QBD, replacing Field J.

Her closing speeches are a work of art according to the Legal 500 so let's hope the judgments follow suit.


Friday, 19 September 2014



Not only have you saved the Union, but you have given us an historic opportunity to draft a new Written Constitution for the whole of the Union and its constituent parts.  The Prime Minister's speech this morning heralds too quick a process; we need to slow down, convene a Convention and work out a lasting and final settlement, in a written federal constitution, to lay down a fair mode of collective, rights, obligations and governance for the future.  Nothing less will do and nothing less will respect the feelings of the large numbers of people in Scotland and the rest of the Union who are now, but so rarely, politically engaged on these issues.  There are lots of things to think about, from the tinkering with the Westminster Parliament considered by the Mckay Comission to the full blow written Constitution as proposed by Richard Gordon QC and others.  I have written on this subject before.

We need to do some serious thinking, not least on what do about England, with her large population, economic dominance (at least in her South-Eastern regions) and inherent majority in the Westminster House of Commons.

But for now, we can sigh relief in abundance and rejoice that Article I of the Union of Scotland Act 1706 shall remain in force:

That the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall upon the First day of May which shall be in the year One thousand seven hundred and seven and for ever after be united into one Kingdom by the name of Great Britain..... 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

That the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall ...and for ever after be united into one Kingdom ....

That the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall upon the First day of May which shall be in the year One thousand seven hundred and seven and for ever after be united into one Kingdom by the name of Great Britain And that the Ensigns Armorial of the said United Kingdom be such as Her Majesty shall appoint and the Crosses of St. George and St. Andrew be conjoyned in such manner as Her Majesty shall think fit and used in all Flags Banners Standards and Ensigns both at Sea and Land. 

Article 1 of the Union of Scotland Act 1706.

'For ever after', they said, and for ever after it should be.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

New Judges for New Legal Year...

It's goodbye to Moses LJ, Rimer LJ, Goldring LJ and Maurice Kay LJ (VP of Civil Division)

and hello King LJ from the Fam D, Sales LJ from Ch D, and Bean and Burnett LJJ from the QBD.

and replacing them in the HIGH COURT, we welcome

commercial silk, leading pro bono champion and former COMBAR Chair from South Sq Chambers -  Robin Knowles CBE QC replacing Bean J and

Ian Dove QC replacing King J (although going to the QBD and not Fam D, which is right as he is a public law and planning specialist)

and we wait to see who will replace Sales and Burnett JJ.

plus we say goodbye to Royce J and Field J in the QBD,

Plus down the ranks: Her Honour Judge Sybil Milwyn Thomas has been appointed DFJ in Birmingham (where Katherine Tucker is also to be a new CJ), Jonathan Fuller QC to be CJ in Bournemouth, Peter Crabtree OBE is going to Southampton to be a CJ, and likewise Jessica Pemberton to Hull.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Been to Scotland - made me think....

Had a hearing in Scotland recently - one of those statutory tribunals where anybody can appear (including even an English Barrister) and which has UK wide jurisdiction (law the same in every constituent of the currently United Kingdom).  

The Tribunal hears appeals from the grant and administration of a UK wide entitlement.  

The body that hands them out is partially based in Glasgow. 

If Scotland becomes independent, who the hell is going to:

(a) pay these benefits
(b) administer them
(c) decide the appeals - according to what law?

This is just one of the many different intertwining tentacles holding Scotland firmly to the rest of the UK's breast.

How is an independent Scotland going to survive without these life lines?

& then there is the small issue of where to put all those missiles:

 A yes vote will merely be followed by years if not decades of negotiating, arguing and re-organising - it will probably cost billions and it is hard to see why the English, Welsh and N Irish tax payer should pay for what only a majority of the resident Scottish electorate (not of Scots, given that so many live outside of Caledonia) want.

Come on, stay in the Union, it is not that bad, but if you leave, it will be...............

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Phone hacking silk appointed High Court place of retiring Litvinenko Inquiry Chair

The retirement of Owen J will see Andrew Edis QC appointed to the High Court bench on 1st October.  He was the prosecution lead in the phone hacking trial as well as in the Huhn and Pryce case.  Sounds like he deserves it.......

Sir Robert Owen meanwhile will spend the first part of his retirement inquiring into Litvinenko's death given the Home Secretary's recently well timed volte face and he made the following opening statement today:  

which included this which will be of interest to the Russian Govt:

Because of the sensitivity of the HMG evidence, it is inevitable that at least some of my final report
will also have to remain secret. But I make it clear now that I intend to make public my final conclusion on the issue of Russian State responsibility, together with as much as possible of my reasoning in that regard.  I should add that HM Government has made a restriction notice under section 19 of the 2005 Act, the effect of which will be to require that specified sensitive material is considered in closed session, and may make further restriction notices. I intend to make the open  parts of such notices available on the inquiry website.

The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Andrew Jeremy Coulter Edis QC, to be a Justice of the High Court with effect from 1 October 2014 on the retirement of Mr. Justice Owen on 19 July.

The Lord Chief Justice will assign Mr Edis to the Queen’s Bench Division.

Notes for editors

Mr Edis, 55, was called to the Bar (M) in 1980 and took Silk in 1997. He was appointed a Recorder in 1999 and is approved to sit as a deputy High Court Judge.

Mr. Justice Owen was called to the Bar (I) in 1968 and took Silk in 1988. He was appointed a Recorder in 1987 and a judge of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court in 2001.