Inside & Outside the Law

The big news, as this blog goes to press, is Government Minister Chris Huhne stepping down from ministerial responsibility in the light of news that he and his now ex-wife will be charged with the criminal offence of perverting the course of justice.

The case concerns his ex-wife being convicted of a speeding offence, but with the allegation now that he was in fact driving the car and that so false information had been given to the police.

By a strange twist of coincidence, the news comes at a time when England football captain John Terry has been stripped of the captaincy in the light of criminal charges against him for allegedly racially abusing another player, the Terry case only to be coming to court after the Final of Euro 2012.

Both men strenuously deny the charges against them, and there is lively discussion on the issue of innocent until proven guilty. Huhne resigned to avoid the case being a distraction to his official duties and to enable him to prepare his trial defence; for Terry, the Football Association stepped in and made the decision.

The Football Association, which is the governing body of football in England, has its headquarters at Wembley Stadium, but was previously operating from the eclectic environment of Soho, in fact Soho Square. South-east of there, at 90 High Holborn in the area known generally as Holborn and sometimes as mid-town, lie the offices of the solicitors Olswang.

This is not a name to trip of the tongue in the general press, but they have had an important role in January’s news. In July last year Olswang were brought in to advise News Group International on a code of practice after the hacking scandal involving the News of the World, but in January the press was reporting that Olswang’s offices were being used for negotiations to settle various phone hacking claims against the newspaper.

Claimants involved in the settlement negotiations were said to include Chris Bryant MP, Sheila Henry, the mother of 7/7 bomb victim Christian Small., and the former footballer Paul Gascoigne.

Down the road from Olswang at 289-293 High Holborn, is another organisation that might not register strongly with the person in the street, but that has recently taken some dramatic action that did hit the national press.

The Bar Standards Board regulates the conduct of barristers called to the Bar in England, and in January it disbarred a barrister called David Harris, disbarring for a barrister being the equivalent of a solicitor being struck off the roll of solicitors.

According to a report on the events by the Daily Telegraph, Harris had been appearing in court on behalf of a client, but during the proceedings had been issuing tweets of an uncomplimentary nature, including one that branded the lawyers for the other party as “slimebags”.

The Bar Standards Board also took exception to Harris having appeared for a company for whom he held all the shares, without telling the court of the connection. This forced him to stand down eight days into the hearing when the opposing lawyers discovered the ownership.

Harris was disbarred on the grounds that he had brought the profession into disrepute. It is understood that one of his claims was that the persona under which he was tweeting (and which did not contain his real name within his Twitter name) was separate from his own personal identity. That is an interesting issue for Twitterati and others to debate.