Tuesday, 10 May 2011
TONY BLIAR'S FAT MATE AND THE SUPERGAGGING SCANDAL
Lord Falconer defends judge's privacy rulings
guardian.co.uk, Monday 10 November 2008 15.39 GMT
A high court judge accused by the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, of bringing in a privacy law "by the back door" was today defended by the former constitutional affairs secretary Lord Falconer.
Dacre last night accused Mr Justice Eady - who ruled against the News of the World in a privacy case earlier this year after it exposed the sex life of the formula one boss Max Mosley - of using the Human Rights Act to curb the press's freedom to expose the moral shortcomings of those in high places.
In his speech to the Society of Editors in Bristol, Dacre said the "arrogant and amoral" judgments of Eady were "inexorably and insidiously" imposing a privacy law on British newspapers.
However, Falconer, one of the New Labour architects of human rights protections in the UK who left the cabinet when Gordon Brown took over as prime minister last year, said the judge was legitimately interpreting a law that had been passed by parliament.
"I think society now puts a value on privacy. There are certain things in life that should be private. For example, if I am a singer or an actor and I have a miscarriage, is that something that people should know about in the world?" Falconer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"Of course, if I'm acting hypocritically or I'm accountable, or there's something that may affect what I do in my public life which emerges from my private life, that should be published," he said.
"But there are things which are private and just as we don't want the state to know everything about us, do we want things that are legitimately private to be made public? I don't think we do."
Falconer said that the Mosley case had brought the debate into "sharp relief".
"What the court is saying there, is 'that's private, it's nothing to do with the public, there was nothing hypocritical about it'," he added.
"The judge did say if it had involved anything to do with Nazi behaviour or anything wholly inappropriate in relation to the Holocaust, he would have not said it was something that was legitimately private.
"But the human rights convention does say we've got a legitimate entitlement to privacy. It gives way to the public interest, but if there is no public interest then you should keep it private."
However, Dacre found backing today from the managing editor of the Sun, Graham Dudman.
"The issue here is that Justice Eady is unelected and unaccountable," Dudman told the Today programme.
"Parliament has not made these decisions, one man has. There is no doubt that Justice Eady is a very talented and clever and able lawyer, but surely the public has a right to make these decisions and not least a jury should be there," he said.
"You have one man setting the law in relation to newspapers, which cannot be right."
Dacre, who is also editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, lambasted what he called the "wretched" Human Rights Act in his speech.
He said that in supporting Mosley, Eady had in effect "ruled that it was perfectly acceptable for the multimillionaire head of a multibillion sport that is followed by countless young people to pay five women £2,500 to take part in acts of unimaginable sexual depravity with him".
"Most people would consider such activities to be perverted, depraved, the very abrogation of civilised behaviour of which the law is supposed to be the safeguard," Dacre added.
"Not Justice Eady. To him such behaviour was merely 'unconventional'. Nor in his mind was there anything wrong in a man of such wealth using his money to exploit women in this way. Would he feel the same way, I wonder, if one of those women had been his wife or daughter?"
Dacre said that the "greatest scandal" was that Eady was given a "virtual monopoly of all cases against the media enabling him to bring in a privacy law by the back door".
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Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer Joins Gibson Dunn’s London Office
July 08, 2008
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is pleased to announce that former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer has joined the firm's London office. Lord Falconer, a barrister, joins the firm as a senior counsel. He will be a hands-on lawyer in the firm.
Lord Falconer served in various capacities at the highest level in the 10-year administration of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, during which he was instrumental in leading and delivering change in a wide range of areas. Most recently, he served as the first Secretary of State for Justice and as Lord Chancellor of Great Britain. He was the architect of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which changed the relationship between the executive and judicial branches of government and led to the creation of a first-ever Supreme Court for the United Kingdom and of a new commission to appoint judges.
Lord Falconer said, "I am very much looking forward to returning to private law practice, and Gibson Dunn is the right place for me to begin this next phase of my career. Gibson Dunn has a first-class litigation practice, a solid international platform in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and a keen ambition to build an even more international presence without diluting its focus on maintaining the highest standards of quality legal service."
“We are delighted that Charlie has chosen to join our firm,” said Gibson Dunn Managing Partner Ken Doran. “Charlie has had an extraordinarily accomplished career and is highly regarded not only within the United Kingdom, but within the international legal, business and political communities. His addition will support our strategic effort to further broaden our presence and profile on the international stage. Charlie is a consummate problem-solver – bringing a very practical and commercial approach to the most complex problems. His extensive experience and understanding of government and regulation in the U.K., and abroad will be of significant value to our clients.”
“Charlie has had a very distinguished career in the law and public service. He brings to Gibson Dunn many years of commercial and political experience; much of it gained at the highest level in the British government," said Tom Budd, Co-Partner in Charge of the London office. “At the firm, Charlie will be an active, ‘hands-on’ lawyer, working as a integral part of our existing UK dispute resolution team to advise clients on a wide range of dispute resolution matters.”
About Lord Falconer
Lord Falconer joined the Blair government as Solicitor-General for England and Wales in 1997, moving a year later to the Cabinet Office as Minister of State.
In 2001, after the general election which took place in that year, he became Housing, Planning and Regeneration Minister and, in 2002, he became Criminal Justice Minister. He implemented important public service reforms, including reforms related to the planning system and the criminal justice system.
In 2003, Lord Falconer became Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor. In conjunction with the then Lord Chief Justice, he formulated a new relationship between the judiciary and the executive, which was embodied in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. The Act provided for the creation of a Supreme Court, a judicial appointment commission and the introduction of an elected speaker for the House of Lords.
In 2007, Lord Falconer became the first Secretary of State for Justice, bringing together courts, prisons and justice policy for the first time. He was responsible for leading a department with a budget of over £10 billion and over 80,000 employees. Lord Falconer stepped down from his ministerial posts when Tony Blair was succeeded by Gordon Brown as prime minister.
Prior to entering public service, Lord Falconer was a commercial barrister with Fountain Court Chambers from 1974 to 1997, becoming a Queen’s Counsel in 1991. During his legal career, he was involved in a number of high-stakes matters, such as industrial disputes in the newspaper and airline industries, including those involving The Times and British Airways; and in the litigation which followed the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) collapse.
About Gibson Dunn’s London Office
Gibson Dunn’s London office, founded more than 25 years ago, offers in-depth experience in all aspects of corporate work, including mergers and acquisitions, private equity, commercial real estate, finance, capital markets and taxation, as well as litigation and international arbitration, competition and labour and employment. The London lawyers provide legal advice on a wide range of business issues to internationally listed companies, large private companies, investment banks, private equity firms, start-up ventures, and many other organisations.
About Gibson Dunn's UK Dispute Resolution Group
Gibson Dunn’s London-based U.K. Dispute Resolution Group covers commercial litigation, international arbitration, mediation, investigations and regulatory proceedings, antitrust matters and employment issues. Established in August 2005 with the arrival of Philip Rocher from Clifford Chance, the group has already shown itself to be highly effective in acting for large international corporates in high-value complex matters that involve different legal disciplines in multiple jurisdictions. The group continues to expand rapidly, currently comprising 15 lawyers, 2 of whom are US-qualified, supported by a team of highly experienced paralegals and the latest information technology and document management systems.
Gibson Dunn has always had disputes at the root of its culture and this has been an integral part of its success. Indeed, more than 300 US-based lawyers practice in trial, arbitration and appellate work. Hailed as the "Rescue Squad", Gibson Dunn was recognized in all four of The American Lawyer's Litigation Department of the Year competitions since their inception in 2002. The London office works closely with Gibson Dunn's pre-eminent U.S. Litigation Group to provide a seamless service to its clients.
Gibson Dunn to Receive Achievement in Adoption Award from North American Council on Adoptable Children
July 26, 2006
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is pleased to announce that the firm will receive the 2006 Corporate Award for Special Achievement in Adoption from the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC). Through this award, NACAC honors organizations that have made a significant contribution to adoption or permanence for children.
The award ceremony will be held in Long Beach at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach Hotel on Saturday, July 29 in conjunction with NACAC's 32nd annual conference. Nearly 1,500 conference attendees are expected from across the U.S., Canada and beyond.
The firm is being honored for the strides it has made in expediting the adoption process for thousands of children. In 1998, the firm spearheaded the Adoption Saturday project, which brings volunteer attorneys and judges together to finalize adoptions and has resulted in the adoption of thousands of children living in foster care. Since the program was created, Gibson Dunn attorneys and staff have personally handled more than 2,000 adoptions.
"We are honored to receive this award from NACAC in recognition of the work the firm has done for children who deserve to be placed in permanent homes as quickly as possible," said Los Angeles partner Mark Pecheck, who heads the Adoption Saturday program. "The program is an integral part of the firm's pro bono efforts and we look forward to helping many more families come together."
Started in 1974 by adoptive parents, the North American Council on Adoptable Children is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting adoptive parents, informing adoption professionals, and helping children find permanent, loving families. NACAC promotes and supports permanent families for children and youth in the U.S. and Canada who have been in care – especially those in foster care and those with special needs. To learn more, please visit www.nacac.org.
System taking hundreds of babies for adoption
By Andrew Alderson, Ben Leapman and Tom Harper 12:01AM BST 01 Jul 2007
Campaigners are to renew an attempt to open up the proceedings of family courts, after figures showed that the number of babies aged less than one week being removed from their mothers has risen almost three-fold in a decade. More than 900 are now being taken and put up for adoption every year.
Until last month, it looked as though the system would undergo a significant overhaul. Ten days ago, however, Lord Falconer, who was then the Lord Chancellor, seemed to have crushed an attempt to make family court hearings less secret.
Now, with Gordon Brown as Prime Minister and Jack Straw as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, legal campaigners are newly optimistic of forcing a change.
Sarah Harman, a solicitor who has specialised in family law for nearly 30 years, said she would step up her fight to open up proceedings. Ms Harman is the elder sister of Harriet Harman, the new deputy leader of the Labour Party and leader of the Commons. Harriet Harman was Justice Minister until last week's Cabinet reshuffle and has supported her sister's campaign.
The total number of children aged under a year taken into council care in England before being adopted has also risen, by a similar rate, from 970 in 1996 to 2,120 last year, figures obtained by The Sunday Telegraph show.
The increases come after the Government set targets for adoption in order to cut the number of children languishing in foster care.
Family courts in England and Wales hear 400,000 cases a year, mostly divorces and child custody hearings following divorces. In 20,000 cases a year, councils apply to the courts to remove children temporarily from parents who are abusive or neglectful, often because they are addicted to hard drugs.
The courts also rule on bids by councils to put removed children up for adoption, which is irreversible. Yet, while criminal cases must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, family courts take decisions on the balance of probabilities and unlike criminal courts, cases are heard in strict secrecy. A mother whose child is taken from her commits an offence if she tells anyone outside a tiny, approved list of people.
John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, who wants more openness in family courts, said of the latest adoption figures: "We are seeing a massive growth in the forced removal of newborns from their natural parents. Babies are being taken into care merely to satisfy government adoption targets."
In 2000, Tony Blair set a target for councils to increase adoptions by 50 per cent. Town halls were promised cash rewards for reaching their goals. Critics claim that the target has given social workers a perverse incentive to break up more families. Mr Hemming said: "There are clearly masses of miscarriages of justice, but ministers want to prevent parents from campaigning against them by preventing these parents from talking about their children after a case.
"This is fundamentally wrong. The secrecy in the family courts acts generally to protect misbehaviour by some professionals, rather than to protect children."
The new figures show that, while adoptions of the very young have spiralled, those for children aged seven and over have halved in England, from 100 in 1996 to 50 last year. Figures for Scotland and Wales are not available.
Campaigners were given new ammunition last week by the case of Mark and Nicky Webster, who fled the country to have their fourth baby after they claimed they were wrongly accused of child abuse and had their first three children taken into care four years ago.
Mr Webster, 34, and his wife, 26, from Cromer, Norfolk, were told they could keep their fourth child, Brandon, aged 13 months, after Norfolk County Council withdrew proceedings to take him into care.
The couple had fled to Ireland for Brandon's birth before challenging their county council. Their other children were taken into care after one of them suffered unexplained leg fractures. The council has now conceded that the injuries might have been caused by vitamin deficiency. It said it was no longer relying on the evidence which had suggested that the fractures were the result of abuse.
The Websters are angry that because of the secrecy surrounding their earlier proceedings, the case would not have become public had it not been for their successful fight to keep Brandon. They accept, however, that they will not get their other children back because they were adopted two years ago.
Under the current law, reporters and members of the public cannot attend family court hearings, see documents, review evidence or obtain copies of judgments.
Sarah Harman said: "Social services are the only department other than MI5 who undertake their work in complete secrecy. It's not the welfare of the child that is being protected, it is the welfare of social workers. This cannot be justified.
"Family courts work for the community and should be more open. Family courts are very reliant on expert witnesses and there have been some real concerns about some of this evidence being poorly researched and unreliable." In 2004, she and others set up Families Action for Court Transparency and Openness (Facto).
Facto was formed a year before Ms Harman was found guilty of "conduct unbefitting a solicitor" for passing confidential court papers to her sister. She was suspended from practice for three months and resigned as a part-time judge. The papers related to a client whose daughter was taken into care after alleged abuse. Ms Harman had not revealed the identity of the parent or child to her sister but was punished after it was decided she had misled the court.
Others seeking partial reform of the family courts include Sir Mark Potter, the president of the High Court's Family Division, and Mr Justice Munby, a senior judge. Sir Mark said: "I share entirely the concern about complaints of secret justice and lack of openness which I really believe the public would be assisted in forming a view about if there were more publicity available. The press seems to me to be the best safeguard of whether propriety is being observed."
Mr Justice Munby said: "The balance currently held between the confidentiality and privacy interests of the parties and the public interest in open justice, is badly skewed."
Lord Falconer's refusal to lift the secrecy surrounding family courts surprised many when he revealed a new discussion document, "Openness in the Family Courts", on June 20. This proposed tighter restrictions on what can be said about cases. He admitted that there had been a change of mind after consulting many groups, particularly young people. "The clear message was that the media should not be given an automatic right to attend family courts as this could jeopardise children's rights to privacy and anonymity," he said.
David Holmes, the chief executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said: "Social services do not take children into care to be adopted unnecessarily. It is dangerous to suggest that this is happening.''