Friday, 23 December 2011

The Salmon and the Swimmer

It's been a busy two weeks dealing with all manner of legal niceties even for a chap endowed with more than a surfeit of time and webbed feet. Not known for a predisposition towards gross exaggeration, if I had to draw a parallel for the last few days, it would have to be with our old chum the salmon. I now appreciate completely the heroic endeavours of our friend as he ruptures a knacker or two in his bid to get back to his upstream spawning ground to get his end away before he pegs it. But enough of the frivolity. Onto the meatus of the matter.

The full costs of an Employment Tribunal

Firstly, the appeal against the judgement of the Employment Tribunal is almost complete. It's been a bit of a bugger. Secondly on the 13th December I received a copy of a letter sent by the University of Salford's lawyers to the Employment Tribunal stating that they would be seeking from the Employment Tribunal an award of full costs against me on what in my opinion are silly grounds. Readers may wish to linger a while on bullet point six of page three. Yes, it would appear that someone or another isn't keen on the public observing what goes on in such employment-related matters. "Bejabbers... ye have thee the temerity to seek recourse through the Employment Tribunal and presume to write about it!" It was of course incumbent upon me to reply to the Tribunal with my own thoughts on precisely why the Tribunal should reject the University's application for costs.

Do it come in threes?

And finally, we've had the ongoing Norse-epica of the libel claim initiated against this mutton-chap by either (a), the University of Salford, or (b) Dr Adrian Graves the Registrar and the Vice Chancellor Martin Hall. There's some confusion over precisely who's reputation it's alleged has been damaged and as a consequence, we're not quite sure who's actually doing the suing. A brief explanation might be in order.

Libel law according to the venerable Gumby

The venerable Eric Gumby
It's to do with what are in my opinion, a set of Particulars of Claim that are rather lacking in... er... well particulars really. If it's the University that's alleging its reputation had been damaged, this could be deemed grounds for an action for damages - brought by the institution. If on the other hand it's Dr Graves and Martin Hall who allege their reputations have been damaged then they may also have good grounds for action and can initiate proceedings - under their own names. It's all pretty basic stuff I'm told by a specialist in this arcane area of media and libel law.

The night porters and the 'libel fund'

It would be a little silly to allege that as an employee of a University, you are the University. If this were the case, porters at universities across the country would be lining up to avail themselves of their university's 'libel fund' simply because a metaphorical manager insinuated that one of their number was a lazy frigger.* No a university's reputation is one thing, an individuals reputation is another. And it seems rather obvious (even to a litigant in person) that if a Particulars of Claim (POC) blurs this distinction, then that might be an area that would need some loving attention from A Lawyer. Surely it's not the job of the person who isn't being paid shit-loads of money (litigant in person) to undertake this task for the claimant? Yet despite requests and letters and a rather extensive defence lodged with the court which raises all matter of shortcomings with this POC, it hasn't been re-particularised in the slightest. Mr Ian Austin did reply to my last letter to him. You can view my response which was a little shorter than Mr Austin's as I'd pretty much said all I had to say on the matter.

The Lodger

With this in mind I decided this week to pay the court fee of £80, lodge my application to have the University's claim for libel struck out on the grounds that:
  • '... the statement of case, specifically the Particulars of Claim provided by the claimant to the defendant, discloses no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim, and is an abuse of process,'
  • 'The claimant’s claim is an abuse of the Court’s process and that the claimant is using that process for a purpose that is in a way significantly different from its ordinary and proper use.'
  • 'The claimant’s claim has no reasonable prospect of success,'

There will be some snot in there but at least it's outside
The stress test

I've got some nice neighbours. I was doing my best in trying to explain all the above but was clearly failing quite miserably. Sensing the increased levels of stress that's often an adjunct to working to deadlines, a kindly neighbour who'd popped in for a coffee suggested that I might want to consider a visit to the local lido to 'de-stress'. I said that I appreciated the sympathetic thoughts but had to admit that immersing myself in the warm waters of the local indoor pool would have the opposite effect. I'm not too keen on indoor pools. It's the crowds.

Doctor at sea?

In my pre-James Robertson Justice days I much preferred swimming in open-air pools or if at all possible, the sea, which generally speaking wasn't at all possible as I lived in a town called Aylesbury. As well as having lots of ducks and a notable venue called 'Friars', it was also reputed to be the furthest one could live from the coast on all three points of the compass without being forced to cash in one's gills.** But I did have a fondness for the odd two week summer holiday in my genetic originator's home town of Eastbourne which usually meant two weeks of unadulterated sea-centric shenanigans with the added bonus of a superlative fish and chip supper every night with lashings of real shandy courtesy of a progenitor who was rather permissive. He also liked a drink or two. Yes it was the sea for me with its ancient traditions, antediluvian lore and its ability to hide a sneaky piss like no pool could ever hope to.

Taking the waters... or taking the piss?

Does the Health and Safety Executive
have a view on rope climbing?
The curative powers of Oceana.*** are well recorded. Apart from shit, there's lots of interesting things in the sea. And the healing powers are something to which I can personally attest.  I recall it was one summer in 1972. I was the proud owner of a pair of diabolical shin-chafers courtesy of an over-enthusiastic PE teacher with significant upper-body strength. Yes it seemed that this chap was put upon this planet with one single aim - to imbue within a largely pre-pubescent and largely disinterested cohort a penchant for rope climbing. It was rumoured that his single-mindedness was a consequence of his decision to personally eschew primogeniture. The rope burns with associated scabs were fiendish. Two days later they were splashing around in the curative coastal waters. And after a day or so immersed in the shite and salt-laden 1970s sea, the mummified parchment was miraculously transformed back into delicate shin skin.

The down side of water sports

Swimming in the sea or outdoors imbues a sense of freedom in the individual. It's unlikely the indoor swimorama would have the same curative effect. Yes, it's true that their waters are laced with an efficacious additive - chlorine - rumoured to kill the most prolific hideo-germs and such-like. But high chlorine levels may induce within the unwary ten-yarder incipient consumption or in Savillean types the potentiality of a lawn-green bonce. Their waters are also singularly laced with common nasal constituents and decorticated urethral limescales which are not in the least conducive to good clean fun or healthy gums. But there's another very real threat to those who partake of the heady natatorian waters. No its not our friend verruca plantaris which, like an unwarranted and fallacious allegation of sexual harassment or stalking made by a resourceful human, is historically a bit of a bugger to get rid of. No we refer to something intensely pernicious and far more damaging to health and I'm sure we've all come across it in a manner of speaking.

The almost inevitable consequence of high-diving in the confines of 
the Enterprise's holodeck during a powercut

You see indoor pools can attract something a little more stubborn than the odd yeast infection. It's quite clear that no amount of chlorine will protect the unwary bather from the random foot work of an over enthusiastic front crawler. It's unlikely that a 19" Tagelus pool pump with or without filters will shield a Speedos-clad doggy paddler from the lumpen attentions of aqua-rex with concomitant pretensions towards wider pool hegemony. If this king of the wave machine decides to consign an unwary poolside stroller to Davy Jones' locker more than once with associated whiplash, the question must be asked... what the fuck is to be done?

There's only one cure for such a hideous anti-social embodiment. It's called a Personal Injury Claim and it's almost one hundred percent effective against every class of arsehole.

Seasons greetings!

Notes and references

* Porters are not lazy friggers. No University could run without them. This is an attempt at humour and should not be construed in any way as an attempt to bully, harass and victimise all the porters in the UK and in addition is not an attempt to bring the University system into disrepute.
**Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. To be fair, it was often said that a small town-ette called Princes Risborough (not far from High Wycombe) was the furthest once could live from the sea. The fact that few Risboroughans were gill-breathers tended to confirm this hypothesis.
** *The English Channel

Usual disclaimer: This work is the opinion of the author and is produced in order to report current events that are of public interest and public concern. The reproduction and use of any documents herein is to provide accuracy in order to avoid civil litigation and claims of misquoting. In reporting current events they are used within the context of Fair Dealing. The author is happy to provide further acknowledgement if requested. To make any such request press here.

The author also suggests that before embarking upon expensive civil actions for libel, contact the author. We have reams of documentary evidence which we are happy to provide. A right of reply also operates. We are also happy to make corrections and if necessary provide an apology. So, to save £££sss please avail yourself of this opportunity if you really feel it necessary, which you can do by clicking here.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

No Cause of Action

About a week or so ago (25th November 2011) I had cause to send a letter to a Mr Ian Austin. Mr Austin is a solicitor. He also sits on the University of Salford's governing body - the University Council. His role on the University Council is as a member of the University Audit Committee. Mr Austin was until recently the Chair of this committee. He was also once upon a time the managing partner for a Manchester law firm called Halliwells which collapsed spectacularly in 2010.

Mr Austin was also an equity parter in the failed firm along with another 31 or so partners who it is reported shared out between them what's known in the substantive-ackers trade as a £20.4 million reverse premium. A reverse premium is neither a difficult driving manoeuvre for beginners nor is it related to an inverted but particularly aggressive form of the Fosbury Flop.

How not to approach a case management hearing

A Turner prize winner or a 
piss-poor excuse for a 
As I mentioned in our last posting, I attended a case management hearing on the 21st November. One might think they're quite sombre affairs. Far from it. I find my attention tends to wander quite a bit in such formal surroundings. I'm always amazed as the nature of the thoughts that can flash through the mind when one should really be concentrating on the matters in hand. More so when a certain chap is the official holder of a rather over-active imagination. Sitting there in the formal surroundings, the voices in the room quickly faded into the distance as my ears quickly readjusted their aural depth of field.

I wondered, as I sat and observed Mr Austin sat behind the University's rather dashing barrister Simon Vaughan, had the poor chap over-extended himself in the essential life-juices department? He looked healthy enough. Why should such a thought cross my mind? Well Mr Austin is on record as stating that 'I gave my life for that practice' meaning the LLP formerly known as Halliwells, a statement that I found at the time to be rather amusing. I still found it amusing at 2:25pm in court on the 21st November 2011. And my recent decision to study for a GCSE in mathematics was clearly paying off as ratios, percentages and proportions, and indeed proportionality, danced merrily across my brain's large-scale network. Avid readers of this blog will immediately recognise that the brain's large-scale network is said to be explicitly involved in visual, spatial and analogical mental transformations.

The Scale of Life

It was a pertinent question and it demanded an almost immediate answer from me despite the obvious hurdles. I had to find out precisely how much had this affable legal character's life-force been physically shoe-horned into Halliwells LLP? Was it ten percent..? maybe fifty percent..? 96.3 percent? I then remembered that he was around 48-49 years of age. With ease I slipped into imperial measurements. Was it one fifth..? half a pint..? 96.3 percent..?  Moreover how had he achieved this remarkable feat? What was the precise mechanism utilised by Mr Austin to transfer his essentiality into the failed law firm?

Nothing like an absurd  natural history compendium commissioned by David Attenborough

Firstly, I tried to scale it mentally. I pictured the words 'Jack 'O' Shit' at one end of the scale and the land beyond the River Styx occupied by the Dark Hadean Lord and a few million wandering souls at the other.  By now my mind was about as far from the esoterica of case management hearings as it could possibly be and remain in earthly contact with grounded theory. Like some open-market Liberace I found I could switch with apparent ease between ancient Greek mythological metaphors and the banal motoring platitudes of an adroit Clarkson. I firmly shifted the gear lever into mental overdrive and slammed my foot on the accelerator. I imagined a passport sized mug shot of the congenial Austin desperately racing back and forth between the two, like some sort of sweaty sub-frenzied post-industrial Henry Spencer haggling with an irked Charon in pigeon Etruscan. But it was no good. I couldn't maintain this extreme mental resolution without complaints from my frontal lobes and engineers at Paramount Pictures back in 1954. Despite my best intentions, I found this model wanting. It simply didn't get the intellectual juices flowing sufficiently.

Enter Mephistopheles?

I changed tack and decided to let a combination of metaphysics, Swedish film and superstition have its way within my simmering cerebrality. Had Mr Austin entered in to some sort of Bergman-esque Faustian pact with the personification of Death and then realised he wasn't very adept at chess? I quickly rejected all the above as mostly silly. Besides Mr Austin appeared to be brimming over with life as he listened intently to the Judge suggesting that I could if I wished make an application to have their case struck out.

Your move you fuck!

Strike out what?

Some readers new to this blog might be asking 'why the devil is the University of Salford governing-body-Audit Committee-dwelling Mr Austin sitting in court regarding this matter?' Well in Savillian terms 'as it happens', Mr Austin is also acting for the University in the matter of the University of Salford versus Dr Gary Duke in his other role as a solicitor. Yes it's a good old libel punch-up and in the tradition of good old libel punch-ups it's already cost the University taxpayer/student fees payers so far as we can ascertain somewhere in the region of £40,000. Yes it is rather a lot isn't it? Despite being quite a large sum, some have suggested that it might also be a tad on the conservative side given the high costs libel proceedings. And we're not even half way to trial yet!

Good choice... good choice...

Now some might say that libel and media law is a rather arcane and specialist field. Which might go some way in explaining why a few people have commented upon the decision of the current Vice Chancellor Professor Martin Hall and his current Deputy Dr Adrian Graves to instruct Mr Austin in this matter. I mean there must be some overall strategy behind the hiring of a highly recommended commercial and property litigator to instigate libel proceedings? In my opinion, for what it worth, it has at least injected cart-loads of humour into the proceedings. Take a gander at the claimant's 'Particulars of Claim'.

Which is why I found myself writing to Mr Austin.

'Dear Mr Austin

Further to our discussion on Monday, I have considered the advice offered in Court by District Judge Richmond in consideration of his suggestion that I might apply to have the claim against me for defamation struck out. However, I would like to provide the Claimant (the University) with the opportunity to address what are clear and unambiguous deficiencies in their Particulars of Claim.

You are already aware through previous correspondence with the Court, that I have raised the matter of the lack of particularisation in the Claimant’s Particulars of Claim to which you responded in a letter to me dated 12th May 2011. In my letter to the Court I stated that the Particulars of Claim as they stand make it almost impossible to provide an adequate or indeed a comprehensive defence to the Claimant’s allegations. Moreover, the Particulars of Claim as provided by the claimant (the University) show no cause of action. With the Overriding Objective in mind, I again raise the issue that the Claimant (the University) has also failed to particularise damage or remedy which goes towards proportionality. I therefore extend to the Claimant the opportunity to reparticularise the Particulars of Claim and for the Claimant (the University) to show cause of action. With my eye on the Overriding Objectives, I am keen to keep the overall costs to a minimum and not waste the Court’s time. If the Claimant wishes to disregard this opportunity to reparticularise their Particulars of Claim and show a clear cause of action, I will apply to have the claim struck out and will of course ask for costs.

I am also interested to ascertain, and perhaps you could direct me towards, which rule or existing precedent allows Dr Graves and Professor Martin Hall to conflate their own reputations with that of the University and use this as the basis for initiating action for defamation and for funding their claim? Can you also confirm to me by reply if similarly, other University employees may take advantage of this course of action and this funding mechanism now or in the future.

I would view ten (10) working days from the date at the top of this letter as sufficient time to provide the above reparticularised POC, and also to provide the above answers to my enquiries.

I look forward to hearing from you with your full response to the above matters in due course.

Yours faithfully

Dr G P Duke'

The riders are under starter's orders...

I haven't yet had a reply from Mr Austin. But they have until Friday this week (9th December) to respond to my letter. It will be interesting to see precisely what Mr Austin and the University come up with this time. But just in case, my Application to have their claim struck out is prepared and ready to go off to the Court first thing next week!

Usual disclaimer: This work is the opinion of the author and is produced in order to report current events that are of public interest and public concern. The reproduction and use of any documents herein is to provide accuracy in order to avoid civil litigation and claims of misquoting. In reporting current events they are used within the context of Fair Dealing. The author is happy to provide further acknowledgement if requested. To make any such request press here.

The author also suggests that before embarking upon expensive civil actions for libel, contact the author. We have reams of documentary evidence which we are happy to provide. A right of reply also operates. We are also happy to make corrections and if necessary provide an apology. So, to save £££sss please avail yourself of this opportunity if you really feel it necessary, which you can do by clicking here.

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