Conferences and alliances

LONDON-BASED FRENCH WRITER and broadcaster Phillipe Auclair, best known as a football journalist covering British and European leagues for newspaper and media outlets, is to be the guest speaker at the WS Society’s annual dinner at the Signet Library on 11 November. An all round renaissance man, Auclair is an urbane, wry and cultured observer of human affairs. The historic bonds between Scotland and Europe, particularly the “Auld Alliance”, are a strong theme of the dinner this year.

ON THURSDAY the WS/STEP Private Client Conference at the Signet Library featured a panel of the UK’s leading private client lawyers. The programme included a focus on international and cross border issues of succession. 

ELSEWHERE IN THE UK a conference of different kind was also all about succession as new prime minister Theresa May addressed the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. Conspicuous by their absence were the former Chancellor George Osborne and the former PM David Cameron.

THE CAMERON NAME was not out of the news, however, with the unwelcome headline this week “Law firm (sic) run by Cameron’s brother hit by £150,000 scam”. Alexander Cameron QC, older brother of the former prime minister has headed barristers’ chambers Three Raymond Buildings since 2010. It is understood that m’ learned friends unwittingly made three payments to fraudsters in a “false billing” scam, which would be embarrassing enough but the chambers “specialises in large-value fraud cases”. Quite. Perhaps a particularly immersive CPD session went wrong – something on “understanding the client perspective”?

PLUMBING HAS BEEN GOOD to Charlie Mullins, the “colourful” head of Pimlico Plumbers, who was also at the Tory conference this week. The former Tory donor is one of a number of businesspeople funding a high court case – expected to begin in the next week or so – questioning HM government’s legal advice that article 50 can be invoked without parliamentary approval. In her conference speech the PM confirmed that the attorney general Jeremy Wright QC would be resisting the legal challenge in the high court, prompting Mark Elliott, professor of public law at the University of Cambridge to tweet that May appeared to have “weaponised” the attorney general “in the service of democracy”. It also prompted a presumably unintentionally entertaining live appearance by Mullins on the Andrew Neil programme The Daily Politics on Tuesday. Mullins – who will be represented in the case by Mishon de Reya – was happy to post his appearance on Pimlico Plumbers tv channel and, if nothing else, he gave Neil a run for his money on the hairstyle front.

AUDIENCE APPETITE for true-crime documentaries shows no sign of declining. Rough Justice, broadcast on BBC 1 between 1982-2007 was a ground-breaking series which investigated alleged miscarriages of justice, ultimately securing the release of 18 wrongfully imprisoned people.  Following the controversial cancellation of the programme in 2007 producer Louise Shorter established Inside Justice, a charity that harnesses the skills of lawyers, former police detectives and independent forensic experts to re-examine convictions they suspect could be unsound. Conviction: Murder at the Station (BBC iPlayer) followed Shorter and the Inside Justice team as they considered the case of Southampton postal worker Roger Kearney, currently serving a life sentence for the 2008 murder of Paula Poolton, a woman with whom he was having an affair. As the reviewer in The Daily Telegraph commented “it made for edge-of-your-seat television, pulling us in with all the twists and turns of a story that might yet turn out to be stranger than fiction”.


Italian defence lawyer Walter Biscotti

THE HORRIFIC MURDER of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy in November 2007 quickly became one of the most sensational crime stories of the 21st century. New to Netflix this week is Amanda Knox where the American Knox, twice convicted and twice acquitted of the crime, appears with other key protagonists (including co-accused Raffaelle Solleccito), in Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn’s unsettling film about the case. Inevitably, the behaviour of Italian lawyers – especially prosecutor Giuliano Mignini – has attracted much criticism. “The Italian police and judiciary were guilty of grotesque incompetence, panic, misogyny and misplaced national pride” – The Guardian. Reaction in America at the time was apoplectic and Donald Trump, inevitably, was sure there was a simple solution (boycott Italy).  None of this criticism then or now, however, has shaken Solleccito’s defence lawyer Walter Biscotti’s faith in the ultimate supremacy of Italian justice: “It bothered me that the American media lectured us about the law. This courthouse, in 1308, housed the first faculty of law in Europe. In America, in 1308, they were drawing buffalos in caves.”

— “Writer”

Writer's Week is not intended to represent the views of the WS Society or its members.