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Blog Name: Isobel Williams's blog

Supreme Court: something of the night
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2
17 May 2017

Today's case is about Soho sex shops but punters' eyes will glaze over: in R (on the application of Hemming (trading as Simply Pleasure Limited) and others) v Westminster City Council, is the council's scheme of charging fees for licensing sex shops permitted by Directive 2006/123/EC on Services in the Internal Market, as implemented by the Provision of Services Regulations 2009?

The source of strife is how the council makes licence-holders subsidise the cost of dealing with unlicensed sex shops.

This case has bounced back from the European Court of Justice. 'We weren't anxious to come here, my Lord,' says Philip Kolvin QC. He is Chair of London's Night Time Commission, working to keep the city open all hours.


The nine interveners include the Bar Standards Board, the Law Society and, for reasons I am unable to explain but which may have something to do with rogue blacksmiths, the Farriers Registration Council.




On the bench, Lord Neuberger is a stranger to repose.














Counsel are going at breakneck speed - there's a lot to get through. Even so, the bench is lenient: 'I wonder if you are conceding that too readily,' muses Lord Reed, offering an opening.

'There's an air of Alice in Wonderland about all this though, isn't there,' says Lord Clarke.
'My Lord, with respect...' says Victoria Wakefield.
'Alice Through the Looking-Glass,' says Lord Neuberger.

On the way up to the courtroom this morning I glimpsed Lord Carnwath in a looking-glass as he entered a mirrored lift with a tennis racket on his back. The optical and philosophical possibilities would have kept Velázquez happy for months but I did not pursue this image and the doors closed.

When I worked in an office in daytime Soho, the sex industry was just one of many lattices laid over the area: it was possible not to see it at all. The last time I went to Soho was for the launch of a periodical called The Amorist which despite the title is stocked in WHSmith - forgive the plug but I'm in the first issue. I found myself talking to a woman with exquisite manners carrying a feather duster like the plumes on Louis XIV's bed ('I'm here as Cynthia Payne') who turned out to be Koo Stark.


Waiting for reinforcements on Parliament Sq...

 

Going into the courtroom...

Sorting out the bundles...

Taking a note of proceedings...



Coda: you are welcome to a law and art salon in London on 23 May. I'll be joined by intellectual property lawyer/organist Hubert  Best, crime writer/former criminal lawyer Frances Fyfield and artist Jacqueline Nicholls - details here.

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Supreme Court: council policy goes out of the window
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1
16 February 2017
Blind cord, Court 2
First up, phobias. Poshteh v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is about post traumatic stress disorder, not phobia, but I’m going to link them as they both enrage people who apply terms such as ‘reasonable’, ‘objectivity’ and ‘pull yourself together’.

My first memory is of being scared witless by some geezer with a fake white beard and red hood. Later, as a student, I was being paid to chop vegetables in a private house on Christmas day. The grandfather crept up behind me in costume and said, ‘Don’t peek, it’s Santa Claus.’ If I'd obeyed my terror-reflex and stabbed him, could I have run a defence based on my phobia?

This case also involves an asylum-seeker. The Royal Borough once asked me to draw at an event for looked-after children, some of whom had been asylum-seekers or refugees. Some were from Eritrea. Some had arrived in this country alone. They were a great bunch, and they will always be ambassadors. 

So, as a nation, let’s not turn our back on more kids like these, eh? While we allow rich people from overseas to buy properties and leave them empty?

Empty or full, the housing stock in Kensington and Chelsea is varied. Slapdash Victorian speculators, Peter Rachman and the Luftwaffe have all left their mark


Nowadays, casual violations of planning and conservation rules pop up like weeds. Together with legally permitted vanity projects. And don’t get me started on the basements. If there isn't enough room for you and your cigar storage around here, go to Bracknell.

Today’s case concerns Vida Poshteh who was tortured and imprisoned in Iran. She applied for asylum in the UK; she and her child were housed temporarily by RBKC. 

She was offered permanent accommodation in a housing association flat with a round living-room window but on viewing it she had a panic attack and turned the flat down. She suffers from PTSD and her prison cell had a round window. No one is suggesting that she is lying. The council says she should just live there anyway.

The bench proffers suggestions – that she should maybe put a curtain over the round window or never go into the living room. 

This is kindly meant, but to a PTSD-sufferer it is likely to have overtones of the bloody chamber.

For a couple of seconds we see a photo of the living room
The council says that the window is three feet in diameter, set in a wall five feet three inches wide. There is a rectangular window in the same room. It sounds like some unpardonable jeu d’esprit on the part of an architecture student.

Ms Poshteh’s undoing in the Court of Appeal seems to have been that she had initially agreed to live in that flat on a temporary basis. The council wished to construe this as permanent. But sometimes you might just say things to get authority figures off your back. Ms Poshteh has been served with an eviction notice. Happy Christmas.












Window fastenings in Court 2 look like handcuffs

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Supreme Court: Article 50
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1
24 January 2017

‘Today the Supreme Court will rule on whether the government needs military consent to begin the Brexit process.’

That kicked off the Radio 3 news bulletin at 6.30am today. I checked it on iPlayer. He really said military and not parliamentary. Valid until the end of February: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08bblrh  

Well, it's a thought, isn't it. And anyone can make a mistake. Including an electorate. And an electoral college. Trump and Brexit have normalised waking up in a panic.

Each day I give oracular significance to whatever is playing on Radio 3 when I switch it on. Today it’s Allegri's Miserere for the service of shadows, the Tenebrae. One by one the candles go out. Music to echo through toxic particulates after the end of the world.


Facts are useful at times like these. And at all other times.

Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.

But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.

On with the motley. Sheep and goats - wool, cashmere, mohair (there’ll be a wait outside in the cold). Daily grief. Pencil sharpener.

A woman from the crowd-funded grassroots People's Challenge group, some of whom are in the queue, wishes she could go back to before 24 June when she wasn't interested in politics.

Because UK Supreme Court judges are blessedly not chosen for their political allegiance, we don’t know what the ruling will be. The sightlines in the packed courtroom are terrible for a short person, but for connoisseurs of tension the atmosphere is a collector’s item.

Lord Neuberger briskly reads out a summary of the judgment. No intake of breath, no gasp of surprise. The mischief-makers wanted the full Monty – a nod to the devolved powers and a court case in Europe – but the grown-ups are content with the outcome.

There’s an orderly press pack outside. ‘Have we got anyone bigger than Jeremy Wright?’ a television journalist asks his telephone, referring to the Attorney-General. The previous AG, Dominic Grieve QC MP, is strolling around in a nice beige coat looking pleased. Despite Radio 3 there are no tanks on Parliament Square and Big Ben has not yet struck 13 although it's shaping up that way across the pond.

As Laura Kuenssberg is being filmed, Gina Miller – poised and radiant but not triumphing – walks past with her entourage. Kuenssberg hastily finishes then sprints after her in clicky heels.


A ‎German journalist, polished and prosperous-looking, does a measured piece to camera out of my earshot, but I don't think my schoolgirl German would have been up to it. The British pack pay him no attention. 

Maybe they should.
Lincoln turns his back on it all

Coda: Nightmares collide on Friday when the member for Maidenhead meets Mr Trump. In preparation, here is the correct way to grab a pussy, demonstrated by American ballet students posing as the White Cat and Puss in Boots in Petipa's Sleeping Beauty.

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The UK Supreme Court Yearbook reviewed by an amateur
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11 January 2017
Amazon is offering a mint condition Jackie Annual 1976 for £2,912.91. I was not allowed to read Jackie but stolen glances suggested it was weak on coverage of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. Spotters will be relieved to hear that The UK Supreme Court Yearbook Volume 7 (2016) is just £90 with free worldwide shipping.

I am reviewing it not as a lawyer but as a tax-paying dilettante. So let’s start with a daft social media meme: ‘Grab your nearest book, and open it to page 117. What's the second sentence you see? What does it mean about your 2017?’

Here goes: ‘The door was opened by the colonel, and one of the other defendants immediately shot him dead.’ It means that 2017 is the same as all my other sentient years, a copy-editing exercise, so I’m going to say leave out the comma and the adverb.

Change gear – we’ve landed in a masterly analysis of joint enterprise following the Supreme Court judgments in Jogee and Ruddock written by Julian Knowles QC, who led for Ruddock and acknowledges the support he received from Associate Professor Matthew Dyson, Dr James Mehigan, Matthew Blower and Jessica Jones. Anyone interested in joint enterprise – student, academic, lawyer, journalist, politician, campaigner – would gain from studying this learned, humane and approachable text, especially as Knowles concludes by asking what is next. 
Jogee, 28 October 2015

Knowles’s essay is in the Commentaries and reflections section, which starts with Lord Neuberger on Judicial Innovation in the UK Supreme Court. The daily assaults of Brexit news and the unwelcome fragility of the Union (I’m a headbanging remoaner, get over it) provide a shudder-making backdrop to the quest for openness, accessibility and inclusivity in his article.

Lord Neuberger concludes with a gentle reminder to our elected masters: ‘…the Government is proposing to make available a large sum of money to overhaul both the physical and the electronic infrastructure of the courts. There will be fewer but larger and more modern court buildings throughout the UK, and the antiquated and fissiparous IT systems in the courts will be replaced by a modern system.’ Let’s hope. But fissiparous is the current word for the kingdom too.

What a shower. We're all doomed

The next section, The protection of human rights by the UK Supreme Court symposium, includes a fascinating discourse on opacity/transparency by Kirsty Brimelow QC, Into the dark: rights, security and the courtroom.

For ‘rare in camera cases and exceptional departures from open justice’ Brimelow suggests ‘allowing designated members of the press to inspect any secret material. Otherwise, they are arguing for an unknown. Undoubtedly, this leads to speculation which may be more damaging than the actual material sought to be withheld’.

But who would want to be in charge of designating members of the press, given the dwindling number of trained legal reporters, some inexcusable coverage of the Divisional Court Article 50 judgment, the once-great Daily Telegraph’s recent invention of the Supreme Court Justice ‘Lord Hudges’ [sic] and casual misreporting of facts in cases attended by yours truly? Not to mention the wholesale sacking of sub-editors who could have caught journalists’ growing inability to restrain predictive text. ‘Geniality’ instead of ‘genealogy’ (Telegraph again, misquoting counsel in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council case Pringle). Dear me, is anyone awake?

Starry QCs contribute to the following sections, Thematic analyses of the 2015-16 legal year and The 2015-16 legal year in overview, which range alphabetically from administrative law and judicial review to restitution and unjust enrichment. They provide an authoritative crib for anyone who needs to swot up on their specialism, which is everyone. 

Miller in the Supreme Court

At the time of going to press, Article 50 had not reached the Supreme Court. Lord Millett PC QC examines the Divisional Court’s decision in Miller, while Dominic Grieve QC MP elegantly disses Brexit. The Supreme Court’s case load, he writes, ‘could perhaps act as a salutary reminder for politicians of some of the complex issues with which we are going to have to grapple. One also starts to feel sorry for the Court, which spends its time trying to clarify existing law only to have it all turned upside down before its eyes.’  My sole contact with this great mind has been to warn him off the salt and vinegar crisps. I thought he’d prefer lightly salted, on no evidence at all.


The Yearbook ends with statistics for Wisden types. Whizzing back to the beginning, we have an introduction by Daniel Clarry and Christopher Sargeant, joint editors-in-chief of the Yearbook series, Judicial panel selection in the UK Supreme Court: bigger bench, more authority? This is followed by a foreword by Robert French, the just-retired Chief Justice of Australia: Australia and the United Kingdom: a bit like family, much in common but a lot of difference.

I know you can write a better review, because you have legal training and stuff. Please do.

The frontispiece, drawn by me, features Colin Edelman QC and his natty tailoring in Versloot Dredging BV v HDI Gerling Industrie Versicherung AG. I am very touched that instead of being reproduced on ordinary run-of-book stock it has been allowed some posh coated paper, and the colour reproduction is faithful to the original. This is a high quality number.

For details, please see https://www.ukscy.org.uk/

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Supreme Court: contract and carols
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19 December 2016

There was much chortling among the commentariat about Lord Sumption’s ties at the four-day Article 50 hearing. Today, Jeeves has clearly returned from his holiday but there are no fervid rune-readers here to report that Lord Sumption is wearing an EU-blue tie with what could from a distance be gold stars on it. They are probably polka dots.

Today’s case is about contract and trusts. It refers to planning permission. Meanwhile the court has a planning application notice outside, as it is seeking to replace an oak floor which has a romantic creak like a ship in full sail. I hope the sound gets archived before the timbers are shivered.

BPE Solicitors and another v Hughes-Holland (in substitution for Gabriel) is the latest in a strand of litigation stemming from a discussion in ‘the Red Hart public house’ in 2007 between two friends: Richard Gabriel is the godfather of one of Peter Little’s children. Mr Gabriel agreed to lend Mr Little’s company £200,000 towards developing a property at Kemble Airfield (Cotswold Airport), formerly the base of the Red Arrows.

I google Cotswold Airport. In its AV8 restaurant ‘you will be able to watch the world fly by in a classy atmosphere with a distinctly Mediterranean feel, something that you do not come across very often in the UK.' I guess that's why I voted Remain.

The property was not developed, the loan was not repaid. Mr Gabriel chose, as counsel puts it today, 'to roll the dice of litigation’. Can he recover from his solicitors the money he lost, and did they have a duty to protect him from the loss? Are Dickens and Kafka playing consequences?

At lunchtime, the Treasury Singers arrive for their annual charity carol concert, this year for Crisis. 

We are ushered into the lofty anarcho-gothic-pre-Raphaelite library (normally off-limits), which has been camped up with pine garlands and poinsettias. Justices pop in. The Supreme Court’s misdescribed Can’t Sing Choir join in with relish and don Santa hats for the finale, We Wish You a Merry Christmas. There is an earnest endeavour that touches the flinty heart.

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Supreme Court Article 50 - it's over
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-2
10 December 2016

I start in one of the overspill courts, watching on a screen. Which way is this case is going? We seek a sign. Has Lady Hale been semaphoring all week with her motif brooches? It’s impossible to tell whether today’s is a brooch or simply an ornamental part of her black dress, but it looks like a black flower. Is she alluding to Black Flower, Kim Young-Ha’s novel about migrant workers caught up in a revolution who set up their own mini-nation?

The Brexit analogy is tempting. But I could be reading too much into it.


Helen Mountfield QC (below), for the crowd-funded People's Challenge group, starts with an unnecessary apology: ‘To some the legal arguments in the case may sound dry and antiquarian…’

No, for a non-lawyer this is the good stuff: we get the Treaty of Utrecht, the Seven Years’ War, Henry IV, Henry VIII (whose face is carved into an oak bench in the courtroom), William III and George III.

She adds: ‘Mr Eadie’s submissions are the equivalent of arguing that because none of the attempts to catch the Loch Ness monster succeeded, the Loch Ness monster still roams free.’

In court, there is a strained, earnest longing to find jokes funny. They are scrutinised afterwards by the commentariat like prize-winning bantams at a show for people who know how to evaluate bantams.

In the cruel world of stand-up, they would not win prizes. As a sacrifice to nerves, Mr Eadie started with something baffling which depended on knowing the form of a certain race-horse. Ad libs from the bench win overall on the comedy front.

Manjit Gill QC speaks movingly on behalf of vulnerable people, including British children and disabled people whose parents, guardians or carers, aka bargaining chips, may lose their right to live in the UK.

At lunchtime a punter hands out Cadbury Heroes. Hope he’s got some left for the heroic advocates and justices. Witnessing this superb exposition of legal process is a consolation after the national shame of Brexit and its spiteful aftermath.



In the afternoon I inherit a space in the courtroom. Bad for sightlines, good for authenticity.

Time for the last submission before Mr Eadie returns for the government. Lord Neuberger: 'Final shake of the kaleidoscope of the front bench. Mr Green.'

If I am to abandon my hobby of remoaning, where can I redirect my attention? Il faut cultiver notre jardin. But gardening is no real retreat from the world. The no-borders fox has just left contemptuous paw prints in wet cement. Fuchsia bug mite ignores trade barriers: it reached England from the US about ten years ago. My plants are riddled with it. You can’t disengage from the single organism we belong to, even if you suspect we're all inside a psychopathic alien’s test tube.

Mrs May is going for the ‘best possible’ Brexit. All the possibilities are invited to the Brexit party, but can we rely on them to turn up if there's a better gig somewhere else? Is the best possible Brexit an impossible one?

On Wednesday, David Scoffield QC said, ‘The UK Government's contentions on the extent of its prerogative power are, with respect, cavalier, perhaps in this context with both a small C and a large C.’ So, can anyone read anything into these two maps: the start of the English Civil War and the referendum result?

Yellow = Cavaliers
Yellow = Remain

PS Across the channel, there’s a spat involving the French equivalent of the Supreme Court. In a bureaucratic rejig, the Cour de cassation has been put under government supervision for the first time. The court’s president and the attorney general fired off a terse open letter to the prime minister. Le Figaro claims that the situation is more nuancée than it appears, but the article reads like a phone call from a weary government press officer.

PPS This is the second piece of EU referendum-related litigation to reach the Supreme Court, and presumably not the last as this fiasco plays out over decades of decline [smiley face]. In May, the court upheld a ruling that British expats who'd lived outside the UK for more than 15 years could not vote in the referendum. The Conservatives didn’t get round to changing that in time.

Lord Neuberger - two of many seat positions
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Supreme Court: more Brexit heartbreak
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-7
08 December 2016


Watching it on the train...
I board a train in Warwickshire. I watch the newest folk hero, Lord Pannick, on my BlackBerry. He should sell his recorded advocacy as a cure for insomnia – he is not boring but soothing, authoritative, sometimes incantatory. 

He makes it all look easy and I am lulled into a heedless trance. Then I leave a breathtakingly expensive pen on the train. Bother. 

...and in a cab
I take a cab. The sign in my drawing is all about our big Brexit mistake. A late arrival at the court, I'm in one of the overspill rooms.

The Irish question. When I got married I asked my husband if he would take British citizenship. He thought it was an absurd idea. His parents marched against Mosley in Cable Street. Now he is a bargaining chip. Will we have to stand in different queues?

It’s a mess. Bones rattle. The auld triangle goes jingle jangle. Ronan Lavery QC addresses the court: ‘Take the applicant, my client, for instance, he is a Protestant from north Belfast, he is a victim of the Troubles, he is a victims' rights campaigner. He is here, has always attended court with his friend who is a catholic. But his son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries. He regards himself as British, although many people in Britain may regard him as Irish. It is a complex situation, my Lords, my Lady, Northern Ireland, and there is a complex constitutional settlement.’

The room grows cold. Or is it me.


So, what’s going to happen? Who will win this case? At the end of day three, William Hill are offering 5/2 that the government will win and 2/7 that they will lose. That’s just betting, though, which consists of money, sentiment, superstition and hedging.

What about the index to the day’s transcript? This perfect source of found poetry includes a numeric index for all you Bletchley Park types. Are there any clues in this sample page, for example? I would pay to hear Lord Pannick read this out:


Or is Lady Hale giving us signs? On day one, she wore black and a brooch which looked like a double dragonfly. On day two she wore half-mourning (purple) and a beaten silvery blazing comet or quarter sunburst. Today she is dressed in deep blue with a metallic caterpillar.


‘Don’t be pessimistic,’ someone said to me yesterday, after my latest diatribe. ‘Nigel Lawson says global warming isn’t happening.’ That is an unfortunate combination of words to use against me. I find it hard to trust people at the moment.

David Runciman, a professor from the Remain stronghold of Cambridge, writes in the London Review of Books (read by the people of the smaller bubble inside the larger bubble, like me): ‘By choosing to quit the European Union, the majority of British voters may have looked as if they were behaving with extraordinary recklessness. But in reality their behaviour…reflected their basic trust in the political system with which they were ostensibly so disgusted, because they believed that it was still capable of protecting them from the consequences of their choice….’

His article does not end happily.
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Supreme Court: Article 50
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06 December 2016

Caution: contains remoaning.

I wish I loved the Human Race;
I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I liked the way it walks;
I wish I liked the way it talks;

And when I'm introduced to one,
I wish I thought "What Jolly Fun!"

 - Sir Walter Raleigh (1861-1922)

I've had it up to here with vast swathes of humanity lately. Still, let's be positive, eh.

I’m queuing to get into the Supreme Court for the Brexit hearing. Can parliament get to vote on triggering Article 50? The true spotters got here before dawn. (Sensible people watch it live on the website.)

A red double-decker bus swings around Parliament Square and parks outside. On top are cheerful people in judge fancy dress, brandishing fencing foils to be like the Master of the Rolls. 'Nigel, where are you?' they cry.

I'm directed to one of two overspill courts, to watch proceedings on a large screen.

'Her Majesty's Attorney General,' says someone, reading from the cast list. 'Is that Liz Truss?'

The hearing kicks off with fire and brimstone from the bench. Lord Neuberger has tough warnings for dealers in abusive threats, and explains that judges judge law, not politics.

He also thanks the staff for responding to the full glare of Brexit. The court is in superb condition, its engine purring softly.

There is something rather touching about the blue velvet upholstered chairs, hired to cope with the extra numbers and matching the carpet. Everyone has leaned over backwards to explain, to inform, to welcome, to get the house-keeping right.

Ambulatory is a key word in James Eadie QC's argument on behalf of the Government. I read Joshua Rozenberg’s commentary in the blurry insomniac hours: 'Then look at the 1972 Act and you'll see it gives legal effect to the rights created by the EU treaties that are in force "from time to time". The legislation is described as "ambulatory", which means it walks around a bit and even marches into the future.' I misread 'future' for 'furniture', and agree: the legislation has marched into the furniture or maybe the brick wall of Brexit.

At lunchtime, a woman buys a souvenir teddy

In the afternoon I'm allotted a seat in the packed courtroom - next to a proper court artist, one who can really draw and stuff. I thought I'd better be very small so I just brought A4, whereas he is happily playing around with A3, so I get format envy. Meanwhile, Mr Eadie parries piercing questions from the bench - the fencing foils come to mind.

Protest outside the court - Brexit means cab

And now the fun part. Lovers of found poetry will be excited to learn that the Supreme Court's transcription of this case (ready on the same day!) is not only searchable but INDEXED. Here's a random sample of allusiveness:

PS Do be careful, Daily Mail. Writing about the Supreme Court justices, you say: 'With no written constitution to guide them, this is not a mere question of law, to be solved like a quadratic equation, with a correct or incorrect answer.' Most quadratic equations have two solutions, so your analogy falls down rather.

PPS there are lots of grown-up legal commentaries but you only come here to know that Lady Hale is wearing a lovely brooch which looks like a double dragonfly, or maybe a damselfly.

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The Brexit of BDSM
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23 November 2016

Mercandbear Fet tying Anna Noctuelle; photo: Fred Hatt

In response to reports that implementing Brexit might be a bit of a legal hassle, I offer a solution. Brexit is remarkably similar to Japanese rope bondage (despite one glaring difference: bondage, unlike Brexit, is consensual).

Bondage practitioners share knowledge on the internet. The few lawyers who don't already know this will be pleased to learn that such knowledge is applicable to Brexit - as in this sample by Miss Anna Bones from https://anatomiestudio.com to which I have made only minor alterations:

“What is there to actually learn about Brexit?”

It depends! Some people just want to learn some basics so they can have a bit of safe Brexit, others want to become as proficient as they can. If you’re after Brexit fun, then it’s probably not super important to learn about Brexit in suspension, but it’s a very good idea to learn about anatomy, the different kinds of pins and needles you can get, and how to use safety shears.

Anna Noctuelle; photo: Fred Hatt

Brexit requires a good degree of pain processing ability! It’s especially useful to learn to distinguish ‘good Brexit’ from ‘bad Brexit’, meaning the kinds of Brexit that are not harmful (for example, the Brexit you get after a vigorous workout), and that are harmful (such as any kind of sharp Brexit). This will involve trial and error until your brain is able to recognise when it’s OK to push through a Brexit and when it’s time to tap out.

Which bring us to one super important skill: communication! Perhaps this is the most important part of Brexit: learning how to communicate from inside Brexit. The more specific you can be, the better. This also comes with experience – for example, what kinds of Brexit you are feeling, if there are sensations you are not enjoying, if a Brexit needs to be reviewed, etc.

It’s also a good idea to learn how to negotiate before doing Brexit, such asking the Brexiteer questions as well as knowing what kinds of important information to disclose. These can include: any Brexit issues you may have (for example, you sprained your ankle), any medication you may be on, the kinds of Brexit you feel like/don’t feel like, or body parts you are not OK having Brexit on.

Communicating can be difficult: some people space out and become non-verbal, others find it difficult to express their needs or communicate unpleasant sensations out of not wanting to cause offence or because they don’t want the Brexit to come off just yet. This is totally OK. The important thing is to try to have a conversation about it beforehand.

Anna Noctuelle; photo: Fred Hatt

“What about the Brexiteer?”

There are lots of Brexit styles and different people enjoy different techniques and sensations, so it’s really useful (and also loads of fun) to watch people Brexiting in the community.

Brexit can be intense and very physically demanding – this is especially true of suspension-focused Brexit.
       
Inexperienced people who do not know their Brexit well are less likely to communicate when something is hurting, but Brexiteers rely on feedback because often they must focus on a particular Brexit technique which they are learning, all the while being mindful of others. This is the perfect storm for small nerve injuries.

“Does this mean I have to be super fit and bendy to do Brexit?”

Nope! Brexit is not one size fits all, it’s a very diverse activity enjoyed by grown-ups of all ages, all physical compositions, backgrounds, genders and sexes.

It’s about finding the kind of Brexit you enjoy doing and finding people who want to do that with you. Different people have different Brexit thresholds, and the beauty is in this diversity.

It is also worth noting that although most of the Brexit imagery online depicts petite young bendy girls Brexited by males, this is not the reality of Brexit – there are lots of male identified persons who enjoy being in Brexit, and lots of female identified persons who enjoy Brexiting, and if you’re not into binaries, there is a lot of gender queerness in the Brexit scene as well.

In sum, the Brexit world is a lot more diverse that you might think by just googling ‘Brexit’ on your browser!
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Supreme Court: human rights, game on
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09 November 2016

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
   Go, go, go like a soldier,
   Go, go, go like a soldier,
   Go, go, go like a soldier,
   So-oldier of the Queen!

That’s the last verse of The Young British Soldier, from Rudyard Kipling’s Barrack-Room Ballads of 1892.
Nine justices today, mostly obscured from view

Kipling is too readily dismissed as a propagandist of empire but he was a complex, conflicted observer who took the pulse of his times. After the First World War he wrote this epitaph:

If any question why we died, 
Tell them, because our fathers lied.

Today's case, Mohammed and others v Ministry of Defence, concerns Serdar Mohammed who was captured in Afghanistan by the British in 2010, held for four months, handed over to the Afghan authorities and convicted as a Taliban commander making roadside bombs. At issue on this seventh and final day of the appeal is whether Mohammed was detained legally under article 5 (the right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights.


James Eadie QC, fresh from presenting the Government’s case about Article 50 in the High Court, refers to the British armed forces’ position in earlier litigation: ‘There you had all the arguments about hierarchical and structural independence. That, we respectfully submit, is not the game here...’

Words carry accidental connotations and I think of what Kipling called ‘the Great Game’ in his novel Kim. He meant the clash between empires (in his day, British and Russian) radiating from Afghanistan, which ended in the early twentieth century or, in Kim, never:

When everyone is dead the Great Game is finished. Not before.

Kim, an outsider like Kipling, passes for an Indian scavenger-orphan but is discovered to be the son of a dead Irish serviceman and educated among the white elite. Will he choose the Great Game, Buddhism, or both? Kipling is not going to condemn any of those choices.

Also today, the British empire’s Lazarus reflex is under scrutiny close by in the House of Commons: the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights is taking evidence on the potential impact of Brexit. Boris Johnson's wife is one of the experts.

And downstairs in the Supreme Court there is a spot of soft power play. Among the display of official gifts to the court, the National Judges College of the People’s Republic of China exercises panda diplomacy.

Meanwhile, Rodin and Dance is on at the Courtauld Institute of Art. It includes drawings of Cambodian dancers. All about being free. There is a particularly agile barrister with fluid hand movements sitting in front of me today. I try to draw him in the Rodin manner with mixed results.




Same barrister, twice

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