This week’s roundup of legal news and commentary includes courts, cakes, compensation, cases and comments.

New term, new team: Lady Rose being sworn in as a Justice at the UK Supreme Court today.


The Easter term began last week on Tuesday 13 April and will continue until Friday 28 May 2021. Today, Lady Rose was sworn in as a new Justice of the Supreme Court, in a socially distanced ceremony (see image). She will be sitting on the panel for this week’s hearing, R (on the application of Haworth) (Respondent) v Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (Appellant), a case about tax avoidance, on appeal from a reported decision of the Court of Appeal [2019] EWCA Civ…

“What was heard in that court can never be unheard….”

The Slave Ship by J. M. W. Turner — Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Public Domain

The Zong was a slave trading ship that got caught up in a legal storm, in 1783, after its owners claimed to to be entitled to compensation from their insurers for the value of slaves thrown overboard, just like any other form of cargo, jettisoned to save the ship after it ran into difficulty. The claim was resisted by the insurers, who appealed against an initial finding in the shipowners’ favour, and the appeal was heard in a court presided over by the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield.

The hearing at Westminster Hall was attended by crowds of spectators…

Lord Mansfield (played by Tom Wilkinson) and Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) in the film Belle

Belle is a fascinating and compelling film, directed by Amma Asante, which cleverly dramatises a famous legal case and its historical setting; but while it claims to be based on a real story, the basis is in many respects exceedingly slender. The film was made in 2013 but I only found out about it recently and watched it after seeing a documentary about Asante’s work.

The case (about which the film is fairly accurate) is Gregson v. Gilbert (1783) 3 Doug 232, 99 ER 629, also known as The Zong after the name of the ship involved (as is common…

Burgess was always trying new things: new genres, new styles, new words. In The Wanting Seed, one of his earlier novels, dating back to 1962, he tackles the science fiction sub-genre of dystopian prediction.

Bully for you. Image by Pixabay via Pexels

Burgess’s brave new world is a Malthusian nightmare in which the UK has become horribly overpopulated, where the countryside has been absorbed into an endless urban sprawl, and the growing population, starved of agricultural produce, has turned on itself as a source of nutrition. An authoritarian government’s efforts to curb population growth by promoting homosexuality and abortion may sound crass to readers of today, but it probably seemed more transgressively satirical in 1962 when both practices had yet to be legalised in the UK. …

I have a friend who signs all his emails to me “Molesworth”, addressing me in turn as “Peason”. I am sure this is not unique. There is a generation of us who grew up with the anarchic school stories about Nigel Molesworth, his annoying brother Molesworth 2, his friend Peason and his classmate Fotherington-Thomas, invariably described as “uterly wet and a weed”. The books are the source of a number of badly spelled catchphrases, “as any fule kno”, as well as the insult “girly swot” which has recently been triumphantly repurposed (“chiz, chiz”).

The four books, Down with Skool!, How…

Pippingford Park in West Sussex is normally a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) but for the bank holiday weekend, when it hosts the Byline Festival, it’s also a site of special media and politics interest. We’re talking citizen journalism, protest politics and a selection of musical acts some of whom can only be described as agit-punk.

This is the festival’s triumphant second year. Last year’s debut went so well, the organisers, led by Peter Jukes and Stephen Colgrave, immediately started planning a repeat. …

The Road to Falicon — By Max Hollingbourne (actually by Florence Dolle)

Elanor Dymott’s novels are hard to pigeonhole in the convenient way the book trade’s publicists seem to want. Her debut, Every Contact Leaves a Trace was a murder mystery that was far more about the buried emotional histories of its smart but damaged young characters than the forensic detection trail along which the narrative was suspended.

A mysterious death also lies at the shocking conclusion of her new book, Silver and Salt, but this one feels more like a dysfunctional family saga. There is a handy summary of the plot and characters in Alan Massie’s review in The Scotsman:


Italian Cultural Institute seminars, History and Democracy No 2.

In the second of a series of interdisciplinary seminars, hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute in London on 24 January 2018, and curated by historian Andrea Mammone, from Royal Holloway, University of London, Professor Paul Corner from the University of Siena discussed questions about the racial laws introduced in Italy in the 1930s and their significance both at the time and in the context of the current rise of the far right in Europe. The following is a necessarily imprecise precis of their discussion.

The racial laws which were targeted against…

UPDATE: this post has now been added to the ICLR blog, where further comments will be added.

A debate has been raging on Twitter about dining in hall in the Inns of Court. It’s a tradition that goes back centuries, but in recent years the requirement to complete a certain number of dinners to qualify as a barrister has grown less and less significant. The question is, should they be abandoned altogether as a qualifying step?

Dinners are formal(ish): you need to wear a business suit or office attire and on top of that a gown (usually loaned by the Inn, unless you have your own already). You sit in a “mess” of four, but on long…

Paul Magrath

I'm Head of Product Development and Online Content at ICLR - the leading supplier of law reports for England and Wales.

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