Last week’s judgment from Edinburgh on Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament delivered an object lesson in the digital news cycle. When the Sun tweeted that ‘Number 10’ had claimed Scottish judges were politically biased, all hell broke loose on Twitter. Former lord chancellors Gauke, Falconer and Lidington were among the heavyweight public figures queueing up to berate another assault on the independence of the judiciary.
For once social media appeared to extinguish a controversy rather than pour petrol on it – at least at first. Lord chancellor Robert Buckland wasn’t going to make the same mistake as another predecessor, Liz Truss. And when the scale of the outrage became plain, it only took a few hours for Number 10 to deny all charges (or perform what the Sun might describe as a ‘reverse ferret’).
So that’s all right then. Or is it? Clearly, the Sun’s political editor Tom Newton Dunn didn’t just make it up. As he tweeted later: ‘Not everyone in Downing Street agrees with the suggestion that Scots judges might be biased, and a fairly heavy distancing is now under way.’
Indeed, but therein lies a principal flaw of the lobby system. Who at Number 10 does ‘agree with the suggestion’? On a matter of such constitutional importance, I would rather like to know.
By Wednesday evening the row appeared to have been contained – until further glib and incendiary comments from the business minister gave it fresh legs. Lamentable.
To more prosaic matters; though hardly less important for solicitors. The Law Society has published three practice notes with which many in the profession need to familiarise themselves. One contains guidance on a solicitor’s professional obligations when they encounter a victim of modern slavery. These obligations may be particularly complex, and even more so when the victim is a minor.
Two more relate to the radical overhaul of regulation that will allow solicitors to work freelance or in unregulated entities, which comes into effect on 25 November. Whatever your views on the emergence of a multi-tiered profession, it will soon be a reality. Practitioners need to be ready.