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28 August, 2007  
London Calling

Respect for killers … Enterprise Starfish … Alastair Campbell – the diaries of a media tart … Aussie lawyers are highly regarded in London – they work hard and don’t apply for partnership

imageThe Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has just rejected a government argument that a murderer should be deported to Italy after serving his term.

The murderer, 26-year old Learco Chindamo, stabbed a headmaster called Phillip Lawrence in December 1995. Lawrence was trying to protect a 13-year old pupil from a gang of youths led by Chindamo.

Chindamo’s lawyers argued that he was entitled to “respect for a family life” under Article 8 of the much-vilified Human Rights Act, and therefore should be allowed to stay.

His mother, who lives in Britain, is from the Philippines and his Italian father is believed to be in gaol or on the run. Understandably, Phillip Lawrence’s widow said that Article 2 should have given her husband the right to life.

imageChindamo won his case to remain in Britain following his release. David Cameron (pic), the Leader of the Opposition, leading what journalists call a chorus of disapproval, said the Human Rights Act should be abolished.

Chindamo came to the UK in 1987 when he was six-years and four-months old. He speaks no Italian and appears to have no ties with Italy. But this was secondary to Chindamo’s case under EU law.

In a EU Citizens’ Directive, which took effect last year, a person can only be expelled from a member state of the EU if he poses “a present and sufficiently serious threat” to the fundamental interests of society.

The tribunal ruled that it would be disproportionate to send Chindamo back to Italy.

The government, which vowed to deport all foreign criminals, has been curiously quiet about the EU Directive. It turns out the Human Rights Act may not be to blame after all.

* * *

David Ryan, the managing partner of Pinsent Masons, a firm with 1,008 fee earners and an annual turnover of £192.4 million, told The Lawyer recently that the firm’s branding of its corporate responsibility program is called “Starfish”.

Apparently it is named after a story in which a child finds a starfish on the sand and returns it to the sea. This happens every time the child walks on the beach. Her perplexed father asks why she does it and she replies, “Because every one matters”.

* * *

imageOne of the most fascinating books in years is The Alastair Campbell Diaries, which gives a compelling account of the workings of government. Published six-weeks ago, it has now racked up 55,515 sales. The clear impression it gives is that much of the time politicians are reacting to events rather than shaping them.

Most of the journalists who reviewed it were highly critical of the book. It looks as if lazy hacks merely checked their names in the index and found Campbell (pic) had dismissed them with an obscenity.

They complained it has been heavily edited, is superficial and does not say enough about Tony Blair’s personality.

That’s rubbish. There is enough on Tony Blair for a whole conference. He comes across as extremely hardworking, modest, but vain, and a touch obsessive – ringing Campbell several times a day to say the same thing.

Blair’s appetite for the job is a puzzle. He lives in a bubble and faces daily pressure and criticism. He has little sleep and no-one is grateful for anything he does.

For obvious political reasons, Campbell has pulled most of his punches about Gordon Brown. John Prescott comes across as quite savvy; not the buffoon portrayed in the media.

There is not one reference to John Howard. Two stories, one about Clinton and the other about Bush, bear mentioning.

In the midst of his impeachment problems President Clinton said that someone should tell Northern Ireland’s David Trimble that the art of politics is smiling when you feel like you’re swallowing a turd.

Just days before the crucial Commons vote on Iraq, Campbell asks Bush to sponsor him if he runs a sub-four hour marathon. The President of the United States replies: “If you win the vote in Parliament, I’ll kiss your ass.”

Campbell: “I’d prefer the sponsorship.”

* * *

Magic Circle firm Herbert Smith is busily recruiting Indian and Australian graduates for its internship programs. It is hoped they will be offered traineeships. The firm believes the quality of candidates is high because they are required to study university subjects other than law, like economics and commerce.

imageIt’s also been said unofficially by other firms that Aussies are good recruits because they work hard and rack up thousands of billable hours. Most of them go home when their visas run out.

In other words, they don’t stay in England and do embarrassing and awkward things like apply for partnership.

Could it be said that, unlike Mr Chindamo (seen here), they pose a present and serious threat to the fundamental interests of society?