Law: Briefs

REMEMBER ANGUS Diggle, the solicitor who felt that if a man paid for a woman's dinner he was entitled to more than a peck on the cheek? Last week another lawyer was found guilty of misreading a women's intentions. Jonathan Brierley was convicted of indecently assaulting a party guest while her fiance slept in the same bedroom. He claimed the young woman had given him the "come on" after flirting earlier downstairs.

The "misunderstanding" took place after the trio had finished off 11 bottles of red wine at Brierley's home in what he described as "a very convivial evening".

Brierley claimed that at one stage the barefoot woman had rubbed her feet into his groin while he was massaging her toes. With her fiance sitting nearby, she had put her hand inside his shirt and tickled the hairs on his chest, he said.

"I felt quite flattered from the attention, which was quite unexpected," Brierley told the jury at Carmarthen Crown Court, South Wales. However, the jury, on a ten-to-two majority verdict, decided that it was Brierley's actions which were unexpected. He must now await his sentence.

SOME APRIL fool jokes are all too convincing. The one that appeared in Legal Week, announcing that the pukka City law firm of Slaughter and May had called in a marketing guru and shortened its name to Slaughters, was swallowed by the rival magazine In Brief. The latest In Brief has devoted a two-page spread to exploring the deep significance of the change of image for the firm. It concludes: "Many would mourn the passing of `Slaughter and May', and our hearts would go out to the late William May, the co-founder. His special place in legal history would be erased at a stroke and all at the suggestion of some marketing bod who parades as a `branding' guru which wouldn't mean a thing to Mr May."

NOT EVERY lawyer in the world is opposed to Jack Straw's plan to abolish a defendant's right to choose trial by jury in triable-either way-offences. George Staple, formerly head of the Serious Fraud Office said last week: "I can't help feeling that the Home Secretary's approach is the right one. There are a large number who elect trial by jury and then change their plea to guilty. This means that resources are not available for other aspects of the criminal justice system. The question is, are they going to have a fair trial before a magistrate? My own view is that they are." Mr Staple's position is perhaps not surprising; he has been leading the calls for the abolition of juries to hear cases involving matters of complex fraud.

THE RIPPLES following Geoff Hoon's move to the Foreign Office have broken on the shores of the Attorney General's Office. Keith Vaz, who takes Mr Hoon's place at the Lord Chancellor's department, has been replaced by the solicitor and Hastings and Rye MP Michael Foster who becomes Parliamentary Private Secretary (PMS) to the law officers. Mr Vaz, who had been PMS at the Attorney General's Office since 1997, is married to the sole practitioner and ethnic minority rights campaigner Maria Fanandez.

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