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Category Archives: stuff that isn’t law at all

Who’s on first base – a family law spin




“Before I begin to deliver this judgment, I must make my most profound apologies to the transcribers who are about to have a miserable afternoon.

This is the final hearing within care proceedings. Those proceedings are issued by the Applicant Local Authority, Norfolk County Council.  The social worker is Ian Manager and the team manager is Helen Child. They are represented by counsel, Mr John Respondent.

The mother of the children,  Miss Evelyn Father, is represented by counsel, Ms Theresa Applicant.  (There should be an acute accent over the second ‘a’ in Ms Applicant’s name, transcribers)

The next party is Mr Ian Putative – he is the birth father of all three of the children. He is represented by Mr Kent Sussex of counsel.

The fourth party is the partner of the mother, Miss Father – Mr Evelyn Mother.  For a time, he was considered to be the putative father of the youngest child, but it was then established that the real father was Mr Putative.  Mr Mother is an intervenor in these proceedings and is the current partner of Miss Father, and he is represented by Mrs Michelle Parents of counsel.

The fifth parties are the maternal grandparents, Gene and Jean Father. They are represented by Mr Glenn Hampshire of counsel.


The children are represented through their Guardian, Mr Isw. That name is difficult to pronounce, and unfortunately, spelling it out is also likely to contribute to some confusion, as there is an independent social worker in the case, Mr Thomas Guardian.  The children –  Threshold, Inherent and Jurisdiction are represented through their counsel,  Mr Glynn Intervenor.

By way of crisp summary then, Mr Respondent represents the Applicant, whilst Ms Applicant represents one of the Respondents. Mr Intervenor represents the children and NOT the intervenor, who is represented by Ms Parents, who does not therefore represent the parents. The Local Authority is Norfolk, but we also have advocates named Hampshire, Kent and Sussex. Ms Child is the manager of the children’s social worker,  Mr Manager.

The mother’s name is Father, her partner is Mr Mother and he was the putative father of Jurisdiction, but the real father of Jurisdiction is Mr Putative.    The ISWs name is Guardian, and the Guardian’s name is Isw.  Threshold is in dispute in relation to Inherent and Jurisdiction, but is not in dispute in relation to Threshold.

Helpfully, my fellow Judges allowed some additional Part 25 expert instructions  for which I thank them profusely, and we therefore have a paediatric neuro-radiologist, Dr Mister, and a paediatric neurosurgeon, Mr Doctor.


In this case, the mother, Ms Father, met the father, Mr Putative, some seven years ago. They had two children together, Threshold and Inherent. The father, Mr Putative, then separated from the mother, Ms Father, who formed a relationship with Mr Mother, who it was thought for a time might be the father of Jurisdiction, though it emerged through DNA testing that he was not in fact the father of Ms Father’s baby, but that the real father was Mr Putative.


Excuse me, I’m going to rise for a few moments.

[There then follows a considerably long pause on the tape]


Thank you all for that time. The usher is disseminating amongst you some forms which I think will greatly assist. I have prepared change of name deeds for everyone. If you all sign those, for the duration of the judgment, and you can change back afterwards if so desired. ”



For those who aren’t familiar with the Who’s on first skit, here it is




One of my many obsessions, alongside law geekery, 80s references and all the other stuff you’ve probably picked up by now, is manga/anime, and specifically the Eiichiro Oda magnum opus “One Piece”


“One Piece” is the longest running manga series, telling stories set in a world of what can best be described as super-powered pirates. As well as fight sequences which are so pacey and dramatic that they make X-Men and Avengers look flat footed and pedestrian, One Piece’s over-arching theme is that of the importance of nakama.  Nakama is a Japanese word meaning “True Companion”  – a friend, but much more than that, a friend who you can completely count on, and they can count on you.


The nakama in One Piece are the Straw Hat pirates, the heroes that we follow.  They consist of :-


Monkey D Luffy, the captain who is made out of rubber and is a formidable fighter (but cannot swim, something of a failing in a captain of a pirate ship) and has literally no common sense.  I love Luffy because he is fiercely loyal to his friends, is hugely impulsive and is the only fictional character I know that has less common sense than me.


Roanora Zoro, the green-haired master swordsman, who practices Three Sword Style  (yes, he fights his foes with three swords at the same time – left hand, right hand and one between his teeth), who has no sense of direction and once famously got lost walking up a flight of stairs


Sanji, the chain-smoking, high-kicking chef, who set off on the journey around the world so that he could catch and cook new kinds of fish, and who is such a ridiculous womaniser that when faced with beautiful mermaids got so excited that he got a nosebleed that almost made him bleed to death.

[Sanji is my favourite]

The aforementioned Sanji.  (In my head, that's how I look. Sadly not in real life)

The aforementioned Sanji. (In my head, that’s how I look. Sadly not in real life… My eyebrows are less curly)


Usopp, the pinocchio-nosed sharpshooter, who is a teller of tell tales and an inveterate coward, who still manages to follow his nakama into life-threatening situations even though his knees are knocking.

Nami, the navigator extraordinare who wants to map the world and steal everything that isn’t nailed down

Chopper, the ship’s doctor, who also happens to be a reindeer who looks like a racoon and who adores compliments

Nico Robin, the ship’s archeologist (I know), who is like an even sexier version of Catwoman, she used to be the right hand woman of a really evil warlord, and she can sprout copies of her hands on any surface.

Franky, the shipwright, who is a cyborg who powers up on cola, and has a penchant for dancing around in Speedos.


Brook, a skeleton swordsman with afro-hair, who is a colossal pervert.


This crew are actually quite normal compared to many of the bad guys that they face.


I have my own nakama. The people who I work with are True Companions. We face stuff together, and sometimes things are tough, but we have each other’s back.  I’m lucky to have found them. They may not have super powers, but they are super people.

All of us need nakama, people around us that we can count on, that help us out, that make us smile when things are hard, that can sense when you need a kind word or a hand. I’ve always pretended to be a lone wolf, travelling from town to town, place to place – the sort of person who doesn’t need anyone else to get by. I’m Cain out of Kung Fu, David Bruce Banner out of the TV version of Incredible Hulk, “The Littlest Hobo”  – I go to a place, help out and move on.


But it isn’t true. I have my nakama in my home, and I happen to be madly in love with her, but I also have and need my own nakama, my crewmates. We just happen to be lawyers rather than super-powered pirates.*

My best nakama leaves the team for a while today, starting a great adventure of her own.  I will miss her very much.  The ship won’t be quite the same without her, and when she comes back, she won’t be quite the same either, because there will be a new nakama in her life too.  She won’t be quite the same, she’ll be better.  And it will be up to me to make sure that I’m better too.


The Straw Hat pirates  (and not, as you might have imagined, my team photo)

The Straw Hat pirates (and not, as you might have imagined, my team photo)



* We would, if any mad scientists are reading, be amenable to discussions about becoming super-powered lawyers. Well, at least, I would.


Things I’d like to see in judgments (but never expect to)

Some childish nonsense – title explains it all.

Poor Mr Crumpet of counsel is going to be the whipping boy in a lot of this. Picture whoever you like as Mr Crumpet.


“Having consulted the authorities presented before me, there does indeed appear to be no reason in law why a man may not marry a squid”


“Mr Crumpet, it did not augur well for your client on his entry to the Drug and Alcohol Court that he formed entirely the wrong impression about the ambit and ambience of said Court and had partaken heavily of both on his way there, to as he put it ‘get the party started’ ”

“I am aware, as Mr Crumpet pointed out that the mother has before her an extremely long and difficult road. He pleaded this as a reason not to attempt rehabilitation and not to go down that road. A wise man put it best – Roads ? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”


“I find that they were the footprints of an enormous hound”


“I am reliably informed that the powers of the inherent jurisdiction are theoretically limitless, and therefore, I exercise my powers under the Inherent Jurisdiction to award everyone in the case a dinosaur and I shall from this point onwards have always been the drummer in the Beatles, with all that entails”


“This is an intractable contact dispute, almost impossible to resolve. Therefore, I have decided  – pud pie, straight to London, no tipsys”   *      (that might make no sense to Southern readers, sorry. Explanation at foot of page. You’ll all be doing it next week. It would sort this election nonsense out. )

“I want to give a big shout out in this judgment to Dr Kutten-paste – you da man! His evidence was the bomb, I’m sure you’ll all agree. The Bomb. ”

“Mr Grayling, I see that you have come before me today unrepresented as a result of the LASPO reforms, and you stand to lose something incredibly dear to you – I have decided therefore that we shall conduct this hearing in Latin”

“Mr Crumpet, your client gave evidence that he had no tattoo. He is behind you now shaking his head. He is certain that he has no tattoo. Indeed, he showed us last week from the witness box. that he did not have one. Allow me the indulgence of checking again.  Roll up your  left sleeve sir. Ah yes, I see the surprise on your face. Mr Crumpet, do you recall day one of this fifteen day hearing? You do, good. Would you please examine the tattoo on your clients arm. Now….. is THAT your card?”


“It was argued by Mr Crumpet that section 3, subsection 13 was fatal to his opponents case. I am afraid to inform him that Justice Austin section 3, subsection 13 says he just got his ass kicked”


“It has been explained to me over the lunch adjournment with a great deal of courtesy and skill I might add, that the summary of historical background that I set out in the earlier part of my judgment, was in fact the summary of an episode of Saved by the Bell, which perhaps explains why Screech played a more prominent role in those matters than one might otherwise have thought.  In the event that anyone remains curious, I would have found that Kelly should go to the movie with Slater, and that Zach should be grounded for a period not in excess of two weeks. I will now move on with the case proper. I should remark, as I’ve just thought of it, heh heh, that in this particular instance, it seems as though it was I who was saved by the proverbial bell”


“Great reliance was placed on the Court of Appeal authority of Re K 2009. It would be an absolute barrier to the ingenious solution that Mr Crumpet proffers to me. Unbeknownst to you all, as the owner of  a time machine, I have had a peek at the law reports for 2025 and Re K has been overturned, so that’s good news for all of us”

“Let me see if I have the chronology of the parental relationship correct. According to my note, of the mother’s account she met him on a Monday and her heart stood still? And at that time, she believed his name to be Bill or William.  Whereas the father’s account was that they did indeed meet on a Monday, that he took her for a drink on Tuesday, and matters became intimate on Wednesday, continuing through the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then there was something of a cooling off period on the Sunday”

“Yet more discrepancies emerge in the parental accounts of the relationship. Whereas the father insisted that he had saved the mother’s life when she nearly drowned, her account was that he had been at the beach but that he had showed off, splashing around. ”

“Mr Crumpet, you may recall that a particularly unothodox point of law arose before I adjourned. During that adjournment, you had your clerks walk over your Red book. I have been in my chambers, studying this matter myself. Could you please turn to page 172 of the copy of the Red book that you have in front of you? Now… is THAT your card?”

“Matters took a somewhat unusual turn in this case when I was presented with an application for a witness summons requiring that the Ghost of Elvis Presley attend to give evidence. I found his evidence to be compelling.”


“Before I embark on what is going to be a difficult and complex judgment, hands up if you think mother won? And hands up if you think father won?  I am going to count the usher at the back of the Court, so that rather settles that. Does anyone have any FAS forms to hand in?”



[*Pud-pie – a method of solving a dispute, or deciding who has to do something that neither participant wants to do. The two players stand a distance apart, facing each other. They take it in turns to take a step towards the other, as though walking a tightrope. The technique is that the heel of your striding foot has to touch the toe of the foot that’s behind. Alternate feet.  With each step, player one says the word “Pud”, and when taking a step, player two says the word “Pie”. The winner is the player whose next step will allow them to tread on their opponents shoe.  A tipsy is a small jump backwards, that each player may deploy if they think they are going to lose, in an attempt to shake things up. A round of pud-pie with tipsys tends to take longer, so if you want to get the decision over with quickly – “Pud pie, straight to London, no tipsys”  

I actually couldn’t find an explanation of “pud pie” on google, so I thought it did warrant an explanation.

Someday I will explain the game of Pondo-Grundy to you all. I reckon I still have a chance to medal in Pondo-Grundy, if the Olympics association ever reply to my letters]

Moving on up yeah, now I’m out of the darkness

This is a personal post, not a legal one, so feel free to skip it.  Don’t worry, it is not about to be some Angela’s Ashes style disclosure that will curdle your milk on your breakfast cereal, though it is about my childhood, there are no significant harm issues.


When I was eleven, my teacher taught us a lesson about Louis Braille, the man who invented Braille language for the blind. My teacher told us that Louis Braille had gone blind in one eye due to an accident with an awl, doing woodwork when a splinter went into his eye. He then told us that years later, Louis Braille once rubbed his blind eye and then rubbed his good eye with the same hand without thinking about it and it made him blind in both eyes.  [This is not quite true – there was an infection from the wound as a result of the first injury, but it had nothing to do with rubbing it]

This story meant that until about twenty-five, I would only ever touch my left eye with my left hand, and vice versa, to make sure that if I went blind, it would only be in one eye. Thanks teach!

I was very afraid as a child of going blind. I still am, to be honest. I used to test myself by putting a tie around my head so that I couldn’t see, and trying to do basic everyday tasks – getting dressed, brushing my teeth, going downstairs, making breakfast. I knew the dimensions of my home, how many paces from bed to door, how high the doorhandle was, how many steps from my door to the top of the stairs, with my eyes closed.  I even tried to teach myself Braille whilst I still had my sight, figuring that it would be easier.

When I was twelve, we had an eye test at school. And I failed it. I should have seen it coming, in retrospect. I was able to answer any question asked aloud, or written in a textbook, but I never put my hand up for any question written on the blackboard. And when we were out in a car and my dad said “Look! can you see that kestrel?”  I never could, but I just nodded excitedly and pretended. The eye testing people told me that I’d have to wear glasses for a little bit, just to fix my eyes and that wearing glasses would make my eyes better so I wouldn’t need them.  Lies.

When I came out of that eye test and I knew I’d have to wear glasses, I knew that my life was ruined. I didn’t take it well, I was not a brave little soldier. A week later, I stopped being Andrew and became “specky four-eyes”  or “brainbox” or “Professor”.  I hated every moment of wearing those glasses, becoming just a kid who wears glasses and not me any more.

A year later, I went for the repeat eye test, and I had just one goal – getting a pass and not having to wear them anymore. So when I went in the room, I immediately memorized the board. It worked up until they revolved it, at which point my ability to read tiny, tiny writing mysteriously vanished. I would have to do better next year. So I upped my game. I had memorized not only the first board, but all of the later boards that I had seen when they had put lenses on.  Turns out, it is harder to fool optometrists than you think it would be.

Wearing glasses made me very shy.  In case this is feeling a bit self-pitying, I’ll show that I have some perspective. There was a kid in my class who had lost his arm somehow, and if you gave him 50p, he would take his artificial arm off and let you touch his stump. He had a lot more to be sorry about than I did – so I’m just trying to tell you how it felt for me then. I know it wasn’t really that bad.

I’m still shy today, to be honest. A lot more shy than anyone would imagine, and that’s because when I went to college and was surrounded by a peer group of strangers, who didn’t only know me as “specky four eyes”, didn’t know me at all, I had an important revelation. “None of these people know that you’re shy”, I thought, “so you get to pretend that you’re someone who isn’t. Who would you like to be? And just be them”

So I found some really good masks to put on, and eventually, the people I was pretending to be sort of became the people I was.  I was also really lucky to be born into a generation where glasses and being brainy and being interested in smart stuff went from being things that would marginalise you and get you bullied if you mentioned them to suddenly becoming cool. I’ve been waiting about ten years for the old world order to be restored and for people to start picking on geeks again, but it turns out we won.  Thank you Joss Whedon!

Anyway, about three weeks ago, I noticed that I wasn’t able to read magazines properly. I was doing a sort of dance with them, moving them back and forth until I could see the print, then it would go. And then it turned into books. And then I noticed that I was actually reading better without my glasses than with them.  I’m thirty years older now than when I was faking those eye tests, so I wasn’t thinking “My god, I’m finally fixed, I don’t need glasses any more”  – but I was back to thinking those terrible things about having to navigate the world without sight.

It turns out that I just need varifocals. I’m not going blind, I’m just old. Officially old. But it was something of an emotional day, stirring up all those old thoughts, and I just thought for once I would share them.

I was blind, but now I see, as Primal Scream sang.

Rihanna you’re a Womble !



This is not child protection at all, and a solid 80% of what follows is nonsense, but it is all based on a commercial law case called Fenty and Others v Arcadia Group 2015 just decided in the Court of Appeal.   (the case is really Rihanna v Topshop, but that’s the formal name – Fenty is Rihanna’s surname, and Arcadia own Topshop)



This is the original judgment



and this is the appeal



Quickly, because this might confuse older readers, younger readers and No-Telly Neville.   Rihanna is a current pop star, with a substantial batch of hit songs and is also a fashion icon for young people – she is cool. The Wombles are a group of fictional furry creatures who live on Wimbledon common and who make good use of the things that they find, things that the everyday folks leave behind. They pick up rubbish.



Major recording artist with a string of catchy hits

Major recording artist with a string of catchy hits

Picks up rubbish  (yes, I went there with the Chris Brown gag)

Picks up rubbish (yes, I went there with the Chris Brown gag)


[Note that use of any image of the Wombles or Rihanna does not imply that either of them endorse the Suesspicious Minds website   – but let’s be honest, we all know that if they want to find out information about family law in the UK, they don’t go anywhere ELSE to find it]


You are probably asking yourself at this point, how the Wombles and Rihanna come together in the English Courts – and possibly also whether there is a musical collaboration in the offing. I will relate to you, how their histories enweave.


The case was about Topshop selling a T-shirt with a photographic image of Rihanna, and Rihanna suing them.


The Court of Appeal point out quickly that in England, unlike America, there is no such thing as “image rights” – Rihanna, as a celebrity, does not own the copyright in her image or photograph or appearance. The copyright lies with the creator of the photograph, who had consented to its use.


The case was, instead, dealt with under the umbrella-ella-ella of “passing off”


the law of passing off is not designed to protect a person against fair competition. Nor does it protect a person against the sale by others of the same goods or even copied goods. What it protects is goodwill and it prevents one person passing off his goods or services as those of another. As Lord Oliver of Aylmerton explained in Reckitt & Colman Products Ltd v Borden Inc & Ors [1990] RPC 341 at page 406, a claimant must establish three elements in order to succeed in such a claim. First, he must establish a goodwill or reputation attached to the goods or services which he supplies in the mind of the purchasing public by association with the particular name or get up under which the goods or services are offered to the public, such that the name or get up is recognised by the public as distinctive of the claimant’s goods or services. Second, he must demonstrate a misrepresentation by the defendant to the public leading or likely to lead the public to believe that the goods or services offered by him are the goods or services of the claimant. Third, he must demonstrate that he suffers or, in a quia timet action that he is likely to suffer, damage by reason of the erroneous belief engendered by the defendant’s misrepresentation that the source of the defendant’s goods or services is the same as the source of those offered by the claimant.



For this case, Rihanna would have to show that :-


  • She has a degree of goodwill in her name and reputation, particularly in fashion
  • That Topshop had led the public to believe that the T-shirt was a Rihanna product in some way
  • That she suffers loss or potential loss as a result of people believing that this was an official or endorsed product.



Would she win, or would Topshop be able to say that Rihanna had found love, and a hopeless case?


The judgment is worth reading – the original trial Judge had been very switched on and in touch in relation to Rihanna, celebrity culture, young people, viral marketing and fashion, including that the item Rihanna was wearing on the unauthorised T-shirt being a “bralet”  – and resisted, where I would have not, of saying it was a bralet for a starlet.



This was his original conclusion


There followed an overall evaluation by the judge of the various findings which he had made up to this point. He considered that the fact that the t-shirt was a fashion garment and the further fact that it was on sale in a high street retailer did not assist one side or the other. However, the nature of the image itself was a fairly strong indication that the t-shirt might be authorised and approved by Rihanna herself. So also, the public links between Topshop and famous stars in general and, more importantly, Rihanna in particular, would enhance the risk of consumers believing the garment had been authorised by her. He recognised that the fact that neither the swing tag nor the neck label carried the Rihanna name or the R slash logo pointed against authorisation but, in his view, this was not sufficient to negate the contrary impression. He summarised the position this way:


“72. … Although I accept that a good number of purchasers will buy the t-shirt without giving the question of authorisation any thought at all, in my judgment a substantial portion of those considering the product will be induced to think it is a garment authorised by the artist. The persons who do this will be the Rihanna fans. They will recognise or think they recognise the particular image of Rihanna, not simply as a picture of the artist, but as a particular picture of her associated with a particular context, the recent Talk That Talk album. For those persons the idea that it is authorised will be part of what motivates them to buy the product. I am quite satisfied that many fans of Rihanna regard her endorsement as important. She is their style icon. Many will buy a product because they think she has approved of it. Others will wish to buy it because of the value of the perceived authorisation itself. In both cases they will have been deceived.”

Finally, the judge dealt with damage. He considered that if, as he believed to be the case, a substantial number of consumers were likely to be deceived into buying the t-shirt because of a false belief that it had been authorised by Rihanna then that would obviously damage her goodwill. It would result in a loss of sales to her merchandising business and also represent a loss of control over her reputation in the fashion sphere. It was, he thought, for her to choose which garments she endorsed. In all the circumstances, Topshop’s sale of the t-shirt without her approval amounted to passing off.



I enjoyed the detail that Topshop had commissioned some market research prior to the trial, getting people to look at the T-shirt and comment as to whether they thought it was an official piece of Rihanna merchandise. They called the author of that research.


Sadly, as she was a trainee solicitor working at the firm representing Topshop, one might think that she wasn’t the most impartial witness ever to take the stand. I think the Judge was very kind about that




Mrs Armstrong is a trainee solicitor in the defendants’ solicitors currently seconded to the legal team at Arcadia, the parent group of the defendants. She gave evidence of efforts she had undertaken to find out if Topshop staff were aware of any feedback from customers concerning the t-shirt. She was a good witness but I am not satisfied the exercise Mrs Armstrong described was sufficiently rigorous to establish the proposition advanced, that there had been no comments or relevant feedback relating to the product.



But where, Suesspicious Minds are the Wombles? Do not worry, I am about to go with the Orinoco Flow



In the original judgment, there are a number of legal authorities referred to. Two stood out for me


In the 1970s there were a number of cases in which merchandising rights were not found to exist before the English courts. These included Tavener Rutledge v Trexapalm (Kojak Lollipops, the “unauthorised” local lollipop retailer succeeded against the makers of the television program) [1977] RPC 275



[I remember those Kojak lollipops! Also this story reminded me that when I was eight and a barber asked me how I wanted my hair cut (the only acceptable answers at the time being “short back and sides” or “just a little bit shorter all over”) I instead said “Well, I like the police, and I like lollipops, but I don’t want to look like Kojak”   – this being the first time I wrote my own material rather than relying on the Big Daddy bumper joke book. Note for Neville, Kojak was a TV detective in the 70s who had two gimmicks – he was bald, and he sucked lollipops. He also had a catchphrase, see next gag]


For God’s sake, Suesspicious Minds, I hear you cry. I did not start reading an article called “Rihanna, who loves you baby?”  – where the chuff are the Wombles?


The next merchandising authority where a celebrity was used to endorse a product without that celeb’s permission was this:-


Wombles v Womble Skip Hire (skips for collecting rubbish branded Womble, injunction refused) [1975] FSR 488




[It is beyond the scope of this article, but the case that altered the Wombles precedent involved Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. I am SERIOUSLY thinking about becoming a lawyer specialising in “passing off” cases if I would get to bring Kojak, Wombles and Ninja Turtles to Court in my bundle of authorities]



I can’t really think about Wombles v Womble Skip Hire without envisaging the actual real wombles becoming outraged and sitting in a solicitors waiting room and bringing the case. Orinco sat behind counsel with his nose in a bowl of porridge, Tobermory with a pencil behind his ear rebuilding the witness box and Madame Cholet checking out the RCJ cafeteria.  Or a procession of them walking purposefully down the hallways  (possibly with a Womble cover version of “Little Green Bag” playing in the background)


But even better, in my mind, is that at some point, Rihanna’s legal team had to tell her that there was a case that would help in her litigation and that it is about Wombles. And them having to explain to Rihanna what a womble is. For some reason in my imagination, Rihanna’s lawyer sounds like a New York wise-guy (which he or she absolutely is not, in real life, in any way, and this should not be construed as any suggestion that they are anything other than amazing human beings)


“So, they’re like sort of bears, see, but they wear clothes and hats. And they have snouts, and they have bright black shiny noses and one of them eats porridge and falls asleep – like all the time. That one is Orinoco, see?  And the main man, he’s Great Uncle Bulgaria, and he sends his crew out every day to find a copy of the Times for him. They all live in a burrow, and the burrow is wallpapered with old newspapers. And they have a French chef, and she’s a womble too – they call her Madame Cholet. You know the Smurfs, right? Like smurfs, only not. Both have an old man leader, and only one girl. But wombles, they ain’t blue “


“Are you billing me for this?”

Rihanna wins the Court of Appeal case, just as the Wombles won their own case about protecting other people using their image to sell unauthorised products. So Rihanna, you’re a womble.





Disney Character Rights Blog

There have been a lot of decisions recently by the Disney Court of Character Rights, sitting in Never-Never Land. Here is a round-up

Simba v Scar

In this case, Simba brought a case for breach of article 6, claiming that he was not given a fair trial against allegations of murdering his father Mustafa and that his uncle Scar in effect banished him from the Kingdom, thereafter seizing the throne.

The Court held that Scar was not in breach of Article 6, which does stipulate that in Act One, the antagonist is entitled to pass judgment and sentence on the protagonist on fairly superficial or even fabricated evidence and that the general population will go along with this PROVIDED that in Act Three there is the opportunity for redemption and forgiveness. The Court were persuaded by Scar’s evidence that prior to the death of King Mustafa, the Applicant Simba had been heard jauntily singing a song to the effect that he just couldn’t wait to be King (this being prima facie evidence of his desire for his father to die)

Fundamentally the Court felt that bringing this claim in Act One was premature and that Simba in the spirit of the Disney Character Rights Act ought to wait until Act Three to see if the injustice is remedied.

The Court found that Scar had given every reasonable opportunity for an Act Three turnaround – he had adopted a suspicious name (Scar), he had a suspicious British accent (see also Mowgli v Shere Khan) and he had properly followed the principles that Evil Antagonists Should Be Bad Rulers in somehow bringing hunger and misery to a previously thriving and colourful kingdom in a remarkably short period of time.

They did however feel that Scar’s actions in allocating two hyenas Rozencrantz and Guildenstern to be Simba’s comedy sidekicks, and the choice of song “Hasa Diga Ebowai” to be in breach of all regulation and guidance on inspirational comedy sidekicks (see also the Court’s previous decision in Ariel, where the antagonist’s choice of a rotting alcoholic squid for a comedy sidekick for the protagonist was quashed and replaced with a cheerful upbeat crab)

The Court therefore ordered that two more suitable comedy sidekicks be provided and they recommended that the song be more upbeat, suggesting “Hakuna Mutada”, which they explain means no worries for the rest of your days.

Advocates are asked to take note of the Court’s remarks in the judgment that “a little bit of Elton John may be considered acceptable, but two hours of it is a bit much”

Prince Hans of the Southern Isles v Anna

Prince Hans was claiming breach of Article 7, “Right of Princes to marry Princesses” in relation to Princess Anna’s decision to break off their engagement and marry Kristoff, a commoner ice-farmer instead.

The Court held that although Article 7 has widespread applicability, it was wrong for Prince Hans to assert that it gave him the right to marry a specific and identified princess rather than just a generic right that he would marry A princess.

In relation to the claim that Princess Anna marrying a commoner would inexorably lead to other Princesses marrying people who were not princes and thus lead to it being impossible for Article 7 to be satisfied, the Court felt that this had some force, but cited as precedent earlier decisions of the Disney Court of Character Rights in relation to Characters falling in love with people from a different social circle

[Lady and Tramp – in which the re-enactment of the spaghetti-eating sequence caused one Judge to state in his judgment that “It nearly broke my heart” and the later case of Thomas O’Malley (The Alley Cat) and his marriage to an cat who was so posh that she wore a necklace. ]

They determined that the inherent nature of Princesses to want to marry Princes was so strong that an occasional deviation such as this would not set a precedent. (One minority judgment held that once Kristoff married the Princess he would become a Prince anyway, thus satisfying Article 7)

The Court further held that in relation to Princess Anna breaking off the engagement to Prince Hans, his failure to be her One True Love and kiss her to break a curse was a material breach of his One True Love article 9 duties towards her, compounded by his later attempt to murder her, and her sister. Anna was therefore entitled to terminate the engagement.

Additionally, as the engagement had never been approved by the defacto Queen, Elsa, it was questionable whether there was in law, an engagement to break.

The Court determined that Prince Hans “had had it coming” and declined to give him the relief that he had sought. In short, they concluded that he should let it go. [The same minority judgment opined that “Princess Anna, is indisputably hot, but it is plain that she is also high-maintenance and pretty tiring and Hans might be best to consider it a lucky escape. I myself had had enough of her after about ten minutes”]

Mirror Mirror v Disney Court of Character Rights

This is satellite litigation arising from Snow White v Wicked Queen, where Snow White established that administration of a poisoned apple leading her to fall asleep was a breach of her article 5 right to liberty. (Who can ever forget Lady Hale’s moving song “A gilded cage is still a cage”? )

Within that, evidence was heard from the Wicked Queen’s mirror, particularly as to motivation and intent. The mirror was only able to answer questions that were put to it in rhyming couplets (the first of which should be related to the mirror’s geographical location)

That led to questions being put to the witness such as “Mirror Mirror on a kite – Did the Queen intend to detain Snow White?” and “Mirror Mirror on the quilty – do you say the Queen is guilty?” and from those representing the Wicked Queen – “Mirror Mirror resting on bacon – could you perhaps have been mistaken?” and “Mirror Mirror in a bath of acid – wouldn’t you say the Queen’s overall nature was placid?”

For such questions, the mirror was hoisted up on a kite, or laid on a quilt, or in the worst example, put in a bath of acid for the duration of the question.

The Mirror claimed that this amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Article 3. Sadly, the Court were unable to explore this claim properly without the Mirror being hoisted up onto a kite or such again, with the very first question proposed

Mirror Mirror down the drain – how do you establish your claim” being in itself potentially a breach of article 3

The Court settled this claim by writing the Mirror a substantial cheque and asking it to go away.


Sleepy v  Doc and the Six men wearing shoes on their knees band


Litigation over the royalty rights to the original songs created by the Seven Dwarves  (Hi Ho, Hi Ho being the major hit of the original band) rages on. Of the original line-up, only Doc is left in the band, and he claims that he wrote all the original material and is entitled to perform it with the Seven Dwarves tribute band. As readers will know, Dopey signed away his rights for some magic beans, Sneezy is in his fifth year of rehab, Grumpy is now in a death-metal band, Happy proclaims himself content with the situation, and Bashful was too publicity shy to enter the litigation, leaving only Sleepy to litigate. Progress has been slow, due in part to narcolepsy in the witness box.


Buzz Lightyear v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company

Over in Pixar litigation, this case continues into its seventh year, with the Court hearing from expert witnesses as to whether “To Infinity and Beyond” was a contractual obligation to which Mr Lightyear could be forced to meet or rather a puff of advertising. Mr Potato-head remains in custody, having taken the stand as a character witness for Mr Lightyear and then having appeared again subsequently using facial pieces stolen from Mrs Potato-head to give evidence whilst pretending to be her.

Mr Lightyear’s request to call Andy, his owner, as a character witness was refused, on the basis of the application of the Uncanny Valley principle (in short that the real people in Pixar just give everyone the creeps because they just don’t look right)



In other news

The big money divorce of Perdita v Pongo has reached a conclusion. There was considerable consternation in Court when Perdita revealed that Pongo had been pressurising her into starting a second litter. The Puppy Maintenance payments ordered by the Court are believed to be the biggest on record, and the schedule of Puppy Arrangement Orders setting out when Pongo would spend time with each puppy ran to seven lever arch files.

Baloo’s cookery programme has been taken off air after several claims for food-poisoning due to viewers following his advice to “take a glance at the fancy ants, and maybe try a few” were settled out of Court. There are also allegations that Baloo had been moon-lighting as Little John, and his showbiz career appears to be in tatters.

The lower Courts have confirmed that in Backtrack v Mowgli that when King Louis stated baldy “Oh, Shooby-Doo, Nothing Else Will do –ooh-ooh” he had never intended to mean that literally nothing else will do. Nor did he literally want to walk like you, or talk like you. It’s plain to see, that someone like Louis, can learn to be, like someone like you.

[And I’m sure that you are now humming I wanna be a man, mancub, and stroll right into town – so here it is for you. ]



If you don’t happen to read Adam Wagner’s UK Human Rights blog which inspired this pastiche, I’ll recommend it to you. It has a much broader focus than this blog, and you can usually find something very thought-provoking there – whether it be what should be done with King Richard II’s bones, whether people should have the right to die with dignity or where the limits of religious conscientious objection to abortions stretch in relation to Catholic midwives – and today, why Strasbourg was chosen as the correct venue for the European Court of Human Rights – it is nothing to do with geese, apparently.

It is immensely useful when the Press are having one of their periodical fits of morality, and you want to find out a bit more about what’s behind the story.

Why Tolkien never made it as a Court reporter

Amidst the jottings, pipes, story fragments, maps, papers and footnotes recovered from J.R.R Tolkien’s study, this, his sole attempt at a law report has been found. It gives a glimpse into why he did not follow that profession further.  He was far better at lore than law   (I’m SO sorry)
Re B (A child) 2013 or “Heroes walk 2000 miles to reach a volcano, and then get a lift home from giant eagles* who could have pitched up much earlier on and saved everyone the bother”

In a hole in the ground there lived an appellant. The appellant had great cause to be vexed, and the burden of this vexation lay heavy upon their brow and their heart. They sought counsel from a wizard, Feehan the Frank, who is sometimes named Mithrandil, and from his apprentice McKenna, who is sometimes named Anna. Together, they embarked upon a Quest, such as was sung of in the days of yore, when dragons were uncracked eggs and the fire had not yet been lit in Mount Doom.

After many perils, and walks across this map

[Editor’s note – there were then inserted fifteen hand-drawn maps and labourious detail about what the party ate at every stop they made]

And after these trials, it came to pass, there in the lands of London, where the mists swirled and the streets were busy with trade, that the Council of the Wise, sometimes named the Supreme Court met, to decide what was to be done with adoption.

The Council of the Wise was divided on many things concerned with adoption – some felt that it was a good thing, a weapon to be used to tackle great evil, some feared even the mention of it, and still others felt that it was a thing that would corrupt all who attempted it.

Finally, after, much quarrelsome trouble, loaves of lambas bread and many flagons of warm foaming ale, the Council were able to agree upon this much at least.

“One does not simply walk into adoption”

Lady Hale, daughter of the evening star, she who has so often been the carrier of a Minority judgment, spoke with iron in her voice and fire in her eyes. She reminded all those who saw her of Cate Blanchett **

“it is the statute and the statute alone that the courts have to apply, and that judicial explanation or expansion is at best an imperfect guide”

It is said by the sons of men that Feehan the Frank, had brought this precious document before the Council, and he had presented his case to them, declaiming that the forces of adoption were rallying, as they had done long ago, when the Children of Men were young to this world and the halls of the Dwarven Kings still rang with the sound of gold being mined and metal being forged. Feehan, keeper of Counsel to the Queen, had urged the Council to act, and to act now, and to act decisively.

He gave them a small scroll, on which was inscribed the word “require” – said to have been made by the Parliaments of yore. It was, said the wizard, for the Council of the Wise to decide what was meant by the word “require” on this scroll.

For if they did not, he said, it might be that the Halls of Strasbourg would take their own action and destroy adoption, fearing that it might be used for ill.

Lady Hale, she that would later take up against the Deprivation of the Liberty and do her own blood-soaked battle against the Cheshire of the West, rallied to his cause.

She spoke of the decisions made by the Council of Europe, who are not well-loved by all who sit upon the Council of the Wise, for the Europans have their own ways and thoughts and the Ways of Europans cannot always be fathomed by the Children of Albion. Nonetheless, she said, the Council of Europe know of the old things, they know of adoption, and they know of the evil that can stir in the hearts of the Children of Men.

“Nevertheless, it is quite clear that the test for severing the relationship between parent and child is very strict: only in exceptional circumstances and where motivated by overriding requirements pertaining to the child’s welfare, in short, where nothing else will do,” she cried, and she took the ceremonial mace that had been gifted to the Council of the Wise by Lord Denning, son of Benning and cleft in two the Table of the Astute, which had been seized from the goblin halls of Berwick-upon-the-Tweed by the early rangers. The Table cracked and the sound rang out in the grand hall of the Council.

“A Fellowship!” she declared, “A Fellowship must be formed, to take this powerful tool – the word “requires” and to keep it safe and protect it. A Fellowship who will hear our words and take adoption to a place where only Nothing Else Will Do!”

At this critical and dramatic moment, Lord Wilson, son of Milson, grandson of Zilson, took it upon himself to sing a song. It was a grand song, a song that would be much remarked upon in the Shires and would be sung by the Children of Men when dark times later came.
[Editor’s note – the song is recounted here in full, and lasts for nine pages. The most meaningful portion of the lyric is quoted here to give the flavour and indicate that you are not missing out by not seeing the full thing “Adoption, bedoption, it is surely the only option, it is the only thing that is viable, that is not deniable, there is no half-way house, there is no half-way mouse. Lo-Billy-Bonny, Show a brave leg, Lo-Bonny-Billy! Ho! Ho! Rack a grim jinty! Ho! Ho!”]
At the end of the Council meeting, wise soldiers from the Court of Appeal spoke out.

The Roll-Master said “You have my sword”

And the President pledged his bow

And Lady Black,declared that they could have her axe as well.

[They were later joined by StRyder]    (again, I’m SO sorry)

So the Fellowship of Nothing Else Will Do was formed, there in the Holistic Chambers of Bs. The Holistic Chambers of Bs were a formal place and all of the architecture was in perfect proportion, and there were weighing scales in every direction that one could look upon. No linear corridors were there at any point during the magnificent building, making it treacherous and difficult to travel from one place to another in any straight line and instead one reached ones final destination by visiting every other realistic place in the Chambers seemingly at once.

It was said that not even the architects themselves of the Holistic Chambers of Bs would be capable of navigating its passages and hallways without faltering or stumbling, yet others hold that this is a myth and a lie and that the architects would always walk a true path.

[Editors note – Insert many many more songs and inconsequential characters who seem to exist for the twin purposes of being firstly a deus ex machine and secondly to sing the interminable songs. One of them, Chris Grayladill, appears time and time again, singing comedic songs about how his attempts to cut a piece of wood end up with him injuring himself and looking foolish]

Would the Fellowship of Nothing Else Will Do hold? Would the corrupting power of adoption drive a wedge between them? And what of the creature that watched them from afar, muttering “Adoption, my precious…” and occasionally saying his name “Gove-um”?

Michael Gove

Michael Gove




[* seriously, the damn giant eagles turn up at the end of both stories to save the day, with no explanation as to why they didn’t rock up much sooner. If Tolkein had written Apollo 13, bloody eagles would have flown Tom Hanks & Co home from space. Casablanca  – giant eagles come and take Rick to Ilsa.  Murder on the Orient Express – giant eagles did it]
[** Do not confuse the Cate Blanchett in this piece with the Cate Blanchett of other blog posts meaning “free reign” or “unlimited budget”.  And if you are a fan of Cate Blanchett who has come to the site because of a google search, I apologise for wasting your time. In fact, I’ll extend that apology to all of my readers. Sorry!]


The new logo for the Legal Aid Agency

The new logo for the Legal Aid Agency