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Book reviews

14 October 13

Reviews of The Inside Job (Ambrose); Prison Law (Thomson)

by David J Dickson (book review editor), Charles Stoddart

The Inside Job

Working as an In-house Lawyer

Patrick Ambrose

PUBLISHER: NUBOOKS (OAK TREE PRESS)

ISBN: 9781846211645 (PDF); 9781846211652 (ePub); 9781846211669 (Kindle)

PRICE: £4.91

“If you want to give yourself the broadest possible appeal, a corporate or commercial role with experience of contracts may be best. However, to improve even further, you may look to gain exposure to litigation, employment or corporate governance. There also may be soft skills you need to develop, such as showing that you have strong interpersonal skills, whether communicating with senior executives or employees at lower levels.” Such is the helpful advice offered in this slim volume.

The format of the book is innovative, available only electronically for a ridiculously low price, but instantly available. The author is legal adviser at Bank of Ireland in Dublin.

Ambrose provides the main characteristics required by in-house lawyers, which he suggests come to being a team player while also acting to ensure the client makes decisions which have been tested and probed, and overall to act “as policeman of a client’s conduct”, while being acutely aware of their needs.

There are useful chapters on ethics, managing risk (in particular exposing oneself to unnecessary risk by taking on too many roles), and a particularly helpful chapter on effective writing.

This book would be a useful reminder to those providing in-house advice whether in the public or private sector. It is also helpful in dispelling some of the illusions often attributed to lawyers in those parts of the profession: it’s as tough as anywhere else.

David J Dickson, solicitor advocate

                                                          

Prisons, Prisoners and Parole

2nd edition

Douglas Thomson

PUBLISHER: W GREEN

ISBN: 9780414018686

PRICE: £48

Like many parts of the legal landscape, prisons law never stands still. In principle, this is no bad thing, for all laws in a modern democracy must adapt to meet the changing nature and needs of society. But the process of change certainly makes the already daunting task of the legal author that much more difficult when attempting the update of an established text.

Douglas Thomson easily passes the test with the second edition of his comprehensive survey of the law and practice of imprisonment. He begins with a bit of history; moves to a discussion of the current law on custodial sentences and how prison regimes operate; then addresses questions of release and how the workings of the Parole Board and its tribunals impact on prisoners within their remit; deals in detail with breach of licence conditions; and concludes with a look into the future.

The level of detail throughout is an impressive testament to the author’s diligence and experience, not least as a former legal member of the Board. Six years have elapsed since the publication of the first edition, and all the significant developments in that period are covered, whether in the field of legislation (both primary and secondary), case law (domestic and European), or simple logistics (how to book an agent’s visit to the prison where your client is confined).

Although this is not a book on sentencing and its consequences, three notoriously troublesome areas of this topic receive detailed treatment: punishment parts for life sentence prisoners; orders under s 16 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993; and issues of recall/re-release. As for the first of these, the author rehearses the extensive and conflicting case law in relation to punishment parts for those serving discretionary life imprisonment, which ultimately resulted in amending legislation passed in 2012; as for s 16, he explains its import and notes the continuing political controversies about the current system of early release for short-term prisoners; and he continues to devote a full and informative chapter to those cases where a prisoner has to be recalled to custody, the reasons for this and the processes which follow.

Also particularly informative are the sections on the various prisoner programmes currently offered to various kinds of prisoner, and the chapters on daily life in prison and the related disciplinary regimes. The discussion of the Prison Rules ranges over supervision classifications, health and welfare, communications, visits, security and control, and thereafter to issues of testing for drugs and alcohol, searching of prisoners, and the sanctions available to the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) for breaches of discipline. For these and many other reasons, this book ought to continue to be of great use, especially (but by no means exclusively) to all criminal justice professionals whose work affects or otherwise brings them into contact with the prison system. That was true of the first edition and should be equally true of the second.

Filling a gap in Scottish legal writing, as Douglas Thomson has done, ensures heightened awareness and study of the topic and often leads to development of the law. All authors hope their work will not be overtaken by events by the date of publication, and are not to be blamed if, only a few weeks or months later, a legislature or court somewhere refines the law which they have carefully stated. In that respect we now have the opinion of the Inner House on whether on human rights grounds a prisoner can have excluded from a Parole Board review of his case, written information that he has been acquitted of certain criminal charges: Reference by the Parole Board of Scotland regarding devolution issue raised by DP [2013] CSIH 26; and two Outer House decisions on petitions for judicial review, Craig, Petitioner [2013] CSOH 110 (oral hearings) and SM, Petitioner [2013] CSOH 112 (alleged failure by Scottish ministers to provide prisoner with a reasonable opportunity for rehabilitation). But the process of law publishing is being transformed, and it may not be too long before such comments will become a thing of the past. In the meantime, this admirable work richly deserves to command a wide readership.

Sheriff Charles N Stoddart

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