A Price on Life in Belgorod

Despite anything you’ve heard to the contrary, it is possible to put a price on human life. At least, it is if you’re Vyacheslav Gladkov. The Belgorod Regional Governor has committed to paying compensation to the families of civilians killed as a result of fighting in Ukraine (for example, by Ukrainian missiles hitting the city). A death will be compensated with 3 million rubles (AUD$74,866.81) and injuries by 500,000 rubles each (AUD$12,477.04). Compensation also appears to be available for property damage (at least, fraud on property damage claims has been identified).

A harder approach to compensation, however, seems to be creeping in. A Telegrammer identifying himself as “Oleg” appears to write from Russian occupied Ukraine or the Russia-Ukraine border. He is pro-Russian. He recently posted –

Screenshot from here

Telegram’s helpful auto-translate function translates this as –

The governor of the Belgorod region refused to pay compensation to the son of a woman who died under shelling from Ukraine

The woman died on May 27 in the village of Zhuravlyovka. Her son turned to the social protection of the Belgorod region. The authorities verbally denied the payments, saying, “You’re not supposed to.”

The son decided to ask the governor a question during a direct line, but he could only get a tough answer: “Are you sure you are a son?”

Earlier, the authorities of the Belgorod region promised to pay compensation to the families of the dead civilians.


Common law and civil law systems have been hesitant to award fault-based compensation for military injuries: See Shaw Savill & Albion Co Ltd v Commonwealth (1940) 66 CLR 344; [1943] ALR 264 and BGH NJW 1952, 1010 III. Civil Senate (III ZR 100/51) = VersR 1952, 352

Shell fire may make anyone, even healthy persons, liable to be hit. It is in no way foreseeable how hostile fire may be directed. For the civil population being struck by a shell was a ‘new and independent event’ of a purely accidental character. The danger might be avoided to a certain extent by seeking shelter at once. Whether it was generally ‘right’ to run to a neighbouring house or a bunker could be at least doubtful. The probability that the plaintiffs could be hit, when they ran to seek shelter, was, according to general experience, not less than the danger for the injured party in case he remained standing or lying down. In view of this ‘accidental effect’ of a few shots happening at short intervals, running away might have proved ‘wrong’ and standing or lying down ‘right’.

There is no reason to think the government of President Putin will submit itself to legal liability over the invasion of Ukraine: see its lack of reaction to the International Court of Justice decision in Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Ukraine v. Russian Federation), 2022 ICJ __, ___ (March 16) (Order on request for the indication of provisional measures). For better or worse, the Belgorod deceased’s family are likely to be left to the mercies of Russia’s social welfare system.

Asexuality and the Law

The law has often concerned itself with human sexuality. Some manifestations have been considered illegal: R v Esop (1836) 7 Car & P 456; 173 ER 203. Some (fortunately) still are: Crimes Act 1958, s.49A. A form of sexuality that has had an uneven experience with the law is asexuality.

Asexuality is a somewhat complex element of human experience, but can be essentially defined as a lack of sexual attraction to others. Its encounters with the law have been uneven. In divorce cases both the asexual party and their spouse have been granted dissolution of the marriage on the grounds of impotence (See W v W [1956] VLR 389 and K v K [1951] VLR 73). On the other hand, it has also been treated with in a way somewhat at odds with the introspection required to identify one’s orientation. Sholl J remarked of the respondent in a divorce case that –

this unfortunate young woman suffers from an irrational and at present uncontrollable fear of and revulsion from sexual intercourse. … I am satisfied that she really does suffer from an uncontrollable abhorrence of intercourse to a degree which, in a pleasant-mannered and, in other respects, apparently intelligent young woman of twenty-three seems to me, I must confess, in this day and age, quite remarkable. …

… I must confess that one finds one’s mind tending to resist the conclusion that the unreasoning and obscurantist way in which this young lady at present looks upon the process of natural reproduction can long resist the educative influences of normal adult life in a civilized community. One hopes, for her sake, that she may in a comparatively short time come to feel amused at her own terrors, and at her lack of logic, for she conceded that she respected her own mother, and understood in a general way the processes of her own birth.

W v W [1956] VLR 389 at 398-9

In another case Lord Dunedin (in a passage jaw-dropping even for 1924) said of the husband of an asexual spouse that –

It is indeed permissible to wish that some gentle violence had been employed [by him]; if there had been it would either have resulted in success or would have precipitated a crisis so decided as to have made our task a comparatively easy one.

G v G 1924 SC (HL) 42 at 47

The insensitivity of these judgments is comfortingly offset by a recent judgment of the Supreme Court of Sweden which I have casenoted here. In the matter of GR and LR v SÖ (in the Swedish legal usage, Samborna på Sollerön), two young women formed a relationship in 2008. They formed a household and by 2015 had established a farm on   They commenced a relationship and by 2015 had set up a farm together on the Swedish island of Sollerön. It was common ground that their relationship was non-sexual but loving and deeply and intimately emotional.

Sollerön, Sweden (Image from here)

One of the women died in 2018.  Her will left her estate to the other.  On her death an insurance benefit became payable to her “spouse, partner or cohabitant” and (failing that) to her relatives. A dispute arose between her partner and her (the deceased’s) parents as to an insurance benefit which would be payable to her partner or (failing that) her family. The parents’ case relied heavily on the fact that the relationship had been non sexual.

Supreme Court of Sweden (image credit: Tage Olsin)

The case passed through the District Court and Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court. The Court noted that Sweden’s Cohabitation Act considered a cohabitation relationship to be one which was marriage-like and would normally include a sexual component. However, the sexual element was not definitive. The key factor was whether was whether the relationship had the closeness expected between married people. In this case –

The investigation shows that HR and SÖ relied on and supported each other in difficult times and perceived the other as their closest relative. In interrogation, SÖ has described how close their emotional relationship was, that they loved each other, considered themselves cohabitants and planned to live and be together for the future. SÖ information about a deep and intimate emotional community is strongly supported by notes that HR made and text messages that she and SÖ sent to each other

GR and LR v SÖ (2022) H&FLR 2022-1 at [20]

It followed that they were in a relationship in the eyes of the law and so SÖ was entitled to the insurance benefit.

This decision can be seen as a part of the greater openness of the law to the range of human experience. Treating asexual relationships as akin to marriage (and not the basis for a punchline) is a trend to be encouraged in both law and culture.

Again the job market

I’m typing this on Monday afternoon. Given the posting schedule I imagine it’ll go live on Saturday sometime. I’ve spent the morning looking through LinkedIn for jobs. I must say that the job market is looking pretty healthy. Having that luxury (and not being completely strapped … yet) I’m trying to land something that has “career-potential”.

“WordPress, insert a generic work related image here!”
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Having had a number of jobs over the years that were limited to about a year, I’d really like to find something I can build on in a sustainable way. In the meantime, I’ve found one publisher that pays for short articles which I should be able to crank out reasonably effectively.

I really wish I’d kept my old typewriter
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Things, in short, don’t look so bad. Aut inveniam viam aut faciam.

Postcard from Sydney: Day 3 of 3

I began this post on the flight back to Melbourne as I watched the lights of the New South Wales coast slip by beneath me.

I was on my feet at 0715 on the second day in Sydney.  I made up a cup of coffee as I dressed and got my suitcase packed.  The cab from Silkari to Kirribilli Club (where the offsite meting was to be held) was lined up for 0815.  I made my way downstairs and was delighted to see two of my colleagues, one of whom was up from Melbourne and the other from Canberra.

The venue was almost in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and part of it looked out over the bay. It was, truly, stunning. The sessions were very much worth attending, but I don’t suppose they’ll be of much interest to a general readership. It’s enough to say the business looks like it’ll develop in some really interesting ways in the next few months.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The team is a good one – friendly, clever and accomplished. It was great to catch up with them socially for a few drinks after the day’s work activities were completed. I caught a cab from the venue to the airport (right over the Harbour Bridge, which I got a kick out of – it’s the little things!). I was back in my digs in Melbourne about 0200.

Postcard from Sydney: Day 2 of 3

I woke up on the first morning in Sydney feeling much better than I should have done after a fairly late night. In case I didn’t mention it, the accommodation was at Silkari Suites in Chatswood, a suburb which looked like a tightly-packed version of Malvern. I was on my feet a little before 0800.  I got a clean suit on and grabbed a complimentary coffee from the cart downstairs.

It took me a little while (and a trip to google maps) to navigate from Silkari to LexisNexis’ offices, and a little longer again to remember that I needed to get to the reception on the first floor to get a day pass for the building. This is what happens when you get very very used to working from home! The offices are on one of the upper floors and it felt good to have windows with a view. I found my way to the desk I’d booked and set to dealing with emails and a few odds and ends of work from both of my jobs. About mid-morning I had a very productive face to face meeting with my boss (the first time I’d met her in three dimensions – which is an interesting commentary on what the pandemic has done to everyone’s working habits!).

I had to attend remotely a mediation for the other job in the afternoon and so I stepped out for some sushi while I had a chance. I’d briefed John Richards QC, who put the plaintiff’s case robustly and adeptly. Sadly, the matter didn’t settle. It was a bit hard to focus my mind after the mediation, but I was able to attended to some preparation for the next day.

I called it a day at about 1815. I picked up some groceries for dinner and decided to go for a run down to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’ll talk about that over on my running blog. It’s probably enough to say that it’s a great city to run in.

I do like Sydney.  There’s a novelty, of course, but it’s a lovely city.

Postcard from Sydney: Day 1 of 3

In my last post I mentioned that my job with LexisNexis had included a bit of an adventure. This adventure took the form of an off-site meeting.

The company’s main office is in Sydney, and something like half of the team I work in are based up in the Harbour City. The rest of us are scattered around the country and nearly all of our interactions take place through email and video-conferencing. The powers that be decided that there would be value in us all meeting in person and invited us to come up for the said meeting and to work a day or two from the main office in Chatswood. I hadn’t flown anywhere since 2013 save for an SES deployment to Lismore a few years ago and so this seemed like a terrific idea.

I flew up on the Monday of the week of the meeting. I’d spent the day at my legal practice job and hadn’t had time to change. As a result I was flying in a suit, looking like a throwback to another corporate era. I didn’t mind at all.

I’ve always loved approaching a city from the air at night. Los Angeles from the air is breathtaking – a carpet of lights as far as the eye can see. Regardless, I was smiling as I saw the lights of Sydney coming up beneath us and humming that song by Paul Kelly. Clive James once criticised people who sneer at air travel. I agree with him. I love the sense of possibility that airports have.  I like the food.  I like airline coffee.

We got into Sydney about 2300. The cab ride from the airport to the accommodation took a while because the cabby (like his passenger) had no sense of direction. I spent a couple of hours attending to emails and the like for both jobs. and turned in at about 0300 after a quick shower.

And by the way

I should probably update you on a few things.

While I’ve been neglecting this blog over the past two years, I’ve had a couple of career developments. The first arose mid-2021. I received a phone call out of the blue asking if I’d be interested in applying for a role as a legal writer with Lexis Nexis?

Yes. Yes I would.

I’m now working for that publisher three days a week as their writer for Personal Injury law in Victoria. The job is great: we’re well resourced and the work is interesting.

Photo by Md Jawadur Rahman on Pexels.com

There’s been at least one adventure in that line of work so far; I’ll talk about that in my next post.

Taking that job three days a week led to an attempt for me to keep going with practising in personal injury work two days a week. This was less successful: too many files and too little time, alas. Eventually, the boss said he would have to have someone take on my role full time. I couldn’t disagree: the money I could bring in working two days a week certainly wasn’t covering my own wage, let alone making a profit for the firm. So, my work concluded last Friday. If all else fails, I have a sign to wave beside the freeway.

Even lawyers need a backup plan

I shall certainly miss my friends at PR&Co. Good people, doing good work. On the whole, though, I think this is for the best for me. There’s so many new things in this world – so many jobs to explore – that I’m positively looking forward to the new challenge.

Well, how about that?

Long loooong time readers may be aware that many moons ago I operated an online database of legal headnotes which gloried in the name of the Health & Fitness Law Reports. This started as a pet project when I worked for Riordan Legal. In the years that followed I made various attempts to monetise it without success.

Occasionally I’d receive a notification about it. Today I googled it out of sheer curiosity. I was startled to find it had apparently been cited in a legal textbook (Andy Gibson, Sports Law in Australia (Wolters Kluwer: Sydney, 2022). The Google Books version won’t show me the reference so I’ll wander down to the University of Melbourne Law Library when I get a chance to see how it came up. I also discovered that it had been cited in a Masters Thesis in South Africa. Frankly, I was astonished. That little project – a free, one man website – has probably had more readers and interest than anything else I’ve ever written.

I think this is my cue to fire up that series of reports again. If people are interested, then let’s give them something to read!

Litigation and Protests

By now an ocean of ink has been spilt in the wake of the killing* of George Floyd. I haven’t added to it. If anything can be learned from the matters of <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="http://&lt;!– wp:file {"id":1041,"href":"https://stephenthelawyer.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/pell-v-r-2020-94-aljr-394.pdf&quot;} –> <div class="wp-block-file"><a href="https://stephenthelawyer.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/pell-v-r-2020-94-aljr-394.pdf">pell-v-r-2020-94-aljr-394</a><a href="https://stephenthelawyer.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/pell-v-r-2020-94-aljr-394.pdf&quot; class="wp-block-file__button" download>Download</a></div> Pell v R and <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="http://&lt;!– wp:file {"id":1042,"href":"https://stephenthelawyer.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/maryland-v-goodson-baltimore-city-circuit-court-williams-j-23-june-2016-unreported.pdf&quot;} –> <div class="wp-block-file"><a href="https://stephenthelawyer.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/maryland-v-goodson-baltimore-city-circuit-court-williams-j-23-june-2016-unreported.pdf">maryland-v-goodson-baltimore-city-circuit-court-williams-j-23-june-2016-unreported</a><a href="https://stephenthelawyer.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/maryland-v-goodson-baltimore-city-circuit-court-williams-j-23-june-2016-unreported.pdf&quot; class="wp-block-file__button" download>Download</a></div> Maryland v Goodson it’s that public passion does not necessarily translate into legal outcomes.

Be that as it may. There is one side of matters that has had me thinking, which is the potential litigation fallout. In particular, cases where participants in the protests find themselves suffering loss or damage

It seems to me someone like the poster above would be in a challenging legal position in seeking compensation from the organisers of a protest, and in particular one where the protest morphed into a riot. The most obvious analogy I can think of is that of sporting injuries, where players are generally taken to consent to the sort of harms (for want of a better word) which are an inherent part of the game (Smith v Emerson). On one view of the matter, the risk of a protest – especially one with angry and upset people – becoming violent may be an inherent danger of demonstrations. On the other hand, the consent posited does not extend to acts done solely with the intention of causing harm (McNamara v Duncan).

Further, deliberate harm is not considered to be susceptible to a defence of voluntary assumption of risk (Sibley v Milutinovic). What might be a more interesting question is whether a person can be taken to have engaged in contributory negligence by remaining after a demonstration has already deteriorated into indiscriminate actions as in the case of Ms Tauss mentioned above.

* I say killing rather than murder quite consciously and deliberately. Not knowing what the elements of murder are in Minnesota law it seems unwarranted for me to pre-judge the matter.

Lawyers shouldn’t blither

A story on the lighter side this evening.

I had a matter fixed for hearing yesterday for a nice lady with an injury case. She was quite nervous and so she’d brought three members of her family to the office for the conference pre-hearing. The client and her family are from India originally.

The hearing was to proceed by Zoom, and so we set the client up on a computer in a spare office. As I got everything ready, I was mainly thinking about the half-dozen other things I needed to do so the hearing would proceed smoothly. As I often do when I’m thinking about something else, I was chattering away rather thoughtlessly to avoid an awkward silence. One of the things I had to do was enter the computer login password, which is in part the word “Blackjack”. Without thinking about it I blathered away “so the password is ‘blackjack’ so clearly whoever set it up was either a keen gambler or a fan of the 1960s Country Party, the leader of the party then being called John “Black Jack” McEwen”

Prime Minister John “Black Jack” McEwen (source: Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

The client asked why he was called “Black Jack” and I explained “well, I understand he had dark hair and had quite a dark complexion and …”. It was at this point that I remembered who I was talking to and the fraught ethnic times we’re in and thought in a panic “Oh Lord, I hope they don’t think I was having a go at them!”. I felt my face getting red and I blithered on by saying “and, I understand he favoured dark suits, and he was Prime Minister for a bit too, and … Oh good, we’ve got Zoom up and running!”.

I don’t think the client and her husband were paying much attention to it all, but from the grin on her son’s face he was clearly enjoying watching me trying to dig my way out of the hole I’d dug myself into!

Comic relief can be useful in stressful times; apparently yesterday it was my turn to provide it.