European Conference 2012

PUBLISHED November 16, 2012

We arrived at Gatwick on a cold, damp October morning - flip-flops packed, and sun cream at the ready. This year's LCCSA conference was being held in Malaga on the southern coast of Spain, with the weather forecast predicting sunny skies and soaring temperatures. For once, the forecasters got it right.

We landed in Malaga and headed for the lovely hotel. A stone's throw from the beach and the tapas bars, we were perfectly positioned to take in all Malaga had to offer. The weekend began with the customary drink or two in the hotel bar, before heading out for dinner at "El Patio". We were seated on the indoor terrace, surrounded by oak barrels and vines. An array of tapas was served, followed by a main course of steak or sea bass, and a chocolate desert that challenged even the gluttonous among us. The night was rounded off perfectly with a few more drinks at the hotel bar - or for the more adventurous, the dance floors of Malaga were calling.

Saturday morning's lecture was a whistlestop tour of legislative changes from Anthony Edwards of TV Edwards - some of which were welcome, others incomprehensible. Tony's lively presentation made what could have been a dry topic very interesting, and woke up the more bleary-eyed delegates.

Historic Malaga

The lecture was followed by a walking tour of historic Malaga. We visited the Cathedral of Malaga, built between 1528 and 1782, and took in its mixture of renaissance and baroque styles. We then visited the Alcazaba of Malaga, a palatial fortification, offering panoramic views, high up above the city - fortunately accessible by lift. Its original site dating back to the 11th century, the palace has served as the home of kings and governors for centuries.

Having worked up a healthy appetite, we splintered off to try some more of the city's delicacies. For some, this meant a trip to the wonderfully named "El Pimpi" restaurant - a Malaga legend and, as the name suggests, in times past a place for sailors to meet the ladies. After a top-up on sangria and tapas, there was time to explore more of the city before glamming up for a night on the town.

DPS Software generously hosted a drinks reception at our hotel on Saturday night, at which it became apparent that some of the redder-faced delegates had forgotten to pack their sun cream. We then headed out in groups for dinner, and to enjoy our last night in the city.

Back to work

As all good things must come to an end, Sunday morning came around. Tony Edwards updated us on legal aid and costs, highlighting the recent abolition of defence cost orders in Crown Court proceedings and the ever shrinking "pot? from which cases are funded. This was followed by a presentation from DPS Software, who set out how cleverly designed IT can enhance all of our working lives. Finally, Jeffrey Smele of Simons Muirhead & Burton gave a fascinating talk on the legal challenges in keeping up with ever changing technology - from super injunctions to "internet crimes".

Many of us were shocked to hear about the case of Craig Evans, who was convicted and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in July (reduced to nine months on appeal) for causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. Mr Evans accidentally sent a sexually provocative message (intended for his lover) to his entire BlackBerry address book, including members of his family, and two underage girls. Although the Court of Appeal concluded that Mr Evans was "evidently misguided in the use of his BlackBerry" and despite the fact it could not be shown that he had "targeted" the girls, the conviction stood.

A discussion ensued about Communications Act 2003 offences. Where does the line fall between an idiotic and insensitive Tweet or Facebook post, and one so offensive that it should lead to a criminal prosecution? And how does this dovetail with the right to free speech? The recent proliferation of cases, coupled with increased media coverage, means that this issue is likely to be ongoing.

Sadly, that brought this year's conference to a conclusion. There was time for one last walk along the beach before heading back to London, the cold weather and Monday morning?s trudge into the office.

More sun for 2013 please?

- Lettie Smythers