Divisions have appeared in the coalition cabinet after Kenneth Clarke dubbed the Home Secretary Teresa May “childish” when she erroneously referred to the Human Rights Act preventing the deportation of a Bolivian student on the grounds that he had a pet cat. At the Conservative party conference May made a speech in which she referred to the HRA preventing the deportation of a Bolivian student on cat related grounds. Within an hour of the speech journalists obtained a copy of the judgment referred to and suggested that May’s portrayal of the case was misleading and inaccurate. The ensuing ‘Catgate’ saw Kenneth Clarke dismiss May’s allegations as “laughable” and the Judicial Office issue a formal denial of May’s comments. Downing Street has supported May and there is speculation that Clarke may lose his job in an upcoming cabinet reshuffle. The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has now entered the fray by insisting the Human Rights Acts has been beneficial for Britain and condemning the “hysterical untruths” printed by newspapers about its perverse effects.

Residents of Dale Farm will have to wait until next week to learn whether they have won or lost their high court battle against eviction. They are seeking court orders in three linked applications for judicial review blocking their removal from the site near Basildon, Essex. The ruling is now expected next Wednesday at 2pm. Travellers’ lawyers have argued that Basildon council’s decision earlier this year to take direct action to clear the green belt site of about 400 Travellers, including about 100 children, was “disproportionate” and must at least be reconsidered.

Banks and supermarkets are to be able to sell consumer legal services in England and Wales for the first time following a change in law. The government says the new Legal Services Act will offer more choice and better value for the public. The government says the change would encourage economic growth in the industry and raise the profile of the UK as a first-class legal services market. Meanwhile, the Law Society has launched a legal challenge against the government over criminal legal aid fees. Chancery Lane has sent a letter before action to the Ministry of Justice over its decision to abolish the committal fee in either way cases in publicly funded criminal work.

Government lawyers need to be fearless in providing unwelcome advice to ministers and must resist pressure to trim opinions to suit politicians, a leading international lawyer has urged. At a speech at Middle Temple Sands highlighted problems that arose in London and Washington during the war on terror. “Something went wrong with the legal advice … Whether we are talking about the treatment of a detainee in Basra, or the rendition of a Libyan to Tripoli, or the use of military force against Iraq, the argument of national security or essential national interest caused the legal advisers to buckle.”

The Government has been urged not to criminalise squatting after a report found it would lead to an increase in some of the most vulnerable homeless people sleeping rough. The report, published on behalf of homeless charity Crisis, comes as the Government consults on plans to bring in laws making squatting a criminal offence and ending so-called “squatters’ rights”. The report suggests that the new laws would result in the criminalisation of homeless people, who squat because accessing adequate affordable housing in England and Wales is so difficult, but would have little impact on levels of squatting.

Lord Neuberger gave a speech at the EWI annual conference last week, focusing on the UKSC judgment Jones v Kaney [2011] UKSC 13 and the growth of an inquisitorial rather than adversarial litigation model with regard to expert witnesses. In his speech the Master of the Rolls suggested that “We can see a further move away from the pure pre-Woolf adversarial model. Elements of the adversarial model remain. The experts are still party-appointed experts. But the process by which they give evidence is again moving towards a model more akin to that which might be expected by a court-appointed expert, more akin to an inquisitorial litigation model.”

The Supreme Court “missed the opportunity” to clarify a complex area of employment law when Sheffield City Council settled out of court an equal pay test case by female workers who claimed they were being paid less than men to do similar jobs, an expert has said.  Selwyn Blyth, an expert in equality law with Pinsent Masons, said that the amount of the settlement paid to up to 900 workers was “likely to be in the millions”. Similar cases have occurred in many local authorities, where historically certain roles such as refuse collection and caring have traditionally been carried out by only one gender. Blyth said that “This was a missed opportunity for the court to look at what is an ambiguous, difficult area of employment law,” he said. “The case could have clarified in what circumstances, if any, an employer would be able to rely on a historical productivity arrangement which was gender neutral.”