Having discovered that I am the receipient of John Bolch’s coveted post of the month award for the last Naughty Step post, it seemed like time for another. Given that the award was only received due to the unreasonable delay of Geeklawyer in delivering his Blawg Review (caution NSFW and likely to leave you pleasured but having lost all self-respect), it seemed appropriate that this time it should be ‘barristers’ behaving badly on the step.
Wilmot, imaginatively, claimed to have sold four Boeing 747 jet engines to a contact in Iraq for £117.5 million and sought to reclaim £17.5 million in VAT. The non-existence of the engines or deal was a minor hiccup in his otherwise routine claim to HMRC. He had laid, or rather made, a careful trail of evidence: invoices from a company in Croydon (who had never heard of him and didn’t deal in second hand aero engines on this scale and who apparently used redundant Argos VAT numbers); and details of shipping via a cargo ship (which was carrying beans, not jet engines).
The contact in Iraq? Well, the contact, Mr Al Majari, was never forthcoming, but Wilmot claimed he had (and I love this detail) met him at a Chambers garden party. Now which Chambers was it? Various articles cite him living and working at Temple Chambers in the City, but this is just an address, not a set. Anyone know? Google isn’t my friend in this.
Next up, a not criminal but morally, shall we say, debatable barrister, Mr Barclay Littlewood, late of ‘training at Grays Inn’ (which, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I take to mean that he never had pupillage and is not and never was a practising barrister). Mr Littlewood is ‘Chief Operations Director’ of UKessays and founder of Academic Answers Ltd. I was prompted to consider Mr Littlewood by Charon QC’s podcast with Prof Geoffrey Alderman and by this article in the Grauniad.
Mr Littlewood runs an online factory providing essays for undergraduate and postgraduate students. He thus profits, apparently very well indeed, from human stupidity, laziness, ignorance and greed. Wait, I hear you object, how does he differ from the entire legal profession in this? He doesn’t, and it is not for this reason that he is on the Step. No, Mr Littlewood occupies the Naughty Step for the sheer buttock-clenching, cheek chewing odiousness of his and his setup’s hypocritical blather.
Plagiarism is an academic and professional offence – hello Raj Persaud – and it is massively on the rise amongst students. Mr Littlewood runs a service in which, for a price between £120 to £16,000, one can have written for one an undergraduate essay or dissertation or Masters dissertation. (Prices double for a guaranteed first, up to the £16K).
Aware of the obvious implications, Mr Littlewood’s website is at pains to point out that it isn’t offering these essays for the purposes of passing them off as your own. Not at all. These are ‘model answers’, for up to £16K. (No links, for the obvious reasons, but from the UKessays site).
[I]f you use our model answer in the same way that you would use a journal, newspaper article, question and answer study book or past paper, there is absolutely nothing dishonest in what you are doing. Our service can be used honestly. If you do your own 100% original work and your own research, using our answer as a guideline, then this is no different from finding a journal article that deals with all the points you need to make in your essay
But sadly, disappointingly, some people will abuse this generous service:
We do understand that some students will use our work dishonestly. This is because there are a lot of essay companies who permit students to simply pass off the work as their own, and so a minority of students confuse us with those companies and assume we offer the same service. We also know that because our work is 100% original and plagiarism free, there is little we can do to regulate that misuse.
Ah yes. These model answers are guaranteed plagiarism free, so that they will not fall foul of plagiarism checking services used by Universities. UKessays is so proud of this fact that at the very top of the home page, they trumpet their ‘£5000 no plagiarism guarantee’. Given that elsewhere on the site, they claim that a first class degree over a 2:2 is worth ‘a million adjusted for inflation’, a £5000 payment for completely screwing your academic prospects seems just a little, well, cheap. But never mind that, because there is nothing at all hypocritical in offering a plagiarism guarantee for your ‘model answer providing service’, nothing at all. Mr Littlewood will tell you so:
If I wanted to debase the academic system I’d have done it by now, and I wouldn’t just have 2 super cars.
I ‘d have 3 Ferraris, 6 Lamborghinis and a Bugatti Veyron for special occasions.
Try ringing ukessays.com and telling us you want to use an essay to cheat with and see what you’re told, indeed you’re likely to get a better lecture on plagiarism that any University could give you. As I’ve said before I turn away thousands of pounds a week due to my ethics, so I can’t see how they can be in question.
And you can tell Mr Littleknob is ‘a barrister’ from the same post
The key […] is how it’s used, the act or actus reus of buying or reading an essay isn’t plagiarism, it’s the mens rea that counts, how its it used and with what intention.
This is, of course, utter gibberish. How the essay is used is actus reus, not mens rea and I would submit that the requisite mens rea could safely be inferred from the act of handing in one of these essays without mentioning one hadn’t actually written it. I trust that Mr Littlewood doesn’t actually turn his hand to writing a ‘guaranteed first’ law essay for his service from time to time.
But will he submit the essays written for students to the plagiarism detection services, this being the obvious solution to their mis-use? No. Or not until:
Universities […] promote us as the legitimate research aid to students.
That said, he claims that UKessays has
extensive measures to prevent the dishonest minority from using our service
These extensive measures apparently being, like the US military, a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. But such is Mr Littlewood’s sense of injustice that until the Universities see sense and promote his service:
if there is some unethical use that manages to slip through undetected I’ll consider it part payment for the thousands of honest users they deter every year (through their misinformation) from using our service.
You do that, Mr Littlewood. In the meantime, you’ll forgive me for considering you to be a loathsome, self-serving hypocrite and strongly suggest that you do nothing but stand against this wall until the revolution comes.