For the sake of party and country Theresa May should resign immediately

Theresa May is an embarrassment to the Conservative Party and to the country. She has to go immediately.

She has run the most disastrous Conservative campaign since Ted Heath lost the “Who Governs Britain” election of February 1974, and probably worse even than that. Every decision she took during the campaign turned out to be a misjudgement, and she managed to lose a lead of 20% in just seven weeks of campaigning. Her incompetence alone is breath-taking.

She didn’t need to have an election at all and she certainly didn’t need to have it shortly after issuing the Article 50 notification, thereby guaranteeing a delay of weeks and risking a delay of months in getting the strictly time-limited Brexit negotiations under way. The chaotic election result may well now mean that nothing useful can be done for months. Continue reading “For the sake of party and country Theresa May should resign immediately”

Mark Webb’s sentence for perverting the course of justice was richly deserved and possibly too short

A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow. Proverbs 25:18

HHJ Hart’s sentence of 15 months imprisonment which he gave today to Mark Webb for perverting the course of justice deserves wide publicity, even though to my mind it is too short.

For reasons that are far from clear, Mr Webb took it upon himself to complain repeatedly and falsely about his neighbour, a blameless and rather vulnerable former Health Care Assistant called Frances Avis.

Avis’s flat in Brook Road, Bath, was managed (like most of the social housing in the city) by a company called Curo – the same company, incidentally, that is running a crazy campaign for a cable car service from the centre of Bath to one of its new estates). Mark Webb and his wife Susan lived in a flat next door.

Their paths crossed with unfortunate consequences.

Frances Avis

One day Ms Avis was doing some stretching exercises outside her front door. She was in training to run a half-marathon to raise funds for DHI, a charity that helps people recovering from alcohol and drug problems. She spoke to her neighbour for the first time and, because she is a dog lover and because Mr Webb’s newly acquired Jack Russell, Patch, didn’t seem to be getting much exercise, she offered to take him out when she went running. They got on, and soon she was walking Patch regularly.

But then things began to turn rather weird. Continue reading “Mark Webb’s sentence for perverting the course of justice was richly deserved and possibly too short”

The Trial: Television at its best

If you haven’t started watching Channel 4’s The Trial, should you bother?

Yes you should. It is good television, legally accurate and most importantly gripping drama.

For those that didn’t watch last night, what Channel 4 has done is in some ways a homage to the 1970s Anglia TV series Crown Court, the day-time TV show that featured actors playing the part of lawyers, defendant and witnesses, and randomly selected members of the public acting as jurors. For me, Crown Court was one of many perks of being too ill for school, and many current leaders of the profession were enthused to become barristers by watching the programme. The often rather wooden acting, the slightly tacky sets and the trivial nature of most of the cases made the programme remarkably realistic.

But where Crown Court was true to the Poundland end of the legal system – where you would most likely find Barristerblogger plying his day job – The Trial is more Fortnums and Masons. The crime is murder, the set is a real (though decommissioned) court-room, and most importantly the judge and the barristers are not actors but real lawyers drawn from the top drawer of the profession. Continue reading “The Trial: Television at its best”

Gruesome but gripping: Perfect Remains by Helen Fields

One moment she was there; a fair but formidable opponent in court, and a friendly colleague in chambers. Then – before I’d even realised that she’d gone – Helen Fields suddenly reinvented herself, not as a judge (as one might have expected) but as the Western Circuit’s answer to Karin Slaughter, with a Harper-Collins book deal to produce a series of detective stories in the genre euphemistically described as “gritty.”

In fact, judging by Perfect Remains, the first in the series, Fields’ style would be more accurately characterised as sanguinary, bordering on stomach-churning.

Continue reading “Gruesome but gripping: Perfect Remains by Helen Fields”

Presumed Guilty by Simon Warr: A Review

Simon Warr was a languages teacher who was accused of historic sexual abuse of three of his pupils.

The allegations were not, as these things go, particularly serious, although that was of little comfort. The worst was that in the 1980s he had handled a boy’s genitals under the pretext of making sure he had showered properly after PE. Although he had taught in the school, he had never taught the boy (“A”) in question, never taught PE and had no recollection of A at all. After he made his complaint to the police Mr Warr was arrested and bailed. He spent 664 days between arrest and trial. He lost his job – technically a resignation, but in effect a forced one – and the school house in which he was living and he was declared persona non grata on the school premises, cut out, he says, like a cancerous tumour. Two complainants also went to the police – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the police came to them – with seemingly corroborative complaints, although in he end they proved to be as much contradictory as corroborative. Continue reading “Presumed Guilty by Simon Warr: A Review”

Katie Hopkins set to become a barrister in 2018

An embarrassing software error on the Bar Council’s “Pupillage Gateway” online application system has led to the details of pupillage applicants accidentally being made public. The glitch was spotted at six o’clock this morning, but for 4 hours last night the personal statements of all pupillage applicants were publicly viewable.

A red-faced Bar Council spokesperson this morning apologised for the error but reassured applicants, saying

We would like to reassure applicants that we take the leaking of personal data extremely seriously. Lessons have been learned and we will ensure that this never happens again.”

Before the necessary security patch could be fitted, details of all wannabe barristers hoping to start on the Bar Professional Training Course next October were viewable by anyone using Microsoft’s 2016 “Poisson 1/4” browser. Continue reading “Katie Hopkins set to become a barrister in 2018”

Harriet Harman’s proposed ban on sexual history evidence would be grotesquely unfair

Over the last few years there have been a number of powerful nominations for the title of stupidest Parliamentarian. This blog has in the past made what I thought was a powerful case for the prize to be jointly shared between Messrs Peter Bone and Phillip Hollobone, and the Secret Barrister has repeatedly and persuasively argued the case for Phillip Davies, and indeed may do so again at greater length in his eagerly awaited book. Just to prove that Conservatives do not have a stranglehold on the competition along comes Harriet Harman with a legislative proposal which is guaranteed to produce injustice and, for good measure, is virtually certain to be ruled incompatible with the Article 6 right to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights. Continue reading “Harriet Harman’s proposed ban on sexual history evidence would be grotesquely unfair”

Simon Bailey is not soft on sex crime: we should listen to what he has to say about those who view indecent child images

The Chief Constable of Norfolk, Simon Bailey, says that men who view indecent images of children should not face prosecution unless they pose a risk to actual children. The reason, he says, is that officers are simply overwhelmed with child abuse cases, with over 70,000 reported every year, and an estimate – though how one estimates such a thing I have no idea – of an extra 40,000 such cases likely to arise out of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse. The police, he said last year, were spending £1 billion a year on prosecuting sex cases, a figure which he predicted could rise to £3 billion by 2020.

Instead of prosecution, and in cases where there is no obvious threat to any children, Mr Bailey advocates arrest and treatment by way of “counselling and rehabilitation” instead of punishment. Such men could, he suggests, be placed on the Sex Offenders Register but they would not need to face a court. Continue reading “Simon Bailey is not soft on sex crime: we should listen to what he has to say about those who view indecent child images”

Wiltshire Police is acting like a public relations tool for David Icke

On 3rd August 2015 Wiltshire Police Superintendent Sean Memory held a dramatic news conference outside the late Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath’s former home, Arundells, a beautiful house in Salisbury Cathedral close.

He told the gathered reporters he had information that:

a trial had been due to take place in the 1990s and information was received in that trial that Sir Ted Heath was involved in the abuse of children and the allegation is from the result of that information that the trial never took place.”

The police were now opening an inquiry into possible child abuse by the former Prime Minister, and were encouraging anyone who had been abused by him to come forward. Continue reading “Wiltshire Police is acting like a public relations tool for David Icke”

Beating posh boys for Jesus: John Smyth and his fanatical evangelicalism

Barristerblogger generally avoids religion. It is a subject of enormous importance but I have little enthusiasm for most of the arcane disputes over which religious people love to argue, and sometimes to kill each other.

Sometimes, though, it is unavoidable. The story about John Smyth QC flogging posh teenage boys in the name of Christianity is hard to ignore.

First, however, a warning. Channel 4 is a far more responsible outfit than some other news organisations that have peddled salacious stories about boys, sex and “top people.” Nevertheless, fairness to Mr Smyth demands that we keep an open mind, especially if he volunteers an account of his own. 

That said, there is no doubt that the Channel 4 story is grounded in a solid basis of fact. That Mr Smyth knew the named complainants seems incontrovertible. That he espoused (and probably still espouses) a conservative Christian evangelicalism also seems pretty much beyond doubt. When surprised by Cathy Newman’s microphone Mr Smyth chose not to answer any of herquestions – we should not blame him for that – and so we do not know his explanation.

We should also bear in mind that even if Channel 4 has behaved responsibly, any story involving sex, teenagers and the privileged classes is liable to get out of hand; throw in floggings, a top QC (and part-time judge) and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and you can bet that before you can say “Operation Midland” the internet will be awash with hogwash about Uncle John and Uncle Justin bringing out their canes at parties attended by Leon Brittan, Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris. Continue reading “Beating posh boys for Jesus: John Smyth and his fanatical evangelicalism”