The Referendum now poses a serious threat to Parliamentary Democracy

Forget about the online petition. We do not have government by petition, particularly not when we don’t know how many of the online signatories are even British, or are duplicates, or computerised bots or in some other way bogus. No matter how many signatures the petition garners it will not result in a re-run of the referendum, and nor should it.

Forget too about Members of the Scottish Parliament metaphorically flooding down from the Cheviots, sgian-dubhs flashing in the pale northern sunlight, rushing to save the Sassenachs from the consequences of their folly. The argument – publicised and explained here by the ever-lucid Jolyon Maugham – is rather complex and explained better by him than by me but essentially it’s this: Continue reading “The Referendum now poses a serious threat to Parliamentary Democracy”

We must remain in the EU for peace and prosperity.

The time for agnosticism about the EU referendum is over. Those of us who have been sitting on the fence now need to decide which way to vote.

A few weeks ago I was still an agnostic. Not any longer. The weight of Barristerblogger is very modest – but for what it is worth it is now firmly behind the Remain campaign.

I have great personal respect for many, though not all, of the Leave campaigners but I think they have lost every important argument. Continue reading “We must remain in the EU for peace and prosperity.”

The Psychoactive Substances Act is a bad law and the Government doesn’t even know what it means

The Psychoactive Substances Act, which came into force last week, has been much criticised.

There have been two broad criticisms: first, that it will fail to control the harm done by new psychoactive substances; secondly that it will prove largely unenforceable.

It will certainly have the effect of driving the sale of formerly legal highs underground. Possession of such substances remains legal (except in prisons), but their supply, possession with intent to supply, import and export have become criminal offences. Thus, the only means of obtaining substances that are in themselves legal to possess, will be through criminals. Businesses that once traded openly, and paid taxes, have now closed. Continue reading “The Psychoactive Substances Act is a bad law and the Government doesn’t even know what it means”

It’s not wrong to consider John Beggs QC for barrister of the year

John Beggs QC has made the shortlist for The Lawyer Magazine’s award for “Barrister of the Year.”

The decision has caused outrage in Liverpool because Mr Beggs represented the Hillsborough Police Match Commanders, including David Duckenfield, the officer who, catastrophically, ordered the Hillsborough gates to be opened.

I have no idea whether he would be a worthy winner of the accolade. The entry form asks, amongst other things, for:

Full details of one benchmark case, illustrating how the individual barrister’s contribution made a significant difference to the outcome, including details of other parties / instructing groups”

The verdicts in the Hillsborough Inquest went against his clients in every possible respect, so it is difficult to see how that case could further his credentials very far, but there are other criteria too, so perhaps he could still win.

Margaret Aspinall, whose son James was killed in the disaster, told the Liverpool Echo:

Whoever proposed and supported this nomination has clearly not spent even a day at the Hillsborough inquests.”

We and the jury listened to Mr Beggs for the last two years and the jury’s verdict tells you all you need to know about how good a barrister he is.” Continue reading “It’s not wrong to consider John Beggs QC for barrister of the year”

Trigger warnings are an insidious threat to academic freedom

Oxford University law students have asked to be protected from distressing material that may crop up in their studies of the criminal law. Lecturers have been told that they must issue “trigger warnings” before lecturing on subjects that may – it is claimed – lead vulnerable students into depressive episodes or even suicide. Students thus forewarned can either steel themselves to what follows, or, as some are now doing, skip the lecture altogether. The directive is primarily aimed at students studying criminal law. Continue reading “Trigger warnings are an insidious threat to academic freedom”

Why is it legal to call someone a bull’s pizzle, but a crime to call him a codhead?

Blackpool Magistrates recently came down hard on a Thornton rat-catcher.

Mark Seddon’s love life had had its ups and downs. During one of its downs his girl-friend left him. She took up with a man who Mr Seddon didn’t like.

Some pest control consultants might have resorted to violence, but Mr Seddon was more restrained. He turned to social media. He sent his ex a “Whats App” message setting out succinctly his opinion of the new man in her life:

He is, said Mr Seddon, a “fat-bellied codhead.

As one would expect these days, the police were informed and Mr Seddon was prosecuted under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 for sending:

by means of a public electronic communications network a message … that [was] grossly offensive.

It is a surprisingly serious charge, carrying a possible sentence of 6 months imprisonment. Continue reading “Why is it legal to call someone a bull’s pizzle, but a crime to call him a codhead?”

Is Helen guilty of murdering Rob? My Advice

R v. Helen Titchener

ADVICE

1. I have been asked to advise those instructing urgently in relation to their client Helen Titchener, who has been arrested on suspicion of a serious crime of violence against her husband, Robert. At the time of writing matters are still a little unclear, but Mrs Titchener believes she has killed her husband by stabbing him with a kitchen knife. It seems likely, though not certain, that he will have been certified dead on arrival at Borchester Hospital. Those instructing expect to be representing Mrs Titchener in the police station where she is expected to be interviewed sometime after 19.00 hours this evening.

2. Because this advice is required so urgently I will not trouble those instructing with a detailed recital of what I have been told is the unhappy history of the Titcheners’ relationship. It suffices to say that in recent months their marriage had become increasingly strained and (at any rate as far as Mrs Titchener was concerned) unhappy. Mrs Titchener is heavily pregnant, and it seems that this has been used by Mr Titchener as a means of exerting ever increasing emotional control over her. Indeed, such had been the level of control that she had even, at times, begun to doubt her own sanity, and had recently sought treatment from a psychiatrist. Continue reading “Is Helen guilty of murdering Rob? My Advice”

Criminal Justice Secure Email to be axed as Gove performs another U-turn

Criminal lawyers have given a cautious, if somewhat bemused, welcome to the news (due to be formally announced later today) that Criminal Justice Secure Email is to be officially discontinued from June 1st.

They may be less pleased to learn that the Government plans to enact emergency legislation requiring them to acquire new computer programming skills. The radical plan is designed to ensure that despite the admitted failure of CJSM, the Ministry of Justice’s vision of an entirely digital courtroom nevertheless becomes a reality.

Under the proposals the widely disliked secure email system is to be temporarily “mothballed” whilst the Digital Case System will, in the words of the MoJ’s press release, be “simplified and streamlined.” Senior civil servants have reportedly accepted representations from the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and the Criminal Bar Association that the current systems have not produced the benefits expected. The department yesterday published official statistics showing that the average time from receipt of a case by the Crown Court to its completion has increased from 164 in 2013 to a disappointing 204 days now. Continue reading “Criminal Justice Secure Email to be axed as Gove performs another U-turn”

Operation Midland: a miserable end to a miserable affair

The announcement from the Metropolitan Police that Harvey Proctor will face no charges over extraordinary allegations of sadistic rape and murder is unsurprising. It has been obvious for weeks that the police were simply waiting for a convenient time to drop the case, so embarrassing had it become. A cabinet minster’s resignation and the ensuing political turmoil have provided as good a time as any to make the announcement. Continue reading “Operation Midland: a miserable end to a miserable affair”

I don’t blame the Top QC for bringing an unsuccessful private prosecution but should we have to pay for it?

The subject of costs in criminal cases is not, it must be admitted, a sexy one but it is important. The rules are often opaque and often misunderstood even by lawyers. Perhaps for this reason some of the grotesque injustices at the heart of the system are seldom given the attention that they deserve. Bear with me if you will, because even if the topic is not very exciting, it is important.

Martin Porter QC is a campaigner. He was in the news this week after he brought a private prosecution for dangerous driving against a man called Aslan Kayardi. The prosecution failed. Despite this the judge ordered that Mr Porter be awarded his costs from “central funds,” in other words from public money.

Lest anyone think that what follows is intended as in any way a personal attack upon Mr Porter, it is nothing of the sort. He is a highly respected lawyer, and has behaved perfectly properly and honourably. Had I been advising him (not that he would want or need me to do so) I might well have advised him to do everything that he in fact did. My complaint is not with him, but with the system within which he and I both operate. Continue reading “I don’t blame the Top QC for bringing an unsuccessful private prosecution but should we have to pay for it?”