Mr Grayling is wrong about the Brexit dividend to station platforms

It is seldom a pleasure to hear the droning, humourless and untrustworthy voice of the Transport Minister Chris Grayling, and never less so than when he interrupts preparations for Sunday lunch.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get to the off button quite in time, so I caught Mr Grayling being interviewed by Mark Mardell on The World This Weekend. Yesterday was of course the day when Theresa May announced her Great Repeal Bill, and this was the subject of Mr Grayling’s interview. Before I pulled the plug on him I heard this exchange:

Q: I imagine there are lots of laws in your area of transport both in aviation & road transport that are affected by EU legislation. Any you want to get rid of?

A: Well let’s get back to some practical examples, there are EU laws around the running of railways about the height of platforms, for example. Our rail system, apart from HS1, is not in any way linked to the continental rail network, so there is actually no reason for us to have European platform heights, so that’s one area of regulation that could certainly change.

For some reason this immediately brought to mind lines from the Wilfred Owen poem “Futility,” written about a very different subject matter:

Was it for this the clay grew tall?

O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break earth’s sleep at all?”

All the sound and fury of the referendum battle, all the political blood that has been spilt, all the poisonous, dishonest and occasionally racist rhetoric: what has it achieved?

It has given us back the freedom to set our own platform heights. Continue reading “Mr Grayling is wrong about the Brexit dividend to station platforms”

Never mind rape myths, the criminal justice system is built on even more fundamental myths

These days no prosecutor is considered properly trained until they have attended a course to warn them sternly of the dangers of believing “myths and stereotypes” about sexual offences. The CPS website lists 10 such myths (defined as “a commonly held belief, idea or explanation that is not true”), including, for example:

Rape occurs between strangers in dark alleys” (obviously it occasionally does, but the myth is that it only or mainly occurs in that way).


You Can Tell if She’s ‘Really’ Been Raped by How She Acts” (when, as the CPS correctly points out, reactions to rape are “highly varied and individual.”)

It is all to the good that any myth should be expunged by the cauterising effect of truth, but there are even more fundamental assumptions underlying the whole criminal justice system. They are these:

  1. Jurors can safely rely on the memory of an honest witness;
  1. Jurors can safely assess when a witness’s memory is mistaken;
  1. Jurors can safely assess when a witness is lying.

Unfortunately each one of these assumptions is a myth: a “commonly held belief that is not true.” Continue reading “Never mind rape myths, the criminal justice system is built on even more fundamental myths”

Mainly for Archers fans: Will the jury be allowed to hear from Jess?

I should apologise to Barristerblogger readers who are not Archers fans. I was one of you once but the drama of Helen Titchener’s attempted murder trial has dragged me in.

The question of the moment is this: will Jess’s evidence be admitted?

If you haven’t clicked away from this page already you almost certainly know the plot. Helen is on trial for attempting to murder her husband, Rob. There is no dispute that she stabbed him. The issue is whether she acted in self-defence. It is for the prosecution to prove that she did not.

Neither barrister is looking like an early candidate for silk at the moment.

Helen’s brief, Anna Tregorran, made a mess of the crucial cross-examination of Rob, when she allowed it to degenerate into an undignified shouting match, before the loathsome complainant managed to sob out the the last few heart-rending seconds of his evidence; whilst prosecution counsel, Mr Bywater, despite a confident start has foundered badly in his cross-examination of Helen. His tone has fluctuated between sneery (sometimes a perfectly proper tone for a prosecutor), hectoring and downright aggressive. It hit an absolute nadir when he appeared to suggest that because she had conceived Henry by IVF, her desperation to conceive another child meant she would have had an insatiable sexual appetite thereafter. Continue reading “Mainly for Archers fans: Will the jury be allowed to hear from Jess?”

Anna Tregorran is making heavy weather of defending Helen Titchener in The Archers Trial

Half the country was glued to their radios on Sunday night for the first day in the Archers Trial.

Prosecution counsel’s opening was suave and persuasive, whilst being perfectly fair – Julian Bywater correctly stressed, for example, that it was for the prosecution to disprove self-defence not for the defence to prove it.

Listeners were more concerned to see how Helen’s barrister, the troubled and intermittently drink-sodden Anna Tregorran, would rise to the occasion.

In preparing for the trial of the century over the past few months Miss Tregorran has certainly not been lacking in commitment: she has visited her client in prison innumerable times (for almost all of which she won’t be paid a penny).

On the other hand she has been remarkably unsuccessful on the two occasions when she actually appeared in court. She made an inexplicably unsuccessful bail application which has led to Helen spending the last 5 months in custody; and her performance in the family court was so lamentable that she was lucky not to be reported to the Bar Standards Board for conducting a case without the appropriate knowledge and expertise. Continue reading “Anna Tregorran is making heavy weather of defending Helen Titchener in The Archers Trial”

Judge Lower was right not to lift the Sexual RIsk Order on John O’Neill

We must wait until 22nd September to discover exactly what District Judge Adrian Lower has in mind for John O’Neill, the York man who, despite having been acquitted of a charge of rape, is now not allowed to have sex unless he gives the police at least 24 hours notice of his intention.

Mr O’Neill has been subject to a peculiar and, as far as I know, unique interim “Sexual Risk Order” since January. At a hearing yesterday the judge announced that he would be making a final order, although in the same breath he also strongly implied that he would amend its terms, describing the notice provisions as “wholly disproportionate” and “frankly unpoliceable.” Continue reading “Judge Lower was right not to lift the Sexual RIsk Order on John O’Neill”

Professor Jay was brave but wrong to agree to chair the child abuse inquiry

I hate to be Cassandra yet again, but Amber Rudd has made the wrong decision in appointing Alexis Jay as the new Chairman (and like it or not, “Chairman” is the word used in the Inquiries Act 2005 under which she has been appointed) of the “independent inquiry into child sexual abuse” (“IICSA”); and Professor Jay was wrong to accept the appointment.

This is not, as some have suggested, because a social worker like Professor Jay is in some way compromised when the Inquiry examines the conduct of other social workers. She has in fact been an inspector of social work since 2005, criticism of other social workers has been her business for some time and she is well qualified to comment on social work failings should she come across any.

Nor is it because of any personal failings. Many of those who have worked with Prof Jay speak highly of her, and her report into sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 has been widely praised. Continue reading “Professor Jay was brave but wrong to agree to chair the child abuse inquiry”

You don’t need to be a terrorist to commit a terrorist offence

I am grateful to a reader for pointing out that I have committed an offence under S.58A of the Terrorism Act 2000.

This morning the Daily Mail published a story about various senior police officers who have apparently been very well paid. Foremost in the Mail’s sights was Stephen Kavanagh, Chief Constable of Essex. Continue reading “You don’t need to be a terrorist to commit a terrorist offence”

Goddard was right to resign. The child sex inquiry now needs a complete reboot.

Justice Lowell Goddard’s resignation as the Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has taken us by surprise, but it should not have done. Over 2 years have now passed since Theresa May announced the inquiry, and so far it has achieved almost nothing tangible at all, except to lurch from crisis to crisis: it has now lost with 3 chairs, various “panel members”, and an unquantifiable tranche of written evidence submitted between 14th September and 2nd October last year which was “instantly and permanently deleted” due to a computer malfunction.

In due course it may become clear whether the new Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, pushed her, or whether Goddard simply decided enough was enough: the news yesterday that she had spent 70 days of the last year out of the country, suggests that she had little appetite for the job and my hunch is that she simply decided to walk away. Continue reading “Goddard was right to resign. The child sex inquiry now needs a complete reboot.”

Don’t Worry, Be Happy About Brexit. Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright.

I am very grateful to Philip Sinclair, Head of Maidstone Chambers, for this guest post which came about in this way:

Brexit tweets David Allen Green

You may have caught an interesting piece by David Allen Green in yesterday’s Financial Times. If you haven’t, it’s worth a few minutes of your time, but in essence his argument was that the Government is totally unprepared for the Brexit negotiations, not only does it not have a plan, it doesn’t even know what it should be planning for.

I tweeted my approval of the thrust of the piece, and Philip replied that he couldn’t have disagreed with it more. Someone suggested that he write a reply, which to his credit he has done overnight, seemingly while driving through France. He has very generously agreed to let me publish it below.

In the days after the Brexit vote, many Remainers were in shock and denial. Some remain in denial still. Continue reading “Don’t Worry, Be Happy About Brexit. Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright.”

Sally Smith’s Biography of Marshall Hall is a wonderful read.

Over the next few days I’m going to recommend some good books for summer reading for anyone interested in the law, especially the criminal law.

The first is Sally Smith’s biography of Marshall Hall: “A law unto himself.” (Wildy, Simmonds & Hill £25, although available for a bit less on Amazon). Smith is a barrister, a very good one too, who since taking silk has specialised in medical cases, although she obviously knows her way around the criminal law too.20160728_183901

Her subject, Edward Marshall Hall – known to many simply as Marshall – was what we would now call a “celebrity:” a barrister whose oratory saved numerous men and women from the gallows. He was not always successful of course, and these days it is mainly the clients he failed to save that are remembered: George Joseph Smith, the “Brides in the Bath” murderer; and Seddon, who was said to have poisoned his lodger with arsenic in order to get his hands on her annuities. Continue reading “Sally Smith’s Biography of Marshall Hall is a wonderful read.”