Rumpole, 17, and the Codes of Practice

We learnt yesterday from a paralegal called Rob (known on twitter as @RobEdward90) that a 17 year old boy has been told by the Legal Aid Agency that he will not be given legal aid to contest his trial on charges of driving whilst disqualified. The first reason for the decision is that “there is no reason why the applicant would be unable to cross-examine police officers in person.” The youth in question is, as the cliché goes, no stranger to the criminal courts and indeed is currently the subject of a Youth Rehabilitation Order.

We don’t know his name, but given his familiarity with the criminal courts and his evident skill in advocacy we can call him Rumpole.

*** *** ***

Rumpole!”

I turned over and pulled the duvet further over my head. Continue reading “Rumpole, 17, and the Codes of Practice”

Rape juries: Jolyon Maugham hits the wrong target

Last month Britain’s favourite tax barrister, Jolyon Maugham QC, suggested in an article in the New Statesman that juries ought to be abolished for rape trials. I had meant to reply to him much earlier, but did not have the time to do so until now.

As he is in some ways a stickler for accuracy I should quote him:

These few hundred words are not the place to remake the system by which rape is deterred. But we might start by asking, as Julie Bindel has urged, whether trial by jury serves the public interest in rape cases.”

I don’t think he is quite advocating the abolition of juries for rape cases, but he is certainly suggesting that it is something that should be discussed. Indeed, trial by jury, he says, is the place to start.

He was immediately criticised by some criminal lawyers for stepping outside his area of expertise. Not by me though; not least because my limited expertise as a criminal lawyer has never stopped me offering my thoughts on any number of other subjects, some of which are only vaguely related to the law (I can’t help you with tax avoidance though). Mr Maugham’s insights into what is undoubtedly a thorny area should be entirely welcome. Continue reading “Rape juries: Jolyon Maugham hits the wrong target”

No, we don’t need an Alfie’s law.

I thought I’d experiment with an audio post.

This is closely based on an article that appeared in Quillette yesterday.  Be warned: there are no pictures, there is no music (unless you count dogs barking in the background), no gimmicks and no technical wizadry. It’s just me talking for nearly half an hour.

I hope you’ll find it interesting if you haven’t read the article, or at least a cure for insomnia if you have.

Let me know if you think this is a good or a bad idea.

It seems to work on mobile phones, but I’m having some technical difficultites making it play on an ordinary laptop, especially using Firefox

For anyone who would prefer to read, or who is unable to listen, the piece is set out below.  I’m doing my best to make the audio work but I think at the moment it’s about 50:50!
Continue reading “No, we don’t need an Alfie’s law.”

The barber of Bedford should not have gone to prison

A 21 year old barber from Bedford, Abdulrahim Omar, was yesterday given an 8 month prison sentence for assault occasioning actual bodily harm. His crime was to have shaved the head of a ten year old boy as a punishment for playing with a razor. He gave him what is termed a “number 1” cut.

Continue reading “The barber of Bedford should not have gone to prison”

So you want to be the next DPP?

The Attorney-General has begun the recruitment procedure for the next Director of Public Prosecutions who will take up the position in October when Alison Saunders, the present incumbent leaves her post to go and work for the City law firm, Linklaters.

Mr Attorney is looking for an “extraordinary candidate” to replace her.

The prize, for the lucky man or woman is a £206,000 salary, a stonking great Civil Service solid gold pension, the “Sir Humphrey” status conferred by holding a post “at Permanent Secretary” level and best of all, perhaps, a highly civilised 42 hour week. Many Barristerblogger readers can have a crack at the job. Under the heading “qualifications” the Government website gives but a single word: “legal,” although closer inspection of the website of Odgers Berndtson, the company running the selection on the Attorney General’s behalf, makes it clear that you must have been a qualified barrister or solicitor for at least 10 years. As well as the Bar and Solicitors’ profession Odgers Berndston are actively inviting applications from the judiciary. It would certainly be a first if the next DPP was a former judge. Continue reading “So you want to be the next DPP?”

Secret Barrister Set To Become Special Tribunal Judge

The leaked news that the Secret Barrister, who recently published the critically acclaimed The law and how it’s broken, has been appointed as a Special Tribunal Judge has come as a surprise to his or her many fans.

The Special Tribunal is a little-publicised court that sits in private at undisclosed locations, including, according to some unconfirmed rumours, the Cold War nuclear bunker inside Box railway tunnel in Wiltshire.

Box Bunker

Created by the anodyne sounding Court Publicity (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2015 under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, a Special Tribunal can be convened, according to Paragraph 1 of Schedule 4, whenever the Minister of Justice certifies that a secret court hearing is necessary:

in the interests of national security, maintaining public confidence in the justice system or when for any other reason the Minister believes a closed hearing would be expedient in the interests of justice.” Continue reading “Secret Barrister Set To Become Special Tribunal Judge”

It’s time to change the bad law used to prosecute Count Dankula

The prosecution of the online controversialist and comedian Count Dankula was a great mistake. Earlier this week he was convicted by the Airdrie Sheriff Court of sending a grossly offensive message by a public telecommunications network.

The Count, otherwise known as Markus Meechan, is a man of whom I had never heard, and nor, I suspect had you, until he made a video of his girlfriend’s pug giving a Nazi salute in response to him saying things like “Sieg Heil!” and “Gas the Jews!” Although showing the video must, I suppose, be regarded as a criminal act in Scotland, it is easily available online. Indeed, one of the predictable ironies of the case is that as a result of the prosecution it will have been viewed by millions more people than would otherwise ever have heard of it.

As a demonstration of dog training it is moderately impressive; as a comedy sketch it is embarrassingly unfunny, although of course comedy is a very personal thing. Some people, for example like Mrs Brown’s Boys, or that ghastly ratty comedian who gets paid millions through a Cayman Islands shell company. Continue reading “It’s time to change the bad law used to prosecute Count Dankula”

The Met has a problem with hate-crime. It can’t explain what it means.

The Metropolitan Police has a rather strange notice about “hate crimes” on its website.  It has attracted quite a bit of attention on social media.

Hate crimes and hate incidents

If someone commits a criminal offence and the victim, or anyone else, believes it was motivated by prejudice or hate, we class this as a ‘hate crime’. It means the offender can be charged for the crime itself and also their reasons for doing it.

If someone does something that isn’t a criminal offence but the victim, or anyone else, believes it was motivated by prejudice or hate, we would class this as a ‘hate incident’. Though what the perpetrator has done may not be against the law, their reasons for doing it are. This means it may be possible to charge them with an offence.

Let’s break this down, sentence by sentence. Continue reading “The Met has a problem with hate-crime. It can’t explain what it means.”

If Russia was probably responsible for the attack on Skripal, England should not play in the World Cup

In just over 3 months the World Cup is due to kick off in Moscow with a match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Like all big sporting competitions the World Cup will be designed to show the host country in as good a light as possible.

Meanwhile in a Salisbury hospital Sergei Skripal and his daughter are fighting for their lives, having been poisoned by a nerve agent; and a Wiltshire police officer who went to help them is also in intensive care.

If Russia is shown to have been responsible it would be grotesque for the England football team to play any part in what the Russian government no doubt hopes will be a propaganda coup. Boris Johnson at first seemed to suggest that the team should not go to Russia at all, but he then “clarified” his remarks to the absurd idea that an appropriate response might be merely for “UK officials and dignitaries” not to attend the competition. “Try to kill our people and we won’t let you have our referees” seemed to be the message. Continue reading “If Russia was probably responsible for the attack on Skripal, England should not play in the World Cup”