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”

Trump should not have been invited to meet the Queen but it’s too late to cancel the visit now.

Donald Trump has been invited to visit the United Kingdom for a State visit. This means horse-drawn carriages through Whitehall, troops of Household Cavalry on parade, and a glittering state banquet with the reality TV President sitting at the head of the table next to the Queen.

Downing Street confirmed this morning that the visit would go ahead despite the extraordinary Presidential decree banning nationals of seven countries visiting, or returning to, the USA.

There is a petition on the UK Parliament website urging the Government not to invite him to make a State visit on the grounds that “it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”

I signed the petition yesterday, but on reflection I think I was wrong to do so.
Continue reading “Trump should not have been invited to meet the Queen but it’s too late to cancel the visit now.”

The Court of Appeal was wrong to refuse to hear the appeal of a man it believed to be innocent.

Last Friday the Court of Appeal refused to allow a Mr Mehmet Ordu to appeal against his conviction. Nothing very unusual about that. Every year hundreds of would-be appellants are refused leave to appeal. The peculiar thing about this case, though, is that everyone involved – Mr Ordu himself of course, but also the prosecution and most remarkably the three judges who heard his case, all accept that he was in all probability innocent of an offence for which he has now served a 9 month sentence. The judges nevertheless decided that there would be “no injustice” in allowing his wrongful conviction to stand. Most people might think that a wrongful conviction demands a remedy, and the obvious remedy – even if nothing else can be done – is to quash the conviction. The Court of Appeal thought that there was no injustice in leaving a wrongful conviction in place. It was a very bad decision. Continue reading “The Court of Appeal was wrong to refuse to hear the appeal of a man it believed to be innocent.”

Exclusive: Guest Post by Sir Roger Scruton. How do we decide which human rights should be protected in law?

Theresa May’s Government has floated the idea that the next election might be contested on a pledge to incorporate all the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, while leaving the European Convention and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. There are plenty of arguments against such a course – not least the practical one that the midst of tricky Brexit and post-Brexit negotiations might not be the best time to take on an avoidable burden of human rights law reform – but it is in some ways a more coherent policy than the previous one which, insofar as it could be discerned at all, was to dilute some of the Convention rights in UK law while agreeing to abide by the decisions of a ECtHR which would not agree to any such dilution.

Critics have largely concentrated on the political and diplomatic pitfalls of abandoning the European Convention, and with it the Council of Europe. Would it really be right that Britain should join Belarus, Kosovo and The Holy See as the only sovereign nations outside the Council of Europe? On the other hand, do we really want to be part of a human rights club that includes Vladimir Putin’s Russia?

But leaving aside these international issues, should Theresa May’s proposal become official Conservative policy, it will mark the final acceptance by the Conservative Party that the common law alone is inadequate to protect human rights, and a recognition that “universal human rights” have a central part to play in British law.

But what are these “human rights?”

Should they all be equally protected by law?

Are some rights more universal than others, and if so how do we decide which are deserving of either protection or special status?

It is easy for lawyers to become complacent and to stop thinking. Nowhere is this tendency better demonstrated than in the law of human rights where each side of the debate tends to dig itself into deep trenches, while being more willing to engage in bad tempered name-calling than in constructive debate.

Barristerblogger is therefore proud to publish this exclusive guest post by the country’s leading conservative philosopher and thinker, Professor and Bencher of the Inner Temple, Sir Roger Scruton.

The European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights are courts whose decisions are made by judges trained in jurisdictions with distinct traditions of legal reasoning, many from former communist states in which law, as an independent source of authority, was deliberately extinguished. These judges cannot be removed from office by any procedure that a citizen could initiate, and their judgments override the legislative and judicial decisions of sovereign countries under their sway. This opens an avenue for transnational elites to impose their will on people in defiance of local customs and national sovereignty. Continue reading “Exclusive: Guest Post by Sir Roger Scruton. How do we decide which human rights should be protected in law?”

What Sir Ivan Rogers did next: he was called to the criminal bar

 

January 5th 2020

Sir Ivan Rogers left the Foreign Office three years ago. Fortunately, his skills have come in very useful in his new career at the criminal bar. …

*** *** ***

Ah good morning Mr Bruiser, very good to meet you.

Fuck that, name’s Duncan. Are you my brief?

Yes indeed. Let’s see if we can find a free interview room for a chat.

Why do we need to chat? Haven’t you read the papers?

I have, Mr Duncan-Bruiser, sorry, I mean Duncan, but there’s one or two things which it would be very helpful to discuss with you before the trial starts. I see it’s already 10 past 10 and we have to be ready to start at 10.30. The interview rooms are all full up I’m afraid. Never mind, if you squeeze in there and keep your voice down, then I can sit on this little table here. Excellent. Cosy even. Continue reading “What Sir Ivan Rogers did next: he was called to the criminal bar”

Prison reform cannot succeed unless we reduce the number of prisoners

Despite last week’s riots in Birmingham Prison, I know that prison works.

I suspect that’s not a popular view amongst readers of this blog. Over the years I’ve tended to write rather sceptically about the value of long sentences, and – all things being equal – I’ve tried to advocate a generally non-punitive approach to sentencing, and if you’re reading this now I’d guess that you’re more likely to be comfortable with a liberal rather than a hard-as-nails penal policy. I don’t like to generalise, but my idea of most of my readers is that you probably think that prison is at best a necessary evil.

But in some cases prison really does work.

I am not mainly thinking about the sort of dangerous people who have to be locked up because if they weren’t they would kill you.

I am thinking about people like my client from a year or two ago – I’ll call him Danny, although that’s not his real name. Continue reading “Prison reform cannot succeed unless we reduce the number of prisoners”

No, Louise Mensch, Thomas Mair’s judge did not act immorally: No, Secret Barrister, she’s not motivated by malice

I never thought it would happen that Louise Mensch would have occasion to defend my honour, but so it has turned out.

I hadn’t paid her much attention until the last few days. On the whole I rather liked the little I knew, particularly the fact that she had stood up for Professor Tim Hunt after he was infamously accused of sexism in a talk he gave in Korea. Her main opponent in that spat was Connie St Louis, the controversial Director of the MA in Science Journalism at City University, and by relying on facts and evidence Ms Mensch won the argument and rescued Tim Hunt’s reputation from being unfairly traduced by Ms St Louis and her supporters.

Last week I wrote a short blog-post about the trial of Thomas Mair, the man who murdered Jo Cox. It was nothing very special. I noted a few aspects of the trial which struck me as odd: the fact that a statement from the MP Stephen Kinnock had been read to the jury pre-conviction, even though its contents appeared to have nothing to do with establishing Mair’s guilt; and the fact that psychiatric evidence had not featured as part of Mair’s defence. The piece was written before sentence was passed – in truth most of it was written before the jury returned its verdict, so much of a foregone conclusion did Mr Mair’s guilt seem to be. I also suggested that it was likely that the judge would ask for some psychiatric evidence before passing sentence. In fact, as we now know, he passed sentence – life imprisonment with a whole life term – almost immediately, and without making any reference to any mental health issues. Continue reading “No, Louise Mensch, Thomas Mair’s judge did not act immorally: No, Secret Barrister, she’s not motivated by malice”