Anti-gypsy prejudice is as repulsive as any other racism and much more respectable

About twenty years ago I remember a much liked and respected colleague beginning a characteristically eloquent closing speech with the old rhyme:

My mother said

I never should

Play with gypsies

In the wood.

Nobody batted an eyebrow and the colleague went on to become a distinguished circuit judge.

He would never have dared to incorporate a rhyme about, let’s say Jews stealing children and drinking their blood, and to be fair to him nor would he have been inclined to do so. Belief in the blood libel, or even joking about it, at least in western Europe, is largely a thing of the past. Continue reading “Anti-gypsy prejudice is as repulsive as any other racism and much more respectable”

The danger of agreeing with Jesse Norman

When I wrote 950 words for the October edition of Standpoint about why Conservatives should support the European Convention on Human Rights I anticipated a certain amount of kerfuffle from some of the magazine’s most articulate and formidable contributors. I am astute enough to know that the mere mention of human rights law is apt to drive a few otherwise reasonable Standpoint readers and contributors to something approaching apoplexy.

At first nothing much seemed to happen. There was the odd tweet, largely from slightly touchy-feely liberal lawyers that habitually drink the milk of Human Rights in preference to the red blood of National Sovereignty. There was a single, somewhat cryptic comment, which I took to be favourable, on the Standpoint website. I steeled myself for evisceration by the terrifyingly intelligent Douglas Murray or the polite but devastating (and terrifyingly intelligent) Daniel Hannan but when none came I started to relax. Continue reading “The danger of agreeing with Jesse Norman”

Stern justice from Cwmgledd: some first impressions

When a new headmaster takes over a school there are three strategies that can work. He can be relaxed, friendly and cheerful; he can impose an iron discipline from the word go and send miscreants into detention without hesitation; or he can start by terrifying his pupils, before eventually relaxing a little once they know who is boss. Something a little similar applies to new judges.

When it comes to criminals Baron Thomas of Cwmgledd the new Lord Chief Justice obviously does not favour the relaxed and friendly approach. He is said to be “extremely clever” with a “brain like a squash ball, bouncing off all the walls,” and some say he is “testy and does not suffer fools gladly.” The distinguished artist Graham Ovenden and Neil Wilson, who was an unknown sex offender until achieving notoriety when his prosecutor called his victim “predatory”, may this week feel that it is they, rather than Lord Thomas’s brain, that have been bounced off the beautiful oak-panelled walls around the court of the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. Continue reading “Stern justice from Cwmgledd: some first impressions”

My Guide to the best legal blogs

Newspapers are dying but we live in a golden age of journalism. Writers of every political shade such as Boris Johnson, Matthew Parris, David Aaronovitch, Douglas Murray, Nick Cohen, George Monbiot and Polly Toynbee are daily turning out copy that is by turns hilarious, compassionate, persuasive, acerbic, astute, angry and exasperating. And you could probably add another twenty-five names at least to that list: journalists that you would want to read no matter what they were writing about.

Such Premier League journalists are for everyone. More specialist tastes are catered for ever more often on the large numbers of specialist blogs. Continue reading “My Guide to the best legal blogs”

The seductive appeal of aggressive advocacy: and why you should avoid it

It has been a wretched couple of weeks for radical barrister Michael Mansfield’s Took’s Chambers. Not only has the set announced that it is to disband for financial reasons but both Mr Mansfield and one of its senior members Lawrence McNulty have been in trouble with judges for the way they conduct their advocacy.

Mr Mansfield, appearing for the family of Mark Duggan who was shot by police, sparking a summer of urban riots was upbraided by Judge Cutler, a shrewd Crown Court judge brought in to sit as a temporary coroner. In fact the initiative seems to have come not from Cutler but from the jury, some of whom appear to have felt that Mr Mansfield was becoming needlessly aggressive in his cross-examination of a Police Officer.

But the relatively mild and polite judicial criticism to which Mr Mansfield was subjected was, though well publicised, insignificant compared to the obloquy heaped by the Court of Appeal on the head of his colleague Lawrence McNulty over his conduct in a 2011 terrorism trial in which he had defended one Munir Farooqi. Continue reading “The seductive appeal of aggressive advocacy: and why you should avoid it”

As usual Mr Grayling is wrong, this time on Human Rights

With the Conservative conference in full swing there is no easier way to get applause than to attack Europe. There is a powerful and coherent case to be made for withdrawal from the ghastly morass of the EU. It is a case that is made every week by intellectual heavyweights such as MEP Daniel Hannan.

Withdrawal from the EU would, of course, be extraordinarily difficult, not least because of the need to win a referendum, which would be presented as a vote of confidence in David Cameron’s “renegotiation” of EU membership terms.

It may be partly for this reason that others, such as Chris Grayling and Theresa May have switched their attention to away from the EU and wish to commit the Party to fight the next election committed to the somewhat easier option of repealing the Human Rights Act – the “Labour Human Rights Act as Mr Grayling has recently taken to calling it – and withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. Continue reading “As usual Mr Grayling is wrong, this time on Human Rights”

Sex selection: like it or not the law allows abortion on demand

The CPS has decided not to prosecute doctors apparently willing to perform abortions for the purpose of sex selection. Following an investigation instigated by the Daily Telegraph, the police presented the CPS with what appears to have been strong evidence that two separate doctors were prepared to perform an abortion on an undercover journalist simply because she said that she did not want to give birth to a girl. Continue reading “Sex selection: like it or not the law allows abortion on demand”

Pictures of London Crown Courts

 

Barristerblogger has always been rather short of pictures.

 

However our top photographer  has sent in a series of inspiring pictures of London court facilities with the suggestion that I should publish them to a wider audience.

 

Sadly I am now a rare visitor to London courts but it is interesting to see how the inspirational architecture and facilities are playing their part in keeping up the morale of a profession which might otherwise be feeling a little jaded. Continue reading “Pictures of London Crown Courts”

Veiled defendants should be allowed to give evidence

The judgement by Judge Peter Murphy that a defendant cannot give evidence while wearing a niqaab covering her face was written with crystalline clarity. He acknowledged all the difficulties of trying to balance sincerely held religious convictions with the imperatives of justice. He gave due consideration to the Bench Book, the Judicial Studies Board publication that is meant to give practical guidance to judges, and rightly concluded – in very measured and judicial terms – that it offered only anodyne and useless pieties. He analysed any number of British, European and Commonwealth cases on the subject. Nevertheless his judgement was wrong and, unless overturned by the Court of Appeal it threatens to wreak grave injustice on devout Moslem women. Continue reading “Veiled defendants should be allowed to give evidence”

The decision to prosecute Michael Le Vell

 

The acquittal of Michael Le Vell has reminded us, as though it were necessary, that not all rape suspects are guilty. But however terrible his ordeal has been, the fact that he has been acquitted certainly does not mean the CPS was wrong to bring the case to court.

There are, nevertheless legitimate questions to be asked about how decisions to prosecute cases of this sort should be taken. Continue reading “The decision to prosecute Michael Le Vell”