An unusual trial took place in Swansea last week. Forty-eight year old David Hampson was convicted of breaching a criminal behaviour order and sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment. Mr Hampson’s peculiar modus operandi is to stand in the middle of a busy Swansea street and stop the traffic. It is annoying but not terribly serious behaviour. But he has been doing it since 2014. For his first offence he was given a conditional discharge, a magisterial slap on the wrist. He immediately re-offended again, and then again, and in due course was convicted in the Crown Court of the more serious offence of public nuisance. In an attempt to stop him once and for all, he was imprisoned and made the subject of a criminal behaviour order. This meant that if he obstructed traffic again he would face a possible maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment. It made not the slightest difference. As soon as he was released he proceeded to stop the traffic again, “draping himself over a Royal Mail van with his arms outstretched and his face pressed up against the windscreen.” Continue reading “The silent man of Swansea and St Margaret of York: muteness, malice and mercilessness”
A 28 year old Norfolk man called Marcus J Ball is trying to bring a crowd-funded private prosecution against Boris Johnson. He says that Mr Johnson lied while campaigning for the Leave campaign in the Referendum. Since he was at the time an MP (and until 9th May 2016 also Mayor of London) he was the holder of a public office. Mr Ball believes that lies told in the campaign mean that he has committed the offence of “misconduct in public office,” a serious criminal offence carrying an unlimited fine and potentially life imprisonment.
David Beckham has been charged with speeding. According to his lawyer, Nick Freeman, who styles himself “Mr Loophole,” there is no dispute that he was driving a Bentley at 59 MPH on the Paddington flyover in west London, and that the relevant speed limit was 40 MPH. Beckham’s defence is the highly technical one that a Notice of Intended Prosecution (a legal requirement for a successful conviction) was served outside the 14 day period that the law requires. Continue reading “How can Mr Loophole defend David Beckham when he knows he is guilty?”
Last May the journalist and author Bob Woffinden died of mesothelioma. He will be remembered as a formidable campaigner against miscarriages of justice.
While judge after judge rejected the legal attempts of the Birmingham 6 and the Guildford 4 to obtain justice – per Lord Denning MR“appalling vista …;” per Lord Lane LCJ “the longer this case has gone on the more convinced this court has become that the verdict of the jury was correct ….” – Woffinden and other journalists such as Ludovic Kennedy and Paul Foot, (and of course lawyers like Gareth Pierce, too) doggedly chipped away, until eventually the cases were revealed for what he had believed them to be from an early stage; grotesque miscarriages of justice, brought about by a combination of systemic disclosure failures, bungling by expert witnesses, police malpractice, prejudiced jurors and judicial complacency. His 1987 book on the cases, Miscarriages of Justice, remains a classic.
In his final 2016 book, The Nicholas Cases, Woffinden turned his attention to more contemporary possible miscarriages of justice. One of these was the 2001 conviction of Jonathan King on charges of historic abuse of boys. He made a compelling case that the original trial had been unfair and produced evidence that suggested King had a strong alibi for one of the offences – he was in America at the time, as attested by several witnesses and documents discovered after the trial. Another of Woffinden’s revelations was that the main complainant in the case against King had, reportedly, after the trial, admitted lying against King for money: he had also apparently sold his story for £45,000 to one newspaper and £5,000 to another.
There was, in fact, a second trial, but that ended in King’s acquittal on all charges. Continue reading “The collapse of Jonathan King’s trial raises questions about Surrey Police that go beyond disclosure failures”
Barristerblogger had a day in Town on Wednesday; coinciding with both the Cliff Richard judgment and the Tommy Robinson appeal.
A New Attorney-General
While the Cliff Richard judgment was being delivered, a little down the corridor in the Lord Chief Justice’s court a new Attorney-General was being sworn-in before a bench full of colourfully be-robed (and in the LCJ’s case be-chained) judges in their splendidly absurd full-bottomed wigs. Down in counsels’ row the new Attorney-General too was full-bottomed. Someone in the court clerk’s usual seat even had an extraordinary black tricorn contraption which she seemed to have some difficulty balancing on her own full-bottom wig – I have since learnt that she was the Queen’s Remembrancer.
Who, though, was that nice but ordinary-looking man squeezed in at the end of the judges’ bench? Nobody seemed to know, but eventually it turned out he was David Gauke, the Lord High Chancellor of England. He had acquired a yellow and black robe from somewhere, but no wig, so amongst all the bigwigs he looked like a man in a lounge suit at a white tie dinner. He gave a short but sensible speech, leavened with the sort of bland humour that is expected on these occasions.
Pushing and shoving for the best seats
Whilst this solemn ceremony was going on, there was a great deal of polite pushing and shoving in the stalls as members of the public, Barristerblogger included, manoeuvred to grab the better seats in the house. For a time, it was standing room only and as the encomiums to the new Attorney-General continued to flow from the bench, who should slip to the front of the queue, face down in his twitter notifications, but Tommy Robinson’s greatest supporter, PR Svengali and chief fund-raiser, flown over from Canada at Tommy’s special request, none other than Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant. Continue reading “A busman’s holiday at the Tommy Robinson Appeal”
According to Tommy Robinson’s family’s “authorised spokesman,” Ezra Levant, the gaoled activist has appealed against his 13 month sentence for contempt of court.
We will have a look at what is actually likely to happen when his case gets to court in a moment, but there may be some readers who have not been following the story closely.
Why is Tommy Robinson in prison?
Since 25th May Mr Robinson, real name Steven Yaxley-Lennon, has been serving a sentence of 13 months imprisonment for contempt of court. The sentence is made up of a 3 month sentence passed for contempt of the Canterbury Crown Court in 2017, originally suspended but now activated, and a 10 month consecutive sentence imposed for a separate contempt of the Leeds Crown Court on 25th May 2018. The Judge who sent him to prison, Geoffery Marson QC, was at the time presiding over a trial involving allegations against a number of defendants. Unfortunately we do not know many more details because reporting restrictions are in place, probably to prevent jurors in another case hearing inadmissible evidence.
Reporting restrictions? What’s that about? If something is said in court surely it can be reported? Continue reading “Tommy Robinson’s appeal: will his world class legal team get him out of prison?”
One of the great virtues – as well as one of the dangers – of trial by jury is that jurors are able to to take a broader view of justice than a strict interpretation of the law always dictates. The constitutional right of any jury to blow a raspberry at what they consider to be an improper prosecution is a formidable guarantee against state oppression that justifies the occasional perverse acquittal. Older readers will recall that jurors exercised such a right in the teeth of the evidence that Clive Ponting had breached the Official Secrets Act; and – rather less defensibly – to acquit Michael Randle and Pat Pottle of helping the Soviet spy George Blake escape from Wormwood Scrubs gaol, despite the defendants having written a book explaining in considerable detail exactly how they managed it. Continue reading “Lessons from the Leighton Buzzard vigilantes”
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”
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.”
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.