Katie Hopkins set to become a barrister in 2018

An embarrassing software error on the Bar Council’s “Pupillage Gateway” online application system has led to the details of pupillage applicants accidentally being made public. The glitch was spotted at six o’clock this morning, but for 4 hours last night the personal statements of all pupillage applicants were publicly viewable.

A red-faced Bar Council spokesperson this morning apologised for the error but reassured applicants, saying

We would like to reassure applicants that we take the leaking of personal data extremely seriously. Lessons have been learned and we will ensure that this never happens again.”

Before the necessary security patch could be fitted, details of all wannabe barristers hoping to start on the Bar Professional Training Course next October were viewable by anyone using Microsoft’s 2016 “Poisson 1/4” browser. Continue reading “Katie Hopkins set to become a barrister in 2018”

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”

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”

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”

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.”

Trigger warnings are an insidious threat to academic freedom

Oxford University law students have asked to be protected from distressing material that may crop up in their studies of the criminal law. Lecturers have been told that they must issue “trigger warnings” before lecturing on subjects that may – it is claimed – lead vulnerable students into depressive episodes or even suicide. Students thus forewarned can either steel themselves to what follows, or, as some are now doing, skip the lecture altogether. The directive is primarily aimed at students studying criminal law. Continue reading “Trigger warnings are an insidious threat to academic freedom”