The Trial: Television at its best

If you haven’t started watching Channel 4’s The Trial, should you bother?

Yes you should. It is good television, legally accurate and most importantly gripping drama.

For those that didn’t watch last night, what Channel 4 has done is in some ways a homage to the 1970s Anglia TV series Crown Court, the day-time TV show that featured actors playing the part of lawyers, defendant and witnesses, and randomly selected members of the public acting as jurors. For me, Crown Court was one of many perks of being too ill for school, and many current leaders of the profession were enthused to become barristers by watching the programme. The often rather wooden acting, the slightly tacky sets and the trivial nature of most of the cases made the programme remarkably realistic.

But where Crown Court was true to the Poundland end of the legal system – where you would most likely find Barristerblogger plying his day job – The Trial is more Fortnums and Masons. The crime is murder, the set is a real (though decommissioned) court-room, and most importantly the judge and the barristers are not actors but real lawyers drawn from the top drawer of the profession. Continue reading “The Trial: Television at its best”

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”

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.”

Some footnotes to the conviction of Thomas Mair

Seldom can there have been less doubt about the outcome of a case than there was over today’s conviction of Thomas Mair for the murder of the MP Jo Cox.

The prosecution was able to rely upon numerous eye-witnesses, a compelling battery of scientific evidence, CCTV, weapons, and Mr Mair’s own words at the first hearing in the magistrates court when he shouted “death to traitors, freedom for Britain!” To cap it all, the house where he lived contained a bookshelf full of Nazi-related books, topped off by a metal Third Reich eagle.

There may be people wishing to speculate on the political ramifications of the case. I offer just 5 law-related observations. Continue reading “Some footnotes to the conviction of Thomas Mair”

Henriques Report: “Deputy Heads Must Roll.”

On Tuesday the retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques published his report into “the investigation of non recent sexual offence investigations alleged against persons of public prominence.” This was mainly – though not exclusively – related to his investigation of the Met’s handling of allegations made by a man going under the pseudonym of “Nick” and given the designation “Operation Midland.”

The terms of reference were set by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and about 90% of the report has not been disclosed. It is hardly surprising – though very much to be expected in an organisation that prides itself on its public relations as much as on its ability to catch criminals – that it should have chosen to “bury” the report on the day of the US elections.

As well as the bowdlerised report and the heavily redacted recommendations, it’s also worth reading the oddly chummy-sounding (although the two men had never previously met) covering letter which Sir Richard wrote to Sir Bernard. Its conclusion puts the best possible slant on Sir Bernard’s responsibility:

I trust that commentators will not lay the blame for the grave mistakes in Operation Midland and Operation Vincente at your door. You have been let down by Officers of high rank ….”

The Times’s Sean O’Neill tweeted this morning: “Deputy heads must roll,” and I’m afraid this commentator, if that’s what I am, does not agree with the learned judge.

deputy-headsNevertheless, there is much good sense in the report and the recommendations.
Continue reading “Henriques Report: “Deputy Heads Must Roll.””

Some rushed and barely coherent thoughts on today’s Article 50 judgment

Cases in the Administrative Court are often a bit like the Radio 4 programme You and Yours: of limited general interest. Whilst often very important for the development of the law, and for those immediately concerned, they lack the sort of immediate news value of – for the sake of argument – a rape trial involving an international footballer. Typically they will be about planning, or immigration or benefits.

This was different. It was about a question that has occasionally convulsed the nation since at least the seventeenth century: who rules Britain, Parliament or the Queen? In fact nobody contends that the Queen does so in person, but Her Government argued that the Prime Minister can do so by the use of Her prerogative. It was in fact a modern version of the Civil War, albeit conducted – in court at least – with courtesy and law reports rather than muskets and cannon balls.

No wonder the www.judiciary.gov.uk website was creaking under the strain this morning as it dealt with an unprecedented demand to download the Brexit judgment. Continue reading “Some rushed and barely coherent thoughts on today’s Article 50 judgment”

Mr Grayling is wrong about the Brexit dividend to station platforms

It is seldom a pleasure to hear the droning, humourless and untrustworthy voice of the Transport Minister Chris Grayling, and never less so than when he interrupts preparations for Sunday lunch.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get to the off button quite in time, so I caught Mr Grayling being interviewed by Mark Mardell on The World This Weekend. Yesterday was of course the day when Theresa May announced her Great Repeal Bill, and this was the subject of Mr Grayling’s interview. Before I pulled the plug on him I heard this exchange:

Q: I imagine there are lots of laws in your area of transport both in aviation & road transport that are affected by EU legislation. Any you want to get rid of?

A: Well let’s get back to some practical examples, there are EU laws around the running of railways about the height of platforms, for example. Our rail system, apart from HS1, is not in any way linked to the continental rail network, so there is actually no reason for us to have European platform heights, so that’s one area of regulation that could certainly change.

For some reason this immediately brought to mind lines from the Wilfred Owen poem “Futility,” written about a very different subject matter:

Was it for this the clay grew tall?

O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break earth’s sleep at all?”

All the sound and fury of the referendum battle, all the political blood that has been spilt, all the poisonous, dishonest and occasionally racist rhetoric: what has it achieved?

It has given us back the freedom to set our own platform heights. Continue reading “Mr Grayling is wrong about the Brexit dividend to station platforms”

Mainly for Archers fans: Will the jury be allowed to hear from Jess?

I should apologise to Barristerblogger readers who are not Archers fans. I was one of you once but the drama of Helen Titchener’s attempted murder trial has dragged me in.

The question of the moment is this: will Jess’s evidence be admitted?

If you haven’t clicked away from this page already you almost certainly know the plot. Helen is on trial for attempting to murder her husband, Rob. There is no dispute that she stabbed him. The issue is whether she acted in self-defence. It is for the prosecution to prove that she did not.

Neither barrister is looking like an early candidate for silk at the moment.

Helen’s brief, Anna Tregorran, made a mess of the crucial cross-examination of Rob, when she allowed it to degenerate into an undignified shouting match, before the loathsome complainant managed to sob out the the last few heart-rending seconds of his evidence; whilst prosecution counsel, Mr Bywater, despite a confident start has foundered badly in his cross-examination of Helen. His tone has fluctuated between sneery (sometimes a perfectly proper tone for a prosecutor), hectoring and downright aggressive. It hit an absolute nadir when he appeared to suggest that because she had conceived Henry by IVF, her desperation to conceive another child meant she would have had an insatiable sexual appetite thereafter. Continue reading “Mainly for Archers fans: Will the jury be allowed to hear from Jess?”

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.”