I don’t stand with Trudi Warner

On Thursday retired social worker Trudi Warner appeared at the a High court hearing to determine whether the Solicitor General could prosecute her for contempt of court. Her alleged contempt was to hold up a sign outside Inner London Crown Court.

The sign read:

Jurors you have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to your conscience.”

Her protest troubled Judge Silas Reid who was at the time trying a case involving climate protestors from Insulate Britain. They had blocked a road in a demonstration. Judge Reid had withdrawn various defences from the jury, and in particular refused to allow them to argue that their actions were justified by the threat of climate change. Continue reading “I don’t stand with Trudi Warner”

The Post Office “exonerations” Bill must also quash the convictions of unsuccessful appellants

Last week the government published the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill. It receives its second reading in the House of Commons today.

Clause 1 (1) provides:

Every conviction to which this Act applies is quashed on the coming into force of this Act.”

The Bill will quash the convictions of all Sub-Postmasters and Postmistresses (“SPMs”) who were prosecuted by either the Post Office or the Crown Prosecution Service, whether they pleaded guilty, or were found guilty of a “relevant offence” (that is theft, fraud, false accounting or similar offences of dishonesty) against the Post Office between September 1996 and December 31 2018. Any who were instead formally cautioned will have their cautions expunged.

There will be no need for any of them to show that Horizon evidence was essential, or even relevant, to their convictions as long as they were working in a Post Office where Horizon was in use, and that the offences were allegedly committed while they were working “in connection with” or “for the purpose of” Post Office business. So long as these minimal conditions are fulfilled their convictions will be quashed.

The Bill does not apply where the prosecution was undertaken by an agency other than the Post Office or the CPS. This seems odd and unfair, because some prosecutions were carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions. Just as the CPS used Horizon and Post Office evidence, so did the Department for Work and Pensions; and it did not miraculously become reliable just because it was being used by the DWP.

Nevertheless, for the most part it is a good and necessary Bill. No doubt some guilty people will be cleared along with the innocent. Post Office employees convicted of stealing from the mail, or stealing from a till on the basis of CCTV evidence, could find themselves declared innocent even if their convictions had nothing to do with Horizon. So be it. Some wrongful acquittals are a small price to pay to help to rectify the most widespread miscarriage of justice scandal of modern times. Continue reading “The Post Office “exonerations” Bill must also quash the convictions of unsuccessful appellants”

Calocane: horrific though his crimes were, the CPS and the judge made the right decisions

Many family members of those killed by Valdo Calocane are extremely angry.

The reasons are:

1. They cannot understand how it was that a paranoid schizophrenic was not compulsorily detained in a psychiatric hospital, leaving him free to plan, prepare and carry out the killings.

2. They think it was entirely wrong that Calocane’s plea to manslaughter was accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service. In their eyes this was premeditated murder, and it should have been prosecuted as such. Their anger is compounded because at least some of them believe they were not properly consulted over the acceptance of the pleas.

3. They want the Attorney General to use her powers to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal, which has the power to quash the hospital order and impose the life sentence that they believe the case requires. Continue reading “Calocane: horrific though his crimes were, the CPS and the judge made the right decisions”

Judges can’t just make up the law: the Linford decree won’t last long

Wild rocky coves. Crashing surf. Drunken public schoolboys. There is nothing quite like Cornwall in August.

And where better to base yourself than a place the drunken Etonians largely avoid: the pretty city of Truro, with its cathedral, the beautiful estuary of the River Fal, and on the site of the ruined Norman castle, its RIBA award-winning Crown Court? Continue reading “Judges can’t just make up the law: the Linford decree won’t last long”

Why I do not support the barristers who are refusing to prosecute eco-activists

A group of 120 “top lawyers” have signed a “declaration of conscience stating they will not prosecute “peaceful climate change protestors” and will “withhold [their] services in respect of supporting new fossil fuel projects.”

Predictably the tax specialist and founder of the “Good Law Project” Jolyon Maugham KC is amongst the signatories, although the practical effect of his conscientious objection is limited. I’m pretty sure he has never prosecuted a criminal case in his entire career, and it would be remarkable if the CPS now decided to instruct him to prosecute a climate change protestor. The same can be said for the vast majority of the signatories, who also include Tim Crosland, director of the environmental pressure group Plan B who was recently disbarred for deliberately breaching a publication embargo on a Supreme Court judgment (you can read his justification for doing so on this blog). Another is Sir Geoffrey Bindman KC, a distinguished human rights solicitor and certainly someone who knows his way around a criminal court, but who at the age of ninety is unlikely to have the appetite to complete the soul-destroying process of applying to join the list of CPS approved counsel, on the off chance that he might then be sent a brief to prosecute a climate change activist which he could then dramatically refuse to accept. Continue reading “Why I do not support the barristers who are refusing to prosecute eco-activists”

The Attorney General should not refer Carrick’s sentence to the Court of Appeal

According to a YouGov poll nearly 60% of the population believe that the “minimum sentence of 30 years and 239 days” passed on David Carrick was too lenient. Only a contrarian 1% considered it too harsh.

The Attorney General’s office is said to have received “a stream of complaints” about the leniency of the sentence, and has announced that it is “reviewing” it.

The Times published a leading article arguing that Carrick should have received a “whole life” tariff; that is, life without the possibility of parole. Former Victims Commissioner Vera Baird KC has said that were she still Solicitor General, as she once was, she would “trigger a review of this as an unduly lenient sentence.” I am not entirely sure whether she means that she would actually refer the case to the Court of Appeal or just that she would have a long hard think about doing so.

So the current Attorney General is under some pressure to refer the case to the Court of Appeal, which would then have the power to increase it if it considered it “unduly lenient.” Continue reading “The Attorney General should not refer Carrick’s sentence to the Court of Appeal”

The Court of Public Opinion will need no rules of evidence before reaching its verdict on Mason Greenwood

Whilst we will not know for some time whether Mason Greenwood will resume his career with Manchester United, it is now clear that he will not be available for selection for HMP Strangeways next season.

Mr Greenwood – by all accounts an absurdly talented young footballer – had faced charges of attempted rape, ABH and controlling and coercive behaviour. The Crown Prosecution Service announced yesterday that they were discontinuing the prosecution:

“… a combination of the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material that came to light meant there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction. In these circumstances, we are under a duty to stop the case.”

It is no criticism of the CPS to say that this hardly begins to explain its decision. They are constrained by both the law and by good sense in what they are able to reveal. Continue reading “The Court of Public Opinion will need no rules of evidence before reaching its verdict on Mason Greenwood”

Do not fund Louise Raw’s crowd-funded attempt to prosecute Jeremy Clarkson

Antifacist activist,” Morning Star contributor, author and historian Dr Louise Raw, is raising money through a Go Fund Me campaign to see what legal action can be taken against Jeremy Clarkson, The Sun, or its editor. As readers will probably know, the reason for this is Clarkson’s 16th December Sun column. Continue reading “Do not fund Louise Raw’s crowd-funded attempt to prosecute Jeremy Clarkson”

The breathtaking insouciance of the Rwanda judgment

Suella Braverman was wrong to say that yesterday’s High Court ruling “thoroughly vindicates” the policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda.

As the judges made clear – they often do in politically charged cases – their job is to say whether the Government has followed the law, not whether its decisions are sensible or humane.

The prospect of the scheme actually operating as intended remains distant, but the judgment may have brought Ms Braverman’s dream of a plane full of deportees flying to Rwanda just a little closer. Continue reading “The breathtaking insouciance of the Rwanda judgment”

Mr Justice Hayden was right to bring Archie’s futile treatment to an end.

Archie Battersbee’s life support was withdrawn yesterday, and his mother announced that he had died at 12.15 in the afternoon.

His parents have fought for his life with extraordinary determination. From their point of view it must have seemed as though the medical and legal establishments have unreasonably closed ranks to deprive their son of his last, incredibly slim, chance of life.

I think that view is wrong, but the questions raised by the case are agonisingly difficult.

Archie’s mother and her MP have suggested that there should be changes in the law surrounding end of life decisions for children, although exactly what changes she wants are unclear.

At present the law is clear enough to be stated in a single sentence and it is hard to imagine that anyone could sensibly disagree with it: what is best for this child? Continue reading “Mr Justice Hayden was right to bring Archie’s futile treatment to an end.”