“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”
Essex Court Chambers, genocide and the allure of Chinese money
Lawyers, and perhaps especially barristers like to speak of the high nature of their calling. We defend human rights. We give a voice to the voiceless. We fearlessly ignore all personal considerations and strive only to uphold the rule of law. We are independent and cannot be bought or bullied. “Do right, fear no-one,” as the Criminal Bar Association used to say quite often. Fine words indeed.
At the Commercial Bar – that rarified corner of my profession where chambers, and even some individuals earn millions from international litigation and arbitration – the principle seems to have been watered down to “do nothing to upset China.” Continue reading “Essex Court Chambers, genocide and the allure of Chinese money”
The prerogative of procrastination: what has happened to the Royal Commission on criminal justice?
A P Herbert once said “a Government department appointing a royal commission is like a dog burying a bone – except that a dog does eventually return to the bone”.
He was partly right of course, and many Royal Commissions have been used as a convenient means of burying subjects too difficult for governments to handle. Conveniently, they always take years to report, so they can be a useful way of transferring difficult problems to a future government. Often their recommendations have been ignored and in some cases Commissions have even been wound up before they have had a chance to produce any report at all.
However, Royal Commissions on criminal justice matters have tended to be rather more productive, and several have been instrumental in producing real and lasting change.
The Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868, which abolished public executions, was introduced following recommendations in the 1864 – 66 Royal Commission on capital punishment.
In more recent times, the 1978 – 81 Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure led both to the establishment of the Crown Prosecution Service and to the passing of the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act, two reforms of huge significance.
The 1991 Royal Commission on Criminal Justice made a number of recommendations that were not followed, but its important proposal for the establishment of a Criminal Cases Review Commission was accepted. That too was an important legacy, despite the CCRC’s recent troubles.
Continue reading “The prerogative of procrastination: what has happened to the Royal Commission on criminal justice?”
Piers Corbyn may be a crank but his treatment should worry us all
A “whiteout” is meteorological condition in which snow falling from the sky and snow whipped up from the ground is whirled by a gale into a disorientating blanket of whiteness in which there are no visual bearings and it is all but impossible to navigate. It is an apt metaphor for the blizzard of coronavirus regulations which have cascaded out of Whitehall (and of course Cardiff and Holyrood too) since March. A search of the www.legislation.gov.uk website reveals a mind-boggling 133 (albeit each Welsh regulation is counted twice in English and Welsh versions) separate pieces of UK legislation, nearly all of them statutory instruments. Thus we have such delights as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (Amendment No. 7) Regulations, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford) Regulations 2020 and so on. And on and on. It is enormously difficult to find ones bearings amidst all these constantly changing rules and regulations. As David Allen Green put it on August 14th:
“There is not a lawyer or police officer in the land who any longer knows what is legal and not legal under coronavirus regulations. An absolute mess of a legal regime.”
Since August 14th matters have only got worse.
It is not often that I have much sympathy with Jeremy Corbyn’s weather-forecaster brother Piers (or to give him his own rather baffling description “LongRange WorldLeading weather+climate forecaster BIEuUsa. SolarLunar Method NotCO2! AmericanThinker Climate Predictor2010. Bro #JC4PM”), or with any of the anti-vaxx, Qanon, and 5G conspiracists who participated in a rally against masks and coronavirus restrictions in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 29th August. As well as Mr Corbyn, they included the antisemitic conspiracy theorist David Icke and a small group who deployed a flag remarkably similar if not identical to that of the British Union of Fascists. These are not easy people to like, although no doubt there were some more reasonable folk amongst them as well.
Nevertheless the £10,000 Fixed Penalty Notice issued to Piers Corbyn as someone “involved in” the demonstration is disturbing. Mr Corbyn’s “FPN” requires him – strictly speaking one could argue it “invites him” but it is an invitation backed by a threat – to pay £10,000 for breaching Regulation 5B of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020, as amended. Continue reading “Piers Corbyn may be a crank but his treatment should worry us all”
There is no prospect of bringing a private prosecution against Dominic Cummings.
When private prosecutions are brought for political purposes they very rarely end well. In fact, I cannot think of a single example which has done so.
Readers will remember the fate of Marcus Ball who amidst great fanfare launched a private prosecution against Boris Johnson over the Vote Leave campaign bus slogan. Boris Johnson was accused of misfeasance in public office. The case ended in the Administrative Court on 3rd July 2019 when Lady Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Supperstone ruled that he had failed to reveal any criminal conduct by Mr Johnson. Mr Ball’s prosecution, they strongly implied, was “vexatious.” Continue reading “There is no prospect of bringing a private prosecution against Dominic Cummings.”
The Colston statue destroyers have no defence in law but they will never be convicted
What will happen to the demonstrators who threw the Colston statue into Bristol Harbour?
The Home Secretary has described the demonstrators’ behaviour as “absolutely disgraceful.” Clearly she hopes that they will be prosecuted and punished.
The law is on her side.
S.1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 provides:
“A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offence.”
It is impossible to know the exact value of the statue, or the cost of repairing it (it has been sensibly suggested that it might be recovered from the harbour and re-erected in a museum), but it is very unlikely to have been less than £5,000. Anyone charged with damaging it would therefore have the right to elect trial by jury in the Crown Court.
Damaging a listed building
It was a Grade II listed building. According to Heritage England it is, or was:
“A handsome statue, erected in the late C19 to commemorate a late C17 figure; the resulting contrast of styles is handled with confidence. The statue is of particular historical interest, the subject being Edward Colston, Bristol’s most famous philanthropist, now also noted for his involvement in the slave trade. Group value with other Bristol memorials: a statue of Edmund Burke, the Cenotaph, and a drinking fountain commemorating the Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition of 1893.”
The use of euphemism in the listing is remarkable: Continue reading “The Colston statue destroyers have no defence in law but they will never be convicted”
Even if you didn’t support Boris Johnson there is no cause to despair
Congratulations to Boris Johnson. This is his victory, and I’m afraid it is an advertisement for what a flamboyant advocate, not afraid to dissemble and to stretch the rules can sometimes achieve.
There are plenty of reasons to worry about what he has in store, but even for those of us who did not vote for him there are also reasons not to despair, and even to be cheerful.
It goes without saying that Corbyn’s defeat has saved the country from the risk of bankruptcy, Venezuela-style . Practically any alternative was preferable to that.
So far the signs are not very encouraging but there is perhaps now some chance that after its catastrophic defeat the Labour Party will come to its senses, move back towards the centre, and begin to look like a credible government in waiting, or at least that it will provide a serious opposition.
And there are two other tiny crumbs of comfort. Continue reading “Even if you didn’t support Boris Johnson there is no cause to despair”
Guest Post on Catalonia: Was the Spanish Supreme Court crushing legitimate dissent or properly upholding the law?
The decision to gaol the Catalan leaders has caused widespread outrage.
Is the outrage justified? When regional nationalist leaders openly defy the law, what is the proper response of central Government?
These are questions with which the Spanish Supreme Court has had to grapple. They may yet come to be asked in the United Kingdom.
In this thought-provoking guest post, Jaime Campaner, practising lawyer and Associate Professor in procedural and criminal law at the University of the Balearic Islands, does not provide all the answers, but he vigorously defends the Spanish Supreme Court from what he believes to be misplaced criticism.
Last Monday, after months of open-court trial which everyone could follow on internet and TV, the Spanish Supreme Court delivered their judgment on the so-called “Catalonia case”, convicting the main defendants of sedition, misuse of public funds and/or contempt of court.
The first issue to highlight is that the ruling has been written to make it understandable for every citizen who might be interested in it, bringing the judiciary closer to the people.
The second point which should be explained, mostly in the light of the massive protests against the ruling, is that the defendants were not convicted for their ideas nor for exercising the alleged right to secede from Spain. They were convicted for avoiding compliance with legality in Catalonia and impeding the enforcement of court orders. To cite just one case (the ruling runs to almost 500 pages), there were mobilizations that exceeded the constitutional limits of the exercise of the rights of assembly and demonstration and which created a coercive and intimidating environment which prevented the judicial police from transferring the detainees, in accordance with their rights, to the building where the search and seizure was to be carried out as per a court ruling. Moreover, this search and seizure was hindered for over twelve hours. Continue reading “Guest Post on Catalonia: Was the Spanish Supreme Court crushing legitimate dissent or properly upholding the law?”
The Government should be careful what it wishes for from the Supreme Court
Barristerblogger is normally risk averse when it comes to commenting on great questions of constitutional law. I have always thought it is something best left to the experts: academics like Professors Paul Craig or Mark Elliott, for example, or former Government lawyers like Carl Gardner or David Allen Green who know how these things work from the inside. However, since everyone else has been putting their two pennyworth into the Prorogation cases, including “Britain’s rudest man” David Starkey, perhaps I can throw in the contribution of a polite criminal hack.
1. The Supreme Court will be criticised whatever it does
If the Court upholds the Scottish Court of Session decision that the Prorogation of Parliament was unlawful it will be criticised for making a political decision.
If it upholds the English Divisional Court it will give a gift to Scottish Nationalists who will denounce a court made up largely of English judges for over-ruling the unanimous judgment of the highest Scottish court.
Incidentally, the decision to increase the number of judges hearing the case from 9 to 11 has increased the English majority from 5 – 4 to 7 – 4. (The “non-English” judges are Lords Reed and Hodge from Scotland, Lord Kerr who is from Northern Ireland and Lord Lloyd-Jones who is Welsh). Continue reading “The Government should be careful what it wishes for from the Supreme Court”
There are dangerously authoritarian tendencies in green politics
I am not going to criticise Greta Thurnberg but it would be wrong if the climate rebels of Extinction Rebellion and green political theorists were given a free ride because of our admiration for an undeniably impressive 16 year old.
As Extinction Rebellion was making its final preparations for its Easter campaign of civil disobedience, my brother Tom was selected as one of the Green candidates for the Euro elections that may not, but probably will, take place next month. He would make an excellent and hard-working MEP, and after waiting in Cornwall for years for the right wave to come along, a combination of indignation over climate change inaction and the Brexit debacle may now give him an opportunity to surf his way into power.
In the still improbable event that he is elected, I wish him well. As his political career takes off I will be content to be Piers to his Jeremy: an eccentric blogger brother of whom he is always slightly embarrassed. Continue reading “There are dangerously authoritarian tendencies in green politics”