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.”
Good morning Sir, how can I help you?
Shut up dickhead. You’re not a journalist. You don’t get to ask me questions.
Very good sir. By all means have a look around. We’re open till 5.30.
What a loser. Don’t you have anything better to do than sit around in this scummy shop all day? I’m just in from the States, where I spend a lot of time.
How nice. I hear it’s been unusually cold over there recently. Continue reading “Breitbart London editor Raheem Kassam goes shopping”
There is a well-rehearsed school of legal blogging that goes down well with Barristerblogger’s many barrister, solicitor and law student readers. The way it works is this: find a journalist or politician who has said something stupid, as long as it’s vaguely related to the law it doesn’t matter too much what. Point out your victim’s ignorance of the law. Mock them and tease them for a thousand words, and Hey Presto, you have a blog that will be read and enjoyed by thousands.
It is a reliable formula and when I read Fraser Nelson’s piece for the Daily Telegraph about his court-room defeat on a charge of using a mobile phone while driving it seemed to me that here was just such an opportunity to brighten up the dead days between Christmas and the New Year. He is a shrewd and likeable journalist but his piece contains its share of legal nonsense, and he would be a good target for a “Journalist doesn’t know any law” post. Apart from anything else it would be a darned sight easier to write than the more serious business of a reply to Noel Malcolm’s short but brilliant attack on the European Convention on Human Rights.
Continue reading “The law on using a mobile phone while driving is an out of date and incomprehensible mess”
Another day brings another terrifying near miscarriage of justice.
Liam Allan, a 22 year old criminology student, was yesterday cleared at Croydon Crown Court of a string of rapes against a woman who claimed that she “did not enjoy sex.” Mr Allan had always maintained that she had consented, and that her complaint was malicious.
The case collapsed after three days when analysis of the complainant’s mobile phone was finally revealed to the persistent prosecution barrister, former Tory MP (and now incidentally the renowned legal blogger) Jerry Hayes. It showed that amongst the 50,000 or so messages sent by the complainant (or to use the official term approved by the College of Policing, “the victim”) were messages to Mr Allan pestering him for sex, and fantasising about “rough sex and being raped.” Mr Hayes, a member of the independent bar rather than an employee of the Crown Prosecution Service,
saw immediately that the messages destroyed the prosecution case, and invited the judge to find Mr Allan Not Guilty. The judge did so, and has called for an inquiry into why the messages were not disclosed earlier. Continue reading “Liam Allan’s case shows why our criminal justice system is becoming a matter of national shame”
I don’t know whether Rolf Harris is in fact a serial sex offender and last week’s judgment by the Court of Appeal leaves the matter in a thoroughly unsatisfactory state.
Before looking at the judgment in detail let’s put a few misconceptions to bed.
First of all, it gives no support to those who suggest that Rolf Harris is the victim of some sort of police or CPS conspiracy. It would be quite extraordinary if there had been and there is no evidence of it. It is true that there was a failure in the disclosure process. Some very old, and as it turned out rather significant, convictions of an important witness were not disclosed at the trial. They were not disclosed because the police had not found them. That does not suggest a conspiracy, it suggests at most a lack of diligence in seeking out old records. Faults in disclosure are endemic in our creaking justice system. Even today, when criminal records are fully computerised mistakes in criminal records are far from unusual. The relevant records dated from the 1960s, long before computerisation, and were found by the police on microfiche after the trial and before the appeal. It is hardly likely that they would have done so had they been part of a conspiracy to suppress the truth.
There are other criticisms of the police which appear in the judgment, or are at least suggested by it; in particular a certain lack of enthusiasm in looking for exculpatory evidence, but there is certainly nothing to suggest a wilful attempt to stitch up an innocent man. That is not to excuse the police of all blame: a lack of diligence in a case as serious as this is a worrying matter, but it is a great deal less worrying than evidence of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Secondly, the judgment gives no support to some of the unpleasant and unfair comment that has circulated about the original prosecution counsel Sasha Wass QC. There is no criticism of her whatever in the judgment, and no reason to think that she did anything other than a proper and professional job in prosecuting Mr Harris.
Thirdly, anyone searching the internet for information about the case may have come across the information that one of Harris’s jurors was a member of the Metropolitan Police. That is true, but it is not something that featured in the appeal. Opinions differ on whether police officers (or for that matter lawyers and judges) should be able to sit on juries, but the law is clear: they are unless they have some close connection with the investigation. (For what it is worth I have changed my mind on this issue after representing a man at a trial at which the serving police officer (whom I had originally and unsuccessfully asked the judge to exclude) turned out to be the only member of the jury with the wit to notice that the foreman, confused by the judge’s complicated “route to a verdict” direction, had accidentally returned a guilty verdict when they had in fact meant it to be not guilty).
The 12 charges of indecent assault against Mr Harris were based on the evidence of 4 different women. Evidence was also given of alleged criminal behaviour towards a further 5 women or girls which, because it took place abroad, could not form the basis of any charges in this country. The evidence of the 5 “extra-territorial” women was only summarised in the judgment and we have no way of knowing for sure whether the jury believed all or any of them, although given their unanimous verdicts of guilty of every count on the indictment it seems very likely that they were inclined to disbelieve anything Mr Harris said. Continue reading “Rolf Harris should have been given a retrial”
Sometimes Barristerblogger rushes to post a blog, often over the weekend, and often about a subject which he only half understands. Sometimes it hits the right target, sometimes it misses spectacularly. That’s the risk with a blog. Generally speaking I will leave the post up unaltered, leaving it to the commenters to eviscerate it if necessary. Just occasionally I am left with serious regrets that a well-intentioned post may have serious consequences for innocent people, and that is the case with my last post, which I could not resist titling The legalised lynching of Lillith the lynx.
When it was first posted I was quite happy with it, the only immediate regret being that I couldn’t somehow work a Welsh word beginning with “ll” into the title. Continue reading “The deaths of the Aberystwyth lynxes: a reappraisal and an apology”
The heavily “redacted” Operation Conifer Report into Sir Edward Heath consists of 109 pages of self-justification and virtually no evidence of any kind. It is a document that is as empty as it is verbose. Its central conclusion, that were he still alive he would be interviewed under caution, tells us almost nothing.
It fails to make any sort of case against the former Prime Minister, but equally fails to lift the miasma of suspicion that will probably now surround him for all time. Speaking last December Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale said he hoped that the inquiry would “contribute to the wider picture of truth seeking and reconciliation.” If that was indeed the purpose, it will certainly not succeed. Those who already believed that Heath was a villain will claim that the Report lends them support. Those who were sceptical will point to the fact that the vast majority of allegations have been judged so weak that they could be dismissed without even troubling to ask Heath about them, had he still been alive. The idea that the truth can be divined from the report, or that its publication will do anything to reconcile anybody to anything is risible. Continue reading “Operation Conifer Report into Sir Edward Heath: an empty exercise in self-justification”
Visitors to Long Lartin Prison, home to a number of tough cookies, has introduced a strict dress code for visitors. Relatives of Ben Geen, the nurse who was very possibly wrongly convicted on the basis of misunderstood statistical evidence, have reported visitors being turned away for wearing open-toed sandals.
In fact, the Category A establishment bans any footwear which is not “enclosed at the heel and toe.” It turns out that the prison, which houses some of Britain’s worst murderers, enforces a sartorial code for visitors, updated at the end of last month, which makes dressing for the Royal Enclosure at Ascot seem straightforward by comparison.
Indeed, Long Lartin and the Royal Enclosure share a number of similarities, although the Ascot rules have little to say about shoes, except that gentlemen’s shoes must be black. Unlike Long Lartin, Ascot imposes no specific ban on “slippers” possibly because racegoers, unlike prison visitors, simply aren’t tempted to wear them.