Category Archives: Humour

Interviews in an Embassy

In the furore over the Julian Assange case, much has been made of a purported offer made by Mr Assange to be interviewed by the Swedish Prosecution Authority in the Ecuadorean Embassy.

This post has been picked up on by @loveandgarbage, a Scottish Lawyer, who claims that the well-known case of Smith v DPP and Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police [2011] UKSC 666 provides a sound legal basis for conducting such an interview. He summarises the case here.

As a result of this crucial case it is the right of any accused person who has breached bail conditions and is located in England to tell the prosecuting authorities where, when, and how he or she should be questioned. Given this decision it is unsurprising that supporters of Julian Assange are pointing out that he should be allowed to determine where and when he is questioned in relation to the accusations against him. After all it is an absolute right of the suspect or accused in any criminal case to control the process, fought for over many long years. I am only surprised that so many lawyers south of the border and in Sweden seem oblivious to this key legal principle.

This is, however, one of the worst examples of a Misleading Case I have ever seen.

Although it is true that factually this case is very similar to that one, the principle loveandgarbage extracts from it is closer to garbage than love.

What is overlooked here, and it really is a key part of the ratio, is that the maisonette was in West London. That was the narrow ground upon which the appeal was upheld.

As Lord Hope said:

“West London is generally understood to be a wonderful part of the world where people are of sufficient wealth that they can be trusted to answer the questions truthfully and honestly. I, like many of my brother judges, live in West London and some of my best friends are there. I am convinced that absolutely nobody who can afford to live there could be of such disreputable character that they would need to be treated like a common criminal in a police interview. It is on this narrow ground that we allow the appeal. If the Appellant had lived in, for example, Bermondsey, it would be a completely different matter and the Court would have to pay careful attention to such matters as the appellant’s income, schooling, background and demeanour before granting this right.”

In so ruling the Court made it clear that it was extending the principle established in Sturges v Bridgman (1879) LR 11 Ch D 852, which held that “what would be a nuisance in Belgrave Square would not necessarily be so in Bermondsey”, and firmly established that Londoners are to be afforded differential treatment based on their postcode.

It is not correct to describe the right as absolute. Indeed, given that the Ecuadorean Embassy is, allegedly, sovereign territory outside the United Kingdom, it is not clear whether the ratio would apply to such a case. The Court was emphatic that the interview, and the suspect had to be “in West London”. Assange, however, claims to be in the sovereign territory of Ecuador. Accordingly, there are strong grounds for arguing that he is not in West London at all, and should be interviewed like the ordinary inhabitants of Bethnal Green (DPP v Jones [2010] UKHL 123).

It is this sort of sloppy misreporting and misrepresentation of the law, coupled with an uncritical retweeting of anything that appears to support one’s case, that has bedevilled sensible discussion of this case. One hopes that from here on in things would be made clearer.

Quote of the Week

There are many places where you can find serious, informed and rigorous writing and speaking about this stupendously important case—unfortunately, the “Garrulous Law” blog is not one of those places.

I think that chap just made my week.

Get Out of Jail Free?

Hooray! I’m back.

If you’ve been reading the legal blogs recently you will have witnessed a rare and beautiful thing: a broad group of lawyers being unanimous and unequivocal on what the law is.

I intend to add to that spectacle.

Comment is Free recently let some of the more disreputable parts of the #OccupyLSX crowd post on their site. Among them were a group that call themselves “freemen of the land”. Here are some of their articles:

Yes, Defaulting on Debts is an Option

Money has been Privatised by Stealth

Welfare, education and law at the Occupy Camp

Those first two articles’ titles might indicate that the authors have a certain estrangement from reality. Number three looks unobjectionable until you discover that it is written by a chap who goes around calling himself “commonly known as dom”. A bit Pythonesque (scroll through to 1:10).

Absurd titles aside, this group believes it’s discovered a series of amusing loopholes by which you can avoid the jurisdiction of the court and prevent people from chasing you for debts. This group runs sites like Get Out of Debt Free, that offer you meretricious pseudo-legal advice on how to do exactly that. A particular gem is the idea that if you capitalise your name, you forfeit all legal rights.

I’m not going to go into a detailed rebuttal, because they’ve been done elsewhere and I’d recommend you read them if you are interested.

UKHRB: Freemen of the Dangerous Nonsense

Carl Gardner: The law is not the enemy of protest but an essential tool of impartiality

Legal Bizzle (who has to endure these people for a living): Comment is free, but woo is sacred

All I will pick up on is how elementarily stupid the concept of exempting oneself from certain laws is. The Freemen appear to believe that statute law (or for that matter, a court) has no binding effect unless you consent to it. But let’s think about this. If you can opt out, so can anyone else. “Anyone else” includes debt collectors. So, if you opt out of the legal means for pursuit of a debt, the debt collectors can opt out of the sanctions against illegal means.

In other words, if I ran a debt collection agency I could opt out of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the Theft Act 1968, the Criminal Damage Act 1971 and the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales. I could also opt out of the Law of Property Act 1925 and the Land Registration Act 2002.

Having done that bit of groundwork, I could then send some thugs round to what is commonly known as your home (I’ve opted out of the law of property so I don’t recognise your legal title to it), break into it (I’ve opted out of the CDA so it’s not a crime), take all your stuff (I’ve opted out of theft and burglary being offences), smash other stuff, then rough you up for good measure (no assault/ABH/GBH for me, I’ve opted out of the OAPA!). If I were to be taken to court or arrested, I’d just stand up and say something in latin, refuse to capitalise my name and say I don’t consent to the jurisdiction. Get out of jail free, pass Go and collect all your stuff.

If, despite all that the court gets the odd idea into its head that it might be able to exercise jurisdiction over a British subject, I will at the very least have done excellent groundwork for pleading insanity.

There is absolutely no reason why, under Freeman’s logic, this scenario wouldn’t be equally possible. Legal rights, or lack thereof, work both ways.

Footballers and WAGs

It seems an appropriately topical time to post this.

No, I’m not breaching any injunctions, super, mega, hyper, boring, interim, final or inferior.

I am, when not writing or learning about law, the President of the Inner Temple Drama Society.  For our Easter Show we are producing an updated and expanded version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury.  WS Gilbert was a member of Inner Temple, and the show will be on the week of the centenary of his death.

The show is updated and extended, incorporating music from other G&S Shows.  The story now revolves around a breach of promise of marriage by a footballer to his WAG.  Cue celebrity parodies, super-injunction gags and so on.

We have been very fortunate also to have the role of the Judge played by a retired judge, HHJ Michael Kennedy QC.

Performances are on May 24th at 7:30 and 9pm, with tickets at £8, £5 concessions.  For details contact 

The Orwell Prize

I didn’t make too much of an issue of it but I entered my blog for the Orwell Prize for Blogging earlier this year.

A few days ago the results for the longlists were announced. I have just had a look and suffice it to say I am not happy.

The concern isn’t personal. I am not bothered in the slightest that I have not got an award for my writing. My interest is wholly professional.

My blog writes about law. UK Human Rights Blog and Head of Legal have been known to do the same on occasion as well. Unlike them, I don’t write this blog out of the goodness of my heart or a general passion about the law but a calculated effort to raise my profile and rake in business. When I become a fully fledged barrister I intend to use this blog as a way of obtaining instructions from solicitors.

This then becomes deadly serious when you realise that one of the Orwell Prize judges is David Allen Green, a solicitor and partner at a prestigious law firm. The implication of the selection of their blogs over mine is obvious: Wagner and Gardner are worthy of receiving instructions and business, but I am not. This is in no way an accurate reflection of ability and experience. There is an implied assertion that my skills as a lawyer are simply not good enough to merit attention. This is a serious allegation against my professional ability and conduct.

The same cannot be said of Peat Worrier and Pink Tape because, frankly, they’re a bit rubbish compared to me.

I am taking this accusation extremely seriously and have instructed Carter-Ruck to represent me in this matter. I consider the decision to be highly defamatory. I am asking for substantial damages, but my attitude to the same will be determined by the nature of their response to the pre-action correspondence I have also sent.

UPDATE: A lot of people on Twitter are referring me to Arkell v Pressdram (unrep). So many as to suggest the Intended Defendant has orchestrated a further defamatory campaign. I have done my research: the case isn’t on Westlaw, and it’s therefore not authority for anything.

UPDATE 2: April Fools.

Sub Judex

From Reuters:

A judge sporting full robes and a wig rugby-tackled a sex offender to the floor to prevent him from fleeing the court where he was on trial, the Press Association reported on Tuesday.

The Guardian provides us with the prosecutor’s opening speech:

“The jury was just leaving when the defendant jumped up and ran across the clerk’s bench to get to the judge’s door. As he went through the door his honour Judge Marks Moore grabbed him round the throat to try to bring him down. Together they went down three steps and then Mr Reid broke free and ran down the judge’s corridor. The judge gave chase.

“Just as Mr Reid was about to open a push-handle fire door, HHJ Marks Moore rugby-tackled him around the throat and waist and brought him crashing to the ground, landing on top of him. He held him there, struggling and protesting, until the prison officers managed to catch up, secure him and return him to custody.”

The rather implausible defence given was that he thought the judge had said he could go home for the day. Perhaps sensibly, the defendant changed his plea to guilty.

“There is only one reason why a crown court judge would rugby-tackle a defendant to the ground – because he is trying to escape and the judge is the only person in any position to prevent that escape.”

I’ll take the prosecution’s word on that.

A Long List of Queens

This year’s list of Queen’s Counsel appointments has gone up on the Ministry of Justice’s website. Amusingly, there’s a rather glaring spelling error at the top of the document:

A long list of Queens?

The difficulty getting the spelling right even extends to the document title:

Rather more worryingly, they have forgotten to put my name on the list.

Hat Tip: @joshuarozenberg

Wasn’t Me Guv

Fake barrister flees court after judge’s questioning:

A man posing as a barrister fled a court in Devon when a senior judge became suspicious of him.

Judge Stephen Wildblood asked some basic legal questions which the man could not answer when he appeared before him at Plymouth Crown Court.

Judge Wildblood said he was suspicious because the man, who gave his name as David Evans, wore a barrister’s wig with a solicitor’s gown.

To think people said wigs and gowns had no use.