Law Review:#Twitterjoketrial – Lawyers advertising on TV – Coulson’s imminent departure – Woman jailed for falsely retracting rape claim is freed

Twitter joke trial: Paul Chambers to take appeal to high court

Guardian: Paul Chambers to appeal to high court over conviction for joke Twitter message about Robin Hood airport

This is a brave decision on the part of Paul Chambers. Lawyer,  David Allen Green (aka author of the Jack of kent blog) tweeted to say that the lawyers are doing this work at well below their usual rates.  If the team wins the case – the ‘other side’ will pay.  In this case – the ‘other side’ will be the government…or the tax payer.  It is, however, a very important case for all who use the internet to communicate whether through twitter, Facebook or blogs et al.  The Jack of Kent blog has the most comprehensive coverage of the background to s.127 and the proceedings so far.  Ben Emmerson QC, a heavyweight human rights lawyer, joins the team.

Author of Legal Futures, Neil Rose, is on a roll with some excellent articles recently in The Guardian and on his blog.  Today… this…

UK lawyers start to take TV advertising seriously

Guardian: Law firms are trying to build brand identity because there is business worth £15bn out there – and possibly more

Is this the future of lawyer advertising on our televisions? “If you and your spouse hate each other like poison and want to get out of the hellhole you call a marriage, you’ve come to the right place,” begins the advert from Steve Miller of DivorceEZ, a Florida law firm, concluding 30 seconds later: “You’re on your way to getting rid of that vermin you call a spouse.”

Right Solicitor?

Recently, I came across Right Solicitor. I liked their style and approach – offering potential clients the opportunity to ask a solicitor a question and get a speedy response.  In fact, I persuaded them to sponsor – for a modest fee – my free student materials on my online magazine Insite Law. I would have been more than happy to write about their service in any event – but I am quite happy to be open that they did help defray the costs of the free student materials on Insite as other sponsors do…

Briefly: Consumers simply submit a question at www.rightsolicitor.co.uk and will receive an email response within 60 minutes. Right solicitor panel Solicitors also agree to offer a free 15 minute follow-up consultation with no commitment to use the solicitor.

A government backed report, “Developing Capable Citizens”  – highlighted that “One-third of the population has experienced a civil justice problem, but many do nothing about it – often because they think, wrongly, that there is nothing they can do or that there is no local legal advice provider who might help… This extraordinary lack of understanding is a major reason why around one million civil justice problems go unresolved every year. This is legal exclusion on a massive scale.”

Paul Careless, CEO at RightSolicitor, commented “Consumer confusion reigns in UK legal services. The time is right for a consumer focussed legal service to allow people simple, friendly and timely access to the legal profession, through a brand they can trust; allowing customers to ‘try before they buy’. This is what RightSolicitor intends to achieve”

Coulson’s imminent departure is just the beginning

by Tom Watson: Andy Coulson will resign as Downing Street communications director within the next few weeks. When the moment comes, his powerful but embarrassed friends will breathe a sigh of relief. They want it to be the end of the phone hacking scandal. It is just the beginning.For, as any investigative journalist will tell you, it’s always the cover up that sinks you. Senior executives have been clinging onto the line that “Clive Goodman was a rogue reporter” like it was a life belt on the Titanic. The unanswered questions are pouring in.

There is a police investigation and at least three court cases. There are two Parliamentary enquiries on top of a damning report by the media select committee. There are whistleblowers. Insiders are breaking ranks, beginning to talk. Shareholders are asking questions. Coulson may be on his way, but the story won’t go away, despite hardly being reported in some of the best-selling newspapers.

Woman jailed for falsely retracting rape claim is freed

Guardian: Lord chief justice says there is important distinction between false allegation of rape and false retraction of rape allegation

A mother jailed for falsely retracting allegations that she had been raped six times by her husband was freed today on appeal.

There was an outcry earlier this month when the 28-year-old was sent to jail for eight months for perverting the course of justice after she decided to withdraw the rape allegations – not, she said, because they were false, but because her estranged husband and his sister had “‘emotionally blackmailed” her into doing so.

Ordering her immediate release today at the royal courts of justice, the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, said the judiciary had a duty of “compassion for a woman who has already been victimised”. Quashing her sentence, he instead gave her a community sentence and a supervision order for two years.

Seems to me to be a good bit of *judging* here…..

5 thoughts on “Law Review:#Twitterjoketrial – Lawyers advertising on TV – Coulson’s imminent departure – Woman jailed for falsely retracting rape claim is freed

  1. It is brave of Paul. I don’t think that there’s much more the law can do to make things worse apart from increasing the financial penalty (I can’t imagine a prison sentence under any circumstance) Provided those of us who care make a donation it ought to eliminate at least the financial cost of the appeal. Of course there’s a much greater personal toll, which can’t be measured financially.

    If there’s any justice he’ll win this one, but it’s not always necessary to win cases in order to effect a change. Quite a few changes in law come about because of the obvious iniquity of past judgements – the death penalty for murder is one obvious one. It might also be the CPS wil lnot want a lot of controversial cases – we hardly have a robust test in law of what menacing actually means.

    I will be interested to see if the Gareth Compton case is pursued by the CPS. I assume they will have to make that decision before this appear is heard. If the CPS were to start bring a whole raft of these cases, then the politicians would start taking notice (at the moment, they seem to be singularly quiet – perhaps waiting for due process, or maybe htey don’t think its important).

  2. … Steve, is the real issue what Mr Chambers intended? Although the wording of the section does not appear to require mens rea, the House of Lords held in DPP v Collins that the defendant had to have intended his words to be menacing.

  3. My thoughts and encouragement are with Paul Chambers and his legal team. While this is an avoidable circumstance, the law needs to make a determination between the chasm of mindless humour discovered nearly a week later and terrorist intent where signalled with clarity.

  4. So much has been said about the twitter joke trial and covered in so many interesting ways, but to my mind there are three things that stand out about the judgment which indicate to me, at least, that contemporary law is lagging behind in the world in which we live (which I suppose may be viewed as ironic, given that the judge believes he is very much in tune with our world):

    The first really just relates to semantics, as many have observed. Lexicon and its context creates a sophisticated combination which has to be understood not only in the time in which it is written but also in light of the operating culture in which it seeks to make itself known. The judgment doesn’t seem to take any of this into account, save for the fact that terrorism is a current topic. But I would argue that in itself is not enough of a threshold to take a view such as the one the judge decided to take. It is only a fraction of the semantic story.

    This brings me to the second point. Users of twitter have by and large adopted an informal and relaxed style of communication. Those who tweet in earnest are usually spambots or salesmen. The rest of us observe certain customs, customs one can only be familiar with if one uses social media in general or more specifically, twitter. It occurs to me that the judge is probably not a social media user. If he were, I suspect his judgment would have been quite different. Tweets are also fleeting sentiments by definition: earnest tweeters aside, who may re-iterate similar sentiments daily to get their message across, most twitter users are simply scribes of fugitive emotion; tweeted one minute, gone the next. As the tweet stream is in constant movement, thoughts and feelings get washed away in a matter of moments, as we add more thoughts along with the many other users who do the same. I would modestly suggest then, that the judge should have taken into account the unique nature of the offending tweet, as combined with Mr Chambers’ good character and obvious non-affiliation to terrorist organisations. There should have been a closer inspection of the overall picture in which the comment was made as well as the potential message a conviction would send out.

    The third and final point then relates to judicial responsibility. In this case, to my mind, the judge had a responsibility to look at the bigger picture, not least of all because the case was of public interest and therefore in the spotlight. By convicting a man of a crime that he did not intend to commit (regardless of the wonky reasoning in the judgment that says otherwise) this judge has failed to see the importance of containing political tension. Terrorism can only be successful if we allow it to pervade society and to motivate our thinking in a way that jeopardises our freedom. This judge has allowed that to happen. This man clearly did not intend to blow up an airport any more than he intended others to do so, on his behalf. It’s great that the airport staff were cautious, but once investigated, the matter should have been laid to rest. This was a great opportunity for our judiciary to send out an extremely important political message: we take terrorism seriously, but we will not allow it to dictate the terms upon which we value our freedoms.
    In essence, this judgment is a victory for extremists everywhere.

    Let’s hope that we don’t make a habit (pun intended) of letting fear win over reason.

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