The madness of the lockdown trials

I think we can now admit that Covid sent us all a little loopy. Matt Hancock certainly seems it, handing over more than 100,000 highly sensitive texts to a hostile journalist. Today’s revelations show Hancock telling colleagues ‘we are going to have to get heavy with the police’. While everyone gets excited about the lockdown files, there are still plenty of lockdown trials going before the courts. Which, even if a gratuitous breach, seems a little pointless now. Rules are being enforced that are no longer in place. Rules that, the Daily Telegraph reports, weren’t based purely on ‘the science’. Mr Hylton’s is a sad tale of what happens when

Who governs Britain? Not ministers, it seems

Who governs Britain? It’s a dangerous question, as Ted Heath learned half a century ago. But while he was concerned with untrammelled unions, ministers today must contend with another unelected cadre calling the shots. The difference is that now, like in so many horror movies, the calls are coming from inside the house.  The Telegraph reports that the Ministry of Justice has appointed a ‘transgender employee support officer’. That in itself is hardly surprising. What does stand out is the reason for the appointment. According to an email seen by the Telegraph, prison service director general Phil Copple wrote to staff last Friday to say: Following the decision last year for

In praise of Harry Miller’s fight for free speech

Almost three years ago, I spoke on the phone to a man called Harry Miller. A Lincolnshire businessman, he’d just been interviewed by the police because someone had complained about things he’d written, on Twitter, about sex and gender and transgenderism. He was angry, and rightly so. After all, he’d broken no law, and even the police force involved confirmed that. Instead, he was contacted and a record was made of his conduct under rules around ‘non-crime hate incidents’ (NCHIs). These were introduced after the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence, with the intention of giving the police a means of tracking behaviour that, while not crossing the threshold of a

PMQs: Johnson’s inappropriate jab joke

Sir Keir Starmer had a powerful line of attack at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. He led on the government’s own review of the treatment of rape and sexual violence, which recommended sweeping reforms to the way cases are handled so that the current low rate of charges and convictions can be reversed. Prosecutions have fallen by nearly 60 per cent in four years — to just 2,102 — while convictions have also experienced a similar decline. Today, Starmer pointed out that 98.4 per cent of reported rapes don’t lead to a charge. He repeatedly pressed Johnson on what the government was actually doing beyond apologising for the current situation. It undid

Burnham’s misjudged attack on the judiciary

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andrew Burnham, has publicly criticised a judge, calling his decision to end a criminal trial on legal grounds a ‘disgrace’. The judge is Mr Justice William Davis, a highly respected ‘red judge’ — that is the top level of judge we have who do trials. They are the best we have. There are 105 in our country. This is an attack on the judiciary and the independence of judges. But what you think of people who do such things reveals much about your politics. The charitable argument is that Mr Burnham is confused. That is no insult, the legal system is confusing — I am

The dividing wall between law and politics is under attack

All my legal life I have watched with sadness those who are ever groping, Gollum-like, unable to resist the idea that our courts can somehow give them the political victory which the elections deny them. During the fallout from the Brexit vote, I hoped this insanity had reached its peak. I was wrong. We are only four months into the year and already members of the House of Lords have advocated that our courts have a say in determining our foreign policy, while the House of Commons Privileges Committee has suggested our courts should enforce the appearance of witnesses before parliament — and that they should effectively be a court (which they

Lady Dorrian: High Court Ruling released

This is an application to vary an order dated 10 March 2020 made by the court at common law and under section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981: “preventing the publication of the names and identity, and any information likely to disclose the identity, of the complainers in the case of HMA v Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond” [2] Section 11 provides that where a court having power to do so, allows a name or other matter to be withheld from the public in proceedings before the court, “the court may give such directions prohibiting the publication of that name or matter in connection with the proceedings as appear

The madness of Hancock’s quarantine prison threat

Nobody has done much travelling this winter apart from Instagram influencers travelling to Dubai to pose with baby tigers. But the United Arab Emirates is now on the government’s red list. Should the influencers wish to return home they face a dilemma: spend £1,750 to be locked up for ten days in a Slough Premier Inn, or (and I fear this may come more naturally to some influencers) lie. Lying about where you have come from, though, is to be made exceedingly risky, with a maximum ten year prison sentence about to be introduced. For the same number of years — should you be so inclined — you could be

Heathrow’s third runway ruling should worry Boris Johnson

It may well be, as Tom Goodenough argued here earlier, that Boris Johnson is secretly delighted at the Court of Appeal’s ruling that is was illegal for the government to give the go-ahead to a third runway at Heathrow without taking into account their own climate policy. The Prime Minister had, after all, promised his constituents that he would lie down in front of the bulldozers to stop a third runway. He now has the cover of a court decision to shield him from the Conservative party’s pro-runway elements if the project ends up being dropped. But the Prime Minister should be extremely concerned about the wider implications of this