Pages

Monday, 27 December 2010

Libel Reform Part I: the purpose of defamation law

The main page for this series on libel is here.


What is defamation law actually for?

So familiar are we with its presence in English legal and media life that we perhaps take the existence of defamation law for granted.


In practical terms, the law of defamation provides the means by which legal action can be taken (or threatened) in respect of statements which are unwelcome to the claimant, regardless of any public interest in those statements being made.

Defamatory statements are the sort which will tend to make others think less of the claimant (or so the claimant may contend), and the claimant can then use the law of defamation to deal with defamatory statements.

However, to approach the law of defamation in this way is almost to adopt a circular definition: that the law of defamation is about the legal consequences of allegedly defamatory statements.

What this approach does not tell you is why allegedly defamatory statements should prompt adverse legal effects; indeed, it does not tell you why we need a law of defamation at all.


The law of defamation should not exist for its own sake. But, in many ways, the practice of defamation law in England now is just an exercise in spotting and threatening to litigate over statements which can be construed as defamatory so as to serve the commercial interests of clients and their lawyers. The law of defamation is thereby deployed as a mere method of media management and, in my view, it has disconnected form its correct purpose.


So what is the correct purpose of defamation?

It must have a purpose. For, just as the law of trespass protects the integrity of land, persons, and goods, and just as the law of copyright protects the interests of the creators (and subsequent owners and licensees) of originally-created works, the law of defamation must have a purpose.


The correct purpose of defamation is to vindicate reputations.

This means that the correct purpose of defamation is not to merely “manage” reputations. Nor is the correct purpose of defamation to “manage” the media. The use of defamation in these regards has led to it disconnecting from what it should be doing.

The law and practice of defamation only makes any sense – only comes close to working with any efficacy – if cases go to full trial: where the defendant can put forward its defences and the court (usually a jury) can decide or not whether the claimant can vindicate his or her reputation.

Almost all the abuses present in current English defamation law are because such trials – and such final vindications – are exceptionally rare (and horrifically expensive). Very few threats of defamation go any where near the courtroom. Almost all cases settle at a stage before a claimant can show any vindication at trial.

Accordingly, English libel litigation in practice has little to do with the actual vindication of a reputation. On the contrary, it uses the threat of the sheer expense and time of such a trial as a negotiating weapon or as a deterrence to unwelcome publicity.

Whatever the law of defamation is in practice, it is not directly about the vindication of reputations.


And it gets worse.

The substance of the law of defamation is also not really that much about reputation either.

Almost all the statements which can actually damage a person’s reputation – employers’ references, credit searches, complaints to police and regulatory authorities – are covered by “qualified privilege”. This means that the person making the statement is free to defame – regardless of the damage caused – as long as he or she is not being malicious.

A great deal of genuinely defamatory material is thereby outside the reach of defamation law.

The law of defamation also treats as actionable statements which do not cause any real damage to a person’s reputation at all. The law “presumes” that a written statement is damaging if it is defamatory. The claimant does not have to prove any damage whatsoever. Until recently, such a claimant would only have received nominal damages (of a farthing or, more recently, one pound) after a full trial. Such pointless claims are now more likely to be struck out as an abuse of process, though the application to strike out is still the costs risk of the defendant.


So we are in the counter-intuitive position of claimants using defamation law not to vindicate reputations but to manage publicity, and of defamation law not in many cases protecting reputations when they matter but providing a “cause of action” when they do not.

The law and practice of defamation is therefore almost entirely disconnected from being based on vindicating reputations. It deals with a residuum of situations, when qualified privilege does not bite, where the mainstream media – and now bloggers and users of the social media – publish something unwelcome to someone wishing to use the tools of “reputation management”.

The law of defamation is still stuck in a worldview where publication was a determined and considered process, and where a publication of any adverse material would, in an intimate business and social world, be likely to have an adverse effect on reputation. But in a world where everyone can self-publish, and where a great deal of self-publication will never impact on reputation, such a view is unsustainable.


Should the law still protect reputation?

There will always be a place for the law of defamation. However, it should in my view have a minor role in civil litigation, used occasionally when the laws of (say) privacy and malicious falsehood are not applicable. And when it is used, the emphasis should be proceeding to trial where, on the test of the defence and the evidence, a claimant can seek vindication.


However, as it stands, the disconnect between the law and practice of defamation on one hand, and the vindication of reputations on the other, is too stark. The law of defamation is too often being used for seemingly ulterior motives.

Whatever the nature of upcoming reforms to the law of defamation, there is one simple question: will the reforms make defamation law more connected to the vindication of reputations?


Next post: what is a reputation?



COMMENTS MODERATION

No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

Jack of Kent Guide to Libel Reform

This will be the main links page to the Libel Reform series. It will also have links to other relevant sites.


Guide to libel law

Part I - The purpose of defamation law.


Other links

The Libel Reform campaign, which builds on the awareness of libel abuse prompted by the British Chiropractic Association v Siminb Singh case.

The INFORRM blog, broadly supportive of libel law as a means of restraining the abuses of the mainstream media. Do not be put off by its needlessly stuffy pomposity (lots of the royal "we"), as there are lots of good resources and first class commentaries on recent cases. INFORRM poses hard questions of the libel reform campaigners.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

What next for Jack of Kent?

Many blogs are closing.

Many bloggers are leaving (or tell us they are leaving) the blogosphere.

In the context of this, I have some news about this particular blog.

As you may know, I am now writing mainly at the New Statesman on legal and other matters.

So what should I do with this blog?

Should it come to an end before it dies of lack of interest?

Should I just shut it down?


Of course not.

In fact, I am preparing a new series of posts, just on this site, separate from my blogging and other writing at other places.

It is a series of posts I was going to start back in the spring, but for reasons which I will now set out, I could not bring myself to write them.


But first a piece of news which may take some of you by surprise.

I have hardly written about libel since the general election: for a good six months or so.

Part of this was for non-libel reasons. I wanted to write about other legal matters, such as the McKinnon extradition, the Twitter Joke Trial, and police misconduct. I also wanted to move on from the "@jackofkent" Twitter persona and develop my own voice under my own name.

However, by the general election, I was also sick to death of writing about libel and needed a rest from it.

And when it became obvious there was not going to be an immediate parliamentary bill for libel reform, I just could not motivate myself to keep writing about and campaigning for libel reform at the same pace as before.

I also wanted to take a step back and have a think about where libel reform was going.

For libel reform to be generally and enduringly effective, it had to be more than a footnote to the misconceived and illiberal libel action brought by the now discredited British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh.

Instead, libel reform has to be based on a dispassionate appraisal of how substantive and procedural libel law was going wrong, and also where it may be working.

One has to convert from being an assertive campaigner to being an effective reformer.

And so I am now blowing the dust and cobwebs off the Jack of Kent blog.

Starting from tomorrow, this blog will host a series of posts on libel and libel reform.

The intention is to begin from first principles:

What is libel actually for?

What is libel supposed to be protecting?

What should a libel action (or a threat of a libel action) actually achieve?

And what effects should be avoided or minimised?


The posts will then move on to the substantive and procedural law of libel. The ambition is that this series of posts will lead up to the publication (possibly in spring) of the government's draft libel reform bill.

This series of blogposts will also take me away from active campaigning for libel reform. Whilst a remain a full supporter of the splendid individuals at the libel reform campaign, I would like to write about where both the reformers and those opposing reform are getting it right - and also where they may be getting it wrong.

I will continue to blog and write elsewhere on other legal issues - I will be looking especially at police powers and the operation of the criminal justice system at the New Statesman.

The Jack of Kent blog made its name by being a useful guide to those following the BCA v Singh case, providing information which allowed readers to form their own views, and it seems to me that this blog could be put to good purpose by providing a service to those who want to follow the upcoming and crucial libel reform debate.



Next post: What is reputation, and why should it be protected?



COMMENTS MODERATION

No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

Monday, 20 December 2010

And Nothing But the Tweet - a guest post by Paul Chambers

Who did I know who could have views on Twitter and courtrooms? So here is a quick guest post by Paul Chambers.


Today the Lord Chief Justice gave the greenlight for live text-based communication to be allowed during court proceedings.

These guidelines, of course, relate primarily to Twitter. The issue of live-tweeting proceedings poked its head during my own recent appeal, as the nature of it involved Twitter itself and the hunger for instantaneous information was apparent.

I am not for one second saying that my own tribulations led to today's ruling. It is somewhat fitting that it should come about because of the trial of Julian Assange, that the courts allowed themselves to be more transparent while the man at the centre of the world's attention for bringing transparency to EVERYTHING sits in his extradition hearing.

Mr Assange aside, today's guidelines are great news. For too long what goes on inside those doors has been shrouded in secrecy. It is right that we should be able to see how things play out in real-time, specifically where the proceedings involved may have wider issues for the public at large. Until now, we have depended on after-the-event reporting, where more often than not opinions have been formed and slants applied by the time it reaches us.

I would urge caution.

Used correctly, Twitter in court could be a fantastic tool. Live-tweeting of events exactly as they happen will allow us to see things as they are and form our own opinions, rather than receive those of others, and it could alleviate potential misreporting of the facts. Going back to Mr Assange, and from my own personal experience, inaccuracy and presumption is commonplace. Live-tweeting should eliminate this entirely and transform the way we receive information...

I shall reiterate "if used correctly".

The potential to misuse this opportunity is great. Reporters themselves could still choose to spin information or omit facts to their own end. The speed in which they will have to operate will hopefully reduce this but could then also lead to mistakes.

In court, everything is scrutinised and scrutinised again, so it is key that correct information is transmitted. The guidelines themselves do not expressly limit live-tweeting to journalists alone, meaning members of the public could have the ability to do so as well. Members of the public who may not have the experience and so will have to rely on their own judgement on what information they relay. Again, this could lead to dilution of the facts and some information which should not leave the courtroom under any circumstances is exposed.

Judges' discretion is still foremost with the use of live-tweeting. If it is misused, we will quickly find this new transparency taken away from us, or regulated so much so as to not be worthwhile.

Yes, it is great news that this ruling has been given today, but we all have a responsibility to ensure it stays that way.



COMMENTS MODERATION

No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Pilger on Assange: a legal commentary

I thought it would be helpful to provide a commentary on today’s New Statesman article by John Pilger on Julian Assange.


“Guardians of women’s rights” in the British liberal press have rushed to condemn the WikiLeaks founder.

In fact, they have not. Feminist and non-feminist writers have instead condemned the downplaying and denials of the sex crime allegations by supporters of Assange.


In fact, at every turn in his dealings with our justice system, his basic human rights have been breached.

Julian Assange has now had two bail hearings in open court, at both of which he was represented by leading solicitors and barristers of his choice. At the second bail hearing he was granted – not denied - bail, although with conditions. This decision to give bail is now being appealed and so there will be a further hearing tomorrow.


It seems the lesson must be learned all over again as a group of media feminists joins the assault on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, or the "Wikiblokesphere", as Libby Brooks abuses it in the Guardian. From the Times to the New Statesman, apparent feminist credence is given to the chaotic, incompetent and contradictory accusations against Assange in Sweden.

Mark Stephens, the lawyer for Julian Assange, has complained his client still does not know the evidence on which the prosecution is relying. It is thereby inexplicable how Mr Pilger is any position to regard the accusations as “chaotic, incompetent and contradictory”


On 9 December, the Guardian published a long, supine interview by Amelia Gentleman with Claes Borgström, the "highly respected Swedish lawyer". In fact, Borgström is foremost a politician, a powerful member of the Social Democratic Party. He intervened in the Assange case only when the senior prosecutor in Stockholm dismissed the "rape" allegation as based on "no evidence".

This is simply an ad hominem attack on Mr Borgström and carries no weight.


In Gentleman's Guardian article, an anonymous source whispers to us that Assange's "behaviour towards women . . . was going to get him into trouble". This smear was taken up by Brooks in the paper that same day. Ken Loach and I and others on "the left" are "shoulder to shoulder" with the misogynists and "conspiracy theorists".


This sequence of contentions is at best unpersuasive. For example, Brooks did not take up this smear. Of course, the reference to “misogynists” (plural) can only be taken to mean the supporters of Mr Assange.


The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, says that both women in the case told prosecutors that they consented to have sex with Assange.

If this is indeed the case, then this is for the defence to rely on in the event any charges are brought. However, quoting a defence lawyer is of course not determinative of any allegation.


Following the "crime", one of the women threw a party in honour of Assange.

Placing the word crime in inverted commas is to pre-judge the case, but even Julian Assange and his lawyer say they do not know the prosecution evidence. Mr Pilger is thereby not in a position to dismiss the alleged offence so casually. If such a party took place, and what it proves, then that is for the criminal trial and not an extradition hearing


When Borgström was asked why he was representing the women, as both denied rape, he said: "Yes, but they are not lawyers."


There is no direct evidence available to Mr Pilger as to whether the complainants have or have not denied rape. If the evidence of the complainants does not support any offence for which he is charged, then this would a matter for the criminal trial.
[*]


Catlin describes the Swedish justice system as "a laughing stock". For three months, Assange and his lawyers have pleaded with the Swedish authorities to let them see the prosecution case.

It would appear that they should perhaps have asked Mr Pilger.


This was denied until 18 November, when the first official document arrived - in the Swedish language, contrary to European law.

Yes, Mr Assange is fully entitled to have the case against him set out in a language he understands. However, as already mentioned, Julian Assange still does not have access to the evidence on which the prosecutor is relying.


Assange still has not been charged with anything.

No, as this is an arrest warrant.


He has never been a “fugitive”. He sought and got permission to leave Sweden, and the British police have known his whereabouts since his arrival in this country. This did not stop a London magistrate on 7 December ignoring seven sureties and sending him to solitary confinement in Wandsworth Prison.

The test for bail is not sureties alone. And it is understood that Mr Assange himself asked to be placed in solitary confinement.


At every turn, Assange's basic human rights have been breached.

As noted above, there will be a third hearing in respect of bail tomorrow, in open court, where Mr Assange will have full legal representation.


The cowardly Australian government, which is legally obliged to support its citizen, has made a veiled threat to take away his passport.

In fact, the Australian High Commission in London is providing assistance to Mr Assange.


In her public remarks, the prime minister, Julia Gillard, has shamefully torn up the presumption of innocence that underpins Australian law. The Australian minister for foreign affairs ought to have called in both the Swedish and the US ambassadors to warn them against any abuse of human rights against Assange, such as the crime of incitement to murder.

The ease with which Mr Pilger makes these serious accusations of criminal activity against others contrasts with the ease with which accusations of criminal activity are dismissed when they happen to be against Mr Assange.


In contrast, vast numbers of decent people all over the world have rallied to Assange's support: people who are neither misogynists nor "internet attack dogs", to quote Libby Brooks, and who support a very different set of values from those espoused by Charles Reich. They include many distinguished feminists, such as Naomi Klein, who wrote: "Rape is being used in the Assange prosecution in the same way that women's freedom was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up!"

As with Mr Pilger, one presumes that Ms Klein has had no access to any evidence against Mr Assange.


To hell with journalistic inquiry. Ignorance and prejudice rule.

Indeed.



[*] Correction made, as pointed out that Borgström not prosecutor in UK sense in comments below.

COMMENTS MODERATION

No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

An interview with Julian Assange's lawyer

Yesterday I had a brief telephone interview with my friend and fellow libel reform campaigner Mark Stephens as he was in a cab going to Wandsworth Prison to see his client Julian Assange.


Mark told me that Julian Assange is currently in the very same cell that was occupied by Oscar Wilde before the latter’s transfer to Reading Gaol. His client is not allowed to have any internet access, and nor has the library trolley come round. He is being kept in isolation, even though he is a model prisoner. He did have access to a television but this has now been removed (though he loathed having to watch British daytime television). All he has now is a wind-up radio.

I asked about the legal team. It consists of Mark and Jennifer Robinson at Finers Stephens Innocent. Also involved are QCs Geoffrey Robertson and Helena Kennedy, and specialist extradition advice is being provided by John Jones.

Mark agreed he was not himself a specialist extradition lawyer, though this is not his first extradition case. However, he does have a good criminal law background and indeed he was primarily a criminal lawyer before moving into media law.

What about the phrase “rape by surprise”, which has been criticised elsewhere as misleading? Mark said it was not coined by him, but was instead an English translation of the term which was used by the Swedish government in describing the relevant offence.

Why is Mark adopting the extraordinary litigation tactic of attacking the motives of the investigators and prosecutors in this case? He denied that he was making such any such attack, and that in fact he had no problem with the first prosecutor, who made the original decision to drop the case.

Mark also denied it was a tactic, and he emphasised that the circumstances behind this case were themselves extraordinary. The decision to renew the formal prosecution process after it was first abandoned, Mark maintained, was a clear example of political interference based on the electoral interests of the senior prosecutor involved. Mark said that it was correct to call this interference a “political stunt”. Moreover, the definition of “rape” in this case have been pushed beyond its proper limit by the prosecutors. Although Mark conceded he had been outspoken and critical on behalf of his client, it was the behaviour of the prosecutors which was outrageous.

In particular, Mark emphasised that the proper route all along would be for the prosecutors to meet with Julian. His client offered to do this in Sweden, and he would have been happy to have done it in London, either in person or by telephone, as long as information could be provided first as to the case against him. But the prosecutors refused this offer.

I asked why his client simply did not now go to Sweden in accordance with the extradition request? Would his client refuse in all circumstances to return to Sweden to meet with the prosecutors and face any charges?

It would appear the answers to these questions are not straightforward. Mark said that Julian Assange should know, at this stage, the case against him, explained in a language he understands. This simply has not happened yet, he emphasised, and Julian Assange is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Finally, I asked about the complainants, whose private lives and personal details have been published on the internet by supposed supporters of Julian Assange. Mark said that the complainants should have kept their anonymity, just as his client should have kept his. He added that Julian Assange does not support any attacks on the complainants, and nor does his client support the cyber-attacks on various websites.

Julian Assange returns to Westminster Magistrates' Court today for an extradition hearing. The case continues.



COMMENTS MODERATION

No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Bad Law, or there can be two sides to a story

During the last week two legal stories emerged, both of which sound terrible, and in respect of each there was much frantic and horrified social media activity.

The first was the predicament of Stephen Neary, which was raised powerfully on the blog of the highly-regarded Anna Raccoon.

Quite quickly after she posted there were dozens of invitations to support the campaign to release Stephen Neary and to publicise the situation.

But what concerned me, even as someone ready to call out abuses of power, was that the information provided was one-sided. Although it is clearly a case which prompts serious attention, it also remained one where further information would be needed before reacting with passion and trumpeting a cause.

Even the two excellent legal bloggers Charon QC and Obiter J who have so far covered this have had to be cautious. Charon QC is alarmed but he carefully notes that he has had to rely on one version of events, whilst Obiter J only goes so far to say attention should be drawn to "the case which appears to be extremely unsatisfactory" (emphasis added).

This caution is completely right.

There is nothing wrong whatsoever with campaigners emphasising perceived injustices (I do it myself) and there is nothing exceptional in having to base a piece only on the information available (I do this as well). But it is important also for those whose attention is sought and obtained by such stories to realise that there can be other sides to a startling matter and that the information provided can be incomplete.

Sometimes getting further information can make apparent injustices seem even worse. For example, it was only when the CPS were probed about why they were using the section 127 offence that the scale of the injustice, based on (in my view) a unacceptable misunderstanding of the applicable law, became apparent.

Alternatively, closer examination of a story makes the media version of a story seem simplistic and sometimes misleading. To my mind, this is what happened when this blog (especially its commenters) looked at the cases of Paul Clarke (the shotgun case) and Gary McKinnon.


And so when another "Bad Law" story (a story which is explicable by either the misuse of law or the misrepresentation of a legally-related matter) appeared yesterday about a 12-year old visited at a school by a police officer in respect of a planned demonstration, my instinctive reaction again was caution.

The report is in the Guardian and has already had an excellent and largely-balanced blogpost by Late for a Lawschool.

What struck me was that the emotive force of the story was based mainly on taking the boy's reported account at face value and disregarding the police explanation. This is not to call the boy a potential liar, for there are many reasons why such a source may need corraboration or simple checking that he was quoted properly.

If the police visit was by an appointed schools officer, and if the conversation took place before a senior member of teaching staff in accordance to the police account, then there perhaps is little to get too upset about. In some ways, such a pro-active police approach to a planned demonstration is preferable to no prior police involvement at all. I don't even see the need for a parent to be present if the police account is correct that this was an appointed schools officer giving merely the advisory talk as described.

I am always quite ready to take a hostile view of police conduct, and I even believe that certain police misconduct is systemic, but even the police are not always in the wrong on every matter.

In the case of this particular school visit, it obviously went rather badly and the reaction of the child and the mother is emphatic. But here are two versions to what happened and unless the head of year also present gives an account of the conversation, there is the plausible possibility that the police version may indeed be correct.


The law can be an ass, and it often is.

But legal matters can also be misreported and misunderstood.

So should they be ignored?

No. But such stories call for a critical rather than a quietist response: to look at the sources used and what their limitations may be before yelping "what the fuck" and shaking ones head in disgust.

For, just as Ben Goldacre and the Bad Science bloggers have repeatedly shown with sensationalist misreporting and misrepresentations of science matters, in "Bad Law" stories "it may be a bit more complicated than that".


COMMENTS MODERATION

No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

Friday, 10 December 2010

A question of restraint: what prevents police officers from killing protesters?

On the Today programme this morning, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was defending the police handling of yesterday’s student protests.

When asked about the (idiotic) attack by protesters on the car carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, he praised the “restraint” of the firearms officers who were there.

The implication appeared to be that, but for this “restraint”, the protesters would have quite properly been shot dead. The Commissioner furthermore described the restraint of his officers generally, not by reference to the officers following training, policies and procedures, but in terms which meant he could commend the officers’ moral qualities.

The impression one formed listening to the Commissioner was that it is only a matter of simple discretion for his officers not to be more heavy-handed or even lethal in dealing with protesters.

Any lapse would be understandable, and it would be merely a moral failing of the officer.


One test of a liberal society is the point at which killing protesters becomes acceptable, at least to those with the power to do the killing.

And this morning it seemed clear that, unless the Commissioner misspoke or that one simply misinterpreted him, that the point is now the discretion of any police officer with a gun.


COMMENTS MODERATION

No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Twitter Joke Trial: the journey to the High Court begins



On Thursday 2 December 2010 the papers were filed at Court for an application for an appeal of my client Paul Chambers to the High Court. In a perhaps ironic twist, the receiving court - Doncaster Crown Court - was closed because of snow.

The appeal is formally called an "Appeal by Case Stated". These are appeals to the High Court on points of law. The Court will now have 21 days to consider the application: the decision should be just before Christmas. If granted, then there will be a High Court hearing early in the new year. However, if the application is not successful, then Paul has the option of a judicial review of that refusal, where the High Court can order that permision be granted.

The newly-appointed QC, Ben Emmerson, has described the grounds for the appeal as "strong". It will be Ben, one of the greatest human rights lawyers of his generation, who will have (if permission is granted or ordered) the task of engaging with the High Court as to the permissible use of the offences under section 127(1) of the Communications Act 2003 in the context of both the threat of terrorism and the ever-widening use of social media.

On a personal note, I never really expected the case to get this far. Nor did I expect to be the sole solicitor acting for Paul (I was joint solicitor for Paul with his local Doncaster criminal solicitor for the Crown Court Hearing, but as the case has now moved down to the High Court in London, I am now entirely responsible for the conduct of the case).

In this I am lucky to have the generous help of some exceptional lawyers. This nice piece in the The Lawyer provides some of the background to the putting together of the legal team. It must be said, I have felt like an far-inferior, Brummie version of Bob Geldof (though with similar hair) in making the calls and asking for favours.

Mine is not the only view on the applicable law and the conviction. So for completness, please see an interesting (though wrongly-titled) post on the INFORRM media blog here. There is also a counterview to mine here.

The case has now generated much considerable international interest, with articles in publications in Canada, Australia, the United States, South Africa, Germany, France, and so on. It appears that, like the Simon Singh litigation I was previously involved in, the case has caught the mood of the times. Of all the articles and posts published so far, my favourites are the ones by Graham Linehan, Nick Cohen, and - a brilliant piece - Charlie Brooker.

The last word must be about my client, Paul Chambers. All he did was tweet his exasperation about the prospect of not seeing a lovely girl he was to stay with for the first time. He then was arrested in front of his colleagues, interviewed at length, and convicted for an obscure offence (for which he was not even arrested). He has been in court five times, each time an incredibly stressful and gruelling ordeal. He has lost two jobs. And throughout, he has been consistently calm and well-humoured.

He could have walked away from this at any point and "drawn a line" and "got on with his life".

But he has not. Like Simon Singh before him, though in a different context, he just thinks something is wrong and he is determined - as far as possible - to see if it can be set right.



COMMENTS MODERATION

No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

Any abuse or insults in respect of the Court will NOT be published.