Category Archives: Daily Mail

Craig Whyte or Craig White – More Questions re Identity or Shoddy Paperwork?

I have written before about the two Craig Thomas Whyte’s listed on Companies House, one born in 1969 and one in 1971, although it seems that the two are in fact one.

I have also previously mentioned two companies – MCR Investments Ltd and MCR Capital Ltd.

Readers with the endurance to get to the bottom of the latter piece to which I have linked might recall that these two companies are both listed as having as a director “Craig Thomas WHITE”.

We already know of the company Merchant Corporate Recovery Group and its connections with Mr Whyte. It would be a coincidence, but not beyond the bounds of possibility, that someone of a similar name could have companies with similar names.

I have been greatly assisted however by BillyBhoy68, a regular contributor to the RTC blog.

He forwarded on to me the documentation regarding the incorporation of each company.

What it goes to show is that Mr Whyte, or White, is ill served by his administrative assistance.

The poor man has a catalogue of missed legal deadlines, clearly through inadvertence or oversight rather than as a deliberate tactic, and as pointed out, he has appeared under two different names and two different birth dates in official records.

Here are the documents regarding the two companies I mentioned:- MCR Capital Ltd and MCR Investments Ltd

MCR Capital Ltd was incorporated on 16th February 2010 and MCR Investments Ltd on 18th February 2010. Both are incorporated with Registered Offices at a residential address in Sutton in London. The address is a mid terrace “Wimpey style” box. It is also the registered office address of, amongst others, Liberty Capital Markets Ltd. Remember Mr Whyte’s company, which owns 100% of Rangers FC Group Ltd is Liberty Capital Ltd, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. With all due respect to Sutton, it ain’t the BVI!

Both applications were lodged electronically. Companies House has measures to ensure that registrations and returns made on the Internet are secure. Those measures are foolproof. There is no suggestion that these companies were formed anything other than genuinely. (Though there is one point I will remark on below).

Both companies have only one Director. That is “Craig Thomas White” born on 18th January 1971. Mr “White” is listed as residing at “Castle Grant, Grantown-On Spey”.

There is a public reference in Highland Council’s planning records to an application regarding Castle Grant, in the name of “Mr and Mrs White”.

His occupation is listed on both as “Director”.

In each case there is a note that the person has consented to act. However, in the “Authenticated” section, there is the word “ERROR” in connection with “Capital” but “YES” with “Investments.

However, each company was incorporated, and therefore any issues with authentication were presumably dealt with to the satisfaction of Companies House.

It appears that neither company ever traded, and each was struck off the Companies Register and dissolved on 27th September 2011.

It is also of note that, for each company, the Certificate of Compliance stating that all of the requirements for registration have been complied with has been completed for the subscriber “Craig Thomas White” by his agent “Craig Thomas White”.  In each case “Mr White” has confirmed that he agrees to become a member of the company, this being a separate and distinct agreement from that of being a Director.

The only other difference is in the names of the initial shareholders. In “Investments” the only shareholder is the same “Craig Thomas White”. In respect of “Capital” there are two. The details of the second shareholder are, I submit, the final link proving that Mr White and Mr Whyte are one and the same.

Subject to that, this could all be coincidental still, despite the following connections.

1                    The similarity of the names – Craig Thomas Whyte and Craig Thomas White.

2                    The identical date of birth shared by Mr White and one Mr Whyte.

3                    The address of Mr White being Castle Grant, although it might only be press speculation that Mr Whyte’s own address is there. Alternatively Mr White might have been a lodger? Who knows?

4                    Liberty Capital Markets Ltd being registered at the same address as “Capital” and “Investments” when Mr Whyte’s company is “Liberty Capital Ltd”.

5                    The fact that Mr Whyte is closely connected to the Merchant Corporate Recovery Group, and these two companies are called “MCR”.

The final matter though is the identity of the other shareholder in “Capital” – Mr Wulstan Kenneth Frank Earley.

On 29th October 2011 Nick Harris wrote a column in the Daily Mail. Interestingly the column as it now appears is not as it was first written. If you read the comments, you might wonder why a column made up of stories on Blackburn, the BBC moving to Salford and a BBC drama filming in Wembley has some heated discussion about Celtic and Rangers.

The answer, with great thanks again to BillyBhoy68, is here (LINK FIXED, I THINK), in a part of the story removed from the Mail website. As the reader will see, it refers to the takeover and concludes with the following paragraphs:-

“Rumours abound of secret backers, although Whyte dismisses them as ‘total nonsense’. He concedes he knows one mooted figure, a former bankrupt called Aidan Earley, … but only, a spokesman says, as ‘one of scores of people in his network of contacts who occasionally introduce him to deals. That is as far as their relationship extends’.

“Earley did not respond to Inside Sport’s questions, but his brother and business partner, Wulstan, says neither are involved in Rangers and he last spoke to Whyte at a charity golf day in 2009, attended by, among others, Jodie Kidd and Jimmy Tarbuck.”

(The piece may have been removed from the Mail due to a comment regarding Aidan Earley which I have not seen repeated elsewhere, and therefore which I have deleted from the extract above, and which I would ask anyone who sees it to ignore. )

However, both Messrs Earley, along with Brendan Earley, whom I assume to be a third brother, have been connected either with companies in which Mr Whyte has been a director, or in which close associates of Mr Whyte have been Directors.

For example, Mr Earley has sat on company boards with James Holmes, who in turn sat as a director with Mr Whyte on the board of Countryliner Group, and who recently formed Team Discounts PLC with him.

It is not inconsistent for Wulstan Earley to state that he last spoke to Mr Whyte in 2009, even although he appears as a 50/50 shareholder with Mr Whyte in a company incorporated in February 2010, the Registered Office address being one at which other companies involving Mr Earley are registered. One might ask whether or not Mr Whyte, sorry, Mr White, had his permission to use an address which could be Mr Earley’s home address as the base for two new companies. In any event, the occupier of the property would no doubt have been interested to receive letters addressed to both “Capital” and “Investment” if the companies were not meant to have anything to do with that location.

I suspect no journalist has received any response from Mr Whyte or his spokesmen regarding any connection. For the avoidance of doubt, there is nothing inappropriate about having a connection with any Mr Earley. However why is the connection there is denied by Wulstan?

And why is Mr Whyte again listed as Mr White?

The poor man has a terrible record, personally or vicariously, of filling in forms correctly!

18 Comments

Filed under Craig Whyte's Companies, Daily Mail, Football, Rangers

Bad Law or the Art of Spin – Today’s Mail, Telegraph and Independent re Compensation for Criminals – A Case Study

 

 

The days of the Christmas holidays are light for news. Newspapers are desperate for articles to take up column inches. Private Eye’s own Polly Filler columnist would be engaged 24/7 at this time of year, should she wish.

It is therefore not surprising to see political stories running in the press because, as most politicians are on holiday, and Parliament is not sitting, there is little chance of stories being questioned seriously.

This morning there are three stories I have seen (there may be more elsewhere too) about criminals being compensated for their injuries. These can be found in the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Independent. Click on the names of the papers for the respective stories.

On the face of it, there is a “scandal” taking place which must be stopped. No right thinking person reading the articles could fail to agree that “something must be done”. However, the pieces all seem to be blatant attempts at government spin, ignoring the present legal position, and in fact, apparently, though inadvertently disclose a far greater “outrage”.

What we have, it appears, is a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) attempt to look tough on criminals by denying them compensation for ridiculous injuries, including, for example, Ian Huntley being compensated for being attached in prison, as this keeps money from innocent victims who in fact are left owed huge sums by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). The “official sources” quoted however fail to disclose the reality of the rules of the CICA scheme just now, and attempt to conflate two entirely different issues in an effort to appear even tougher on the convicts and jailbirds. The spin is to create a sense of outrage, and having done so, to emphasis that the Coalition is not going to let this continue.

The “source” has also taken the chance to take a kick at Legal Aid, which is generally not a topic people want to support, unless they, or someone close to them, are being denied help for a vital legal battle.

The MoJ seems successfully to have worked on the basis that hard pressed newspapers, especially those without correspondents with relevant legal backgrounds, simply cannot devote the time and resources to having a Government inspired “story” subjected to detailed critical analysis.

The articles are written by Tim Shipman, Martin Evans and Oliver Wright respectively. I do not intend to criticise any of these journalists who, I am sure, are excellent practitioners. However the story seems to me anyway to be an exercise in the Government getting out a story for headline effect, whilst hoping no-one will actually look too closely at what they are saying.

 

A Brief History of Criminal Injures Compensation in Britain

In 1964 the Government established the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB), to pay compensation to victims of violent crime, based on an assessment of what victims would have received for their injuries if pursuing claims in a civil court. This was the commencement of what was, and remains, the most comprehensive system for compensating victims of crime in the world, a fact of which successive governments should be proud.

In the mid 1990’s, as a result of concern about the increasing costs, the Conservative Home Secretary, Michael Howard, brought in a revised “Tariff Scheme” where set amounts of compensation were to be paid for specified injuries. The new scheme was overturned by the High Court, after a challenge by various Trades Unions, but was, with some amendments, reintroduced and in 1996 the CICA was born and took over from the CICB.

The Scheme has been revised on various occasions, most recently in 2008, though it seems further revisions are on their way.

Now victims of crime who suffer injury can receive a maximum award of £250,000 for their injuries and a maximum additional sum of £250,000 for financial losses, as long as various conditions are satisfied.

However, as a function perhaps of present day society, the numbers of claims continue to increase year after year, and despite various efforts to streamline the claiming process, there are delays endemic in the system.

The CICA only makes news after a large tragedy, like the London bombings, when it gets criticised for delays, or hen apparently perverse decisions are made. An understanding of the scheme would render these apparently odd decisions clear (in most instances).

As the Annual Report of the CICA for 2010-2011 said, over 65,000 claims were resolved in the last year, and over £280 million paid out in compensation.

 

The Details

It is of note, before we get to the legalities, that the pieces have the following similarities.

1                     Each is illustrated with a picture of convicted murderer Ian Huntley.

2                     All three refer to him claming £15,000 for having his throat slashed in prison.

3                     Each quotes “a senior source close to Kenneth Clarke”. The Telegraph attributes its quote to what the source told the Mail, but the Independent does not.

4                     Each has the same quote from a “Ministry of Justice spokesman” (presumably not the senior source close to Mr Clarke).

5                     All the articles refer to £5 million per year being paid out to convicted criminals, or “jailbirds” as the Mail refers to them.

6                     Two of the pieces (Mail and Independent) also have a quote from Philip Davies, a Conservative MP complaining about the “outrage and scandal” of taxpayers’ money being “wasted on compensating criminals”.

One difference, in keeping with the respective papers’ philosophies, is that the Independent quotes the Prison Reform Trust and NACRO putting the case against the changes. No such “balance” appears in the Telegraph or the Mail. (Though, to be fair, that would not be expected anyway on an issue like this.)

 

So what is being suggested?

Even though all three pieces come from the one origin, one assumes, the detail is not on all fours.

The Mail states that “Convicted criminals will be banned from claiming compensation for their injuries…Ken Clarke will announce plans to ensure the money goes to victims of crime rather than criminals…Every year criminals claim around £5 million from the CICA”.

The Mail refers to “controversial claims in which burglars have demanded money for injuries sustained while escaping the scene of the crime.” The Mail states “Thousands is (sic) also paid out every year to criminals who sustain injuries in prison as a result of feuds and drug-fuelled violence”.

The Telegraph goes further, stating that “In some of the most extreme cases burglars, who have been hurt as they escape the scene of a crime, have received payments”.

The “official figures” and the detail around them quoted in the pieces are of interest too.

According to the Mail, “340 inmates made successful claims for injuries resulting in payouts and costs of £3.1 million last year. More than 3,000 prisoners made claims…Another £2 million was claimed by convicted criminals who are not jailed. Most of the payouts for jailbirds are for injuries caused by trips, falls or slips as well as accidents while playing sport.”

The Telegraph also refers to the applications covering “a range of injuries and activities, but included slips and falls and also accents while playing sport.”

All three articles refer to the lack of money available to the CICA for compensating victims of crime, and the impression is clearly given that dealing with, and paying, these criminals is a reason for, as the Mail puts it, “Almost 50,000 victims of violent crime have been kept waiting for compensation worth in excess of £600 million because the compensation authority has run out of funds. They include the children of murder victims and others who need the money to cover medical bills and compensate them for their disabilities and lost wages. Some are owed up to £500,000 after being crippled by vicious thugs.”

 

So what is wrong with the articles?

Why Do All These Criminals Get These Payouts?

They don’t!

First of all, there are two targets, and only the Mail piece makes clear that one of them remains untouched. The CICA only deals, as the name suggests, with “criminal injuries”. Slips, trips and falls, and sporting injuries are nothing to do with the CICA. They are negligence claims. If a prisoner, or indeed anyone else in prison, suffers injury there which is the fault of another party, then a negligence claim can be pursued and, if blame can be established, they would be entitled to compensation. These are civil court matters, dealt with in the normal way. Mr Huntley has as much right to pursue such a claim as anyone else, although ay damages he might receive could result in legal action for damages being taken against him by his victims’ representatives.

The civil courts would not reduce any award of damages because the victim was a convicted criminal. The “source” does not appear to suggest any change in that principle.

The target therefore is the CICA system.

However, the scheme, dating back to the days of the CICB has always taken account of criminal convictions! Under the initial scheme, the CICB was empowered to take account of the applicant’s “character, conduct and way of life, as evidenced by their criminal convictions” even where the convictions had nothing to do with the incident in which the injuries were inflicted. Over the years I conducted a number of appeals for clients where awards of compensation had been either reduced, or refused entirely because of convictions, and, as was said by more than more than one member of the Board “Why should we pay compensation to someone who has probably already cost the CICB in compensation for someone else?” It is hard, in general, to argue with that principle, which has been a part of the criminal injuries regime since 1964! However, the CICB allowed the exercise of discretion. In one case, I acted for a man who had been imprisoned for a number of years at a young age. He had lived his next 35 years after his release as a model citizen. The CICB decided that it was in the interests of justice to make him a full award. He was credited for having made a radical and positive change in his life.

Equally I know of cases where a family member claiming compensation for the death of a child was refused, because of the father’s own criminal record, and also where the family was denied compensation following the murder of their child due to the child’s “offences” which had led him to appear before the Children’s Panel.

Criminal convictions have therefore always been one of the factors to be considered.

When the tariff scheme was created there was also the inception of the “Penalty Points” system. The discretionary element all but disappeared. There is now a sliding scale of percentage reductions from any award based on the number of penalty points the claimant has.

The scale is detailed on pages 62 and 63 of the Guide to the CICA Scheme. The scale make sit clear that the “problem” of criminals obtaining criminal injuries compensation is already well covered.

A 10 point count reduces the award of compensation by 100%.

What results in 10 points? Any sentence of imprisonment results in 10 points for the duration of the sentence imposed. This applies even if the sentence is suspended, or there is early release. In addition, even after the sentence has been served, there is a sliding scale of points. Obviously multiple offences make it even less likely that a claimant will receive any award.

Mr Huntley, who is serving a life sentence, will therefore have a 100% deduction applied to any award of compensation for criminal injuries otherwise made to him, unless exceptional circumstances can be shown. In light of the drafting of the scheme, the only “exceptional circumstances” considered would be where he was injured in the course of preventing crime, or assisting the police or other authorities in preventing crime.

Even at the other end of the scale, a criminal conviction resulting in a fine of £250 or less, results in 2 penalty points (a 15% reduction) for 2 years from the date of sentence, and 1 point (10% deduction) form 2 years till the conviction is spent.

The scheme therefore covers far more than “jailbirds”.  The case mentioned above, where the claimant had lived free of trouble for 35 years, would, under today’s rules, have resulted in 5 points and at least a 35% reduction from any award.

Anyone in prison who receives an award from the CICA has gone through a rigorous process to get there and will have had any award reduced to some extent. In addition, they must have been successful in satisfying the “exceptional” circumstances test.

 

Who is a Criminal?

As Mr Davies, MP, suggests, we should be concerned about “criminals” getting money due to innocent citizens. But the penalty point scheme goes all the way down to dealing with cautions and absolute discharges! Does Mr Davies, or the MoJ intend to prevent anyone with an unspent conviction, of any type, from pursuing a Criminal Injuries claim? If so, it would be a surprise quite how many people were to be excluded.

The scheme keeps in place, but with the more draconian penalty point system, the restrictions on claims in fatal cases. The criminal convictions of both the deceased and of the claimant come into play.

It is a matter of policy whether or not family members with criminal records (even for trivial matters) should be compensated for the killing of a close relative. The papers report every so often an aggrieved claimant who falls foul of this rule, and generally the reports focus on the unfairness of the decision. However, it all depends who you classify as a “criminal”. Mr Davies wants a wide net cast. Is that fair?

 

Do Escaping Burglars Get Compensation?

The reports, especially those in the Mail and Telegraph, look to show the ridiculous things which result in criminals being paid. Suggestions that there are people “demanding” payment for being injured when escaping, and according to the Telegraph being paid, seem daft. It might be that, in one or two specific cases there have been circumstances justifying such awards, whether by Criminal Injuries or via negligence. I suspect that is all of that type there have been, if indeed any exist.

The Tony Martin case, where Mr Martin was imprisoned for shooting an escaping burglar in the back, was one of the rare cases where such a claim might possibly be successful, even to a small degree.

In fact, I am surprised that health and safety was not mentioned by the Mail!

 

Don’t These Cases Delay Justice for Everyone?

The figures also make clear that, despite the impression given, the CICA is not gummed up dealing with all of these prisoners’ claims. They make up a small percentage of the total case load and an even smaller percentage of the payments made.

People are not sitting waiting for decisions simply because prisoners make claims. If people in the 10 point category were barred from applying, it might save some administrative time, but on the other hand, some of these people might still apply, and their applications would still need to be weeded out of the system.

 

Financial “Errors”

The Mail refers to payments plus costs, which ignores the fact that no costs are paid. Any legal fees charged to the successful claimant come out of the compensation awarded.

The Mail also states that Government “sources” describe the present system as a “shambles” overspending by £50 million per year. The Labour administration is blamed.

The system in place however is one created in 1996 by the Conservatives. The annual report for 2010-2011 linked above shows that significant progress has been made in shortening administrative delays. However, the cost of the system in payouts goes up as more and more people apply!

From my own knowledge of the system I would not say that it was an unduly extravagant one as far as running costs were concerned. The staff of the CICA at its Glasgow HQ were always as helpful as they could be, bearing in mind they enormous workload they had.

Blaming Labour for the “overspending” seems to be a cheap party political point, designed to appeal to the Mail readership, as I am sure it did.

 

Rights of Prisoners

It should be said also that, if a claimant succeeds in a Criminal Injuries claim, and later received damages through an insurance company or civil court for the same injuries, then the CICA is reimbursed.

Not every prisoner attacked in gaol will have been a victim of negligence by the prison authorities. However, in the case of prisoners such as Mr Huntley, his very notoriety, and the evil of his crimes, in fact makes it easier for him to succeed in such a claim. The prison authorities would find it very hard to say that they were not aware of risks and threats to him, more than to other criminals, and as such need to put in place greater security measures.

As the spokesman for the Prison Reform Trust said in the Independent, a gaol sentence does not deprive someone of all their rights.

Unless the Coalition wants to move to a Fort Apache: The Bronx style of prison regime, than they have to be able to protect prisoners, as far as is reasonable. The authorities have a duty of “reasonable care”. They need to fulfil it.

 

Legal Aid

The Mail also has a sly dig at Legal Aid. It states that “The legal aid bill for convicts has doubled in two years to £21 million – although that sum also covers those demanding release from jail and softer punishments.”

The latter half of that statement seems to describe legal aid for appeals! Does the Mail want convicts to be told that they have no right to assistance from lawyers if they think their conviction is wrong or unsafe, or if the sentence imposed is excessive?

If the Crown appeal on the basis that a sentence is too lenient does the Mail believe that no representation is needed, as the court will see to fair play?

The answers to the above are probably yes, but that should not be the determining factor for the country as a whole.

This is spun though as the Coalition “trimming” the Legal Aid budget as part of its austerity measures. Trimming is a word with few of the unpleasant connotations of “cutting” isn’t it?

 

What is the Real Scandal?   

First of all, I do not think there is a real scandal here. But if there is, then the Mail report completely misses the point.

The article states ”Almost 50,000 victims of violent crime have been kept waiting for compensation worth in excess of £600 million because the compensation authority has run out of funds.. Some are owed up to £500,000 after being left crippled by vicious thugs.”

If the government run and funded scheme was actually lagging to that extent, as a result of dealing with prisoners’ claims, as the article implies, this would be a disgrace. Indeed any reason for such a delay would be unacceptable. The impression is given that almost 50,000 people have been awarded money, up to £500,000 but have not been paid as the fund is empty.

That is simply not true. The CICA has a budget, but as the payments it makes are dependent on the level of claims assessed, it does not “run out of money” any more than the DWP would run out of money for benefits.

Read the Annual Report for yourself. If the situation was as bad as the “senior source” makes out, one wonders (a) why it has taken this length of time for the Government to speak out and (b) why the only matter being addressed relates to claims by criminals.

 

In Conclusion

We have a blatant effort by the MoJ to get good headlines, by relying on the pressures on newspapers not actually to look at what is proposed and to analyse it.

As I state in the heading, I am not sure of this counts as Bad Law on the part of the press, or blatant political spinning, with a bit of “churnalism” as defined by Nick Davies in “Flat Earth News” thrown in.

In any event, it fails to give anything like an accurate picture of the problem and simply blames the bogeymen of convicts, lawyers and the Labour government for the present issues.

I find it sad.

4 Comments

Filed under Bad Law, Civil Law, Conservative Party, Daily Mail, Damages Claims, Independent, Politics, Press

Now The Daily Mail Gets Its Arithmetic Wrong

I have written before about the apparent challenges the Daily Mail has with geography and with the law of Scotland.

Now we can add arithmetic to its list of “fails”.

 

Today’s story about the awful X-Factor shrieks the headline “Is this the most brutal X Factor bootcamp ever? Nearly half of contestants axed by judges before even singing”. (All emphases added)

Leaving aside for now the use of the word “brutal”, which is hyperbole beyond any ever in the world (you see what I did there?) the article goes further in the second paragraph, before disproving the headline and that statement in the very next paragraph!

Para 2 states:-

“But now, as the ITV talent show enters the latest stage of the competition, it seems this year’s bootcamp could be the most brutal ever – with half of the contestants axed before even singing for the judges again.”

Got it, it’s actually half of the acts, not just nearly half, sent home – goodness me, that is brutal!

Para 3:-

“The night before the 186 acts were due to take to the stage to perform for judges Gary Barlow, Tulisa Contostavlos, Kelly Rowland and Louis Walsh, the panel once again looked over tapes of the contestants’ first auditions and made the decision to send nearly 40 of the hopeful acts home.”

Wait a minute – nearly 40 out of 186…I can work this one out…that’s not even a quarter!

We don't really need a calculator for this one, do we?

Now I know this should not annoy me, but as the Mail claims to be the second most visited news site in the world, can they at least have the decency to have their stories be accurate?

One can imagine the Daily Mail attacking the BBC for a similar meaningless mistake. Of course here it is an over-egged story to get page views – one wonders if Sarah Bull, the writer of the article felt that saying that a quarter of the acts had been eliminated was not brutal?

At least some of the commenters on the story have made the same point, but no-one at the Mail has seen fit to correct the article at all.

Sigh…

 

5 Comments

Filed under Daily Mail, Press

Is the Daily Mail Website Guilty of Contempt of Court?

I have attached below an article from the Daily Mail website published on 26th August. I do not know, at this stage, if the newspaper has printed the same piece, and the photograph which may lead to the journalist or editor involved appearing in court for contempt.

I have copied it into Word to include in this post. The article, subject to what I will mention, is as it stood at 7.30 am on 27th August 2011. As I do not have the technical ability to do so, none of the photographs in the piece are included below, but as it is one of the photos which causes the issue, then I do not think this causes a problem for me.

I have removed the links on the page to various other pages in the site (which on looking at the page are those links and photos down the right hand side).

The location of the photograph which causes me to write this piece is marked “PHOTO REMOVED”.

The address for the article is noted at the bottom of the piece.

 

As the reader can see, this relates to the alleged attack on Nick Clegg in Glasgow on 25th August. Stuart Rodger appeared in Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday, in private charged with assault. He made no plea or declaration and was admitted to bail.

The article includes a picture of the man stated to be Stuart Rodger leaving court. Whilst it is common to see photographs in newspapers of people accused of crimes, and indeed offences far more serious than allegedly throwing a paint-filled egg at the Deputy Prime Minister and police officers (serious though that may be).

 

What might the Daily Mail have done wrong?

The big problem is that this relates to an offence being dealt with by the Scottish courts. In England the rules regarding such publication are very different. Perhaps the Daily Mail has not noticed where this case is taking place? I wonder if they have a difficulty with geography?

Because of the different rules applicable in Scotland, including that of “dock identification”, the law has been for many years that it is not permissible to publish the photograph of an accused person, referring to the case against them, whilst proceedings are active. This applies unless, in a very rare case, the judge permits such publication, as in the trial of Tommy Sheridan last year. A judge might accede to requests from the media to permit publication of photographs where identification of the accused is not an issue in the case.

Otherwise, photographs of an accused are not published until a verdict is reached, or, in jury cases, until the evidence is complete.

The purpose of the rule is to prevent evidence of witnesses as to identification of an accused being tainted by their having seen pictures of the accused linking them to the alleged offence.

 

The matter is governed by the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and the law in Scotland has been explained in various cases.

In the Scottish Daily Record & Sunday Mail v Procurator Fiscal, Edinburgh [2009] HCJAC 24  the High Court reviewed the law on this matter in detail. The newspapers in question had been fined for contempt of court for publishing the picture, during the trial, of a well-known footballer charged with assault. The newspapers appealed against the finding of contempt, but were unsuccessful.

Lord Nimmo-Smith delivered the court’s opinion, including a reference to various cases and particularly to HM Advocate v Caledonian Newspapers Ltd 1995 SCCR 330 which is considered to be the leading case concerning publication of pictures of an accused, and contempt.

In that case Lord Justice General Hope (as he then was) said the following:-

 

Had it not been for the publication of the photograph, we would have been able to hold that in this case … there was no breach of the strict liability rule. The question would then have been whether there was anything in the text that the course of justice in these proceedings would be seriously impeded or prejudiced.

“We do not agree with [counsel for the respondents] that the strict liability rule imposes a very high test in regard to a publication of the kind referred to in section 2 while the proceedings in question are active. In Attorney-General v English [1983] AC 116 at p142 Lord Diplock said that the words “substantial risk” were intended to exclude a risk that is only remote. In HM Advocate v News Group Newspapers Limited 1989 SCCR 156 at p161F Lord Justice-General Emslie said that there can be no contempt unless there is some risk, greater than a minimal one, that the proceedings would be seriously prejudiced. Nor can the publisher pray in aid steps which may be taken afterwards by the court to minimise the risk of prejudice resulting from a publication which would seriously impede or prejudice the proceedings if these steps were not taken. As Lord Diplock pointed out in the passage already quoted from his speech in Attorney-General v English, the public policy that underlines the strict liability rule is that of deterrence. The court must do what it can to minimise the risk of prejudice, because it is in the public interest that proceedings for the detection and punishment of crime should not be interrupted by the effect on the course of justice of publicity. The purpose of the rule is to make the taking of such steps unnecessary, by deterring the publication in the first place of anything which might create risk of such prejudice. The risk must be assessed at the time of the publication without regard to what may happen or may be done afterwards.

“The publication of the photograph … so close in time and place to the incident referred to in the petition in the charges of assault and robbery and of assault and attempted robbery, raises the question whether, when taken together with the article, this may have affected the position of witnesses.”

Consequently a contempt will be committed if the publication of the article is likely to affect the evidence of witnesses in the question of identification. In Atkins v London Weekend Television at page 53 Lord Justice-General Emslie accepted the proposition for the broadcasters that there is no hard and fast rule that the publication of the photograph of an accused person will always constitute contempt. He said that it will only do so when a question of identification has arisen or may arise and when the publication is calculated to prejudice the prospects of a fair trial: see also Attorney-General v Guardian Newspapers Ltd (No. 3) [1992] 1 WLR 874, per Mann LJ at p879H. The test, in regard to the strict liability rule under section 2 of the 1981 Act with which we are concerned in this case, is whether the publication of the photograph created a substantial risk that the course of justice in the proceedings would be seriously prejudiced.

“In a case where identification is not in issue, the publication of a photograph of the accused is unlikely to give rise to any risk of prejudice, because the evidence of witnesses will not be at risk of being affected by its publication. Nor will the jury be affected by it either, because it will not relate to any issue which they will have to decide. But where identification is or may be in issue the situation is entirely different. The publication of the photograph, linking the name of the accused to the offence with which he is charged, may assist witnesses in their identification of him as the perpetrator of it. The closer in time and place this is to the publication of the photograph, the greater the risk that this will occur. Similarly the publication of a photograph of the perpetrator in this way may affect the jury’s determination of the issue of identification at the trial. The closer the trial is to the date of the publication the greater will be the risk of this.” (Emphases added.)

 

Lord Nimmo Smith, after considering the submissions of counsel for the Daily Record & Sunday Mail concluded by saying:-

 

Where identification is in issue, publication of a photograph of the accused that gives rise to the possibility, not remote and greater than minimal, that it may affect the ability of a witness or witnesses to identify the accused, will constitute contempt of court within the meaning of section 2(2) of the 1981 Act.

“Fame, celebrity – its often tawdry modern counterpart – and notoriety all carry with them the possibility of recognition by members of the public. It may be that a person will be so well known that mere mention of his or her name may be expected to bring an image to the minds of the vast majority of members of the public. But such cases will be rare. We find it impossible to accept that there are categories of person, such as footballers, of whom it may be said, a priori and without other evidence, that they are “celebrities”, attracting instant recognition and recall both on and off the pitch, so that an exception can be made in respect of them without regard to the circumstances of any particular case. Recognition of a person is a notoriously subtle process, one which is best described by psychologists; but our own experience in the criminal courts justifies this description. It is common experience that one may fail to recognise a person, familiar in a particular context, when seen out of context. The only safe course, where identification is in issue, is not to publish any photograph or similar image of the accused, at least until a stage of the trial when there is no question of further identification evidence being given.

“In our opinion, the proper approach is that already well recognised in the Scottish cases, passages from which we have quoted above. There may be cases in which publication of the photograph of an accused person may not give rise to a risk of substantial prejudice, but such cases are likely to be rare; and we are satisfied that this is not one of them. In our view, therefore, treating the standard of proof as proof beyond reasonable doubt, the sheriff correctly held that the petitioners were in the circumstances in contempt of court by publishing the photograph…” (Emphases added)

 

What Now?

The Daily Mail website, both on its front page and in the article shown below, displays a picture of the man they refer to as Mr Rodger. This was published one day after the alleged incident. Identification may well be an issue at any trial. At this stage Mr Rodger has neither pled guilty nor not guilty. He is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

I cannot see how this case differs from those referred to above and therefore one might expect that the Daily Mail will have to answer a charge of contempt.

On a related point, I note that comments are open. Usually the Daily Mail does not permit comment on ongoing cases, for fear, I am sure, of prejudicing a fair trial. How long might it take them to disable comments on this piece?

It is possible that the media have asked for permission from the Sheriff to print pictures but I would be very surprised, especially as Mr Rodger’s appearance was in private. I would also be surprised if, at this stage, a Sheriff would permit such a publication, if asked.

Let’s see (a) if the article changes and the picture is removed (b) whether, in the event of such a change, the article refers to the change (c) what steps the Daily Mail takes to “purge” its apparent contempt and (d) whether contempt proceedings do arise.

 

 

DAILY MAIL ARTICLE BELOW

Saturday, Aug 27 2011 6AM  9°C 9AM 13°C 5-Day Forecast

Ex-Lib Dem member appears in court charged with throwing blue paint at Nick Clegg

By Lucy Buckland

Last updated at 7:00 PM on 26th August 2011

 

PHOTO REMOVED

Bailed: Stuart Rodger waves to crowds outside Glasgow Sheriff Court after his court appearance

A man appeared in court charged with assault today after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was splattered with blue paint.

The Liberal Democrat leader was splashed with paint during talks with grassroots party representatives in Glasgow last night.

Mr Clegg later made light of the incident, saying it was ‘no big deal’.

This afternoon, Stuart Rodger, 22, from Inverkeithing, Fife, appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court in connection with the alleged attack.

He faces charges of assault by throwing an egg filled with paint at Mr Clegg and three police officers.

Rodger is accused of throwing the egg which struck Mr Clegg ‘on the body’ in Glenfarg Street, Glasgow, yesterday.

Rodger made no plea and no declaration and was granted bail.

The case was continued for further examination and a date is yet to be set.

More…

Mr Clegg was at the meeting at Woodside Hall in the west of the city as part of a tour of the UK.

Rodger is believed to be a former Liberal Democrat member and it is understood he left the party after the last general election.

_

PHOTO NOT SHOWN

Feeling blue: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pictured in Scotland the day before the alleged assault

PHOTO NOT SHOWN_

Scene: A policeman stands guard outside Woodside Halls, traces of blue paint are still visible on the concrete column

Carol Shedden, of Real Radio Scotland, who had been waiting to interview Mr Clegg, said of the incident: ‘One half of his face was completely covered in blue paint.

‘People rushed to his aid to wipe it off but there were still traces of the paint on his clothing – it was quite a welcome to Glasgow.

‘He just said, “these things do happen in the job. It’s no big deal”.’

PHOTO NOT SHOWN_

Swift response: Police at the scene yesterday
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2030574/Ex-Lib-Dem-member-appears-court-charged-throwing-blue-paint-Nick-Clegg.html#ixzz1WCwTT7pP

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Filed under Contempt of Court, Courts, Criminal Law, Daily Mail, Politics, Press, Uncategorized

The Daily Mail and its Commenters Fail to Understand Geography

Today’s Daily Mail website has an article which ticks many of the boxes its readers are perceived to want ticked.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2013309/Pregnant-15-daughter-Britains-prolific-single-mother-And-course-shes-benefits–just-like-mum.html#ixzz1RmQGVPoJ

The headline in fact tells you the story, and, knowing the Daily Mail, one can predict the tone of the piece and of the comments.

However, on reading it, there is a tiny reference which seems to have been missed, both by the paper and by the vast majority of the 176 commenters (as at the time of typing this piece).

The article states “She also boasts that she finds it easy to run her huge household and has enough spare time to go to the park or the beach near her home in St Martins, Guernsey.”

Absolutely disgraceful – imagine having 14 children and still having time to go to the park or the beach! Mind you, Guernsey is nice…

Wait a minute. Guernsey, that’s in the Channel Islands?

The Channel Islands are not part of Great Britain, though they are part of the British Islands as defined in the Interpretation Act.

Does this make Joanne Watson “Britain’s most prolific single mother”? No – because she does not live in Britain!

Anyway, it’s still a disgrace, says the Daily Mail, that this woman has all these children paid for by the taxpayer. Surely the benefit budget is stretched too far already without these additional burdens on the state. And she has spent this money on a breast enlargement operation and on a sunbed!

Look at the story – her 15 year old daughter who is expecting is going to receive supplementary benefit and child allowance as well as all the money she gets herself.

A drain on our taxes – terrible!

But, wait another minute, supplementary benefit does not exist in the UK any more by that name, and “child allowance” isn’t a term used either. Why has the reporter made this silly mistake?

In fact it is not a mistake. Guernsey has its own benefit system, http://www.gov.gg/ccm/navigation/social-security and is not part of the UK benefit system at all!

So this story is, in fact, about a lady who does not live in the UK and does not cost the British taxpayer one penny!

The commenters are even better than the article in missing the point though.

One, from Canada, says “No wonder England is declining.”

Another, from Australia, blames New Labour!

Yet another Australian commenter says she is delighted she did not come back to the UK.

China’s policy of population control is praised, and a good few people seem to feel that workhouses never did anyone any harm and we should have them back.

There are also some who state that this is the type of thing that makes them want to leave the UK (and move to Guernsey perhaps?)

Interestingly, a few commenters make the pint I have above, namely that Guernsey is not part of the UK. These however all seem to have substantial numbers of red “dislikes” marked  against them.

And finally Mark from Coventry says “In one article, you capture virtually everything wrong in the UK today.”

No Mark, in one article, you capture virtually everything that is wrong with the Daily Mail and its commenters.

I can’t work out if the reporter (a) did not realise himself about the differences between the UK and Guernsey or (b) was not bothered about them in case they got in the way of the story.

I, of course, am merely pondering the matter. No criticism of the reporter in question is intended or implied.

UPDATE – a quick Google Search reveals that, in October 2010, there was a long and sympathetic article about this family and the fact that Joanne Watson was about to be married again. The piece had an entirely different tone, praising the lady for her “neat as a pin” house and her organisation etc.

The paper that story was in – yes, you’ve guessed it – the Daily Mail!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1325079/Expectant-father-marry-divorced-woman-15-children-already.html

UPDATE NO 2 – a slightly more detailed Google Search shows that this is, in fact, the sixth article in the Daily Mail about this lady and her family in the last 4 years, yet the first to have taken this tone – I wonder what caused the change?

6 Comments

Filed under Daily Mail, Press