Tag Archives: High Court

Rangers, Sevco and the Law – Threatened Court Actions – Duff & Phelps v BBC

Following the BBC Inside Story, Part 2, recently it was made clear by Duff & Phelps that they were poised to embark on court action against the BBC.

As the Scotsman reported on 24th May, “RANGERS administrators Duff & Phelps last night threatened to sue the BBC over claims a senior partner in the firm was aware of Craig Whyte’s scheme to buy Rangers using cash from the controversial Ticketus deal.”

The piece quoted the statement from Paul Clark which said:-

“The allegations made in tonight’s programme against Duff & Phelps are untrue, a distortion of the facts and highly defamatory. Discussions are already underway with our solicitors with a view to bringing legal proceedings against the BBC.

 “We made a number of offers to assist the BBC in order they would not make the fundamental errors broadcast this evening and for some inexplicable reason the reporter Mark Daly declined these.

“We had also hoped to give interviews stating our case on camera but received strong legal advice against this course of action, bearing in mind the legal proceedings Duff & Phelps have raised against Collyer Bristow. The BBC were informed in writing from our solicitors.” Continue reading

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Filed under Administration, BBC, Defamation, Rangers

Cadder II – The Sequel – PF Glasgow v Akram – Article 6 Revisited

 

Cadder v Her Majesty’s Advocate

 

The Cadder case (Cadder v HMA [2010] UKSC 43) created havoc last year when the United Kingdom Supreme Court (UKSC) declared that the long standing practice of the Scottish police of detaining suspects and questioning them without the accused having had the benefit of legal advice under s 14 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 breached the rights of the accused to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This meant that where a suspect had been detained by the police and questioned without access to legal advice, then in the absence of any waiver by the accused, any matters mentioned in the interview would not be admissible against him in a trial.

The Scottish Parliament passed emergency legislation – the Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Detention and Appeals) (Scotland) Act. This Act was designed to close the loophole identified by the UKSC, which in turn arose from the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Salduz v Turkey (2009) 49 EHRR 19. The case also prompted significant criticism by the SNP administration of the UKSC’s “interference” in Scottish criminal law.

Fears that the Appeal Court in Edinburgh would be swamped by huge numbers of appeals, and that numerous cases would have to be dropped have proved to be exaggerated, but it is clear that the decision in Cadder has had an enormous effect upon the criminal justice system in Scotland.

The new system put in place has been bedding in, and the UKSC has a representative sample of cases with decisions pending to clarify the effect of the Cadder decisions in cases prior to the new legislation.

All seemed to be calm, at least relatively.

 

PF Glasgow v Akram

 

However, on 1st September 2011, Sheriff Sean Murphy QC (who also sits as a temporary High Court judge) put the “Cadder” among the pigeons again.

His decision was issued in the case of PF Glasgow v Akram which is at this point unreported, but can be found here  Sheriff Murphy’s decision applies the Cadder principles to a much larger variety of cases than Cadder itself, and has potential implications across the UK.

Mrs Akram was charged on summary complaint with two counts under Section 111(1A) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, as amended, by knowingly failing to give prompt notification in the prescribed manner to the relevant authorities of changes in her circumstances as a result of which she was said to have obtained income support and housing benefit to which she was not entitled.

Her solicitors lodged a Devolution Minute arguing that her right to a fair trial, under Article 6 of the ECHR, had been denied because the prosecution proceeded on the basis of certain replies, contrary to her interests, which were made by her in an interview which took place without her having the benefit of legal assistance.

Mrs Akram had not been detained under s14. Instead she had been interviewed by one officer of the Department for Work and Pensions and one from Glasgow City Council at the same time. She had attended the interview, which was in connection with alleged fraudulent activity on her part, on a voluntary basis, and it was accepted that she had been told that she was free to leave at any time. The compulsion element under s14 was therefore not present in respect of this matter.

She was advised that she could have legal advice but it was noted that she had not sought this prior to the interview, nor had she asked to leave the interview to obtain it.

 

Submissions to the Court

 

Mr McLaughlin, solicitor for Mrs Akram, referred to the cases of Salduz, Panovits v Cyprus and Cadder. He drew the principle that the suspect had the right to access to legal advice from the first stages of interrogation by the police in order to ensure that his/her right against self-incrimination was meaningful.  He argued that the Interview of someone suspected of fraudulent activity by a non-police agency fell to be treated in the same way.  There were no reported cases at present on the question of the Cadder principle as applied to such non-police agencies.

The case of Jude, Hodgson & Birnie v HMA [2011] Scot HC HCJAC 46 was relevant in connection with the question of waiver of the right to legal advice, it was submitted. The court had accepted that the Cadder rights to legal advice could be waived, but as per the Jude etc case there was no valid waiver for two reasons “namely (i) because the law at the time did not allow the accused to have access to a lawyer at that stage of pre-trial procedure; and (ii) because the appellant’s consent to be interviewed in each case was not informed by legal advice.” Whilst Mrs Akram was allowed access to a lawyer, she had not had her consent to be interviewed informed by legal advice.

Mr McLaughlin argued that Mrs Akram had not been acting with the benefit of legal advice which she ought to have been given.  Her interview therefore was inadmissible.  There had been no voluntary, knowing and intelligent relinquishment of her right, which had to be established in an unequivocal manner, with minimum guarantees commensurate to its importance.  The principle set out in Jude etc applied to all cases.  There should be consistency rather than one rule for interviews conducted by the police and another for interviews conducted by other agencies.

The procurator fiscal depute sought to distinguish all the authorities cited for Mrs Akram. They all related, she said, to police interviews. Police interviews had a compulsion element absent in non-police agency interviews. The two were not comparable. In any event, Mrs Akram was not a vulnerable person, being an adult who had had the right to legal advice made clear to her. She had chosen, under no pressure, not to seek legal advice and therefore she had waived any Article 6 rights in this regard.

 

Sheriff Murphy’s Determination – Does the Cadder Principle Apply to Non-Police Agency Interviews?

 

Sheriff Murphy proceeded to deal with the two issues in the case. First of all, did the Cadder principle apply to non-police agency interviews and secondly, had there been a valid waiver of her rights by Mrs Akram?

The first point seems to be the principle with potentially wide applications, although, as we shall see, these might be mitigated significantly by virtue of the decision on the second part.

Dealing with the Cadder point, Sheriff Murphy stated that the “ratio of the decisions in the cases of Salduz v Turkey and Cadder v HMA is that a suspect’s right against self-incrimination would be compromised if he were denied access to legal advice before being questioned by the authorities in the form of the police.” He indicated that this was clearly indicated in Salduz and in the speeches by Lords Rodger and Hope in the Cadder case.

He went on to say “The principle itself is so clearly recognised in these passages that I can see no reason to distinguish between the police and any other agency which is questioning a person suspected of committing some type of crime.  In this context it is significant that the procurator fiscal depute in her submissions to me used the phrase “reporting agency” because that reflects the fact that the agencies involved in this case were used to reporting matters which they had investigated to the office of the procurator fiscal so that prosecutions might be undertaken.  Accordingly their enquiries must be seen as sharing some of the features of a police investigation and the right against self-incrimination must be as important in relation to any interview conducted by such an agency, where the contents of the interview are likely to be used in evidence, as it would be in the context of police questioning.  I can see no reason why the general principle should be restricted to police questioning after detention, as the respondent urges.  The principle must be applied equally to all enquiries which are likely to lead to criminal proceedings.(Emphases added.)

The learned Sheriff did not go quite as far as to say that this was now trite law, but his analysis makes clear that the Cadder protection must apply in these matters. Where the agency involved can effectively bypass the police in reporting a matter to the Procurator Fiscal, then such an interview must be treated as if a police interview. One can self-incriminate in such a non-police agency interview as much as one can in a police interview, and in either case the prosecution would seek to use admissions made by the accused in such interviews in court. Logically therefore, the Sheriff viewed that the absence of compulsion was not the relevant factor here, but the purpose of the interview and the use to which admissions made therein might be put.

There are a large number of agencies which can be described as “reporting agencies” as used by the fiscal depute and the Sheriff. The wider issue is that these agencies are UK wide. Whereas s14 detention, as formerly applied, was only the law in Scotland, the issue of non-police “reporting agencies” conducting voluntary interviews under caution is a national one. Whilst the mechanism by which the ECHR is applied differs between Scotland and England (in Scotland under the Scotland Act and in England under the Human Rights Act) Article 6 protections apply across the board. It would therefore appear that the issue raised would be applicable across the border.

Of course the requirement for corroboration in Scotland, which is not replicated in England, makes this even more important in the latter jurisdiction. In Scotland, one cannot generally be convicted solely on one’s own admissions. In England, without that requirement for corroboration, admissions under caution could be enough, on their own, to result in a conviction.

With the UKSC having determined this principle, it would not be a surprise to see the specific issue addressed by Sheriff Murphy in this case being refereed to the UKSC for an authoritative determination.

Indeed it has already been suggested that, due to the cross border implications, the Advocate General for Scotland will seek to refer the matter to the UKSC.


Sheriff Murphy’s Determination – What is the Position Regarding Waiver?

 

Sheriff Murphy then spends longer dealing with the principle of waiver than with the basic Cadder rule. He quoted Lord Rodger in Cadder as saying:-

“It is, indeed, quite common for those who have been arrested to decide to make a voluntary statement to the police and not to exercise their right to obtain legal advice before doing so. See, for instance, the famous example in Manuel v HM Advocate 1958 JC 41. Similarly, if a suspect had a right to legal advice before being questioned, but declined to exercise it, a court might have to consider whether, having regard to all the circumstances, he had effectively waived his relevant article 6 Convention right so that no violation would arise.”(Emphasis added)

The learned Sheriff noted that it had repeatedly been made clear to Mrs Akram that she was entitled to have legal advice, both in the letter inviting her to attend at the interview, and during it as it proceeded. He said “I further consider that these excerpts show that she clearly and obviously declined to seek such advice at a time when it was open to her to do so, apparently at an early stage in the interview”.

He considered that it was clear that Mrs Akram had waived her right to legal advice.

The thornier question was whether this was “an informed decision, freely taken?”

Sheriff Murphy considered the case of Pishchalnikov v. Russia – 7025/04 [2009] ECHR 1357 (24 September 2009) where the court had determined that a suspect had the right to waive his rights in connection with access to legal advice. He quoted paragraph 78 of the decision which states:-

However, the Court strongly indicates that additional safeguards are necessary when the accused asks for counsel because if an accused has no lawyer, he has less chance of being informed of his rights and, as a consequence, there is less chance that they will be respected.” (Emphasis added by Sheriff Murphy)

In the present case Mrs Akram had specifically declined legal advice. This meant that the Pishchalnikov case fell to be distinguished as here the suspect had repeatedly asked for a lawyer, but been refused, prior to making a confession.

The Sheriff then considered the “circular” argument proposed by Mr McLaughlin for Mrs Akram to the effect that, in the absence of legal advice, a suspect could not make a valid waiver of their rights, as they did not know and understand what those rights were.

Here he considered the Jude case referred to above.  He noted that that case was decided based on the rules in place prior to the Cadder decision and the 201 Act being passed. At the time there was no right recognised to have legal advice prior to an interview by the police, so accordingly the police did not advise suspects of what ultimately, as per the UKSC in Cadder, turned out to be the correct position, namely that there was such a right.

In such a case there could only be an implied waiver, as no one could expressly waive a right not known to them.

He went on to say:-

“The situation in the cases of Jude & Ors is rather different from Mrs Parveen Akram’s position.  She was expressly advised of her right to seek legal advice and she chose not to exercise it.  She was expressly advised that the interview would be suspended on her indicating that she wished to seek legal advice but she declined to do so.  That was an informed decision on her part because she was plainly aware of the existence of the right and she did not seek to exercise it.  I therefore consider that she must be held to have waived her right to seek legal advice prior to and during the interview of 9 December 2008.” (Emphases added)

He then decided that (a) the Cadder rights were applicable, but that (b) Mrs Akram had waived them and therefore her alleged admissions were admissible and the case should proceed.

We now wait to see if this case will be appealed to the High Court.

 

Implications

 

Where does this take us?

Firstly, I imagine that, whether with this prosecution or another, there will be a case determined by the Appeal Court in Scotland or indeed the UKSC in an effort to determine this point. Are non-police agencies bound by Cadder rules? On the basis of Sheriff Murphy’s analysis, which of course is persuasive, but not binding, there is little doubt that such rules do apply. Agencies such as the Department of Work and Pensions, local authorities in connection with various functions, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs and many more would fall within that description. All sorts of cases, such as those relating to breaches of the benefit rules, tax evasion, environmental heath infractions, planning offences and violations of the rules of Company law or Bankruptcy, where the investigations are carried out not by police, but by a “reporting agency” would appear to be covered. On that basis, and therefore across the UK, will there turn out to be many cases where prosecutions need to be dropped or convictions quashed? I must for now leave that question open.

 

Secondly, what are the implications for Legal Aid, both in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK? Under the new post-Cadder legislation in Scotland the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) set up a much criticised scheme for providing people who are detained for questioning by the police to receive free legal advice from a police station duty solicitor, being an extension of the existing Duty Solicitor scheme. A spokesman for SLAB is quoted by the Herald as saying that assistance was available to those questioned by outside agencies but would be considered on an individual basis. After all the disputes between the solicitors who practise criminal law in Scotland and SLAB over the new police station duty advice, I am sure the last thing SLAB want is to have to extend this in some way to cover interviews with other agencies. For one thing, SLAB’s budget is sorely pressed just now, they tell us, and a new layer of “Duty Solicitor” activity would result in resources being taken from elsewhere in their budget. But following Sheriff Murphy’s principle, if a police interview and that with a non-police “reporting agency” are so similar as to require Cadder protection in each case to render them ECHR compliant, can the Scottish Government justify not extending the free “Duty” legal advice to “reporting agency” interviews?

As the arrangements for Legal Aid in England are not something of which I have much, if indeed any, knowledge, I leave to wiser people than me if there would be Legal Aid implications outwith the Scottish jurisdiction.

 

Thirdly, is the waiver decision reached by Sheriff Murphy a “get out of jail free” card for the prosecution, reducing the impact of the Cadder principle in practice?

The situation where there is police detention involves the suspect, often without any warning, being apprehended. There is no opportunity to take legal advice prior to interview and a suspect cannot opt to leave the police station to seek such advice. The new post-Cadder regime in Scotland allows the suspect to seek and obtain such advice, even if over the telephone, prior to interview unless the right is waived.

However in most “reporting agency” cases, the suspect would attend, as did Mrs Akram, on a voluntary basis. The practice of the DWP, as I understand it, when investigating an allegation of a fraudulent benefit claim is, at the appropriate moment in the inquiry, to invite the suspect to attend. The letter doing so makes clear that the suspect has the right to seek legal advice prior to the interview. As was seen in the Akram case, the interviewing officers made it clear to Mrs Akram that she was there voluntarily and that she could call a halt to the interview at any time if she wished, including if she decided as matters progressed, to obtain legal advice.

Is it likely therefore that, in many of these “reporting agency” cases the court would determine that, even if the Cadder principle applied, there was in fact a waiver of the suspect’s rights if they choose not to see a lawyer? It would seem at first sight that that would be the position.

Each case, in theory, would have to be dealt with on its individual merits and therefore it is possible that, as in Mrs Akram’s case, the suspect is deemed to be sufficiently “informed” to waive their rights, whilst with other suspects, perhaps due to their age, level of education, or mental capability are not determined to have the capacity to reach an informed decision?

One way, of course, to prevent such issues arising would be for some “Duty Advice Solicitor” scheme to be set up for these cases, where the decision not top take advice would be made against a clear backdrop of information about the suspect’s rights, but even then, we can, in certain cases, come back to the “circular” argument of how can a person be informed in their decision to waive their right to legal advice when they have not had legal advice as to the effects of not having legal advice!

 

Conclusion

 

As with many cases which cause the accepted position to be questioned, it is easy to make dire predictions of the disasters to befall the justice system as a result. In most cases, once the implications are fully assessed, it turns out that the feared effects are diluted.

It is, as Premier Zhou Enlai of China is reputed to have said about the effects of the 1789 French Revolution, “too early to tell” if the Akram case will be as disruptive to the system as was Cadder, if not more so.

What it does show is that the Scottish courts are vigilant in their responsibility of ensuring that the Scottish system becomes ECHR compliant, and it is striking in how many ways, both large and small, it has been found wanting over the years.

Hopefully the Carloway Review, presently ongoing, might hopefully see a way to bringing the criminal justice system in Scotland to a position where there is full ECHR compliance and where the press will no longer take the chance of decisions such as this to complain about “Europe” interfering with our law.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Cadder v HMA, Courts, Criminal Law, Detention and Appeals) (Scotland) Act., Human Rights, PF v Akram, UK Supreme Court

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

2 Comments

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

Should Mr Al-Megrahi Be Sent Back to Prison? Newsnight and the Curious Thoughts of Geoffrey Robertson QC

Libya is in chaos and Mr Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, the man convicted of murder in connection with the Lockerbie bombing, cannot be found. Politicians here and in the USA are calling for him to be extradited or sent back to prison.

Newsnight Scotland decided it would be useful to debate the issue with the assistance of two QCs, Gordon Jackson and Geoffrey Robertson. After a brief report including Nick Clegg saying  that he would prefer Mr Al-Megrahi to be back in prison, the 24th August edition went back to the studio for the discussion. Mr Robertson took the lead.

What followed did a disservice to the viewers, and makes one wonder how Newsnight Scotland chose its guests (or one of them at least).

 

Geoffrey Robertson QC is one of the most eminent and well known lawyers in Britain. The catalogue of famous and ground-breaking cases in which he has been involved is long and his reputation is rightly illustrious. He is also a man who has been willing to serve, having been one of the judges in the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone for some years and a Distinguished Jurist Member of the United Nations Internal Justice Council since 2008.

As his biography on his website states, he has appeared “as leading counsel in over 200 reported cases, many in the European Court of Human Rights, the House of Lords, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the Privy Council, with appearances in the Courts of Appeal of Singapore, Trinidad, the Eastern Caribbean, Malawi, Florida and appearances in various courts in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mauritius, Malaysia, Anguilla, Antigua, in the World Bank Arbitration Court (ICSID) and in the Revolutionary Military Tribunal of Mozambique.”

He is a prolific author, and his The Tyrannicide Brief, about John Cooke, the lawyer who prosecuted King Charles I, is a masterful book, emphasising the rule of law, and the fact that even monarchs and rulers are bound to follow the law. I would heartily recommend that book to any reader, lawyer and non-lawyer alike.

One might think that having such a distinguished legal mind available to take part in the debate was a chance not to be missed. There was only one problem. Mr Robertson’s list of countries and courts where he has acted does not include Scotland. As far as I am aware, Mr Robertson, not being a member of the Scottish Bar, has never appeared in our courts.

 

As a very wise and clever man, I am sure he is more than capable of understanding points of Scots Law, but this Newsnight appearance did not demonstrate that. Why did Newsnight Scotland feel that, other than Gordon Jackson QC, there were no other lawyers practising in Scotland worth having on? Perhaps the answer is that they could not find any Scots lawyers to disagree with the position adopted, correctly I believe, by Mr Jackson. Perhaps the chance to have such a famous name as Mr Robertson on meant that Newsnight did not ask any other Scots lawyers. Was this a decision by Newsnight that there required to be “balance” even if that meant balancing the wrong view with the right view?

 

The Lallands Peat Worrier had done the hard work of writing about the legislation dealing with the question of compassionate release, and what the rules were governing any possible recall to prison. I commend his post to all readers. He made clear that, in terms of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993, Mr Al-Megrahi could only be recalled to prison under s17(a) if either of the following took place: (i) if the Parole Board recommended that the Justice Secretary recall him; or (ii) if the Justice Secretary decided that it was expedient in the public interest to revoke the licence and recall him to prison and it was not practicable for the Justice Secretary to await a Parole Board recommendation.

Mr Robertson did not trouble himself to make reference to these rules and he launched himself into the fray, with almost everything he said being incorrect in some way. My thoughts on Mr Robertson’s comments are in italics below.

 

First of all, despite it being a discussion about Mr Al-Megrahi, Mr Robertson started with Colonel Gaddafi, stating that there was “increased evidence” to show that the Libyan leader (or former leader, depending on when this is read) “gave orders to Mr Al-Megrahi to blow up the jet”. He later stated that the former Libyan Justice Minister had stated that he had proof of this.

                    Professor Black, on his Lockerbie Case Blog, noted that this proof, whist promised, had still to emerge.

 

He commented that Mr Al-Megrahi had had a fair trial “before eight judges”.

                    Many observers and commentators do not accept that the outcome of the trial was fair at all. Whilst the issue of Mr Al-Megrahi’s guilt or innocence  is not relevant, legally, to any question of recall (in law he is a convicted murderer the matter of his involvement remains at issue, as the Justice Form Megrahi campaign pursues its quest for a full inquiry into the atrocity.

                    The trial of course was before three judges with a further five hearing the appeal. There were a number of areas not explored at the trial or appeal, which are, apparently, identified by the as yet unpublished report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

 

He felt that “the country” should fulfil the promise made by Robin Cook, when Foreign Secretary, to Madeleine Allbright, who was the US Secretary of State, that Mr Al-Megrahi would serve 27 years in prison.

                    If Mr Cook did make such a promise, then he had no authority to do so. The matter of Mr Al-Megrahi’s release was one for the Scottish Courts, in connection with his appeal and the Crown appeal that the sentence was too lenient, or for the Scottish Ministers, not the UK Foreign Secretary. In any event, the reason for Mr Al-Megrahi’s release was his ill health and imminent death, not any assessment that he had tholed his assize.

 

He referred to the “extraordinary behaviour” of the Minister (presumably Mr MacAskill) who had been “conned by doctors paid by Libya” into accepting that the prisoner had only three months to live. He said that the doctors had been so wrong in their diagnoses that their findings should be questioned and that there had to be a proper examination by independent doctors.

                    Whilst one of the medical experts who provided comment upon Mr Al-Megrahi’s condition was an expert engaged on Libya’s behalf (and in a situation like this there is nothing wrong with a person hiring their own expert to offer an opinion) Mr MacAskill has always made it clear that the medical advice he considered was that from the Chief Medical Officer of the Scottish Prison Service. The suggestion that doctors “conned” the Justice Secretary is one which seems clearly defamatory, and it would not surprise me if the members of the medical profession involved took the matter further.

                    The implication of what he said was that Mr Al-Megrahi was either not terminally ill at all, or if he was, that his prognosis was far longer than three months .In either event, this is a serious allegation to make, and I suspect one that the learned gentleman had not thought through. His comments amounted to a suggestion that the medical experts deployed for the Libyan had produced reports not based upon their medical expertise, but instead influenced by their paymaster.

                    “Independent” doctors have already determined the position of Mr Al-Megrahi. The fact that a change of location in returning to his homeland and family, and an apparent new treatment regimen has extended his life beyond what was predicted is not, in my view, a cause for re-incarceration, and indeed the legislation does not see it as such when dealing with a “long-term prisoner”.

 

He pointed out, with reference to Mr Al-Megrahi’s recent appearance at a pro-Gaddafi rally, that if he was demonstrating in favour of his leader when he was on probation, that was wrong.

                    The Scottish Ministers have helpfully made a copy of Mr Al-Megrahi’s licence available to all. As Mr Jackson pointed out, there is nothing there which precludes an appearance at a rally, and, as Mr Jackson went on to say, how likely was it that Mr Al-Megrahi could have refused to attend if told to by Colonel Gaddafi.

 

Mr Robertson then referred to the application in 2009 made by Mr Al-Megrahi’s lawyers for bail due to his ill-health, which was refused by the High Court who, according to Mr Robertson, said that if Mr Al-Megrahi was sufficiently unwell, he should go to a “bail hostel” in Scotland.

                    This was on the premise that his appeal was continuing and was not connected to the matter of compassionate release from his sentence. Whilst the compassionate release granted could have required Mr Al-Megrahi, as a condition of his licence, to reside in Scotland, the medical evidence specifically referred to the benefits for him in returning home.

 

 

He then returned to Colonel Gaddafi, saying that he expected him to end up strung up from a lamppost, but that if he was captured, there would be an argument about whether Scotland or France would prosecute him first, as each would have the right to seek his transfer from the International Criminal Court in the Hague before the Colonel was tried at the ICC. I would not be surprised if the USA, and various other nations, thought they had grounds for seeking to prosecute him.

As the discussion neared the end, he went back to Mr Al-Megrahi, stating that it was “bewildering” that the “Scottish Probation Office” had not recalled Mr Al-Megrahi for breach of his licence, and that there should be legal proceedings taken to force them “to do their duty”.

                    As Mr Jackson had already pointed out (and the initial report by Julie Peacock had said) it did not appear that the licence conditions had been broken, so far. One reason why the “Scottish Probation Office” had taken no action is that such a body does not exist, nor indeed is Mr Al-Megrahi on probation. His situation, having been released, is monitored by East Renfrewshire Council. I would be interested to know who Mr Robertson thinks should be taking this legal action. Perhaps he might care to initiate it himself, if he feels so strongly about it?

 

It was not fair that Mr MacAskill had not met with the relatives of the dead but he had met with Mr Al-Megrahi before reaching the conclusion that the Libyan would be dead within three months.

                    The Justice Secretary did not reach any conclusion about Mr Al-Megrahi’s condition. He relied upon the expert medical witnesses for that purpose, as is right to do. Whilst there have been questions about the release, as Mr Jackson said, that was not what was being talked about now.

 

He concluded by stating that, if Mr Salmond and his Justice Secretary “had any guts, they would re-visit their earlier decision” to release Mr Al-Megrahi.

                    Here again Mr Robertson failed to get the point. There is no scope to “revisit” the decision to release Mr Al-Megrahi. That has happened. Instead the question is whether or not there are conditions satisfying the legal requirements for the licence to be revoked and a recall to prison ordered. As has been said elsewhere, it is not a breach of his licence to fail to die on schedule! Mr Al-Megrahi’s lawyer, Professor Tony Kelly, would undoubtedly act in the best interests of his client by challenging any decision to recall his client, if there was any scope for so doing. As matters stand, no grounds for recall exist, and the demands of American Senators and UK politicians have no place in that decision.

 

In contrast Mr Jackson sat in the studio talking nothing but sense. He seemed to have a rather world-weary air as he listened to Mr Robertson and tried to correct his errors. Mr Jackson pointed out that, in theory, it was possible, if the conditions referred top above were fulfilled, that Mr Al-Megrahi could be recalled to prison, but he saw that as extremely unlikely. It was not going to happen.  He told the presenter that the issues of Mr Al-Megrahi’s release two years ago had nothing to do with the question of revocation of his licence now.

Perhaps there was a problem with the link to Mr Robertson in London, because he repeatedly sought to talk over Mr Jackson, which is not an easy task to accomplish!

There is clearly great public interest in this issue. Mr Al-Megrahi stands convicted of a heinous crime and it appears that there are people looking for him to remove him from Libya.

However this debate was not helped by one of the contributors having no knowledge at all, it seemed, of the relevant legal rules applicable to the matter at hand. This could be contrasted with the later appearance on the programme of Lord Foulkes to discuss the differing university tuition fees charged in Scotland depending on the domicile of the student. His Lordship, notwithstanding a distinguished career in the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Scottish Parliament, is not a lawyer. Legal niceties might understandably escape him.

Mr Robertson however does not have that excuse. His failure to acknowledge the “rule of law” in this matter is surprising given his very public stance regarding that doctrine over the years, and the rights people have to protect them from the vagaries or abuses of State power. I suspect John Cooke would not be demanding Mr Al-Megrahi’s return to Scottish imprisonment were he here today.

Perhaps next time Newsnight Scotland considers having a lawyer on as a guest, they should ask if the person actually knows about what the topic under discussion is.

 

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Filed under Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, Courts, Criminal Law, Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993, The Scottish Ministers

The Tommy Sheridan Compendium – Perjury, News of the World, Hackgate and Coulson

I realised that, over the last few weeks, I have posted the odd piece about the trial of Tommy Sheridan and the News of the World related fallout.

I thought it would help my readers (both of them) if I listed the posts, with links, and a brief comment on each.

This story is a long way from ended, and I will update this post as necessary.

For the full story of the trial of Tommy Sheridan, I can do no better than to recommend the excellent Sheridan Trial Blog, compiled by James Doleman. James was able to give far more detailed coverage than any mainstream media outlets, and reported what took place in court without having his personal views, whatever they might have been, affect his narrative of the case.

James has contributed further work to the ever expanding Internet store of Sheridanalia at his new site.

I can also recommend heartily the Lallands Peat Worrier  who has been following the case for far longer than I have, and whose insights are always thought provoking, assiduously researched and elegantly drafted.

Finally Love and Garbage has been the source of much knowledge, insight and humour regarding the long process which has brought us to where we are, and he too I would commend to you.

News of the World Hackgate and the Police Investigation – Part 1

The Tommy Sheridan saga has proceeded now for many years. From the heights of the election of the Scottish Socialist Party MSP’s, led by Tommy Sheridan, to Holyrood, to the depths of him being led away to serve his prison sentence for perjury.

Whilst the issue was always very prominent in Scotland, wider UK interest was provoked by the scandalous revelations concerning the News of the World, which led to its closure.

This first piece addressed the evidence of DCS Phil Williams of the Metropolitan Police, who gave the High Court evidence about Operation Caryatid, which resulted in the convictions of Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman. DCS Williams’ evidence regarding the investigation, and what the police did, and more particularly did not, do seems even more concerning than it did at the time I write about it. Quite how the police managed to investigate so few people, in light of what we now know of what there was by way of evidence, remains baffling.

The testimony of former Metropolitan Police officers like Andy Hayman and John Yates before the Home Affairs Select Committee did not answer the questions as to why the initial investigation seemed so ham-fisted.

Frankly DCS Williams’ evidence had little to do with the Sheridan trial, and falls within the wide category of evidence which, if Mr Sheridan had been represented, would not have been permitted by the judge as being irrelevant.

I followed up with a “triple-decker”. This was prompted by speculation about possible perjury investigations into certain witnesses in Tommy Sheridan’s trial, and by implication these were going to be the News of the World witnesses, Andy Coulson, Douglas Wight and Bob Bird. All of the parties in connection with whom it is understood there is the ongoing investigation made clear I court that they were telling the truth and, I am sure, would vigorously deny any such allegations.

I thought it helpful to go through, in as much detail as I could, the testimony of the witnesses and see whether or not there might be cases against any or all of them for perjury.

Andy Coulson, the News of the World, Tommy Sheridan and Perjury

I started with Mr Coulson. As I explained in this post, and further later, in my view, I thought it unlikely that Mr Coulson would ever face a perjury charge in connection with his evidence in this case.

One of the various reasons for this is that Mr Sheridan was not able to question witnesses with the forensic specificity which would have pinned down the witnesses such as Mr Coulson with answers which could be assessed clearly and where there was no dubiety as to what the witness was saying and meaning.

The News of The World, Tommy Sheridan and Perjury?

As with Mr Coulson, I did not foresee any real likelihood that Mr Wight would face perjury charges either.

The News of the World, Andy Coulson, Tommy Sheridan and Perjury? – Part 3 Bob Bird in the Dock?

As regards Mr Bird, he seemed, from what had been made public, to be in greatest danger of investigation in connection with the maters raised. This seemed primarily to relate to his evidence about News of the World e-mails which he told the court had been lost in transit to India.
It later transpired that the e-mails had never been sent to India at all. Bearing in mind that Mr Sheridan’s defence team had been looking for access to them in connection with his defence, the incorrect evidence he gave may suggest that there could have been an attempt to interfere with the course of justice, if not perjury itself.

News of the World, Hackgate and the Police Investigation – Part 2

By this stage, Messrs Yates and Hayman had given evidence to the Select Committee and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had resigned. It was being laid bare how poor and inept the original inquiry had been.

As I concluded ” Whether this “blind eye” approach was anything more sinister than simple incompetence will, hopefully, be addressed by one of the myriad of inquiries which seem to sprouting daily in connection with these matters.

What seems clear is that the police wanted little or nothing to do with this investigation – it was downplayed as much as possible – the bare minimum action was taken, and the whole sorry mess can be summed up by the picture of Mr Mulcaire’s 11,000 pages of notes lying in plastic bags in a Scotland Yard store room for four years, uncatalogued and ignored.”

Sheridan, Coulson and James Murdoch – Lessons from Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens?

I am a great fan of baseball, and over the last few years there has been an enormous explosion of interest in the use of performance enhancing drugs in the sport, and the attempts to stamp this out.

Two of the biggest names in the sport, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, have found themselves sitting in criminal courts facing perjury charges.

I thought that it would be interesting to see if there were any lessons that could be learned from either case as far as any potential perjury case might be concerned regarding witnesses in the Sheridan trial.

I feel (though I am biased as I wrote it) that there are a number of parallels and thus areas where we might gain a better ides as to how matters might progress domestically.

The Sheridan Trial Investigation – What Is Perjury and What Isn’t?

By this stage, there was a lot of discussion about the possibilities of court proceedings. One of the topics being raised was the suggestion by some that if it was shown that the NotW witnesses had lied about anything then (a) this was perjury and (b) Tommy Sheridan had been wrongfully convicted.
I tried in this post to explain the legal requirements for a perjury charge and how it was possible to tell lies in court and not commit perjury. This meant that there is quite a lot of law in this piece, by way of me “showing my workings” © Lallands Peat Worrier.

Tommy Sheridan’s Appeal – What Happened and Where Now?

By now the news had broken that Mr Sheridan’s appeal had been refused at the “sift” stage. This meant that he would not be granted an appeal hearing, because his ground or grounds of appeal were not felt to be arguable.

I wanted to give an indication as to why this might have been determined, and what options remained open to him.

I also wanted to clarify why the request by the defence to have the time for the appeal extended had failed.

Tommy Sheridan and the “McNeilage Tape”

One of the particularly striking pieces of evidence in the case was the “McNeilage Tape”. Whilst the authenticity of this had been questioned at the trail, neither party led any expert evidence to either confirm that the tape was genuine, or to refute that.

There have been various theories suggested as to why this was the case, and I thought it useful to look at these, and the implications of the Cadder case for the testing of the video tape.

Yet More Thoughts Re Sheridan, Perjury and the News of the World

One of my readers had taken the time and trouble to prepare a detailed comment regarding various of the issues in connection with the case. I felt this would be a good way of giving my thoughts, views and arguments regarding various points in connection with the case, rather than engaging with limited specific issues as I had done before.

Hopefully my comments provide some additional clarification of what is an extremely complicated situation. I am very much appreciative of Joseph Syme’s time in preparing his thoughts. As those provided an excellent template within which my answers would fit.

There remain many issues concerning this matter. The narrow issues of Mr Sheridan’s trail and the appeal by the NotW against his £200,000 award on one hand, and the wider factors surrounding phone hacking, and the iniquities of the NotW together with perhaps the rest of Fleet Street will all require further analysis and clarification.

I hope to be able to shed some light on these issues in future posts, and I am always happy for readers to contribute with their own thoughts.

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Filed under Courts, Criminal Appeals, Criminal Law, News Of The World, Press