I posted last week on a judgment given by His Honour Judge Bellamy in a family court case involving a mother’s abuse of her baby The judge took the unusual step of criticising media reporting of the case. He said the Telepraph’s Christopher Booker’s reporting was “unbalanced, inaccurate and just plain wrong“.
There have been some developments since last week which raise interesting questions about the duty of journalists to report cases accurately. First, Sir Nicholas Wall, head of the family division, used his judgment in a different case to support HHJ Bellamy’s criticism. He said:
although I disagree with Judge Bellamy’s decision… I agree entirely with paragraphs 185 to 193 of his judgment in Re L under the heading “Transparency” and in which the judge deals with the tendentious and inaccurate reporting of the case.
That was quick! The Supreme Court appear to have responded to the request I made on Thursday that hearings be broadcast live on the internet. From today, Sky News will be broadcasting all hearings live via this website.
All hearings at the court are filmed, but until now only broadcasters had been able to use footage. I first argued in October that this was a waste and the hearings should be live screened. I don’t actually believe that my posts had anything to do with this minor technological miracle, but I have tried it out and it works. This is very exciting. For the first time the general public, lawyers and law students can see the advocacy in the UK’s highest court of appeal live and unedited.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has told the Society of Editors that more court hearings should be televised. The Ministry of Justice have responded by saying that they are considering changes but would want to consult the senior judiciary before making any “firm proposals”.
Starmer is right to say that “shining a light on the workings of the court room can only serve to boost its efficiency and effectiveness”. But before spending time and money opening up more courts to cameras, footage from the supreme court, which is already filmed at great expense, should be made more widely available.
Updated | If you are looking for something to do whilst waiting for the Mosley privacy judgment from the European Court of Human Rights (scheduled for 9am UK time), and are still finding the super-injunction supernova confusing (who isn’t?), I recommend reading some of the excellent coverage from the legal blogs:
With this week potentially heralding another hang-the-judges media storm over Max Mosley’s Strasbourg privacy case, it is a relief to read three sensible and balanced pieces on European courts this week, all of which highlights the courts’ shortcomings, but also the risks of a UK withdrawal.
First up is Charlemagne, the European columnist in The Economist, who finds a European court system which is “bewildering” – rightly wondering what the difference is between the European Council and the Council of Europe – and staffed by judges who “annoy most national politicians some of the time and infuriate some most of the time“.
The UK Human Rights Blog was launched just over a year ago. It is a free service and we intend it to remain so, in order to give the general public easy access to expert human rights commentary. We do not support campaigns as a matter of policy, but we do ask that if you use and enjoy the blog, and you consider access to justice to be important, that you sponsor us in next week’s walk.
Unsurprisingly, the coroner has found that the 52 people who died as a result of the bombings were unlawfully killed. She also found that they would have died “whatever time the emergency services reached and rescued them”. The coroner made 9 recommendations (using her power under Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules) for the future prevention of such events, which are reproduced in full below.
L (A Child: Media Reporting), Re  EWHC B8 (Fam) (18 April 2011) – Read judgment
The thought of being personally criticised in a reported judgment would make most lawyers break into a cold sweat. Some journalists wear such treatment as a badge of honour. But surely it is professionally embarrassing for a high court judge to label an article as “unbalanced, inaccurate and just plain wrong“.
That was the treatment handed out by His Honour Judge Bellamy to the Telegraph’s Christopher Booker in a recent ruling. The facts of the case are sad and I will not repeat them in any detail. HHJ Bellamy was asked to make a factual ruling relating to the alleged mistreatment of a baby by its family. He found that the mother was responsible for breaking the baby’s arm, an injury which led to the council forcibly removing the child from its parents’ care, as well as bruising to his hand and cheek. The judge did question, however, why it was necessary for the police to march the parents through a hospital wearing handcuffs.
Update – apologies for the earlier confusion. The details below are correct and confirmed.
The second #lawblogs event will be held on 19 May 2011 at 6pm. The Law Society at 113 Chancery Lane have kindly agreed to host the event.
To reserve your place, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org the subject heading “Legal blogging event” and your full name only in the text. Only one place can be reserved per person. Space is limited so please email as soon as possible if you want to attend. You can also follow updates and live tweets from the event on Twitter via our new account at @legalblogging.
Like the “Future of Legal Blogging“, but on a larger scale, the event will be a panel based discussion of the past, present and future of legal blogging, tweeting and journalism, followed of course by drinks and nibbles. The speakers will be:
The New York Times reports that after years of promising leads gone cold, the final piece of evidence which led to Osama Bin Laden was found by interrogating detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Given the rough interrogation techniques which were in use at the prison camp, the killing has reopened the debate over torture, and whether it is ever justified.
Blogger David Allen Green, amongst others, asks whether the Bin Laden scenario may amount to an exception to the “otherwise absolute rule” that torture is wrong. I would like to pose a slightly different question: on the basis of current UK law, would it have been lawful for UK authorities to use information obtained under torture to capture or kill a known terrorist?
I argued last summer that rights campaigners were approaching the end of the age of terrorism, with economic concerns taking centre stage. The death of Bin Laden, just under a decade since the September 11 terrorist attacks, may ultimately be a historical marker of that shift in focus.
It is coincidental that Bin Laden’s death was announced on the British May Day bank holiday, traditionally a period of economic protests and celebration of the labour movement. But that coincidence does serve to highlight two different aspects of universal rights protections: to put it crudely, the protection of people we do and people we don’t like.
Iorworth HOARE v the United Kingdom – 16261/08  ECHR 722 (12 April 2011) – Read decision
Potential future US president Donald Trump once said that “Everything in life is luck“. Sometimes a case arises from such an unlikely factual scenario that it raises questions about the relationship between justice, fairness and luck. This is such a case.
Iorworth Hoare was convicted 1989 for attempted rape. He was a serial sex offender, so was sentenced to life imprisonment. As life in prison does not usually mean actual life in prison, he was released on 31 March 2005. In what could be considered a not quite minor reversal of Hoare’s deservedly poor fortune up to that point, in 2004, while on day release, he bought a National Lottery ticket, and won £7m. Home Office rules allowed prisoners in open conditions to play the lottery.
Human rights and discrimination law are often criticised in the press. Sometimes the criticisms are justified, but the level of anger which a system of universal rights can generate is sometimes surprising. Unfortunately, some of that anger is caused by inaccurate reporting of judgments.
In yesterday’s Telegraph online, Cristina Odone blogged on a recent “scandal” relating to Mr Justice Mostyn’s request to carry out his responsibilities as a duty judge in Tenerife. I will leave comment on the main story to Charon QC, save to say that Odone uses the story as a means of judge-bashing, a sport which is currently popular in the press and even with politicians. “Who”, asks Odone channeling public anger, “do these judges think they are?” Moreover,
The Telegraph has launched a campaign to “Stop foreign criminals using ‘family rights’ to dodge justice“. The perceived inability of judges to deport foreign criminals as a result of the European Convention on Human Rights, and in particular the right to family life, is one of the most commonly heard criticisms of human rights law.
In an editorial yesterday, the Telegraph argued that the Human Rights Act has become “a means of undermining public safety, not of helping to protect it.” The newspaper claims that last year 200 foreign convicts avoided deportation by citing the right to family life”, which is “an absurd state of affairs”.
Someone pointed out to me yesterday that our blog roll, that is our list of links to other sites, had disappeared. To my horror, they were right, and to my double horror, it turned out that the list of links was woefully inadequate.
So, the much-improved list is back, a bit lower down on the right. And below is a list with some short descriptions of the links. I have tried to limit the list to sites relevant to legal blogging and (to a lesser extent, because there are so many) human rights: for a much better roundup of the state of legal blogging in the UK, please read the almost impossibly comprehensive UK Blawg Roundup #6 by Brian Inkster.
Also, if you think you or someone else should be on this list, please let me know via the contact tab above. And the next #Lawblogs event is on 19 May at 6:30pm at the Law Society – details this week on how to reserve your place.
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.