Keynote speech by Lord Neuberger at 5 RB Conference on the Internet, 30 September 2014
The President of the Supreme Court has delivered a very interesting address on the protections that should be afforded to what might be termed the “new Fourth Estate” – journalism on the internet. The following summary does not do justice to his speech but is meant to act as a taster – download the full text of his talk here.
Lord Neuberger explores the interrelationship of privacy and freedom of expression, particularly in the light of developments in IT, and especially the internet. He recalls a colourful eighteenth century figure who contributed a series of letters to a widely disseminated journal under the pseudonym of “Junius”. He managed to make such effective attacks on public figures he brought about the resignation of the Prime Minister, the Duke of Grafton, in 1770. Because of his anonymity this character was able to make criticisms of the powerful for which others of his time faced prosecution.
Junius offered a voice of firm if sometimes scurrilous criticism, prompting both political and legal change. He is rightly remembered as one of the greatest political writers in an age dominated by great figures, yet his identity [still] remains a mystery.
And it is this lack of traceability that links Junius with today’s bloggers. Print journalists are – with the exception of writers for The Economist – known figures. But forty percent of the world’s population use the internet, and despite initial expectations that bloggers and tweeters could hide behind pseudonyms, it has turned out to be extremely difficult for internet writers to maintain their anonymity. The public and the courts increasingly recognise the press’ interest in publishing the names of individuals in appropriate circumstances. Continue reading →
Neumanns v. Adronikou  EWCA (Civ) 916, 24 July 2013 read judgment
This time of year, high court and appellate judges will have been trying to clear their desks – to stop the complex half-finished judgment from skulking around in their minds and spoiling their holidays.
So they must relish this advice from Mummery LJ, a long-standing member of the Court of Appeal, about brevity – in particular, what to do when the CA is dismissing an appeal from an immaculate judgement below:
What sensible purpose could be served by this court repeating in its judgments detailed discussions of every point raised in the grounds of appeal and the skeleton arguments when they have already been dealt with correctly and in detail in the judgment under appeal? No purpose at all, in my view.
But Mummery LJ did a little more than this in an attempt to stifle down at least some of the words pouring out from the courts, as we shall see.
It is always a pleasure to welcome a new legal blog, especially one with subject matter which is relevant to readers of the UKHRB. May I introduce you to the European Sanctions Blog, written by Brick Court’s Maya Lester and Michael O’Kane of Peters & Peters. The blog is also on Twitter as @eusanctions.
For justice to be seen to be done, judgments given in open court must be accessible in two senses. They must be clearly written so that a reasonably well informed member of the public can understand what is being decided. But they must also be available to the public, and in this sense their accessibility depends on their being reported.
Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, so stated in the first BAILII annual lecture, hosted by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP at their premises in Fleet Street last night. The full speech can be read here.
Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that I have added an ‘Upcoming Events’ list to the right sidebar, underneath the ‘Recommended’ and ‘Case Law’ links.
If you would like events added to this list, email me. Please only send events which (i) have their own webpage which can be linked to, and (ii) are relevant to topics covered by the blog. This is (as with everything on the blog) a free service. There are currently two exciting events featured, an audience with Mr Justice Rabinder Singh at the LSE and a JUSTICE event about online law.
Whilst I am here, if you didn’t already know, the ‘Recommended’ list of links are all links to external sources which I update a few times daily with up-to-the minute human rights news. These links, which can also all be found here (I use a service called Delicious – there have been over 3,000 since the blog launched), are then fed magically into the weekly Human Rights Roundup. The upcoming events list will now be included in the weekly update too.
A short post to say that I was interviewed by Joshua Rozenberg for today’s Law in Action programme on BBC Radio 4. I was debating, with Nadine Dorries MP, a recent series of criminal prosecution (see my post from last week) brought against social media users. The debate centred on the implications for freedom of speech as protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The full programme can be listened to here (UK only, I think) – the social media section is from around 20 minutes in. You may have guessed from my post as well as this interview that I think the current state of the law under the Communications Act 2003 is causing very significant problems for freedom of expression.
Relatedly, I am chairing an interesting panel debate tomorrow (Wednesday) evening on this very topic. I understand the event is full but you can submit questions ahead of the event to or follow for live tweets @HumanRightsLawA ; #lawandtwittering
Almost a year ago, I and some other legal bloggers wrote about a phenomenon known as the Freemen on the Land movement. I called the post Freemen of the dangerous nonsense, for that is exactly what the movement is, for those desperate enough to sign up to it. Now a Canadian judge has done many judges around the world a huge favour by exploding the movement’s ideas and leaders (or “gurus”) in a carefully referenced and forensic 192-page judgment, which should be read by anyone who has ever taken a passing interest in this issue, and certainly by any judge faced by a litigant attempting the arguments in court.
The Freemen, alongside other groups with similar creeds, believe that if you change your name and deny the jurisdiction of the courts, you will be able to escape debt collectors, council tax and even criminal charges. As this member of the Occupy London movement, “commonly known as dom” wrote in guardian.co.uk (of all places) “if you don’t consent to be that “person”, you step outside the system“.
As you may have guessed, this magical technique never works in the courts, but judges are often flummoxed when faced with the arguments, which are odd and in many ways risible. But what has been lacking is an authoritative, systematic judgment explaining, in detail, why that is. Until now, that is.
Calver, R (on the application of) v The Adjudication Panel for Wales  EWHC 1172 (Admin) – Read judgment
The decision to censure a Welsh councillor for comments on his blog was a disproportionate interference with his right to freedom of expression, the High Court has ruled. This right requires a broad interpretation of what counts as “political speech” – even when the speech is sarcastic and mocking.
Lewis Malcolm Calver is a councillor on the Manorbier Community Council and Pembrokeshire County Council and the owner/writer of the at www.manorbier.com blog. These proceedings arose when Mr Calver was censured by the Standards Committee for Pembrokeshire County Council for comments or articles on his blog, which criticised the running of Manorbier Council.
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.
Also shortlisted are Reprieve and Bail for Immigration Detainees. The Human Rights Awards have been held each December since 2001 to commemorate Human Rights Day. As described by JUSTICE, the awards aim to recognise and encourage individuals and organisations whose work is dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of others. Last year’s winner was the Gurkhas Justice Campaign. A full list of previous winners can be found here.
For more about legal blogging, see here. If you have never come across the Blawg review, which has reached its 290th edition, here is the explanation from the blog carnival’s headquarters:
Blawg Review is the blog carnival for everyone interested in law. A peer-reviewed blog carnival, the host of each Blawg Review decides which of the submissions and recommended posts are suitable for inclusion in the presentation. And the host is encouraged to source another dozen or so interesting posts to fit with any special theme of that issue of Blawg Review. The host’s personal selections usually include several that reflect the character and subject interests of the host blawg, recognizing that the regular readership of the blog should find some of the usual content, and new readers of the blog via Blawg Review ought to get some sense of the unique perspective and subject specialties of the host. Thanks to all the law bloggers who collaborate to make Blawg Review one of the very best blog carnivals of any genre.
The article is worth reading in full, as it highlights the strong growth of the legal blog in the past few years, and interviews a number of key legal bloggers. He says of the “new wave” of legal blogs which have appeared over the past couple of years:
Then, over the last couple of years, a new wave of law blogs has appeared. Characterised by an interest in media law, this group includes Jack of Kent, CRITique (by law firm Charles Russell), Inforrm (from the International Forum for Responsible Media), the UK Supreme Court Blog (run jointly by Olswang and Matrix Chambers), the UK Human Rights Blog (by 1 Crown Office Row) and Bootlaw (by Winston & Strawn technology lawyers Barry Vitou and Danvers Baillieu).
The new organisation describes itself as “an independent and politically neutral think tank which contributes to the development of law and the legal sector“, aiming to “promote debate through papers, reports, events and media pieces.” The think-tank is chaired by legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg, who is joined by a number of eminent barristers and solicitors.
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.