YOU won’t find many journalists, editors or publishers of British newspapers who have ever caused a criminal trial to be halted, been hauled before a judge and accused of being in Contempt of Court.
It’s serious stuff. You mess with those vain, bewigged egomaniacs at your peril.
And I’ll be very surprised if you can find an editor who, having risked the wrath of one of those arrogant dolts, is mad enough to repeat the dose and risk finding him or herself behind bars a second time.
I have. Not twice though. Old loudmouth Locky’s got a hat-trick to his name in that legal game.
I almost hesitate to mention the score at risk of tempting fate (3-0 to the scribe) but there is a reason I felt able to challenge the judiciary – which was actually knowing what I was doing, what the law said and the boundaries therein.
Coming from the old school of journalistic ethics, the intricacies of this specific area was drummed into us early and repeatedly.
Conversely however, a judge might rarely be faced with a case of contempt.
And when it does arise, quite often the ‘crime’ can be something as simple and silly as offending the judge’s god-complex, because in that courtroom, he/she is all-powerful. Boy, does it go to most of their heads.
If you’re unwise enough to get sufficiently under their wigs, they can and will despatch you downstairs to cool off in a cell, issue a summary fine or even – very, very rarely – lock you up for up to two years.
No matter that when they get it wrong (which is not unusual) any professional redress is far from the public gaze, while for the poor sap suddenly in the dock the damage is done.
Now don’t get me wrong, I can’t quote the 1981 Contempt of Court Act chapter and verse – that would deserve being told to ‘get a life’ – but where it relates to what newspapers can and can’t report, and especially when, we have to be on our toes.
It was in that guise that I attended the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) last week to observe the Contempt of Court trial of Tommy Robinson, who had Facebook-streamed some of the Kirklees men accused of grooming and raping children as they arrived at Leeds Crown Court.
It has very precise implications for The Press, especially with 90-odd more people being arrested on very similar charges in Dewsbury and Batley.
Without boring you rigid, in the Robinson case the evidential proceedings had ended and the jury was out, but the trial – one of three linked trials featuring 29 accused – was covered by reporting restrictions, which is what it says on the packet; no coverage of proceedings until all three are finished.
Robinson’s problems started when he arrived at Leeds Crown Court and there was no mention of restrictions either on the court screens, the door of the actual court, or the court website – a mistake court staff embarrassingly admitted.
Even so, Robinson did not repeat anything of the case except the names and charges of those involved, with liberal use of ‘allegedly’ and ‘innocent until guilty’ codicils, which is where it got interesting because that information was in the public domain and easily accessible on news websites; indeed, as the judge who dragged Robinson off the street and banged him up for 13 months subsequently ruled, it in no way prejudiced the trial and those vile men went away for a long time.
(The Leeds judge’s actions and rulings were subsequently criticised and overruled, not much consolation to Robinson who spent over two months weeks in solitary on a starvation diet, before winning his appeal and being freed).
Once upon a time, that might have been that, but it’s years since British judges scrapped the ‘double jeopardy’ law that means you can’t be tried for the same offence twice.
Interestingly, the two judges who gave the Attorney General permission to try again with the controversial Robinson, were the same two who then presided over the trial.
Anyway, notwithstanding sound defence legal arguments, they took minutes to find him guilty. If you’d been sat alongside me, you could have foreseen that from the get-go.
Why? Robinson had offended the dignity of the court, he’d got under the judges’ bouffant wigs.
He needed putting in his place.
I’ve read their judgment and found it appallingly biased – and don’t get me going on judges being fair or impartial.
From long experience I can assure you that most of them are very, very far from that and judges Sharp and Warby were visibly hostile and dismissive of both Robinson in the dock and his (admittedly rather pathetic) barrister Richard Furlong.
Was he guilty of contempt? Possibly, in its strictest definition, but not seriously, and certainly not – I believe – in the manner Sharp and Warby chose to interpret.
He was certainly stupid to put himself in the position in the first place, but boy did the judges cash in on behalf an establishment that’s been overtly trying to silence, harm and even enable the killing of Tommy Robinson for years.
Justice was not well served this week – again – but sad to say, that’s no longer a surprise in this country.
I’M NOT sure I’ve recovered sufficiently yet – mentally or physically – to endure three or more months of endless backstabbing and doom-mongering (and that’s just an everyday tea-time at the Lockwood household!)
Only kidding. Of course it’s the politics. But even before Boris takes the Tory reins and tries to tame those bucking Brussels broncos, there’s a stampede of domestic wild horses threatening to kick the stable doors down.
John Major is one of the most disastrous Prime Ministers of the modern era, although he’s in great company with Gordon ‘spectrum’ Brown and Theresa ‘poor me’ May.
I don’t know who Major thinks he is, but his lip-wobbling threats to run to court in order to defy statutes ironically passed by the very MPs now trying to undo them, verge on not just unpatriotic and undemocratic, but treasonous. He’s got plenty of company.
That said, Bojo’s biggest challenge won’t be to survive that wild ride on the backs of the EU commissars, but to avoid the hoofs in the head being aimed by his so-called Tory allies led by the dolorous Philip Hammond, soon to be the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer.
And with the Labour Party in a state of total civil strife, the stage is finally set for the most seismic three or four months in politics since … well, the last three or four months.
Yee-ha, ride ‘em cowboy!
SO, LABOUR are now the official party of Remain, notwithstanding the fact Comrade Corbyn despises the EU and is probably a more sincere Leaver than Boris. I’ll bet Lib Dem teddies are being thrown out of cots the country over.
Local MPs Paula Sherriff and Tracy Brabin have confirmed what we’ve known all along (see p3), that both are arch-Remainers.
Oh sure, they are all wide-eyed sincere with soothing ministrations about ‘delivering a proper Brexit for the people’ but no one’s fooled. As with a large rump of Parliament, as with the EU gauleiters, they’re maintaining the illusion of process while being 100 per cent devoted to overturning the referendum result.
At least with Corbyn it’s just plain, cynical ambition to cause maximum disruption, win a general election, and wreak economic havoc on the country.
But there’s the point. Labour have adopted this opportunistic Remain tag to hopefully put the Lib Dems back in their box and appeal to any remainers who rank EU membership over suitable governance of the UK.
On our patch, Paula and Tracy may be hoping their Muslim bloc vote, allied to that, will get them home.
One thing though – local pollsters found the ethnic minority vote in Dewsbury and Batley was hugely Leave, which throws another element into the mix.
These will be fascinating weeks and months, if you can withstand the temptation to reach for the bottles of whisky and pills.