Tag Archives: lawyer

Twats and Tweets at London lawyers’ comedy show trial in a pub last night

Judge Norman Lovett, looking the part
(photograph by Bob Slayer)

Two days ago, I lost my voice. Yesterday it was back though slightly weak and I coughed a lot. This morning I have no voice again.

At 5.00am this morning I woke, coughing, with my throat razor-blade raw from a dream in which I had been transcribing the ornate language of a medieval court case.

This was because, last night, I went to the Lamb Tavern, first built in 1309 in London’s Leadenhall Market over the Basilica at the centre of Roman Londinium.

I was there to see a sold-out try-out of This Is Your Trial, a comedy show in which three comedians are the judge, prosecutor and defence counsel in the ‘trial’ of an accused person who (as in real English court cases) is presumed guilty unless proven innocent.

The paying audience were mostly lawyers. The accused (on a rather vague charge of identity fraud and making over 100,000 Tweets) was legal blogger Charon QC, aka Mike Semple Piggot. Last night’s judge was the suitably bewigged Norman Lovett, with American Luke Capasso as prosecutor and sober Bob Slayer as the defence counsel.

When I started writing this blog today, I searched around for an adjective to describe members of the English legal profession and the best one I could come up with was ‘smug’. I suppose that is what comes of building your careers and high earnings on the back of so many innocent people being imprisoned by a system which does not even present a credible pretence of seeking to deliver justice. On the other hand, when I meet people involved in the game they are almost always intelligent, sophisticated, good company and have a sense of humour. So I guess the two words ‘amiable’ and ‘amoral’ cover the English legal profession.

And, last night, a legal eagle sitting in the same row as me did offer me a free sausage and a chip, so the profession may not be totally uncaring.

The evening started with Judge Norman Lovett saying he was looking forward to appearing at a gig on Saturday night – the Madness Weekend at Butlins, Minehead – though lamenting the fact he would “miss X Factor, the jungle programme and Match of the Day – three programmes on the trot… but the money’s good and so are Madness”.

An excellent piece of advertising – something which could perhaps be added to real court cases to lower legal fees.

Last night was also like a dream product placement plug for Apple, as the room was awash with iPhones, a few iPads and, behind me, even a Macbook laptop. Throughout, people were Tweeting while still managing to pay attention and laugh.

Bob Slayer, Norman Lovett and Luke Capasso last night

This Is Your Trial is a wonderful format. It would transfer seamlessly to TV as a sort of comedy Crown Court – and it could make a fortune on the corporate circuit.

Putting the case for the Prosecution, Luke Capasso’s opening line was “Charon QC… Charon? Isn’t that the ferry man of Hades?… Do you worship the Devil, sir? Do you suckle at the teat of Beelzebub?”

It turned out that Charon QC turned down a place at Cambridge because he had fallen in love with a girl and went instead to Leicester University. He had also, in his youth, mysteriously been approached by a member of MI6 “whilst wearing a skimpy pair of speedos” with an invitation to “work for her Majesty”.

“I wasn’t wearing the speedos,” argued Charon QC in his own defence.

“Her Majesty was wearing them?” asked an incredulous Luke Capasso.

“Her Majesty wasn’t,” explained Charon QC, “but the Commercial Attaché was. It was a surreal experience and, needless to say, I had little difficulty in turning the offer down.”

The prosecution argued, unfairly I think, that “bloggers are a subversive breed”.

Quoting the Daily Telegraph, it was suggested they have an annoying habit of pointing out when journalists make mistakes, that they are “disturbing creatures” who publish “any old thing they find on the internet” and “they engage in their activities for accuracy, for truth, for their own enjoyment and for the enlightenment of others rather than for money”.

Bob Slayer rather unexpectedly, given that he was arguing for the Defence, said: “Those who can, do… Those who can’t, teach… And those who can’t teach, blog…”

In a clever end twist to the evening, Charon QC was found guilty by a card magician.

In the bar afterwards, Bob Slayer was saying how disconcerting it was to have members of the audience Tweeting throughout the event on their iPhones.

“It’s a new dynamic you have to deal with somehow,” said one Paul Bernal.

“This audience,” he continued, “is made up of people connected with the law in various ways who Tweet – #tweetinglegals. I’m a law lecturer; I teach law. I have 2,950-something followers and I was Tweeting to them. They knew what was going on here tonight. We had the hashtag #TrialofCharonQC – I Tweeted maybe 20 times during the event…. These are the people who have re-Tweeted me,” he said, showing us his phone. “He’s in San Diego. These guys are in London. He’s in Canada.”

Another man at the bar, dressed in what appeared to be an orange Guantanamo Bay outfit, said: “I teach lawyers how to do social media like Tweeting.”

Paul Bernal said to Bob: “I Tweeted your joke about Those who can’t teach, blog and it has been re-Tweeted by three people around the world… @legalaware has got 6,366 followers. The other two are not quite so big but, even so…”

“Could you add @BobSlayer on it quickly?” Bob Slayer asked.

“It’s gone, I’m afraid,” said Paul Bernal.

“You should sue them for plagiarism,” I suggested to Bob, but my weak voice went unheard.

“I’ve got 650 followers and I’ve barely Tweeted,” Bob told Paul Bernal.

“But they’re all brewers,” I suggested.

“They are, yes,” agreed Bob.

“The thing that Tweeters want to do more than anything else,” said the Guantanamo Bay social media teacher, “is not get obsessed by numbers.”

“I’ve got this new phone,” Bob said, showing off his unimpressively non-Apple smartphone, “to specifically get into the Tweeting game.”

“The first thing,” the Guantanamo Bay man told him, “is to have fun.”

“Oh,” said Bob,”I have a lot of fun but, when I wake up in the morning, I can’t remember it.”

“You’ve broken the first rule of Tweeting,” he was told. “Never Tweet after you drink.”

“But I am constantly drinking,” explained Bob.

“In that case, you have to invent your own different rules for Tweeting. Do you know when you’re drunk?”

“Always.”

At that point, I left and went home.

This morning when I awoke, coughing, I found an e-mail from Bob:

“I learnt a lot about Tweeting from these lawyers tonight.”

I continued coughing. My voice is now returning a bit.

And now David Gilroy has Tweeted me to say he is Guantanamo Bay Man.

We live in interesting times.

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Now comedians will let me justifiably laugh at the amoral English legal system

The English legal system – blindfolded to avoid seeing truth, justice or facts.

Any long-term reader of this blog will know my limitless contempt for the English legal system where the police investigate, the state pays to prosecute the person whom the police have found on investigation to be guilty, the defendant is presumed by the state to be guilty unless he/she can pay for a good enough legal eagle and the jury decide not on the defendant’s innocence or guilt but on the relative presentation skills of the prosecution and defence lawyers spinning selected facts to them.

The system is laughable.

So I was particularly interested to get invited to This Is Your Trial on Wednesday this week.

The idea is that a trial is set up with three comedians as the judge, prosecutor and defence counsel. The audience is the jury.

The accused is presumed guilty unless proven innocent. Just like the real thing.

On Wednesday, the accused will be legal blogger Charon QC, aka Mike Semple Piggot. The judge will be comedian Norman Lovett, the prosecutor Luke Capasso and fighting for the defence will be Bob Slayer.

On that basis, I think Charon QC should simply plead guilty.

I am a bit vague about what the charges actually are, but Bob Slayer tells me: “We are being brave enough to road test it in front of a paying audience of real lawyers.”

The gig has sold out.

A bit like English lawyers, then.

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No joke: a secret list of people you cannot joke about on ITV in the UK

A scriptwriter for a very well-known comedian told me this week that one of his jokes was recently rejected for inclusion in an ITV programme not because it was not good enough, not because the producer did not like it, but because it was a joke about a celebrity (a rock star, as it happens) who is on an ITV list of people who are considered too litigious to make jokes about.

Whether this is true or not, I cannot guarantee. But the producer showed the list to the scriptwriter.

“I am not even supposed to tell you it exists, let alone show it to you,” the producer said.

No joke.

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The English court system? Don’t make me laugh. Tell the very dead Stefan Kiszko it works…

Today I was supposed to be starting jury service in St Albans but, a week or so ago, they told me I had been cancelled because they had “too many people”.

The same thing happened last year. I was cancelled due to too many people.

So, this time because, as they said, they’d “messed me around”, rather than automatically re-schedule me, they gave me the choice of either being rescheduled again or being excused jury service completely this time round.

I chose to be excused.

I was in two minds about the whole thing anyway.

On the one hand, it would have been interesting to see the jury system (not) work first hand. One person I know who served on a jury in South London told me it was virtual anarchy with jury members not understanding or not being interested in large swathes of evidence and one jury member repeatedly turning up late for the deliberations on innocence or guilt because she “didn’t think it was important”.

On the other hand, I would have been very loathe myself to find any accused person guilty because there is no telling what is being hidden, lied about and distorted in the presentation to the jury. The object of the English court system is not to find out who committed the crime but to decide which of two highly-paid advocates – Defence or Prosecution lawyer – presents their evidence better and hides evidence better. It is like judging an ice-skating competition with imprisonment as the top prize.

Plus, I would not want to convict on uncorroborated police evidence.

Margaret Thatcher’s solicitor – a partner in a major law firm – told me he would never put a Metropolitan Police officer in the witness stand without corroborating evidence because you could never be certain a Met officer was telling the truth.

Likewise, the owner of a prominent detective agency who employs ex-SAS troopers etc, told me he never employs ex-policemen because you can never trust them.

The story of the framing by West Yorkshire Police of Stefan Kiszko, his disgraceful trial and his wrongful imprisonment for 16 years should be taught to every schoolkid in the UK.

It is an illustration of the English court system, not an exception.

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The English legal system: Justice reduced to the level of The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent

I have to do jury service next month. That should be interesting.

The basis of the English legal system is that the accused is guilty unless he can (afford to) prove himself innocent. The police investigate a case and find the person they believe (or claim) is guilty. The state’s prosecution system then decides if there is enough evidence to convict and, if there is – ie if the defendant is presumed to be guilty – then the accused person is prosecuted on the basis that they are guilty. The state pays for a prosecution lawyer whose job is to get a guilty verdict; if he/she spots anything that may imply innocence, it is his/her paid job to prevent it being presented to the court.

Under the English legal system, the prosecutor is paid to mislead the court on the evidence, to hide evidence which may prove the innocence of the defendant and to prevent the Defence from presenting any evidence which will reveal anything which may show the innocence of the defendant. That is his paid job. The defence lawyer is paid by the defendant himself/herself to get an innocent verdict and to hide anything which might show or imply guilt.

The jury’s job is not to investigate the facts nor to decide if the accused is guilty or innocent. Their job is to decide which of the two well-paid lawyers present a better case. The object is to vote on whether the defender or prosecutor is better on style, content and presentation, much like competitive Ice Skating but without the numbered cards you hold up. It is justice reduced to The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent.

I remember a case in which a jury member spent his spare time going to the crime scene and talking to witnesses outside the court. The judge threw him off the jury and told him it was not his duty as a jury member to investigate the case but to decide a verdict only on the evidence presented. I think the jury member was threatened with Contempt of Court.

The lawyers who present the case? They have spent about seven years in an academic institution being trained in the art of legal lying, falsification of evidence and misleading the court. Which is why politicians like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton are often ex-lawyers. They were highly-trained as liars.

The result of all this? Lots of guilty people escape conviction and lots of innocent people get imprisoned, sometimes for decades.

There is also the fact of widespread police corruption across the UK.

On 27th September 1998, the Sunday Telegraph revealed in an article written by Geoffrey Seed and Alasdair Palmer that it had obtained “the minutes of a meeting organised by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), and attended by 10 of Britain’s most senior officers and policy makers”. The minutes stated that “corrupt officers exist throughout the UK police service” and the NCIS’s Director of Intelligence said that corruption may have reached “Level 2: the situation which occurs in some Third World countries”.

I was once told by Margaret Thatcher’s lawyer that he would never put a Metropolitan Police officer in the dock as a witness unless what he said could be corroborated by another witness: the possibility that the policeman was lying was too great to risk.

The object of the English adversarial system is to win the debate at all costs including justice. Added to this, there is the fact all police evidence must be suspect.

The English courts do not provide justice. They play a game with people’s lives in which innocent defendants are found guilty of crimes they did not commit. This is no accident. It is an inevitable result of the current English legal system which is adversarial not investigative.

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“Killer Bitch” and the ‘F’ word and the ‘C’ word

I was once (well, twice actually) prosecuted in Norfolk in the mid-1990s for telling a solicitor that his client was a “fucking cunt”. I was prosecuted not for insulting his client but under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 on the basis I had told him with the sole purpose of causing him (the solicitor) “distress or anxiety”. Clearly he was a solicitor of rare sensitivity.

In his summing-up, the Appeal Court judge at Norwich Crown Court (yes I lost the case twice) said the word “cunt” was “clearly obscene” – although I had not been charged with using obscene language and a decision based on that would seem to overturn the decision in the Lady Chatterley’s Lover trial of 1960.

I am also old enough to remember someone getting arrested in the late 1970s for walking down Carnaby Street wearing a promotional teeshirt for Stiff Records with the printed slogan: IF IT AIN’T STIFF, IT AIN’T WORTH A FUCK.

So… I’ve always taken an interest in swearing and what may or may not be offensive.

Last night, I went to the event “A Celebration of Swearing and Profanity” at the British Library.

Six years ago, as a work of art, Morag Myerscough and Charlotte Rawlins created a pink neon sign with the question HAS ANYBODY SEEN MIKE HUNT? The British Library included this neon sign in an exhibition, but positioned it in an out-of-the-way spot at the top of the building for fear of offending passers-by. Today, six years later, the British Library feels no need to do that. What is considered offensive has changed and the word “cunt” is uttered on BBC Radio 4 at breakfast time without sackings or resignations following. It is said times have changed.

Yet, earlier this year, two supermarket chains refused to stock the movie I financed – Killer Bitch – unless the title was changed. They both found the title Killer Babe to be totally acceptable, but the title Killer Bitch to  be totally unacceptable – though it seems to me that “babe” is more sexist and more offensive than “bitch”. (It didn’t matter in the long run because, when they saw the movie itself, they found the content even more offensive and refused to stock it – as did others – so we reverted to the original Killer Bitch title.)

Anyway, if times have not yet changed, they may be in the process of changing.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson is said to have told an internal group with some pride that one transmitted episode of the sitcom The Thick Of It was only “four short of 100 fucks”.

An interesting idea from last night’s British Library event was that “fuck” and “cunt” and sexual swearing in general have lost their impact and that the taboo swear words of the future are likely to be racial and religious words.

Already, the word “cunt” is less unacceptable than it was only a few years ago, but the word “nigger” is now more unacceptable – though it was perfectly, innocently inoffensive as a pet dog’s name in the 1955 movie The Dam Busters.

Surely we should encourage more swearing and more creative descriptive use of the language?

Last night, I was particularly impressed by one Viz reader’s use of the phrase “bangers and mash” to describe the soggy, mingled mess of used toilet paper and human excrement left in the water of an unflushed toilet pan.

Which brings me back to that bloke I described as a “fucking cunt” in the mid-1990s…

He was and still is bangers and mash.

Just don’t describe him thus in Norfolk for fear of causing distress to the locals.

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