Archive | Uncategorized RSS for this section

My clients are not Animals in the Zoo and shouldn’t be treated as such by others who are looking for clickbait or self promotion.

I’m a criminal lawyer, I seem to have a talent for attracting the most high profile, contentious or publicly hated clients. All my clients are important to me, whether they are a homeless person with mental health issues prosecuted for urinating on a war memorial, a young lad arrested at a football match, or someone facing the death penalty for serial murders, I don’t distinguish the level of support I give them on the basis of their notoriety or public outpouring of opinion on their alleged offences or their convictions.

I regularly receive emails, telephone calls and letters from media and TV companies, celebrity agents, politicians and others requesting access to my clients and asking me to provide comment on their cases. My answer is always the same, my clients are not animals in the zoo providing enjoyment to the interested bystander. My clients are people, and first and foremost my role is to protect their rights and interests. My personal view is that it’s not always helpful for a client facing execution to have a TV camera thrust in his face while being asked ‘are you scared about your execution?’ .

Over the past few days I’ve had numerous emails and calls from people telling me they want to visit my client in prison and can I arrange it. That’s not how it works. Firstly, I always ask my client if they want to be visited, it’s their decision, not the decision of the person who wants to visit. Secondly, a prisoner then has to make a request for that person to be permitted to visit. Thirdly, the prison has to approve that visit. In my experience, once those who are so intent on visiting my clients are told that it’s agreed, but only if it’s not reported, they decide that their schedule is too busy for a prison visit.

Which brings me to the current situation where every person and their dog seems to be wanting to provide an opinion on my clients. It always amazes me that those who have no interest in the welfare or issues surrounding my clients are the first to go on TV or radio and talk about the case, to write blogs, or social media posts, all with the same aim, to increase their own profile and/or increase click bait. Hence, Back to my comment, that my clients are not animals in the zoo to be watched from a distance, photographed or (virtually) poked, while keeping a safe distance because those who are doing the watching, photographing, commenting, poking had no interest in having anything to do with my clients until the client became high profile.

As far as I’m concerned, respect is the most important thing you can give a person. How a person views you, interacts with you, and develops trust in you, all flows from how you treat a person. Often I read or hear comment on one of my clients, which is not only factually incorrect but which is disrespectful or condescending. It doesn’t place those of us representing the most vulnerable in society (and anyone who is on trial, or is in prison is in a position of vulnerability as they lose control of a lot of their rights) in a good light if it appears we are trying to use our expertise, knowledge or intelligence to belittle or make fun of those who don’t understand the intricacies of the criminal justice system in England and Wales. It is understandable that those who don’t work in the criminal justice system have the wrong impression on how the System works. There probably isn’t a police officer, criminal lawyer, or judge who, when watching a TV drama involving the criminal justice system, hasn’t said ” but that’s not how it actually happens in real life.”

At a time when those of us working in the criminal justice system are trying to highlight the problems of the broken system we are facing on a daily basis, it does no justice to alienate members of the public who would not normally interact with us, and who we now have the benefit of informing about the broken system and indeed who are now a captive audience to explain how the criminal justice system works. There is quite a lot of distrust of those of us who work in the courts, and if a person who is a voter, or future defendant or family member of a future defendant has the impression that those of us defending on a daily basis feel we are better than those we represent, why should they support us when we are crying about the broken system and the reduction in our fees.

So, if you are going to use my clients for your own promotion or clickbait, please show respect when you do so, even if you don’t agree with their views.

Advertisements

Update on Virgin train staff searching Millwall fans in January 2018

I’ve titled this as an update, but it’s not really! In January 2018 I was instructed by the Millwall FC Fan On The Board to write to Virgin East Coast trains to complain about the searching of Millwall FC fans at Kings Cross and Leeds when travelling to and from the Leeds FC v Millwall FC fixture.

I wrote to Virgin East Coast, and so far have not received a response, nor have I received any further communication from the Fan on The Board as to what steps the fans would like me to take.

I’m taking the unusual step of trying to reach out to the fans myself as I believe there may be some fans who wish to continue with the complaint (and I don’t want those fans to feel I have let them down) , and as Virgin East Coast railway will no longer be an operating company after 24th June 2018, it will probably not be possible to bring a claim against Virgin East Coast after this date.

Please can this message be circulated to Millwall FC fans. Any fans who were searched by Virgin train staff, who have evidence that they travelled to/from Leeds on Virgin East Coast on 20th January 2018, and who wish to bring a claim against Virgin East Coast should contact me directly on gurdena@btinternet.com or 07941 212357 by no later than 10th June 2018

Statement in relation to AS Roma fan Filippo Lombardi

I have been instructed to act as Counsel for Mr Filippo Lombardi. He has been remanded in custody awaiting a plea hearing on 24th May 2018. Mr Lombardi’s solicitors have made contact with the prison as they are aware that his family and friends have concerns about his safety while he is being held in prison.

Understandably, this incident has caused a great deal of both national and International attention, and media interest. However, at this early stage of legal proceedings it would be inappropriate and unprofessional for either myself or Mr Lombardi’s solicitors to provide any information, which is not already in the public domain, about the incident itself, or the criminal charges Mr Lombardi is facing.

If, at any stage, we consider that it is appropriate to provide further information about the case it will be released via this blogsite.

From Wolf Whistles to debates at Speakers Corner – Why we must fight against the ‘right not to be offended’

In the year 2000, during an interview for a job I was asked the question “What reasons are there for arguing against the implementation of the Human Rights Act?” I assume this was a question intended to be a curve ball to make candidates think on their feet as at that time the Human Rights Act was the Golden Child of New Labour. My answer was simple.

“It will water down the European Convention on Human Rights, and will place non lawyers in the everyday position of interpreting the basic human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, which in turn will cause all sorts of weird and wonderful rights to be created while the basic rights will slowly disappear.”

Sadly, nearly 20 years later I am seeing exactly that.

The European Court of Human Rights was set up to interpret and apply the European Convention on Human Rights, it was the last place to bring a challenge to State actions which were alleged to have breached the European Convention on Human Rights. Very few cases made it to this final stage, and the cases which were adjudicated upon were those which had particular significance (in the same vein as the Supreme Court of the USA), and the judges were selected for the expertise and experience of dealing with International and human rights cases. With the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998, we are now in the position where the local police force, council or magistrates court are making their own determination on all sorts of issues which are banded around as being ‘human rights.

I regularly sit in magistrates courts and hear the Magistrates convict a defendant for something they have said or written, with the Magistrates telling the defendant that their ‘victim’ has the “right not to be offended.” Well No, actually there is no ‘right not to be offended’ nor is there a ‘right not to be upset’ or a ‘right not to have someone voice views which are different to yours’. Likewise, there is a right not to be discriminated against because of your sex or sexual orientation, but there is no right to be given special treatment, such as two work ID cards so that a person can choose every day whether they are identifying as male or female that day. However, all of these seem to have been introduced through Council Officials, police officers and Magistrates Courts. Police arresting a person for postings on social media which have upset another, is now not uncommon, and there is now a suggestion that wolf whistling is a hate crime. But what is not considered in all of this is that the person making the comment or wolf whistling, is exercising their right to freedom of expression. A right which has genuinely existed since the ECHR was introduced in 1950, and which should only be restricted as is necessary in a democratic environment.

The Royal Parks website describes Speakers Corner at Hyde Park as a traditional site for public speeches and debates. In 1872, legislation gave people the right to meet and speak freely in Hyde Park. Yet just this weekend UK Border Force detained 2 people from entering the country on the basis that one of them would debate their right wing views at Speakers Corner, and the other was to be interviewed by someone who the Government has determined is a dangerous right wing hate speech extremist (and whose website the Government can’t manipulate and control).

What was actually meant by UK Border Force was that your views are not what the mainstream Government and liberal police forces want to hear at the moment, and hence we are not going to permit you to exercise your right to freedom of expression. This is a very slippery path for public authorities to be treading. While I do not personally agree with right wing views on most matters, I do believe very strongly in the right to freedom of expression, to hold views which are not populist and which do challenge the Government and Public Authorities. I have worked in countries where people are imprisoned and punished for expressing views which are not the same as the Government, where books are banned and burned. With the loss of the right to freedom of expression comes the loss of lots of other rights – if no one can complain about rights being taken away, what is to prevent other rights being taken away?

It is about time we went back to thinking about the basic human rights, which are there to protect us from State control, not being complicit in creating new rights which have the effect of placing us under more Government and Public Authority control than ever before.

Update On Tommy Robinson & the Finsbury Park Mosque case

Due to the number of requests I have received for clarification of whether there were direct Twitter messages between Tommy Robinson and the defendant in this case, Mr Osborne, I can update on the actions myself and Mr Stephen Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) carried out yesterday and the outcome so far.

On Monday, it was reported by the press that the Crown Prosecution Service opening statement to the jury included reference to direct contact between Tommy Robinson and Mr Osborne. The Crown Prosecution Service had not made any contact with Mr Lennon to inform him that he was to be used as part of the prosecution case.

Yesterday morning the reporters who were live reporting from court reported that the court had been told that Tommy Robinson had sent direct messages to Mr Osborne and that these were via twitter. Mr Lennon denies that he sent any direct Twitter messages to Mr Osborne, and I made contact with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Attorney General’s Office to express concerns about what has been reported in the press about Mr Lennon’s involvement with Mr Osborne.

Yesterday afternoon, the reporters in court stated that the prosecutor had clarified with the press that there were no direct Twitter messages between Tommy Robinson and Mr Osborne, and at most Mr Osborne received a generic email sent out to all subscribers to a Rebel TV database.

I am now in the process of ascertaining whether the misrepresentation of the situation was made by the prosecution or the press, this will take some time.

In the meantime, I request that any comments made on social media are mindful of the fact that the trial is continuing. Mr Lennon has no intention of interfering with the administration of justice but clearly he is entitled to correct the inaccurate information reported in the press about him.

Alison Gurden

Barrister

Did Chelsea FC  turn on one of their own in the latest Y*d case? 

Today, a Chelsea FC  fan was acquitted in court following a trial for using racially aggravated words at Stamford Bridge. The alleged racially aggravated words?

 ‘Who’s that team they call the Chelsea? 

Who’s that team we all adore

We’re the boys in blue and white

And we’re out to show the World the way to score

Bring on Tottenham or the Arsenal 

Bring on scoucers by the score 

Barcelona, Real Madrid, Tottenham are a load of yids

And we’re out to show the World the way we score’

The fan was charged with causing Racially Aggravated harassment alarm or distress for singing that song in the Matthew Harding Stand when Chelsea scored, and the Crown Prosecution Service continued with the prosecution despite my legal argument and  a dossier of evidence about the use of the word Yid in football and in general, the history of that particular Chelsea chant, and the fact it has been sung by thousands of Chelsea fans week after week and Chelsea FC has never raised its use as an issue. We drew parallels with the Morata chant and the fact Chelsea FC had asked fans to change the wording, something Chelsea had never done with this chant. 

The complaint was brought by a Chelsea FC fan who said he overheard my client singing the song, and that he took offence to the use of Yid. However on the day if trial it became apparent that this fan had complained to Chelsea FC and Kick It Out previously and he hadn’t received a response, so he again complained to a manager at  Chelsea FC and was given directions on when to make a complaint and how. To paraphrase he was told to wait until this particular match and make a complaint. The Club officer said he would sit in the fan’s seat at this match and make a note if he heard the use of Yid. But in reality what happened was the Club  officer made no report himself, the Club made no attempt to address the issue themselves, but they did arrange for the  fan who made the complaint to contact the police…..

Fast forward 10 months of distress, criminal trial and suspension from Stamford Bridge for my client, to today when my client was found not guilty. A trial which should never have gone ahead, Chelsea FC could have dealt with the use of Yid in the chant as a club, working with its fans. In reality they chose to use one fan against another, in a case where my client could have ended up with a criminal record. 

I don’t blame the fan who made the complaint, he felt aggrieved by the use of Yid in the chant. But sadly this is the face of modern football for many clubs, showing their contempt for the fans and using fans to further the Clubs’ hidden agendas. No doubt if my client had been convicted, Chelsea FC would have put out a statement condemning my client and telling fans that the court has said they can no longer use Yid in the chant. Using the court decision to get around the difficult issue that Chelsea FC doesn’t want to have to address with its fans…. whether to ask fans to change the words of a very traditional chant. 

I won’t hold my breath for the Chelsea FC statement congratulating my client on the fact the 10 months of stress that the Club created, is now over. 

Intelligence Gathering and Surveillance at the Football Lads Association March

I have been asked to comment on the Football Lads Association march on 7th October 2017 and what I know about the march. I do not have any information about the FLA march as I am not involved with FLA in any way, however I understand that the aim of the march is that it will be a peaceful meeting of football fans from all over the country who are coming together to show their support in fighting extremism. I am also aware that the necessary official protest arrangements have been made with the Metropolitan Police, and that a route has been mapped out and that all those attending should follow that route so that they stay in accordance with the Metropolitan Police protest permission.

However, what does not seem to be discussed on the forums and social media is the likelihood of intelligence that will be gathered by both the Metropolitan Police and other police forces on those who are attending. This will be treated like any other march where there is a risk of violence and lets face it, a march of thousands of football fans, which also has the potential for anti-fascists and other groups to be present will be perceived as having a risk of violence.

If you are attending the march, expect to be filmed as you exit train and tube stations, you may be pulled over to one side and asked to provide your details and be filmed, just as at football matches. A police officer, after one conversation with a superior can ask that anyone with face coverings remove them. This will apply to any scarves wrapped round faces just as much as those who choose to cover their faces with masks.

The police will have details of those fans who are linked to incidents both in the UK and overseas who have not yet been identified. A large gathering of football fans may provide the opportunity to scan the crowds for any wanted persons.

Essentially, if you are attending the march, be alive to the fact that you will be watched!