Hannibal Lecter QC

St_Sebastian_3_MantegnaSt. Sebastian – Andrea Mantegna (1490)

Any University of London LLB student that has had the time and good fortune to get their head/s around (what was historically a core text for our First Year CLRI studies) Gearey et al.’s The Politics of The Common Law will be left in doubt that the law is inherently political and politics/politicians can somehow never escape the watchful eye of the Rule of Law.

Students or #fledglinglawyers that have never quite been able to grasp this as a concrete/pragmatic notion could do far worse than read Nick Davies account of the very recently concluded “trial of the century”:


Brave investigative journalism aside (Davies is also author of Flat Earth News); it throws a very bright and erudite light on the often unexplored tension that exists between politics and the media and by default the legal system and the media. I won’t attempt to paraphrase, as it is a piece that deserves to be read and relished in its entirety; not the least for the Rolls Royce defence team analogue, the description of Timothy Langdale QC as “a model of old-school courtesy built around a core of steel” but ultimately for this paragraph in which he documents the slow unravelling of prosecution witness Eimar Cook:

“Cook told the jury she recalled a conversation at lunch in September 2005, when Brooks had not only warned her that her own phone might be hacked but had described the ease with which it could be done. Cook added that during the same lunch, she thought Brooks had discussed the famous incident when she had been arrested for assaulting her then partner, the actor Ross Kemp. Laidlaw gently pawed her into position, confirming without doubt the date of the lunch, challenging the strength of her memory until she insisted she was absolutely certain and then, like Hannibal Lecter in a horsehair wig, softly and courteously, he cut out her heart: the incident with Kemp had happened six weeks after the lunch. Her story could not possibly be right.”


Mads Mikkelson – season 1 episode 10 Hannibal NBC 

The backdrop to this story; (Murdoch’s bid to acquire BSkyB; Coulson’s involvements with Cameron (and that’s another story for another day) and Brooks’ masterful positioning of herself as an “ally to the elite”) has to be studied and ultimately digested to be believed. Indeed with its baffling yet subtle complexities but nonetheless inherent elegance it is not that dissimilar (though of equally dubious origin) to some of the exquisite meals that are served up in any episode of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal (NBC).

Incredibly; Murdoch’s News Corp, (in spite of phone-hacking related legal bills in excess of 270 million pounds since 2011) has actually made money from this realignment/restructuring with shares up more than 1% following the verdict (see Financial Times June 24th 2014: Hacking trial: Rupert Murdoch comes out on top despite legal bills).

So whilst 25th June was a “great day for red tops” (Sun’s headline: 25th June 2014), Essex boy Andy Coulson is facing a custodial sentence & one can’t help but be left wondering whether it was a great day for British justice or not. One thing that we can’t be left doubting (as Michael White quotes in “Why it’s OK to feel sorry for Andy Coulson”) the words of the old music hall songs never seem to fade:

“it’s the rich what gets the pleasure, it’s the poor what gets the blame”

Compared by her (Brooks’) pre-trial lawyer to St. Sebastian; this is one blogger and #fledglinglawyer that thinks that maybe sometimes you can stretch your analogues that little bit too far.

Where now; well probably off to prison for Mr. Coulson & back to business as usual (plus the memoir royalties) for Ms. Brooks; we’ve already considered Mr. Murdoch. For myself; as a long time boxing fan I have always relished the re-match; so I am personally praying for a retrial… my choice for prosecution counsel… no doubt would  have to be (after all the appropriate training and Bar Council validation was in place) none other than Hannibal Lecter QC; at least then it might be something approaching a fair fight.

“Great day for red tops”: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/5713997/rebekah-brooks-cleared-by-phone-hacking-trial.html

Flat Earth News by Nick Davies (Vintage/B00C6PAMBE)

Hacking trial: Rupert Murdoch comes out on top despite legal bills: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/85b4beae-ebc8-11e3-8cef-00144feabdc0.html#axzz35oIZxkRK

“Why it’s ok to feel sorry for Andy Coulson”: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jun/25/why-feel-sorry-andy-coulson

“A B C it’s easy as, 1 2 3…”

faceless crimes


I think it might be a generality, if not quite an universality, that most of us find the idea of faceless crime disturbing; whether it be the internet hacker that empties our bank account and/or steals our online identity, the pseudonym-ed “troll” that abuses and harasses via a variety of internet portals to the masked burglar or at worst bank robber. But this week brought news of a potentially even more disturbing trend (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/05/britain-first-secret-trial-rights) as reports trickled through of Britain’s first ever potentially trial to be held (at the request of the prosecution) totally “in camera” (i.e. in secrecy; with non-disclosure of the defendants’ details and no media access).

At odds with the very fundamentals of the “rule of law”; it would not be a first.

Very questionable practice fell under the radar during the “height of the Northern Ireland” conflict (see “Trial of AB and CD part of creeping move towards secret justice” Guardian Thursday June 14th) with “what happens at Long Kesh stays at Long Kesh” being very much the flavour of the day, while 2005 and 2008 (with the trials of Salahuddin Amin and of Rangzieb Ahmed respectively) saw evidence being presented “in camera” (rather more accurately “off camera”!!!) to protect the identity of various secret service members in Pakistan whilst a very erudite & recent piece by Lord Phillips (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/nicholas-phillips/closed-material) reminded us of some of the obfuscations surrounding the case of Wang Yam (R v Wang Yam [2008]).

But this case (which was to be known simply as R v AB & CD) threatened to take things to a whole new level; an entire trial was to be faceless, to be held “in camera” and therefore potentially to be publicly unaccountable; quite rightly it prompted outrage both within the legal profession:

(a) “disgraceful departure from recognised trial standards and an affront to the rule of law”

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

and without:

“We submit that the orders made involve such a significant departure from the principle of open justice they are inconsistent with the rule of law and democratic accountability.”

Anthony Hudson (Guardian)

So much so that it was appealed and (as yesterday’s judgement confirmed) overturned with Lord Justice Gross, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Burnett naming the two defendants (as Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar) and declaring “that some of the opening speeches of the trial and the final verdicts could be held in open court”.

It was/is a landmark decision in that once sanctioned a very disturbing precedent would have been set and once you have ABC, well the rest is the stuff of Motown legend.

For details of the fascinating case of Wang Yam and the idea of “public interest immunity” see: http://theoldbailey.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/r-vs-wang-yam-2008-and-the-pii-certificate/

“A B C it’s easy as, 1 2 3…” from: ABC (Motown/1970) – Jackson 5