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Gatherings and Overnighters: my video explainer on the 1 June coronavirus emergency laws

Click here for my new video on the Chambers YouTube Channel. I explain the main changes that affect us all from yesterday.

The main restrictions are:

a. No gatherings outdoors if there are more than 6 of you (there are exceptions);

b. You can’t be in a gathering with someone else (even if it’s only one other person) indoors (there are exceptions).

One of the main exceptions is if you’re with people from your own household.

But query: what is a “gathering”? How do you know when you’re in one?

This is the definition of what a “gathering” is:

“there is a gathering when two or more people are present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any other activity with each other”

 

So if you are indoors with someone, the emphasis seems to be on whether you are doing something “with” the person. Are you “socially interacting” with them, or are you “undertaking an activity” with them? If not, then you are not in gathering, and you are perfectly allowed to be with them.

Take a look at the video, it’s only five minutes long.

 

So I started doing these videos on the coronavirus laws

Yes, I did. Click here if you’d like to see them. Not exactly brimming with Star Wars excitement, I’ll admit, but I wanted to help by giving a short explanation of the most important restriction that the Government imposed on us all since the coronavirus pandemic hit. So I talked about the law governing when you can leave your home.  (I also did one about how the coronavirus law help the vulnerable in our society.)

Then I did an update video in mid-April when the Government changed things a little bit.

Then I did another update video in mid-May when the Government changed things a whole lot more.

Now I’d like to do still another update video. You’ll remember that last week the Prime Minister announced a significant easing of the lockdown laws. I’d like to talk about that. The fact that this lockdown easing comes so soon after the Prime Minister’s chief advisor decided that he was easing the lockdown laws for himself is the merest of coincidences.

But back to my videos: I’d like to do another one to help explain the laws that will change from tomorrow. But I can’t because the Government hasn’t published the changes. The Prime Minister gave a video-address to say what they are. But we all know that loose guidance is not law. I’m typing this at lunchtime on Sunday with only twelve hours to go, and noone knows what the laws say. I think that’s pretty shocking.

So I’d like to do another update video but, you see, I can’t. Yet.

How Not To Use Clickshare

Those who have the good fortune not to be criminal barristers never have to use clickshare, which is a program that allows you to cast video and documents from your laptop screen to the massive screens in court for the jury to see.

Booth (getting footage lined up on his computer): I am now going to play the CCTV for the jury using clickshare. (Clicks to play.)

A minute ticks by.

Booth watches the footage on his screen, secretly impressed at this public demonstration of his competence and ability.

Oppo (rising to his feet): Mr Booth is surely the One-Click-Wonder.

Booth (not quite understanding, but joining in the good humour nonetheless): Ha ha.

Another minute ticks by.

Judge: Shall we give you a moment, Mr Booth?

Booth (looking at the court screens and seeing they are blank): Oh! I’m sorry, has the footage stopped?

Oppo: It never started.

Booth (bubble deflating): Oh. (Pause.) Shall I perhaps start again?

Judge: Yes please.

An actual conversation I had today

The scene: Booth is at a Magistrates Court in Town 2, the case having been transferred several weeks ago from Magistrates Court Town 1.

Legal Advisor: Oh dear. Magistrates Court 1 has not sent us the paper bundles that your solicitors and the Applicant lodged.

Booth: That’s a blow.

Advisor: Yes. The Applicant has just now cobbled together two extra paper bundles for the Bench. [Pause] It’s not good enough, really, because I’ve got three Magistrates. Have you got any paper copies of your bundle?

Booth: No. I’m fully electronic. I can email an unmarked copy of the bundle to you.

Advisor: We’d have to print it then.

Booth: OK then.

[Booth emails the bundle.]

Advisor: We’ll have to charge you.

Booth: Pardon?

Advisor: For the paper.

Booth: [Pause] [Laughs]

Advisor: No. Really.

Counsel for Applicant [aside, to Booth] They will, you know. I’ve seen them do it before.

Long Story Short. Booth was not charged. Case was adjourned. Justice is currently being delayed. Crazy world.

#Inquest funding: Government squashing the citizen

This article in today’s Times summarises neatly one of the greatest injustices in the criminal justice system:

Families of victims killed in the London Bridge attack have been told it is not in the public interest for them to receive state funding for legal representation … Meanwhile, government agencies have used public funds to hire some of the best legal teams to represent their interests in court.’

Read the article here.

One small tip for pupil barristers in crime

I’m quite sure that with such excellent pupil supervisors out there at the Bar, you won’t be in need of advice from me, but if you’re fortunate enough to celebrating your acceptance of an offer of pupillage – and HUGE CONGRATULATIONS by the way! – may I make just one small recommendation if you’re planning to make your way in crime.

Here it is in a sentence: Never Throw Away Your Archbolds Or Blackstone’s.

 

Of course, if you have e-versions, all the better because they won’t take up space on your shelf in Chambers. And, indeed, as time goes on, there may cease to be things so physical as shelves in Chambers. Certainly our Chambers is moving towards full cloud capability for those for those Members who want it.

Why should you keep your old editions? The reason is that laws change (I know I’m stating the obvious). You will never know when you might need to know all about what the law used to be. It says a lot about the sort of practice that I have at the Bar that I was actually quite excited this morning to find in the loft my 2004 edition of Archbold. Straightaway I have taken steps to retain chapter 20 in particular; the old Sexual Offences Act of 1956 has never been more relevant to my work than in recent times. The 1956 Act, of course, was most recently given the full learned treatment in the 2004 edition of Archbold just before the Sexual Offences Act 2003 updated and repealed it. You won’t find it in the 2019 Archbold.

And just two weeks ago, I prosecuted a man for a now repealed offence. It was the old offence of sex trafficking, which the Modern Slavery Act put paid to. Read about the case here. The defendant had been convicted in 2015 after absenting himself from the country. When he was picked up on a European Arrest Warrant this year, suddenly I found the offence was not in my 2019 Archbold!

So may I be so bold as to recommend:

Never Throw Away Your Archbolds Or Blackstone’s.

 

 

 

Why are women barristers leaving the profession?

“The Western Circuit Women’s Forum, which represents barristers in the south and south-west of England, found in a recent study that two-thirds of those who left the profession over a six-year period were women.”

A very timely article from today’s FT; read it here. The way that we are operating our courts is directly contributing to women leaving the Bar. It is scandalous.

Dare I say it, more justification for short prison sentences

What to do when the only appropriate offence is one with a six month maximum? You need to address this if you think all custodial sentences under 6 months should be abolished.

The thing here is that, minor though the offence is, it occurs in the context of a wider picture of our elected representatives being abused for performing their public service.

Seen that way, there plainly is a need for the courts to retain the power to impose short custodial sentences.

www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/25/brexit-supporter-egged-jeremy-corbyn-labour-admits-assault-charge