Must read posts on the Twitter Joke Trial appeal

Your brief guide to the High Court case.

The appeal of Paul Chambers at the High Court against his conviction under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 takes place on 8 February 2012. As I am acting as Paul's solicitor (I happen to be a qualified lawyer as well as a journalist), I cannot really write too much about the case at the moment. However, the summary and links below should provide all the information and commentary one could want on the case.

In brief: the appeal is entirely on points of law and will centre on the correct interpretation of section 127(1) of the Communications Act 2003. Paul's legal team, headed by Ben Emmerson QC (widely considered as the leading human rights lawyer of his generation) and Sarah Przybylska will argue that the threshold for criminal liability under section 127 should be far higher than a case such as Paul's jokey and exasperated tweet. This will be the first time that the High Court has considered the "menacing" communication offence under section 127 and, as Ben Emmerson is leading the appeal, it promises to be a master class in the current state of freedom of expression law.

The hearing starts at 10.30 and is before Lord Justice Gross and Mr Justice Irwin. Lord Justice Gross recently held that anti-war protesters in Luton in 2009 did not have the benefit of Article 10 rights in respect of "breaches of peace"

Factual background

Background to the appeal at New Statesman

My recent post on the appeal at The Lawyer

The "Case Stated" by Doncaster Crown Court at Jack of Kent

Commentary

Blog by Graham Linehan

Charlie Brooker at the Guardian

Nick Cohen at the Observer

Irish blogger "CripesonFriday"

Me at New Statesman

The Pod Delusion special podcast on the fund-raising event

 

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and solicitor for Paul Chambers.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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