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COURT AVAILABILITY– see http://www.freelanceadvocacyservices.uk

 I have GOOD availability next week, Book via gregfoxsmith@msn.com  


Strike? Garden Court chambers announces action

Recorder competition- 133 new appointments here.

Charter for Justice launch- More detail, and confirmation of speakers here I have agreed to chair the event, and look forward to seeing many of you there. 150 booked already!

Tuesday Truth- blog by Raj Chada (HJA) here.

Secret barrister Publication of new book “blows whistle on broken legal system brought to it’s knees by cuts” according to this review.

100 miles. I will be attempting to cycle the Surrey 100 in July, and attempting to raise money-please consider sponsoring me 🚲 👍 https://www.justgiving.com/CyclingSurrey100

Prison riot- cuts are to blame http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-43441542

Prison mutiny- I have blogged about my recent experience defending in a mutiny trial HERE

Blog: why we need a Justice charter

Barristers consider action against fee cut https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/criminal-barristers-close-to-action-for-justice-over-legal-aid-cuts/5065347.article

Petition on 28 day limit for Immigration detainees If you haven’t already, please sign our petition demanding a 28-day time limit on immigration detention. If you have, please share it far and wide.

Petition on IPP https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/free-the-remaining-ipp-prisoners

Courts flogged off on the cheap by bungling MOJ as reported here in the Guardian. Meanwhile plans to extend court sitting in what’s left continue with the “flexible operating hours” pilot. I will attend the next user group meeting and report back.

Charter for Justice.Parts of our Justice system are broken, the rest is falling apart. Let’s try and fix it. #Charter4Justice   BOOK here

The London Advocate (LCCSA newsletter) March 2018 edition 

Nicola Hill (Kingsley Napley/LCCSA ex-Pres) runs her first marathon for a great cause. Please sponsor her here

LASPO review kicked into the long grass

Google reviews for British Courts (including Highbury) here

Music  Ignore “beast from the East 2” and Check out this SPRING playlist

Lawyer of the month: Peter Csemiczky

Peter , outstanding lawyer and member of the LCCDSA committee, has been promoted to the partnership at Hickman Rose 👍

The Justice Charter and why we need one

The Justice system is in crisis.

Recent disclosure scandals have only brought to public attention what we as lawyers already knew about problems with timely and adequate disclosure of a prosecution case.

But disclosure problems are only part of the problem with the current state of British Justice.

Open Justice is under threat, from an accelerated programme of digitalisation and court closures (and now we find out that Courts have been flogged off on the cheap)
The part-privatised probation service is failing, and the prison service at breaking point.

Underpinning this, and all the issues within the criminal justice system, is the chronic underfunding of a legal system which has seen cuts year on year.

Criminal lawyers and Justice campaigners have been campaigning on single issues or acting reactively to the latest catastrophe or cut, rather than focussing on the bigger picture.

It is time to proactively set out the case for the properly funded efficient Justice system that we all deserve.

I have, with the LCCSA, been devising a CHARTER FOR JUSTICE which we hope will encapsulate in a short and simple way some key principles that anyone who cares about justice can unite behind and campaign for, and politicians can act on.

The LCCSA are engaging with their members and other practitioner groups, as well as working with the Howard League for Penal Reform, and will jointly launch the CHARTER FOR JUSTICE at the Law Society, at 6pm on 26th March. This free but ticket-only event will hear from key-note speakers, but all who attend are invited to participate.



Prison Mutiny

Three defendants were today sentenced at Winchester Crown Court to 3 years immediate custody, for taking part in a “prison mutiny” in June 2016 at HMP Erlestoke as reported here

A fourth defendant had been acquitted.

Numerous other prisoners who had participated in the disturbance had been dealt with administratively, or were charged with lesser offences.

This disturbance was one of a number of similar episodes in recent years, which many commentators have contributed to a hugely reduced prison budget, which has led to a shortage of experienced prison officers, and raised tensions for prisoners.

These recent disturbances have followed a long and predictable pattern.

The most infamous British prison riot in recent history was at Strangeways in April 1990 (One prisoner killed, and 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners injured. Much of the prison was damaged or destroyed with cost of repairs coming to £50 million)

The resulting Woolf Report found “Prisoners felt their complaints about conditions were being ignored. Remand prisoners were only allowed out of their cells for 18 hours per week, and Category A prisoners were locked in their cells for 22 hours a day, and rarely left their cells except for “slopping out“, a one-hour exercise period each day or a weekly shower”

Lord Woolf concluded that conditions in the prison had been intolerable, and recommended major reform of the prison system.

“Slopping out” has ended, but many of the other recommendations were never implemented, subsequently abandoned or now ignored. So much so, that 25 years later in 2015 Lord Woolfe warned that prisons are again at Crisis point (as reported here) and as evidenced in numerous Prison Inspectorate reports, and the annual Inspectorate report.

The IMB (Independent Monitoring Board) reports which visited Erlestoke gave an insight of the dire situation there before the disturbance. (Most recent report here)

(Erlestoke is a medium secure all-male prison with over 500 prisoners including violent offenders, sex offenders, and “lifers”. A number were “IPP” prisoners who had served longer than their sentence but with no indication as to when may be released.)

The IMB reports showed:-

-Drugs were rampant in the prison, particularly SPICE

-smuggling of tobacco

-smuggling and useage of mobile phones

-a culture of bullying

-property going “missing”

-high levels of self-harm

– a “self-inflicted death” (2015)

-high levels of mental-health issues, many unaddressed and/or untreated

-chronic staff shortages.

On the 11 June there were only 17 members of staff on duty.

As a result, there was a lock-down.

Despite what was said by the Prosecution at the outset of the trial, and then reported in local media, this was never about a “smoking ban” which had been introduced that year.

The trigger for the disturbances was the lamentable staff-shortages which caused the prison to have another unannounced lock-down, a decision that was communicated to prisoners by a note pushed under their cell doors, and communicated to staff with a note pinned to the notice-board wishing them “good luck”.

The consequences that flowed from the lock-down included:-

– being locked in cell all day, (in some cases shared cells with an open-toilet)

– no hot meals,

– no association,

– no showers

– and no calls to friends or family (one of the prisoners on trial had promised he would call his daughter. it was her birthday)

That was a systemic failure, and not the fault of the hard-working prison officers on duty.

If it does not excuse prisoner’s conduct, it does at least explain it.

Prisoners kicked off, and some broke through their doors, which were wooden.

Two ended up on the roof.

So far as the damage is concerned, it is hard to establish an accurate valuation as much of what was repaired was badly in need of repair or refurbishment anyway, including:-

-some of the showers and boilers that didn’t work,

-the huge backlog of maintenance which should have been but was not completed by Carillion,

-wooden doors on the cells which are usually seen in a prison museum rather than an operating prison.

The prison service conducted a review into the disturbance, and produced a report which they have not published and declined to provide to the Prosecution.

The two wings which were damaged are back in operation.

It will however take more than a lick of paint and new cell doors to repair what is broken in the prison system.

The real damage inflicted on the prison system is not broken windows and roof tiles, but the savage cuts to the prison budget by forever “Justice Secretary” Chris Grayling, which has left prison buildings to decay, slashed numbers of prison officers, and cut back on education and rehabilitation for those locked up.

When people , whether prisoners serving their time or sailors at sea, are treated unfairly and subjected to intolerable conditions, it will (as Captain William Bligh discovered) lead to mutiny.

Prisoners convicted of prison mutiny pay a price for their participation in disorder, and those sentenced today will now serve an additional three years to their current sentences.

But as a society we all pay the price of Government failure to tackle the prison crisis that shames this Country.

As Winston Churchill once said: “The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate, and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if only you can find it in the heart of every person – these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it.

A year in the Life of the British Justice system

LASPO review kicked into the long grass https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/laspo-review-government-to-revisit-ambitious-summer-deadline-/5065132.article

Google reviews (aka condemnation) for British Courts https://www.theguardian.com/technology/shortcuts/2018/mar/04/guilty-uk-magistrates-courts-condemned-by-google-reviews

Knee-jerk reaction-proposed new law to tackle the scourge of killer cyclists http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-5459411/Review-set-recommend-new-law-causing-death-dangerous-cycling–report.html

Two former lord chancellors are at loggerheads over an animal welfare issue, according to the Times. Dog owner Michael Gove wants to ban collars that deliver an electric shock to pets. However, transport secretary and dimwit Chris Grayling, the worst lord Chancellor in history, reportedly relies on them to prevent his two cats from straying.

Justice Committee Disclosure Survey Results https://www.lccsa.org.uk/disclosure-debacle/

AGFS reform https://crimeline.co.uk/banding-of-offences-in-the-advocates-graduated-fee-scheme/ and comment from The Law society http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/press-releases/robbing-peter-to-pay-paul-will-penalise-entire-criminal-justice-system/

Another very rude and ignorant solicitor bullying staff http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5429899/London-barrister-wins-employment-tribunal-against-boss.html

And corrupt and greedy solicitor Phil Shyster manages to further damage the reputation of human rights and legal aid lawyers with more shenaniganshttps://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/shiner-shifted-500k-assets-to-family-members-before-going-bankrupt/5064988.article

More shame for our beleaguered Prison system https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/20/ombudsman-terms-teenagers-death-in-prison-appalling-osvaldas-pagirys

And the MoJ find money for PWC

New Sentencing guideline for blades and weapons published here (in force from 1st June)

(It also lists acid as a “highly dangerous weapon”, in case anyone wasn’t sure..)

HMCTS struggles desperately on with their pet ‘flexible hours” pilot project, here is another extract of illegible and incomprehensible jargon from their most recent “stakeholder newsletter”

Meanwhile, court chaos and Camberwell closed https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/beast-from-the-east-winter-weather-causes-court-chaos/5065089.article

Meanwhile, Chris Grayling, worst Lord Chancellor in history, has a different portfolio but is still incompetent http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/chris-grayling-branded-incompetent-as-department-for-transport-spends-ps300m-overbudget_uk_5a932a39e4b01e9e56bcf5d7although thankfully those rumours of him becoming Tory Party chairman in January were inaccurate…

Another useless ex Lord Chancellor popped up this week, the lamentable Liz Trussdescribing lawyers as part of a ” blob like elite” as described inthis article.


Check out this snowy playlist ❄️☃️


Check-mate. A poem in memory of my father

Check Mate: A Poem for my Father

My father was the one who taught me chess.
Then, each game he held out two closed hands,
Each hiding a pawn, one white, one black.
I made my selection and prepared for attack.

We played in silent concentration,
His only words “check!” (and, later, “check-mate”)
Fragrant pipe-smoke trailed around the pieces
As I learned the bitter taste of defeat.

Later: Monopoly, and he was always the ship
Sailing round the the board as though still at sea
In Cuba he had played a GET OUT OF GAIL FREE card
Long before he passed Go and then bought his first house.

The family played a board game called Risk
The so-called “Game of Global Domination”
Only much later did I realise
He had already conquered my world.

When I left home I too travelled the globe
With a back-pack and portable chess set.
Only now do I realise what ha had taught me
Not just the rules. I had learned Values.

Now I am the one to teach my sons chess.
I hold out my closed hands
Each with a pawn, one white, one black.
The King is dead: Long Live the King.

Later: Monopoly, and lessons in life
Try not to Go Back 3 Spaces.
So boys, choose a token, roll the dice but remember
Your Grandfather was always the ship.

In Memory of William Foxsmith RIP (04.02.41- 10.03.14)


William Foxsmith Obituary

Obituary for My Father

Dad (known by almost everyone as Bill) was born in Hinckley, Leicestershire on 04 February 1939 and was christened William Ernest FOX (his father’s name)

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When Dad was two his father drowned, and so was brought up my his Mum Hilda (known as “H”) in rural poverty, initially staying in an alms house, for which privilege his mother had to scrub the stone floors of the church on her hands and knees. Dad was no fan of the church or organised religion. The family had moved to Dorset, and Dad with his younger brother Dick went to school in Lyme Regis. He was a fast runner, running the mile for the County and setting a school record.
He acquired a stepfather, Jack SMITH, and then another brother (Nick). Dad later combined the names FOX and SMITH and the FOX-SMITH family name was created.
Aged 16, Dad left home and went to Navigation school in Plymouth, and then joined the merchant Navy:-

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For six years he travelled the World visiting the US, China, Japan and Cuba amongst other Countries. In Cuba, he was arrested and spent a night in prison. It’s a bit unclear what offence he had allegedly committed, or how he came to be released, but it was a typical escapade for Dad who loved adventure. Dad’s brother Nick has a memory of watching their mother putting pins in a world map on the kitchen wall every time they received a card from a country Dad visited when at sea.
Dad’s Mum died when he was still at sea. He was not able to return for the funeral. Over 30 years later he found a “memory box” with some keepsakes and mementoes from his sea-faring days. Not realising what it was, he began reading aloud the letter he had received from his brother Dick which broke the news of their mother’s death,and it moved him to tears. It was the only time I ever saw him cry.

Dad met Mum (Sylvia) in July 1964 and they were married in Wembury Church on 05/10/1966.

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His first “land” job was selling encyclopaedias, and then he worked with Mintex (a Company selling brake and clutch linings) as a salesman and later as manager of the Plymouth depot.
He had been framing pictures- self taught – as a hobby, and now became self-employed doing that professionally.
He had also formed an interest in silhouettes, which he began collecting and became something of an expert. (He later became involved in the Silhouette Club)
Eventually he opened his shop on Southside Street, The Barbican, selling antique maps and prints. The shop “Foxsmith Galleries” was open for 20 years, and eventually closed in 2006.

Dad was renowned for his honesty and good business ethics, never broke his word or a contract, and had great integrity. His word was his bond, and most deals were done on a handshake. He disliked debt, and was beholden to nobody. He worked hard, and in order to provide for his family, put business before pleasure.
Dad loved antiques and fine art, good company and good wine.
He enjoyed classical music, which could always be heard in the basement at home where he was framing pictures, or in the shop.
He had a great sense of humour, and a good sense of adventure. He loved sailing and wind-surfing, but was equally happy to try his hand at anything adventurous from para-gliding to stock car racing to bungee-jumping.
Dad didn’t tolerate fools gladly, and disliked snobbery and pretentiousness.
He hated hypocrisy. He had no airs and graces and could mix easily in any company.
He had a wide circle of friends. Most of all he loved his family. There were three children- myself Mark and Naomi.

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Mum and Dad first lived in a small bungalow in Staddiscombe (near Plymstock) and then moved to Alfred Street on Plymouth Hoe.
We holidayed as children in Butlins, and many years later in France,catching the ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff and driving to a campsite.

Sadness at Dads death is tempered by the happiness that he was released from the hell of his last few years. Sadly, in truth we lost Dad a few years before his passing to the cruel disease of Alzheimer’s, the early onset of which robbed him of a peaceful retirement.

Dad was a towering figure for me, and an important influence on my life.
He was there for my significant birthdays, my graduation, was a witness at my wedding, and once came to see me advocating in Court. I inherited or learned from him some qualities that have stood me in good stead as a defence lawyer-a sense of fairness, and an innate sympathy for the underdog.
I admired him very much, and am sorry that his early departure deprived his grandchildren of spending time with him, and he with them.

Dad had a great love of board games.
He taught me chess. We played for years and years before I won a game. Dad wasn’t one to let you win. But at least when I eventually did, I knew it was on merit. Winning at chess was a major surprise to me. Like many boys, I believed my father invincible, and not just in chess.

As a family we also enjoyed board  games, particularly Monopoly and Risk, which were extremely competitive but riotous fun.
I played as a child , but was aware if friends or family were staying that games would continue after I was dispatched to bed
Then the drinks would come out, and the games were a backdrop to anecdotes, stories and jokes, with the roar of raucous laughter. These are the memories that we will cherish.

Cheers Dad!


A poem for my father

In Memory of William Foxsmith RIP (04.02.41- 10.03.14)

The family were grateful for the many condolence cards, supportive messages, anecdotes and photos sent to the family.
“A vibrant and infectious zest for life (Nigel F.)
entertaining, knowledgable and fun to be around” (Matt Tiller)
He ran his business so well,always kind and courteous”(Jenni)
“No-one will forget Bill” (Vanessa J)
“Our hearts are sore at the passing of our dear friend Bill. We will always value our friendship” (Gerry and Malcolm)
I held the most tremendous admiration for Bill,his humour, stories, knowledge and skills….” (Simon B.)
we are surrounded by memories of Bill as there isn’t a room in the house that hasn’t either a picture from the Gallery or framed by Bill” (Jane and John Green)

“This card (pictured below) shows one of the many precious prints which adorn my walls and which Bill found for me”


a wonderful entertaining host!” (Viv and Brian)
A lovely human being, a delightful neighbour and friend with a great sense of fun and generosity of spirit” (Elaine and Adrian)
Bill was a fantastic man.” (Sarah and Tony)
“Bill was a delight to work for” 
“The spirit which he evoked-one of friendship, challenge and investigation” (John Pickles)

…the road from the beach (pictured below) where Bill and I walked up from the boat on so many happy occasions” (Tad)


Ros offered these lines from Shakespeare (Anthony to Cleopatra):-
the miserable change now at my end
Lament nor sorrow at,
But please your thoughts
In feeding them with these my former fortunes

An anecdote from Malcolm and Gerry:- “Bill loved sailing in Plymouth Sound after work. One evening the tide and wind took him into Mountbatten Pier, and as he had stayed out until the last minute, it had become dark and he had no choice but to land. At that time it was private, R.A.F. property, with landing prohibited. He somehow found the Officer’s Mess and entered in his wet suit [just like James Bond] and persuaded them he was not a spy. He finished at the bar with a pint telling them of his adventures!”

“We are both very sad to hear of the death of your Dad, a great friend of mine and someone I admired very much.” (Richard Walker)

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Lord Chancellor David Lidington-a review

On 11 June 2017 PM Theresa May in a post-election re-shuffle appointed David Lidington as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. He replaced the hapless Liz Truss,  who had herself been appointed by May in a post-election re-shuffle less than a year before. Lidington was himself replaced as Lord Chancellor in Theresa May’s botched reshuffle on January 8th 2018. Lidington was the fourth consecutive non-lawyer appointment- his predecessors were Liz Truss, Michael  Gove and Grayling (widely regarded as the worst Lord Chancellor ever).

This blog reviews Lidington’s performance over his brief term of office.


David Roy Lidington CBE PC (born 30 June 1956) has been MP for Aylesbury since 1992. He was Minister of State for Europe from May 2010 to July 2016, and Leader of the House of Commons.

He was educated at a public school, before studying history at Cambridge (appearing on University Challenge)

He was given a CBE in Cameron’s widely criticised resignation honours list.

IMG_0622Expenses scandal In May 2009, it was revealed Lidington had claimed £1,300 on expenses for dry cleaning. He also claimed for toothpaste, shower gel, body spray, vitamin supplements and a second home allowance. He repaid the claims for toiletries, saying: “I accept that many people would see them as over-generous.”  So although he eventually came clean you paid for his soap 

Record in Parliament pre-appointment  (Justice issues)

Lidington voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act,  restricting the scope of legal aid and limiting fees paid to solicitors in no-win no-fee cases. The “they-work-for-you” website says Lidington generally voted against equal gay rights, and his record on cutting legal aid is here.

First six months

The new Lord Chancellor was sworn in on 19 June.  In the in-tray? Read anopen letter to Lord Chancellor from Joshua Rozenberg

Sort out the prison crisis! read these recommendations from the Howard League

His first official pronouncement, following the Grenfell tragedy, was on availability of legal aid in housing cases- and he got it wrong (see here)

There was then a period of calm, in a political period dominated by Brexit, we heard very little from or about the Lord Chancellor until the Party Conference in October when there were apparently conciliatory noises on LASPO reform


The crisis within the prison service has shown no signs of improvement under Lidington. The shocking number of suicides by vulnerable prisoners, murder and violent assaults by against prisoners and staff remains at high levels in crumbling, under-staffed, unsafe failing prisons. The extent of this is too great to record in this blog, and can be charted elsewhere (see eg Howard League) but of the many scathing, shameful reports I include this one from the Independent Monitoring Board into Aylesbury Prison -it is in Lidingtons constituency, so the shameful record has happened “on his watch” as local MP and Justice Sec.

The treatment of young people in custody has also remained dire and dangerous under Lidington’s watch – see this report of November 2017 

Legal Aid and funding

Under this Lord Chancellor, there was no improvement in funding for the MoJ in general or legal aid in particular, as it was revealed the department will have suffered a 40% cut in budget by 2020 (as reported in Gazette in November here)

Conclusion- a summary of Lidington’s tenure

Lidington has been the silent chancellor- we heard very little from or about him. In a Government divided by over but dominated by Brexit issues, this Lord Chancellor kept his head down. There is much to be said for that, preferable at least to failing Grayling or hapless Truss, but a failure nonetheless to tackle the big issues in his department- the chronic underfunding of the Justice system, and in particular legal aid and the prison estate. He left everything without comment to MoJ apparatchiks, who have continued with their pet projects including pilot projects on extended Court hours. He remained silent on the “disclosure scandals” that have thrown a spotlight on the sorry state of our justice system, and prisons and young offender institutions remain as overcrowded, dirty and dangerous as when he took over.

His department did however find the money to pay fat-cat consultants to advise on “digital transformation”, leaving solicitor Matt Foot to assess his legacy with this tweet “Justice Minister Lidington’s only contribution was to cut criminal legal aid by £30 mn, given to PricewaterhouseCoopers (650k profit per partner) instead


Name, Number and Nationality

This blog has also been published by the JUSTICE GAP here

Excerpts were quoted in a Law Society Gazette article here: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/defendant-nationality-declarations-offensive/5063715.article  (see also the lively comments thread)

A new requirement is in force (with effect from Monday 13th November) that requires every defendant appearing before a Criminal Court to confirm their nationality, or risk a prosecution and imprisonment.

I believe a conviction arising from this provision  can be challenged due to the inherently discriminatory nature of this legislation. I am in contact with other lawyers who are considering strategies to remove this provision, but we need to know how the legislation is being enforced. Have you been involved with or witnessed such a case? Please let me know! We can exchange info to see if there is any uniformity of approach, and evaluate the impact. Email gregfoxsmith@msn.com

The provisions are as follows:-
Section 162 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 provides as follows:

162.         Requirement to give information in criminal proceedings
In the Courts Act 2003, after section 86 (alteration of place fixed for Crown Court trial) insert—

86A         Requirement to give information in criminal proceedings
(1)          A person who is a defendant in proceedings in a criminal court must provide his or her name, date of birth and nationality if required to do so at any stage of proceedings by the court.

(2)          Criminal Procedure Rules must specify the stages of proceedings at which requirements are to be imposed by virtue of subsection (1) (and may specify other stages of proceedings when such requirements may be imposed).
(3)           A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, the person fails to comply with a requirement imposed by virtue of subsection (1), whether by providing false or incomplete information or by providing no information.
(4)            Information provided by a person in response to a requirement imposed by virtue of subsection (1) is not admissible in evidence in criminal proceedings against that person other than proceedings for an offence under this section.
(5)           A person guilty of an offence under subsection (3) is liable on summary conviction to either or both of the following—
(a)     imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks (or 6 months if the offence was committed before the commencement of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003), or
(b)     a fine.
(6)          The criminal court before which a person is required to provide his or her name, date of birth and nationality may deal with any suspected offence under subsection (3) at the same time as dealing with the offence for which the person was already before the court.
(7)          In this section a “criminal court” is, when dealing with any criminal cause or matter—
(a)     the Crown Court;
(b)     a magistrates’ court.”


In practice, “the Court”  is likely to be the Magistrates Court, at the first appearance in a case. The provision is offensive and objectionable, and straight out of the UKIP dream statute book. Why stop there? Why not require confirmation of ethnicity or of religion? Perhaps instead of requiring a question and answer routine, the Court could just write down the defendant’s skin colour.

It is presumed the legislation is to assist with the speedy deportation of “foreign” criminals. But how to monitor them once identified? Well lock them up obviously – something that is 9 times more likely to happen if the foreign national is non-white, as evidenced in the Lammy report.

But after that?  It is a only a short step from obtaining verification of nationality to requiring the foreign defendant to be tagged , a digital equivalent of being forced to display a star or triangle. The legislation ironically became effective the day after Remembrance Sunday.


How are the provisions to be policed? If a defendant fails to answer, it presumably falls on the Prosecutor to lay a charge, yet the CPS have had no training or guidance in respect of this legislation.

How will the charge be proved? The prosecutor presumably cannot be a witness in their own case. Will the Judge be required to give evidence, or treat it as they would a contempt? (See para 6 above)  Is the defence Advocate professionally embarrassed in the substantive proceedings as well as the nationality offence?

There may well be a temptation for a foreign national appearing in Court to keep their head down and answer “British”, to avoid some unspecified future sanction.

But perversely, as a British born citizen ashamed of this legislation and outraged at it’s purpose, the temptation for me were I appearing as a defendant would be to refuse to answer out of sheer bloody-mindedness (“don’t tell em Pike!”) or to say something flippant (European? Independent republic of ISLINGTON?) That is probably the British in me coming out.

Answering questions in these circumstances (rather than sticking up two fingers)  would feel “un-British” – as alien as compulsory ID cards.


Is it permissible to answer “none” if the defendant is stateless, the refugee without a Nation home?

What of the defendant who answers one nationality, but is believed to be of another (the first limb of the s3 offence?) How is the “true” nationality to be proven?

Is there a defence if the defendant genuinely believes they have acquired British nationality, answers accordingly, but finds out status still undetermined, or is it a strict liability offence?

What is the penalty for the prankster who answers “Vulcan” or “Jedi”?

Do they get a second chance, or like the drink-driver at the police station who doesnt blow into the tube hard enough, is it a one-off opportunity?

Which nationalities are recognised? The 193 currently recognised by the UN, or a broader definition? There are said to be 270 nationalities (and 300 different languages) in London alone.

What of dependent territories, or those are on the verge of becoming sovereign nations? What of autonomous regions of different nations? Can a resident from Barcelona answer “Catalan”?

Are fat-cat tax avoiders to say “British”, or name their off-shore domiciled Nationality?

What of those with joint or dual nationality- do they get to choose?

How about somebody with mental health issues who is unfit to plead-are they also unfit to confirm Nationality?

What about a defendant who is silent throughout the proceedings? Mute by malice, or by visitation of God?


At this post-Brexit time of national discourse leading to discontent, with the issues of prejudice and discrimination in the criminal justice system to the fore after publication of David Lammy’s report, the timing of this rushed and  ill-judged legislation is unfortunate. Nigel Farage may be cheering, I am not.

Challenge to legislation, and appeal for information

Anecdotally I am told that defendants are complying with the legislation and stating their nationality (although often initially answering by ethnicity) and have been unable yet to find a case where somebody has been charged.

I believe the provisions can be challenged due to the inherently discriminatory nature of this legislation. I am in contact with other lawyers who are considering strategies to remove this provision, but we need to know how the legislation is being enforced. have you been involved with or witnessed such a case? Please let me know! We can exchange info to see if there is any uniformity of approach, and evaluate the impact. Email gregfoxsmith@msn.com



Book Review: Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories

Title -Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories
Author-Thomas Grant QC
Publisher – Hodder and Stoughton

An earlier version of this review was published in The London Advocate here

As the title suggests , this book summarises some of the many illustrious cases in which Jeremy Hutchinson appeared. It is not a conventional biography, and all the better for it.
Hutchinson was defence counsel of choice in some of the greatest trials in the 1960s and 1970s. His roll-call of cases includes defending both Christine Keeler and Howard Marks, as well as appearing for Penguin Books in the “Lady Chatterly” trial.
He was always well prepared, speaking fearlessly to Judges and clearly to juries.
What is clear is that as much as highly regarded, he was also greatly liked, by colleagues, solicitors and clients alike. He is one of those characters about whom it is hard to find anyone having a bad word to say, and his natural modesty meant he never put pen to paper to set out an auto-biography, despite several invitations to do so.
Thankfully, Thomas Grant QC, who met Hutchinson (now over 100) a few years ago has performed a valuable service in penning this book, telling (thematically rather than chronologically) the stories of some of the best cases from Hutchinson’s career.
Each fascinates, and even those that are already familiar pieces of social history are brought vividly to life. Hutchinson is the “golden thread” that binds together the battles played out in the Old Bailey- defending alleged spies and traitors, peace protesters, art thieves, and battling against reactionary forces- from heavy handed Government to Mary Whitehouse. This is a book that is informative but also a pleasure to read, and should appeal equally to a wide readership, not just (as is often the case in legal biographies) lawyers.
Grant makes the case that Hutchinson represents the finest traditions of the Independent Bar.
He certainly had the right background (son of an eminent QC and Judge, public school education followed by Oxbridge, and an opportunity to be a Judge’s Marshall with a “family friend”). He bought his first home with the proceeds of a Monet painting that he had been gifted. That’s not the start that all of us enjoy.
Hutchinson was nonetheless happy to take on the establishment if that what was justice required, and did so defending without fear or favour.
Hutchinson also had an extraordinary upbringing- the family being connected with the Bloomsbury set. For this reviewer, the introductory chapter that charts the connections with numerous well known luminaries of the era was the least satisfactory. Of more interest are the wonderful portraits in the case histories of some of the legal characters of the day-an array of cantankerous opponents and eccentric Judges.
Reading about the trials is a reminder how much has changed from what was a truly adversarial system to the case managed process of today. Here you will be reminded of the days of contested committals with live witnesses, defences not disclosed until the start of the case, the right to jury challenge, and the absolute right to silence without adverse comment.
In one case, Hutchinson introduces without prior notice a defence witness who would only identify himself as “Agent X”, who purportedly worked for the Mexican Secret Service and gave evidence that the defendant had also done so. No “Notice of Defence Witnesses” required!
The longest case that Hutchinson ever conducted was a multi-handed drug importation which lasted two months. Now similar cases can last much longer, due to the modern tendency to “read” or play long passages of intercept transcripts, and lengthy mobile telephone and cell-site material. But it is not just trial length that has increased- so have the length of sentences, leading to a phenomenal rise in the prison population. Heavy sentencing and overcrowded prisons are matters that Hutchinson deprecates, and in his retirement from the bar he has, amongst many other worthwhile endeavours, supported Penal Reform and campaigned for the abolition of the “dock”.
We need advocates of his calibre and courage just as much today, to challenge the power of the State with it’s increased surveillance powers, and discrimination and prejudice that still exists in the CJS as the Lammy report has revealed.
The book concluded with a postscript from Jeremy Hutchinson himself, then a sprightly almost Centurion. He explains how when called to the bar there was no formal advocacy training, and he learned his trade by countless appearances in the Magistrates Court. This will strike a chord with many solicitor HCAs who trained in the same way, yet are criticised by some at the bar for “lack of training”. He laments Government cuts to Legal Aid, and lambasts a recent incumbent of the office of Lord Chancellor- the odious Chris Grayling. Still forthright, his views remained cogent to the end.
This book is an affectionate tribute to one of the greats of Adversarial Advocacy. Mr Grant clearly grew to like Jeremy Hutchinson very much. After reading this book so will you.


No fireworks in Islington

Remember, remember, the 5th of November,

Labour losing the plot.

Prior to the 2006 local elections, a promise was made by Islington Labour to restore the bonfire night firework display to Highbury Fields. Councillor Convery made the pledge, which was an unqualified promise, not hedged with “subject to finances”.
Post election, no fireworks.
Like fellow 2006 election promise-breaker Lib Dem Nick Clegg and his infamous reneging of the tuition fee pledge, it later turns out that this, if not a blatant lie, was more of a wish than a promise.

The Islington Gazette reported the original broken pledge back in 2010 here
Each subsequent year the promise remains unfulfilled.
And alas, in Islington there are no fireworks once again this year, just the traditional annual disappointment of another broken promise.
So the  whizz-bang election pledges by Islington Labour turned out to be no more than a damp squib, and a bonfire of the vanities.
They say it can’t be done for budgetary reasons, ignoring the fact that a properly organised display is self-financing. Other London Labour Boroughs  host successful events, and unsurprisingly the Ally Pally event in neighbouring Haringey is once again sold out.

A Playlist of songs about Islington’s firework flop here

Updated article in Gazette here