Monthly Archives: November 2017


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:  (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

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



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