Craig Murray (@CraigMurrayOrg), ex-UK Ambassador, whistleblower, now political activist, faces court in Edinburgh this morning over contempt of court charges relating to articles & comments on the trial of former First Minister Alex Salmond. I'll be reporting what happens.
The Crown alleged in its April 21 petition that Mr Murray committed Contempt of Court at common law, under the Contempt of Court Act 1981, & breached relevant judicial reporting orders. Maximum sentence is 2 years imprisonment. (Section 15(2) 1981 Act)
For an accessible intro to Contempt of Court in Scottish criminal law, @PeatWorrier’s 20 minute podcast provides a great & entertaining explanation. Goes through case law (includes nudity & drunkenness in the court room!), strict liability, & defences. spreaker.com/user/andrewtic…
In a few hours the SNP will again reject controlling private sector rents, even though it’s party policy. This will cause more confusion & anger. I’ve been following & writing about the rent controls campaign over 5 years. Here’s why:
.@ScotGov civil service & lawyers do not back major changes without long consultation. This hasn’t been initiated. Opposition MSPs called for emergency action on rents 50 days ago. But there’s been no substantive response or discussions. So SNP will whip against opposition plans.
Rent controls were passed unanimously at SNP Spring Conference 2016, but with no serious plan to deliver them. I asked First Minister’s chief spokesperson in person at the time. It wasn’t on the agenda. They claimed the Housing (Tenancies) (S) Act 2016 did the job. It wouldn’t.
When I asked the Ministry of Defence how many people had died in their (our?) latest bombing campaign they replied: "What do you mean by people?" The idea of counting the people we were killing didn't make sense to them.
Quantifying death carnage of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria is an impossible task, the rounding of mass graves. I asked as they claimed "no civilians" were being killed - a total fabrication. Let's not pretend our government doesn't cover up mass murder for political purposes.
When Kunduz hospital was bombed, Intensive Care patients burned to death in their beds. Medics were decapitated by shrapnel. Those fleeing were shot dead. $6,000 was given to families of the dead for the "error".
Scottish Parliament has voted for Scotland to have its own voting rights system for the 1st time. Everyone above 16 years old, including EU citizens, foreign nationals from all countries, & refugees will have the right to vote (including prisoners serving a term under 12 months).
‘Scottishness’ & the social contract with the developing Scottish state should have choice & residency at its foundation, not questionable notions of bloodline that are applied elsewhere. Expanding the right to vote is a positive step in that direction.
Back in Court of Session. Case before Lord Pentland by @JolyonMaugham claiming interdict against UK Ministers on grounds that the proposed Brexit Withdrawal Agreement breaches existing law on the customs status of Northern Ireland.
Aidan O’Neill QC appearing for petitioner. Will speak for 1 hour 30. Begins by stating that petition anticipated the contents of the Withdrawal Agreement - and was largely correct. Claims it breaches section 55 of Taxation (Cross border Trade) Act 2018 on Northern Ireland.
O’Neill: There is not yet an Agreement under EU Law - at it is not passed by the European Parliament as required. So this remains a live legal issue.
It’s #NobOff day! Aka the Nobile Officium of the Court of Session - extraordinary jurisdiction that petitioners want to apply to sending Brexit extension letter if Boris Johnson doesn’t. Case expected all day.
3 judges enter (Drummond Young, Menzies, Turnbull). Court commenced. Aidan O’Neill QC rises for the petitioners - begins on issue of appeal to Lord Pentland’s decision in the Outer House of the Court of Session yesterday.
O’Neill pinpoints the issue of ‘undertakings’ (promises) made by the UKGovernment lawyers to the Court that the letter to extend Brexit would be sent, as the key issue for an appeal.
Court returns. O’Neill rises to continue the case for the petitioners, that action should be taken to ensure Boris Johnson abides by the law passed by Parliament on Brexit.
O’Neill submits transcript of the Andrew Marr show, various interviews, & BJ’s Tory conference speech all asserting that UK will leave the EU on 31 Oct irrespective of the law passed by Parliament. This, he says, demonstrates his willingness to break the law.
Andrew Webster QC rises for the respondents, the UK Government acting for Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.
I’m in Court 1 at Court of Session, as petitioners @JolyonMaugham@joannaccherry move case seeking to enforce the Benn Act - requiring a request to extend Brexit Exit Day if no Deal is agreed. Seek use of court’s ‘Nobile Officium’ to sign letter if Boris Johnson refuses.
Petitioner’s Counsel currently in detailed discussion of full timetable. Like Prorogation case, time is tight (deadline day is 19 October) & case may need to wind through any Outer House, Inner House, & then UK Supreme Court processes.
Mr O’Neill QC, for petitioners, says it’s ridiculous to suggest there’s no serious time pressure. Points to 12 days between Benn Act deadline & crashing out, within which letter needs sent & then EU Governments would likely need to meet & agree. Court rises to consider.
I'll be at the Court of Session this morning. Developments likely in the @andywightman MSP case, where a company suing him for alleged defamation & a bankruptcy-inducing £750k has lost its legal-agents. Case has dragged for 20 months.
Afternoon session commences. Respondent’s Counsel for UKGov rises: ‘This is a case of great constitutional importance.’ Their view is the case is not one for the courts - it is non-justiciable - and so should be dismissed.
UKGov Counsel: It is high politics - a matter for parliament to discuss, as they are doing today. Not a case for judicial review.
Gov Counsel: Northern Ireland Executive Formation Act made Law a need for parliament to sit on certain dates - when it cannot be prorogued. The dates planned for prorogation are in line with what was passed in that Act.
Back at Court of Session, Court 8, for Lord Doherty response on prorogation interim order request. Few #ScotlandInEurope folk posing for cameras outside.
Very busy courtroom. Public gallery near full. I’ve promoted myself to the press section. Clerk of Court runs through basic procedure for viewers. Quips that we ‘live in interesting times’. Court perhaps not usually such a spectator sport!
Cameras also in court recording proceedings - believe for BBC. Quite rare for a Scottish case to be filmed in the courtroom. Even live tweeting is also a fairly recent innovation now allowed when permission granted or accreditation received! ☺️
Roddy Dunlop rises for the respondent, the Crown. Begins that prorogation is done by the sovereign alone - & so is not reviewable by the courts.
Dunlop: There remain prerogative powers that are not judiciable - either as they are intensely political or sole prerogative of Her Majesty. Citing GCHQ case - there are a residue of non- judiciable cases. Pg 418: mentions disillusion of Parliament not being judicial reviewable.
Dunlop turns to ‘Smith on Judicial Review’. States proroguing Parliament is a classic example of a prerogative power held by the monarch where the courts will not interfere.
Back at Court of Session, Edinburgh, for round 2. Aidan O’Neill QC to continue submissions for petitioners. @joannaccherry QC, MP & petitioner, present in Court & doing media outside.
Back in court awaiting Lord Doherty. Phone charged. Sandwich had hummus, which most likely marks me out as part of the ‘saboteur, liberal elite’. 😇 🥪
O’Neill QC resumes for petitioners. Begins with Moohan v Lord Advocate, prisoner voting case. Lord Hodge said: I do not exclude possibility that a parliamentary majority abusing its power could be overturned on basis of constitutional norms.
Made it to Court of Session in time for today’s emergency request for action on proroguing Parliament. Petitioners’ représentative - for 75 parliamentarians - rises.
Petitioners Counsel: seeking declarator (declaration) that it is unconstitutional & ultra vires (outwith powers) to for UKGovernment to shut down parliament blocking debate & action regarding No Deal Brexit.
Counsel: we are seeking an urgent decision suspending the order intending to prorogue Parliament issued in the name of the Queen yesterday.
Biggest show in Edinburgh tommorow! Court case against Johnson Government on No Deal Brexit begins in Court of Session. Backed by 70 MPs. Arguments also relate to Scotland's constitutional place in the Union. 🍿
Raring to go! Quite the team sheet for the petitioners. MPs hoping to cut off Boris Johnson’s power to prorogue Parliament for a No Deal Brexit using Scots Law. Starting soon before Lord Doherty at Court of Session, Edinburgh.
Petitioners begin with procedural requests - asks for the case to be fast-tracked to the Court of Session Inner House.
.@jenanglaw: Being a human rights lawyer is not easy. There can be failure, lower pay, difficult problems. That has to make us reflect on why we do it in the 1st place - we need strength & resilence to do this. #JusticeEdinburgh
Eamon Keane, Convenor of @SCOLAG1, paraphrases Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ - where the legal profession is depicted as a nightmarish force of arbitrary power. #JusticeEdinburgh
.@SCOLAG1 provides a platform for discussion & campaigns for legal reform. Lack of funding for legal access, punitive sanctions of welfare, inequality of arms in the court room have been constant challenges in its work over its decades. #JusticeEdinburgh
Keane: This says something about Scottish society. Structural inequality remains a barrier to justice in wider society. #JusticeEdinburgh
.@StefanCross1, key lawyer in many high profile equal pay cases, says there remains a big challenge to increase access to justice in discrimination cases. #JusticeEdinburgh
.@StefanCross1: By 2022 there will be around £1.5bn paid out in Scotland through equal pay cases - arguably one of the biggest redistributions of wealth in history. If it hadn’t been for no win no fee lawyers working on the cases there would have been no victories.
.@StefanCross1: between 1997 and 2005 no discrimination cases for women were brought as trade unions had refused to take them. Part of the historic injustice behind the unequal pay cases. #JusticeEdinburgh