On the day that Katie Hopkins’ wilful disregard for the truth landed her, and the Daily Mail, in £150,000 worth of piping hot water, it is reassuring to see that she has not been deterred from jumping straight back on her unicorn.


After Hopkins viciously libelled a family of Muslims as Al-Qaeda supporters in her MailOnline column, a grovelling apology was pushed out on her behalf by the Mail, and was meekly (and, we can safely assume, by obligation of the terms of the settlement) tweeted by Hopkins herself at 2am this morning, in the following sincere terms:

 Happily, for anyone who might have missed this display of fulsome contrition, Twitter was on hand to ensure that it reaches an audience commensurate with that which consumed the false story in the first place. Hopkins though has moved on to bigger and better things, including retweeting her latest column. Which is on the law.

And so, with a heavy sigh, I rise to make the following brief observations, accuracy being I am sure uppermost in Hopkins’ mind at the present time.

Hopkins is exercised about the case of Sgt Alexander Blackman, whom you may otherwise know as “Marine A”. Sgt Blackman was convicted in November 2013 by a Court Martial of the murder of an injured Afghan prisoner after shooting him at point blank range, while on tour in Afghanistan in 2011. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 10 years, reduced to 8 years on appeal. His original appeal against conviction was dismissed, but he now has a further bite of the cherry after the Criminal Cases Review Commission considered that further information relating to Blackman’s mental state at the time of shooting gives rise to new grounds of appeal.

Which is where Hopkins enters. Because her latest column sees her accompany the supporters of Sgt Blackman to the Royal Courts of Justice last Friday, 16 December 2016, where the case was listed before the Court Martial Appeal Court for an application for bail pending the full appeal hearing. And from her vantage point she is able to offer some brief, sage observations on the criminal justice system.

She begins with the following opener:

“Big Al is not even here. He’s keeping clear of the courts in case he jinxes the outcome, preferring to stay and wait quietly, hoping, holding his breath.”

I don’t pretend to be intimately acquainted with the case, but I would observe that section 27 of the Court-Martial (Appeals) Act 1968 provides that an appellant has no right to be present at any proceedings preliminary to an appeal (unless the Court grants him leave), so it’s a curious narrative spin. But who knows – maybe he did apply for leave to be present, have it granted and then turn it down out of superstition. Maybe Hopkins knows something I don’t.

But where I take stronger issue is with the concluding paragraphs, as Hopkins describes how the proceedings are adjourned:

“Then bad news came. This will not be sorted yet. An adjournment. Another week of waiting whilst the prosecution make more submissions.

This wasn’t how I imagined it to be. This was not the happy Christmas the street lights were promising. This was not what we came for. This was awful.

‘The judge is a wanker’ shouted an angry man in the crowd, cross, disappointed.

I am not certain this is true.

But I am sure the law is an ass. A law which goes after our own soldiers, when migrant rapists have human rights to a family life here. A law which tells our Chelsea pensioners they are being investigated for their efforts in Northern Ireland forty years ago when ex IRA sympathisers, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness can assume power, blame free.

I walk away despondent. And wonder, if those judges had to spend another seven days behind bars at Christmas, or their wives endure more time horribly alone, whether they would adjourn a hearing quite so casually ever again.”

The penultimate paragraph is a Hopkins special – a proper old-fashioned brew of non-sequitur and urban legend – but it’s the final line that needs challenge, seeing as this is the dum-dum-dum Eastenders dramatic finish, the rhetorical swirl of her sign-off.

Judge-bashing is of course terribly modish, but in between the schoolgirl giggles at “wanker” judges and condemnation of their “casually” adjourning the hearing, there is space for some cold, hard fact. Fact which Hopkins could have easily discerned by listening to what the Court in fact said. And by reading what it published when explaining why the hearing had been adjourned. Which was as follows:


So, as we can all see, this wasn’t the Court lazily knocking off for an early Friday finish. Or casually adjourning the case for a week because it doesn’t care about the liberty of the subject. But because the CCRC had not served its full reference – the document setting out the details of its investigation and the evidence behind its conclusions – on the prosecution. And the prosecution was therefore unable to indicate its stance on the appeal, or the issue of bail.

I go to these lengths to pick up on these tiny points, because each time an idiot with an audience or their paymasters tell 2 million people that our judges are corrupt, or are wankers, or don’t care about decent normal folk, or are enemies of the people, this all bit by bit chips away at public faith in the rule of law. There is a lot to get upset about when it comes to the administration of law in this country. And often much to legitimately criticise in various judicial decisions. But when sensible, level criticism gives way to name-calling and baseless accusations of bias or negligence, it cheapens debate and demeans public life.

If we had a functioning Lord Chancellor, she might say something like that to warn off the Hopkins of this world. As we don’t, I shall have to rely on a complaint to IPSO. Unless of course, Hopkins wishes, in the spirit of her recent discovery of penitence, to withdraw her unpleasant and untrue attack on the judges and publish a full apology and clarification.

She might even consider tweeting it during working hours.

thesecretbarrister Bad Law, Judiciary, Lawsplaining, Politics, Sentencing , , ,

17 Replies

  1. The final quote is bizarre. Is the proposition that a judge should never inflict any punishment or quasi-punishment on anybody ever unless they themselves would wish it done to them?

  2. What the heck happened to England? When ‘celebrity’ is achieved by vitriolic and racist raving, backed-up by a newspaper? I honestly thought, not particularly naively, that when the News of the World was rumbled it would signal a cleaner, accountable media. I was terribly wrong – the country is reversing into a cesspit. But there’s hope! there are a few things we can do to poke a stick into the bent and crooked wheel that is the Mail, Express and all other raging, racist publications;

    Don’t buy newspapers, any of them, as they’re all turning blind eyes to the gangster in the corner of the room.
    Keep complaining, to the publication itself, the relevant press bodies, your MP.
    Spread the word to as many people as you know, especially children, that what these publications are doing is very wrong.
    Consider crowd-funding to take appropriate legal action against the article, tweet etc

    We can, and will, clean-up the mess. It might not happen ‘tomorrow’ but according to easily available information, people are already fed-up with this style – any style – of propaganda – sales of newspapers are plummeting.

    You want your country back? What country might that be? Will it be the country according to the Mail or the Express? That is not your country, that is the incessant banging-on of extreme right-wing newspaper owners. Take your country back? Sure, it begins by ignoring newspapers or the State Broadcaster.
    Live a happy life!

  3. It’s barely worth doing, but have you complained in these terms to whatever the pointless press ‘regulator’ is called this week?

  4. I would really appreciate some guidance on the wording of a complaint to IPSO, because when I made a formal complaint about the Mail’s “Enemy of the People” headline, they told me it was a police matter.

  5. I long for the day that people ( by which I mean right wing tabloids) understand that human rights are universal and it doesn’t matter how horrible someone is we grant them certain rights. It’s what stops us gunning down criminals in the street. Course I’m sure they do understand this, after all they are so hot on freedom of speech for themselves, and if a Briton is arrested abroad they demand them instantly. But it’s easier to chip away at the rule of law and propagate a sense of victim hood than have a balanced and responsible view, because it sells more papers.

  6. Trying for the life of me to understand how ‘Al’s’mental state at the time of the shooting could not have been subjected to the most anxious scrutiny by the Courts Martial given he was sentenced (twice if you include the sentence appeal) to not insubstantial terms of imprisonment? Did ‘Al’ elect to have his trial before the CM or has he no right to a jury trial? That the CCRC presumably think there is a propect of success for ‘Al’ did they give any indication on his suitability for being confined to barracks pending appeal? Heard his Colonel on Today (radio 4) earlier this week talk about his resignation over this issue. You don’t do that unless you really believe something has gone wrong. The Colonel was scrupulous in his comments about the judicial process – unlike the subject of your blog.
    I have not followed this case and have not seen or heard any of the evidence but this is a bad time for the Rule of law and this case has fanned the flames of a really dangerous fire imho.
    If you had time to say more on this I’m sure folk would be relieved to have a more balanced view than the mail provides. If you need any support for your complaint /private prosecution against the mail I may be able to support you in some way?
    Keep up the good work 🙂

  7. This is a wonderfully thoughtful and well set out piece. I hope it is read and absorbed widely.

  8. Hopkins’ concerns on the cruelty of prison is something that troubles me on many occasions too. Yet when voiced in most cases, is dismissed as ‘bleeding heart’, ‘should have thought of that first’ etc.

  9. Lifter=life. Damn auto correct. Working with lousy internet connection and no keyboard. Apologies.

  10. Katie Hopkins writes for shock and to cause an uproar, it’s becoming hard to distinguish what her actual opinions are and what is just fabricated for attention.

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