That-was-the-weekOn Tuesday evening justice minister Lord McNally appeared at a “Legal Aid Question Time” event organised by the Bar Council. Defending the government’s proposals, he branded the legal profession’s reaction to legal aid cuts as “hysterical”, and argued that although it was alright for lawyers to protest it was wrong to deny their vested interest in what is essentially a “wage negotiation”. Andy Slaughter described the proposals as “not cuts, but a dismantling of the legal aid system”. A write-up of the event is available here, and Carl Gardner’s analysis is here.

A treaty between the UK and Jordan was approved in both countries. The treaty ensures that notorious cleric Abu Qatada would receive a fair trial in Jordan that did not rely on evidence obtained by torturing others, and paves the way for his deportation. Other administrative formalities are required in the UK, and it must also be published in an official newspaper in Jordan to become law.

The DPP published final guidelines for prosecutions that involve social media, replacing the interim guidance produced in December 2012. Keir Starmer said:

“Millions of communications are sent via social media every day, and prosecutors must be equipped to deal appropriately and consistently with cases arising from the growing use of these new ways of communicating.

“When I published the interim guidelines on prosecuting cases involving social media, I aimed to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the criminal law.

“Encouragingly, the public consultation showed there is wide support for the overall approach set out in the guidelines, which state there should be a high threshold for prosecution in cases involving communications which may be considered grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false.”

The final guidance is broadly similar to that published in the consultation, but has more detail about communications that constitute harassment or stalking, credible threats of violence, and clarification of public interest factors.

Jeremy Forrest, the high school teacher who was involved in a sexual relationship with one of his 15-year old students and took the female pupil to France after their involvement was discovered, was found guilty of child abduction and sentenced to five and a half years imprisonment. The sentence consisted of a year for the abduction, and four and a half years for sex offences Forrest had pleaded guilty to. In his sentencing remarks Judge Lawson QC highlighted aggravating factors including the defendant’s continued deception of those involved, the “appalling” distress he subjected the victim’s family to, and that he contested the abduction charge, causing the victim to have to go through the trauma of a trial.

Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White lost his High Court action against two former business partners. He had claimed he was owed a 38% share of the proceeds from the sale of a restaurant, but the respondents argued that the action was a “personal vendetta” without merit. Mr Justice Morgan ordered White to pay the costs, and described the claimant as having “been a bit of an idiot and it may be he has been a dishonest idiot on top”, in addition to being an unreliable witness that brought “wholly misconceived proceedings”.

The Naked Rambler, Stephen Gough, was imprisoned for breaching an anti-social behaviour order requiring him to cover his buttocks and genitalia in public. He was arrested naked but for his boots and socks leaving Southampton Magistrates’ Court, still clutching the order that had been imposed just minutes before. He had not been allowed to appear in the trial as he refused to wear clothes in court. Judge Sarah Munro QC deemed a substantial custodial sentence appropriate as if Gough was given a sentence commensurate with his time already served and allowed to walk free “there is a reality here that he will walk out on these steps naked. I do not think I can ignore that reality.”