Paedophile loses case to ban Facebook from publishing his criminal past

Belfast High Court

Belfast High Court Pic Credit: BBC


An important judicial decision came out over the Christmas recess in a highly controversial case in Northern Ireland which has led a paedophile to claim £20,000 for harassment because of a blog revealing his criminal past.

The ruling is particularly significant as more people get their news from Facebook and Google rather than traditional mainstream media.

The case has been featured on this blog before. It arose after  Joseph McCloskey set up a Facebook profile page called ” Keep Our Kids Safe from Predators 2 ” which posted information about a convicted sex offender called CG.

CG was released from jail in 2012 after serving a sentence for gross indecency and indecent assault offences against a young girl and a teenage boy.

He is now over 40 and he remains under supervision by the authorities.He has been assessed as posing no significant risk to the public.

His lawyers argued that an online campaign after his details appeared on the page had reached the level of dangerous vigilantism..One user called for him to be hung while others endorsed shooting or castrating him.

CG also claimed he has been threatened with being thrown off a pier during a fishing trip, hounded out of a cinema and had to use a supermarket trolley to fight off another tormentor.

None of the information published  by McCloskey was private. It was all in the public domain at the time of CG’s conviction. CG’s solicitors complained to Mr McCloskey  who removed the posting. He later put two posts disclosing CG’s criminal record and his picture.

The lawyers weren’t satisfied and went to court claiming the sex offender had been harassed on Facebook and his human rights breached by the publication on Facebook misusing private information.

The judge found against the campaigner and Facebook and awarded the sex offender £20,000 damages for harassment.Facebook decided to appeal as it thought the ruling was excessive.

Now the Court of Appeal has decided that Facebook should have taken down the post earlier because it was leading to the harassment of the paedophile.

But very significantly the court ruled that the two other posts which dealt with his criminal record and showed his picture can remain.

The decision by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan means that the compensation awarded to CG – which has not be paid because of legal proceedings – will be cut.

But it is also establishing a ruling that contradicts Google’s ” right to be forgotten” procedures saying that public information involving court proceedings can remain on line and cannot be construed as private information.

It was  critical of suggestions that re-publication of conviction information was relevantly private information because in principle “the public has a right to know about such convictions. Information about what has happened in open court can be freely communicated by members of the public”. This was an important aspect of the open justice principle “of very significant weight which can only be outweighed by the interest of the individual in freedom from intrusion in the most compelling circumstances”:

It also rejected the idea that because t some information is covered by the Data Protection Act is it automatically private.

considerable caution should be exercised before reading across  those matters, because the “fact that information is regulated for that [data protection] purpose does not necessarily make it private”.,said the ruling.

For those who want to follow the finer legal detail there is an interesting report by lawyer Christopher Knight, of 11KBW in London here  and a report in the Irish News which dwells on the part of the the Court of Appeal  judgement that was upheld.





How the Legal Ombudsman’s Office ripped off the taxpayer with a £1m irregular incentive scheme


What  would you think if the organisation that handles your complaint against a poorly performing solicitor or barrister was itself ripping you off as a taxpayer?

That  is the extraordinary situation in the Office of Legal Complaints or Legal Ombudsman for the last six years where well over £1m extra cash has been paid to its staff  without approval from anyone just to keep them from taking jobs in the private sector.

This was exposed last month in a  virtually unreported disclosure from the National Audit Office. I have written it up for Tribune magazine this month.

The office handles tens of thousands of complaints every year from the general public about poor service from legal professionals – whether it is over conveyancing,personal injuries, wills or family disputes. What emerged about what was going in this office of over 200 people has led to resignation or dismissal  ( whether you take his version or the Ministry of Justice’s ) of its £167,000 a year head, Adam Sampson  who has been described by his permanent secretary as “ not a fit and proper person” to continue  as an accounting officer to Parliament.

He presided over what the NAO called a ” novel and contentious” irregular payment scheme which saw its top officers and the rest of his staff benefit from pay enhancements well beyond anything else available in Whitehall currently suffering pay freezes and one per cent pay rises.

The two unauthorised pay schemes were aimed to retain legal staff who might be tempted to leave and join the private sector. One for senior executives was according to the annual accounts “a benefit in addition to salary and was ­believed by the OLC at the time to be necessary to attract and retain the best candidates nationally to senior posts within the organisation”. Some £33,000 was paid out the last financial year – ­altogether some £348,000 has been paid over six years.

The second scheme for general staff allowed up to an extra 3 per cent to be paid on top of their salaries to encourage them not to leave to join the private sector. This cost nearly £900,000.

Neither scheme was authorised by the Ministry of Justice and neither was spotted for four years either. Successive Lord Chancellors -Kenneth Clarke and Chris Grayling didn’t notice.

On top of this there is suggestion of  alleged expenses fiddling by the chief executive.

The report said an arrangement from 2009 assumed “Mr Sampson to be living in Birmingham [where the OLC offices were based from January 2010] despite his only spending up to two nights a week in Birmingham away from his London home.”

The claims involved train fares which could not be solely justified for business use between London and Birmingham.

The Ministry has reported him to the tax authorities for not declaring them as a benefit in kind. Altogether he had received over £27,000 in benefits in kind over the last two years in office.

What is extraordinary is that the two schemes are still in existence today and the Treasury is still trying to end them this year. The reason is that the contracts drawn up by lawyers are so watertight that the Treasury is having difficulty unravelling them.

One can only say that if the lawyers at the Office of Legal Complaints spent as much time providing a good service to the  public as they did in drawing up lucrative contracts for themselves Whitehall would be a much better place.

Putting Lawyers First: Will the Child Sex Abuse Inquiry really benefit survivors?

New Zealand dame Justice Lowell Goddard : Putting lawyers first pic credit:

New Zealand dame Justice Lowell Goddard : Putting lawyers first pic credit:

The extraordinary disclosure reported on the Exaro website and in The Sunday Times today that the Goddard Judicial inquiry into child sexual abuse will recruit a record number of in-house QCs and lawyers raises  more than just a few eyebrows.

It appears that Ben Emmerson, the QC who survived the cull that abolished the independent panel, will be interviewing for 20 more barristers – ten of them QC’s – this month This far outstrips the number employed for the Leveson inquiry into the press or the very long running Saville Inquiry into the  Northern Ireland ” Bloody Sunday ” atrocity.

It is not surprising that survivors – already excluded from the panel and any meaningful input into the proceedings – have reacted with fury. If you also take into account that every organisation from the police to local government, the security services to Whitehall and ministers, would want to bring along their own QC at public expense, you can see where the phrase ” lawyer fest” comes from.

And you have to add that most of the remaining shrunk panel are also lawyers or connected to the law. The remaining people are  Alexis Jay, author of the report last year on CSA in Rotherham; Drusilla Sharpling, barrister and former senior prosecutor; Malcolm Evans, professor of public international law; and Ivor Frank, barrister and advisor to the Home Office..Only Alexis Jay is not connected to the law.

If you compare the Goddard panel with the former Hillsborough Panel and the Gosport Independent Panel (I declare an interest I am a member) and you can see how the members come from diverse backgrounds with different interests. They are not predominately lawyers.

True it is clear that  Emmerson has asked for a wide range of legal expertise including specialists in child care, local authorities, public law and criminal law.But that is not the same as having a mix of people with different experience away from the law courts.

Indeed the whole process could end up as  being an intimidatory experience for any survivor wishing to give evidence.

Ben Emmerson: A Thomas Cromwell figure? Pic Credit: UN

Ben Emmerson: A Thomas Cromwell figure?
Pic Credit: UN

There is also a question about Emmerson himself. He is a very well-regarded human rights lawyer but he is also ( according to past members of the panel ) an arrogant and bombastic figure who might well create division rather than the healing process needed in such a sensitive area.

His powers of patronage are large and he appears to be creating his own Empire  Indeed in another century  a parallel could be drawn with Thomas Cromwell  – a brilliant lawyer and advocate for Henry VIII  (read Hilary Mantel’s excellent novels) who wielded enormous patronage. He ended up being beheaded for heresy and treason on Tower Hill. I am not suggesting such an ISIS style modern fate for Emmerson but the way this has been done suggests he is acting as a Cromwell type figure to Lady Goddard and Theresa May. His solutions may not be the right ones and one would not want  the inquiry to be not trusted as a result.

The other inquiries have  one public aim – putting the families involved first. The parallel aim for the Goddard Inquiry should be to put the survivors at the centre of its work. At the moment it is looking like that it is putting lawyers first – and  if lawyers are not careful, they will seen  by survivors ( if they have not already said so) as exploiting survivors for their own personal careers.,

Rough Justice : When pro bono is not pro bono

Rough Justice for Tony Hunt

UPDATE: Today (Tuesday) Mr Justice MacDuff intervened in the case to halt the costs hearing against Mr Hunt  this week to allow a full appeal by  his lawyers into whether he should be liable for the £500,000 bill from Hogan Lovells.


This week in a cramped room in Clifford’s Inn a 69 year old former magistrate will in all likelihood be made bankrupt by the legal system. The tragic story of Tony Hunt- a man wrongly convicted then cleared of a rape charge that was not brought by his accuser, AB, until seven years after the event is written up by me in the Sunday Telegraph  this week  – see – .

The “mistake” Mr Hunt made was to seek to clear his name after spending two horrific years in the sex offenders wing of Winchester gaol by seeking damages in the civil court from the woman, egged on by her woman friend and Hampshire Police, who accused him of rape.

The case at the time became a cause celebre because it was seen by women as a ground breaking ruling to prevent men acquitted of rape pursuing their ” victim” in the courts. When he lost there was general jubilation for fear that if he had won it would put off women from bringing cases against rapists.

 But now another side has emerged that is as deeply disturbing. Tony Hunt applied for compensation as you might if you have been wrongly imprisoned – but was turned by the Home Office. Evidently you need incontrovertible proof of innocence, notoriously difficult to prove in rape cases which are rarely witnessed, to get any money.

 So he reluctantly turned to the civil courts where he was advised-despite the later judgement – that he had to sue his accuser and not the police or the Crown Prosecution Service – to get any money.

But the real shock was to come after he failed. The woman who had accused him was desperate for cash to defend herself. She had gone to her MP, Julian Lewis, who, impressed by her plight contacted the solicitor general, Vera Baird, who, in turn, rang Hogan Lovells, a very expensive  firm of international City lawyers, who decided to take her case.

 They decided to act for her free of charge or  pro bono.  But just a few weeks into the case they suddenly changed their position to acting for her under a conditional fee arrangement. This made no difference to her, but it meant that if Mr Hunt lost, he would face huge bills.

This is precisely what has happened. A year after the case they are demanding £500,000  from him – knowing that he has no funds. The fees would have been nothing like this if a Winchester lawyer had taken the case anyway, but the multi-million pound company charge a lot for solicitors and engage expensive barristers. Now they have pursued him to a costs hearing – it has taken several days so far- while at the same time winning prizes and public acclaim for pro bono work, including runner-up at the prestigious Wig and Pen awards, for this case.  Hunt’s lawyers have failed to convince the judge to take account of this curious dual approach.

These are some of Hogan Lovell’s on the record explanations for this behaviour “Any money recovered from Mr Hunt will, in the first instance, be given to AB to balance the costs she incurred with her original firm of solicitors.  Any money that might be due to us would be donated to charity.  We do not profit in any way.”
“It is for the Costs Court to determine what are fair and reasonable expenses for Mr Hunt to pay for the defence of AB against his legal action.  Mr Hunt can appeal the ruling of the Costs Court.”
“The Courts have made these cost orders against Mr Hunt because he has lost at every stage. AB has done nothing but defend herself from his claims.”
“At any time Mr Hunt could have stopped his litigation against AB.  The choice has always been his.”
“The door to negotiation has always been and remains open.” 
“The use of a conditional fee arrangement created a level playing field for AB to defend herself against Mr Hunt.   Each is exposed to the potential of having to pay their opponent’s costs if they lose.”
  I am no lawyer but it seems to me Hogan Lovells have tried to have their cake and eat it. They have received public plaudits for their pro bono work but are now going to bankrupt the guy under  an arrangement they haven’t actually highlighted during the Wig and Pen awards ceremony.They admit they don’t need the money, even AB , I am told, is not bankrupt. And if we follow their argument, Mr Hunt, had no right to defend himself once he realised that he was up against expensive solicitors, if he couldn’t afford the bills. Rough justice indeed.