‘Is this Johnson’s coup de grâce..?’

Should today’s article title prove to be true, I’ll wager there’ll be a morass of people across the land yelping ‘not before time’.

The japery and buffoonery of old, synonymous perhaps with our leader more often than not, may all seem less relevant today given what have been a fairly apocalyptic 48 hours. The country is, literally, seething. As are many of his own party and erstwhile staunch allies. On Wednesday, in the ‘House’, our Prime Minister painted a beleaguered figure as he shuffled around uneasily at the despatch box while his own ministers squirmed behind him. Those in the front benches in particular, such as Home Secretary Priti Pritel, looked like they would literally wish to be anywhere on earth but there.

One rule for them': newspapers savage Boris Johnson over party scandal |  Politics | The Guardian
Say no more 👆

There was a strange unfamiliarity to Johnson when he spoke. For a man who has carved a reputation for grinning inanely, appearing to be on a different planet from the rest of us and certainly not one to issue apologies lightly, if at all, his shambling figure appeared at the Commons armed with an act of contrition and faux outrage at the (alleged) events of 18/12/20. Boy does he realise his coat’s on a shoogly peg. Like the underdog in a boxing match, he came out fighting, wildly throwing punches but the only result was whiplash-inducing head-shaking together with mass eye-rolling from many and, crucially, from those behind, as well as opposite him. Gleefully throwing his own staff under the bus with claims he was ‘furious’ and ‘outraged’ have done little to appease a population who are incandescent with rage.

Johnson’s staff at Downing Street must have been cowering in cupboards after ITV ran with the leaked video of his (former) adviser laughing and joking and who subsequently fled the scene late on Wednesday in a paroxysm of tears. They’ll all now be anxiously awaiting the so-called ‘investigation’, to see which of them will be joining Ms. Stratton searching the situations vacant columns. But, hey, hang on, what investigation? There was NO party. But, hey, hang on, IF there was a party (which there probably wasn’t), ALL the Covid rules were strictly followed. But there was NO party – just cheese, wine and a ‘few games’…… (the mind boggles). And our PM knew ‘nothing’ of it, despite it taking place in his home………….

And all this utter claptrap as hundreds died on that very same day and thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of us could not see family (some of whom were desperately unwell) because we were told not to – and so therefore followed those rules and abided by the law. But clearly not everyone did. Clearly.

Further hares were then set running by Number 10’s former enfant terrible and somewhat risible Dominic Cummings (he of Barnard Castle and Specsavers fame) who, like the Bond baddie he now plays so well, has tweeted, no doubt cackling and chuckling, to say there was a further ‘party’ on 13th November (the night he was sacked, no less – presumably, the ‘reason’ for the party..?😉). And possibly another just over a fortnight later. And another. Oh and another. At time of writing, there is anecdotal evidence that the ‘party count’ is currently standing at seven. The hits just keep on coming……

Dominic Cummings tears into Boris in extraordinary attack: 'Fell far below  standards' | Politics | News | Express.co.uk
Cummings, with his (former) bestie.

One stark difference this time appears to be that Johnson’s very own ministers, backbenchers and otherwise unstintingly loyal supporters are fuming, turning and running. (A couple of them have already apparently started to unofficially canvass opinion amongst their fellow MPs to see what sort of backing they’d attract should they run for leader). After the Owen Patterson farrago, the upshot of which is a by-election next week, they are seething that further incidents have now occurred. The natives, as they say, are restless. Consequently, the Prime Minister may very well be finding himself an extremely lonely character over the coming days. His sleepless nights are not going to be caused by becoming a parent yesterday morning.

As for ‘Plan B’, surreptitiously conveyed to us as we were all reeling from ‘party-gate’, a more cack-handed approach to the delivery of any such news is hard to imagine. A deflectionary tactic that any pantomime villain would have been proud of. The public are being treated as mugs………but are not. They are feeling a sense of utter betrayal by this dastardly deed last year and may not be as forgiving as they have been before when assessing and evaluating the Government’s various misdemeanors. Many in the Conservative Party, including some very senior Ministers, have a sense of foreboding about them.

See the source image
One wonders about Plan C, D, E, F…………………

The reality is that there were some very important medical and scientific messages given to us on Wednesday at the hastily and suspiciously timed press conference. The facts appear to suggest that this new ‘Omricon’ variant is a right bugger and we should all be very vigilant. But what chance of compliance as regards ‘Plan B’ when the ‘party’ scandal has (a) been revealed and (b) quelle surprise, not been properly addressed and even vehemently denied? The old maxim of ‘one rule for them, one for the rest of us’ has really never seemed so apt.

Science, uncertainty and the COVID-19 response - Institute of Development  Studies
The holy trinity of Messrs. Whitty, Johnson and Vallance.

A country always needs strong, robust, decisive leadership. But especially so as we are currently in a public health crisis and, potentially, the next few months may see some of our greatest challenges. Yet, our PM is stumbling from calamity to calamity, still bumbling around and infuriating the entire nation, with seemingly effortless ease. His judgement, again, has been called into question. It was he who appointed Hancock, he who has broken many a manifesto pledge, he who has raised national insurance contributions, he who has made catastrophic errors with the first lockdown, who has courted openly with Trump, overtly exhibited cronyism, demonised migrants and, as a result, has left Britain a lonely and isolated figure. Brexit has left the country in so much red-tape that jobs and businesses are being and will be destroyed.

Lest we forget, a mere two years ago, almost to the day, this man was seen by the Tories as an electoral asset. The electorate, especially the red wall ones, did not swap Labour for the Conservatives. They swapped Labour for Boris Johnson. His non-conformity formed part of his allure, remarkably. But his stock hasn’t half plummeted of late and his own party must now be having daily secret trysts wondering whether it is time to press the ejector button and elect a new leader. He’s now fast morphing into a calamitous liability.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Stay safe everyone.

‘The ongoing horror of apparent misogyny and discrimination in the UK’

I have visited the issue of today’s blog several times previously. But it is such an important issue that I will not stop until action is taken.

A selection of previous articles can be reviewed here – https://thescotslawblog.com/2021/10/02/violence-against-women-is-it-worse-now-or-have-we-just-lost-the-ability-to-care/ and here – https://thescotslawblog.com/2021/03/13/the-epidemic-of-violence-against-women/.

Misogyny is defined as hatred or contempt for women. It is a form of sexism used to keep women at a lower social status than men, thus maintaining the societal roles of patriarchy. On that basis, many now can identify with that as being fairly permanently present in British society. An appalling set of statistics of crimes against women, females terrified to walk alone at night and now even those who are specifically empowered to protect us are falling foul of the law. I addressed the specific issue of ‘Misogyny’ over a year ago and which can be reviewed here – https://thescotslawblog.com/2020/10/04/misogyny-should-it-be-a-crime/ .

Fewer than one in 10 police officers fired after gross misconduct finding |  Police | The Guardian
Police – and many from The Met – have been in the news for all the wrong reasons of late.

On Monday, two London police officers were each jailed for nearly three years after they admitted to sharing crime scene photographs on WhatsApp of two murdered sisters. Coming so soon after the Sarah Everard horror story, this will presumably only further undermine public confidence in an already beleaguered Police Service. Despite this, again being the Metropolitan Police, it is clear that there appears to be crisis after crisis currently across the board involving that sector. Here, only a matter of days ago, we learned that a senior Police Scotland individual has been suspended pending allegations of a criminal nature. The M9 crash from 2015, which has just paid out £1m in compensation will now proceed to a FAI and The Sheku Bayoh Enquiry is up and running.

But it is the apparent continued attitude towards women that should concern us…..and not just from within the Police. But sexism within the force seems to be a major issue that is simply not going away.

Forty years ago this arose when investigations were taking place into the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper (then, some disgraceful comments were made when one senior officer stated that the investigation would be stepped up because Sutcliffe had started ‘killing innocent girls’ – the clear inference being that his previous victims (prostitutes) were not ‘innocent’). Their reputation was further sullied by the incredibly dark case of the ‘Black Cab Rapist’ John Worboys and their appalling misgivings regarding his apprehension. Only two months ago, it emerged that after Wayne Couzens had been handed a whole-life order for the rape and murder of Sarah Everard, some half a dozen police officers, who had been part of a social media group with Couzens, had shared messages exhibiting grave misogynistic and discriminatory views. Further still, a former Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police described the Police as ‘institutionally misogynistic’, claiming she had even been sexually assaulted during her time as an officer. In January of this year, five police officers from Hampshire were caught having made some extremely sexist, racist and overtly homophobic remarks. Females were referred to as ‘whores’ and ‘sluts’. Thankfully they were all dismissed, but this of course fails to address the problem. There are plenty other repugnant examples but I have elected not to list them in this article. Now whilst it is, of course accepted that occasionally, one apple can spoil the whole fruit bowl, equally there are hundreds of thousands of police officers and not all are involved in such salacious episodes.

Sarah Everard: Wayne Couzens hatched sick plot weeks before murder | Metro  News
Sarah Everard. Kidnapped, raped and murdered by serving Met Police Officer Couzens.

But, this is nothing new and it would be foolish for anyone to think that it was or somehow misleadingly attribute it to ‘society in 2021’ (as I saw written the other day on Twitter) or ‘that’s social media for you’ (another preposterous notion). There is a laddish culture still very much rife in the UK where making derogatory remarks about women is still seen as ‘banter’ and ‘fun’ but actually which illustrates a dark undercurrent of perceived acceptability. This pretty blatant misogyny needs to be addressed as it is a problem for us all – not just women.

Women are not to blame here – us men are. Make no mistake about that. But many do not see it. Or rather don’t want to. The wolf-whistling labourer with his ill-fitting clothes, beer belly, mug of tea and bum hanging out his trousers is seen as intrinsic to British life. It is their ‘right of passage’ to holler suggestively at any female that wanders by.

Govt to ban wolf-whistling, asking women for phone number - Punch Newspapers
Should wolf whistling and cat calling be ‘illegal’..?

But, actually, should this behaviour, now trite and absurdly outdated, be ‘illegal’. Should it be deemed as ‘sexual harassment’..? Remarkably, when our very own esteemed PM was asked whether misogyny should be a ‘crime’, he rejected the notion saying that to do so would ‘make matters worse’. But then, given his own record of various questionable comments aimed at various groups within society, perhaps it’s not surprising. Back in 2017, the French suggested they would bring in on-the-spot fines for anyone harassing women on the streets yet, paradoxically in Ireland almost 60% did not consider it ‘sexual harassment’ and were not in favour of it being ‘outlawed’. Yet a sexist remark is not a compliment. At all.

Is it then time for this country to accept there often appears to be an ever increasing undercurrent of very unpleasant and deeply unsettling views from many in our country regarding women, homosexuals, immigrants and those of a multi-cultural background. There also appears to be an inexplicable (and mistaken) belief that they possess unfettered rights to spew their vile rhetoric. Usually done via social media (inevitably behind a cloak of invisibility) but also overtly in the street. But here’s the thing – we don’t have an unfettered right – and it must be stopped.

For many this is a ‘way of life’. A culture that they have inherited from their parents and grandparents. Similar to the ignorance we often see as regards religion or views towards anything that, fundamentally, they simply do not understand. They see nothing wrong with this behaviour – and there lies the problem. Unless we raise our children (and, in relation to misogyny, our ‘sons’ ) to instill in them that this is simply unacceptable, in every form, it will never stop. Ever.

And yet it must. Now.

The statistics of an array of crimes against women (from harassment in the street to rape) is truly shocking and we should all be embarrassed and worried by them. But endless rhetoric is ultimately futile. Action, by education, of course (and from a very early age, like Primary 1) but also by the creation of specific legislation is now needed. Urgently.

To continually not do so and skirt the issue is perhaps more revealing about our attitude towards this than we are comfortable to admit.

Misogyny – it’s not just coronavirus that is endemic.

Stay safe everyone.

‘The killing of ’emergency service workers’ and ‘Harper’s Law’ – is it necessary – or even a mistake?

Very late on Thursday 15th August 2019, PC Andrew Harper was killed in what can only be regarded as truly horrific circumstances. Responding initially to reports of the theft of a quadbike was in progress, he attended an address in Sulhamstead, Berkshire. His legs then became entangled in a rope that had been tied to the back of a car and he was dragged for a mile, sustaining catastrophic injuries. It would be simply unthinkable for any of us not to feel utter outrage at the manner in which he lost his life and, of course, the ripple effect that has meant unimaginable grief and pain for his widow, Lissie, his parents, colleagues, and friends.

Almost a year to the day later, I wrote an article on the incident which you can read here – https://thescotslawblog.com/2020/08/04/problems-proving-murder-. To perhaps the surprise of many, it is not a straightforward case. The outcry at the time was based on the sheer revulsion that a serving police officer could have had has life ended in such an appalling and grisly manner. At the very outset, it is important that I state my own repugnance at this crime and my sympathies then, as now, go to PC Harper’s widow and family. Nothing I have written previously, or do so now, detracts from that. But separating emotion from rational examination is also important.

PC Andrew Harper death: Police given extra 24 hours to hold 10 suspects on  suspicion of murder | UK News | Sky News

I have previously suggested, on numerous occasions, that cases such as these must be examined on an objective rather than subjective basis (but not, of course, by the victim’s nearest and dearest). This is important so that emotion, which inevitably will run high following such heinous crimes, is not present when deciding what further/new action, if any, should be taken.

The three accused below (defendants for my non-Scottish readers) were convicted of manslaughter (our culpable homicide) and sentenced to between 13 and 16 years. It was the lengths of the sentences that have undoubtedly triggered the calls for ‘Harper’s Law’, which would only ever be applicable in England and Wales and not here in Scotland, (at least for now).

PC Andrew Harper: Killers sentenced to 42 years in jail for manslaughter of police  officer | UK | News | Express.co.uk

The campaign by the police officer’s widow is not, of course, directed at those who murder an emergency worker. Such a conviction already attracts a mandatory life sentence and (in England I should stress, where the victim is a serving Police Officer carrying out his duties, the starting point for determining any sentence (as set by statute) is ‘life without parole’) therefore there is a distinct possibility that an accused found guilty of such would never be released.

So that is not the rationale here. The aim of this petition (with over 750,000 signatures) is to guarantee that those convicted of the lesser offence (manslaughter / culpable homicide – and it has always been regarded as a lesser offence because, principally of the lack of intent) also receive a mandatory life sentence. Crucially, the main difference is the ‘mental element’ of the accused and clearly that is pivotal. Where ‘homicide’ is the issue, it is surely of great relevance whether it is ‘intentional’ and therefore ‘murder’, or unintentional when , though still ‘blameworthy for the death’, the accused lacked the ‘intent’; the ‘mens rea‘.

Concept of Mens Rea: Meaning and its judicial interpretation

The Attorney General in England felt that the trial judge had issued sentences that were too lenient and referred the cases to the Court of Appeal. However the sentences remained as they were and the appeal to have them increased was unsuccessful.

Cases such as these generate abhorrence across the board and it is easy to see why. As if the incident itself was not gruesome and hideous enough, the grief and anguish of those left behind causes an understandable outpouring of emotion and support from the rest of society and awakens our innate thirst for retributive justice. And of course, I am not writing this from such a personal standpoint and so I readily accept my ‘objectivity’ is easy to convey, compared to, say, Lissie Harper. But a dispassionate voice is, I think, essential at times when many refuse to listen, stomping around in high dudgeon (this is certainly no rebuke aimed at Mrs. Harper – of course not. Rather it is aimed at them and those who seek an eye for an eye without considering the wider picture And even here, with this most dastardly of crimes, there is a ’wider picture’).

Whatever our opinion on the sentences passed, should we really be contemplating such a radical change in the law after a single case, almost (and I apologise if this seems unduly harsh or heartless) irrespective of the circumstances ? The law (both in England and Wales and here in Scotland) has long drawn a distinction between ‘murder’ and ‘culpable homicide (manslaughter)’. Ostensibly, it boils down to intent. The trial judge himself in the Harper case, commented that…

‘ The jury were not sure that (Henry Long) knew that…..the car he was driving was dragging a human body. That is what the prosecution had to prove before anyone could be convicted of murder…and they did not succeed in doing so’.

Firstly, what it looks like is an attempt to say that the required high standard of proof was too high and failed, so we should just make a new law which will make it easier to convict. But that is not how we deal with the law in this country. Secondly, what is sought now is to effectively disregard any element of ‘intention’ and treat the matters as the same. Laws in many jurisdictions already have to interpret ‘lesser’ charges to murder on a daily basis and for a wide variety of issues. Consider the ‘single punch’ theory when an individual dies after being struck by another who had no intention to kill, but death is nonetheless the end result. Is that individual deserving of a sentence comparable to an individual who roams the streets looking for revenge and who shoots a man in the head? Or the loving wife who decides to aid her terminally ill husband – she had the ‘intent’ to kill, but few of us would wish to see her jailed for life. So we now have to envisage that if you ’cause’ the death of an emergency worker (not your average fellow member of society, specifically an ’emergency worker), you’re off to jail with a life sentence..? In the Harper case, let’s imagine that the accused were not aware that there was a ‘human being’ attached to the rope and that what they were doing was merely fleeing the scene. (As the jury did). Are we now happy that, irrespective of that, they should be handed a mandatory life sentence? Thirdly, whilst the job they do is often remarkable and we are all rightly thankful for it, is it right that they should be singled out over the rest of us? Is their killing worse than your average man in the street? My fear is that the hellish case of Andrew Harper is so egregious that we are in danger of allowing our hearts to rule our heads and that makes me very uneasy.

Of course the law is not ideal, or complete. Neither in England and Wales, nor Scotland nor, I suspect anywhere. It never has been nor will it ever be. But this idea of changing laws to appease the (very understandable) grief of an individual simply does not rest easy with me. We have constant examples of ‘gesture politics’ nowadays. Please let’s not develop a culture of gesture legislation as well.

Stay safe everyone.

‘Allegations of corruption, sleaze and ineptitude. Just your average day at Westminster’

Just when the curtain threatened to come down on the opening couple of days of the pantomime that was COP26 and all the fawning and sycophancy by world leaders finally ended, we were hit with the ‘Owen Paterson’ farrago. Another obscene episode in a book full of similar obscenities. This latest illustration of sleaze and suspected venality at the highest level is what we have come to expect from an administration (and leader) that repeatedly find themselves embroiled in sordid and highly questionable examples of suspected immorality. An array of crises – ‘Brexit’ (that dogged old friend that will simply not go away) and ‘coronavirus’ (surely one of our country’s darkest ever episodes) have undoubtedly overshadowed allegations by many of their suspected malfeasance.

Mercifully, the inexplicably continuous and sustained popularity of our Prime Minister appears to have finally waned. But only now – and only just.

Quotes about Here We Go Again (29 quotes)

The bloviating Johnson, whose japery and buffoonery has been filling the front pages for years and given endless material to satirists, appeals to many, albeit inexplicably. This risible ‘upper-class-old-etonian-bumbling-twit routine’ (and he is not the only one guilty of it in the government) actually appears to resonate with many members of the public as well as in his own party, bizarrely. Until now, it would seem. The Paterson saga appears to have had an effect – finally.

We all know that the handling of both Brexit and Covid has been an unmitigated disaster. The miasma created by the former must be utterly perplexing to the rest of the world, never mind us here in Blighty. As for his conduct in relation to Brexit and Northern Ireland…………………………………..

His appalling and palpable ineptitude at diplomacy has left him an isolated figure amongst his European counterparts, most of whom are in no hurry to bail him out. Indeed a great number want to see Brexit fail. And fail huge. All this bluster from years back that Brexit would allow us Brits to ‘take back control’ is claptrap. Control has been lost – make no mistake.

In terms of the pandemic, the eye-watering levels of death, many of which could undoubtedly have been avoided had more decisive and robust decisions been taken timeously, should rightly leave us all incandescent with rage. But he seems, in respect of these two issues and many others, to care not a jot, often just smiling and grinning inanely. We are forced to watch cringeworthy interviews and witness personal appearances and speeches not quite knowing where to look or what to expect next. References to Kermit the Frog at the United Nations, James Bond at COP26 last week and other demonstrations of mortification and puerile shenanigans leave us reeling and regularly hiding behind the couch.

Further, many of us will remember his disgraceful comments aimed at Liverpool and the Hillsborough disaster from as far back as 17 years ago. He has also previously referred to gay men as ’tank-topped bum-boys’, has compared Muslim women to ’letterboxes’ and suggested Malaysian women only go to university to ’find men to marry’. Black women have been told they have ‘watermelon smiles’ and even comments about Scotland have not escaped his vitriol, writing in The Spectator that ‘Government by a Scot is just not conceivable’ and that, as a country, it is ‘full of rotten boroughs’. His coup de grâce has often then been to state that many of these comments were ‘wholly satirical’ and ‘taken out of context’. Really ..?

Only yesterday whilst skulking 300 miles from the House of Commons, where he should evidently have been, he was asked three times in a very brief television interview whether he would apologise for the recent unseemly events at Westminster involving his former colleague Paterson…….but steadfastly refused to do so.

This outrageous proliferation of sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic and downright racist views are extraordinary as is his persistently moronic behaviour. What then, as they say, is the score?

Perhaps these sorts of outbursts, grossly inappropriate comments and demonstrations of highly questionable behaviour, actually create a climate of perceived acceptability for such views. Could the unpalatable truth be that in the UK there exists an undercurrent of discrimination and that Johnson’s behaviour is merely reflective of it? Whether that be towards women, other faiths, immigrants or simply those less fortunate. With a leader exhorting such sentiments, is it any wonder we have accusations from so many groups stating that we have a major problem in Britain with misogyny, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and antisemitism…….to name but a few..?

Boris Johnson left hanging 20ft in air after getting stuck on zip wire -  VIDEO - Mirror Online
Sometimes, there are simply no words.

‘Sleaze’, the buzzword of the moment, (but probably far too mild a word for the current debacle) entered the lexicon of the British political scene in the 1990s. Towards the end of the 18-year reign of the Tories (who had been in power since 1979), many of their MPs became embroiled in scandal after scandal. Sex stories, financial irregularities and other transgressions all led to Lord Nolan being appointed to create ‘Standards for Life in Public Office’. The ’Nolan Principles’(below) have been with us now for over a quarter of a century but does anyone observe them any longer or even care that they exist?

(The Nolan Principles)

Lord Nolan was asked to head up a committee to establish these standards by former Conservative leader and Prime Minister John Major following a series of salacious and embarrassing tales involving a series of politicians during his reign. The seven principles : selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership are/should be self-explanatory, but are they being adhered to? Do those in public office conveniently develop amnesia meaning they are simply ignored?

sleazedefinition

  1. BRITISHimmoral, sordid, and corrupt behaviour or activities.


In the current government, there have been uncomfortable accusations surrounding lobbying, procurement, issuing of contracts and general cronyism. Yesterday, the SNP confirmed that they have written to the Metropolitan Police alleging criminal behaviour by the Conservatives and asking for a full investigation. But the ’Owen Paterson’ debacle surely takes the proverbial biscuit. As a result, it looks finally that Johnson’s ratings in the polls have suffered with his lowest level ever. But will it last or, like so many other analogous episodes will the slump in his popularity boil over. He seems to have a teflon coating which is as galling as it is downright unbelievable.

But are we witnessing the winds of change, at long last? This time, not only have a growing section of the country slated him but even factions from within his own party. Stoically, one of his own ministers said, as recently as Sunday, that all this is a ‘storm in a teacup’ but Major, the former PM had already waded into the debate on Saturday and gave it both barrels. He said of Johnson and the government that their actions were ‘damaging at home and to our reputation overseas’. He went on to comment that ‘…there’s a general whiff of ‘we are the masters now’ about their behaviour. It has to stop, it has to stop soon’. Quite.

(Owen Patterson)

As American economist Thomas Sowell once said…….

’It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong’.

And there, mes amis, lies the problem. When you behave in a manner that suggests you care not one whit about ever having to justify your decisions or motives or actions (professional or personal), or indeed care what ramifications your behaviour may cause, then that says it all. It is of note, that even yesterday afternoon at the specially convened debate in the House of Commons on the very issue of ethics and standards, our Prime Minister didn’t even turn up, leaving hapless colleagues to issue insipid, half-hearted apologies. Indeed when this was all going on, he was parading about a hospital without a mask. In a hospital. A hospital. Christ.

The current administration in Westminster sorely need to put their house in order. And urgently.

This feeling that they possess unfettered power, show a total lack of transparency and accountability and a exhibit a frighteningly disdainful and supercilious attitude towards almost everything and everyone, simply must stop. Of course, the electorate can and must play their part too. Stop all this vomit-inducing obsequiousness whereby irrespective of whatever cretinous behaviour is demonstrated, we simply put up with it. How British. How very British.

Remember, the greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse of it. Yet our country appears to be slowly losing its’ way. We no longer seem to possess a moral compass and seem to live our lives with increasing filter-less behaviour.

But then, so it appears, do those who run our country.

After all, a fish rots from the head down.

Stay safe.

‘David Fuller – serial sex offender and necrophiliac’

I like to encourage all my students to challenge everything in the law. Certainly, a forensic analysis of all common law cases is essential, in my view and which underpins knowledge and understanding.

In Criminology in particular, I ask students to constantly tag on the word ‘why’ to just about everything. After all, it is the study of crime and criminal (deviant) behaviour. It draws upon the mixed research and work of sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, psychiatrists as well, of course, as academics and scholars of law.

David Fuller: NHS orders health trusts to review mortuary access after  hospital electrician admits sexually assaulting dead bodies | UK News | Sky  News

Sometimes, though, it becomes very difficult to ever find a satisfactory answer as to ‘why’ when faced with a particular case. It’s difficult to address an issue such as ‘necrophilia’ without instant revulsion. But, as academics, law students (and of course those who have a deep interest in such ‘general’ criminological matters), it is nonetheless very important.

If we cannot at least attempt to understand what drives such acts of depravity, perversion and deviance, we cannot hope to prevent it recurring.

The case of David Fuller (above) is about as monstrous and stomach-churning as they get. The 67-year old former NHS maintenance worker had initially been arrested for the murders of two women 34 years ago. As if that isn’t bad enough, upon searching his property, the Police found a staggering 14 million images depicting a string of highly distressing sexual offences, including the defilement of corpses – and necrophilia itself.

The murders of Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce (below) had remained unsolved since their murder in 1987 but, mercifully and thanks to DNA, detectives were able to narrow down their search to under 100 suspects and, ultimately, to Fuller.

Man admits 1987 killings of two women in Tunbridge Wells | UK news | The  Guardian
(Knell and Pierce, murdered in the late 1980s)

As a matter of course, Police searched Fuller’s house when they unearthed a morass of hidden hard drives, CDs and other discs with over 14,000,000 images. They included Fuller having filmed himself sexually assaulting, violating and having intercourse with corpses that had been lying in the morgue. The ghoul had attempted to hide further hard drives but when these were discovered it transpired he had written diary entries about what he had done and to whom and which included victims ranging from 9 to 100.

The most common motive for necrophilia is the possession of a partner who is unable to resist or reject them, rather than explicit psychopathic tendencies. This may seem odd, given that we would assume an element of overt psychopathy must play a part in an act as grim as being drawn to having sexual intercourse with a corpse. Necrophiles – as they are also called – often choose occupations that put them in contact with corpses, as here with Fuller and unsurprisingly. But why do we, as a race, actually find such stories rather compelling? Whilst many will claim to be repulsed (and have possibly even avoided today’s article when they saw the title), others have an interest in matters, not because they themselves are ‘odd’ or ‘sick’ but because the human psyche, behavioural traits and their actions fascinate them.

Necrophilia Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from Dreamstime

Netflix only has to utter the names of Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer (below) and their ratings soar. We find crime fascinating but there appears to be no parameters to our inquisitiveness. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of us do not engage in any criminal activity at all and even less in deviant behaviour but that does not equate to us not having a bizarre interest in it. Humans are fascinating, almost irrespective of what they do. Literally. We often feel compelled to understand why anyone would carry out such seemingly cruel acts to complete strangers. Because the acts fall outwith our logical understanding, it drives us to find an answer. As indeed we often feel forced to look at an accident we see on a motorway when logically, we should look the other way. In some ways, serial killers like the two Americans below are for adults what monster movies are for kids – scary fun. Although it can sometimes be difficult to admit that one appears to almost derive pleasure from following the films and documentaries on them so intently. They are, for many, literally a ‘guilty pleasure’.

In the case of Bundy, he used necrophilia as the ultimate form of power over his victims, even though they were deceased. Some serial killers and sexual predators insist that such control is exercised over the living (such as Fred and Rose West or Brady and Hindley) but with Bundy, Fuller and Dahmer, the ‘never allowing anyone to reject them again’ syndrome is illustrated by their necrophilia, principally. For those that watched ‘Conversations with a Killer : The Ted Bundy Tapes’ (an excellent watch, incidentally whether you are interested/studying law/criminology or not) – Bundy reflects on what was almost certainly his first relationship in 19723. He appears to have idolised Diane Edwards and to such a degree that his world fell apart when their relationship did. However, he then ‘used’ the corpses of his subsequent victims to ensure they complied with anything he ‘told’ them to do.

Only four days into the murder trial, Fuller changed his plea to guilty. The CPS have commented that the crimes are about as distressing as many will have ever encountered and are unprecedented in Britain. Despite being remanded pending sentencing, it is evident that he will never walk free again and will inevitably die in prison.

Can we ever ‘understand’ why people commit these sorts of crimes? Probably not. Mercifully, they are extremely rare.

Stay safe.

‘The utter hypocrisy of COP26’

For those of you worrying that I am slowly (or quickly?) morphing into Swampy with my sustained ‘climate change/justice’ articles, fear not. However, as you will be aware (some more than others), I cannot abide overt hypocrisy and people furiously trying to curry favour with the masses despite their own double standards, posturing and sheer sanctimoniousness.

Fusion energy at COP26 - GOV.UK

Despite it having started only some 24 hours ago, COP26 in my own beloved home town, is already shaping up to be a hideous display of sheer hubris, profligacy and downright hypocrisy. The uberwealthy have jetted in from all over our already seemingly stricken planet by private Lear Jets, have been transported all over Central Scotland in gas-guzzling diesel and petrol limos and will dine on loads of expensive beef and no doubt jeroboams of champagne.

Of course simultaneously they will preach to us little people that we need to generally get our act together and ‘go electric’, stop gorging on steaks three times weekly and generally stop being so ungreen. The nauseating display of sheer imperiousness is quite breathtaking.

COP26 Glasgow: Joe Biden, Boris Johnson appear to fall asleep in Glasgow  summit | news.com.au — Australia's leading news site
(Our PM demonstrating how important it all is to him).

Something like 400 private planes will be used to ferry the bigwigs into Scotland whilst we are made to feel overcome with guilt for nipping on a annual jolly to Spain on a Jet2. The planes that can often cost over £10,000 an hour are used, in the main, by those that are telling us, the hoi polloi, that it is all our fault. Our very own Prince of Wales, the monarch-in-waiting, no doubt from one of his ‘palace residences’, swept into town to tell us somewhat bullishly that COP26 is the ‘last chance saloon for the planet’. But, collectively, the Royals have, over the last half a decade flown over half a million miles. God knows what that equates in ’emissions’. A lot, I’ll wager. As many a fellow citizen of my town might opine…… ‘Whoa, d’you know what pal? Do one’.

The whole episode is starting to feel like a fairly monumental piss-take.

Then there is the old nugget of ‘cars’. Us plebs are pilloried at every conceivable opportunity for even daring to drive our kids to school (we really should walk, of course) or take a loved one to hospital – or for the hordes of invaluable delivery drivers we rely on for, well just about everything. But oor Joe (or POTUS, to give him his nom de voyage) arrives in a 25+ strong motorcade (below) which has allegedly been scaled down from 85 vehicles in Rome. It was a bizarre sight, to put it mildly.

COP26: Joe Biden's Motorcade Leaves People Baffled

This is getting out of hand. Them and those, all huddled together giggling like school kids prepping for a sleepover at Glasgow’s SEC, experience more luxury in a couple of weeks than most of us do in a lifetime. Yet here they are pontificating to us and telling us that we need to get a grip on the destruction that we are doing to our planet and, well basically, ‘shame on us’. This deceitful, cretinous behaviour really is something else.

Say what you like about Greta Thunberg, the 18-year old whippersnapper from Stockholm, but she arrived by electric train, walked to her hotel, shunned the summit to join a demo in Govan (no less) and, on Saturday will join other protestors on a march from Kelvingrove Park to George Square.

Greta Thunberg mobbed upon COP26 arrival in Glasgow - The Washington Post
(Arriving to scenes usually reserved to pop royalty, 18 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg arriving in Glasgow)

What is starting to appear clear is actually how elitist and upper-class this whole ‘movement’ appears to be. The mega-wealthy with all their trappings of dosh and power and with the lifestyles to match, telling the rest of us where we are going wrong and what abject failures we have all become. Simultaneously they laugh like hyenas, quaffing rare wines and eating the finest cuisine available. Hapless, meagerly paid chauffeurs waiting to ferry them from Palace to Castle with the odd 7-star hotel en route with not an electric vehicle in sight. They care not a jot. It is lip service of the most deplorable kind.

But, again today, the ‘world leaders’ will fawn over one another and pose for childish selfies, in between visible naps. The world will watch and comment. Dare I say, many an article, a blog, will be penned by an aspiring writer (😊). We will be encouraged to listen intently to stories of the disappearing Amazon rainforest, to horrendous wildfires and floods globally and to ‘our fears’ for future generations. The familiar caveats will be issued so that we all feel hopeless, inadequate, borderline criminal and full of utter misery at the state of play.

Then, the majority will slip back into the leather-clad Maybach stretch limos, skip onto their private 747 jets and return to their manors leaving monumentally sized carbon footprints.

Ironic indeed.

Stay safe.

‘Insulate Britain : Who are they? What do they want? Does anyone care?’

Readers of these pages over the years (and, naturally, my panoply of law students ) will all vouch for the fact that I hate/despise/loathe/abhor/detest injustice. I hate for people not to be heard. It has been the cornerstone of my adult professional life. I reveled when any firm I worked for took on a seemingly unwinnable case. I regularly thought otherwise and often snatched victory from the jaws of what looked like an obvious defeat.

Insulate Britain: Injunction granted against M25 protesters - BBC News

So, over the last few months, as motorists in London and the surrounding areas have risked a coronary episode through sheer rage at motorway-based protests, I have tried to take a slightly more objective view. Now, of course, my reaction, interpretation and analysis might be very different if I was one of said motorists or, God forbid someone trying to obtain urgent medical attention for a loved one but, for now, I believe an objective analysis is the most appropriate method to look at this ever-growing scenario.

The group ‘Insulate Britain’ are an offshoot of ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and were only formed in the summer of this year. XR, to give them their abbreviated moniker, are an environmental ‘movement’, ‘eco-warriors’ if you like, who have been urging our Government to be far more robust in tackling the climate crisis. With COP26 in my own hometown kicking off in a few days time, there can be little real surprise that protests such as these are escalating at this time.

Insulate Britain are looking to the Government to properly see us through the ‘climate crisis’. To do this, they are specifically demanding a ‘national home insulation strategy’ that will provide safer and healthier homes for all. More generally, they want it promulgated that the climate crisis is a threat to us all and action is needed now.

In pursuit of their goal, they have implemented numerous protests based on ‘non-violent civil resistance’. Whilst it is true to say they have not initiated any violence, their tactics have had a profound impact on traffic and vehicular movement in and around the capital and caused severe disruption and stress to the lives of thousands of citizens. Of course, it has had a ripple effect and far more than ‘commuters’ have been affected. Lorries carrying deliveries (of all sorts) have been delayed and , despite a recent pledge that they would ‘allow’ emergency vehicles through, there have been some very distressing stories of seriously ill people unable to get the urgent medical treatment they required.

In addition, the English courts granted an injunction preventing similar ‘sit down’ protests. This means that the activists from IB could be jailed if they block any motorway of major ‘A’ road across England. Some have resorted to going way beyond ‘sitting’ on major roads. The latest tactic (as seen below) is the gluing of their hands to the concrete.

Insulate Britain protesters GLUE themselves to the road to stop themselves  being removed - MyLondon

The group have admitted that they ‘fully understand and appreciate’ the public annoyance and intense irritation at the mass disruption they have caused. But in a follow-up clearly unrepentant remark they have also stated that ‘(They – (the Government)) should know that one way or another, this country will have to stop emitting carbon’. They have said that we can attend to this now in an ‘orderly, planned way, insulating homes and preventing thousands of deaths from fuel poverty or wait until millions have lost their homes and are fighting for water or starving to death’.

Question is – do they have a point? Probably. In fact almost certainly undoubtedly. Are they going about it the right way? Definitely not if you became entrapped in all the melee. But, such is the manner in which they have deliberately chosen to protest, they might just force change and actually be successful. Protests provide a platform for those of us not in power to voice our concerns and be heard. They are specifically designed to draw attention to a cause. It is considerably more likely that they will achieve some sort of result if they hugely inconvenience others rather than just a march or demo outside a building. Indeed data collected over the past ten years or so has shown us that strikes, sit-ins, and blockades are much more effective than what are seen as being largely less disruptive methods such as marches or petitions.

A principal reason for this is that the sort of mass disruption we have seen recently courts a great deal of public and press attention, thus markedly raising the profile of the cause concerned. The main demand of this group is to have all social housing insulated by 2025 and all homes by 2030. This has now been printed by the national press and there can be relatively few who will not be aware of Insulate Britain and their plight, even if they have not been directly affected. If that is so, then (partly) mission accomplished.

Many people critical of the tactics that have been deployed have stated that it hurts the innocent and the vulnerable. This is true but history has shown us that the deployment of tactics aimed at maximum disruption and inconvenience will always create collateral damage. As far as the specifics of targeting roads, any driver will tell you (and I suspect in London more than just about anywhere) that similar disruptions happen daily. Accidents, the perennial British bugbear of ‘roadworks’ and sheer volume of traffic regularly make our daily commute severely problematic and sometimes unbearable. If we find ourselves in a monster tailback and then discover it was some selfish cretin who had been the cause (perhaps careless driving or failure to maintain his car causing it to breakdown) we don’t track that individual down and harass him for his behaviour. Irrespective of how irate we feel or the implications for us being severely delayed.

What I see from this group is them wanting to highlight political inertia. They are wanting to force our Government to take action. For those well versed in ‘climate change’ matters, the insulation of homes is an essential component of lowering Britain’s emissions. In the process, it will also save a lot of people a lot of money. With somewhere in the region of four million people living in fuel poverty in the UK, it does appear to be a pressing matter indeed. Perhaps now, the public will also look into this issue, educate themselves and demand change too.

The group itself has also revealed its ‘absolute disbelief’ that its activists have been repeatedly allowed to disrupt the road network, given the granting of an injunction by the High Court. The Police ‘appear’ to have allowed them to keep closing some very major roads and this has baffled many outwith the organisation. Indeed within the last couple of weeks, a spokesperson for the group said that they had envisaged the whole campaign being ‘extremely short-lived’ because everyone participating ‘would be in custody’. But not so. Why? Could there cynically be a link to the climate summit dues to open in Glasgow at the weekend? Might it be that the last thing the Government wants are hordes of ‘climate prisoners’ in custody as thousands of delegates and hundreds of world leaders descend into the city?

What does appear more than likely is the fact that this mob have found what appears to be a highly effective method of protest and one which has highlighted their cause almost more than any other in living memory. Almost 75% of the public polled had heard of the group compared with only 50% for Stonewall (the group representing the LGBTQ+ community) and a paltry 33% had knowledge of Momentum (the group campaigning for the transformation of the Labour Party). So the message appears to be getting through.

It’s now over to the Government. With doubtless protests due in Glasgow over the next couple of weeks, what’s the bet that the Government makes ‘an announcement’ during the summit that it intends to commence home insulation tout suite.

Cynical, me? Nah. Never.

Stay safe.

‘Assisted Dying in Scotland’

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Orkney, Liam McArthur, last month proposed a bill which would enable competent adults who are terminally ill to receive the necessary assistance to end their lives. This perennial and highly emotive issue is raised periodically and will simply not go away.

Coalition of nearly 200 medical professionals fight again assisted dying  move | The Scotsman

The matter is far from straightforward and is about as divisive as it gets but it does feel that, on this occasion, the country is at a crossroads with change potentially likely, given the groundswell of apparent support from the public. Naturally, it is not supported by all and as recently as July this year, an ensemble of some 200 medical professionals voiced their concern.

In their letter to the Scottish Government, they state…

“The shift from preserving life to taking life is enormous and should not be minimised. The prohibition of killing is present in almost all civilised societies due the immeasurable worth of every human life.

“Everyone has a right to life under Article 1 of The Human Rights Act 1998 such that no one should be deprived of that life intentionally.

“Some patients may never consider assisted suicide unless it was suggested to them. The cruel irony of this path is that legislation introduced with the good intention of enhancing patient choice will diminish the choices of the most vulnerable.

“As health care professionals, we have a legal duty of care for the safety and wellbeing of our patients”. They have a point and perhaps significantly so in relation to Art.2 ECHR and the right to life, which is also often regularly cited as reasons why ‘capital punishment’ should never be reintroduced.

I accept that this is an issue not without considerable problems – moral and ethical as much as legal. Assisted suicide is not a private act. Nobody chooses assisted suicide in isolation. Assisted dying is a matter of public concern because it involves one person facilitating the death of another. Friends, relatives, healthcare staff and society will all be considerably affected by the wider ramifications of the process.

This is not, however, the first time that Holyrood has looked at legalising the issue of ‘assisted dying’.

The first proposal, initiated by the late Margo MacDonald (below), was voted down by 82-16 in 2010. A not inconsiderable majority. Although another decisive defeat followed in 2015, the 82-36 vote marked a doubling in support among MSPs. Whilst still a major defeat, support was clearly growing. And that was 6 years ago. Much has changed since then and the dreaded pandemic will doubtless have had a significant effect on opinion.

See the source image

Before someone would be allowed to go through with an ‘assisted death’, they would need to satisfy several criteria, including having two doctors independently confirm that their illness is, of course, terminal; that they are ‘compos mentis’ (in the sense that they have the necessary mental capacity to understand all the implications of and agree to an assisted death), and that they are not being coerced or pressurised into it. In the US state of Oregon, 60% of those ending their lives last year cited the fear of being “a burden on their families and friends ” and a further 7.4 per cent cited financial worries as reasons for seeking death. Both of which are of concern as these are not the intentions behind any proposed legislation. Rather it is the prevention of pain and suffering.

Clinicians would also have to make sure the patient is fully briefed on all other options, such as palliative or hospice care.

Perhaps most significant of all is that the person themselves would also have to administer the life-ending medication , as it would remain a criminal offence for one person to directly end another’s life.

Those who want to see this introduced say it will give people the ability to choose to have a safe and compassionate death rather than enduring a prolonged and painful death.

Meanwhile those campaigning against it say it will undermine palliative care and the risks are too high. Perhaps the fragility of the NHS at this time, in the main as a result of the COVID crisis, adds further complications to an already highly contentious debate.

However, worldwide, it is not an issue without data and evidence available.

In the USA, assisted dying is an option in the states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, District of Columbia, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and New Mexico. The Australian states of Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland all allow assisted dying, and a bill for South Australia was approved by the Upper House in May – it has now been passed to the Lower House for consideration. It is also legal in Canada and New Zealand is set to legalise assisted dying in November after a referendum last year. Perhaps in many ways surprisingly, an assisted dying bill is currently in the pre-legislative phase in Ireland.

The most well-known example of legalised assisted dying is probably Switzerland, which has allowed it since 1942. Indeed, nearly 350 British people have travelled to the Dignitas Clinic in that country.

The proposal by Mr. McArthur is a ‘consultation’ and, as such, the views of as many people as possible are sought. The link to the consultation is – https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/AssistedDyingProposal/ – and you can have your say on this most delicate of issues.

Exit International | Scotland to Consider Assisted Dying Again

It would not be my style, as you know, to shirk away from any issue so I, too, will state my opinion.

I think it should be allowed. With a morass of conditions and restrictions, naturally and under the most careful supervision. But I have seen many a relative and friend die in considerable distress. Whilst palliative care is superb in this country, the mental health and anguish that many terminally ill individuals suffer is monstrous. Having a channel where that can be legitimately avoided would be a positive step, in my view and in line with society in 2021.

That will not be a universally popular opinion and, as ever, my views are never to be treated as being above criticism. I welcome politely stated contrary views to this (and any) article I have written.

Yet another horrible issue to discuss. But, a necessary one alas.

Stay safe all.

‘Glasgow and the Gallows’

Bet you didn’t know that there was only ever one serving polis who was sentenced to death in this country.

PC James Ronald Robertson (colloquially known as ‘Big Ronnie’, pictured below) was handed the grim sentence in Glasgow more than 70 years ago. At that time, he was a ‘beat cop’ and had been having an illicit extra-marital affair with a Catherine McCluskey, who lived in Nicolson Street in the city’s Gorbals district which was part of the area Robertson covered. His part in the murder of a young single mother became one of the most salacious incidents in the history of criminal law in Scotland. One suspects principally because he was a Police Officer, someone inherently trustworthy.

(Constable Robertson)

Robertson himself was already married and had two children. In the summer of 1950 he decided to finish his relationship with McCluskey.

The date was 28th July. The police officer was on nightshift but left his post and collected McCluskey (in a vehicle he himself had stolen several weeks earlier). McCluskey appeared to have asked him for money to pay for her rent and an argument ensued. (Whether this was actually her bribing him, full in the knowledge that he had a wife and children, is a matter of opinion.) They ended up in Prospecthill Road which runs adjacent to Hampden Park in the city’s Toryglen district.

They both exited the vehicle and the shouting match continued. It is alleged at this point that Robertson struck McCluskey with his truncheon. This knocked her to the ground, whereupon Robertson quickly got back into his car (below) and proceeded to run over her body several times. He then calmly returned to his beat and completed his shift.

Glasgow policeman who killed secret lover case to be probed by  ex-prosecutor - Glasgow Live
(The ‘Austin’ motor vehicle used by Robertson and, in this case, the murder weapon).

A little after midnight, a local taxi driver, John Kennedy, raised the alarm when he found McCluskey’s body in the road. The initial assumption was that she was either drunk or had been the victim of a ‘hit and run’ road traffic accident. However, when Traffic Officer PC Kevan arrived at the scene, he examined the various tyre-marks and the nature of McCluskey’s injuries and suspected that this was not the case and that she had been murdered, actually having been the victim of a very serious crime, with a motor vehicle used as a weapon.

It soon became evident that there was an existing relationship between the deceased and Robertson with suspicion that he was even the father of one her two children. She had previously (allegedly) stated to a friend that the father of her youngest was a ‘guy called Robertson’. Further, one of Robertson’s own Police colleagues was soon interviewed and admitted under questioning that he had frequently ‘covered’ for Robertson whilst he ‘left his beat’ to ‘meet a woman’.

With the finger of suspicion pointed firmly in the direction of the officer, he was quickly arrested and the Austin car impounded. A forensic examination of the vehicle soon uncovered ample evidence on the underside of it that connected it with Catherine McCluskey.

He was soon charged with her murder. At his trial at the High Court in Glasgow (which began on 6th November 1950) and which attracted almost unprecedented interest (presumably because of the heinous abuse of his position), his ‘defence’ shocked the court. He denied knowing her well at all and said, on the night in question, he had agreed to ‘give her a lift’ but, when she asked to be taken to Neilston, a fair distance away, he refused. She then exited the vehicle and he drove off. He then ‘changed’ his mind and reversed back, knocking her down and (inadvertently) driving over her. A preposterous and outlandish story which was not believed by the jury.

A guilty verdict was returned by them within an hour and the trial judge, Lord Keith, sentenced him to death.

Glasgow Times:

On 16th December 1950 at 8.13am, the above notice was pinned to the gates of HMP Barlinnie and Robertson was hanged.

(A grim picture of HMP Barlinnie from 1951, where Robertson was hanged only a few months earlier).

A timely reminder for the public at the time that even those who are charged with our protection can themselves ‘do wrong’. And, when they do so, they must face the full force of the law. I thought it rather apt to run a story such as this in light of the recent Sarah Everard case and her murder by a serving police officer. Had Couzens been convicted back in the 50s, he would doubtless have faced the death penalty, too. Indeed many have called for the return of it in light of that case. But that is for another day. And another blog.

Stay safe everyone.

‘The Hillsborough Case & psychiatric injuries’

The joys of ‘Delict’ with particular emphasis of all those old nuggets of ‘negligence’, ‘duty of care’ and ‘reasonable foreseeability’ are the current topics being delivered by Mr. O. An inescapable mention of ‘that snail in that bottle in that café’ is always necessary and, if truth be told, wonderful! Teaching Delict without Donoghue is simply ‘not right’ 😉

A natural extension, however, is to progress to ‘nervous shock’. Exemplified by, inter alia, Bourhill v Young (1943) AC 92 (strictly concerning the scope of liability to those not directly involved with an accident) and especially McLoughlin v O’Brian (1983) 1 AC 410.

The litigation in regards to today’s case originated as a consequence of the horrific events in Sheffield in April 1989. Liverpool were playing Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup Tie when a crush occurred claiming the lives of 95 fans (this would later rise to 97 with two further deaths after the event). Policing of the match was the responsibility of South Yorkshire Police. They allowed entry to an excessive number of Liverpool supporters at the ‘Leppings Lane’ end of the ground. Consequently, with a grossly excessive number of fans in an area designed for far fewer, the ensuing commotion caused a catastrophic crush and multiple fatalities occurred with hundreds more injured.

The game was live on TV (relatively rare for the time) and the ensuing carnage was inadvertently beamed into millions of homes throughout the country.

Hillsborough: Timeline of the 1989 stadium disaster - BBC News

Ostensibly, this legal case required significant input by the medical profession vis-à-vis ‘psychiatric illness’. The House of Lords (as then was) had already determined this in McLoughlin (supra.). Here, with so many potential claimants, it was effectively looking at the concept of PTSD.

The cases of Bourhill and McLoughlin have many overlapping aspects. Neither Pursuer ‘witnessed’ the accident and, in certain respects at first glance many have questioned whether either should have been successful. But whilst the holding in Bourhill was that the late Mr. Young could not have been expected to ‘have had (Mrs. Bourhill ) in his contemplation’ – in the Atkinian sense – there was that very expectation in McLoughlin, although it should be noted she was successful on appeal to the Lords having initially been unsuccessful in her claim.

It is perhaps somewhat easier to see why when you examine the relationship which, after all, is central to the whole issue (even more vital following the ruling in Alcock). The law was effectively saying in Bourhill that Young had no duty of care to her as there was ‘no relationship’ that would obviously and overtly result in her being seriously and psychologically affected. Nor did Young have any duty of care incumbent upon him in terms of the ‘damnum‘ maxim. However, in McLoughlin, it is hopefully easy for us all to agree that being told one of her children had been killed in a road accident and the rest of her family seriously injured would in all probability for us all, give rise to substantially more than a ‘mere fright’.

Fearing the floodgates might open, the Lords were nonetheless on the horns of a dilemma. Whilst there were perfectly valid (and understandable reasons) for there to be a deluge of claims following Hillsborough, a ‘line had to be drawn’. Accordingly, they ‘developed’ McLoughlin and separated ‘primary’ victims’ from a new ‘secondary’ victim, with three pretty stringent stipulations.

A primary victim is, of course, self-explanatory. That refers to those who have suffered psychiatric injury after being directly injured in an accident (or put in fear of suffering an injury). A secondary victim is one who has witnessed the distressing events but has not been directly involved. The litigation stemming from the Hillsborough disaster has shaped the law in this area but has also attracted much criticism. In a set of fairly narrow circumstances, a secondary victim can have a successful claim provided that:-

  • the ‘injury’ is caused by the shock of ‘sudden appreciation by sight or sound of a ‘horrifying’ event, which ‘violently’ agitates the mind – (perhaps a Bourhill-esque reference)
  • there exists a ‘close tie of love and affection’ with the primary victim(s) – (a clear nod to McLoughlin) and
  • the individual claiming was ‘sufficiently proximate’ to the event in time and location – (a reference as to why so many failed in the Hillsborough case)

Bourhill and McLoughlin were both, therefore, ‘secondary victims’ but whilst the latter met all three conditions, as per Alcock, (Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police (1991) UKHL 5 (1992) 1 AC 310) the former did not.

What is clear from Alcock is the clear intention of the law to limit unfettered litigations which (perhaps) are nothing more than a spurious attempt at claiming ‘psychological distress and/or damage’. What is less clear is, that while this judgement is nigh on 30 years old, it does not factor into account the exponential rise of social media and the voracious appetite of so many to see shared images with the most gruesome and grisly depictions of all sorts of calamities, including death. I suspect that as we continue to evolve as a society and enhance our understanding of, inter alia, ‘psychiatric damage’, further advancements and perhaps subsequent interpretations of the common law may be required.

Stay safe everyone.