Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Supreme Court: moral landscapes

I know someone who used to ______ Boris Johnson's ______.  But it's not the sort of thing you'd say on the record.

I often marvel at what people will say in front of journalists.

'Why did he/she print what I said when we agreed it was off the record?' 

I've heard that a few times.

'Because you said it, you moron,' is what I find a more polite way of saying. Why were you so sure that you and the journalist occupied the same moral landscape? 

They might leave the camera running.

Today's case, R (on the application of Ingenious Media Holdings plc and another) v Commissioners for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, is about confidentiality.

The appellants run film partnerships which they say offer tax breaks although this is being disputed in the tax tribunals. Did an off-the-record briefing to journalists by HMRC breach HMRC's duty of confidentiality or the appellants' legitimate expectation, abuse HMRC's power, fail to follow its existing policy or breach the appellants' Article 8 and Article 1 Protocol 1 ECHR rights?

The flowers in the carpet are at risk again
The Court of Appeal judgment gives a flavour of the briefing, including text which wasn't published in the newspaper: 'You won't find anybody here at all...who thinks film schemes are anything other than scams for scumbags.'

I always bring sheets of drawing paper. Of course I do. Today I forget them. It's been like that since the referendum laid an ostrich egg in my brain. I scrabble around in my bag. There's a small sketchbook. 

Heavy hitters are slugging it out. Hugh Tomlinson QC and James Eadie QC.

One of them is ticked off by the bench in a manner which would have me running out to cry in the toilets. I've seen it before. It always rolls right off them. The other side get smug for a bit. That doesn't last long.
I ask a guard if he knows why one of the justices is using a crutch. 'All that football,' he says. I realise where the next England manager should come from.

Outside on Parliament Square there's a desultory lager-and-spliff anarchist demo. Although it's billed on Facebook as pro-migrant-workers, the EU hardly figures: it's an anti-everything collage including hunt saboteurs in case anyone pursues a fox across the grass.

I've found it difficult to relax lately but out here as the wind picks up and clouds gather I feel at home in a place of certainty. No one in court resigned today. No one out here seems to have anything to resign from. No one bothers to make a speech. The sound system plays hardcore punk, reggae and easy listening.

I chat to a survivor of Occupy, which I used to watch. Although he shouted pro-EU slogans at the anti-Brexit rally last Saturday, he voted Leave. As I said, be sure you know what your interviewer is thinking.

I head for home. In Victoria Street I find a broken heart on the pavement. Mine.

But the newspaper offers a shred of hope: we're not that well protected against asteroids.

My exhibition of drawings, The Body of Law, is on the second floor of Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU. It is part of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies’ public engagement programme, www.ials.sas.ac.uk. Open until 30 July, Mon-Fri 9am-8.30pm, Sat 9.45am-5.15pm.

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