Barristers bombard Guardian journo with spoof otter-watching texts after overhearing her mobile number outside court

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By Judge John Hack on

Tedium of waiting for jurors to come to a verdict was relieved by a practical joke on a hack

Sea Otters

Cheeky barristers acting for Sun journalists accused of corrupting public officials have idled away time waiting for indecisive jurors to come to a verdict by playing a remarkable practical joke.

The victim of the jolly jape at Kingston Crown Court was Guardian hackette Lisa O’Carroll, who was filling the time by trying to resolve a frustrating mobile telephone problem. In the course of a heated discussion with her network, O’Carroll a little bit too loudly announced her telephone number — which one of the barristers wrote down.

O’Carroll then found herself bombarded with texts for putative offers purportedly from Vodafone for, amongst other things, a voucher to “see otters by dusk in Norfolk” which expired in 24 hours and specified that “otters go to bed at 16:30”, and a “fun Vodafone U2 Exclusive emoticon pack containing smiley faces of Bono, The Edge and the fella who plays the drums”.

The offer of those “deals” only exacerbated hard-pressed O’Carroll’s ire, and she resorted to what many in the modern age do when agitated by an inefficient service provider — she gave them a public bollocking on Twitter. Having belatedly realised that she had been pranked, O’Carroll has since deleted her tweets on the matter, but a rogue one remains.


Tweets from O’Carroll’s journo pals also evidence the matter.


Needless to say, the ludicrous offers of otter voyeurism and the rest had nothing to do with Vodafone; instead they all emanated from the sharp-witted mind or minds of the bar of England and Wales.

There is some debate over how many lawyers were involved. Private Eye’s report suggests “the entire defence team for all six men in the dock” were in on the gag.

But several of those barristers — who Legal Cheek understands to be senior members of the bar — have contacted us to say it was nought to do with them, guv. Which is just as well as the Bar Standard Board (BSB) takes a dim view of such japes, with a spokesperson for the body telling us:

“We do not comment on individual cases. However, in all circumstances related to their professional life, we would expect barristers to act in a professional, responsible and mature manner.”

For her part, O’Carroll isn’t spilling the beans. She acknowledges the prank was very well done, but says bygones are now bygones as the prankster “was very apologetic”.

So much so, in fact, that O’Carroll convinced at least one laugh-a-minute barrister to donate £75 to St Joseph’s school for the hearing impaired in Makeni in Sierra Leone.

“The Irish nun that runs the school needs every penny she can get,” O’Carroll told Legal Cheek, “as the school is helping feed and support those affected by Ebola.”

Meanwhile, yesterday the jury in the trial was dismissed as it could not reach a verdict.