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The Secret Barrister accuses Boris Johnson of copying blog about sentencing of London Bridge attacker

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‘This is weapons grade shithousery’, anonymous author complains

The Secret Barrister has lashed out at Boris Johnson over a Twitter thread about the London Bridge attacks, complaining that the Prime Minister’s unusually detailed legal analysis was “copied and pasted” from their website.

The high-profile but anonymous author said that Johnson was guilty of “weapons grade shithousery”, an accusation that has been retweeted over 30,000 times and counting.

The row centred around the release from prison of Usman Khan, a convicted terrorist who killed two people near London Bridge on Friday afternoon.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

A political argument over changes to sentencing law led The Secret Barrister to write a detailed blog post about why Khan got out. Published on Saturday, it discussed how Khan was given a type of sentence called “detention for public protection” in 2012, but then had that changed to an “extended sentence” in 2013 by the Court of Appeal.

Substituting in an extended sentence meant that Khan was automatically released on licence after eight years of his 16-year term. That has since changed: The Secret Barrister stressed that “in 2019, no terrorist sentenced to a term of imprisonment is subject to automatic early release”.

Enter Boris Johnson’s Twitter account. A 16-part thread appeared in Johnson’s name on Sunday morning, covering similar ground. Justice Secretary Robert Buckland plugged it again in a BBC interview today.

Although the thread didn’t repeat any phrases from The Secret Barrister’s blog post, the criminal practitioner thought it was hardly a coincidence that “a PM who has never before engaged in any form of detailed legal exposition — his style is famously broad brush and bright colour — decided apropos of nothing to publish a lengthy legal explainer on a complex issue, hours after mine was widely circulated”.

Specifically, Johnson’s thread linked to the same Prison Reform Trust explainer on sentencing as the blog post, and quoted one of the same paragraphs from the Court of Appeal’s 2013 judgment.

In a follow-up to the viral “shithousery” accusation, the bestselling writer said that it was possible but unlikely that government lawyers had drafted the thread without reading the blog post. Instead, “the most obvious explanation is that Johnson (or likely his SPADs) have taken their info from the blog, stripped out the inconvenient context and used it to present Johnson as a legal sage sharing his wisdom”.

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24 Comments

Still anonymous

Boris Johnson is the Secret Barrister, and this was all a publicity stunt to sell his book. Only plausible explanation.

Jez Corbyn

VOTE LEAVE

TAKE BACK CONTROL

WINNING

FactCheckUk

Definite absence of WINNING. Replace with any of DISASTER, TRAINWRECK or ANARCHIC RUIN.

Legal Cheek’s First CyberNat #IndyRef2020 #VoteYes2020 #SNP

Booo! Stop Brexit. Maybe.

Legal Officer with a 2.ii

You put explanations about the law online and in the public domain as a barrister and then whinge when other people use it?

What an unwarranted and childish tantrum.

Ex Barrister

Not unreasonable when the purpose of the explanation was to counter the PM and Cabinet’s disinformation.

A barrister

Also, the arrogance of assuming that the PM’s account was lifted from SB’s is astounding. Does it not occur to him/her that the government has plenty of lawyers of its own working for it who might similarly have been able to piece together the relevant statutory history.

SB ANON

Not really no

No

Can you give me one good reason for not citing the source?

Snarky LC Reader

Because it’s a tweet, you melon

Anonandonandon

And you know what tweets are perfect for? RETWEETING. (And thereby crediting the author.)

Anon

Calm down, dear.

Legal Genius

BoJo will save is from the Usman Khans of this world.

Ciaran Goggins

Isn’t TSB a police shill?

Anon

No, your mum is

Ciaran Goggins

At least I know who my Mum is, and my Dad which is more than you do.

Government Lawyer

A government lawyer definitely *would not* have written the Twitter post for Boris; we are in an election and they are civil servants, they can’t (and would not allow themselves to) be used for campaigning

( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Are you stating that during an election that a government lawyer would not fact check a politician’s statement of legal opinion?

Forgive my ignorance, but surely the rules around elections and the statutory underpinning of those rules give effect to higher risks associated with actions like this? So much so that he would want a lawyer checking everything he says during this period?

Big Dumby

Government lawyers advise and assist ministers and civil servants exercising their public functions. What Boris Johnson for PM has to say about the law isn’t their concern as they aren’t his personal legal advisers. The government’s statisticians won’t be checking the numbers in manifestos either.

Daz

No wonder the country’s fucked.

Anon

Probably written by ‘Ricardo’ and published by Dominic Cummings.

Jez

Ricardo, that hero of Brexit

Whose father is John Howell QC

Laddington. Sympathiser

You still haven’t mentioned Lord Harley’s conviction for benefit fraud.

Wake up at the back.

Secret Bogroll

The Secret Barrister has become boringly political. Just generally boring in fact.

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