News

Paralegal loses job after saying Boris Johnson ‘completely deserves’ COVID-19

By on
29

Criminal defence firm VHS Fletchers disowns former employee

A paralegal has lost her job after writing on Facebook that Boris Johnson “completely deserves” to be hospitalised with coronavirus.

Sheila Oakes, who is also a local politician, is no longer employed at regional outfit VHS Fletchers after her comment went viral. The firm said in a statement that “to wish illness upon anyone must be abhorrent to all right thinking members of the public”.

The unfortunate incident kicked off on Monday night, when Oakes reportedly replied to a Facebook post asking people to pray for the Prime Minister, who had been admitted to intensive care the previous day.

Oakes, a Labour councillor for Amber Valley and the mayor of Heanor in Derbyshire, replied “Sorry, he completely deserves this and he is one of the worst PMs we’ve ever had”.

An online backlash ensued. Oakes quickly apologised, but lost the Labour whip and is already listed as an independent on the council website.

As if that weren’t enough, Oakes has also lost her job at VHS Fletchers, the criminal defence firm where she worked as a paralegal.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

The firm, which has five offices in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, released a statement on Wednesday evening saying that “Ms Oakes is no longer employed by this firm in any capacity”.

The statement goes on to say that “these posts were made in a personal capacity, but it was clear from her Facebook biog[graphy] that she was an employee of this firm, and as a result we became embroiled in understandable and legitimate criticism of what she had said”.

The firm added that “to wish illness upon anyone must be abhorrent to all right thinking members of the public. We are acutely aware of the distress that such posts can cause, both to the family and friends of the Prime Minister, but also to all of those affected by this terrible virus”.

Johnson has been in intensive care since Sunday evening but is now said to be sitting up in bed and “engaging positively” with his doctors.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter

29 Comments

Urgh

I once saw a tweet from a QC stating he would bury a 10 year old boy in his backyard if the lad did ‘anything’ with his 10 year old daughter.

There are some vile individuals in the profession for sure.

kjadjkasdkjahd

Surely it was a joke? Whereas Oakes comments was filled with pure malice (P.S I am not a tory or like BoJo).

Anonymoose

All that aside, she must have a pretty loose grasp on the history of British Politics if she thinks he’s one of the worst PM’s we’ve had… Wasn’t that long ago that Theresa May was in the big chair…

Aberdreaming of a TC

Somehow I don’t think that’s the point that should be focussed on here.

JDA

On Tuesday evening I had a look at Oakes’ page on her then employers’ webpage. Although it was clear from her ‘biog’ that she was a paralegal, it said that she had been ‘called to the Bar’. This confused me, as I thought that expression could only be used by a barrister. Would someone be good enough, please, to enlighten a Scottish layman?

Glaswegian expat in London

It could be that she passed the BPTC but didn’t get pupilage. Alex and Tom are both similar.

Anon

If someone has previously qualified and worked as a barrister, but is not currently working as a barrister, they could quite properly state that they had been called to the bar.

Anon

You’re called the the Bar once you complete your training course, not once you have become fully qualified (after pupillage).

Martin Routh

Wrong!

Associate

Free speech is dead.

Pope Eve Chung IX, legal influencer

Not really, you can write be whoever you want here on Legal Cheek.

feasel

Free speech has never meant that you can say what you like without fear of any consequences whatsoever.

Anon

No it’s not. You’re free to say vile things about the PM without being prosecuted, and private employers are free to hire (and keep) only those employees who share their values. Nobody’s threatening to prosecute Oakes, and the firm is just choosing who they want to employ. Free speech is alive, and so are the consequences of it.

Eric

Braindead

Anon

Completely unacceptable on her part but she gave them a handy excuse to remove her from payroll right now..

Anon

Unless she was furloughed and therefore costing the firm nothing?

Anonymous

Delusions of grandeur as well. “As a lawyer I should have known better’. She is neither a solicitor or barrister. She was a “paralegal” for a northern criminal high street practice.

Anon

1. No spit or sawdust
2. Midlands, not Northern
3. Needlessly derogatory?
4. Be kind

Anonymous

1. Midlands is Northern. Northern means not the South.
2. Be kind is the bollocks of those still moping about Caroline Flack and death by crippling self-importance.

Jarvis

What happened to free speech? Pussyholes.

GAZ

I properly despise the “Tory scum” crowd wishing Boris ill – and this dreadful woman in particular – but why should some law firm be allowed to sack someone for saying something stupid and nasty about a politician on social media?

Why should a person’s livelihood depend on them not saying nasty stupid things outside of work? Would a massive bollocking not suffice?

As if anyone using “VHS Fletchers” could care less. Free Speech matters.

Anon

“Shit law firm”?
And you think that because…?

Anon

“Deserves” may be harsh, but it might well be karma.

Anon

What’s with the legal professionals shouting free speech? Perhaps get more acquainted with Human Rights Act Article 10(2). You shouldn’t really need this pointing out to you if you’re a practitioner, but it is a qualified right; not without limitations and repercussions.

Free Larry

Perhaps, Anon, you should not talk about things you know nothing about.

1. Statutes in the UK do not have “articles” they have sections.
2. s.10(2) of the Human Rights Act provides “If a Minister of the Crown considers that there are compelling reasons for proceeding under this section, he may by order make such amendments to the legislation as he considers necessary to remove the incompatibility”. So you were not referring to that.
3. You possibly were trying to refer to Article 10(2) of the European Convention of Human Rights.
4. If you were, again, you were talking nonsense, since that is the derogation provision which has nothing to do with the free speech issues in the story. The reference to “qualified right” in your comment indicates this may have been the bad point you were making.
5. You might have referred to the reference to “interference public authority” in Article 10(1) if you had any concept of the legal framework, but you did not because you do not.
6. Now go away.

Benny Goodman

Actually, the Human Rights Act does have Article 10 of the ECHR in Schedule 1 to the Act.

Anon is also correct that Article 10 is a qualified right, not absolute, and that Article 10(2) explains the nature of the qualifications of the right set out in Article 10(1), in the same way as you find with other qualified rights, e.g. Articles 8, 11. It is not the ‘derogation provision’; the derogation clause is found in Article 15 of the ECHR and domestic effect in s.14 of the Act.

Article 10(2) is relevant in this case because it is the fact that Article 10 is a qualified right (and the breadth of that qualification) that explains why Ms Oakes is unlikely to have any legal recourse. Cf. position in US federal law.

Amrit Lohia

In light of decisions such as Palomo Sánchez and Others v. Spain (app. nos. 28955/06 and 3 others) and Herbai v Hungary (app. no. 11608/15), she would seem to have an arguable claim under Article 10 ECHR.

John McNulty

Sheila Okes deserved to loose her job and the Labour Whip. It was wicked what she said and there is no coming back from that. She has brought not only herself but her Employer into disrepute, they had no choice but to sack her. Boris Johnson is proving very able in this crisis. Not sure how we would have fared with Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott. Keith Starmer is tainted with not puruing Jimmy Saville when he had the opportunity.

KSQCMP

I’ll peruse who I like thankyou very much

Join the conversation

Related Stories