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Supreme Court embargo-breaking barrister avoids prison

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Tim Crosland slapped with £5k fine for leaking Heathrow judgment

Tim Crosland

A barrister who revealed the Supreme Court’s decision on Heathrow’s third runway a day before it was due to be made public has avoided a prison sentence for contempt of court.

Tim Crosland, a qualified barrister and director of environmental group Plan B, was instead handed a £5,000 fine. The penalties for contempt of court are imprisonment of up to two years and/or an unlimited fine.

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice before the hearing, the climate campaigner told reporters the prospect of going to prison “is a small price to pay for the truth coming out”.

He had been hauled before three Supreme Court justices today in proceedings brought by the Attorney General, Michael Ellis QC MP.

In December, Crosland sent an embargoed copy of the judgment to the press after learning that the court had overturned a Court of Appeal decision blocking Heathrow’s plans for a third runway.

Crosland had an advance copy as one of the parties to the case and deliberately “breached the embargo as an act of civil disobedience”.

The leak prompted a strong reaction among lawyers, and Crosland himself saying he fully expected to be disbarred as well as be done for contempt.

But the eco-barrister said the leak was necessary “to protest the deep immorality of the Court’s ruling”.

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Sentencing, Lord Lloyd-Jones, chair of the panel, which included Lords Hamblen and Stephens, said, “our penalty is necessary and proportionate to protect the integrity of the judiciary and its judgments.”

In his opening submissions, Crosland, representing himself, said evidence that the Heathrow expansion would expose the public to “extreme danger” had been deliberately suppressed. “The antidote to that suppression was the spotlight of publicity that would follow from breaking the embargo,” he said.

Crosland said his breach was a “reasonable and proportionate measure” to prevent harm from climate change.

The Attorney General, represented by Aidan Eardley of 5RB Barristers, said the breach was in “flagrant defiance” of the Supreme Court and that it should take into account “the effect [the case] will have on other litigants who feel disappointed with case outcomes”.

Eardley said: “The message being sent is that if someone feels strongly enough about a judgment they can breach the embargo and the Attorney General is concerned that does not catch on.”

Today’s ruling is of particular note given Supremes have never before sat at the main law courts of England and Wales, legal commentator Joshua Rozenburg reported earlier today.

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20 Comments

Me

Disappointing. Contempt punishments should as a rule feel in the heavy side. I would have preferred a couple of months inside for this, particularly as it was duly contemptuous. This sends entirely the wrong message.

(58)(6)

Archibald Pomp O'City

“I would have preferred a couple of months inside for this, particularly as it was duly contemptuous”

What sanctimonious, pompous claptrap. The planet is burning up around us, and you place the sanctity of our legal system above the habitability of our home?

(8)(32)

Confused

How, precisely, does leaking a Supreme Court judgment early as a “protest” – when the press could have reported on it in precisely the same terms when it was released – help with any of those things?

(21)(3)

FlourPour

You could use the same argument to ask why he should be punished at all.

(4)(5)

Anon

The sort of distorted thinking that pathetic juries use when acquitting climate change protestors who destroy property. The market will sort it out.

(1)(4)

Things Are Better Than The Moaners Say

Confused, we are dealing with obsessive fundamentalists. Logic does not apply to them, nor do the decent rules of society. We are being far too soft on them.

(8)(2)

Hmmmmm

So people have been disbarred for lying on their CV in pupillage applications, but contempt of court because the barrister feels a personal affinity for a ‘cause’ is something that BSB is willing to give second chances for?

(46)(7)

Confused

This isn’t the result of the BSB hearing; it’s the result of the civil contempt of court hearing. I anticipate that he’s right that he’s going to be disbarred as a result of it. Why he thinks circulating the judgment early in breach of the embargo is a “protest” is beyond me.

(33)(0)

Alan Robertshaw

As it happens, the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service have just published a consultation document on sanctions.

Here if anyone is interested.

https://www.tbtas.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Sanctions-Guidance-review-Consultation-paper-April-21-FINAL.pdf

Breaches of court orders is one area covered.

(11)(0)

Anon

They are turning into the thought police. Their inspiration is the Iranian morality police.

(4)(1)

Anon

Imagine this was the SRA and a Solicitor.. they’d be reopening the Tower of London for a public beheading.

(33)(0)

Eno

very good one hahahah

(1)(0)

come on lc

So Legal Cheek is referring to Supreme Court judges as “Supremes” now?

Are you for real?

(7)(0)

Hackaforte

They’ve been at it for months, if not years, at least as far back as all that Gina Miller business.

I don’t blame your subconscious for suppressing it, though. It’s an odious term. Mind you, so is ‘Supreme Court’…

(3)(0)

X

I thought the standard professional term was the “Sups”, pronounced “Soups”.

(0)(0)

Motown Junk

I preferred the Four Tops

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Despite the fact that Mr. Crossland was seeking the interest of his ’employer’ , he should also not downplay the fact that he owes an overriding duty to the Court as a Minister of Justice. It is my considered view that the fine levied on Mr. Crossland may help discourage subsequent reactions by lawyers and litigants who may not like the outcome of their litigation.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Sponsored by Scoda?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Has he been given a bit of porridge, he would no doubt portray himself as a martyr. A nice little financial penalty is a much more appropriate sting. Nothing he did could in any way be portrayed as activism. He was simply a sulky little boy that wanted his 15 minutes of fame.

(2)(0)

As it is

Those glasses scream CXXX.

(0)(0)

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