The Murdoch doggies have been joined today by Mick Hume, who claims to be a free speech campaigner, and who is unhappy about free speech, or at least the variant on that theme practiced by the Murdoch mafiosi. “In this judicial dictatorship, it seems money talks and free speech walks” he tells readers. So what’s his beef?
Mick Hume - selling out to Murdoch
“DO we live in a democracy or some sort of judicial dictatorship? Our top judges appear to be acting as an unaccountable law unto themselves on issues that should be none of their business, from free speech to Brexit … The latest case of judges getting above themselves involves another gag on press freedom”. Do go on.
“Mr Justice Nicol has just granted a High Court injunction to a ‘very wealthy’ businessman, to stop the newspapers revealing that he is under investigation for possible involvement in serious financial crime … Nobody doubts that this unnamed multi-millionaire has been questioned by police under caution, or that the Met has raided company offices he is connected with, making several arrests”. Questioned but not yet charged.
Then Hume goes wrong. He says the story has “obvious public interest”. The businessman, known only as ERY, has not yet been charged, and for all we know may have done nothing wrong. In which case, I would refer Hume to the case of John Whittingdale and his relationship with a known sex worker, which the paper in which his article appears declined to cover, as Whitto had “done nothing wrong”.
There was also the small matter of him stalling on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, but you get the picture. It gets worse: we are told of “ERY’s celebrity lawyer, David Sherborne, known for representing … Hugh Grant”, but the identity of ERY’s lawyer, and who he has represented in the past, is irrelevant. But there is more.
“What excuse did the High Court give for granting the gagging order? That ERY has a nursery-aged child who might be damaged by bad publicity … This amounts to using families as human shields when attacking press freedom”. That would be the Sun’s freedom to attack those it doesn’t like, and we can be reasonably sure that ERY has done something that has irked the Murdoch goons in the recent past.
And in any case, Hume is wrong again. ERY is claiming on the grounds of privacy. The fact that he is well-off merely validates what campaigning groups like Hacked Off have been saying for years, that justice - whether for maintaining privacy, or securing redress for press misbehaviour - is available only to the wealthy.
Hume knows this full well. Yet all he can manage is to tell readers to “look over there” at last week’s judgment which reasserted the supremacy of Parliamentary Sovereignty. Except that Hume calls this “Three top judges decided that their opinions must outweigh those of 17.4million Leave voters … The notion that the judges’ anti-Brexit verdict was a defence of parliamentary democracy is one of the more bizarre arguments heard in a London courtroom”. No, Mick, it was their interpretation of the law.
That is what judges are there to do. Moreover, their verdict did not set aside the referendum result - a referendum which was merely advisory, it should be noted. Hume declines to take that on board, and instead delivers another supreme irrelevance: “Top judges, like their new entourage of Labour groupies, never appeared bothered when parliamentary democracy was being trampled on via the EU over the past 40 years”.
If he can give one example of how the EU did that, it would be most interesting. All EU laws and directives are brought into force via Parliament, as he well knows. But he’s not for listening: “The spineless British political class has handed more and more authority to the courts … It is New Labour’s 1998 Human Rights Act, for example, that empowers elite judges to poke their prodnoses [sic] further into big public issues such as press freedom”.
No, wrong again, the Human Rights Act does what it says on the tin - it confirms that all individuals have certain rights before the law. One has to wonder if Mick Hume really is a free speech campaigner, or merely another Murdoch stooge who wants to suggest that Human Rights are some kind of bad thing visited upon an unwilling public.
His chilling observation “that precious ‘independence’ also means the unelected judiciary is free from any democratic accountability” even has the whiff of a fascist past - there are good reasons why the judiciary is appointed and not elected, and we know what happens when it is subjected to “democratic accountability”. Politicians should be kept well clear of interfering in the independence of the judiciary.
And then he really takes the biscuit with “Which is fine if they are presiding over ordinary legal cases involving individuals … But not if they seek to sit in judgement on the whole of society, issuing edicts on which true stories the free press can report and telling 17.4million vulgar little Leave voters to be quiet while the three grown-up judges are talking”.
Murdoch columnist telling the judiciary what kinds of cases they are to consider, that they should not interpret the law in a way that is inconvenient to Murdoch, and should not stand in the way of Murdoch ordering a hit job on an unnamed businessman.
Yet Mick Hume still calls himself a free speech campaigner. Have a think about that.