Some questions about Sabine’s trial

Sabine McNeill’s four-week-long trial, in which she was found guilty of four charges of stalking and six breaches of a restraining order, is all over bar the sentencing (set for 9 January 2019). In many ways it was quite an extraordinary event, and its ripple effects will be felt for a long time to come.

For now, we’d like to answer a few burning questions about the actual trial; tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at the first part of the sentencing process.

Reporting restrictions or reporting ban?

One of the least-understood aspects of the case, for some, continues to be the reporting restrictions which were placed on the case in December last year by HHJ Martin Beddoe.

Anybody who attended Sabine’s trial would have seen the prominently placed notice on the door to Court 11, which stated that the reporting restriction had been imposed for the protection of the various children whose stories were central to the case.

Section 46 allows courts to impose restrictions on reporting information leading to the identification of an adult witness involved in criminal proceedings, if the court considers that the measure is needed because the witness’s fear of, or distress at, giving evidence or co-operating with the party calling him is strongly linked to the likelihood of publicity. Neither “fear” nor “distress” is seen as covering a disinclination to give evidence on account of simple embarrassment.

Youth justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999

Note that the above states that “adult witnesses” must not be identified in any way.

This is because Sabine McNeill published a list of parents and children who Ella Draper claimed were members of a sex abuse cult which practised baby sacrifice and cannibalism. Since the adults on the list were paired with their children, naming or providing information which would lead to identification of the adults would automatically enable identification of the children.

On 27 November, Paul Rogers (aka Eddie Isok) was arrested in court and charged with contempt of court for violating this restriction. The previous evening, he had published on YouTube a video he’d made outside Southwark Crown Court. In the video, he’d named a parent who was a witness in the proceedings. The following day Rogers was tried and convicted, and was sentenced to two months in prison, suspended for a year. He was also barred from further attending Sabine’s trial.

On 30 November, HHJ Sally Cahill QC delivered a stern and pointed lecture to those in the public gallery, reminding us of the reporting restriction. Nonetheless, on 10 December, another arrest took place in court. This time it was Belinda McKenzie who stood in the dock, accused of violating the same reporting restriction which Paul Rogers had violated a scant two weeks previously.

We understand that Belinda’s trial on this charge took place on 20 December, but we have not heard the result yet.

Since Rogers’ arrest, much has been made of the reporting restriction: people such as Angela Power-Disney and even Rogers himself have complained bitterly that the reporting restriction was the equivalent of a full publication ban. (This seems to imply that Rogers was unaware of what he was charged with, which strikes us as odd.)

Complaints were even sent to the court, stating that this blog’s coverage of the trial was “illegal”:

While the distinction between “reporting restriction” and “publication ban” seems pretty obvious to us, apparently others had trouble grasping it.

Just in case it’s not as obvious as we think it is:

  • “Reporting restriction” means “you may not report certain elements of the trial”;
  • “Publication ban” means “you may not report anything about the trial”.

In addition to hilariously addressing a judge as “Your Worship”, the bright spark who wrote the email above expressed the belief that the reason for the restriction was “that the trial must be conducted fairly and that justice be done”. Very noble, but utterly off-point.

Apparently the author also made a report to the police about our “illegal” reporting of the trial, which I am sure was received with all due seriousness and placed carefully in the circular file.

Court security

Another issue which has received a great deal of scrutiny was the fact that Judge Cahill ordered that anybody who wanted to attend the trial in the public gallery must provide proof of identification, including a picture and a valid address.

On the face of it, this was an extraordinary requirement. We were told by various people who worked at the court that they had never seen anything like it before, and the security staff seemed to have some trouble implementing it in a way which would protect the identities and addresses of those who wished to attend.

However, those who were present on 27 and 28 November would have realised why this seemingly draconian security measure was implemented.

Not only was Rogers arrested for contempt on the 27th, but that evening Andy Devine and John Paterson made a video in which they made open death threats to the judge as well as EC. Paterson stated that he would be in court on the 28th, and he was as good as his word.

Judge Cahill, who must have been aware of the utter shit-show interesting goings-on at Sabine and Neelu’s 2016 trial at Blackfriars Crown Court, was not prepared to brook any such nonsense at this trial, and so ordered that anybody who wished to attend must be identified.

Once this measure was put in place, things did calm down considerably in the halls, and the trial was able to continue unimpeded (mostly) by shenanigans.

Recording devices in court?

During the trial we became aware that a second complaint had been made about EC’s coverage of events: somebody had attempted to report her for using a recording device in court.

Anyone who has attended a trial will be familiar with the prominently placed signs telling you that cameras and recording devices are strictly forbidden in the court precinct. If EC had been using a recording device, she’d have risked arrest, and at very least would have been shown the door for the duration of the trial.

Recording in court would have been a very, very silly thing to do.

However, no recording devices were involved in any part of our court coverage. Instead, EC used the old-fashioned method: taking detailed notes during the court sessions, and transcribing, editing, and publishing them in the evenings.

This would be a good time to thank the heroic Scarlet Scoop, who reviewed and copy-edited EC’s typo-laden posts, often late at night. Scarlet provided an invaluable second set of eyes, and the reports were vastly improved as a result.

In all, EC filled about 700 pages with rough notes, and went through three brand new pens. Had any officer of the court wished to inspect EC’s notes, they’d have been welcome to do so.

However, it never came to that, most likely because it was obvious to anybody who cared to look that EC spent all her time in court scribbling notes.

In our opinion, Judge Cahill did an excellent job of preventing the very serious business of Sabine’s trial from devolving into a circus.

Those who’ve complained that EC somehow got “preferential treatment” because she was never arrested and seemed to have no trouble publishing trial summaries each night might wish to consider one important thing: when you take the time to find out what the rules are, and then play by those rules, you’re far less likely to find yourself in hot water.

Try it sometime. It works.

47 thoughts on “Some questions about Sabine’s trial

  1. Certain parties were also complaining that there was no mainstream press coverage and put this down to some kind of ban. Unless it’s a famous case of particular interest to the public the press usually wait for the end, the sentencing, before they report. I’m sure Sabine will get her fair share of press coverage after sentencing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was a front row which didn’t appear to be for “the public”. As the people sitting there were taking notes, I assume that was for the press? If that is the case then there were two journalists there on the 19th.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You can’t win with The Mob (®) (©) (TM) can you?.
      In the first instance they were screaming to High Heaven claiming the Family Court was a “secret court” and now they do 180 degree turn and claim “that the trial must be conducted fairly and that justice be done” demanding secrecy. Weird or what?
      I did think that perhaps there was a case now for the victims to hold a meeting and invite all The Usual Suspects (APD etc) and have a really good heart to heart and see if they can make them see reason.

      But then I’m mindful of the report saying that as victims read their statements in court there was huffing & snorting from the gallery so I guess all it would do is reveal who those victims are and just inflame the accusers.

      Over 12 years ago I went in to bat for an elderly lady in her 80s who was the victim of a vicious internet campaign. It was wonderful that she had never ever seen a computer so really had no concept of the abuse being hurled at her not did she until the day she died ever see the vile things written about her. But her family. nieces and nephews read this stuff and many who were police officers. The distress they suffered to see their beloved Aunt so cruelly defamed was intense. One senior police officer has now become an active campaigner to tighten up laws governing internet harassment & libel.

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      • “I’m mindful of the report saying that as victims read their statements in court there was huffing & snorting from the gallery”
        Lest we are accused of being unfair, it wasn’t really audible to most. I just happened to be sitting right behind them. The white haired old bat was the one who audibly sniffed at statements she disagreed with and shook her head every time it was mentioned that the RCJ had decided as fact the whole story was made up. Brown ponytail woman with glasses was relatively well behaved. I tried a few hard Paddington stares at her but she avoided eye contact.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “I did think that perhaps there was a case now for the victims to hold a meeting and invite all The Usual Suspects (APD etc) and have a really good heart to heart and see if they can make them see reason.”

        It’s a nice idea (and I think it’s been suggested before) but I think it could potentially jeopardise any future court cases (Angie, I’m looking at you). I’m thinking it’s probably best for the victims to avoid any contact with the alleged perps, so that things can’t be twisted in court. In particular, the likes of Angela would probably twist it to make out she’s been harassed. Even inviting her to attend a meeting would probably become “They tried to lure me to Hampstead to assassinate me – being a whistleblower is dangerous work yadda yadda”.

        Great point about the ‘secret courts’, btw.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m a liberal and am known to promote such ideas. I, in fact, allowed the police to go down this path when I was assaulted by an off-duty postman. I didn’t want him to lose his job, but it is recorded against him and if he did it again to someone else I wanted the book thrown at him. He seemed genuinely apologetic so hopefully that was the end of his behaviour.

          But a few things to bear in mind. (1) The offender has to agree that they are guilty. That is highly unlikely in this case. (2) Reduction of recidivism rates are good. The offender is far more unlikely to repeat the offence (3) It has a negligible effect on crime rates.

          I think (1) is the major flaw here!

          Liked by 2 people

      • I guess they’ve never heard of the old-fashioned skill of shorthand (pen shorthand used to be taught in my younger days) – of course I don’t know if EC is a practicer of shorthand; she may have her own form of speedwriting or she may just be a very fast writer….

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      • When I first came across some of the odder of the “truth” channels I tried to find out about defamation laws online. Sorry if I’ve typed this somewhere before – blame it on an old lady memory – and it seems that the same laws apply to online defamation as apply to defamation in the printed word. The defamation laws as applied to* celebrities (in the UK anyway) says that a celebrity has to have actually suffered financial loss and not just had mean things said about them (if someone says film star [no such person I’ve just made her up] Bessie Bustier is a secret transgender but she’s still earning pots of money, lies told about her may not be enough to bring a law suit if she is still financially secure). That caveat doesn’t apply to the man or woman on the Clapham omnibus though. I don’t want to insult EC especially as she has put in stirling work but I would say she is probably closer to a woman on the Clapham omnibus than she is to a film star. However, rather than a civil suit which has to be brought by the person wronged, I’d like to see criminal trials brought against some of the nastier of internet trolls who make threats.**

        * If anyone is legally qualified reading this and can explain it better than I can of course please do.
        ** Of course online threats vary in seriousness – if I say I am a staunch fan of singer X in the sense of staunching the flow of blood (not original I’m not that clever) of course I don’t mean I would REALLY staunch the flow of singer X’s blood. I might really mean i wish he/she would give up the music business.

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        • You are confusing things.

          I’m not a lawyer but I’ve been involved in libel proceedings. (I’m a satirist, although I realise it’s only a couple of letters away from satanist 😈)

          It is damage to reputation that is the salient factor, not actual financial “losses”. Those are only taken into consideration as part of the judgement.

          And the law is that the act of defamation is taken as read. What you have to prove is that you have a legitimate defence.

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          • You may be correct a______ – I can’t find the original link where I did some sleuthing on defamation laws. I’ve found a recent article which states that the financial harm caused applies when businesses have suffered harm because of a malicious (and untrue) comment. https://www.thebalancesmb.com › Operations & Success › Marketing › Public Relations
            If I can find my original source of information (although of course articles and videos are added to and taken away from the internet all the time) I will link it – and read it carefully again to see if I misconstrued its meaning.

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          • This is the current law:

            Defamation Act 2013
            Serious harm
            (1) A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.
            (2) For the purposes of this section, harm to the reputation of a body that trades for profit is not “serious harm” unless it has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss.

            Notes:
            * My highlighting above.
            * An individual does not normally trade for profit.
            * We have just had a trial where accusing people of being satanists and paedophiles has been deemed serious acts of harassment.

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          • This is a good case study of the current law in application, Jack Monroe is a quasi-public figure as she has a good online presence, is opinionated and publishes books “for profit”. It didn’t give Katie Hopkins the right to publish lies about her. Although £24,000 damages was awarded it was the six figure legal costs that resulted in Hopkins having to sell her house.The apology and £5,000 for a charity Jack asked for in original settlement appears to have been be a bargain in retrospect.

            https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/mar/10/jack-monroe-wins-twitter-libel-case-against-katie-hopkins

            Liked by 1 person

          • As someone who once sued the NoTW for defamation it isn’t just about monetary loss but whether your reputation has suffered and caused others to see you in a lesser light. Fortunately for me (and my then business partner) it was a case of mistaken identity and the NoTW caved in within a fortnight, published an apology and gave us each a wad of money.
            My business partner was well known and claimed he was defamed by being associated with the incorrect person named ( a criminal) but he infuriatingly (for him) got 500 quid less then me in damages and forced me to take him to an expensive dinner. In those days of course (1930 ish) a slap up dinner could be had in a top Kings Road restaurant followed by a flight and week’s holiday in a top hotel in Morocco which I took to soothe the effects upon my shattered (non-existent) reputation.

            The real problem with the internet is the fact a libel can be published and re-published over and over again. I think the law is having difficulties coming to terms with that.
            For instance: a friend who won a long defamation battle with Google is suing them all over again because the links to a defamation keep resurfacing after they removed them.

            Liked by 1 person

          • There have been mutterings in Australia and elsewhere (the USA?) that corporations should be able to sue for libel. In Thailand a business can sue for defamation and the law is liberally used there and often by rather dodgy foreigners who have taken up residence there & started a business.

            The journalist Andrew Drummond who was the main source for any Thai news for most of Britain’s tabloids had to eventually leave Thailand with his Thai family after local thugs kept getting no-where with libel claims and starting issuing threats (very real there- $300 will buy you 2 assassins on a motorcycle).

            He is still a great source (and must have good local secret sources) on the ghastly “boiler rooms” located in Bangkok where the “ex-M15” agent (stop laughing) and on-the-run skilled forger Andrea Davidson has found steady employment. Despite aiding in ripping off 1000s of innocent pensioners Davidson is still hailed bvy The Mob as some sort Mata Hari.
            https://www.andrew-drummond.com/

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  2. I’m sure much more will come out after sentencing. The victims will still have to live with this crap for a very long time, but may feel there has been some kind of justice. The gullible and sucked in, and those who wanted it to be true, strange though it is, there are some. Will still be saying an injustice has been done to Sabine, and the courts are corrupt blah blah blah, if you can spend eight hours arguing with some one on Facebook you really need a job to do don’t you, but as the saying goes, empty vessels make more noise.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great breakdown, EC. (Your guide to the reporting restrictions I mean, not your 80s-influenced dance moves, though I’m sure they’re stupendous too.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed I’m surprised that Marc Armour who looks ‘mixed race” (like moi) posts extremely racist material.
      Racists really give themselves a hard time. One thing I love about Australia (even Perth with it’s huge UK immigrant population) is that when you walk down any street, into any supermarket etc it’s a myriad of faces from all over the world.
      There are pockets of racists here but they must go through Hell just shopping at Woolworths !

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    • Angelas now adult children and wider family have some duty to reign in the disgraceful reprobate running amok within their midst for the sake of all parties effected past,present and future.At very best she has major personality disorder issues and seemingly void of any rational judgement or perspective in regards to the very serious consequences of her unconscionable activities.

      Perhaps they have all tried over the years but out of self preservation have adopted a hands off,fatalist approach to simply packing her bags when the bell tolls as it inevitably will.

      APD and doomed useful idiot only recently.

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    • They do realise don’t they that Sabine was found guilty by a jury and that those who supported the victims are sort of on the winning side if there is such a thing?.
      They seem to live in an alternative reality whereby if they say “Tick Tick” enough times they’ll turn around the Titanic of False Allegations as it heads for the iceberg.

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  4. EC and Scarlet…so much respect for all the work you have done. I really don’t know how you were able to manage, you must both be exhausted. I can only say once again how much I appreciate your efforts which are exemplary. We really are very lucky to have the upper hand in terms of your brains and commitment. The truth always stands. We are the real ‘truthers’ on this side. Ironic that the people that have the gall to call themselves ‘truthers’ actually spread lies and falsehoods.

    As for APD, she has been warned, she can’t say she wasn’t aware of what she was doing. Yet she still arrogantly continues with the hate campaign as if above the law. She has thus done all the work for the prosecution, already ticked all the boxes for a successful outcome. Looking forward to seeing her in court being bought down a big peg or two. Can she be extradited to UK?

    She really IS asking for it. Let’s oblige her.

    Now that case law has been made? which will affect other cases? some example of how to tackle online harassers outside UK jurisdiction needs to be considered – without this all other attempts will be in vain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nothing in this case will be binding unless there is an appeal to the Court of Appeal. Crown Courts can’t bind other courts, not even themselves.
      That’s not to say that the case isn’t important as a signal of the attitude of police and CPS, but it won’t create any new law.
      I do foresee that if the sentence is anything other than lenient, there will be an appeal to the CA, and that might create a precedent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was my thought that this trial was kite flying by the CPS to see if a jury had the appetite to convict. Appeals are always on points of law so the fact that a jury of peers agreed the charges were well founded is the significant take away from this case. It will encourage the CPS to charge others.

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  5. It is a point I’ve been trying to work out. A lot will depend on her nationality status. She has stated that she is “Anglo-Irish”. This could be cultural (many of my friends say they are Irish, but they were born in the UK and have British passports) or actual. Because of, ahem, the unique historical relationship between the islands of Britain and Ireland there are many rights each nation’s citizens have in the other, voting and settlement being just two and, how shall we put it delicately, there is a historical reluctance to hand over Irish citizens to the British state! So before we can answer the extradition question, we’d need to know her actual nationality status.

    If she has an Irish passport (or dual nationality), then I think it would have to be proved that her offences would be illegal in Ireland. If she has British nationality then the maximum 10 year term would indicate that a European Arrest Warrant could be issued. This is currently supposition as I don’t know if the Anglo-Irish Agreement has any specific clauses covering extradition. I probably should read it!

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    • Seven year prison sentence for internet harassment in Dáil Labour Bill
      Justice minister said Bill was ‘timely and appropriate’ but needs amending
      https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/oireachtas/seven-year-prison-sentence-for-internet-harassment-in-d%C3%A1il-labour-bill-1.3375834

      An Garda Síochána
      Crime Prevention Information Sheet
      Personal Safety Online Harassment
      https://www.garda.ie/en/Crime-Prevention/Online-Harassment.pdf

      # I’m sure many of us have an Irish connection..me, a Grandmother from Ballymena. It usually encourages you to study Irish history. Then you discover that this mad eccentric race (they are !) also have always had a keen sense of justice.

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      • I feel that Irish and UK policing authorities work well together to fight crime. National politics shouldn’t be an issue because Police are apolitical? No doubt prejudice and bias play a role in policing everywhere but Ireland is just as much against terrorism as the UK. There are very stiff sentences handed out to people proved to be members of paramilitary organisations here.

        I don’t know what APD’s current citizenship status is or if she has both a British and Irish passport. I expect given she’s lived in Ireland for the last 20 years or so she’d probably be considered a bona fide citizen but I doubt that would stop Irish authorities extraditing her if required by the British justice system.

        The Anglo-Irish thing? That’s her pretending to be a member of the landed gentry in Ireland, it’s a pretense to make herself seem important, connected….she does the same thing by implying she’s in with local paramilitaries and by supporting Sinn Fein. Everything about her is a complete lie. She’s a codologist of the highest order.

        Liked by 1 person

    • What keeps me coming back to the Institute of Hoaxtead Studies is the high calibre and charming personalities of the people one encounters there.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was just doing some surfing last night and wonder if anybody might be interested in this:

    https://www.irishtimes.com/business/innovation/app-under-development-in-ireland-aims-to-silence-cyber-bullies-1.3457223

    Getting caught in the crossfire of negative online comment can be distressing at any age, but when directed at children and teenagers the impact can be devastating. Parents and teachers are doing their best to protect youngsters from cyber harm, but it’s an uphill battle. Recognising that bigger guns were needed to fight the creep of online hostility, Breda Keena and Paul Tweed co-founded Depublish, a digitally-based service that aims to tackle malicious online content head on.

    “There are laws to protect people’s reputations and privacy, and social media publishers have community standards in place. However, huge damage is still being caused by harmful social media posts,” Keena says. “We saw a need for a much better solution to address the problem, and ours is the first online mass-market service designed to achieve quick take-downs in a cost-effective and accessible way. It’s a high-tech solution for a major social issue brought about by the explosion in online communication.”

    Depublish was established just over a year ago and the company is based at the NDRC in Dublin. Keena has a background in PR while Paul Tweed is a high-profile international defamation and media lawyer.

    “I spent a lot of my career handling media relations around high-profile legal actions including Paddy McKillen’s battle against the hostile takeover of Claridge’s and Maybourne hotels in London,” Keena says. “I also have years of experience of defamation cases, take-downs and corrections for clients. Paul and I met through work and were both struck by how helpless people feel when something unpleasant or untrue is written about them online and they don’t know how to go about getting it removed. Depublish provides a quick and easy way for them to deal with the problem.”

    Triage
    The founders have based their process around a legal version of the medical triage principle which prioritises action/treatment based on the severity of the symptoms. Keena is reluctant to say too much about how the platform works as it is still at an early stage of development, but basically users download an app and answer a series of questions and input the requested data. This is then checked against relevant laws and standards and if there’s an issue Depublish can help to have the content removed. The platform can also store evidence to e-discovery standards and have it available if legal action is required later.

    Their website:

    https://depublish.ie/

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