Don’t panic – Lord Neuberger is trending on Twitter

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Aug 09, 2017
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Judge trends on Twitter is not the sort of phrase the protective cadre at the judicial communications office wants to see. Nine times out of ten it means that a mid-ranking judge somewhere has done or said something that will be lapped up by tabloid newspapers and confirm in the public mind the stereotypical image of remote Bufton Tuftons with no awareness of modern mores or popular culture.

But the guardians of image at the Supreme Court will have been relishing the Twitter trending bar of legal professionals, which included Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, the soon-to-be retired president of the UK’s highest bench.

Lord Neuberger’s comments in a BBC interview on confusion over the influence in the UK of judgments from the Court of Justice of the EU after Britain leaves the bloc were clearly the subject of considerable social media debate. That is not necessarily something to be cheered, of course, as often the quality of debate on social media is only marginally above sandpit level.

But Daphne Romney, QC, of Cloisters chambers in the Temple, attempted to keep the chat fairly high-brow. “If Lord Neuberger can’t get his head around the Exit Bill’s provisions for the application of EU law, how are the rest of us supposed to?” she tweeted. Jon Holbrook, of Cornerstone Barristers, in Gray’s Inn, adopted a more Brexiteer line, pointing out that “judges frequently have to decide whether to draw on case law form other jurisdictions”.

And Katie – who describes herself as a “free thinker … in search of truth” who is keen on gardens – provided this helpful contribution: “… I suggest your lordship should retire.”

Chambers gets plod up to speed

Here’s another stereotype, gormless police offices in witnesses boxes confused by their own notebooks and stammering: “He proceeded in a westerly, or was that easterly … perhaps it was northerly … direction, m’lud.”

Robyn Murdo-Smith is a former copper trying to quash that image for good. In 2006 he left the Metropolitan Police to qualify as a solicitor and four years ago he was called to the Bar at Middle Temple. He is now at 9 King’s Bench Walk chambers in the Temple, where he practises as a criminal law specialist. But Murdo-Smith retains a hankering for the thin blue line and he has convinced his set to launch a series of roadshows designed, he tells The Brief, “to prepare police recruits so that when they go to court for real they won’t look like rabbits caught in the headlights”.

Yesterday was the latest outing as the pro bono roadshow – which involves a mock trial with the set’s barristers playing a variety of parts – rolled up to Inner London crown court. John Clifford, a criminal law senior-junior, sat as the judge, while Sophie Quinton-Carter, a four-year-call criminal specialist, Ben Edwards, with ten years under his belt, the recently-joined Tom Aitken and the pupil barrister Charles Drinnan made up the prosecuting and defending teams.

The mock trial involves the story of a young woman seen acting suspiciously in a car park. The police arrive and find her to be in possession of an implement. “It is a short uncomplicated case because these are raw recruits,” says Murdo-Smith, “but they get a run for their money.”

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