Legal highs and crazy fools

Kevin Smith

Some people have such a way with words, especially US presidents.

These are my two personal favourites, priceless for different reasons, from Trump and Obama.

This, Trump speculating on who might be responsible for alleged Democratic National Committee (DNC) hacking:

It could have been Russia, or maybe China, or it could have been someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

And Obama commenting on torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay:

We tortured some folks after 9/11″

There is comical simplicity about those comments which could only come from a US president.

We’re not like that in the UK. We’re nearly as absurd definitely, but we dress it up. Have a read of this. This was a submission from a few years back by a libel claimant to the High Court in London in support of his claim for defamation following an altercation at a pizza establishment somewhere in the UK. (I joke not)

7. The convolution of surreptitiousness in which the second and third Defendant and entangled themselves became unravelled in the circumstances described in claim HQ07X03141, thereby and in any event occasioning the vexation and ire of the first Defendant and the second Defendants wife and family at the apparent opprobrium that had been committed.

Accordingly, the Claimant claims that the facts and matters of the adulterous relationship between the second and third Defendant became exposed to the first Defendant in circumstances that caused the first and second Defendant bewilderment from discharging their duties to the first Defendant and thereby and in any event adversely affecting the first Defendants ability to operate as a business.

In order to avoid being dismissed from the service of the first Defendant the second and third Defendant assumed a confederate plan to temper the situation to avoid the consequences of their own actions and in such a way as to allow them to continue their affair with impunity and in the knowledge that no further suspicion would befall them and/or in any event that any further suspicion that may otherwise befall them would be extinguished by the effects of the defamation they collaborated to cause the Claimant to suffer.

Can you imagine Pompeo or Trump coming out with something similar, say in a statement in support of regime change in Venezuela or Syria? No, a US President or Secretary of State might lie, cheat and steal but on rare occasions they just say it how it is. The paragraph above is uniquely British and perhaps the kind of ingenious drivel someone like Boris Johnson might serve up.

The other thing I’m a fan of is libel cases.

By that I mean cases which have entertainment and particularly comedy value rather than those which have negative consequences for free-speech in general. Several years ago I used to campaign for libel reform and free speech. My daily fix was having arguments about libel law with solicitors on various legal websites whom I suspected were over-complicating a law which I didn’t think was that difficult. In the earlier debates I probably came across a bit like Judge Romesh, the TV judge without the legal qualifications. But my instincts were proven right and I quickly became a bit of a know-it-all on libel cases cutting through the irrelevancies and the waffle.

Anyway I watched quite a few hearings in the High Court in London and my fascination was with obsessive libel litigants. There is something clever yet at the same time breathtakingly stupid about how these people think and conduct themselves. I observed this in several hearings. They tend to start off well and then spectactularly self-destruct.

In 2012 I went to observe a case in support of an acquaintance who was being sued for libel. The main offence I think was that he had described a book written by the claimant about religion as a load of rubbish. My acquaintance was a kind of militant atheist who hated all things to do with religion and made sure everyone knew. Alongside him were barristers acting for other defendants, including Richard Dawkins, who had provided the platform for these comments to be published.

The claimant, an unrepresented litigant-in-person rose to make his opening statement. Judges give litigants-in-person considerable leeway and he took full advantage. 60 minutes into his opening speech a weary-looking judge tried to stop him. The claimant scolded the judge for interrupting him and carried on for a further half-an-hour. That’s another thing about some litigants – they often show an incredible lack of respect and self-awareness.

However, the good thing at this time, was that judges were wising-up and focusing on the context of the offending comments made and common-sense rather than the strict dictionary definition of a few words. So the predictable conclusion to the case was that it was hopeless – yet another in a long list consigned to the libel dustbin at that time. Shortly afterwards libel law became more defendant-friendly so now silly cases hopefully don’t get through the front door.

The other day I was reflecting on all this and wondered what the point of it all was. Were there any true winners and do these battles really make a difference in the grand scheme of things? Are there observations or lessons to learn from this relevant to events today?

Well, the claimant lost.

The other defendants including Dawkins probably took a financial hit.

My acquaintance was a winner and loser I suppose. He probably learned a valuable lesson not to impose his views on everyone else. It may well have been a rubbish book but he probably could and should have left it alone, avoiding the stress of a protracted libel case.

The defence barristers were the clear winners. They were paid handsomely for being mere court-room bystanders, watching the claimant implode.

And, of course, I was a winner treated to a great, fun day out.

Arguably this case gave the courts further ammunition to boot out other meritless libel claims clogging up the system in those days. Perhaps this helped other defendants taken to court for silly online spats. So good from a free-speech point of view.

These days now older and wiser my thinking is to focus on and preserve the important things in life. I’m not saying we should duck-out of battles or not take on good causes with an element of personal sacrifice. Far from it. But in my view people should take on a good cause which is important and not become consumed by pointless battles – such as silly libel litigation.

The most important things for me in life are family, a sense of wellbeing, justice and having the financial security to do the things I want to do. I suspect like many writers and readers here, my personal good cause is doing all I can to wake people up to the risk of a global conflict – right at the top of the importance list. Because if there is a global conflict there will be no family or wellbeing, no financial security, no justice – and in fact, no me.

So along with others, I’m writing about Syria, Yemen, our awful political leaders, the dereliction of duty of the media and our faulty thinking and wrong priorities. All these things are in need of urgent attention. Injustice is everywhere but focusing and succeeding on the most important injustice, exposing what our governments are doing to the rest of the world, is likely to filter down in a positive way and resolve the more day-to-day ones.

If we achieve a world which respects all humanity regardless of race or religion and embraces international law, these values should trickle-down to tackle the racism, greed and bigotry within our society.

Obviously succeeding at resolving the biggest and most pressing injustice sounds like a huge task. But I think there are signs this cause is gaining traction. Syria has virtually won its fight against multiple aggressors. Venezuela is resisting too. And in France, there is a new resistance movement. Psychological warfare and regime change against other states is not working as it used to. All sorts of information is leaking out and narratives crumbling. The increasingly deranged language of western poiticial elites and in the controlled media, a sure sign they are terrified the public are waking up to it all. Campaigners against war in the West seem more energised today, no longer weighed-down but emboldened by the truth.

So I think the first point is we should all join and focus on this cause. Like the way the libel courts were evolving from a playground for libel bullies to a more level playing-field, things seem to be changing.

The other point is as with the courtroom clowns and charlatans I remember, people are beginning to see through the waffle, presentation and spin. Macron looks on his last legs, perhaps in a sense similar to the libel fool I watched self-destruct in court. Once he goes, there’s a chance others will implode.

People like Bolton and Pompeo and the Deep State have given up any pretence of being anything other than a grave threat to humanity. Like the hard-core legal lunatic you might occasionally see ejected from the High Court, I suspect these characters will need to be dragged out, kicking and screaming. Let’s hope it’s not too messy when they are.

Let’s hope their departure is prompted by a further re-awakening of people horrified at the true scale of their crimes and of their predecessors. It didn’t need a legally qualified judge to recognise the behaviours I saw in 2012 and before. Court-room tantrums, narcissism, lying, arrogance, vindictiveness, destructiveness, paranoia and greed.

With a bit of reflection and common-sense these are all traits which are easily recognisable within our governments and political elites laying waste to the world today.

I’m proud of my very small part in campaigning for free speech back then. Many of the unhinged litigants pacing the corridors of the High Court were booted out never to return. But today there are bigger fish to fry and time to finally remove the far more dangerous and less funny scourge from the corridors of power.

Join the cause, do what you can. Write, protest, donate to sites like this.

But don’t work too hard. Take a day out and have fun. While the legal junkies are a rarer breed nowadays, you still might see the odd crazy libel case if you visit the High Court in London.


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Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson
Jan 26, 2021 10:44 AM

Macron looks on his last legs, perhaps in a sense similar to the libel fool I watched self-destruct in court. <a href=”google.com”>!</a>

shell shockers
shell shockers
Oct 11, 2020 5:21 PM

But don’t work too hard. Take a day out and have fun. While the legal junkies are a rarer breed nowadays, you still might see the odd crazy libel case if you visit the High Court in London.

May 18, 2019 9:25 PM

Reminds me of a story I heard about a young musician in an international violin competition.
He began by fiffing and faffing over trying to get the music stand to exactly the right height, then he took about 4 minutes to tune his instrument, messed around with his collar and his hair… well, you get the picture.
After this preamble, which took about 7 minutes altogether, and before he had played a single note of his competition piece, the judges rang a bell and said, “Next please.”
I love judges like that.
Where are they when you need them?
If only the US Senate and Congress were full of such people.
As things stand, we just tolerate absolutely anything.

May 18, 2019 4:58 PM

The Coronation Street actor Bill Roache sued someone for libel after they called him “boring.”
If only “boring” had been the worst thing I had ever been called.
He lost of course, with £250,000 in legal costs.
For years after that, people pointedly referred to him as “the incredibly interesting” Bill Roache.
The MP, Mitchell, sued to deny calling someone a “pleb.”
The barristers were left £2.5 million richer at his expense.

One of Dickens’s characters recommended suffering any injury or insult rather than resorting to law.

There is a legal characterisation of certain persons as “vexatious litigants”, which is just a fancy way of saying pain in the arse.

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum
May 18, 2019 11:03 AM

We need more songs like this Kevin>>

May 18, 2019 3:54 PM
Reply to  Fair dinkum

I tend not to follow links that the author doesn’t label though this time I did. if you’re like me you might appreciate knowing it’s a Bright Eyes song When The President Talks To God.

This link is the rather angrier but equally relevant song by Desaparecidos (Conor Oberst side project) City On The Hill


Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum
May 19, 2019 4:58 AM
Reply to  KarenEliot

Thanks Karen.
I think the (hugely underrated) Conor is one of the best songwriters on the planet at the moment.

May 19, 2019 4:02 PM
Reply to  Fair dinkum

Me too, though his vocal style is in the part of the Venn diagram near where “turn that shit off immediately” intersects with “wtf?” 😜

Helmut Taylor
Helmut Taylor
May 18, 2019 10:05 AM

Dear Kevin: if the ends justify the means – then the interview of Norman Dodd, by G. Edward Griffin is MORE than “Richtungsweisend”!
Would love to hear your assessment.
Helmut Taylor in Frankfurt

May 18, 2019 3:55 PM
Reply to  Helmut Taylor

How’s about you provide a link perhaps

Helmut Taylor
Helmut Taylor
May 19, 2019 7:01 PM
Reply to  KarenEliot

Hello KarenEliot, sorry for being so misguided. I just presumed one would give in to Google “Interview of Norman Dodd by G. Edward Griffin” – and then automatically start looking and listening.
Well, here it is: as Paul Harvey used to say: “the rest of the story”:-

May 19, 2019 9:33 PM
Reply to  Helmut Taylor

Thank you I’ll take a look when time allows.

Opening another tab and copying and pasting into search engine isn’t quite as straightforward for all users as perhaps you assume. Especially on mobile devices. Sorry if netiquette is so Old Hat but isn’t it rather ableist to assume that what you find easy is also easy for others?