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Free speech vs Misconduct in Public Office: protecting journalists and whistleblower sources from prosecution

21 November 2017, 18:30 - 20:00

Venue

Garden Court Chambers
57-60 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LJ

In June 2015, Robert Norman – a Belmarsh Prison officer turned whistleblower - was jailed for misconduct in public office after passing information to Mirror reporter Stephen Moyes, about  public interest stories at HMP Belmarsh, including concerns about safety and security.

Moyes was charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office in connection with payments to Mr Norman for stories he believed were in the public interest, but the CPS later decided to drop the case.

Both men came to the attention of police as part of Operation Elveden, after Trinity Mirror bosses revealed the identity of Mr Norman in clear breach of the legal convention to protect confidential sources – one of the basic conditions for press freedom.

Operation Elveden resulted in 34 public officials being convicted. Norman’s conviction and the decision of Trinity Mirror to turn over their source sets a dangerous precedent for public officials and journalists alike, who seek to hold the state and individuals to account for wrongdoing, or find themselves compelled to reveal information in the public interest.

Garden Court Chambers barristers, Henry Blaxland QC, Keir Monteith and Lucie Wibberley are seeking to overturn Robert Norman’s conviction at the European Court of Human Rights on the basis his Article 10 rights to freedom of expression were breached under the European Convention of Human Rights.

At this event, delegates will hear directly from the main protagonists and campaigners in this case, with their views on its implications for free speech and public sector whistleblowers. This case has been widely reported in the media including the Guardian and Press Gazette.

Topics to be covered include

  • Legal protections and key issues for journalists who need to keep their sources confidential
  • Free speech vs misconduct in public office and laws affecting whistleblowers acting in the public interest
  • Paying journalistic sources as a legitimate method of obtaining information
  • Obligations of newspaper proprietors and senior newspaper executives in these cases
  • Implications of Robert Norman’s conviction and appeal for: journalists, press freedom and whistleblowers in the public sector

Speakers

Robert Norman, former Belmarsh Prison Officer
In June 2015, Robert Norman – a Belmarsh Prison officer turned whistleblower - was jailed for misconduct in public office after passing information to Mirror reporter Stephen Moyes, about public interest stories at HMP Belmarsh.

Stephen Moyes, Journalist, the Sun
Stephen is a journalist for the Sun newspaper. He formerly worked for the Mirror when payments were made to Robert Norman by the newspaper for public interest stories. As a result of these payments, Stephen was charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office with Mr Norman, but the CPS later decided to drop the case. Stephen has publicly supported Mr Norman and described Operation Elveden as “a carefully orchestrated, politically-minded campaign to silence the free press”.

Henry Blaxland QC, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
Henry is a leading criminal defence and criminal appeals barrister. He was called to the Bar in 1978. Henry is lead counsel in the European Court of Human Rights appeal seeking to overturn Robert Norman’s conviction. Henry has been instructed in some of the most celebrated miscarriage of justice appeals in the last 20 years, including the Carl Bridgewater case and Derek Bentley. He was recently shortlisted for Crime Silk of the Year 2017 by Chambers & Partners.

Dominic Ponsford, Editor, Press Gazette
Dominic has written extensively for the Press Gazette on free speech. He has published a number of articles raising concerns about Robert Norman’s case and Operation Elveden.

Greg Powell, President of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association and Managing Partner of Powell Spencer Solicitors
Greg is one of the most eminent criminal defence solicitors in the UK. He specialises in criminal defence for serious crime cases, and civil liberties and terrorism cases. He qualified as a solicitor in 1973. He was Robert Norman’s solicitor when Mr Norman was prosecuted for supplying information to journalist, Stephen Moyes. He has acted in matters as diverse as Guantanamo Bay, Irangate and parliamentary expenses. He regularly appears as a commentator on TV and radio.

Keir Monteith, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
Keir is a leading criminal defence barrister. He was called to the Bar in 1994. Together with Henry Blaxland QC and Lucie Wibberley, he is representing Robert Norman in his challenge at the European Court of Human Rights. Keir also represented Mr Norman at the Court of Appeal. Keir Monteith and Lucie Wibberley have called on the Law Commission to abolish the offence of misconduct in public office on the basis that the offence is ill-defined and not fit for purpose.

Lucie Wibberley, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
Lucie is a leading criminal defence barrister. She was called to the Bar in 2005. Together with Henry Blaxland QC and Keir Monteith, she is representing Robert Norman in his challenge at the European Court of Human Rights. Lucie also represented Mr Norman at the Court of Appeal. Lucie is a committee member of the Criminal Appeal Lawyers Association.

Tim Crook, Professor in Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London and Chair of the Professional Practices Board of the Chartered Institute of Journalists
The Chartered Institute of Journalists was the first professional journalists' body to publicly support Robert Norman's appeal. Tim has consistently argued that his prosecution and conviction have been a miscarriage of justice.  Tim heads the subject of Media Law & Ethics at Goldsmiths and is the author of Comparative Media Law & Ethics and the UK Media Law Pocketbook.

Book online

This event is invite only. To book your place on this seminar, please use the booking form below. If you have any queries, please contact the Garden Court Chambers events team at .

 


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