Lucie Wibberley debates reform of law on misconduct in public office on BBC Radio 4 'Unreliable Evidence'

Friday 16 August 2019

Lucie Wibberley of the Garden Court Chambers Criminal Defence Team has appeared on BBC Radio 4's 'Unreliable Evidence' programme to debate reform of the law on misconduct in public office, drawing on her experience of representing clients prosecuted for this offence.

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Hosted by Clive Anderson, Lucie appeared alongside an esteemed panel of guests: Alison Levitt QC of 2 Hare Court, Professor Jeremy Horder of LSE Law and Catarina Sjolin, barrister and law lecturer at the University of Leicester.

The full programme is available online.

Lucie’s cases in this area include R v Norman (2016/17) and R v Reeves (2017).

Robert Norman, a prison officer whistle-blower, was a source for the journalist Stephen Moyes. Norman was convicted of misconduct in public office for providing information to Moyes in return for payment. Information passed to Moyes related to concerns about prison conditions. Norman has appealed his case to the European Court of Human Rights and is awaiting judgment. 

In the widely reported case of R v Reeves (2017), a police helicopter pilot was acquitted of misconduct in public office, after being accused of misusing the helicopter's camera to film naked members of the public.  

Further details about this episode of 'Unreliable Evidence' can be found below from the BBC website:

"The law against Misconduct in Public Office has been criticised by the Law Commission as “unclear, ambiguous and in urgent need of reform”. Clive Anderson and guests ask how it should be changed to control the behaviour of the police, politicians and other public officials. 

Misconduct in Public Office is a centuries old common law offence, but the number of prosecutions under it has risen from just 2 in 2005 to 135 in 2014. It’s been used to charge prison officers for selling information to journalists, a local councillor for using his position to re-route a road away from his property and a paramedic for groping a woman in the back of his ambulance. Some of these prosecutions have been successful, others not. It was also the law under which an unsuccessful private prosecution was brought against Boris Johnson, for claims he made during the Brexit campaign.

The offence carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and critics say that there’s uncertainty around everything from who is a public officer to what constitutes misconduct."

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