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                                       Taxi Ride to Censorship
                              Why Lord Irvine tried to gag Jim Hulbert
                                           By Simon Regan
                                            26 March 2000

 In November 1999 while most people were looking forward to the new millennium, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irving of Lairg,  was busy closing down an obscure web site on the internet
 which hitherto had been visited at most by two or three people a  day.

 His action caused anti-censorship net groups to make sure that  the same site was opened up on 13 others world-wide and  between them, because of the 'censorship' issue, they are now  visited by tens of thousands a day.

 The author was a disabled joiner-carpenter called Jim Hulbert  from Hull and the cause célèbre which he had unleashed, right  up to the Lord Chancellor's office and involving his constituency
 MP, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, had all started a  decade before in a magistrates court over a disputed £1.60.

 The web site complained of demanded the resignation of five  judges and a court shorthand writer who, Hulbert alleged, had  consecutively conspired to pervert the course of justice. The
 indictment came in a thick file and was very detailed indeed. It  purported to show the conspiracy had run all the way from the  first district court to the Lord Chancellor's office as each court
 'covered up' the failings of the last.

 It all began on an innocent night out when Hulbert admits he had  had some drinks, but was far from being drunk. He had missed  his last bus, but with a fiver in his pocket he was happy to take a
 cab. The fare from the city centre to his home had always been,  with tip, around four pounds. When the mini cab tried to charge  him £6.50 he objected strongly, giving the cabby five pounds and
 entering his house. The cabby called the police.

 Two male constables and a female special constable soon  turned up, and were obviously in zealous mood. Mrs. Hulbert  remonstrated with them, and by then the two children, one a  baby, had been awoken by the disturbance and the baby was  crying. The officers rudely barged in and the melee ended with  him being pushed to the floor and handcuffed. He was  restrained, arrested, and taken into custody where he was  charged with deception and assault and where he spent the  night.

 Several months later in a magistrate's court, Hulbert opted to go  for trial by a higher court in front of a jury. He eventually appeared  before Circuit Judge Alan Simpson, who, Hulbert alleges, made
 several inappropriate comments to the jury which could have  been prejudicial.

 Despite this, on December 13th 1991, the jury unanimously found him not guilty. Hulbert had conducted his own defence.  Unlike most litigants in person (LIPs) Hulbert proved to be most
 erudite and enigmatic in cross examination and, piece by piece  while interrogating both the taxi driver and all three police, he tore the prosecution to shreds.

 He showed that all the police statements, were identical  including spelling mistakes, and that the special constable had  perjured herself by maintaining she had personally assisted in  the arrest, when instead she had been trying to deal with Mrs. Hulbert. Under cross examination they admitted they had made  the statements sitting at the same table at the same time.

 Mrs. Hulbert herself made a very good witness and the jury  believed both husband and wife as Jim Hulbert walked free. It  had taken them less than an hour to reach their verdict.

 Hulbert, still as a LIP, sued the police for wrongful arrest and  imprisonment, and soon after, the police conceded and offered  to pay him £12,000 in compensation, which he accepted.

 So far so good. Hulbert had had a hard time, but justice had  prevailed, or so it seemed. But in reality, the nightmare had only  just begun.

 In preparing the case for compensation, should he have had to  proceed, he acquired all the court transcripts of his trial. They  make for a riveting read as Hulbert himself gradually discredits
 the prosecution witnesses in a drama which George Carman  would have been proud.

 There had been three shorthand reporters at the trial. Ninety five  per cent of the transcripts were an accurate record of what  Hulbert himself remembered had taken place. But the last five
 per cent bore little relationship to his memory - that dealing with  the special constable's evidence. Under his cross-examination  Hulbert had alleged that she did not take part in his restraining
 and that the two men had coerced her into giving supporting  evidence against her will.

 By all accounts she had made a very bad witness and had left  the witness box in tears. At any event, she had been very  unhappy when giving evidence. Police would later allege that this
 was purely out of inexperience. Hulbert was convinced it was  because she had been forced to lie against her will.

 In any event, Hulbert, now a fully-blooded and quite dogged LIP,  went back to court to attempt to get the short-hand writer's  original notes so he could compare them with the official
 transcript. A reasonable enough request if they really were an  accurate record. But in giving the reasons for his request Hulbert  was more or less alleging that the trial judge and the shorthand
 writer had conspired to change the transcript.

 In civil actions judges are allowed to alter transcripts to clear up  points of detail or grammar. In criminal actions, however, a fully  accurate record is sacrosanct. This was a very serious
 allegation and the first court turned him down flat. Being dogged,  Hulbert appealed. He asked if he could call members of the  original jury to find out if they agreed with his assessment of just
 what was said. This was not allowed. In fact the Chief Clerk
 actually wrote to each juror specifically debarring them from  contact with Hulbert.

 The appeal was first heard by Mrs. Justice Smith who, at the  initial hearing, appeared largely sympathetic to Hulbert's case. In  order to try and appease him, the prosecution had already
 allowed him a brief glimpse of the notes, under supervision at  the offices of a Hull solicitor acting under instructions from the  Treasury Solicitor.

 He counted the pages and compared them to an identical  notebook he had bought from the same shop as the short hand  writer. Several pages were missing. Others, he alleged, showed
 clear evidence that the spiral holding them together had been  tinkered with. Hulbert had asked the Treasury Solicitor to relinquish the notebooks so they could be properly forensically examined. It  would, he argued, settle the matter one way or the other. "I will be  happy," he told Mrs. Justice Smith, "with an examination of the books and an affidavit from the shorthand writer that she did not alter  her notes."

 Mrs. Smith asked the other side if they would be happy to  comply, and when they said they would, she adjourned the case  until 'a future date,' so that they may. Hulbert smelled victory, but
 that was decidedly premature. His frustrations had only just  begun.

 He heard nothing, despite repeated requests for six months,  before the hearing was re-convened in front of the same Mrs. Smith where the the notebooks were examined and found to have pages missing and this time the judge was far from sympathetic. She dismissed the application out of hand. Hulbert was convinced, this was reason to appeal the appeal.

 In the first hearing Mrs. Smith had clearly stated that it was her duty to try an issue relating to a colleague, however distasteful that may be. The law had to be seen as fair and finite. But she
 had since changed her mind.  The Hulbert fiasco was now very well known amongst the whole
 legal profession, and now Hulbert was convinced in his own mind that Mrs. Smith had been drawn into a wider conspiracy to protect a member of the judiciary. His reasoning was that all they  had to do to clear the matter up was to have the notebooks forensically examined, and if they would not, something must clearly be amiss.

 This is despite the fact that Mrs. Justice Smith had examined the notebooks which Hulbert insists show clear evidence of tampering. It had been her intention to rule that the action was
 scandalous or vexatious, but after seeing the books, she merely threw the case out.

 His subsequent action for leave to appeal was rejected by Lord  Justices Saville and Morritt in the high court in March 1997, finally closing down any further channels Hulbert could take.

 Hulbert had been in regular correspondence with John Prescott about his problems finally met him at the Deputy Prime Minister's weekly surgery. Prescott said he'd look into it. The next thing was
 an approach by Lord Irving which resulted in Hulbert's internet site being closed down.

 All for the ridiculously paltry sum of £1.60.

The Censored Website - URL:   http://corruption.faithweb.com 
Jim Hulbert would appreciate e-mail:   mailto:../sonny@home42.karoo.co.uk

 Simon Regan  http://ukjudiciary.faithweb.com/editor@scallywag.org

 Scallywag Magazine - URL:  http://www.scallywag.org/