Hollie Bentley – Not Guilty

A not guilty verdict was given today at Leeds Crown Court in the case of Hollie Bentley.

Unfortunately, due to confusion over the November 30th strikes, I was not there in person to hear the verdict.

19 year old Hollie Bentley was arrested by West Yorkshire Police around the period of the riots of 6-11 August 2011. A resident of Wakefield, she had posted messages on Facebook, allegedly “encouraging” the rioters. She was then charged with an offence under The Serious Crime Act 2007. Hollie created a Facebook event entitled “Wakey Riots”. The event was posted on the 9th of August, and was scheduled to take place on the 13-14th of August. Hollie also wrote in the event “Who’s up for it LMFAO.” – To any casual observer, it was abundantly clear that these were a jokey response to what was happening around the country at that time.

I’d like to extend my personal congratulations and best wishes to Hollie and her family. Justice was done today.

Guido Fawkes and The Premature Leak of a Leveson Witness Statement

“Before we start

“I am sure that most if not all of you have seen the events of the weekend, and in particular the disclosure prematurely of a statement of a witness who is due to give evidence on Wednesday this week, on a website”

“I am obviously concerned about the security of the information that is available and to maintain the integrity of the enquiry as we move forward.”

“As a result I am intending to enquire to such extent as I can into the circumstances in which this information came to be made available for publication.”

So said Lord Justice Leveson at the start of today’s proceedings at the Leveson enquiry, in response to the premature leaking of Alastair Campbell’s written statement to the enquiry by the “Guido Fawkes” blog operated by Paul Staines.

Lord Leveson then went on to request that core enquiry participants who had access to such information look into their security arrangements, making clear he was not alleging that the leak had originated from that source.

Secondly, Lord Leveson expressed his intention, “to make an order under section 19 of the enquiries act restricting the publication or disclosure whether in whole or in part outside the confidentiality circle which comprises me, my assessors, the enquiry team and the core participants and their legal representatives, any statement prior to the maker of the statement giving oral evidence to the enquiry.”

He added that:

“Any person who acts in breech of section 19 2b of the Enquiries Act 2005 which binds everybody is potentially liable for breech of the order and can be referred to the high court for further action”

Jonathan Caplan QC, representing Associated Newspapers made representations that Alastair Campbell’s statement should not be published by the enquiry prior to him giving oral evidence to the enquiry. Adding that “the principle of confidentiality which you quite rightly insisted upon, and done everything you can to maintain, we suggest should be maintained.”

Lord Leveson was minded to publish the full final Alastair Campbell statement, stating his desire to “deny that website of that oxygen [of publicity]“, but granted Mr Caplin some time to consider the appropriateness of such a move before taking a decision, asking that he investigate the mechanism whereby he could require Paul Staines “Guido Fawkes” to remove the document from his website.

He stated that he intended to issue a notice under section 21 of the Enquiries Act 2005 “addressed to Mr Paul Staines, requiring him to provide information as to the circumstances in which he came by this statement, and I intend to require him to give evidence to the enquiry during the course of this week.”

Inquiry Counsel Robert Jay QC then raised the fact that the version on the “Guido Fawkes” website was an earlier draft of the statement which had not been distributed to core participants, stating that “the reason for this has been explained to me, but I wish before making it public, defer the consideration of it, and I can take that matter further at 2 o’clock.”

At the close of business today, further representations were by Jonathan Caplan QC to the effect that Paul Staines could be required to remove the document from his blog, or the matter be referred to the High Court. Lord Leveson expressed his intention to order the document’s removal, saying:

“Yesterday evening I was minded to take the view that to deprive this particular website of publicity required me to put the accurate statement online immediately.  Given the later suggestion that I can make an order under Section 19, which I have now made, so as to have the effect of requiring the witness statement to be removed from the website it is presently on, it seems to me that the better course is not to publish the statement on my website until the usual time, which will be, I anticipate, some time on Wednesday”

As of 21:26 this evening, Paul Staines states on his @GuidoFawkes Twitter feed that he has received no such order personally. However, as he is clearly aware of its existence, that must surely be a formality.

UPDATE: less than 5 minutes after this blog was published, Paul Staines announced via his @GuidoFawkes Twitter feed that the witness statements had been removed, and uploaded a  “Restriction Order” document on his blog under the heading “Campbell Draft Evidence to Leveson Inquiry Removed Pending Legal Advice.”