It’s all kicking off in the comments thread to this post, in which I looked at the legal campaign of Chris Jarvis. Mr Jarvis has had his children removed by the courts and social services, for reasons that he hasn’t specified. His response to this is to mount a private prosecution against Leeds City Council for genocide.
For some reason I can’t quite fathom, his prosecution was struck out on the spot by a district judge. He now plans to take his case to the London High Court.
Mr Jarvis seems to be presenting himself as something of a legal expert in certain conspiracy theory circles. In this blog post he extols the virtues of acting as a Mackenzie friend (a lay person who acts in lieu of a lawyer during a court hearing).
As he says in the above video, “If you wish to see the end of the law of the lawyer…then we must make these people redundant and surplus to requirements….Let’s make the lawyer something of yesterday.” He had acted as a Mackenzie friend to one Norman Scarth, who had been imprisoned for contempt of court after recording a court hearing.
Mr Scarth appears to be something of a colourful character in himself. A World War Two veteran who has stood for election on various occasions, though his electoral campaigning in the past has got him arrested for shouting abuse through a loudhailer. In 2001 he was imprisoned for wounding a bailiff with a chainsaw.
In his YouTube video, Mr Jarvis makes great play of the respect he was given in the court when applying for a writ of habeas corpus for Mr Scarth. I must confess to being somewhat surprised by this approach. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m given to understand that it’s considered a fairly easy thing to get out of prison for contempt of court. Basically what you do is go before the judge and say that you’re sorry and you won’t do it again, thereby purging your contempt.
Mr Jarvis links to the Bailii page for the court hearing. Curiously though, he doesn’t mention the outcome.
Conclusion on habeas corpus
- In the absence of any basis upon which it would be proper to conclude that the Claimant has been imprisoned unlawfully or that his imprisonment has become unlawful I could not grant the writ of habeas corpus. As I sought to point out to the Claimant in the hearing on 15 August 2011 his interests are much better served by an appeal to the Court of Appeal Criminal Division. I am satisfied from documentation referred to by the Claimant and sent to me in the post either by the Claimant or persons acting on his behalf that the Claimant has lodged an appeal at the Court of Appeal. It is that court, in my judgment, which should adjudicate upon whether or not the finding of contempt of court and/or the sentence imposed for the contempt should remain.
- During the course of his oral representations Mr Jarvis raised the possibility of the Claimant applying to me to purge his contempt. In some ways this was a surprising application since in his own representations to me the Claimant demonstrated nothing but contempt for the order made by HH Judge Rose and, indeed for the judge himself. Nonetheless I felt it my duty to consider this possibility. I did so upon the assumption that I had jurisdiction to entertain an application although Ms Lambert was not able to confirm that I enjoyed such jurisdiction. I reached the conclusion that assuming I had jurisdiction to deal with the matter I should decline to do so. It seemed to me that the appropriate forum for any such application would be the judge who had found the contempt proved and who was, far better than me, in a position to judge the seriousness of the contempt and the genuineness of the Claimant’s application to purge his contempt. Alternatively, such an application could be made to the Court of Appeal Criminal Division. It is a possible outcome of the appeal that the court will uphold the finding of contempt and also determine that a sentence of six months’ imprisonment was an appropriate one. Even in those circumstances, however, the court might be prepared to entertain an application to purge the contempt. I raise that possibility for the Claimant to consider. Whether he makes such an application and whether the Court of Appeal entertains it is not for me to determine.
Or, to summarise, “get stuffed and use the proper channels”.
Mr Jarvis is at pains to point out in this conspiracy theory podcast that Mr Scarth subsequently had his sentenced reduced by the court. What he doesn’t mention is that it doesn’t appear to be down to anything he did. Rather, he was released early because the judge decided that “the nature of his personality disorder means that he is not one of those who is likely to see the error of his ways and, to use technical language, purge his contempt.”
Perhaps the lesson is that unless you can’t get legal aid and can’t afford a lawyer, if you’re before the courts then you’re better off instructing the qualified professionals. In his video, Mr Jarvis quotes a legal maxim, “He who fails to assert his rights has none.” Maybe he should consider another, “He who represents himself in court has a fool for a client and a lawyer.”