Mr Randle-Jolliffe claims to be a direct descent of Saer de Quincy, a knight in the service of King William I of Scotland and 1st Earl of Winchester. Apparently this medieval fellow is 24 times his Great Grandfather. Leaving to one side the political issue of whether we are subjects of a monarchy or citizens of a democratic country, we are all entitled to issue proceedings in a court of law. This right is beyond dispute. Court proceedings are part of the fabric of our civil society. Everybody knows that they have the right to invoke the court’s jurisidiction to help them. Everyone, except Mr Randle-Jolliffe it would appear, because in the witness statement he submitted to the High Court supposedly in support of the recent encampment of protesters in London known as Occupy the London Stock Exchange (OccupyLSX), he relied on his relationship with Saer de Quincy to “make my claims of right“, arguing that “Saer de Quincy was one of the 23 Surety Barons of the Magna Carta…“.
Paul Randle-Jolliffe has worked for six years as a self-employed fellow operating a “Christian General Law Advocacy Service” (here’s his website) and as a McKenzie friend. He claims to have been involved in both civil and criminal cases in “local courts” and the High Court. One can only wonder precisely what he means by “local courts“. There are county courts, magistrates’ courts and crown courts and a range of other tribunals which all sit around the country. Mr Randle-Jolliffe is careful to avoid mention of whether or not he is paid for his work.
In England & Wales, anyone may represent themselves in any court proceedings but there are restrictions on who can represent other people. Being able to represent other people is known as a “right of audience”. Barristers have rights of audience in all courts. Solicitors have rights of audience in the lower courts but have to pass extra exams to obtain full rights of audience in all courts. A “McKenzie Friend” refers to those occasions when a court would allow an unqualified person to assist someone representing themself in court. A McKenzie Friend has no rights of audience but they are, with the judge’s permission, allowed to advise the litigant in person. Judicial permission is a matter of discretion and will be refused unless it is clear that the person cannot manage proceedings by themselves and cannot afford or otherwise obtain legal representation or advice.
After explaining his various charitable endeavours and religious beliefs, in the 13th paragraph of his witness statement, Randle-Jolliffe declares that a he:
… came to this work through experiencing severe prejudice and multiple unlawful acts by various authorities personally with a series of breaches of Magna Carta and other rights under the “colour of law”.
Having introduced himself he declares that the Magna Carta is the:
well-spring of modern concepts of free speech, free association, the right to petition government for redress of grievances, the right to due process according to the law of the land, to public and impartial trial at the hand’s of one’s peers, the right to travel freely in time of peace, and perhaps most important of all, recognition that even the sovereign is subject to the law of the land. It was and remains one of the 1st and probably most important “Human Rights acts” that we should all own and seek to be upheldby all” (sic).
This sort of talk is best described as a rhetorical flourish. It sounds good to the untrained ear and may be, particularly amongst the legally uneducated, persuasive of the idea that here is a man who knows his onions and can be relied upon. To anyone with any knowledge of law, history or modern politics it is plainly a collection of differing concepts all run together as if the rights won by our democratic martyrs were in fact invented in the thirteenth century. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were so-called because they were sentenced to hard labour in Australia for combining together in a trades union (free association). Free speech was a curiously confused concept in this country until the European Convention on Human Rights came into being. Practically speaking it was (and still is) subject to anyone’s ability to sue for defamation. If you are sued for defamation, the burden is on you to prove your exculpability, not on the person bringing the case! It is hard to square that off with an absolute right to free speech. It is highly questionable as to whether the Magna Carta was concerned with human rights at all. Simply, it was a contract between the barons and the monarch which governed their relationship. In the many centuries since then it has been modified to the point of being irrelevant to the modern law and quite right too because it did nothing to prevent the slave trade, the death penalty, corrupt elections and countless other medievalist wrongs aside.
In his 16th paragraph Randle-Jolliffe returns to his favoured theme of his baronial descent. Aside from the argument that after 20 generations everyone is pretty much related to everybody else, a key democratic principle is that birthright is irrelevant to rights under law. Clearly, everyone is equal under the law. Randle-Jolliffe is right to claim that our monarch is also subject to the law but omits to mention that a jury of her peers would be comprised of other members of the royal family. The word “peers” means people in the same social class. In medieval times society was divided into strata between which there was next to no movement. This arrangement is unacceptable in a democracy and demonstrably abandoned. Witness one working class man from Brixton becoming Prime Minister: John Major. In countries more democratic than the UK, the point becomes more obvious. In the USA, the head of state has to be elected. We all remember Bill Clinton being obliged by process of law to answer questions about whether he had lied under oath about being sucked off by one of his staff. Were the Queen to die tomorrow and Prince Charles ascend to the throne, we could not drag him into any type of recognisable legal forum to question him about his unconstitutional interference with government.
Randle-Jolliffe joined OccupyLSX on 4th November, 21 days after it had begun. That night he decided to return the following day to join in with what he could see was a “high purpose“. A tent was made available to him. His statement says,
“I have been involved ever since, primarily being one of two people whom are the site legal team dealing with eviction.”
I set that legal team up myself, having joined OccupyLSX on the first day (October 15th 2011). Although I did not permanently live on site, I spent many nights there and was in daily contact with those who were when I was away. I personally instructed John Cooper QC. I personally issued the first instructions to Karen Todnor, the solicitor who agreed to assist us on 16th November 2011. Coincidentally, I instructed Ms Todnor precisely because it was clear that it would be impossible to work with Randle-Jolliffe, whom I met for the first time on the same day, when the eviction legal team was three people strong. It may be that he believed that he was working with the eviction legal team before that date but the reality is that he was not.
In his 29th paragraph, Randle-Jolliffe confesses to having spent a month in a Benedictine community and points to parallels between that and OccupyLSX: a library, education, a democratic forum, a canteen, and an “open door” with a shelter team. He overlooks the clear differences: people sleeping in to whatever hour they feel like, the lack of unhesitating obedience to all things superior etc. It is a glib comparison. Unsatisfied with the Benedictine comparison he also compares OccupyLSX with the early Christian church, though luckily he doesn’t claim to have spent any time in that!
Randle-Jolliffe completely undermined the entire legal case which OccupyLSX rested its defence on by saying that the “camp is not a protest” and “cannot be called a protest” (paragraph 35). His description of it is an educational encampment, a place of refuge and a debating chamber, which he collectively terms an occupation. It is unclear why he doesn’t believe it was also a massive protest.
The statement itself is packed with evidential irregularities. The basic rules for a witness statement are that you can say what you witnessed yourself, you can say from whom you heard something and you can point to documentation which proves something you say. To be fair, he does refer to documents which prove his family tree but he does not exhibit (via the text of his statement) any documentation (which could have included letters, contemporaneous notes, photographs etc.,) relevant to the issues in the case. He doesn’t even date the various events he reports. A witness statement without dates is practically useless.
Instead he focussed on explaining his family tree and exhibited 36 pages of documents about that. Inexplicably, given the nature of the case in hand, he also produced a document he wrote himself about a private prosecution service he has created, which is willing to charge money for its ‘services’ (here is the website). It is 58 pages long and was distributed to a whole bunch of people including the Queen!
The statement is a muddle of evidence and legal submission. The purpose of a witness statement is to give evidence. It should not contain legal arguments – they are made in the pleadings to the court, in written skeleton arguments and orally by an advocate. Courts are used to litigants in person confusing these two aspects of a trial but here is a person who offers a service to others on the basis that he understands legal procedure, yet cannot follow even this simple division of roles. The eviction legal team called for statements of evidence to defend the eviction case being brought against OccupyLSX. OccupyLSX’s governing body agreed to be represented in court by the lawyers I recruited. It fell to the lawyers to make the legal submissions, not the witnesses. The roles were already properly established by the time Randle-Jolliffe joined the eviction legal team. As soon as he joined it, he became uncommunicative with the others in the team, with the result that, a short while later, we decided to exclude him from the team. Much later he put in an expenses claim for the money he had spent photocopying his family tree. The claim was refused by OccupyLSX’s finance team.
So far as the evidence that he did give was concerned, he concentrated on the social problems inside the camp but omitted to give any meaningful evidence which related to the actual issues in the case. The eviction case was brought by the City of London Corporation. Unsurprisingly, it was based on well established law which mainly related to obstruction of the highway, human rights and planning. Anyone defending such a case would need to rebut the evidence said to support the City’s case. Not Randle-Jolliffe! He didn’t directly address the main legal issues at all and, to the extent that his evidence trespasses on them his evidence is no more than a series of disordered bare assertions. Probably the biggest issue in the case was the extent to which the camp obstructed the highway. Randle-Jolliffe doesn’t discuss this issue at all.
He preferred to discuss ancient history, in particular the creation of the Magna Carta. Nothwithstanding the many paragraphs of his personal family tree, he announces that “we are ordinary members of the public“, “prepared to be beaten and even die…“. The notion that a modern English judge sitting in the High Court would be impressed by these melodramatic irrelevancies could only reside in the mind of a legal fantasist.
Without any documentary evidence to back him up on Randle-Jollifee insists that a “folkmoot” in 1236 AD was a general assembly similar to that governing OccupyLSX. Assuming for a moment that such events were relevant to the legal issues his witness statement was supposed to assist defending, he doesn’t produce a shred of evidence by way of proof for these claims. That others may know of them is neither here nor there because an English judge can only make decisions based on evidence. Claims that there was some kind of longstanding right to hold anarchic assemblies anywhere would have to be established by firm evidence. At the very least, one might expect reference to and the production of histories written by eminent historians. Randle-Jolliffe doesn’t trouble himself with them. He’s out on a limb, asserting the ancient “folkmoot” led to a “witenagemot” which in turn led to the modern parliament and court system.
None of that was relevant to the actual case brought by the City. He could have brought a claim of his own, seeking perhaps a declaration that the City was obliged to allow the camp to persist, to ventilate his issues in a court of law. That might have been heard at the same time as the case brought by the City against OccupyLSX. More likely it would have been thrown out of court as meaningless nonsense, which explains why Randle-Jolliffe has piggybacked his bizarre beliefs onto OccupyLSX. One wonders how many goblets of mead he consumed whilst drafting his historical account, to which he devotes 23 paragraphs before declaring that
The current St Paul’s Occupation is a “Folk Moot” and therefore it could elect a mayor of London and prosecute in law….
The prospect of a court, as unruly as that required to comprehend Randle-Jolliffe, hearing prosecutions brought by the likes of him is truly frightening. It would be trial by mob rule, with romanticism ruling over reality. Weighing of evidence would go out the window.
Isaiah Berlin’s famous put down that anyone who claimed to have read all of St Augustine‘s works was a liar springs to mind when reading through Randle-Jolliffe’s statement. It jumps about much like some volumes of Augustine’s City of God. Being so difficult to coherently digest, it fails another basic requirement of a witness statement – that the facts described inside it are set out in a logical order. On my first reading of it, I quit on the 65th paragraph because I was laughing too hard.
At paragraph 100, Randle-Jolliffe declares that section 13 of the 1215 Magna Carta enshrined the right to hold a folk moot in the City of London. He claims that this is one of three clauses which are still on the statute books. Paragraph 105 simply asks, “Is the seizure of castles and palaces needed?” The nub of this belief system is summed up in paragraph 106:
Magna Carta is essentially a perpetual covenant between the crown, the barons, the church, corporation and people as well as others and within the original 1215 version there is a right of seizure until remedy and this includes royal palaces and castles…
No it isn’t. There’s nothing perpetual about any law. All of it can be changed and much of it has. Despite declining the chance to be a litigant in person in the OccupyLSX case, Randle-Jolliffe tried to be an appellant. The judges in the Court of Appeal humoured him with a brief hearing. Consequently, his case was heard. It wasn’t just dismissed, it was rubbished. Here’s my commentary on and full text of the Appeal Judgment in the OccupyLSX case. The Court of Appeal describe Randle-Jolliffe’s grounds of appeal as “esoteric”, using “a concept unknown to the law”, having “no bearing in the arguments in this case”, “simply wrong” and including a point which the Court’s Judges “do not understand”.
Unlike the rest of us protesters, who were concerned about the effects of predatory corporatism, inequality and other general political issues, Randle-Jolliffe gives his personal motivation for joining OccupyLSX as being his loss of contact with his son, his eviction by Isle of Wight Council, his general anger at the family courts and includes various side claims on South Africa’s opinion of the UK’s family law. He is obsessed with the concept of “remedy“. Not getting what you want does not mean that no “remedy” is available, it just means that a court didn’t agree with you.
When we asked people to give statements to help OccupyLSX to defend itself, we directed them to focus their evidence on whether the tents were necessary for the protest. Aside from undermining our human rights defence by his claim that the camp was not a protest, Randle-Jolliffe devoted only 14 out of 175 paragraphs of his statement to the issue of the tents.
13 of those 14 paragraphs contained a single sentence each. The first two sentences cover the sensible point that the OccupyLSX community could not function in many ways without the tents because it contained many people from outside London. Having covered that point he immediately reverted to irrelevant issues: the church and the lack of democratic authority of the Lord Mayor of London (at best a legal issue and thus inappropriate for the statement). He asks a couple of questions without attempting to supply any answers and declares:
169. It is not the intention of the occupation to remain indefinitely as the occupation is not the purpose but the means.
170. Given the breadth of the issues it would not be unreasonable for the court to give a licence to the occupation for a year and a day from the date of judgment before a review.
Then he immediately returns to his main theme, that there is some sort of viable comparison between the events leading up the Magna Carta and the occupation in St Paul’s.
Here is a man who pretends to know some law. If he knew anything at all about the rules of evidence and procedure, he would understand that there was no place for his various arguments in a statement of fact. Whatever the merits of the comparison he wishes to draw between the historically significant events which led to the Magna Carta and OccupyLSX, the court did not have the power to grant “a licence“. He doesn’t appear to understand the most basic tenets of our common law system. Judges can only entertain or dismiss claims brought by the parties. They do not invent solutions of their own. OccupyLSX never asked for a licence. It simply wasn’t an issue in the case.
Anyone considering asking Randle-Jolliffe to advise them about legal proceedings, might want to first think about whether they can rely on someone whose grip on basic the rules of procedure and evidence is so badly flawed. They might also question whether they should trust someone who thought it useful to declare, as he did at paragraph 107:
The Barons have been diseased and we invite them to join us.
Presumably he meant ‘deceased’? Whichever his intended meaning, this sentence is obviously nonsense. The plain fact is that here is someone motivated by his own private grievances who claims to be an experienced lay lawyer yet who has not the slightest grip on either the basic distinction between evidence and argument or anything that was relevant to the case in hand. I hope, for his sake, that he has not been charging money for advice.
If you want legal advice, it can be expensive. There are the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux and Law Centres which may be able to help for free. If you are on your own there is a certain amount of good advice available online. I have written my own guides on how to be a good witness, how to cross-examine like an expert and how to read and organise a bundle of evidence. They may prove useful to you. Despite all the disadvantages a litigant in person faces, you’d be better off alone than taking advice from Paul Randle-Jolliffe.
I’ve informed Paul Randle-Jolliffe that I have published this post and given him a right of reply, subject to my continued commentary.