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Farooqi Friday [It isn’t the art of examining crossly]

[I know, it’s Sunday, but I only just thought of the pun, and I can’t keep that back for another five days]. A correspondent pointed me towards R v Farooqi 2013 a few weeks back, and I found it very entertaining, but never thought I’d have a family law hook to hang it on – now I do, so thank you to the President for introducing me to a genuinely new experience – being pleased about something written in the View from the President.

If you yourself made it to the end of the View from the President Part Seven,

Click to access view-7-changing-cultures.pdf

you will have seen the President discuss a criminal case, and as we know, there is quite a lot of “cross-pollination” between Views from the President and judicial decisions made by the President.  They flow into one another, so expect to see this find its way into a decision in due course.

Skilled advocacy has a vital role to play in the family courts as elsewhere. I stand by everything I said in Re TG (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 5.
May I, however, draw to the attention of advocates in the family courts,for it is surely as applicable in family courts as in criminal courts,
a point made by Lord Judge CJ in his very last judgment:
R v Farooqi and others [2013] EWCA Crim 1649, para 113:
“What ought to be avoided is the increasing modern habit of assertion, (often in
tendentious terms or incorporating comment), which is not true cross-examination.
This is unfair to the witness and blurs the line from a jury’s perspective between evidence
from the witness and inadmissible comment from the advocate. We withhold criticism of
[counsel]on this particular aspect of his cross-examination because he was following a
developing habit of practice which even the most experienced judges are beginning
to tolerate, perhaps because to interfere might create difficulties for the advocate
who has been nurtured in this way of
cross-examination. Nevertheless we deprecate the increasing habit of comment or assertion
whether in examination in chief, but more particularly in cross-examination. The place
for comment or assertion, provided a proper foundation has been laid
or fairly arises from the evidence,
is during closing submissions”.

If you are like me, you will have written numerous times in your notes of someone else’s cross-examination “Submissions”  (possibly adding an exclamation point, or tutting audibly).  I for one, am hoping that we end up in the sort of law court we all day-dreamed of whilst slogging through land law and easements  – of hopping up like a Jack-in-the-Box to shout “Objection” and “I move that that remark be stricken from the record” during your opponents questions , perhaps ending up with wearing a white suit and a bootlace tie, whilst pacing around the Courtroom during cross-examination and speaking in a Louisiana accent.

What is this Farooqi case all about then? Other than allowing me to make a cheap pun (and many would say that that were reason itself to admire the case)

Well, it involves an appeal from a criminal case involving suspected terrorist activities, and the arrests were made largely as a result of intelligence gathered by undercover policemen (a topical issue for discussion, I wish I were a criminal lawyer so I could talk about it more in-depth). In essence, the problem in the case was the attempt by one defence counsel to run a defence of entrapment, which for complex reasons beyond the scope of this blog, wasn’t really open as a defence.  [I should point out, to be fair to counsel who is being criticised here, that the fundamental nature of the defence was that it had been the undercover officers who had made all the running, so there was a fine line to be trod about making that defence and running a defence of entrapment – it’s not a line I would have been able to tread so it has to be bourne in mind that this was a very difficult situation]

This led to these sorts of exchanges :-

(a) “Q. Well, what I suggest to you is this: that from at least mid January 2009, that that was your style? That you were trying to take advantage of Munir Farooqi’s good nature, so that you could do him harm by attempting to trick him into committing an offence. Is that right?

A. No, sir, it’s completely incorrect. I was playing the part of a role that I had been asked to do so, that had been authorised by a senior officer, and one of my objectives was to play the part of a vulnerable person with low social ties, and I did that throughout the course of the operation.

Q. And I suggest that in pursuit of conviction, while you have been in that witness box, it has been your purpose to deceive the jury by painting a false picture of your relationship with Mr. Farooqi. You have lied in short, is that correct?

A. It’s certainly not the case. I have sworn an oath. I am a professional undercover law enforcement operative, and in doing so, I have answered every question which I believe to be correct, which I have signed a statement to that effect.

Q. You are a professional law enforcement undercover officer?

A. I am a police officer. I am a professional police officer, yes.

Q. Yes, you are a professional liar, putting it bluntly?

A. I use tactics as such as an undercover law enforcement operative to carry out my role. Yes, I do lie in the role of an undercover law enforcement operative, but on this occasion I have sworn the oath and I have answered every question which I believe to be correct.

Q. So you deny both propositions I have been putting to you, that you have been attempting to trick him and that you have been lying on oath, so therefore I had better prove those propositions

(b) “Q. And over the next eight months you were going to encourage him at every opportunity to talk about his experience in Afghanistan, were you not?

A. No, sir, and I didn’t.

Q. And you and Simon were going to play word games with a man who was ignorant of the fact that he was in peril, in order to trick him to giving you some encouragement by way of document, advice or assistance?

A. I can only answer for myself, sir. I can’t answer for another undercover law enforcement operative, but in answer to your question, that’s no.

Q. And the purpose of that was to enable you to arrest him?”

(c) “Q: Now earlier on in my cross-examination of you, I drew your attention to the fact that some people feign difficulties, so that they can assault, rob or rape people who come to their assistance. What I am suggesting to you is you feigned inadequacy, in order that you could steal from Mr. Farooqi, in order that you could steal his liberty. Is that not right?

A. No, it isn’t, sir”

(d) “Q. And what I am suggesting to you is whether or not he was sending people or engineering for people to go abroad to participate in violent conflict, was a matter of no interest to you in late January of 2009. In late January of 2009 you were hell bent on tricking this man into committing an offence?..

Q. What, and we can trust you, can we?

A. Er, yes, fully.

Q. A professional liar?

A. Erm, I am not a professional liar.

Q. Right. Now I think we agree that you do tell lies professionally when you are engaged as an undercover officer?

Q. You were cynically exploiting the death of that man, in order to excite either hostile feelings or hostile words against the police, were you not?

A. No.

Q. So that it might be deployed later in evidence?

A. No.

Q. And it is as an example of many examples of how poisonous and devious you can be, seeking out your aims?

    1. The judge intervened during the cross examination on a number of occasions. Mr Bott refers to one example, during the cross examination of Simon on the 13 July 2011, which we set out in its context:

“Q: Well, you say to respect people’s human rights, but you never had any right to enter his premises, did you?

A. Er, yes, I did.

Q. How so?

A. He invited me in.

Q. He never invited you in?

A. I think you will find the first time I ever met Munir on the 4th of January, he invited me to come to his house for something to eat. He wrote his address down, he give me his telephone number.

Q. No, no, no, no, he never invited you?

A. He did.

Q. He invited the person you were pretending to be?

A. Which is me.

Q. He invited the person that was interested in Islam in.

J: Mr. McNulty.

LM: He invited the person who had a history of alcohol abuse in?

J: Mr. McNulty.

LM: My Lord. He never invited you in?

A. Erm, I was portraying to be a normal member of the public. If it wasn’t me that Munir had invited in and radicalised and encouraged to go and fight Jihad, it would have been another vulnerable member of the public from Manchester, so in respect of me attending his address, I feel that my main hope is that I have stopped a vulnerable individual from Manchester being radicalised by Munir and others.

Q. But you never believed for one second that if he knew who you really were you would be invited to his premises, did you?

A. Of course not.

Q. No?

A. If I told him I was a police officer, he definitely wouldn’t have invited me.

AE QC: My Lord.

J: Yes.

AE QC: My learned friend is misleading the jury about the law again.

J: Yes.

AE QC: Because what he is implying from his position as Counsel in his question is that the fact that the officer was going under an assumed alias, means that the invitation which was extended to him did not create a right to enter, and that is, I am afraid, not the law.

J: Of course. It —

AE QC: I am sorry about that, but it is just not.

J: Mr. McNulty, more than one member of the jury was actually shaking his or her head whilst you took this point.

LM: Well, let us see.

J: Mr. McNulty, I am not going to permit it. It is a complete waste of time. It is ill conceived in law, and please move on. He was perfectly entitled to enter those premises. Any suggestion that he was not is wrong in law.

LM: Well, then I suggest as a matter of fact you were no different to the man that pretends to come to read the gas meter, who is really there to steal the old lady’s pension?

J: No, Mr. McNulty. Mr. McNulty, that is exactly the same proposition put in a different way. He was entitled to enter those premises, and that is the end of the matter.

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a sentence in a judgment (though the “finders-keepers” exchange in the Richard II burial judicial review comes close) as much as the Judge here saying “More than one member of the jury was actually shaking his head whilst you took this point”

And culminating in this, during defence submission – I didn’t think the suggestion was “thinly veiled” at all – it was pretty out and out.

Mr McNulty’s closing speech

    1. Mr McNulty made his closing speech to the jury over the course of three days, the 16th, 18th and 19th August 2011. Mr Bott describes it as a defiant and provocative speech which went well beyond anything that was professionally acceptable. A number of specific matters illustrate the submission.
    1. The speech began with what is described as a “thinly veiled” suggestion that the judge was biased in which Mr McNulty encouraged the jury to regard the judge as a salesman of worthless goods:

“After all when you meet with a salesman , he does not start off his sales patter by insulting you but…that does not mean what he is selling you is worth anything.”

    1. Secondly, from the outset Mr McNulty attacked the motives of the Crown and others concerned with the case and encouraged the view that the Crown was a politically motivated witch hunt. The judge and the Crown were depicted as the agents of a repressive state: the purpose of the Crown was to stifle Farooqi’s right to free speech. Other parties who did not agree with his approach, and their counsel were accused of sucking up to the Crown and the court.
    1. Thirdly, Mr McNulty misrepresented the evidence on a number of occasions. He repeatedly gave evidence himself on behalf of Farooqi, which was later summarised by the trial judge, and to which we refer later in this judgment. He made significant allegations that should have been but were not put to witnesses in cross-examination, in particular that the evidence against Malik had been contrived because the police had no evidence that Farooqi had influenced anyone except the undercover officers. This led to a number of interventions from the judge on the first afternoon, (at the end of which Mr Edis raised the propriety of Mr McNulty’s suggestion of judicial bias) and then again on 18th August when the judge said; “You are giving evidence that could have been given by your client and it must stop”. “This cannot continue.”
    1. Mr McNulty said he was addressing the issue of Farooqi’s intention, to which the judge said: “The way he tells us what his intention is by going into the witness box.”
  1. At the end of Mr McNulty’s speech, Crown counsel gave notice that they were considering making an application to discharge the jury. The judge responded that he was not surprised, and that he had been considering the possibility of doing so of his own motion. The court then adjourned whilst the Crown considered its position.

“How’s that?”

When does judicial intervention cross the line into being improper and showing bias?

I recently read a very good piece on Lawtel  [other law reporting websites are available]  written by Stephen Gerlis, reporting on the Court of Appeal case ofHadi Jemaldeen v A-Z Law Solicitors 2012 

 As the piece is behind a paywall, and about a civil case, the issues probably won’t have come to everyone, so I thought it was worthy of a discussion in the family law context – with a nod of the hat to Mr Gerlis for his originating piece.

 The importance of the case is that the appeal hinged on whether the Judge who had heard the case had overstepped the mark when exercising control of the questions and posing his own questions, such that the appellant considered him to have been biased.

This led the Court of Appeal to run through the authorities on judicial interventions, and as we are about to embark on a brave new world of litigants in person (whether they wish to be or not) this may be an issue that crops up from time to time. It is that consideration of where the line is drawn that is potentially of interest.

I liked this quotation from Lord Denning (hence the title)

 “The Judge is not a mere umpire to answer the question “How’s that?” His object, above all, is to find out the truth, and to do justice according to law”.


 That authority is from Jones v National Coal Board [1957] 2 QB 55.  and the temptation to be able to quote a case about the National Coal Board AND Lord Denning in any family case is almost overwhelming.  We don’t get much opportunity to crowbar Lord Denning into family law cases.


[The only thing I am more tempted to say in Court, which I duly resist every time is “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain? ” ]

 The Court of Appeal set out that the test, when looking at how the Judge managed the trial/hearing is


  1. 20.   “The question is whether the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased.”

Which principle is derived from the House of Lords in Magill v Porter [2001]UKHL 67, [2002] 2 AC 357.

 Going back to the Coal Board case (and why wouldn’t we?)


  1. In pursuit of that fundamental objective the judge is not required to sit silent as the sphinx. Appropriate intervention while a witness is giving evidence, even while the witness is being cross-examined, is not merely permissible but may be vital. As Denning LJ put it (page 63):

“No one can doubt that the judge, in intervening as he did, was actuated by the best motives. He was anxious to understand the details of this complicated case, and asked questions to get them clear in his mind. He was anxious that the witnesses should not be harassed unduly in cross-examination, and intervened to protect them when he thought necessary. He was anxious to investigate all the various criticisms that had been made against the board, and to see whether they were well founded or not. Hence, he took them up himself with the witnesses from time to time. He was anxious that the case should not be dragged on too long, and intimated clearly when he thought that a point had been sufficiently explored. All those are worthy motives on which judges daily intervene in the conduct of cases, and have done for centuries.”

He continued (page 64):

“The judge’s part in all this is to hearken to the evidence, only himself asking questions of witnesses when it is necessary to clear up any point that has been overlooked or left obscure; to see that the advocates behave themselves seemly and keep to the rules laid down by law; to exclude irrelevancies and discourage repetition; to make sure by wise intervention that he follows the points that the advocates are making and can assess their worth; and at the end to make up his mind where the truth lies. If he goes beyond this, he drops the mantle of a judge and assumes the robe of an advocate”.

  1. So there is nothing objectionable, for example, in a judge intervening from time to time to make sure that he has understood what the witness is saying, to clear up points that have been left obscure, to make sure that he has correctly understood the technical detail, to see that the advocates behave themselves, to protect a witness from misleading or harassing questions, or to move the trial along at an appropriate pace by excluding irrelevancies and discouraging repetition. Indeed, it is, as Denning LJ recognised (page 65) his duty to do so.



So the Judge can appropriately ask questions to clarify, or to check that she has understood, she can prevent inappropriate questions being asked, and she can tell everyone to get a move on once the point has been explored sufficiently.


What CAN’T the Judge do? She must not ‘descend into the arena’


  1. But there is, of course, a difficult and delicate balance to be held. The judge must not, as it is often put, descend into the arena. Denning LJ referred (page 63) to Lord Greene MR, who in Yuill v Yuill [1945] P 15, 20, had:

“explained that justice is best done by a judge who holds the balance between the contending parties without himself taking part in their disputations? If a judge, said Lord Greene, should himself conduct the examination of witnesses, “he, so to speak, descends into the arena and is liable to have his vision clouded by the dust of conflict”.

Denning LJ continued (page 64) that it is for the advocate to make his case;

“as fairly and strongly as he can, without undue interruption, lest the sequence of his argument be lost.”



Where the interventions can potentially overstep the mark is during cross-examination.   [Back to the Coal Board again  – underlining my own]


Now, it cannot, of course, be doubted that a judge is not only entitled but is, indeed, bound to intervene at any stage of a witness’s evidence if he feels that, by reason of the technical nature of the evidence or otherwise, it is only by putting questions of his own that he can properly follow and appreciate what the witness is saying. Nevertheless, it is obvious for more than one reason that such interventions should be as infrequent as possible when the witness is under cross-examination. It is only by cross-examination that a witness’s evidence can be properly tested, and it loses much of its effectiveness in counsel’s hands if the witness is given time to think out the answer to awkward questions; the very gist of cross-examination lies in the unbroken sequence of question and answer. Further than this, cross-examining counsel is at a grave disadvantage if he is prevented from following a preconceived line of inquiry which is, in his view, most likely to elicit admissions from the witness or qualifications of the evidence which he has given in chief. Excessive judicial interruption inevitably weakens the effectiveness of cross-examination in relation to both the aspects which we have mentioned, for at one and the same time it gives a witness valuable time for thought before answering a difficult question, and diverts cross-examining counsel from the course which he had intended to pursue, and to which it is by no means easy sometimes to return .”


And as, much like Marty McFly, we are no longer in the Fifties, the Court of Appeal added this

one of the changes in civil litigation since 1957, when Jones v National Coal Board was decided, is that more attention is now given to the criteria of proportionality, expedition and the allocation of an appropriate share of the court’s resources to any individual case: CPR Part 1.1. An advocate can no longer expect to have unlimited time in which to conduct his cross-examination


[And towards the end, the Court of Appeal refer to a recent family case Re J (A child) [2012] EWCA Civ 1231  in which the Judge’s interventions and curbing of cross-examination prevented the matters which went to the very heart of the case being put, and which did end up overturning the original decision]

 As this was a civil case, the decision eventually reached on the case before the Court of Appeal isn’t that important, but you can probably guess from this brief extract from the original trial transcript (Professor Rees being the appellant saying that the Judge had unfairly interrupted him) what the end result of the Appeal was 

THE RECORDER: I am interrupting your cross-examination.

PROFESSOR REES: No, it is very welcome, your Honour.

THE RECORDER: You had better ask the questions you want to ask.

PROFESSOR REES: Okay. Thank you, your Honour. But it is helpful to have these interventions, if I may say so, because ultimately your Honour has to decide this case and …

THE RECORDER: Well, if you put a document in which nobody has opened on, the witness has never see before, it is fairer for him and for me to try and work out what this document is supposed to be telling us all.

PROFESSOR REES: Absolutely, yes …”


[Hint, if you are going to claim in an appeal that a Judge unfairly interrupted you, don’t at the time, tell the Judge that the interventions are helpful and very welcome]