Newzbin Lawyer Struck Off For Posting Insulting Tweets During Case — & Failing To Declare He Owned The Company He Defended

from the parallel-universes dept

Well, this one’s bizarre. Back in March 2010 we wrote about the UK Usenet aggregator Newzbin being found liable for the copyright infringment of its users. A year later, the ISP BT was ordered to block access to Newzbin2, its successor. What amounted to the UK’s first Internet censorship order was upheld soon afterwards.

That on its own would make the Newzbin saga noteworthy; but it turns out that there’s an extra twist to the story — involving the lawyer who represented the site:

Mr Harris, an intellectual property lawyer, used an anonymous account to post a series of insulting messages while defending a website which allowed users to download films illegally. It later transpired that Mr Harris, 52, owned the website.

During the trial he bragged online that “whoring and drinking” would begin at the end of the case and described an opposing lawyer as a “p—-”.

As that notes, his interest in Newzbin was not purely professional — he owned it:

He was forced to stand down eight days into the hearing when his link to the firm was discovered by opposing law firm Wiggins, which uncovered documents showing that all of the company’s shares were in his name.

Perhaps insulting his opponent was not such a clever move.

In the official record of the first trial, we find the following:

Mr Harris, instructed on a direct access basis, originally appeared on behalf of the defendant. On 10 February 2010, after the close of evidence, the defendant sought an adjournment in order to instruct solicitors and new counsel because it had become apparent that Mr Harris had acquired shares in the defendant and because he did not feel able to represent the defendant in the light of the way the case had developed and the evidence which had emerged. For the reasons which I gave in a short judgment on that day, I allowed that application. Kirwans Solicitors and Ms Lambert were instructed shortly thereafter and the trial resumed on 2 March 2010.

Harris’s anonymous comments, and the fact that he failed to reveal his direct interest in the case, had one direct consequence: he was struck off (he now describes himself as an “ex-barrister” on the Twitter account he used to post the offending comments.) But it’s possible his actions had even wider ramifications.

As the quotation from the court record above indicates, halfway through the case, Harris stepped down from defending Newzbin, and was replaced by another lawyer at short notice, Ms. Lambert. This meant she had relatively little time to research the case, which probably put her at a disadvantage compared to the opposing lawyer. Had she been working on it from the beginning, perhaps the Newzbin case and UK legal history would both have taken a very different turn.

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Companies: newzbin

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Comments on “Newzbin Lawyer Struck Off For Posting Insulting Tweets During Case — & Failing To Declare He Owned The Company He Defended”

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Violated (profile) says:


You would think that lawyers would know better. I am not sure the Court’s position in representing his own company interests but he certainly misled the Court by not revealing that company link to begin with.

So in the end he got struck off. Hard to believe he did even worse than Andrew Crossley who was only suspended for 2 years plus legal costs.

Don’t worry BT and NewzBin2 when DNSSEC will save you from censorship.

bob (profile) says:

Why is anyone surprised?

This website would like to believe that places like Newzbin are wonderful, upright and moral collectives fighting the good fight against censorship everywhere. They’re like Martin Luther King Jr. updated for the Internet era.

That’s horse manure. The folks interested in running these web sites are usually sleezy weirdos like Kim Dotcom who only want to traffic in whatever will get them the most subscribers. And that usually means copyrighted content that can be gotten without sharing anything with the people who created it.

Now I’m sure there’s some Wikileaks material somewhere in the vast trainwrecks of MegaUpload and Newzbin(2), but when you lie down with the dogs you’re going to get fleas.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why is anyone surprised?

Hi Bob – where in the world do you get your suppositions?

The information world is the same as the non-information world. There’s good, bad, and shades everywhere in between.

What does the nature or character of the individuals involved in the information world have to do with whether or not we should be fighting censorship?

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Why is anyone surprised?

Yeah, sleazy weirdos like that James Murdoch fellow who keeps lying to people about how much he knew about hacking dead people’s phones to sell dead trees!

And sleazy Weirdos like that Chris Dodd fellow who skeeps wanting to buy people and keep them bought, like slaves!

Yeah, you’re right – when you lie down with a dog, you do get fleas, bob.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Why is anyone surprised?

While this website would like people to be informed of the truth, you seem bent on presenting your own skewed view of the world.

To use your own argument against you against a lobby that would beat the snot out of you…
While they want you to believe guns are just possessions, thats crap they just use guns to shoot people. ALL OF THEM DO IT. I think everyone who owns a gun is a retarded evil doer out to rob rape and pillage and we should have laws banning guns. *

* – not these views are not my own but a classic example of hyperbole to highlight the lameness of paywall bobs statements.

Are you hoping I will change your name from paywall bob to MLK bob if you keep making MLK references? Cause it ain’t happening.

0/10 – The idea of subverting the law because you dislike someone… where did I read about that in history… was it Germany in the 40’s?

Anonymous Coward says:

No, Bob, this website does NOT want “to believe that places like Newzbin are wonderful, upright” and whatever other crap you just spouted off, that NOBODY on this site has ever said.
They just don’t want people to automatically belive the exact opposite extreme, which YOU just made up and spouted: “usually sleezy weirdos like Kim Dotcom who only want to traffic in whatever will get them the most subscribers.”

You sound just like the industry insiders who only spout off the most extreme of either end, [falsely] claiming that if you’re not with them 100%, then you must be 100% with and one of the criminals. Actually refuse to contemplate or discuss the middle ground where most people actually are.

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