A barrister on Twitter is debating the legal issues around some of your favourite song lyrics
Could someone acting like the guy in Every Breath You Take by prosecuted?
Ever wondered whether some of the crimes described in popular culture could really be prosecuted? Well, a British barrister may have the answers you are searching for.
The Secret Barrister, lawyer, blogger and author of book Stories of The Law and How It’s Broken usually shares his learned opinion on the law in popular culture and legal goings on in the UK.
Following a popular song analysis earlier this month, on Thursday the Secret Barrister asked his followers to submit songs they would like him to analyse from a legal standpoint.
Good morning Twitter!— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
In what will go down either as social media's greatest ever public service or an excruciating, tumbleweed attempt at organised fun, I shall be spending the rest of the morning acceding to requests to offer razor sharp legal analysis of popular songs. 🎵
First for the Secret Barrister’s analysis, Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff.
🎵 I shot the sheriff— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
But I didn't shoot no deputy, oh no! Oh!
I shot the sheriff
But I didn't shoot no deputy,
Yeah! All around in my home town,
They're tryin' to track me down;
They say they want to bring me in guilty
For the killing of a deputy,
For the life of a deputy. 🎵
On initial examination, it seems that Marley is upset at being accused of murdering the sheriff’s deputy (Count 2), as he admits to count one of shooting the sheriff in self defence.
Now presentationally, I would not be advising Mr Marley to open his evidence to a jury in the way that he does. I would say that repeatedly admitting to shooting the sheriff, and only volunteering self-defence a couple of verses in, is not ideal.— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
Of course, the Bar Code of Conduct prohibits witness coaching in England and Wales, so his barrister could not help him practise how he gives his evidence. But by asking the right questions in examination-in-chief, the advocate should be able to frame the narrative. This is poor.— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
Other content of the song also raises questions.
I would also query how much this helps the defence case:— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
🎵Sheriff John Brown always hated me,
For what, I don't know:
Every time I plant a seed,
He said kill it before it grow -
He said kill them before they grow.🎵
To a jury's ear, this sounds as if Bob is disproportionately aggrieved over a pre-existing horticultural dispute with the law enforcement agencies. This plants a motive in the jury's mind.— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
Plants. Tee hee. Cos it's horticul... never mind. On we go.
Next, more evidence is presented, and the Secret Barrister talks about the grounds on which Marley would need to prove self-defence.
And so to the meat of the evidence:— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
🎵 Freedom came my way one day
And I started out of town, yeah!
All of a sudden I saw sheriff John Brown
Aiming to shoot me down,
So I shot - I shot - I shot him down and I say:
If I am guilty I will pay.🎵
Bob is not doing himself favours.
What were the circumstances? What was Bob doing such that JB was aiming a gun at him? Were there others present? Could Bob have run or retreated? Were any words exchanged? It is frankly staggering that Bob's counsel does not elicit this basic detail.— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
The evidence and analysis goes on, and the barrister comes to a final conclusion; it isn’t good news.
Bottom line: Bob may well get the benefit of the doubt over the murders. But he has raised no defence that I can see in relation to the firearms. He'll be lucky to escape with the minimum 5 years. Sorry Bob.— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
Another song up for the barristers “razor sharp legal analysis” was Every Breath You Take by The Police.
A classic case of stalking, surely?
🎵Every breath you take— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you🎵
What a creep. Let's look at how long he'll get.
Is this behaviour illegal?
For either harassment or stalking (where fear of violence is caused), the maximum sentence is 10 years' imprisonment. For coercive and controlling behaviour, the maximum is 5 years. Which is charged depends on Gordon's relationship with the victim.— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
There are no Sentencing Guidelines (yet), but given the nature and seriousness of the conduct, I think a sentence in the region of 3 years (after trial) would be about right. Plus an indefinite restraining order.— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 15, 2018
Other songs analysed by the lawyer include Murder On The Dancefloor by Sophie Ellis-Bexter and I Fought The Law by the Clash.