On 18 October 2017, having repeatedly threatened to sue me for harassment from September 2016 onwards, as well as vainly reporting me to the police early in 2017, Bristol barrister Sarah Phillimore posted a tweet which read:
If I were to seek an injunction against Barbara Hewson, would you donate money for my legal fees?
Now, I may be wrong, but I guess that this is unprecedented amongst lawyers in the UK. Such a post is as professionally embarrassing for Phillimore, as it is menacing to me as its intended target.
I wonder if her Head of St John’s Chambers, Susan Hunter, approves of this?
If anyone can provide me an example of any other UK lawyer resorting to social media to solicit funds from the public to sue a complete stranger, I should be very interested to see it.
Phillimore is evidently impecunious. But why should the public cough up to enable her to prosecute her irrational and meritless obsession with a complete stranger, namely, me?
Phillimore immediately set up a fund-raising website via Crowdfunder in which she disingenuously and – in my view – dishonestly failed to inform the public what she was really up to. That was headed: “Legal advice needed about social media harassment”.
She gave no detailed explanation of why such advice was needed, what the alleged harassment consisted of or who was responsible, why the public was expected to contribute to legal fees for a barrister in full-time work or on what terms, or any detail about the background. Nor did she admit that in reality her dispute was with me.
She simply spoke in vague terms of:
A number of people on this platform who act to silence others, who abuse, harass and terrify with apparent impunity. Who publish private details and photographs on line and who make malicious complaints to other agencies.
Phillimore’s attempt to manipulate the public by failing to disclose that what she was really trying to do was to raise funds for an injunction against me personally, having previously already got her own legal advice and having failed to seek any such injunction in a timely manner, or at all, is as extraordinary as it is deceptive.
The public was entitled to proper disclosure. In particular, it was entitled to know that this was really a deeply personal vendetta, of an irrational and spiteful nature, in which she had previously been the proxy for various foreign disinformation trolls in Turkey and Germany, obsessed with imaginary claims of political paedophiles in the UK: in other words, the Lunatic Fringe.
It is remarkable that Phillimore’s regulator, the Bar Standards Board (BSB), appears indifferent to the spectacle of an unscrupulous barrister trying to blag money off the public like this.
Phillimore’s “explanation” to the public went on:
I need to get some good advice before making any decisions about the next steps. I can’t afford to pay for legal advice without some help. I would be really grateful for whatever you could spare. I will keep a very careful account of where the money goes and I will keep you updated and informed about any next steps that I take, which may include making an application to court.
But sadly by 18 November 2017, she had only managed to raise the princely sum of £880 within the 28 days provided: 88% of the goal of £1, 000. One of her biggest donors was the Turkish bikini troll Clare Sheahan (blogs passim), which shows just what a bad faith exercise this was.
Thereafter, there was silence, despite her promise to keep her donating public informed.
Now, specialist media lawyers don’t come cheap. A senior junior from a specialist libel set can command a fee of thousands of pounds for a court appearance of 1-2 hours. A partner in one of the “go to” media law firms will charge up to £400 an hour.
What on earth did Phillimore think she was going to get for £880? At best, a couple of hours’ legal advice – when she had already paid for legal advice, over a year earlier. Did she account to her funders? No.
So what was her next gambit?
She had set up another website (she already posts on two – blogs passim), called “Remedies Against Social Media Harassment”.
Seemingly Phillimore did this to avoid awkward questions about why a supposedly reputable barrister associated with a reputable charity, The Transparency Project, and with a reputable chambers in Bristol was seeking to promote herself as a some kind of self-appointed media law “expert” and arbiter of online standards, and also as a self-certified “victim”.
Her posts on this website show breath-taking dishonesty: both in terms of her failure to own up to her own self-confessed abnormally aggressive online behaviour, as well as a breath-taking ignorance about the law on freedom of speech.
In particular, she seems unable or willing to acknowledge that the very reason why she has attracted hostile attention and criticism is because of her own virulent attacks on others.
Back in 2016, a silk in whose chambers she had done a pupillage described her to me as a “professional troll”. That is what she is. But it’s late, and so I will leave a more detailed analysis of her dishonest attempts to mislead the public and fellow-campaigners till tomorrow.