Camden Council in the dock over busking

As reported previously, Camden Council have drafted a licensing scheme for buskers, which is far-ranging and draconian. It wass due to take effect on Feb 1st, but campaigners launched a legal challenge in the High Court, postponing implementation of the new legislation until its legality is scrutinised. The hearing began today and is expected to conclude tomorrow.

I will write a full report of the hearing at the weekend, but in the meantime, here are my notes from today.

Professional busker Jonny Walker has set up a campaign organisation “Keep Streets Live” and has raised several thousand pounds towards the legal costs through a crowd-funding campaign. Leading human rights lawyers, Leigh Day, have secured the service of Queen’s Council David Wolfe, and he laid out the arguments against the new legislation this morning.

Full report later, but my feeling is not good. The judge, Mrs. Justice Patterson, seemed to continually question QC Wolfe, sometimes saying she was asking the questions she believed that Camden’s lawyers would want to ask. Later after lunch, Clive Sheldon QC spoke for Camden, and by contrast, the judge seemed to be helping him frame his arguments and even finish off his sentences for him. Now I’m not saying the judge was nobbled, bent, or in receipt of brown envelopes, not least because to do so may well be contempt of court or libellous, but I was certainly surprised and uneasy at what appeared to me to be a very different approach to dealing with the two opposing barristers.

Finally, while discussing how long the two sides would need to complete their arguments tomorrow, the judge said that she was aware that Camden were anxious to begin implementing their rules, and she was hoping therefore to hand down judgement at the end of the day rather than make them wait.

What worried me about this concern was that if she were to judge in favour of Jonny Walker and the legal challenge, then obviously Camden aren’t going to be able to implement at all, so the time factor would only come into play if the judgement is in Camden’s favour.

Now, I’m definitely not saying that the judge has already made up her mind before hearing all the arguments, as again, that suggestion may well be some form of contempt, but I’m surprised how she’s so concerned about the timing, when it may turn out not to be an issue at all, because the whole scheme may be unlawful.

I’ll tweet the result tomorrow at around 4.30, but if were a betting man, I’d have to say I think she’ll find against the challenge.