A barrister who ‘flagrantly defied’ the embargo on a judgment about Heathrow’s third runway today told Supreme Court justices that he 'never believed' he was breaking the law.  Tim Crosland, an unregistered barrister, is appearing in the Royal Courts of Justice before three Supreme Court  justices accused of criminal contempt of court in proceedings brought by the attorney general.

In December 2020, Crosland broke the embargo on a Supreme Court judgment about the lawfulness of Heathrow’s third runway. 

In his opening, Crosland - who represented himself - said evidence that the Heathrow expansion would expose the public to ‘extreme danger’ had been deliverately suppressed. ‘The antidote to that suppression was the spotlight of publicity that would follow from breaking the embargo’ he said.

Tim Crosland

Crosland broke the embargo on the Supreme Court decision last year

Source: Mark Kerrison / Alamy Stock Photo

However, he said he ‘never believed’ he was breaking the law, saying it is ‘reasonable and proportionate’ to safeguard life.

The attorney general, represented by Aidan Eardley of 5RB Barristers, said the breach was ‘serious’ and that the Supreme Court should take into account ‘the effect [the case] will have on other litigants who feel disappointed with case outcomes.’

Eardley argued that the leak sends the message ‘that if you feel strongly enough about a draft judgment you can breach the embargo’ and that ‘might lead to outcomes being leaked for reasons much less lofty’, such as insider training or the removal of children from a jurisdiction.

In response, Crosland said: ‘We are not going to see an avalanche of people breaking embargoes…It’s not a realistic fear.’

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice before the hearing, Crosland said there is a ‘good chance I’ll face a short custodial sentence’ but said ‘two weeks in prison is a tiny price to pay to get the truth out of them’.

The available penalties for contempt of court are imprisonment of up to two years or an unlimited fine.

The hearing continues. 

Update: Crosland found in criminal contempt of court for deliberately disclosing the result of a Supreme Court appeal prior to hand down of the judgment, following proceedings brought by the Attorney General, Rt Hon Michael Ellis QC MP.