2021i15, Friday: Thank God it wasn’t me.

In (virtual) court for a 10 day hearing at the moment. So again I’ll be brief. A wrenching judgment, and a lovely bit of writing about a friendly neighbourhood hero.

Short thought: Whenever I’m talking to law students, I always say: read the judgments. Not just the brief snippets with the authoritative bit you want to quote. No; read the whole thing when you can. Partly for the context, of course. (And because every advocate has, albeit hopefully only once, done that thing where you find a fabulous quote, but overlook the perfect way of distinguishing and thus destroying your point two paragraphs further down. Which, of course, your opponent finds and seizes upon to devastating effect.) But mostly because the best judgments are some of the most phenomenal legal writing you’ll ever be exposed to; an education in themselves.

Put differently – when I read a really good one, I find myself thinking: I want to write like that when I grow up.

But every so often comes a judgment… and you’re so, so glad you weren’t the one who had to write it. Guy’s & Thomas’s v Pippa Knight [2021] EWHC 25 (Fam) is one such.

The story’s heart-wrenching. Pippa is five years old. She is on a ventilator. She suffered brain damage in 2017. Her father took his own life shortly afterwards, having already lost a child to meningitis. She can’t breathe on her own, is unconscious and has lost most function. The hospital went to court to ask whether it should withdraw life-sustaining care. 

I can’t do anything approaching justice to the care, consideration and professionalism of Poole J in reaching and writing this judgment. Katie Gollop QC has done a fine job of describing the key points. Read her twitter stream. Read the judgment. It will break your heart. But maybe some things should.

There’ll be those who say Poole J was wrong. That care should not, or should never, be withdrawn. There’ll even, perhaps, be those who see him as a monster, or as having committed a grievous sin. (On which subject: I’m a person of faith – and I have zero sympathy with, and some anger for, those who use tragic cases for politico-religious ends. I don’t think anyone has here, thank God. But still.)

But I see none of that. I see a fine jurist, facing a heart-rending choice with no good or easy answers, doing his level best to do what the law – and, I think, morality – requires: to put the child first. While still respecting and highlighting the awe-inspiring love and dedication that her mother has shown her throughout her life.

I want to write like him when I grow up. Just not about that. Please God, not about that.


Someone is right on the internet: I’m a sucker for Spider-Man. I sometimes find superheros somewhat annoying (although that doesn’t stop me watching Marvel movies, or the Arrowverse DC TV shows). But Spidey has always been special.

Like so many others, I watched Into the Spider-Verse with gratitude, wonder and delight. Not just because in Miles Morales there’s a whole new generation reflected in the best and most demotic hero ever. But simply because of the joy, craft, art and genius – and love! – that went into making it. It’s a genuine masterpiece. 

And I have to admit, Tom Holland does an excellent job in the new MCU ones.

But every so often I go back to the 2002 film that got Spidey onto the silver screen and kept him there. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man creaks a bit at the edges, and the effects – well, you have to work a bit not to see the seams. But the film, and Tobey Maguire in it, get Peter Parker right. Like no other film truly has. (The sequel did too. More so, perhaps. Let’s agree not to talk about the third one, OK?)

The AV Club, home of some of the best culture and genre writing around (its TV reviews are to die for), in one of its long-running series (this one looks at the highest-grossing movie in the US for each year, starting in 1960), has made it to 2002. And their write-up on Spider-Man gets it just right.

Won’t say more. If the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” means a thing to you, go and read it. You won’t regret it. And then, if you’re like me, you’ll want to push off and watch it. All over again.


(Don’t forget – if visiting a site doesn’t float your boat, you can get this stuff in your inbox. Subscribe at https://remoteaccessbar.substack.com/.)

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