Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Jeremy Duns and Steve Roach - Telephone Taping

Dear Jeremy,

My name is Emily James, and I am a human rights lawyer who campaigns against the surveillance society.

I believe your treatment of Steve Roach is outrageous and you should be held to account for it.

The details of the phone conversation are here on your blog

You acknowledge that it is illegal in the UK to tape a phone conversation with a person without their permission. And yet you went ahead and taped Mr Roach and have refused to destroy the tape despite his request to do so.

Your defence of this is: 'I'm a journalist investigating a crime'.

Okay, let's examine that statement.

One, it is an 'investigation'.

I assume that you are investigating Stephen Leather's use of fake identities to write Amazon reviews. But Mr Leather has already admitted this at the Harrogate crime festival. Why does it require telephone taping to prove it further? Moreover, your conversation with Mr Roach was about correcting the terrible and offensive error you made in accusing him of being another person. Why was it necessary to tape him? What were you investigating in this phone call?

Two, you say you are a journalist.

Really? According to, you have written five articles since 2009. The link is here. These are all on the arts pages (and mostly about James Bond). Are you a member of the National Union of Journalists? Do you or have you ever worked for a major news organisation? Has an editor commissioned you to write something about Mr Roach, and if so who are they and which publication? Journalists are given a specific opt-out from the law, but they have to be working for a news organisation, and the telephone call has to be in pursuit of a specific article. Just because you write for the arts pages once or twice a year, you do not have carte blanche to tape phone conversations whenever you feel like it.

Three, you say there is a 'crime'.

As a lawyer I understand the basis for this claim. Vendors are prohibited from posing as consumers. There is a problem here, however. No one has ever been taken to court for writing a fake Amazon review. Therefore, we don't actually know whether it is a crime or not - that is for the court decide (not you). My suspicion is that the problem would be the issue of 'material loss'. The consumer would need to have suffered a loss as a result of the fake reviews. The trouble here is that Amazon offers a full refund on e-books. So even if someone buys a book on the basis of the fake reviews they can simply get their money back if they are unhappy with it. Whilst it may well be unethical to write fake reviews (and I happen to agree with you that it is) I don't believe a court would conclude it was illegal. But that's just my opinion. Likewise, saying it is a 'crime' is just your opinion. Until it comes to court we just don't know.

The important point is this. You are not justified in taping phone conversations over something that may or may not be a crime. It has to be something that we know for certain is a crime.

In conclusion, this call was not part of a legitimate investigation, you were not an accredited journalist working for a publication whilst talking to Mr Roach, and we do not know if what you were discussing was a crime.

Therefore what you have done to Mr Roach may, I believe, be illegal.

I won't say it is. Unlike you I believe people should have a chance to defend themselves, and it is only a court that can decide whether something is illegal or not.

But you should answer these questions. They are important.

I intend to pass these points on to the Director of Public Prosecutions on the grounds that an offence may have been committed. I hope that they decide to follow them up. The spread of telephone taping is insidious and we have to make a stand against it.

I have also put them up on this blog so that they may achieve a wider audience.


  1. Err, Maria - it is perfectly legal for one party in a phone call to tape the call without the other person's knowledge, provided the recording is for their own use.

    Some lawyer you are!

  2. Also, Maria, or Emily, or Stephanie, or whatever your name is.

    The DPP won't be interested at all.

    If there had've been a crime here, then it would be a civil, and not a criminal, case.

    Dear oh dear oh me.

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  4. Emily, or Maria, it might have given you a little more credibility if you'd spelled me name correctly in the title of this!

    Anyway, it's legal to record a phone call for personal use:

    This makes all your subsequent questions pointless, of course, but just for the sake of clarity I have my own company here in Sweden, and I'm registered as a writer for both fiction and non-fiction, including freelance journalism. If you'd done some research beyond's limited listings, you'd have found that apart from those articles published by The Times, the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, I've published quite a lot of other articles since 2009, including in the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, to name two. I find your claim that the topics of my journalism and the number of my articles you found on a quick Google search disqualify me from being a journalist bizarre in several ways, and would love to see the legal citations for most of your claims in this odd collection of questions.

    But, as I say, this is all rendered obsolete by the simple fact that it is legal to record telephone conversations without asking permission if it is for ones own personal use. In this case it was: a recording is a lot more useful than notes, and as I spoke to Mr Roach for about three quarters of an hour listening to his detailed story about Stephen Leather's lengthy online vendetta against him, I'm glad I had the sense to do it on this occasion, and now have all the facts straight.

    All the best,

    Jeremy, with one r, Duns

  5. I'd also like you to explain why you sign yourself as Emily James at the top and Maria James at the foot of the post. Generally speaking real lawyers tend to remember their first names without being prompted. Would also be interesting to know what practice you're attached and, you know, get kind of the teeniest weeniest bit of evidence you are what you say you are. Because frankly you don't sound like any lawyer I've ever known (or would employ).

  6. Ps - I was also under the impression that under the Legal Services Act 2007 it was illegal to impersonate a solicitor and, more recently, a barrister, an offence which is punishable with a jail term -

    Since you claim to be a lawyer perhaps you could clarify this matter.

  7. I'm confused, perhaps as much as the author.

    Are you Emily James the human rights activist who makes documentaries for Channel 4

    Or are you Maria James of South Africa who, back in 2009, wanted to put money in Mr Stephen Leather's bank account?

  8. Well, I'd certainly be interested in your response to Justin's comment.

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  10. Yes, I'd also like to know a little more about who you are, Emily/Maria James. It's important, in fact, because you describe yourself as a lawyer. Yet you don't appear on the Law Society search engine, unless you're the Ms James who is a probate lawyer from Reading, in which case I'm mystified as to your claim to be a human rights lawyer.

    Stating you are a lawyer when pursuing a personal agenda has more consequences than if I were to have pretended to be a journalist, although it is in fact provable I am a journalist, and I've been one for several years. If you're a solicitor, for example, you're potentially breaching the Solicitors Regulation Authority's Code of Conduct. You don't say if you're acting on behalf of Steve Roach - are you? Or are you simply acting on your own whim? According to paragraph IB(11.9) of the Code of Conduct, 'using your professional status or qualification to take unfair advantage of another person in order to advance your personal interests' is 'indicative behaviour' that you are not complying with the principles of the code of conduct in relation to your dealings with third parties.

    It's clear you have no knowledge of the law. The Director of Public Prosecutions is the head of the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS is not an investigatory body. It doesn't investigate crimes. It makes decisions as to whether to prosecute, and then conducts the prosecutions, based on investigations conducted by others - mainly the police.

    If you are a lawyer, I would like to know if you are representing Steve Roach or advancing your personal interests. If you aren't a lawyer, I suggest you stop impersonating one.

  11. If saying, "I'm a lawyer, you know" is illegal, then there are many people on Twitter and on the streets in breach!

    As for the SRA Code and, "advancing own personal interests" -

    I have the feeling the SRA did not have writing bollix on a blog in the scope of what they intended this provision to cover.

    so believe me!!



  12. Easy to be blasé about it when the blog in question isn't claiming you broke the law, though, Kris.

  13. Interesting that there’s been no response. Perhaps the blog’s host (whoever she may be) is off in a law library somewhere?

    Dear Maria/Emily:

    Firstly, are you a Lawyer (human rights or otherwise) and secondly, can you explain to us why you felt the need to open a blog 'exposing' something that Jeremy Duns has always been open about and is not, in fact, illegal?

    This is just stupifying.