Libertarian meat eater, right wing in the sense of conservative with a small c.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


It's not been the best of years for the old scale and sword wielding lady. Battered by the loss of jury trials in some cases, infected with the venereal disease of detention without trial, shat on by those who would reverse the burden of proof and now Neil's got in a tiz about Clarkson.

I can sympathise with those who found jury trials for fraud too difficult, those scared of terrorists, those who desperately want to convict more rapists and even Neil being affronted by Clarkson being in the clear. However, the safeguards that were in place to prevent multiple trials, interminable detention, a reversal of the burden of proof and having no recourse to one's peers, were in place for very good reasons. Now we could go into each one but that is unnecessary, I trust the occasional perusers of this blog to be familiar with the issues and what it all boils down to is Murphy's Law.

With the best intentions in the world, if you allow a situation to exist whereby someone holds power over you without adequate safeguards, then sooner or later, with malice or without, you will be on the sharp end. Such safeguards must be built into the very bones of any power, adding them on as a last minute, Heath Robinson style "have a go" is insufficient.

There will always be difficult cases, rape victims who are denied the pitiful consolation of seeing their attacker locked up, trials that require jurors to think, suspected terrorists that you don't have quite enough on to hold and speeders who get away with it. There will always be a terrible temptation at such moments to discard the protections just this once but if they don't apply every time then they have no use.

We don't have perfect justice, we never will. What we do have is the law that puts the might of the state on one side and a defendant on the other and on the whole it works very well. Those times where the law fails justice, cracks open the door for our protections to be removed and tyranny ushered in. It is a sad fact that we have to accept that there will always be a few such failures but trying to prevent them by putting the defendant at an ever greater disadvantage will produce less not more justice.

1 comment:

Trooper Thompson said...

It should be noted that the very worthwhile safeguard against double jeopardy was killed off following the trial of a number of men accused of killing Stephen Lawrence, and this trial was a private prosecution launched by the family of the victim against the wishes of the CPS, who knew the trial was risky for lack of evidence.