THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Killing two bolshie birds with one stone
A fantastic day for democracy?

Law vs ethics — again.

It used to be obvious in England that a good person was a law-abiding one. I was brought up to see the police as my friends and my protectors. I hate that I don’t feel that way now.

There was no road to Damascus moment. I had no personal bad experience with a police officer. I don’t think the police (apart from some senior officers far closer to being politicians than coppers) are to blame.  Rather there has been a decades long Chinese water torture of political “reforms”. Some were driven by the cynical “identity politics” of the Western Left; designed to set brother against brother and sister against all brothers so as to create conflicts only greater state power can resolve. Others, like this one, were political stunts to play on our instincts to win votes.  

We all agree that every human life is of equal value before the law. Right? Yet, shamefully, that’s no longer the view of the English Law in practice. To kill or injure a straight white male carries a lower sentence than to kill or injure someone whose protected status makes hurting them a “hate crime” for example. The law in effect now values members of certain ethnic groups, women, the members of one religion and non-heterosexuals more highly. Those who preach loudest for “equality” have long sought — cynically or stupidly — to undermine the only equality that matters; equality before the law. 

Boris’s latest trick along these lines — “life means life” when sentencing those who kill infants — is cynical not stupid. We are programmed by nature to love and protect not only our own young but those of all humans. For many of us that spills over into an urge to protect any childlike creature; whether a vulnerable adult human or a non-vulnerable adult panda whose markings make its eyes look big (a psychological trigger because babies are born with adult size eyes). “Think of the children” is such a common political ploy precisely because one of our strongest instincts is to do so.

A Government source told The Sunday Telegraph:

“Most people think all parties and the courts have lost the plot on sentencing. We agree with the public.”

So do I. But I also believe every human life is of equal value. Sentences should (all other things being equal) be equally severe no matter who the victim is. The government’s other recent stunt — more severe punishments for those who attack police — is from the same immoral playbook. They pick a group we favour; brave coppers, cute little children, and then signal their virtue by passing laws to “protect” them. Oppose such reforms, as I am doing here, and you bar yourself from public office. Congratulations. You’re too ethical to be a politician. 

Don't oppose such reforms however and the criminal law gradually becomes a source of societal resentments and injustices. Since its purpose is assuage resentment and crush injustice, that’s a problem, no?



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It may surprise you but I’m not following the Supreme Court case. I was a commercial not a constitutional lawyer. I have confidence in the quality of the judges at this level and I’ll be surprised if it turns out badly — even though I’m sure (having moved in such circles) they’re every bit as far removed from the thinking of normal Brits as the rest of the establishment. Nonetheless they’ll make a decision based on the law, which while it is pretty damned woolly at the constitutional level where it doesn’t get worked on regularly like commercial issues, constrains them.

Judges spend their lives trying to discern intent because legal outcomes turn on them all the time. Crimes have two components, for example — an act and an intent. Kill someone when you believed they posed a threat, for example, and you committed the act but without the criminal intent.

In this case, the PM’s intent in proroguing Parliament may or may not be relevant. John Major prorogued to end discussion of a scandal in the run up to an election. Not the noblest motive, maybe, but he’s a politician and all sides were tainted by the scandal so no one objected and the courts never had chance to discuss if that was a legitimate reason.

I am sure there are some political considerations every time it’s prorogued. Politicians will naturally consider them in timing something like that. The role of the Executive is fairly clear so the question is whether, in doing something within its legal competence, it did so improperly with an intent to frustrate the competence of Parliament. Let’s see.


Slightly off-topic but what do you think of Judge Hale asking the governments intent should they lose.

The facts seem relevant
The competing interpretations of the law are important.
But how do a parties future intentions feed into the courts interpretation of what the law is?


I agree with your views but I don’t think the communication revolution is to blame. For example John Major should go down in history as one of the worst Prime Ministers ever for having abolished the right to silence — severing Rumpole’s “golden thread”; the presumption of innocence. This “tough on crime”, “populist” measure played out in the dead tree press in the centuries-old way. There were blogs by then but we bloggers deluded ourselves if we thought we had influence. We were just hosting a new version of the political chat down the pub and had about as much effect on policy.

What has changed is that we have lost our national unity and fragmented into special interest groups. This has long been a divide and rule objective of leftist intellectuals and they have succeeded mightily. People now tend to sell their votes for benefits accruing to their “tribe”. Brexit has been a salutary shock to this phenomenon because it transcends the tribes. The identity politicians are impersonating headless chickens because their usual tricks don’t work. They attack the usual enemy tribes but find it backfires on them because they hit home on their own tribes too.


I completely agree with your assertion that the law must be equal for all, though politicians will always play to the populist gallery. Especially when there's an election in the offing.

One of the downsides to the communications revolution is that the available size of the populist audience to be played for has grown exponentially, and those many who are a little hard of thinking have shown that they can be whipped up into a frenzy about things like "hate crime" without even having to figure out their own response - they just retweet, or "like" or forward links. Or sign online petitions (thanks, Tony). From there it's reported in the mainstream - BBC and press / news agencies - and acquires a gloss of authority or even, heaven help us, probity.

Is that a bad thing? Giving people a voice? No, but I don't think it's a good thing that it's now so easy for large sections of the population to be so quickly manipulated, that's for sure. It's something we somehow have to learn to live with - we accepted the Trojan Horse left at the gates, drew it in to our society over the past 12 years and now watch in horror as it discharges agents of change into our midst. Not Greeks armed with swords, but kids - armed with smartphones fuelled by shadowy actors who may not have society's best interests at heart.

Boris's "life means life" is certainly cynical and populist, but not really any more cynical than the relatively recent practice of having victims of crime on the courtroom steps, flanked by Police, giving (sometimes) highly partisan comments and statements to the media at a point of maximum emotion. Worse is the also relatively recent practice of interviewing senior coppers on the court steps so the Police can hint where they wish at their contempt for sentencing / soft judges whilst signalling their virtue as the protectors of the wronged; it always seemed to me that the Police *must* be seen to be open-minded, impartial and respectful of law in order to do their jobs, and oftentimes they just aren't.

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