A medical doctor was recently acquitted of an assault charge by a German court for having circumcised a four-year old boy at the behest of his two Muslim parents.
Under Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law, a person using deadly force against another is immune from prosecution for having done so under the following two conditions.
‘The individual reasonably believe[d]… such force… necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm…’ (776.013).
‘The person… [was] not engaged in an unlawful activity… [and was] attacked… in a… place where he or she ha[d] a right to be… [in which case] he or she… has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it… necessary… to prevent death or great bodily harm.’ (776.013 )
Without the rule of law and the due process such rule implies and requires, we should all be living in a lawless hell in which civil society would be absent. Both the rule of law and due process demand of those whose business it is to uphold and enforce the law that they never let considerations extraneous to the merits of a legal case in which they are professionally involved affect their deliberations or decisions pertaining to it.
Eamonn Butler is joint head of Britain’s premier libertarian think-tank, the Adam Smith Institute. In his very readable, well-informed book, The Rotten State of Britain, he explains how rotten a state Britain turned during Labor's thirteen-years in office that began with its election victory in 1997. On the night that ended seventeen years of Conservative rule, Labor party activists celebrated by dancing until dawn to the strains of their campaign song ‘Things will only get better’. In reality, as Butler shows, they were about to get progressively worse, if you’ll pardon the expression. As he plaintively laments: ‘We were promised Cool Britannia and…
The curious case of Lars Hedegaard
Only actions, not words, can break bones. People can, however, be just as badly damaged by hateful things said about them. So why should not the criminal law be made to protect people as much from malicious words as from physical assault?
I raise this question in light of a common reaction that I have discerned among several North American commentators to news of the recent acquittal by the Danish Supreme Court on hate crime charges of free-speech campaigner Lars Hedegaard.
Hedegaard had incurred these charges as result of having made some disparaging remarks about Muslims in an interview with a journalist who subsequently published them verbatim. After being earlier found guilty under an article in Denmark’s criminal code that makes it a criminal offence to publish insulting remarks about people on account of their religion, Hedegaard was two weeks ago eventually acquitted on a technicality.
The seven Supreme Court judges who heard Hedegaard’s case unanimously accepted the plea of his counsel that his offensive remarks had not been intended for public consumption, and that, had be been shown an advance copy of where they were quoted, he would have ensured they were suitably amended to prevent any possible misconstrual of them as insulting to Muslims.
Although pleased by the acquittal, several American commentators have deplored the fact that anyone could possibly face criminal charges on account of such a statute as had brought Hedegaard to trial, and which are now common throughout Europe as well as much else of the western world.
Songs of Innocence and Experience: I Don’t Like Mondays
The silicon chip inside her head
gets switched to overload
and nobody’s gonna go to school today
she’s gonna make them stay at home
And Daddy doesn’t understand it
He always said she was good as gold
And he can see no reason
Cos there are no reasons.
What reasons do you need to be told?
Tell me why.
I don’t like Mondays
I want to shoot
The whole day down
Oh, for a Tardis time-machine to transport me back to the lost innocent days of 1979, when, for several weeks that summer, Bob Geldof’s song I don’t like Mondays stood at Number 1 in the UK Pop Charts.
Now, the fictitious shooting spree about which he then sang has become only all too agonizingly familiar a phenomenon world-wide.
None to date, however, has produced more fatalities, or been potentially more portentous, than that for having gone on which one fateful day last summer in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik is currently undergoing trial in an Oslo courtroom which opened a week ago — last Monday.
Breivik freely admits that July day having shot dead 69 young people on the small island of Utepo where they had been attending a summer camp held annually there for Norwegian Labour party activists. He had been allowed onto the island, dressed as a policeman and bearing an assault rifle, ostensibly to protect his victims along with the several hundred other young activists whose deaths, he explained in court last week, he also hoped to bring about by causing them to flee in panic into the sea and drown after he began firing.
Earlier that same day, he had provided the pretext for their need of police protection by causing the Norwegian government to declare a state of emergency after he had detonated in the Norwegian capital a large car bomb that he placed outside government offices.
Breivik freely confessed in court last week his original intention had been to confine his killings to the occupants of that building by bringing it down with his bomb. In the event, because, when he arrived there, the parking space he needed for that purpose was already taken, he had been obliged to leave the car containing the bomb where the building was able to withstand the blast, although it did cause eight fatalities, most of them passers-by.
Only for having caused their deaths has Breivik expressed any regret. However, he did tell the court that, had his bomb succeeded in bringing down the government building and thereby killing many of its several hundred occupants, he would not have felt need of having to drive out to Utepo to carry on his killing spree.
Breivik freely admits to all the killings but is pleading not guilty to charges of murder and of terrorism on the grounds that, in carrying them out, he had been acting out of necessity in self-defense. His claims he was obliged to carry out the killings to protect himself, his country, and Europe more generally from the sustained assault on their cultural identity each has undergone in recent times from the multiculturalism to which each has become exposed as result of mass immigration of Muslims. It is because Breivik considers the Norwegian Labour Party the prime movers in effecting their mass entry into his country that he considered its members, even its young ones, to be legitimate targets.
This week sees the unfolding in England of two long-running legal sagas upon whose outcomes the future of the rule of law there could depend. And not just there, its future could be affected throughout Europe and even beyond.
The first legal saga is the resumption of the British Government’s ten-year long battle to deport the radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada back to Jordan, where he awaits trial on terror related charges.
To date, Abu Qatada, whom England granted refugee status after he moved there from Jordan his wife and children, has successfully resisted all government efforts to deport him. He has done so by invoking his human right not to suffer torture or trial using evidence gained by its means.
During the long period in which he has been fighting this legal battle through the English and Strasbourg Courts, Qatada, along with more than a dozen other foreign terror suspects domiciled in Britain, have also been able to secure their release from custody by invoking their human right not to suffer (more than briefest period of) detention without trial.
After Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May had obtained from Jordan all the assurances she needed to render his deportation to it lawful in her eyes, Abu Qatada was arrested in the early hours last Tuesday morning, after his arresting officers had informed him that the deportation process against him had been resumed.
So confident was the Home Secretary that her department had finally closed all legal loopholes that had earlier enabled Qatada’s lawyers to prevent his deportation, she felt able, later that same day, to stand at the despatch box in the House of Commons from where government ministers traditionally deliver important statements, to announce, much to the general relief of all those present and much of the rest of the country, that by, the end of the month, Qatada would be on his way back to Jordan.
She had not counted on the ingenuity of Qatada’s lawyers quickly to spot and exploit a small loop-hole that had evaded both her eye and those of her legal advisors at her Department, or else that his lawyers had craftily opened up literally at the eleventh hour.
With less than an hour to go to mid-night on Tuesday, after which time which he would have forfeited all possible legal right to do so, Qatada’s lawyers submitted to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg an appeal against the ruling that it had made exactly three months earlier over the legality of his deportation. It was that ruling which had formed the legal basis on which the Home Secretary had been acting in resuming his deportation.
Coalition government almost invariably makes for bad government. This is because the need for compromise between coalition partners typically results in their adopting such a melange of mutually conflicting policies as precludes any of the more potentially beneficial ones from ever being able to achieve fruition.
Britain’s current coalition between David Cameron’s Conservatives and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats is a case in point.
Essentially, at heart, the Conservatives remain a business-friendly party, favouring small government, low taxes and strong local communities. By contrast, their coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, formed themselves by a merger between a breakaway group of former Labour MPs and the erstwhile Liberal Party, in many ways are now more interventionist and for the redistribution of wealth through fiscal policies than is the present Labour Party.
We might, therefore, have known two summers ago, when at a hastily convened press conference held in the Rose Garden at 10 Downing Street Nick Clegg stood alongside David Cameron to announce their decision to enter into coalition, that some pretty rum policy decisions were on their way.
The latest of these decisions was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in his House of Commons budget speech last month. As part of a wider clamp-down on tax avoidance by the rich, he declared he was proposing to cap tax relief on charitable donations. From next year on, philanthropists in the UK will have to pay tax on any annual charitable donations they make above £50,000 or 20 per cent of annual income, whichever figure was higher.
When last month during an FA Cup quarter-final, the 23 year old Zaire-born former under-21 England international footballer, Fabrice Muamba, collapsed after a heart attack, a palpable wave of sympathy broke out for him among supporters of both teams at the north London stadium where the match was being played.
Unfortunately, that wave of sympathy did not extend to one inebriated 21 year old British biology undergraduate who had been following the match. He promptly tweeted a disgusting and highly abusive comment about the incident, followed by still more disgusting responses to those who tweeted to him in protest at what he had written.
His original tweet ran: ‘LOL [Laugh out loud) **** Muamba, He’s dead!’
Most people like jokes, but few like to be the butt of one. This is because jokes invariably belittle those they target through imputing to them, whether deservedly so or not, some demeaning quality or other, such as stupidity, cupidity or carnality.
In his highly instructive and amusing book, Jokes and Targets, the internationally renowned authority on humour, British sociologist Christie Davies, seeks to understand why jokes amuse us so and target those whom they do. Among the joke Davies seeks to explain are those which target dumb sexy blondes, the lascivious French, frigid Jewish wives and their shopaholic daughters and timid, sports-averse husbands, the former Soviet system, and unscrupulous American lawyers.
Being busy professionals, American lawyers might initially be inclined to dismiss the questions Davies raises as too frivolous to warrant their serious attention. They should think again, given in what a poor light jokes about them now routinely depict them where they are invariably portrayed as being venal, corrupt, money-grabbing, and dishonest. Could joke tellers be sued for group-libel, surely by now some enterprising American lawyer would have cleaned up.