Wednesday, April 08, 2009


The police seemed to be spoiling for a fight at the G20 protests and, plainly, knocking Ian Tomlinson to the ground was just stupid thuggery. That it precipitated a fatal heart attack is a different matter. Similarly, Neil McNulty threw a bottle at a pub and killed Emma O'Kane. His sentence of four and a half years appalled the family. Tomlinson must have been on the verge of a heart attack and it was pure chance that a shard of glass severed an artery. Doubtless McNulty and the policeman are guilty, but how guilty? And how guilty are the boys of Doncaster? Guilty of murder, guilty for ever? Old questions, I know, but strange ones nonetheless. For the purposes of public orders, answers must be invented.


  1. Kant nails it for me.

    "society and individuals must act in such a way that you can will that your actions become a universal law for all to follow"

    And if you dont, the scales of justice have to be "rebalanced"

  2. Forget that Tomlinson died shortly after this piece of licenced brutality - the link will never be proved. Ponder instead that the origins present here, and with McNulty in the pub, and the two sub-teens in Doncaster, are the same. A society gone badly wrong, with a contempt for education and civilized behaviour, embracing instead the bottle, the pill, the needle, and the endless expressions of violence served up for our edification by the media, not least the praised-from-the-sky-and-on-this-blog feature from HBO, The Wire

  3. well, the punishment should fit the crime, it is said, but it should really fit the criminal. I think in a way the system does attempt to do this in the UK. not always but more often than not.

  4. Ian, I wish what you say was right, but more and more British justice is moving away from common law and jury deciding the facts of a case to the more prescriptive European model.

    (And even with the jury the judge is directing them more and more)

    Lord Hoffman seems to be aware of the threat, but its taken 10 years for anyone to speak out about it.

  5. It's a bit rich for Lenny Hoffman to complain now about the Europeanisation of the English legal system having spent decades championing European style 'human rights' in the 70s and 80s.
    The problem is that most of the judges are from the liberal elite and out of touch with - to the point of being contemptuous of - public sentiment.
    Magistrates are similarly afflicted.
    The jury is the last connection between ordinary people and the administration of justice - no wonder the state (Jack Straw is one of the worst) relentlessly chips away at it.

  6. For the ultimate, absorbing, addictive representation of guilt.....Dexter.

    Recently in Edinburgh a young lady was about to get into her car parked outside of her house when a car sped past and collided with it, causing minor damage and failing to stop, she noted the number and phoned plod.
    Times two plod turned up and began asking invasive, totally unrelated questions.
    "Hadn't you better go and find the driver" she said. "Not worth us bothering pet, nobody hurt and in any case, we will be the judges in these matters, by the way where do you work"
    "I am the assistant procurator fiscal"

  7. It's very dangerous to push somebody who has their hands in their pockets.
    I completed a first aid course at work recently, where they told us you shouldn't walk with your hands in your pockets. It sounds daft, but if you don't get your hands out in time when you fall, you risk severe facial/head injuries and death. There are actually cases of people dying from simply tripping up with their hands in their pockets.
    Obviously that wasn't what directly killed him - but it may well have been if he hadn't got his hands out in time.

  8. Chris is right. I just had a girl faint in one of my classes. She wasn't expecting it and neither were we, and her head hit the ground...hard. Thank God she was okay, but same principle at work. If the fall can't be broken, it can be lethal.

    Malty, I am ever-so-delighted to have gotten you into "Dexter." I liked the second season even more than the first -- let me know what you think. And the third we watched on Showtime, which you probably can't get in the U.K. However, the DVDs will be out afore long.

  9. maybe the juries should be made up from a panel of experts and the judge selected at random from the general public. I've seen the travesty of public opinion on strictly come dancing - they get it badly wrong! as do the judges, it's time for reform...

  10. ...good god, be careful what you wish for, people. we still have a labour government, they'll ban our pockets mark my words, and we'll all have to march along the street, hands you know where, in solidarity against the thing - think of the mass carnage as we all fall, like dominoes, on our faces! still, we can all give our names as ewan davies at the custody desk.

  11. i reckon if you throw a bottle at someone and they die you deserve at least a few good years in prison. i feel we live in a society without serious consequences for anything. You have to really push the boat out to get a decent sentence these days. i'm increasingly in favour of hanging people to instill a sense of seriousness, of consequences - so one's actions are felt to have repercussions, and life becomes consequential rather than akin to a computer game where you can just restart or go back to a saved game.

    i also just like the idea of hanging people - and stabbing them with a spear.

  12. Without hanging you can't have proper justice (and sentences for other offences would be shorter if you hanged the worst offenders and policemen might be less likely to lie and make things up if they knew someone would hang as a result) but I've no confidence that the system now has the safeguards necessary to ensure it's virtually impossible to convict an innocent person.

  13. The question should be, were your actions dangerous enough to cause injury to the point where you should have been able to predict the risk.

    I light the fuse of a stick of fake dynamite and throw it into a crowded street. In the ensuing panic, 2 people die from being trampled. What is my culpability?

    I roll up some paper and throw it out my car window. It goes in the mouth of a man who happens to be yawning and he chokes on it and dies. What is my culpability?

    As to those who think hanging prevents miscarriages of justice... you are obviously very poorly informed. Look at the US if you want to see innocent people framed by the police into capital crimes because the cops figured they were guilty anyway. We have a large number of people who were released because DNA evidence revealed that they weren't guilty after all. I'm not sure how many got the DNA evidence too late to help.

  14. Hanging is not justice, it's revenge and in any case never acts as a deterrent.
    Working on the principle that laws are made on our behalf by politicians then I for one do not want to bear responsibility for the death of another, what would that make me, a legally licensed killer ?

  15. Susan, yes, yes, yes, just finished watching the second series, totally addictive, the wife and I are willing Dexter to succeed, cuddly chap that he is and that beastly Englishwoman certainly got hers. Number three available soon, guess we will just have to watch 30 Rock in the meantime.

  16. Ian, of course Juries get it wrong, but for often than not they get it right, and when they do get it wrong we have an appeals process.

    And its a system that's worked pretty well for hundreds of years, this tells you that it has a sort of "institutional intelligence"?

    The problem is the technocrats believe in the perfect pattern and thus they believe in a perfect system, and thats where the real failure and stupidity is.

    Restore common law to it primary position in English law, dont try and control juries, and let them sit in civil cases as well. This is true democracy, with faults attached, thankfully.

  17. Not for the purposes of public order, Bryan, for the purpose of justice. Actions have consequences, foreseeable or not, and they must face them. I hope the policeman goes to jail for assault. The boys need punishment and then help.