by Chauncey Tinker
There was a phrase you used to hear all the time in the UK. When faced with a choice between an expedient decision and an ethical one, a person would often say “no, I’m not going to do that (the expedient thing), because of the principle of the thing.”. I don’t often (or hardly ever in fact) hear anybody saying this nowadays. Have we lost sight of our former principles in the “West”?
In this post I’m going to focus on one particular principle which to my mind is of fundamental importance in a fair society, namely equality before the law, and look at the many ways this principle can and is being abused. In doing so hopefully I will also show/remind people of how principles in general are important as many seem to have forgotten about that.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Of course the principle of equality before the law was always more of an ideal than a reality. For example, richer people are usually going to be able to afford better defense lawyers when they are accused of a crime. However just because the principle is difficult to apply absolutely in PRACTICE does not mean that we should not always be striving towards the IDEAL. Its important that the government is always seen to be at least TRYING to enforce the law fairly and consistently, this will reduce the risk of unrest and result in a more harmonious society.
Laws that can only be judged subjectively endanger equality before the law because it is unlikely that different judges would view the same case in the same way. Any law where the crime cannot be clearly defined should therefore be amended or repealed. For example the Communications Act 2003 declares that it is illegal to send a “grossly offensive” communication on the internet. What is “grossly offensive” and what is merely “offensive” is not a distinction that can be judged objectively.
There are now so many laws in the UK that it is impossible for our police to even ATTEMPT to investigate all “crimes” that are committed.Instead of abandoning/repealing some of the less serious laws, our politicians leave these laws in place. In this article from The Daily Telegraph we see just how ridiculous some of these laws can be:
Ten stupidest laws are named
On a more serious note, having too many laws provides a temptation to the authorities to arrest people for crimes they wouldn’t normally pursue, when they have a particular motivation for doing that. Such arrests cause a sense of injustice, especially when rich/powerful/influential people are not arrested when they commit the same crimes.
Sheer numbers of social media communications mean that it is simply IMPOSSIBLE to police social media consistently without creating a huge police state apparatus. Coupled with the fact that the vague Communications Act 2003 criminalizes merely “grossly offensive” communications, the volume of “crimes” being committed is simply too large to police consistently. If a few people are prosecuted at random and others are not for the same crime, despite the fact that both cases could easily be investigated, then the law is being applied unfairly.
An example of this sort of selective policing can be seen in the recent case of Stephen Bennett. Breitbart recently uncovered numerous tweets that either incited or threatened physical violence against Nigel Farage. None of these tweets are prosecuted, yet Stephen Bennett is prosecuted and convicted despite the fact that he did neither incite nor threaten physical violence against anyone (as far as we can tell from what we have been allowed to know). We could be forgiven for thinking that our police force is behaving in a politically motivated fashion. I do think that.
Some crimes should always be investigated, for example when large sums of money are involved, but this article suggests that police don’t always have the resources to do this:
From The Daily Telegraph:
One in three cases of 'solicitor fraud' not even looked at, police admit
Lack of police resources to prosecute serious crimes leads to injustice for some of the victims of crimes, as discussed in the above article. Resources should be diverted from the policing of trivial laws to more serious cases such as these.
This article from the Christian Institute (2010) cites examples where the authors believe this is the case:
Christians unfairly targeted for hate crime prosecutions
Note particularly the case mentioned where Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were prosecuted under the public order act (with the charge that the crime was aggravated by religious hatred, thereby potentially carrying a higher sentence). More details on that case here, from the BBC:
Christian hoteliers cleared in Muslim woman abuse row
It seems the prosecution’s “evidence” was flimsy in the extreme yet the CPS still deemed the case worthy of prosecution. The case was dismissed but the couple have claimed their hotel business takings were down 80% as a result of the case. In cases like this the prosecution functions as the punishment.
If it seems that one group in society are getting preferential treatment then discontent will grow. I see daily there is a growing perception that Muslims are allowed to get away with all kinds of things that others are not. “They wouldn’t have arrested X for THAT if X were a Muslim” and that sort of sentiment is heard frequently nowadays. It is possible that, due to the reserved culture of the British, that this is partly because British people are simply not complaining loudly enough when crimes are committed against them. British people also are more likely to perceive trivial comments posted on social media for example as a matter not worthy of reporting to the police.
However it is also possible that a culture of “political correctness” is inhibiting the police from prosecuting crimes committed by ethnic minorities in general as well, because the police are afraid of appearing to be “racist”. This accusation has been heard frequently in the wake of revelations about grooming gangs in Rotherham and many other places in the UK. This is leading to a growing sense of injustice among non-Muslims.
Another example of the reluctance of the police to prosecute Muslims could be seen in this story where leaflets inciting murder of Ahmadi Muslims were found. The authors were Sunni Muslims, and some of the leaflets were found in mosques in London as well as many other places. The ibtimes reported that the police refused to do anything about these leaflets, despite the fact that an Ahmadi Muslim called Mr. Asad Shah had been murdered in Glasgow by a Sunni Muslim quite recently. This tragic event should be seen as a proof that the incitements were credibly serious enough to warrant prosecution of the leaflet distributors. Contrast the lack of prosecution here with the over-the-top prosecution of Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang mentioned above. From the International Business Times:
Hate leaflets calling for killing of Ahmadi Muslims distributed across London
More examples can be seen revealed by the “Undercover Mosque” TV documentary:
During a demonstration the Britain First group were surrounded by hostile protestors who threw things and behaved in a threatening manner. This situation looks extremely menacing for the Britain First members. The police have not as far as I know ever arrested anyone in connection with this incident.
Britain First Surrounded Near Mosque
At a similar incident there was clearly an assault with video evidence, from the Independent:
Video shows Britain First protestors clashing with Muslim worshippers outside East London Mosque
Note – don’t be taken in by the Independent’s headline, watch the video and decide for yourself who is being attacked violently.
Perhaps the authorities believe that these anti-protests are useful in suppressing the Britain First group? If so they are sadly deluded, because failure to prosecute such incidents leads to a growing feeling of injustice among those who share the views of such a group. The law must be seen to be being applied fairly and consistently to all. Failure to prosecute those who attack them also gives the oxygen of publicity to the group. If you oppose the group, then you should ask the police to prosecute those who attack them in order to starve the group of this oxygen of publicity.
The authorities also seem to be interfering with the Britain First group’s right to peaceful protest:
Britain First Luton High Court Drama
Whatever anyone thinks about this group one has to remember that if the law can be misused, then it can also be misused against THEM.
Note – I am aware of the numerous unjust uses of the law against Tommy Robinson, but I plan to write about these in a dedicated post.
In the wake of the banking crisis that occurred towards the end of the New Labour period, there was a widespread perception that bankers had been getting away with all sorts of financial misdemeanors while ordinary people would be arrested for crimes involving much smaller amounts of money. The collapse of the Lehman brothers revealed perhaps only the tip of the iceberg of such crime. This sort of class inequality in the application of the law endangers democracy and encourages disharmony.
There have been claims that the UK tax office has a “special relationship” with big business which enables those big businesses to somehow pay less tax. However in this paper it is claimed rather that there is too much complexity in taxation and that this leads to unfairness:
TAX ADMINISTRATION AND THE RULE OF LAW
Of course big businesses can afford the tax accountants to cope with such complexity, whereas smaller businesses will be unfairly hampered by such complexity, reducing their competitiveness.
A case of such alleged enforcement in the US, from Forbes:
No Criminal Charges For Lois Lerner (Or Her Emailing Dog). What IRS Targeting?
In our multi-racial Western societies we have seen the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement recently. This movement claims that “black” people are unfairly treated in comparison to “white” people. This movement has started riots and created widespread disorder, and people have died (including 5 policemen in a shooting spree in Dallas). These events show us the importance of equality before the law, when it is not maintained (or at least PERCEIVED to be being maintained) then serious breakdowns in social cohesion can occur.
Many commentators have questioned that the data really backs up the BLM movement’s claims, citing for example higher crime rates among “black” people – more crime leads to more arrests and confrontations with the law. This illustrates an important point – that it is not just important that the law is applied fairly, but also that when questioning the legal system we should do so objectively and fairly. The media and politicians who have allowed myths to go unchallenged are perhaps the ones really most at fault in this tragic story. Are lives being lost for no reason here?
We have forgotten our principles, complacency has set in. Everyone should remember that injustices that happen to someone else today could happen to them tomorrow. If we allow our governments to get away with one injustice, they will be emboldened and think they can get away with other injustices in the future. We should see injustices against any citizen as injustices against all citizens, whoever they are, whatever they believe, and however different their beliefs may be from our own.
It is tempting to see the state as too powerful for mere individuals to challenge. However fear is contagious and the more we are reluctant to challenge authority the more authority will be empowered by our inaction. Start a blog, write about cases that concern you, write to your MP, join a march.
From the Government:
When laws become too complex
Equality before the law