Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 09/05/09


One of the most remarkable psychological phenomena of recent years has been the increasing tendency of a significant proportion of the public - and an overwhelming majority of our politicians and senior police officers - to forget some of the basic underpinnings of life in a free, democratic country under the rule of law.

One of the most fundamental principles of living in such a society is that people are innocent until proven guilty.

Despite this, successive governments - either from a desire to appease the yapping of the mongrel tabloids, or from a wish to be seen to be 'doing something' in response to a high-profile crime, or simply from wanting to obscure their own feelings of inadequacy - have spent a great deal of time in the last twenty years undermining such an important concept.

Whether it be the oleaginous Michael Howard effectively removing the right to silence, or a long succession of Labour Home Secretaries either watering down or removing altogether some of the most basic safeguards we as citizens/subjects have against overweening state power, the end result is the same; that the mindset of our legislators, police and punditocracy has been moulded to believe in a sort of efficiency expert's idea of a justice system, i.e., do whatever gets results you can display on a spreadsheet, irrespective of whether those results bear any relation to what normal people might call reality.

And so, gradually - sometimes by stealth but just as often by brazenly overt means - the notion that we are innocent unless convicted by a court of law after a trial conducted by due process has been eroded to the point where in many cases it scarcely exists anymore. So many summary offences have been created (whereby you're guilty if a policeman or other petty official says you are), so many alleged offences have been reclassified as 'arrestable' (i.e., just about all of them), so many measures have been introduced to imply guilt where none can be proven, that it's probably time that we dispensed with the fiction that we have the right to be innocent anymore.

I adduce just three examples out of the many I could have cited had I the time to go back and look:

If you think it can't happen to you, just wait a bit. It can and, if we allow the power-drunk control freaks who currently hold sway over our land the chance, it will.