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August 25, 2007

Damn Right

This managed to make it through the hangover:

To be bald, the victims of murderers do not have human rights, on account of being dead. The bereaved relatives of those victims do have human rights. They have exactly the same human rights - like it or not - as the murderers.

You do not - as compensation for losing a loved one to a murderer - acquire a special new human right that entitles you to decide what happens to the murderer once the judicial process has run its course, and where he or she will live.

It is true to say that Learco Chindamo - be he tragically disturbed teenager, or evil little thug, or, as is most likely, both - ignored Mrs Lawrence's right to family life, and her husband's right to life tout court. But he wasn't, at the time, acting as an instrument of the state. He was acting in his private capacity as a tragically disturbed evil little thug.

It doesn't follow from this that the state then calls "all bets are off" on his rights. It follows, rather, that the state does what the state is supposed to do when you murder people, which is to chuck you in jail.

For Tony McNulty, in his capacity as a Home Office minister, to say that Learco Chindamo has "forfeited" his rights because of the heinous nature of his crime is just stupid. He is, for goodness sake, senior among those paid to uphold the opposite principle: that is, the law as it stands. He's in the department that runs the criminal justice system, not Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel in charge of a lynch mob. Has he even thought about what he's supposed to do in his job?

It needs no saying that Frances Lawrence's suffering deserves our sympathy, and that the young man who killed her husband deserves our anger and contempt. But to behave as if suffering confers unimpeachable moral authority, or as if anger and contempt trumps the process of law, is a moral idiocy.

We can have a debate about whether the "right to a family life" should exist in law, or indeed whether human rights should exist as a concept at all. But if human rights - as guaranteed by the law - aren't universal, they aren't rights at all.

Applause, applause!

August 25, 2007 in Law | Permalink

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Comments

"....to behave as if suffering confers unimpeachable moral authority, or as if anger and contempt trumps the process of law, is a moral idiocy."

Fine.

Can we similarly behave as if sympathy & understanding for the criminal also have no right to trump the law...?

Posted by: JuliaM | Aug 25, 2007 10:37:02 AM

Chindamo, who is still in prison, will not be deported, should he get parole, which is not at all certain, because that is what the law says not because of sympathy and understanding for the criminal. It is an EU directive which trumps British legislation but ain't that just too bad.

Posted by: Helen | Aug 25, 2007 11:31:04 AM

People with sense still inhabit this world. Phew, I get worried at times.

Posted by: Philip Thomas | Aug 25, 2007 11:34:58 AM

Well, I wasn't just referring to Chindamo, but to all the other recipients of our lax probation system with its somewhat skewed priorities.

But, now you mention it, leaving the EU has a lot of attractions, not just that we could depart Italian-born thugs....

Posted by: JuliaM | Aug 25, 2007 11:59:27 AM

I agree about the conceptual points.

However, IIRC, the "right to family life" is not the key, but the EU prohibition on the deportation of EU nationals from any EU State.

To me, both are bad "laws".

The first "right to family life" is just pompous newspeak if you ask me. People should have property rights, freedom of association and movement. Such a phrase "right to a family life" is meaningless as it is not concrete - what is "a family life"? It is to all intents and purposes arbitrary and so undermines the principles of the Rule of Law.

As to the EU preventing a Nation State from kicking out a citizen from another EU State, anyone with any illusions about the EU not wanting or thinking itself to be a SuperState, just look there. EU Citizenship appears to trump National Citizenship.

Posted by: Roger Thornhill | Aug 25, 2007 1:37:46 PM

"EU Citizenship appears to trump National Citizenship."

When our ministers think that they can use the Royal Prerogative to withhold a passport from someone they don't like (with no legal hurdle whatsoever) I'm minded to think that anyone trumping this form of citizenship is a good thing.

New Labour: making EU Government look a better option.

Posted by: Kay Tie | Aug 25, 2007 7:27:11 PM

False dichotomy, Kay Tie. I hate them both and reject them both, for one is now an agent of the other and even the Conservatives are wary so as not to become outlawed once the EU really kicks in.

Posted by: Roger Thornhill | Aug 25, 2007 7:37:16 PM

Getting out of the EU is an excellent idea but Chindamo was sentenced to imprisonment under British law, not deportation. A little less emotion would be quite helpful in this and a few other cases. The Dianafication of Mrs Lawrence is not doing her any favours.

Posted by: Helen | Aug 26, 2007 12:30:50 AM

It doesn't follow from this that the state then calls "all bets are off" on his rights. It follows, rather, that the state does what the state is supposed to do when you murder people, which is to chuck you in jail.

Surely it's not that "all bets are off." However, I would argue that people do have a pretty fundamental right to not be imprisoned. Merely arguing that it's "what the state is supposed to do" is hardly sufficient justification for anything-- after all, that same breezy argument could be used for any sort of punishment or abrogation of rights. One could just as easily argue that "what the state is supposed to do" is deport such people.

Like it or not, the imprisonment that he should justly face, IMO, does represent an attenuation of his rights. He has clearly forfeited some amount of civil rights, including under the punishment that you approve of. It does no good to pretend that the government should violate some rights because that's "what the state is supposed to do" but that other rights are sacrosanct. It's also silly to pretend that a right can only exist if sacrosanct-- otherwise, by that logic none of us have a right against imprisonment.

Posted by: John Thacker | Aug 26, 2007 4:07:01 AM