Law and Science : #2 The Chicken Little Mentality

Fiat Justicia, Ruat Caelum

Fiat justicia ruat caelum is often expressed as: 'let justice triumph or else the sky will fall'.  It may be more literally translated as 'let justice triumph: let the sky fall'.  More loosely, it expresses the notion that justice must be done even if that is counter to the desires of people with power or vested interests.  It is an ideal which is only rarely achieved.  It is far more common for the judiciary to favour the cause of continuity of method over and above the cause of justice.

It seems to be very much a part of human nature to be small-c conservative.  It is difficult for innovators to overcome the inertia in human systems when seeking to introduce new and better ways of performing old tasks.  There is an unreasoning attitude to change amongst many people.  What do they fear from change?  Do they really believe, like Chicken Little, that the sky will fall?

The history of common law criminal trials is a history of the devolution of the power to determine guilt or innocence.  Before Magna Carta it was the absolute right of kings to determine guilt or innocence.  By now, one might expect it to be the absolute right of the ordinary citizen.  It is not.  Even when trials are decided by a jury there are obstacles to justice.  Juries are not drawn at random by computer from the general population.  The 'powers that be' would never tolerate a radical, a reformist or a political agitator to sit on a jury.  Worse still, in England the rule against double jeopardy has been abolished: acquittal by a jury is no longer final.

All British courts are supposed to be bound by the decisions of higher courts.  This means that a decision by the House of Lords is law and all lower courts are subject to that law.  there is, however, a catch: there is no appeal to the House of Lords without the permission of the lower court.  It is as though a criminal may not be brought to trial without his or her permission.  Indeed, if a judge wilfully disregards a ruling of the House of Lords and as a result an innocent person remains in prison, then to my mind the judge responsible is a criminal.

There are many other factors which contribute irrationality and inertia to our legal systems and which contribute to miscarriages of justice.  I hope to explain these in more detail in further articles in this series.  For now, I return to the Chicken Little mentality as revealed in the continuing disturbing case of the alleged Lockerbie bomber.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was released early from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, has set up a website detailing an abandoned attempt to appeal his conviction for murder.
Scotland’s Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini today deplored the move accusing al-Megrahi of seeking a ‘retrial by media’.
While the mother of one of his victims described it as an 'unnerving' act of propaganda.
Source: TimesOnLine

Scotland's Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini has fiercely criticised a move by Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Mohmed al-Megrahi to proclaim his innocence.

"The only appropriate forum for the determination of guilt or innocence is the criminal court," said Ms Angiolini, who is responsible for prosecutions in Scotland.
"Mr Megrahi was convicted unanimously by three senior judges following trial and his conviction was upheld unanimously by five judges, in an Appeal Court presided over by the Lord Justice General, Scotland's most senior judge.

There is so much hype, exaggeration and willful negativity surrounding this whole sorry saga.  As an example of negativity, consider the waving of Scottish flags in Libya.  It is an all-too-common sight to see flags being burned by protesters.  To my mind, the waving of the Scottish flag by Libyans celebrating the compassionate release of Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi was a tribute to the Scottish nation: a tribute to their sense of justice and compassion.  How could any rational person see that flag-waving as an insult?

And now the hype and negativity is applied to Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi's attempts to publicly demonstrate his innocence.  If the courts will not carry out their proper function then the only recourse is an appeal to the common people.  Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi is not seeking 'trial by media'.  He is merely publishing documents which have already been presented in open court.

There is nothing new in this.  Before the case of Adolf Beck there was no real appeal procedure against a criminal conviction.  What need of an appeal court when no rational person would even consider that the wonderful British justice system might be in any way flawed!  Most British judges imagined that if appeals against criminal convictions were allowed, then surely the sky would fall.  Even today there are serious barriers in the way of appeals: every effort is made at all levels to exclude input which does not come from legal professionals.

There are politicians and agendists who would dearly love to do your thinking for you.  They do not want you to consider the facts and come to your own conclusions.  They want you to adopt the medieval viewpoint that matters of guilt and innocence must be left to the crown: that ordinary people are too unintelligent to be entrusted with the determination of facts: that if we do not leave the cause of justice to unelected "experts" who have no scientific training then the sky will fall.

It may well be that the compassionate release of Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi was conditional upon his withdrawing his appeal.  Denied access to justice through the courts, is an innocent person supposed to just give up trying to persuade the world at large of his innocence?  it is surely the right of every person to pursue justice by any and every peaceful means available.   At the time of writing, there are three pdf downloads available on Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi's web site.  They are all copies of documents lodged in open court and are to my mind already in the public domain.  There is no hype on the website.  There is no appeal to 'trial by media'.  Just the facts.  I recommend that you read those pdfs, rather than let me, or anybody else, do your thinking for you.

The most disturbing aspect of the trial of Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi is the use of secret evidence: Some of the evidence presented to the court was withheld from the defence under a rule of crown immunity.  How can anyone prove their innocence if they have no way of knowing what evidence is being used against them?  Secret evidence is the key to jail for each of us.

A final word to Ms Angiolini and to others who would take away from the common people their right to determine the facts at issue in any trial: fiat justicia ruat caelum!  If a society is not prepared to give justice the supreme role in all things then it will not long remain a cohesive society.  If a few people are given extreme powers to imprison people without open presentation of the grounds for such imprisonment then we return to the medieval-feudal model of law: might is right, and nobody is immune from seizure of the person on a whim.  Thus, those who seek to protect society through secrecy and harsh laws will inevitably bring about the very revolution that they seek to avoid.

Related reading:
The Lockerbie Injustice
Law And Science : The Injustice Of Confessions