11 January 2006

Why Tony is right.

This is in response to Talk Politics's criticism of Tony Blair's respect speech.

I'm sorry mate, you are wrong and Tony is right.

A man found with 10,000 in cash late at night with no reasonable explanation DESERVES prosecution regardless of whether the police can actually PROVE it is the result of wrongdoing.

If I went out tonight and got blind drunk and caused a nuisance in the street and I was consequently fined 100 pounds, I would deserve it. I would prefer that rather than being prosecuted through the court system for a year (EVEN if I was eventually proved innocent). We are talking practicalities here, you are not living in the real world.

In theory you are spot on to say it's the bureaucracy of the criminal justice system that is the problem NOT the process, BUT you forget 'due process' necessarily involves a high level of bureaucracy, the two are interdependent.

It terms of low level punishment for low level crimes, it is BETTER to punish the innocent than to let the guilty go free.

Being innocent and getting a 100 pound fine is not the end of the world. Dishing out fast and proportionate punishment to the guilty benefits us all by lessening the chance of them progressing to worse crimes.

This is just not possible if you are going to give them the the full legal process which is necessarily expensive and time consuming.

I'm sorry but, principles and tradition mean nothing here. You are going to have to prove to me why, for instance, trial by jury is important in complicated fraud cases when they drastically increase the expense and reduce the success of trial completion let alone prosecution. Prove to me that 'trial by jury' is more accurate. There is a strong scientific case that people like Dawkins have made to show why the jury process is flawed.

Is it good for civil liberties that defence lawyers pick jurors of the basis of whether they are likely to acquit rather than whether they are likely to be fair?

I am not in favour of removing the choice to have trial by jury in serious cases and neither is this government but these questions have to be asked.

46 comments:

  1. Sorry, but Talk Politics is absolutely right. Our legal system has developed the way it has for a good reason; the presumption of innocence and the requirement of the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt protects us all. Tony's soundbites about preserving liberty are the usual cockeyed spin. You do not preserve liberty by reducing it.

    In your example; A man with £10,000 late at night should have no reason to offer anyone any explanation whatsoever - it is his business and his alone. If the police have reason to suspect that he is committing an offence, then the law as it stands allows them to carry out an investigation. Unless they have reasonable grounds to suspect - it is not their business.

    In the event of drunkenness, again, the law allows the police to arrest offenders and place them before the magistrate.

    The requirement for people to go to court to prove their innocence following arrest; trial and conviction by the police; is a reversal of 800 years of legal precedent and it wrong - absolutely, utterly, and morally wrong. It is the first step towards the fascist state. The independence of the judiciary and the examination of the evidence is there for a purpose - to prevent the conviction of the innocent.

    Yes, there are problems - a few more police on the beat would be a step in the right direction. Nasty, populist authoritarian gimmicks are not the answer.

    No wonder I left the Labour party - I'm ashamed to have ever had dealings with this mob. The sooner I leave this country the better.

    You may presume that this makes me exceedingly angry. Injustice usually does.

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  2. How can you say that "principles and tradition mean nothing here"?

    Tradition, fair enough, that is just sentimental and impractical in many cases, but how can you say that principle is not important?

    As for it being better to punish the innocent than to let the guilty go free... it reminds me of something I read many, many years ago where a liberal was described as someone who would rather see nine guilty people go free than one innocent person punished, while a reactionary was someone who would rather see nine innocent people punished than one guilty person go free.

    I tried to find the quote on the internet but failed. However I did find that the viewpoint that its better for innocents to suffer than for any guilty person to go free seems to be widely held in Texas. Very scary as its a place where punishment famously includes the death penalty.

    The only person I can think of who had such a 'principle' at the heart of a justice system was Stalin!

    I see your post was made at 4:07am so I am hoping it is the result of you going out and getting blind drunk.

    Unlike Longrider, this is the reason I stay in the Labour party - to try and argue against such ideas before they become policy (if only)

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  3. A man found with 10,000 in cash late at night with no reasonable explanation DESERVES prosecution regardless of whether the police can actually PROVE it is the result of wrongdoing.

    So you're going to be campaigning for a law making it illegal to carry large amounts of cash in a public place? This Act will no doubt be called the Automatic Assumption of Guilt Based on Wealth Act.

    Taking a more general view, this does seem to be an unfortunate and worrying trend. A French friend of mine jokes that in France "if it's not illegal, it's comulsory". Their legal tradition is somewhat different in that there does seem to be a general assumption you're not allowed to do things unless the state says so.

    It saddens me that Tony has slipped into the Michael Howard school of clamp downs instead of tackling the causes of the problems he seeks to solve.

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  4. "In terms of low level punishment for low level crimes, it is BETTER to punish the innocent than to let the guilty go free.

    Being innocent and getting a 100 pound fine is not the end of the world."


    I wonder if you really believe this load of bollocks? If so you are more insane than you usually appear to be. Why not go the whole hog and means test everbody in the country and determine what level of fine we can stand for "being innocent".

    The police are already guilty of targeting "soft targets". They would have a field day if they could just pick up innocent people and fine them £100. There would be no need for them then to worry about the more difficult and bothersome task of finding guilty people.

    How does punishing innocent people give them respect for the law? Presumption of innocence is my right and I will exercise it to the end. If you and the NuLabour fascists you support take it away you are morally bankrupt and no amount of the usual turgid sophistry you trot out will disguise this.

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  5. It terms of low level punishment for low level crimes, it is BETTER to punish the innocent than to let the guilty go free.

    I can see where you're coming from, but your proposal is totally wrong. It was bad enough being kept behind after school because of some unruly classmate's antics, but I'm certainly not putting up with it as an adult!

    Back to the drawing-board, I think.

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  6. "It was bad enough being kept behind after school because of some unruly classmate's antics, but I'm certainly not putting up with it as an adult!"

    Ah, you had that one, too. I refused, stood my ground and won. A 13 year old pupil taking on the school establishment because they lacked moral authority was something of a surprise for them, I think. They didn't really know what to make of it - other than acknowledge that I was right.

    And, damn right - I will not tolerate it as an adult.

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  7. Being innocent and getting a 100 pound fine is not the end of the world.
    Maybe not you, mate. But to others it's the difference between eating and not.

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  8. I do hope this is a spoof, Neil. You're teetering on the first rungs of droolingly insane, police-state totalitarianism here.

    Still, on the upside, I've never heard anyone attempt to question the presumption of innocence before. So at least the entertainment value's there.

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  9. Peter Clay11/1/06 4:46 pm

    Being innocent and getting a 100 pound fine is not the end of the world.

    Wow, I thought you were against poverty! But I think you might have found the solution to funding the country: just put up roadblocks wherever more money is needed and fine everyone £100. Doesn't matter if they're innocent, right?

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  10. A man found with 10,000 in cash late at night with no reasonable explanation DESERVES prosecution regardless of whether the police can actually PROVE it is the result of wrongdoing.

    Yep. Same for a man with £10,000 in a bank account. Soak the rich!

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  11. Neil, you seem to forget that the whole great edifice of respect and rule of law is built on there being a distinction between the guilty and the innocent. If you attempt to blur that distinction, then your average happy citizen has no reason other than financial to obey the law, and certainly will have no respect for it.

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  12. Ha ha ha! Love the inverted commas around due process - a stroke of genius.

    By the by, if a £100 fine when you're innocent isn't a big deal, can I count on you to pay the £100 the Inland Revenue are going to charge me at the end of this month thanks to their computer system cocking up my tax returns? Cheers.

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  13. A man found with 10,000 in cash late at night with no reasonable explanation DESERVES prosecution regardless of whether the police can actually PROVE it is the result of wrongdoing.

    Just cash, or any kind of bearer financial instrument? What about carrying 10,000 pounds worth of barterable commodities. And why just late at night? Isn't this all a bit time-ist?

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  14. Tosser. So lets get this right, you are saying that a person who has £10,000 on and cant come up with a resonable explination then deserves prosectuion.

    We have something called due process, the police have to make the case and need "evidence" in order to back it up, else we head right back to the 70's and start fitting up people for "possession of an Irish accent" again as they are probably something to do with the IRA.

    As for the £10,000 chap, well a/ he would be lucky to be stopped by a policeman - at least down our way, and b/ after years of Mr soft on crime Blair he would have the £10K for long on our lawless streets

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  15. That's the trouble with all you commenters. No bloody respect.

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  16. Lots of points here. Just want to comment on the main ones.

    I know, I know, it sounds terrible doesn't it to suggest that it is worth a few innocent people getting punished to enable us to punish the guilty, but we are talking about low level punishment and 100 pound fines here not the death penalty and nobody in their right mind would argue that it should be extended to anything other than low level punishment.

    Also how likely is it that someone is innocent who is walking around an industrial estate or council estate at 2am with 10,000 in cash and no reasonable excuse for doing so?

    Contrary to what you all seem to think, we have had summary justice for a long time and I have never seen any of you question it before.

    Think of parking wardens dishing out parking fines. Think of fixed penalty fines for driving. Yes there are many cases of these fines being awarded unjustly (there is a process of appeal) but we can't allow it to clog up our criminal justice system at great expense. The time consuming nature of proving all these cases is just impractical.

    All that Tony Blair and I am suggesting is that we extend this fixed penalty concept to low level crime such as anti-social behaviour.

    Longrider, B4L, Urko etc. In the point I was making about the 10,000 cash scenario, I did point out that as long as they can provide a reasonable reason for this, they are fine.

    If someone gets stopped at 2am in an industrial estate with 10,000 cash on them, I don't think the police should have to prove wrongdoing. I think its perfectly reasonable to ask someone to explain this situation and if they can't then I'm afraid they deserve to be punished.

    All these high minded principles are great, but they sometimes conflict with the practical evidence. In low level cases, I don't see anything wrong in following practical solutions that work rather than sticking to high minded principles that just let the guilty off the hook and lead them onto higher levels of crime.

    The evidence shows, if you can catch a criminal and prosecute them quickly and easily for low level crime, you stop them in their tracks and largely prevent them from progressing onto more serious offences. This is in the interests of all of us.

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  17. "how likely is it that someone is innocent who is walking around an industrial estate or council estate at 2am with 10,000 in cash and no reasonable excuse for doing so?"

    OK:

    PC Plod: Hello sir - how'd you come by this here ten grand in a rucksack?

    Stooge: Eh? What ten grand? What rucksack?

    PC Plod: This one here, sir? Here, Plod 2, you saw him with this rucksack just now, didn't you?

    Plod 2: Yep. No doubt about it. He dropped it just now as he saw us coming.

    PC Plod: Now prove that two policemen are lying. Your word against ours. Ha.

    ----

    You, Mr Harding, are an imbecile. Even your own invented implausible scenario doesn't provide a good excuse for this pathetic policy.

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  18. Mr nosemonkey,

    Your example, I'm sure does occur. I'm sure people are done for speeding by corrupt officials and traffic wardens pick on innocent people with tickets they don't deserve, but they are cases that are rare.

    What would be the result for this guy who has had this cash planted on him by the police.

    Well the money would be confiscated by the state, (so no benefit for the police there, if they were so corrupt, why would they want to lose their own cash?). The person in question would get a small fine and perhaps at worse be served with an ASBO. Where is the benefit to the police of doing this? A bent policeman could fit someone up for a crime now if they wanted to. He wouldn't be interested in this low level punishment stuff.

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  19. Neil, does a 100 pound fine matter? If it doesn't, as you seem to believe, is it really a "punishment" for the guilty? If it does, even if it's not the "death penalty" how can you justify imposing it?

    Suppose someone in a hoody shouts something offensive to you, and the next day you see someone who you're pretty certain is the same youth. Do you punch them on the nose? After all, it's not the death penalty if you're wrong, is it? And these kids need to learn respect.

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  20. I was only taking your own ridiculous scenario. For ten grand, obviously it's not worth the hassle.

    But, as has been pointed out, £100 collected here or there will add up. In under-funded areas and with targets to meet, the incentive for police to stitch people up for minor offences to hit targets and increase funding through collecting lots of fines (which, by the sounds of things, won't be accompanied by much paperwork to record what went on, making stich-ups more easy to get away with) will increase. With a lack of paperwork it'll also make it a lot easier for Plod to pocket the fine...

    The problem Blair professes to be trying to tackle is that people who commit minor offences do so because they think they can get away with it. With his proposals, the police will be able to get away with scamming money out of a lot more people.

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  21. Surely this post is (bad) satire?

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  22. of course it turns out that some who looks a bit foreign found with ten grand constitutes an even more suspicious occurrence; Neil is advocating the removal of safeguards against racially-motivated discrimination in policing.

    WHY?

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  23. The Remittance Man12/1/06 8:17 am

    Whoa! Stop right there.

    In my occaisional forays onto this site I have made comments on articles posted here. Mostly I have been in disagreement with Neil's position. However, I have at least credited him with a degree of intelligence and some understanding of the liberties we should expect in a civilised society.

    I am very sorry to say that I can no longer do this. This post is so offensive to anyone who respects liberty that it can have only been written by a madman or a supporter of the worst kind of authoritarian regimes.

    One only has to look at the comments above to realise this position is universally considered wrong. 22 comments; 20 against and the only 2 for it were written by the original author.

    No sorry, Neil, you're either having us on or you are mad or bad or both.

    RM

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  24. Chris Harper12/1/06 8:42 am

    "and nobody in their right mind would argue that it should be extended to anything other than low level punishment."

    Ummm,

    And slippery slopes have never ever ever ever appeared after any dicey social change or legislation, have they.

    After all, the ID card wil always be voluntary, won't it?

    This article demonstrates the utmost contempt for even the principle of the rule of law.

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  25. "Think of parking wardens dishing out parking fines. Think of fixed penalty fines for driving. Yes there are many cases of these fines being awarded unjustly (there is a process of appeal) but we can't allow it to clog up our criminal justice system at great expense."

    As a matter of fact, it is. There are a number of test cases going forward in England, since someone has realised that, according to the Bill of Rights, a subject cannot be fined by any agency without going to court.

    The Councils, panicking at a potential liability of billions of pounds, have started to redefine the penalties as "charges" rather than "fines" but this cannot apply retrospectively.

    The fact that these charges do not, then, clog up our courts, was an oversight and not a design feature...

    DK

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  26. This is a joke right? A trial balloon?

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  27. Why are you guys so set on defending people who break the law?

    You lot are the first ones to crow about criminals getting a easy ride, but you don't see the association between the liberal intelligentsia's high minded principles and how this makes it impractical to fight crime. There is always going to be a balance.

    This govt has provided us with the MOST police EVER. Crime has tumbled. Poverty has been alleviated. Two million children and pensioners taken out of poverty, a target of reducing all child poverty to zero by 2020.

    Yet, you act like we are living in a police state because you can't drive as fast as you like and park where you like (to hell with everyone else is your attitude).

    Well I'm sorry but your selfishness impacts on people's lives and their civil liberties are important as well.

    So listen up. When ASBOS were introduced, you liberal intelligentsia were up in arms. Now they are proving effective and even popular on estates where they make a difference, even the Green party is on about coming out in support of them at their annual conference.

    The ends do matter. Tony is right and you lot will be proved wrong yet again in the next four years. Get used to it.

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  28. By the way can anybody give a legitimate reason why a person with 10 grand on him, wouldn't be able to say where he got it from?

    If you can't answer that then you are just defending the rights of people to go around committing crime. Some principle!

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  29. The Remittance Man12/1/06 3:32 pm

    The MOST police EVER - wow! And what are they doing exactly? "Investigating" some woman from the radio and Sir Icqbal for expressing their right to free speech and opinion. When they start to attend burglaries, when they bother to do more than just hand out a crime number and the phone number of some grief counsillor, then and only then will I start to celebrate.

    RM

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  30. The Remittance Man12/1/06 3:44 pm

    PS A good reason for someone not wishing to say why he had cash on him? Try this:

    Plod: Evenin' all, Sir. Would you mind telling me who you are and why you have this flipping great wodge of cash in your pocket? The wodge I found in the course of a search that would have been illegal until the government changed the law.

    Certainly officer: I'm Jasper Waine-Kerr MP and I'm off for to rattle a high class whore. She's damned expensive but bloody good don't you know. I've been saving my pennies for weeks for this session. By the way, please don't tell anyone. Wouldn't want her indoors to find out after all.

    Plod (with a wink to his partner who just happens to have the Sun editor's phone number): Of course, sir. Enjoy your evening.

    Now Jasper may be an immoral little tit and Mrs Waine-Kerr may have very good grounds for a divorce, but I don't see anything illegal here, do you?

    RM

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  31. It's also unbelievably unlikely. To be honest it would be a price worth paying for 'innocent' people like that to suffer - it would be just their bad luck. If this is all you can come up with. Can't you find a better scenario than that?

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  32. As unbelievably unlikely as, erm... someone walking around an estate at 2am with ten grand on them?

    How about another implausible scenario - Elvis and the Loch Ness Monster are walking arm in arm through an estate at 2am, and on being challenged by the police refuse to say what they were doing. Can you give me a good reason why not?

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  33. Given that poverty is defined as something like less than 40% of the average income, the only way it's going to be zero is to pay everyone the same ; this is communism.

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  34. It's also unbelievably unlikely. To be honest it would be a price worth paying for 'innocent' people like that to suffer - it would be just their bad luck.

    Ah, the law as arbiter of morals: now we wreally are getting into dangerous territory...

    Am I allowed to arrest anyone that I think is a big ugly. It would be a price worth paying to have ugly people locked up; they are a blight on this beautiful world. Oh, and ignorant people too: I don't much like them either...

    DK

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  35. By the way can anybody give a legitimate reason why a person with 10 grand on him, wouldn't be able to say where he got it from?

    Well, we've given you a bunch of reasons for carrying that amount of money, but you've missed the point that the drug dealer (or whoever it is you want to arrest) can also give those reasons. So you're back to square one: everybody says their reason is legitimate. So whose money do you take?

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  36. A barrister12/1/06 11:23 pm

    Defence lawyers are not and have never been allowed to "choose" jurors. There was once a limited right to challenge up to three jurors. It went out years ago. That's L A Law you're thinking of. It is not to be confused with (a) real life in America or (b) real life here.

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  37. The Remittance Man13/1/06 7:36 am

    Yes, it was a ridiculous example, but your response was truly frightening:

    "To be honest it would be a price worth paying for 'innocent' people like that to suffer - it would be just their bad luck."

    I know I can make intemperate comments sometimes, but have you actually read your own words and considered just how bad they sound?

    You've descended from trying to rationalise a heavy handed method to solve a real problem to advocating arrest and punishment based on personal morality or taste. You've used your personal dislike of Jasper's fictional (but legal) activities to justify imprisonment and confiscation of property.

    Now can you see how dangerous your proposals are? You may well have the desire to clear the streets of bad people. Great, most people would like that. Unfortunately the method you advocate is far too easy to corrupt, as you yourself have just demonstrated.

    And if I still haven't convinced you, think on this: You won't be the policeman. People who think like you won't always be the policeman. Maybe one day the policeman will take a dislike to something you do. What then?

    My priciples and the principles of English Law defend your right to do things that I may find distasteful or even offensive. But provided they are not specifically illegal neither I nor anyone else can do anything about it. And even if it is suspected that your alleged distasteful activities are illegal, the state must still prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that they are indeed illegal and that you did do them.

    It's not the yobs, chavs and drug dealers we're defending here, it's us. You, me Longrider, Nosemonkey and all the others. We're the ones who need protection from the state. Not because we are criminals, but because we're Brits; argumentative, eccentric, bloodyminded, independent Brits. And our personal lives and deeds don't always fit in with the nice homogonised vision that the state may have for us.

    RM

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  38. "argumentative, eccentric, bloodyminded, independent Brits"

    You know me so well... ;-D

    Neil, as others have pointed out - it is not criminals we seek to protect, but ordinary law abiding citizens from the excesses of the machinery of state.

    On my blog, one commenter mentioned the Guildford 4 - what purpose did locking them up serve? I'll answer that; None whatsoever, unless you think it's okay to show that your are doing something even if that something is fabricating evidence and locking up innocent people to satisfy a bloodthirsty media.

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  39. “In practice, to prove that person X with £10,000 on them in cash in the middle of the city at 2am got this money through specific acts of drug dealing is too hard. You may know it. But how do you prove it? So it doesn't happen.”

    Where the f**k do you buy your drugs? Seriously. What planet are you living on? Around here any one stupid enough to be walking around with £10000 on them at 2am in the morning would survive about 5 seconds (if they were lucky). Perhaps if they were packing enough fire power with a couple of body guards the might be OK, but then the police would have something to arrest them for.

    “You may know it, How you prove it?”, well what you do is put a undercover sting together, Does no one in New Labour ever watch the TV? If someone is so obviously flaunting their criminality surely it can not be that hard to get evidence against them. If not what are the police doing exactly?

    “I know it, but can’t prove it“ is a bigots charter.

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  40. "it is BETTER to punish the innocent than to let the guilty go free."

    I`ve long suspected you were a scumbag
    Harding. Thanks for furnishing proof that I was right.

    Shame on you.

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  41. Every system punishes the innocent to some extent, even 'due process', which is exactly why we should never have the death penalty.

    I not actually convinced that summary justice will be that much worse than due process in low level cases, but it certainly will be quicker, cheaper and far more effective at punishing the guilty.

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  42. The Remittance Man15/1/06 6:14 pm

    Longrider, you're welcome.

    We'd probably argue about nearly everything, but, by God, I celebrate the fact the typical Brit is such a cussed individual.

    RM

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  43. The Remittance Man15/1/06 6:33 pm

    By the way; I've been pondering the logistics of this proof thing. Given that Mr X is unikely to be able to summon ten satisfactory witnesses at three in the morning I assume he will have to be carrying some sort of documentary proof that he came by the money legally.

    Now I think most of the people here believe that there are myriad reasons why someone may be carrying a large sum of money in cash legitimately. That means that there will by an equal number of forms of documentary proof. Can one reasonably expect a beat bobby to be au fait with every single one of them? And if not will he have to accept any official looking document? I wonder how long it will take the bad people to realise that knocking up some sort of documentation is very easy given the capabilities of modern desktop publishing packages.

    Or do you want every person intending to carry more than a certain sum to go down to the local nick to get a form 85678b "Permit to Convet an Excessive Amount of Cash"? Signed, of course, by an officer ranked inspector or above.

    Also bearing in mind that since one could not reuse a cash carrying permit more than once (otherwise they might get one for a legitimate purpose and then use it for nefarious ones). So each time they needed to carry an "abnormal" sum of cash they'd have to repeat the process. Who deides what is "abnormal" anyway?

    As I think most commentators here have stated, your argument falls down on both moral and logical grounds. In fact I very much look forward as to how you will try and continue with this line of discussion.

    RM

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  44. And this sort of idiocy, boys and girls, is why I no longer have any truck with the Labour party and joined the Lib Dems. That they're actually more left-wing than Labour these days is irrelevant. What matters to me is that, to steal a buzzword from New Tory, they Respect individual rights.

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  45. You use the New Labour logic perfectly.

    If you question the war on terror as being against basic human rights, then you immediately become a supporter of terrorists - not a supporter of basic human rights.

    If you question the Invasion of Iraq, because a state has been invaded on false grounds (it was innocent of the charges against it) then you are stupid, because surely it is better to invade 10 innocent states to get one guilty state, then it is to take no action at all. (As the neo-con author Douglas Murray stated on news night a couple of months back).

    If you think the shooting of De Menezes was bad, you are not thinking right, it is better to shoot innocents in the hope of eventually shooting someone guilty.

    New Labour seek to justify every removal of civil liberty by claiming that it is for our own good, and that if we question it, we support the terrorist or the criminal - just as Mr Harding has done.

    No-one commenting here favours the criminal, we simply favour own our basic rights to not have to justify our very existence to the state that we had no choice being born in.

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  46. All I'm talking about is getting is guilty till proven innocent for minor punishments like fines etc.

    Nobody is talking about wars and shooting innocent people.

    The police acted like trigger happy idiots because of the prevalent unthinking cultural attitude within the police.

    I was against the war in Iraq because I always knew is was about securing the oil supply and extra business contracts for the US neo-conservatives. I did hope that Blair's support for Bush might give him influence and lessen some of Bush's worst excesses. The jury is still out on that one, although we do know that Al Jazeera probably wouldn't still exist without Tony Blair changing Bush's mind to bomb it.

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