The Rule of Law

Something very bad is going on in both the UK and the USA. It is something that cuts off the legitimacy of the state at the knees. It is the first step on the road to Hell and it is this:

Some people are openly agitating that certain bodies of the state should be effectively above the law and immune to prosecution. In the USA it is the police. In the UK it is the army. In other countries the police, military, royalty and even politicians and civil servants already have a substantial degree of official or unofficial immunity.

I shouldn’t have to explain why this is wrong but I will.

I’m not going to bash the US police or the UK army here, even though the things that some of their members are alleged to be done are truly appalling. In both cases it is opportunistic populist politicians and tabloid journalists, not the police or the army themselves, who are calling for the law to be set aside. In fact, this isn’t about the specific institutions at all. It is about why the whole idea of immunity is just plain wrong.

Ask yourself this question:

Who do we want in our police/army/parliaments?

Bear in mind that this means deciding who we want to give guns and power over other people’s lives to.

They need to be the most trustworthy and reliable people we have. People who can be trusted to make, uphold and enforce our laws and treaties fairly and impartially.

Now ask yourself who will be attracted to these jobs if they come with a substantial degree of immunity from prosecution, either officially or unofficially?

Thugs and crooks, that’s who!

Just look at the state of politics in countries where elected politicians or other office holders are immune from prosecution. They have far higher levels of corruption in those offices precisely because those offices confer immunity and hence are immensely valuable to crooks who will seek them out and turn them into their corrupt little fiefdoms not to be surrendered until an even bigger crook comes along and makes them an offer they can’t refuse.

Just look at the levels of police and military violence in states where the police and military are effectively immune from prosecution.

So, yes, I know that sometimes the official channels of complaint can be clogged up with people making spurious complaints either in good or bad faith. I also know that many of the terrible incidents we hear of come down to inadequately trained people being put into situations which they are not prepared for and making a tragically bad snap decision in good faith.

Despite all this, these incidents need to be investigated. In some cases the answer is better training and better selection of people for these tasks (which is what the supposedly “radical” or “extreme” agenda of Black Lives Matter boils down to) but every once in a while these investigations will turn up genuine criminality and that must be prosecuted because, if it is not, then the police and the army cease to be the bodies that uphold our laws and treaties and just become a haven for thugs and cooks who would wear any uniform that provides them with immunity from prosecution.

So next time you see some idiotic headline on a tabloid newspaper demanding immunity for “our heroes” just remember that this is dangerous, unprincipled, opportunistic, pandering, populist bullshit that undermines everything that “our heroes” are meant to stand for.

Real heroes don’t need immunity. Real heroes act with as much integrity as they can and accept the consequences when they get it wrong. Real heroes wouldn’t want to hide behind immunities that protect thugs and crooks.


September 25, 2016. Law, Media, Politics, Sensible.

One Comment

  1. Rik replied:

    Well said!

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