The Rule of Law

My friend Martin Kelly has been writing about the Jon Venables case. Mr Venables, with another, murdered a young child when he was scarcely older. He was released after spending the remains of his youth in prison. He has now been arrested and returned to gaol. For fear of prejudicing a future trial, the newspapers and media have not been allowed to know or, more importantly, to make money by publishing to people who do not know him or his victims, what he has done.

This has caused a storm, partly because the public are alienated and unhappy with both the political and the media class, and partly because people often demonstrate investment in their society to themselves by calling for other people to have sundry evil things done to them on the basis that they are evil. There are times when you begin to understand how the Romans worked out that the crucifix and the arena worked even better than Chinese death vans and stadium shootings.

Without the rule of law, we are weasels in a hole. The test of one's commitment to a society that does things by due process, in which power is constrained and a man, however bad or good, can face an independent Judge and Jury, is what happens when someone whom your dark side wants to lynch seeks to take advantage of the necessary protection the law must afford to all to be law. We currently face a populist lynch mob of newspapers trading on the grief and rage of a mother and directed against an individual who has done very bad things and who is alleged to have done others. The case is being used by those who would tag us all, bad ones first, and turn what is becoming a fairly vicious society into a prison.

I am no innocent, and struggle with my faith sometimes. I cling to the cross when the old anger threatens to resurface. I can understand those who in hot blood want vengeance for someone they knew. I cannot understand those who have been through fourteen years of compulsory education who refuse to use their reason and who prefer to excite cold blood by encouraging the state to throw away law. There are times when one sees what happens when the fear, and love, of God is abolished and it isn't pretty.

Jon Venables, when young, did an evil thing. He must have his day in court before we can say that he has done another, and if we convict him beforehand, evidence in his trial and the independent judgement of the jury cannot be trusted.


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