I've already had a few posts recently about the rule of law and I suppose it's possible that some people aren't getting fed up with me banging on about it, but JuliaM on Ambush Predator highlights a recent case that calls into question whether the rule of law still applies even in our courts.
A Southend peace campaigner arrested with a seven-inch knife outside 10 Downing Street has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Jurors failed to reach a verdict on a charge of having a bladed article in a public place in July ...
How could they fail to reach a verdict on that charge? He clearly had the "bladed article" in a public place so how could they reach any other conclusion besides "guilty"?
According to one of the principles of the rule of law, nobody may be above the law. This person was clearly guilty of breaking the law, but the jury couldn't make their minds up! How bizarre is that? Well - in this day and age - not very.
We saw with the Kingsnorth vandalism case that juries are prepared to acquit people regardless of the law if they think that person had good enough mitigating circumstances - but mitigating circumstances should not be pertinent to the issue of whether someone is guilty or not - only to the kind of sentence they get.
This is a very worrying trend for me. It suggests that some people are above the law if they convince enough people on the jury that they had a justifiable reason for breaking the law - and that undermines, once more, one of the principles of the rule of law. Effectively, this tells people that if they think they are justified in doing so they may break the law.
Juries are supposed to base their verdicts solely on the evidence presented. Increasingly they are not doing so - and by failing to do so they are undermining the very principles upon which our legal system is based. If the courts fail to uphold the rule of law then what sort of message does that send to the rest of the nation?