If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Secret Justice?

Of all the safeguards to your freedom, there is one that stands above all the others: the right to speak to your MP. When the Police won't listen to you; when the court system seems stacked against you, when the authorities say you are guilty and there's nothing you can do to defend yourself (and these things happen, even in a 'civilised' society like ours), you can always speak to your MP. He or she may not do what you want, but you will be heard.

One of the beauties of a representative democracy is that every citizen has access to the highest court in the land - Parliament. Whoever you are, no matter whether poor or rich, upstanding or criminal, male, female, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, whatever, you have a direct relationship with a real human being who sits in Parliament and can plead your case at the highest level. (The observation that many MPs are venal troughers who are in it for what they can get may be true, but the principle stands.) It's what makes our democracy what it is, and what, in theory, keeps all British citizens safe from the abuses of power we have seen throughout history, and still see daily in the news, in countries that we call dictatorships.

Well, it's not true. Go over to Anna Raccoon right now. You will read of many cases involving hyper-injunctions (an injunction stops you doing something; a super-injunction stops you mentioning that there is an injunction at all; and a hyper-injunction means you are not allowed even to tell your MP about it). One case concerns a man accused of rape. The social services want to take his children from him, and obtain a hyper-injunction that says if he involves his MP they will remove his kids. He is accused of a crime (accused, not convicted) and yet he is utterly powerless to act in any way to defend himself. It's scandalous. Every single avenue of action has been removed, and he hasn't even been found guilty by a jury of his peers. It's about as democratic as Stalinist Russia.

Anna is, of course, risking it by publicising the issue at all even though it has been discussed openly in Parliament. She reckons the more people know, the safer everyone involved will be, and has asked readers to spread the word as widely as possible. This is my contribution.

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