August 12, 2014

Horse 1733 - Law and Order

I love the law.
No really I do. I haven't taken leave of my senses and gone mad (though that does sound sort of fun). I'll also go so far as to say that I think that everyone loves the law deep down; even if they don't know that they do.

Any particular rule in any context, nails down either a particular method of conduct or establishes some standard. Laws are either proscriptive in that they say what aught to be done, or descriptive in say how something aught to be done. Laws are a fixed node in the scheme of things which define what, how or even why things should be.
Laws are really good at nailing down what should be, because law itself appeals to our good sense for order. I think that people have an innate need for order.

The obvious example to show that we do have an innate need for order is the often vocal and loud outrage what that order is broken. Even the words we use to describe that brokenness are charged with emotion: Violated, Offended, Insulted, Broken, Damaged. When order is broken, there is a real sense of aggrievement.
As a result, we expect those to administer and enforce law and order to do so without fear or favour. Again this appeals to out innate need.
When a judge hands down a decision, we expect and hope that that decision will be precisely the same if a vulnerable person, a person of little means, the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation or the king came before them.

For about a decade and a half, my job has in some way been connected to some aspect of the law or another. I've been in and out of courts and they all seem pretty familiar to me. I feel quite at ease knowing that the procedures and layout remain pretty well much the same for extended periods of time.
I do however find it particularly disturbing that there are individuals who also find the court system quite familiar. Not the lawyers, judges and police officers but the repeat offenders of the law, who seem to swan in and out of courts as though they own the place.
People who repeatedly violate the law show a distinct lack of respect for the law (in plural) and for our collective good order.

Not only should the courts be the same for whoever is in front of it but they should also exact the same penalties for like violations of the law.

The oft quoted saw of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" explains pretty succinctly the concept of exact retribution; that is that the law should in so far as much as it is capable, make sure that a given penalty is equal to the crime which has been perpetrated.
However, the greater context of where it is found, not only speaks of exact retribution but goes on to speak of restoration and that all should be equal before the law.
Anyone who injures their neighbour is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death. You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.
- Leviticus 24:19-22

When it comes to people who are obviously criminals (which by the way should be only for courts to decide), I think that it is important that they have their day in court. I think that it is important that everyone has their day in court, including the most vile of offenders, because I think that not only it is important that people have their have their voices heard but also that they should be made to answer for what they've done.
Yes, there should always be a presumption of innocence until proven guilty but if someone has been found to have broken the law then it is important for an orderly society that that issue is dealt with by an impartial judge. If it is not, then individuals very quickly descend into a spiral of revenge and revenge knows no limits; taken to a logical extreme it can lead to mass bloodshed (and one only needs to look at Gaza and Israel to see that currently being played out).

All of this stems from a comment on Twitter that "A terrorist is not a citizen" which I suppose is an emotive comment. The truth is that terrorists are citizens of one country or another and simply being a terrorist doesn't and shouldn't strip them of their citizenship. Because terrorists are citizens, they should also have a right to their day in court but more importantly, we as a society have a right to make people answer for what they've done.
When people do feel aggrieved, invariably what they demand is justice. Justice and jurisprudence has to do with our philosophy of the law; what it is and what it does. To be honest, I don't care if it's terrorism, or larceny, or bribery or corruption or murder, I think that the law speaks to our innate need for order and that people should be judged according to proper procedure because without law, we have anarchy and anarchy is disorder.

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