Old wine in a new bottle: more on the Supreme Court

Some other thoughts about the new UK Supreme Court which takes over from the Law Lords in October. It’s basically the same lot with the same powers, but now formally separate from the legislature, which is the case in most countries. The modernising Blair government made the historic change almost casually because they felt the UK’s ( or rather England’s) historic concentration of the powers in Parliament was oudated and open to serious challenge on grounds of unfairness and incompatibility with the whole shape and form of European lawmaking. They cited the example of the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey whose roles as judges and lawmakers in their own small areas was ruled incompatible with human rights. From the beating of such a butterfly’s wings are great storms created. The ECHR is not superior to the Supreme Court which however seeks to follow its rulings and individuals may of course continue to appeal direct to Strasbourg. The quite different European Court of Justice is supreme on EU matters. In practice, both European courts are gummed up and the UK Court will continue to deal with most relevant last stages of appeal. The Supreme Court will be different from the US Supreme Court in a key respect. It has no power to strike down an Act of Parliament as being contrary to the constitution. The UK has no written constitution remember. However, lawyers and others will be watching keenly to see how activist it becomes as it exercises its new-found formal independence in two areas in particular: human rights and devolution. How might the Supreme Court respond if a government of either party carries out their threats to alter the balance betwen rights and national security by amending or replacing the UK Human Rights Act? As devolution becomes more politically volatile, the Court will be expected to rule on any clashes of powers between, say, an SNP government and Westminster. Clashes might also arise once justice and police powers are devolved to Stormont. In a recent Constitution Unit book Constitutional Futures Revisited: The Constitution to 2020 authors Andrew le Sueur and Kate Malleson in the Judiciary chapter see it like this. ( below the fold)

“Attempts by politicians to clip the judges’ wings are likely to be thwarted by the very system of judicial independence the politicians themselves have created. The expansion of judicial review, the growing body of EU law, the operation of devolution and the application of terrorism legislation will guarantee that the judges’ roles are not diminished. At the apex of the system of more formal separation of the powers, the new Supreme Court will be keenly watched for the degree of independence its exercises.

Politicians’ ambitions to curtail the application of the Human Rights Act may not survive closer scrutiny and may be satisfied by adding duties to a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Politicians and the judiciary will be keen to heal tensions through a more formal system of concordats and consultations, although in the end the smooth running of the relationship will greatly depend as ever on how the leading personalities rub along together.”

So for all its newness, the UK Supreme Court will probably be a typically “rubbing along” British institution.

  • I’m sure that the great Henry Brougham would appreciate just another step in Britain’s long march to a full separation of powers in its royal state – what he complained about just 200 years ago when the Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, the arch-Tory of all peole, Lord Ellenborough, had to be included in Charles Fox’s so-called “Ministry of All Talents”.

    Just kick the Attorney General out of the Cabinet, making him the Minister of Justice, and the reform will be essentially complete.

    And let’s not hear anything about Walter Bagehot, who stole ideas from anyone who he thought useful, being behind it all!

  • I’m sure that the great Henry Brougham would appreciate just another step in Britain’s long march to a full separation of powers in its royal state – what he complained about just 200 years ago when the Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, the arch-Tory of all peole, Lord Ellenborough, had to be included in Charles Fox’s so-called “Ministry of All Talents”.

    Just kick the Attorney General out of the Cabinet, making him the Minister of Justice, and the reform will be essentially complete.

    And let’s not hear anything about Walter Bagehot, who stole ideas from anyone who he thought useful, being behind it all!

  • Big Maggie

    I wonder if it’s going to make any difference at all to a disastrously flawed system. Here’s an example of what I mean:

    Glasgow-born computer hacker Gary McKinnon has lost his latest High Court bid to avoid extradition to America where he faces trial for hacking into US military networks.

    His lawyers argued that extraditing the 43-year-old, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, would lead to “disastrous consequences” for his health, including possible psychosis and suicide.

    But Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie, sitting in London, dismissed his claim for judicial review.

    Anybody else see something appallingly wrong there? Here’s a lad with mental problems being sent to his death. And all because Britain thinks that by sucking up to the Americans they’ll gain some kudos. Blair started all this. May he be damned for eternity.

  • Big Maggie
    A lad at 43!Being sent to his death!Is he going to the USA via Zurich?

  • There is another person facing extradition to the USA from England I believe but this case is subject to reporting restrictions. It does not involve terrorism.

  • cynic

    Maggie

    Is all that it seems on this one? He seems to have left messages attacking US foreign apolicy and saying his disruption would continue.

  • Big Maggie

    Manfarang,

    Yes, he’s a lad to me. But why don’t you google Asperger’s Syndrome and see why he’s a case of arrested development. And yes, he’s being sent to his death if suicide is a distinct possibility, which it is.

    cynic,

    “He seems to have left messages attacking US foreign policy and saying his disruption would continue.”

    And that justifies incarceration for up to 60 years in a US prison? I wouldn’t like to appear before a court you were presiding over.

    The Americans should be giving the guy a top IT job not punishing him. But hey, he hurt their pride didn’t he? We can’t have that.

  • Brian Walker

    A lot of assumptions in all that,Maggie. A political bangwagon is rolling and surprise, David Cameron has hopped on board. If there are grounds for appeal, the case could reach the Supreme Court. The campaign objects to the alleged one-sided nature of the latest US/UK extradition treaty but I’m not sure how relevantly. I’m no expert, but if this isn’t an appropriate case of extradition, to the US, what is? I suppose US tariffs for hacking are very stiff for McKinnon sympathisers, but hacking can be a very dangerous pastime and is rightly a serious crime. I heard it reported that if McKinnon et al hadn’t dragged their feet for so long, he would have got away with a light sentence. No idea if that’s right. Perhaps the seriousness of the offence (which it is, to me)wil be mitigated by Asperger’s. I hope so. Somehow I doubt he’ll serve a long term if found guilty but the case could drag on and on, US style …

  • Big Maggie

    Brian,

    “I’m no expert, but if this isn’t an appropriate case of extradition, to the US, what is?”

    I’m glad you asked.

  • Big Maggie
    I see nothing in the descriptions of Aspeger’s syndrome to show that someone with this condition is more likely to commit suicide than anyone else who is sent to jail.
    Years ago I knew a crime novelist who had suffered mental illness but this person was able to live in London during the blitz.
    Anyway I am sure with a bit of plea-bargaining he will be able to escape the worst of the American correction system and give invaluable assistance with helping to improve computer security systems.

  • wild turkey

    ‘But Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie, sitting in London, dismissed his claim for judicial review.’

    Big Maggie. Your above quote touches on a fundamental problem with the British ‘Justice’ system. It is this. Just how did Lord Justice Burton and Mr Justice Wilkie attain their current positions?

    How do they initially become practising barristers? Lets see, they have to buy an overpriced, if camp, horsehair wig and then do unpaid pupilage. No doubt the unpaid pupilage exists to enhance equal access to the ‘profession’ regardless of class&income;, family background, gender,race, etc. etc.

    How did they initially become QCs? Oh, they just emerge like the flowers of spring.

    To what degree is the selection, vetting and appointment process subject to public scrutiny? I must have missed the televised hearings prior to the appointment/approval of the above ‘justices’ assuming their august positions.

    Does anyone really think that the legal system in these island exists to deliver justice & fairness. Ho, ho, ho.

    On the evidence to hand, the legal systems in these island; including various investigating commissions, inquiries, tribunals, etc., exist to massage (other physical activities come to hand, but lets no go there for now), the bloated egos of the ‘chosen’ few as they drive away with dump trucks full of money.

    Is this a great country or what?

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    I do think that Gary McKinnon should not be extradited, but I think that arguments against it should be directed to the DPP, the AJ, and most important, the Home Secretary.

    It should be stopped on political grounds – serious doubts that the punishment will fit the crime – rather than expecting the Judges to stop a fairly clear case, justifying extradition.

    For them to intervene politically in this case would create all kinds of problems down the road.

  • Big Maggie

    wild turkey,

    You touched upon something hubby and I were going on about yesterday evening over a glass or ten of the red stuff.

    The way we see it, many of society’s ills can be traced to the position enjoyed by barristers and other legal people. The worst of them will defend monsters for money, big money. They worm their way into government, the Blairs being a good case in point, and stand in the way of legislation that will, say, put a cap on lawyers’ fees. How much would the Bloody Sunday inquiries have cost had the legal ghouls involved not been permitted to virtually write their own cheques?

    A good rule of thumb is not to trust a barrister. I know there are (perhaps) barristers and solicitors with integrity but I’ve yet to meet one.

    I leave you with this:

    A certain Lord Norbury was asked to contribute to a fund for the funeral an impoverished Dublin barrister.*

    “Why of course!” Norbury said. “What would be an appropriate amount?”

    He learned that no one else had offered more than a shilling.

    “A shilling!” Norbury exclaimed. “A shilling to bury an barrister? Why, here’s a guinea! Go and bury one and twenty of the scoundrels!”

    * That “impoverished” bit shows it’s probably apocryphal.

  • wild turkey

    Hi Maggie

    I forgot to mention I am occassionally working on a post-grad thesis:-

    ‘A quantitative economic and social analysis of Barristers profession in Northern Ireland, Ireland and England’

    Bit long winded, innit? Nonetheless when completed I do hope to publish online and will need a catchier title. anyway,in about a years time or so just google

    ‘The Scum also Rises’

  • Big Maggie

    wild turkey,

    I’ll certainly google it and good luck with it!

    ‘The Scum also Rises’

    or maybe, touching again on the BS inquiries: “Across the River and into the Fees” :0)

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.indymedia.ie/article/93381

    Of interest perhaps, maybe maybe not….I thought the sentence was somewhat “harsh”, but not surprising given all that’s going on down there

  • wild turkey

    P Toes

    I know it is a bit off thread but, the reaction of police is nothing new or unique to Ireland. Wait a minute, come to think of it a lot of the cops in large cities back home are, ummm,………

    anyway, link to gore vidals take on the recent ‘Gates’ affair in Cambridge USA.

    PS. Dooh, can anyone advise how I can get links highlighted and working in a comment? thanks

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090728_america_the_great_police_state/

  • Big Maggie

    wild turkey,

    1. Type [a href=”

    2. Type the URL you wish to link to.

    4. Close that with “]

    5. Type the linking word.

    6. Type [/a]

    … and you should be good to go. Note that Slugger has changed my left- and right-angle brackets to square brackets: [ ].

    Use the cat’s whiskers in their stead >^..^<

  • ToneEmmetOConnellPearse

    Maggie

    “The way we see it, many of society’s ills can be traced to the position enjoyed by barristers and other legal people. The worst of them will defend monsters for money, big money.”

    What exactly are you arguing? That someone who you have unilaterally decided is a ‘monster’ (apparently without any trial in due course of law) is denied effective assistance of counsel? So a right that has been enshrined in Common Law since time immemorial should be dispatched with just because Maggie says so? Lawyers are professionally bound to advocate zealously a client’s position within the bounds of the law, regardless of whether this puts them on the wrong side of public opinion. The alternative is much worse: for a Legal System in which people like Maggie decide that a ‘monster’ has no right to counsel try living in Saudi Arabia, North Korea etc.

    “A good rule of thumb is not to trust a barrister. I know there are (perhaps) barristers and solicitors with integrity but I’ve yet to meet one.”

    How about Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi?

    Irish heroes like Wolfe Tone, O’Connell, Emmet, Pearse, Grattan, McCracken? Nobel Peace prize winner Sean MacBride? (Or Carson, if that’s what you’re into).

    In fact a good rule of thumb is that the best US presidents have been lawyers (Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Woodrow Wilson, JFK, Barack Obama – so far, Clinton etc.) whereas the worst were not (think Bush or Reagan). This is because law graduates understand nuance in a way that most non-graduates of law do not. Hart Pomerantz says “Law school taught me one thing: how to take two situations that are exactly the same and show how they are different”. This is why a lawyer-President would never come out with something so black-and-white as ‘You’re either with us or against us’ or see the world just in terms of good vs. evil, crusade vs. jihad and why I believe lawyer-Presidents are able to see nuance in situations (think JFK in the Cuban Missile Crisis or Obama’s view on Israel) where a non lawyer-President like Bush would not.

    The legal system is the glue that binds society together. Were a nuclear disaster to happen tomorrow, the most important document to save would not be a physics manual, an engineering manual or even a medical textbook, but the Constitution (or for the unfortunate British a Constitutional Law textbook). This is because the Constitution is a manual of how to run a country and is the keystone of any society. Lawyers, like it or not, are the most important professionals in society because society simply would not be able to function without them. Without doctors, vets, engineers etc. we would undoubtedly be worse off but without lawyers society would in fact completely break down. (For something resembling a poorly functioning legal system try Afghanistan, Myanmar or Zimbabwe). Lawyers give other professionals a framework in which they can do their jobs. Just try publishing a physics paper in Afghanistan, getting a Contract honored in most of China, or tending to a patient without governmental interference in North Korea. Western Society powered ahead of the East not just because of technological advance, but more importantly its respect for the rule of Law (so that Contracts can be honored instead of torn up at the behest of a local party official as per the Chinese model) its innovative corporate law (eg Separate Legal Personality of Corporations) and a legal framework which encouraged and enabled technological advance (eg Intellectual Property laws). The success of a country is directly related to its respect for the rule of Law and therefore the importance it gives to members of the Legal Profession. Three leaders (I can think of at the moment, there were obviously many more) in the 20th century held lawyers in absolute contempt and tried to run societies without them. They were Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung and a little stumpy Austrian corporal called Adolf.

    Unfortunately if you want to attract the best and brightest into an important profession like law or medicine, the remuneration must be pretty handsome. But also I must say that the vast majority of barristers I know live a hand-to-mouth existence (getting paid literally zero for the first few years) and using the Tribunal superstars as a yardstick of Barristers’ salaries is like comparing Cristiano Ronaldo’s salary to a Shamrock Rovers journeyman. And lawyers are NOT the most highly paid professionals in society, which honour goes to bankers, traders, and Big Brother contestants, whose positive influence on society, well..

  • ToneEmmetOConnellPearse

    …I have not mentioned the incidental benefits lawyers have had on society. The next time you listen to the music of Tchaikovsky or Schumann, pick up a novel by Charles Dickens, Nabokov or Franz Kafka, or enjoy the poetry of Milosz (Heaney’s idol), Goethe or Walter Scott, maybe you should reflect on the fact that some of society’s most gifted people have been lawyers. And if Martin O’Neill wins the Premiership for Villa next year, I think he deserves to be added to that list.

  • “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

  • Big Maggie

    TEOCP,

    I read your comment with an ever-reddening face.

    Of course you’re quite correct in many of those areas you cover. I suppose I was a little too quick on the keyboard. If you’re both a barrister and a man of integrity then do accept my apology.

    However…

    “Lawyers are professionally bound to advocate zealously a client’s position within the bounds of the law, regardless of whether this puts them on the wrong side of public opinion.”

    True. But how do you explain how it happens in the real world that over-paid rats (sorry, solicitors) like David Mills make fortunes by defending not the most deserving among us but the most crooked? This is what I was talking about.

    “How about Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi?”

    Never met them. I understand that both are/were not what they gave themselves out to be.

    “The legal system is the glue that binds society together.”

    I completely agree with you that society could not function properly without law and the practitioners of law. But with respect that isn’t my argument. My argument is that law has been expropriated by rogues and scoundrels—and we the ordinary folk are the losers.

    “And lawyers are NOT the most highly paid professionals in society”

    I didn’t say they were. By the way, I’m wondering whether to introduce the cashew nuts to my stir-fry before or after the garlic and onions. Any suggestions?

  • Comrade Stalin

    The UK has no written constitution remember.

    I wish I got a quid every time someone repeated this falsehood.

    cynic:

    Is all that it seems on this one? He seems to have left messages attacking US foreign apolicy and saying his disruption would continue.

    The big question about that case is why one individual, apparently acting alone and a long distance away, was able to hack into what the US describe as a sensitive installation. The security on that installation, whatever it is, was clearly not up to scratch, which makes me wonder how sensitive the systems in question really were.

    Overall, it looks as if someone is trying to cover up their embarassment by scapegoating the hacker.

  • Comrade Stalin

    TEOCP,

    I freely admit to knowing next to nothing about the law or the legal profession. I’m aware that barristers and solicitors have a tough first few years, but once they are past those they are essentially set up for life. That’s a privilege that few of us in the professions get to enjoy, being as we are subject to things like market forces, consumer tastes/preferences etc.

    Perhaps you could clear up a what may be a misconception on my part. Does the Law Society specifically restrict the number of individuals who may become fully qualified solicitors or barristers each year, and if so, why does it do this ?

  • wild turkey

    ‘Unfortunately if you want to attract the best and brightest into an important profession like law or medicine, the remuneration must be pretty handsome.’

    TECP. What a load of bullshit.

    The best and the brightest, eh? Assuming you are serious, the ‘Best and Brightest’ have created far more difficulties, distress and deaths than they could ever claim to credibily ammeliorate. If you can get your hands out of your pocket, or that of your clients, google ‘best and brightest’

    In any case, with respect to your seeming simple equation re ‘important professions’, to wit; take the money and run, fortunately there are callings fall more noble than the law. Gotta any children? Than consider teachers. The same could be said for other professions both far more noble in their intent and immediate social impact.

    Ah, but if according to you, ‘The success of a country is directly related to its respect for ..the importance it gives to members of the Legal Profession.’

    Maybe i have missed something. have you declared a self-interest in articulating the noble calling of the legal profession? if not, why not?
    Again, declare your hand, are you a member of the ‘profession’ (or a partner). If this is difficult to answer, a simple statement along the lines of ‘yes. we are self-aggrandising parsites’, will suffice.

    your cheap invocation of goodwins law is juvenille… and mistaken. the austrian corporal you refer to was meticulous in ensuring that the ghettos, trains and ovens were legal and codified as such. He got all the lawyers on board. Ever here of Wanesse 1942? allegedly some baristers charged extra due to the ‘complexity of the case’. Your Autsrian corporal paid them… and they took the money for a burdensome caseload.

    so the legal system is the ‘glue that binds society together’

    if you, and your hyena legal ilk, care to play the game. well, keep your hands in your own pocket and out of mine.

    Many would think people like you deserve to be pissed down their throat. I would not agree with that.

    you deliberately confuse the need for laws with the need for lawyer/barristers/solitictors. what people need are honest, accountable advocates, rather than hammerhead sharks on the make.

    People have an inate craving for justice. This is one of the noblest human instincts.

    The craven response of legal practioners? fuck them… and where is my dump truck to put the fees in

    In the Dubious Achievment Awards (2009) for self-justifying bullshit (Martin O’Neill??? for fucks sake, does it not matter that he left the ‘profession’ and does something transparent and honest?) with affection and respect ToneEmmettOconnellPearse you are, with affection and respect, my nominee.

    When you win…keep the winnings. Professional perogative… and anyway the glue sticks to your hands and wherever. It is just your heart that is cold and hard.

    good boy

  • Pigeon Toes

    Tony Blair- Barrister.
    War in Iraq

    I rest my case….

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m not completely unsympathetic to the learned gentleman’s passionate defence of the legal profession.

    My main bugbear about the profession – and again I accept this may be a misconception on my part – the way it is run as a cartel, with the supply of new solicitors and barristers deliberately restricted in order to keep the price of their labour high. If this is true, then why can’t this profession be subject to the same market forces as everyone else ? I’d always been told that there were far fewer vacancies for these professions than there were numbers of people willing and able to pass all of the required examinations and tests.

    I tried to find a solicitor to investigate into a matter over property damage couple of years ago, and I wasn’t able to find one who would even talk to me or set up a consultation. I figured at the time this was because there was much more easy money to be made at conveyancing, and this made me wonder if there was an undersupply.

    There is an element of truth to the part about setting a high salary to attract the best and brightest, etc. The danger, of course, is that you attract people who do the job for the money, and not because they enjoy it or believe in what they are doing.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    For starters, the “diagnosis” of Asperger’s arose after an appearance by McKinnon on a television program / call in show, following the suggestion by the telephone audience that he seemed to display some of the symptoms. I do find it amazing how many folks who find themselves in trouble with the law suddenly find themselves diagnosed with a mental condition and/or “find Jesus.”

    Frankly, McKinnon knew what he was doing was wrong, committed his crimes of his own free will repeatedly and now, when it is time to pay the piper, he whines.

    And, alas, some in the UK whine with him. Not a shock really — if the UK could muster a whining campaign for a woman who shakes a baby to death, then this knob should be entitled to his own peanut gallery.

  • zzzzzzz

    Comrade Stalin (I tried to find a solicitor to investigate into a matter over property damage couple of years ago, and I wasn’t able to find one who would even talk to me or set up a consultation.)
    Maybe they all know you from posting on slugger and thought i dont want to talk to or have to listen to that twat.

  • Big Maggie

    Dread Cthulhu,

    “Frankly, McKinnon knew what he was doing was wrong, committed his crimes of his own free will repeatedly and now, when it is time to pay the piper, he whines.”

    How can you know any of that for a fact? Frankly, I believe you’re as much in the dark as anybody—and possibly McKinnon included.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Big Maggie: “How can you know any of that for a fact? Frankly, I believe you’re as much in the dark as anybody—and possibly McKinnon included. ”

    That hasn’t stopped you from taking McKinnon’s partisans at their word, despite that obviously convenient timed “discovery” of his condition.

    Likewise, you’ve ignored (or are ignorant of) the soft-touch plea deal he was offered. He and his advisers chose this path. Funny how that little aspect of matters gets overlooked in discussions…

    Aspergers does not make McKinnon a sociopath incapable of telling right from wrong. McKinnnon made his bed and now he can lie in it. He did the hacks, he left the notes, he confessed the crimes. Now comes time to pay the piper and he and his whine at the cost.

  • Big Maggie

    Dread Cthulhu,

    “Aspergers does not make McKinnon a sociopath incapable of telling right from wrong.”

    Perhaps not but it surely colours his sense right and wrong. For heaven’s sake the stuff that’s emerging about this man and his case would turn your head.

    He was living in a fantasy world. His longtime girlfriend had to leave him because he’d become a sort of Howard Hughes character, except he never washed.

    But look at the timing of all this. There were so many machinations at US and UK governmental level to delay extradition until such time as the Blair government’s new bill was forced through the House. Etcetera.

    This is politics not justice. McKinnon must be made an example of, just as Israeli whistleblower Vanunu was made an example of.

    The Blair-Bush legacy will haunt us for some time to come. In the meantime, why does the USA extradict only half the number of UK citizens to Britain as the UK extradites to the USA?

    My neighbour used to have a poodle but swapped it for a fox terrier. She’s happier now and seems to have gained a greater sense of independence and self-esteem.

  • YelloSmurf

    As a fellow “sufferer” of Aspergers I feel I could try to explain what it is, in my experiance.

    It does not stop someone from telling right from wrong, indeed they may have more fixed ideas on the subject, seeing things as more black and white. It does, however, result in one seeing the world from a different angle. This results in communication difficulties as we may not be on the same wave-length as everybody else.

    This different angle may result in behaviour which others may fail to fully understand. The motivation behind this behaviour may be the most difficult part of the behaviour to understand.

    This is very general and based on my own experiance, but I hope it clears a few things up.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    big maggie: “Perhaps not but it surely colours his sense right and wrong. For heaven’s sake the stuff that’s emerging about this man and his case would turn your head.”

    And the fact that he was coincidentally immediately after a few folks on a call-in show said he seemed like he had Asperger’s isn’t coincidental enough to turn your head?

    big maggie: “This is politics not justice. McKinnon must be made an example of, just as Israeli whistleblower Vanunu was made an example of.”

    Oh, bollocks. McKinnon did the hacks — we know because he’s admitted to it. He knew it was illegal. Look at his mien — he’s proud of his hacks. He’s turned down a wrist-slap plea deal. Events have gone this far by McKinnon’s choice and vanity. Once he turned down the plea-deal, did he imagine that the US was just going to tell him, “oh, ok… well, don’t do it again?”

    Wipe away all the squishy, whiny “poor boy” noise and all you have left is a narcissistic hacker who chose the limelight over a very soft punishment.

    As for extradition rates, I would point out a couple things — differing rates of overseas immigration / long-term living. Secondly, there are the differing structures politically — the US still retains aspects of the pre-Civil War U.S., where the individual states had rights that superseded those of the Federal gov’t and the President must suffer checks and balances to his power, whilst the PM has far more immediate authority.

    But the parallax is equally questionable — why does UK rally around fugitives? McKinnon, the bint of an au pair who shook the baby to death — I’m certain had not Entwhistle voluntarily gone back to Massachusetts to face murder charges, he’d have his own cheering gallery in the UK as well.

  • Big Maggie

    Dread Cthulhu,

    I repeat: How can you know any of that for a fact? Frankly, I believe you’re as much in the dark as anybody—and possibly McKinnon included.

    Honestly now: Does the man come across as being sane? He doesn’t to me. Looking for UFOs on US military computers? Hello … David Icke?

    He’s a screwball—I think. There seems to be something terribly wrong with this man’s mental health. Therefore I think it would be terribly wrong for a US court to send him to prison for 60 years. And I repeat: it would merely be to make an example of the poor schmuck.

    Why? Because those who guard your nation’s electronic security føcked up. They ought to be giving the guy a Congressional Medal of Honor. But no, sir. Male pride must prevail, no?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Big Maggie: “I repeat: How can you know any of that for a fact? Frankly, I believe you’re as much in the dark as anybody—and possibly McKinnon included.”

    Why the sudden retreat, mags? Earlier, you were all fired up about the injustice of it all and, now, when challenged, you’re suddenly all “we don’t really know anything…”

    Besides, I *know* his diagnosis with Asperger’s came late — the UK press has been tying themselves in knots trying to put a happy face on it when they dare acknowledge it at all. I know McKinnon was offered a slap on the wrist by the US gov’t — the press covered that as well. I know McKinnon did the hacks because he’s admitted to it. I know he’s proud of it because he taunted the sysops — he’s admitted to this as well, suggesting both his narcissism and arrogance. He figured he wouldn’t be caught and now, when the worm has turned and he’s got to pay for his naughtiness, he’s whinging about the unfairness of it all — the press has covered that as well.

    Big Maggie: “Does the man come across as being sane? He doesn’t to me. Looking for UFOs on US military computers? Hello … David Icke?”

    Thinking differently than the norm is not evidence of insanity. Given the Air Force’s operation Blue-Book — an official research by the US military into the UFO phenomena, looking on military computers would, at least on the surface, seem to make sense — if the Air Force researched the phenomena, then it follows they the fruits of their research would be on their computers. Nor does his believing in UFOs provide any sort of evidence of diminished capacity in the legal sense — it does nothing to demonstrate an inability to know the difference between right and wrong. Likewise, anyone logging into a gov’t computer receives a warning that if they are not authorized, they are breaking the law. Ergo, McKinnon knew what he was doing was illegal.

    Big Maggie: “There seems to be something terribly wrong with this man’s mental health. Therefore I think it would be terribly wrong for a US court to send him to prison for 60 years. And I repeat: it would merely be to make an example of the poor schmuck.”

    Aw, bupkis. He broke the law. He knew he was breaking the law when he broke the law and is now scrabbling to get out of paying for his crimes. They’ve bootstrapped a Asperger’s diagnosis after prompting from the gallery and are playing on the UK’s usual reflexive anti-American sentiments.

    As for the second part, given past precedent, he isn’t going to get 65 years. This is just the mathematically possible sentence. Given McKinnon’s resistance to a soft-touch plea deal, it would be the next logical step to inform him of the other end of the spectrum. He (or his lawyer) just figures he can manipulate his way out of this mess and are whining because the law has trumped popular sentiment thus far.

    Besides, if past precedent is any example, he will have an eminently fair trial, as the three crooked bankers from the UK and the Enron mess and may never see the inside of a real prison, given the British bint who shook the baby to death being sentenced to time served and put on the next plane back to the UK.

    McKinnon did the crime, he should serve the time. As the US was the injured party, he should be extradited and tried in the US and he should serve at least part of his sentence in the United States.

  • Big Maggie

    Dread Cthulhu,

    “Why the sudden retreat, mags?”

    You obviously didn’t notice the words “I repeat” in my last comment.

    “McKinnon did the crime”

    Lovely. Who needs a trial with judge and jury when Dread Cthulhu can save us all that bother and expense?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Big Maggie: “Lovely. Who needs a trial with judge and jury when Dread Cthulhu can save us all that bother and expense? ”

    Actually, Solo, aka McKinnon could have done that when the US offered him the plea deal that was more than lenient.

    However, seeing as McKinnon has *publicly* admitted to being being Solo and having made the hacks against the military computers in his quixotic quest for proof of UFOs and left the note, how can you say, with a straight face, that he *didn’t* commit the crime. Who should I believe, him or your blather?

    The only real legal question left is his mental capacity — and Asperger’s isn’t, by itself, going to cut the mustard. Neither is his belief in UFO’s. However, his mother and his lawyer have eschewed legal defenses. Not suprisingly, since they have no real practical ones left, thanks to McKinnon’s admission to the crime.

    When a lawyer has the facts on their side, they argue the facts. When a lawyer has the law on their side, they argue the law. When they have neither the facts or the law, they bang their shoe on the table trying to drum up sympathy for their client.

    Which do you think they’re doing?

  • Big Maggie

    Dread Cthulhu,

    “how can you say, with a straight face, that he *didn’t* commit the crime. Who should I believe, him or your blather?”

    Do try to keep it polite, will you?

    I could have said, with a straight face, that he *didn’t* commit the crime. However, I did no such thing.

    I don’t know if you’re acquainted with the Hanratty case. James Hanratty notoriously confessed to a double murder and was hanged in 1964. Only recently did it emerge he was innocent and mentally unstable.

    There are many more such cases. Here’s Human Rights Watch:

    “The United States is almost alone in the world in allowing this barbaric practice [the execution of the mentally retarded]. At least 33 mentally retarded men have been executed since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Some experts estimate that as many as 10 to 15 percent of the 3,000 men and women on the nation’s death rows are retarded.”

    I’m not saying Gary is retarded but to judge by the reports that reach me, normal he is not.

    The US has an axe to grind with the man, as I stated earlier. Which is why he should be tried in his own country, where he has more chance of a fair trial. I leave the last word to Lord Carlile, a leading barrister:

    As a Parliamentarian with involvement in the law and an interest in human rights, I have twice written to successive Home Secretaries to urge that Gary be tried in Britain.

    He warned that the decision to prosecute Gary in the US would be “cruel and unconscionable”.

    The medical evidence favours this overwhelmingly. If necessary, he could survive prison here without his life being wrecked beyond repair. The Government has argued that it cannot prevent the extradition as a matter of law, and has no discretion in the case.

    However, it is wrong. According to the law, an offence can be tried in England and Wales, provided the conduct or its consequences took place in England and Wales.

    Gary McKinnon’s conduct was in England. He can be tried in England.

    Like so many legal issues, the solution adopts common sense as the benchmark. To sum up, where there is an offence in the home country of the offender, there is an option for the home country to bring the malefactor to justice either by prosecution or by extradition.

    So the Home Secretary is perfectly free to decide that Gary McKinnon should be tried and, should the necessity arise, be sentenced here in Britain. He can choose.

    The choice in at least three other cases of hacking into US computer systems has been for the trials to be held in the UK.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Big Maggie: “James Hanratty notoriously confessed to a double murder and was hanged in 1964. Only recently did it emerge he was innocent and mentally unstable.”

    Too bad McKinnon is only socially awkward, the British traced the hacker to McKinnnon’s address and, to wrap a bow on it, his own mother says he did it.

    Big Maggie: “I’m not saying Gary is retarded but to judge by the reports that reach me, normal he is not.”

    You’re grasping at straws — McKinnon isn’t retarded, he’s not facing the death penalty and “not being normal” isn’t an affirmative defense.

    Big Maggie: “The US has an axe to grind with the man, as I stated earlier.”

    Whose fault is that? McKinnon thought he wouldn’t get caught and taunted the authorities. He was offered a slap on the wrist and decided that he would take his chances with a trial. McKinnon chose this path. This is, frankly, what he wanted — he had the power to choose and he chose. Now he doesn’t like what he picked — too bad, so sad.

    Big Maggie: “He warned that the decision to prosecute Gary in the US would be “cruel and unconscionable”.”

    Sure… and where did the Parliamentarian get his degree in psychology. Like I said before, this probably has more to do with reflexive anti-Americanism than anything else — the same stink was made over the au pair who killed the baby. After that, what’s a hacker?

  • Big Maggie

    Dread Cthulhu,

    “Sure… and where did the Parliamentarian get his degree in psychology.”

    Why on earth would a man need such a degree in order to decide what’s “cruel and unconscionable”? Those are moral concepts; the second is derived from the term “conscience”, something we all have, degree or no degree, unless we’re sociopaths.

    “Like I said before, this probably has more to do with reflexive anti-Americanism than anything else”

    And as I said before, the UK extradites twice as many suspects to the USA as the USA does to the UK. That’s hardly an indication of “anti-Americanism”.

    To close (and this really is my final comment on the matter) Gary McKinnon’s case is one in which morality and decency MUST take precedence over the cold application of law.

    In the USA Gary would be punished and would possibly die by his own hand; in the UK Gary would be given a sentence that fits the crime. My sense of decency tells me which one I’d choose.