“The problem with having a law against everything…”

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Priceless insight from Newton Emerson in today’s round of the week in the Irish News in which he highlights a key flaw in Tony Blair’s signal legislative response to the 7/7 bombings in 2005, the Terrorism Act of 2006, is that with its redefinition of ‘incitement’ as ‘encouragement’ the burden of proof has become so incredibly low that the choice of when to use it (or more interestingly) when not to use it “becomes a purely political act”…

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  • michael-mcivor

    A DUP member arrested-A threat made against senior orange order members by the PSNI and all of a sudden Newton has a problem with a 2007 law-its 6 years old-bit quiet in the past about it young Emerson-

  • Mc Slaggart

    I wonder could you use that law against the UK government?

    “First, it’s a by-product of base tribalism. Americans and westerners have been relentlessly bombarded with the message that We are the Noble and Innocent Victims and those Muslims are the Evil, Primitive, Savage Aggressors, so that’s what many people are trained to believe, and view any challenge to that as an assault on their core tribalistic convictions. The defining tribalistic belief that Our Side is Superior (and our violence thus inherently more noble than theirs) has been stoked by political leaders since politics began to sustain support for their aggression and entrench their own power. It’s a potent drive – something humans instinctively want to believe – and is therefore one that is easily manipulated by skillful propagandists.”

  • tacapall

    “The problem with having a law against everything is that enforcing the law becomes a purely political act”

    A pearl of wisdom from Newt there. Obviously his history is as bad as his new found perception, has it ever been any other way with the British government and their unionist counterparts in Ireland.

  • DC

    She has been charged under the Communications Act not terrorism, i think?

    Of course that is no better with its ‘grossly offensive’ offence and it being broad in scope and undefined.

    ruth’s endorsement of brian ulsterman’s imaginary scenario may well be offensive to some if not all but is it really grossly offensive? who knows?

    but then it was a comment in response to another comment about a parade that fails to recognise normal standards of propriety itself and could well be deemed as grossly offensive and indecent. did the IRA ever have popular public support in the past for it to be commemorated publicly in this way in Castlederg, i mean would this parade be acceptable in Warrington? Ruth’s comments were motivated by the offensiveness of others and their political viewpoints and ‘narratives’.

    the objectivity test in all of this re ‘grossly offensive’ gets all the more muddied as the troubles and the violence which is being commemorated by SF are all contested and as others have posted there are people that fully support ruth in her backing of what was imagined up by Brian Ulsterman along Churchillian lines:

    On the contrary, if tonight the people of London were asked to cast their votes as to whether a convention should be entered into to stop the bombing of all cities, an overwhelming majority would cry, “No, we will mete out to the Germans the measure, and more than the measure, they have meted out to us.” {applause} The people of London with one voice would say to Hitler: “You have committed every crime under the sun. Where you have been the least resisted there you have been the most brutal.

  • Surely NOT enforcing a law can be just as political as enforcing a law.
    And having no law about anything is as political as having a law against “everything” (sic).

  • FDM

    Mr. Emerson actually reminds me of one Eamonn McCann.

    Good at pointing people to the top of the hill, but you won’t find him there himself.

    When we write a law it is inadequate the day it enters the books. One of the few things the Romans [he jokes] gave to us is a system of law involving common law, rather than legislated law only. In short when cases become before the courts under a piece of legislation it is interpreted by the courts and precedents can be set. Hence holes and deficiencies in the law can be plugged by judicial precedent decisions. Over time the joint approach of legislation and the common law [precedent cases] forms a very strong legal basis over time.

    The point is the more a piece of legislation goes before the courts it should become stronger with use and the setting of sound precedent judgements and legal interpretations and applications of the law.

    All legislated law starts badly/poorly. Reasonable men and women and a strong judicial process make it strong.

    Tut tut Newton. You know that.

    Sure there are some thin end of the wedge poor precedents out there but it usually comes out in the wash over time and use.

    From a very promising start Newton just doesn’t ring my bell any more.

  • Mick Fealty


    If everyone was on the Hill, or tied to the interests of people on the Hill then we’d be none the wiser to what was actually going on… Wasn’t it the Saxons [he jokes] who gave us Common Law?

    I don’t see a challenge here to Newts actual argument, ie that law is so loose (particularly in the context of NI) drafted that the decision to use it, or not use can be readily construed as a political decision.

    But I do agree with you that it needs tested… Maybe NI is the place to do it…

  • FDM

    Mick Fealty 3 August 2013 at 9:39 pm

    “Wasn’t it the Saxons [he jokes] who gave us Common Law?”

    Erm, that was the joke, I didn’t want to mention anyone related to the great unwashed or for Gods sake thank them for something actually positive in our society. Hence the Monty Python pointer. When you have to explain a joke…

    All of the law is political to me. I think the amount of miscarraiges, whitewash inquiry jobs and dodgy dossiers that get past the best legal advice in the land informs us of this. If however the law that we currently have was applied equally and evenly now that would be something.

    If we take the analogy of this piece of legislation to the way it used to work before the law, i.e. “trial by combat”.

    Get it into a courtroom and let the adversarial system work its magic.

    “And what did the Romans[Saxons] ever do for us anyway?”, he wrote in English…

  • Framer

    I doubt the charge will stick anyway as the comments were in the conditional past tense.

  • BluesJazz

    It’s for the optics.
    The PSNI are now a branch of the civil service.
    A very, very well paid part, for sure, and more expensive than soldiers. (Who used to do the public order stuff a lot more cheaply than Trevor and Grainne on triple time).
    The Trevors had to arrest Ruth due to media overload (in the August ‘silly season’).
    Now that the fuss has subsided, the PSNI civil servants can enjoy their easily obtained overtime in Orlando .
    Apart from those that remain plentiful on the crime ridden shores of Strangford Lough.

  • BJ,

    Excuse my ignorance or whatever, but why do you hate the PSNI so much? You’re always complaining about their working contracts for starters. Having been a Union representative on two continents, I believe that if people have to work overtime, then they deserve to be compensated for it. It’s not as if they’re organising the street violence or threats of violence.

  • Kevsterino

    I think it comes to a judgment call regarding the nature and the severity of the content of the communication no matter how low or high the bar is set. Northern Ireland has been suffering from big shots calling people out to the streets causing all kinds of trouble.

    I remember when the founder of Ruth’s party called for everybody supporting the law and everybody subject to the law.

    I read the DUP’s statement regarding Ruth’s arrest. It boils down to Ruth is stupid and obnoxious, but she didn’t murder anybody. Then they whatabout on Gerry Kelly’s rover ride.

    Is this the first time this law has been enforced?

  • Rory Carr

    My problem with the charge against Cllr Patterson is that if she can be punished at law for the crime of being “grossly offensive” then what chance does Frankie Boyle have on any day at work or, for that matter, do I have were I to voice aloud my opinion of some who shall remain nameless ?

    Of course there were other, more serious, charges that might have been laid against Patterson relating to incitement to violence and we may usefully (if fruitlessly) ask whether political pressure influenced the choice of charge that was eventually laid against the councillor.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Rory, that was only the charge she faced then, she might if there are other offences that can be laid at her she could face further charges.

    We will see in due course and when the DPP get the file.

  • FuturePhysicist

    So if Ruth had made her comments from a domicile in the Republic, she wouldn’t have been caught? The irony.

  • aquifer

    “enforcing the law becomes a purely political act”


    The law serves the human rights of those who would not like to be minced up to enable others to send stupid political post-it notes, to promote duff manifestos or cults, or to blackmail states. i.e. It serves human rights.

    There is an established system of war crime courts and bodies like the UN to control what states do. e.g. Amnesty directs most of its effort at states.

    Anti-terrorist law protects us all from violent non-state actors when weapons are widely available and cheap. With economic sectors like drugs and smuggling supporting bandits who have bigger or delusional ambitions, it is a good idea.

    Especially when states will often covertly fund terrorists who then need some rationale for their existence. i.e. The expression of some sympathy for the terrorist position is a necessary component of a campaign that may actually be driven by other states, or perhaps by the availability of money from smuggling drugs and extortion.

    The mouthpieces may seem to be out of control, but they serve some interest or other with a readiness to murder and maim to assert social control.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The mouthpieces may seem to be out of control, but they serve some interest or other with a readiness to murder and maim to assert social control.

    Shame this wasn’t brought in during The Troubles to lock up the Paisleys and the Morrisons. Indeed targeting the angry mouthpieces would have nullify the psychopaths. We still would have some psychopaths and some deliberate killers but a few less paranoid sociopaths would not feel the urge to kill to stop the world from falling around themselves. We’d have less of the great number of funeral services, if we did.

  • cynic2

    “reminds me of one Eamonn McCann”

    I seem to remember that poor Eamonn has been up before the beak several times for various things but not necessarily convicted. So I think that’s unfair.

  • cynic2

    Is it illegal to hate the PSNI now that we cannot express our hatred of themuns?