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Spud McLaren
1209405.  Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:07 pm Reply with quote

Following Alan Turing's posthumous pardon for a conviction for acts of gross indecency, other men convicted under the same legislation are to be pardoned too (2:35:00 - 2:41:00 here). But George Montague, one of those men, says he will refuse to accept the pardon (same programme, 1:02:00 - 1:03:30) because to do so signals that he accepts that he did something wrong, but has (so to speak) been given a bye.

As I understand it, currently living persons convicted under the legislation can apply to have the conviction "disregarded"; this means that the conviction no longer appears on their record. Once the disregard has been granted, a pardon can follow. However, since the disregard has to be applied for, a pardon couldn't be granted to the deceased. Due to the high-profile Turing case, the law has now changed to allow this to happen. As I say, that's as I understand the situation; doubtless I'll be corrected if I haven't understood correctly.

Assuming that I have got it substantially right, this brings up several points:

1. A disregard doesn't mean you weren't guilty of a crime, merely that it won't appear on your criminal record; nobody has pronounced you "not guilty". A pardon implies the exercise of clemency (a recognition that the penalty under the law is unduly harsh) rather than an admission of wrongful conviction - because at the time of the conviction, it was not wrongful. So is George Montague right, and does a pardon always mean that your conviction is considered correct but that the authorities have in some way "let you off"?

2. Even if he is right, should he accept that he fell foul of the law as it stood at the time (however unjust he considers it), accept the pardon and be grateful for small mercies?

3. If we are to accept that there are bad laws (and make no mistake, there are, and always have been), then once they are repealed/abolished should all convictions made under them be quashed? If so, how far back do we go?

 
barbados
1209407.  Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:32 pm Reply with quote

My personal feelings on this are that the pardons are not the correct course of action. The law was wrong, but it was the law, the right thing to do is change a law that is wrong, and that has been done.

 
Spud McLaren
1209408.  Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:46 pm Reply with quote

Well, quite, but it rather leaves stranded the people convicted while that law was in force.

 
Alfred E Neuman
1209411.  Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:14 pm Reply with quote

Spud McLaren wrote:
2. Even if he is right, should he accept that he fell foul of the law as it stood at the time (however unjust he considers it), accept the pardon and be grateful for small mercies?


Is he still in jail? If not, what practical difference will it make if he accepts a pardon or not?

 
crissdee
1209412.  Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:17 pm Reply with quote

Spud McLaren wrote:
A pardon implies the exercise of clemency (a recognition that the penalty under the law is unduly harsh) rather than an admission of wrongful conviction - because at the time of the conviction, it was not wrongful. So is George Montague right, and does a pardon always mean that your conviction is considered correct but that the authorities have in some way "let you off"?


I thought at first that the pardons were wrong, but reading this bit makes me think that, perhaps this is the best we can do now. The bit I have emboldened(?) is, imho, the key issue.

 
'yorz
1209413.  Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:19 pm Reply with quote

He's not in jail. I guess it is makes not a practical difference as such, but a for him and others very important moral one

 
suze
1209416.  Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:33 pm Reply with quote

Spud McLaren wrote:
2. Even if he is right, should he accept that he fell foul of the law as it stood at the time (however unjust he considers it), accept the pardon and be grateful for small mercies?


I'd have to say that I tend towards this point of view. "I don't like the law" may be one's justification for breaking it, but it is not an excuse for breaking it.

New criminal law cannot be retrospective. The ECHR (for so long as it remains applicable to the UK) doesn't allow that, and has taken a dim view of jurisdictions which have introduced laws to apply ex post facto.

So why should the removal of a piece of criminal law be retrospective? We no longer have capital punishment, but I do not see any acknowledgment from government that all the people who were ever executed shouldn't have been.

While I do have some sympathy for people who were punished for a thing which is no longer a crime, the action announced today seems to me to set a dangerous precedent.

 
'yorz
1209420.  Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:29 pm Reply with quote

I don't think a comparison with capital punishment stands. Perhaps the case of pardoning soldiers executed for perceived cowardness when they were suffering from shell shock does? We have moved on, look differently at combat stress. But the punishment was merged or according to the rules/views of that time. So, can anything more than a pardon be expected?[/b]

 
brunel
1209451.  Fri Oct 21, 2016 11:20 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Spud McLaren wrote:
2. Even if he is right, should he accept that he fell foul of the law as it stood at the time (however unjust he considers it), accept the pardon and be grateful for small mercies?


I'd have to say that I tend towards this point of view. "I don't like the law" may be one's justification for breaking it, but it is not an excuse for breaking it.

New criminal law cannot be retrospective. The ECHR (for so long as it remains applicable to the UK) doesn't allow that, and has taken a dim view of jurisdictions which have introduced laws to apply ex post facto.

So why should the removal of a piece of criminal law be retrospective? We no longer have capital punishment, but I do not see any acknowledgment from government that all the people who were ever executed shouldn't have been.

While I do have some sympathy for people who were punished for a thing which is no longer a crime, the action announced today seems to me to set a dangerous precedent.

There is a question as to whether the Labouchere Amendment to the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act was meant to become law in the first place. There have been some suggestions that Labouchere might have introduced the amendment because he was trying to prevent the act being passed, and therefore the legislation should never have been introduced in the first place.

That particular act had been languishing in the Commons for several years because it was thought to be a terribly written act of law that was unfit for purpose, but the journalist WT Stead stirred up a colossal storm in the tabloid press to make the MP's pass the bill in a fit of hysteria. Labouchere was a known long time opponent of the bill, and some have suggested that the amendment was an attempt to discredit the act to the point where it could not be passed.

 
barbados
1209479.  Fri Oct 21, 2016 9:48 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
While I do have some sympathy for people who were punished for a thing which is no longer a crime, the action announced today seems to me to set a dangerous precedent.


If it takes 49 years for a goverment to apologise, then they aren't really sorry.
That's not to say that the current administration are proud of what happened, but the pardons are really just lip service, for the benefit of the apologiser.

 
Alfred E Neuman
1209495.  Sat Oct 22, 2016 3:17 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
While I do have some sympathy for people who were punished for a thing which is no longer a crime, the action announced today seems to me to set a dangerous precedent.


What about laws that are wrong. Morally wrong. Are we supposed to meekly follow them to the letter because of that?

If you compare this to the old apartheid laws, I'm pretty sure that anyone breaking those laws would have had, if not your support, your tacit approval. When the democratically elected government started releasing people from jail and issuing pardons, was that a dangerous precedent? Would you prefer it if those ANC anti-apartheid activists were left in prison serving out their life sentences?

Does the precedent concern you because you believe you live in a country which will never make a law that you feel would be justifiably broken, or because you think that the country you live in is so badly run that parliament will start pardoning people left right and centre for reasons that are other than moral and justifiable?

 
crissdee
1209497.  Sat Oct 22, 2016 3:29 am Reply with quote

From the OP.

Spud McLaren wrote:


Assuming that I have got it substantially right,

1. A disregard doesn't mean you weren't guilty of a crime, merely that it won't appear on your criminal record; nobody has pronounced you "not guilty". A pardon implies the exercise of clemency (a recognition that the penalty under the law is unduly harsh) rather than an admission of wrongful conviction - because at the time of the conviction, it was not wrongful.


A pardon is not a cancellation of the offence, merely an acknowledgement that the punishment was unfair. They still broke the (inherently wrong) law. Under the same conditions, the anti-apartheid campaigners would be let out of jail as recognition of the wrongness of the laws they were fighting. It does not change the fact that they broke the law.

While this is, I admit, a case of "do as I say, not as I do" disagreement with any given law does not give you the right to flout it. I disagree with most speed limits, but accept punishment when I am caught breaking them.

 
barbados
1209500.  Sat Oct 22, 2016 3:50 am Reply with quote

Alfred E Neuman wrote:
suze wrote:
While I do have some sympathy for people who were punished for a thing which is no longer a crime, the action announced today seems to me to set a dangerous precedent.


What about laws that are wrong. Morally wrong. Are we supposed to meekly follow them to the letter because of that?

If you compare this to the old apartheid laws, I'm pretty sure that anyone breaking those laws would have had, if not your support, your tacit approval. When the democratically elected government started releasing people from jail and issuing pardons, was that a dangerous precedent? Would you prefer it if those ANC anti-apartheid activists were left in prison serving out their life sentences?

Does the precedent concern you because you believe you live in a country which will never make a law that you feel would be justifiably broken, or because you think that the country you live in is so badly run that parliament will start pardoning people left right and centre for reasons that are other than moral and justifiable?

In that case, what you do is change the laws. you can choose to release those who have broken the law, along with an acknowledgement that the laws they broke were unjust. But while it is the law, its as black and white as you can get.

 
Spud McLaren
1209504.  Sat Oct 22, 2016 4:59 am Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
Alf wrote:
... the old apartheid laws ...
But while it is the law, its as black and white as you can get.
Was that intentional, barb?

 
suze
1209505.  Sat Oct 22, 2016 5:43 am Reply with quote

Alfred E Neuman wrote:
Does the precedent concern you because you believe you live in a country which will never make a law that you feel would be justifiably broken, or because you think that the country you live in is so badly run that parliament will start pardoning people left right and centre for reasons that are other than moral and justifiable?


More a feeling that you can't expect it both ways.

If the government were to make a new law banning a thing, we should not expect it go back through history looking for people who did that thing before it became illegal. English law has tried to do this precisely once in the last century - the War Crimes Act 1991 - and it's telling that that legislation had to be forced through by means of the Parliament Act because the House of Lords was having none of it.

If we accept the principle that it is not proper for new law to have retrospective effect, then we have to accept it both ways around.

 

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