Britain, by way of Prime Minister David Cameron, has made some very unusual additions to its justice system this week. Essentially, the changes are modeled after principles from China and North Korea, but some inventions of Britain’s own are also thrown into the mix.
In the aftermath of the UK riots, we have seen punishments handed out that would make any Westerner balk in horror, like six months of jail time for stealing four euros worth of bottles of water. That’s approaching medieval.
But at least, those verdicts followed basic principles of justice: the accused were brought before a judge and were presumed innocent until guilty. (At least on the surface; troubling report of summary judgments have slipped out of the country.)
However, the basic principles of justice dating back to the Enlightenment are now being thrown out the window. First of all, Cameron is talking of re-instituting official censorship of communications. This is a principle dominant in China, that was abhorred for the first part of the last decade, then slowly adopted in silent across the West for dubious reasons.
Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.
— David Cameron
This type of thinking is the very opposite to freedom of speech. What Cameron is saying is that freedom of expression is only good when the government finds the expressed opinions acceptable. But one of the primary purposes of freedom of speech is to critizice and bring down a malfunctioning or corrupt government; would you see them suppressing those opinions?
The primary function of freedom of speech is the ability to say things that people in charge don’t like.
Well, I fear David Cameron got it somewhat wrong on netfreedom. Applause from Beijing is hardly flattering.
— Carl Bildt, MFA-SE
But it gets a lot more interesting in Britain’s redesign of the justice system, with cherrypicks from North Korea.
As additional punishment for the riots, Prime Minster Cameron has
decided to publicly supported eviction of those families who had a member taking part in the UK riots, if they are currently in public housing. Specifically, Cameron supported a Conservative-run council in south London which started eviction proceedings. This form of justice system — punishing a whole family equally for not preventing a family member from breaking the law — is only present in one other country on the planet: North Korea. Britain is now adopting North Korea-style principles.
I can’t help wondering if that fact was reason for second thoughts.
Also, it turns out that presumption of innocence is gone, at least when it comes to punishing the whole family. Just this Friday morning, the first eviction notice was served to a family who had a son who was accused but not convicted of taking part in the riots — which Cameron supported. This, too, is a first in centuries: punishment on accusation instead of on conviction.
I’ve been saying for years that things are going the wrong way fast, but I would never in my worst nightmares think that things would go this bad this fast. From this day and for decades, the UK doesn’t have a shred of high moral ground to criticize any country on the planet for human rights violations, and it will stand as a shining excuse to any despot on the planet who wants to dish out their form of justice to families on accusation of inciting revolts against the government.
Apparently, there is no hope for the current breed of politicians at all. We need activism, and lots of it, and we also need their replacement.
(Swedish MFA Carl Bildt should be very careful in gloating over China’s applause of Cameron, by the way. Cameron’s key phrases have been duplicated many times by Carl Bildt, like in this op-ed piece, about how there are “good flows” and “bad flows” on the Net, and how the government has a “responsibility” to quench the bad, not thinking it is any more dramatic than enforcing traffic laws. Despite many refutals, he remains in denial land on this one. Here’s a hint to one of the key differences, Bildt: Free speech is a right. Driving license is a privilege.)
UPDATED: Cameron did not decide to evict, but publicly supported a council that did. Deletions in strikeout, clarifications and new text in underline. Thanks to Kris Kotarski, Calgary Herald.