January 03, 2010

Thank you, Greedy Politicians!

Every cloud, they say, has a silver lining.

Three politicians involved in last years ExpenseGate are using an ancient law to protect themselves. They claim that the Bill of Rights 1689 provides them with immunity.

Blogger Tim Worstall likes the defence and wants the three MPs to succeed.

So do I.

If they win their case, it validates the BoR and opens the floodgates. Every single fixed penalty notice ever issued has to be repaid to the people who were fined before being convicted. This is no more than highway robbery. Even Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask. Modern highwaymen, aka the bobbies, are slightly more affable when they collect revenues for the Chancellor. It is still theft, but it is done with a cheery smile.

I have embedded a link to the Bill of Rights in my title, above, and you should read it, but the line we are most interested in is this one:

That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void

Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were introduced in the 1960's and they are a huge source of income for our pathetic government. The right decision in this case will correct a shameful era of money-grabbing without the benefit of any legal/lawful protection. No more on-the-spot fines, which are illegal according to the Bill of Rights.

Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) were introduced in 2001. Since that time, the government has taken in hundreds of millions, and again, this is theft on a colossal scale. They don't call it theft of course, they have a nice, pretty name for it: out of court disposals. They were brought in to relieve the workload of the 650 courts and tribunal bodies we have in the UK.

I never thought I would be thanking politicians for being greedy. I do so now.

All are equal under the law, so if they win, we win.

Naturally, if they lose, we all lose, because it means that the Bill of Rights signed by good old King Billy back in 1689, is worthless.

Please join me as I get kneebound to pray for their success.



subrosa said...

Say one for me CR, if I got down I'd never be able to get up. That's how crippling labour has been to me.

(Mind you I'll have a go on the wii later and that may loosen things up a bit. If not a nice drop of malt may just do the trick!)

Captain Ranty said...

I'd be happy to, Rosie.

I am at that age where I make a noise when I stand up or sit down. I have no idea why. I do know it makes my kids laugh whenever I make a move.

They can be so cruel...


richard said...

if the MPs succeed in their appeal using the BoR, no-one else can be fined unless they've had their day in court. fair enough, but as it stands today the FPN doesn't have to be paid on-the-spot; you can go to court if you want to contest it.
having said that, if the BoR defence is upheld, there are a number of interesting ramifications. for instance, the right of protestants to carry arms as allowed by law for their defence - this would seem to negate the so-called crime of having an offensive weapon - unless of course a breach of the peace has occurred.
but we'll see what happens.

Katabasis said...

Please, please, please let this happen!

It could be just the thing to start the flood of more general resistance!

Captain Ranty said...


Good points.

The problem with FPNs and PNDs is that they are summary judgements. You are deemed guilty the second the uniformed hoon hands you the fine*. You can go to court to contest them but mostly, the fines simply increase. That isn't right either.

The BoR is a statute and according to my latest post about the FOI, a new statute CAN over-ride an older one. So I guess the latest Firearms Act forbids protestants (and every other religion) from carrying weapons.

* Incidentally, you should ask for the top piece of paper in the chaps little fine book, you have to have the original. According to the law, paying a fine with a copy is fraudulent.

Mind you, paying a debt with a promissory note (fiat currency) isn't kosher either. ARRRGH!


Captain Ranty said...


Agreed! This may just be the catalyst we so badly need.

Fingers crossed!


Dick Puddlecote said...

They might be useful after all, then. They've screwed up big time and have no future. Hence no loyalty to the institution anymore. Let their last desperate greedy act benefit us all.

Roll on the universal precedent. :-)

Angry Exile said...

Richard, the problem as I see it is not that the BoR has been somehow invalidated as far as defensive weapons goes (or anything else for that matter) but the wording doomed it. Had it simply said that people had the right to 'weapons suitable for their defence' most or all the firearms legislation that has come in over the last century could have been called into question. It's the 'and allowed by law' bit that's the problem, because gradually almost all weapons bar the ones attached to the ends of your wrists have fallen into the 'not allowed by law' category.

As for the argument that a win for thieving MPs is a win for everyone, I'm not sure I see how. They're arguing that their little scams are protected by the BoR, presumably under the bit that goes:

That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.

Surely it's possible for a friendly/compliant/retarded judge to buy that, but wouldn't it be in isolation from the rest of the BoR and change nothing about fines before conviction, a right to arms, petitioning the monarch and so on? And if the judge tells them to fuck off how does that invalidate any part of the BoR, even the part they were trying to use to cover up their dishonesty? IANAL but surely if they lose they're just being told that submitting expenses is not a 'Parliamentary proceeding' but the same tedious routine that millions of people are expected to do week in week out without lying through their teeth, and so Parliamentary Privilege doesn't cover it. Doesn't mean the BoR is dead in any way, it just means that you can't call absolutely anything that happens in the Palace of Westminster a 'proceeding' and use it to avoid prosecution.

Unless someone explains otherwise I hope the bastards lose.

Captain Ranty said...

Angry Exile,

I see your reasoning. I was looking at it holistically. I don't know if ANY of the BoR is still in force today. A win by Troughers United will prove that it is and it will pave the way for millions to pick out the line that serves their cause.

To be honest, I am not certain if its an "all or nothing" deal. If a statute is still on the rolls, does that mean that it can be used in its entirety? All statutes have various parts and pieces that make up the whole. When (if) you are charged with an offence they refer to Blah de Blah Bill 1955 Section 8, Clause 2, paragraph 4.

I see this as being exactly that.

BUT, if they do win and the win is pegged to IMMUNITY, then I want some of that. The legal maxims are clear on this: ALL are equal before the law. As Dick says, all we need is the precedent and we are off.

Nothing else matters. Not even three fuckwits getting away with a few quid.


Angry Exile said...

IANAL but as far as I know the BoR has never been repealed and all of it still stands today. However you don't necessarily know if it'll do what you want unless you test in court. For example, someone with more knowledge of the law than me (also NAL though) once suggested to me that the reason why, say, a speeding fine is called a Fixed Penalty Notice is precisely to avoid calling it a fine and thereby dodging the clause in the BoR about fines and forfeitures without conviction. I don't know how true that is but it seems plausible that if you appealed a 'fine' as being against the law in the BoR the first thing they'd say is that you have not in fact been fined and that no official document says otherwise (I believe something like this has actually happened already and will look into it before I blog). You'd then have to bat the slightly stickier wicket of saying that a spade is a fucking spade no matter what you call it, and you might even win, but my point is that whether you won or not the judgement would have no effect on, say, the clause that says the monarch can't suspend or execute laws or raise an army without Parliament consenting.

A win by Troughers United will prove that it is and it will pave the way for millions to pick out the line that serves their cause.
Nothing stopping them now except the exorbitant costs and the colossal arse fucking anyone can expect if they lose. If I remember rightly in fairly recent years a court hearing something to do with the metric martyr mob ruled that the BoR is still valid. On top of that it said that the BoR has an unusual status in that it's immune from being repealed simply because later legislation conflicts with it. Normally if The Thingy Act 1988 conflicts with the Thingies And Whatsits Act 2004 the later Act is the law. The older Act is still valid and remains law everywhere else, but where the two don't agree the newer Act trumps the older one. But with a few like the BoR for any part to be repealed a newer Act has to specifically say that it does so, otherwise it's the older Act trumps it. Of course that doesn't stop legislation being written around it, such as seeing that the bit about suitable defensive weapons 'as allowed by law' means that you can gradually disallow more and more suitable weapons without having to go to the trouble of debating something that specifically repeals part of the BoR. Anyhow, the bottom line is that there's no reason why you couldn't appeal something on the grounds that the you think the BoR doesn't allow it. A win by the troughers won't change that either way unless whoever is doing it is also an MP up to their sweaty neck in shit and corruption, in which case they'll already know that the precedent says they're either (a) safe as houses or (b) fucked.

BUT, if they do win and the win is pegged to IMMUNITY, then I want some of that.
If I'm right about which section of the BoR is being used here then I think the win would probably be pegged specifically to immunity granted as part of Parliamentary Privilege. If so then, as I said above, you'd really need to be an MP being asked awkward questions to benefit from it. We proles will get nothing from it.

richard said...

Angry Exile, most weapons are not prohibited by law. You can buy swords daggers crossbows etc and carry them with lawful authority or reasonable excuse, for instance battle renactment or martial arts. Furthermore, a policeman is a civilian and would not be allowed an unlawful weapon to carry out his duties. The BoR allows protestants to carry arms not prohibited by law, if it hasn't been superceded.

Angry Exile said...

Richard, that's precisely what I'm saying. The BoR does allow arms not prohibited by law, but laws have prohibited so many (okay, I exaggerated earlier by saying nothing but fists - sorry for not being clearer that this was hyperbole) weapons and virtually all firearms. In any case I've often argued that virtually anything can be a weapon, and that most homes have dozens if not hundreds of articles that could be used to harm, maim or kill someone - I can see several from where I sit. The BoR is in effect saying that you can have any weapon you like if there isn't a law against you having it. There have been many laws since 1689 and the most recent says that you can't go and get a handgun (yes, with a very small number of exceptions) regardless of the fact that many handguns would be suitable for your defence as per the BoR. It doesn't have to say that the BoR is being repealed in that respect since the BoR itself just says weapons that are suitable AND are allowed by law. You have to meet both criteria (whatever the fuck suitability means - you can guarantee there'd be legal wranglings about suitability even without the last five words). It's like saying you can have the car in any colour as long as it's black.

And just to be pedantic I'm reasonably sure I heard that the Protestant bit went centuries ago. Because of the Catholic population in Scotland possibly in the Act of Settlement or something, but that's a guess on my part. I'm certain enough to bet that the BoR has *not* been superseded or repealed as a whole. However, loose wording has meant it's been neutered in places.

Angry Exile said...

P.S. Either way that won't be affected by whether the MPs win or lose. I doubt they're using the clause about weapons suitable for defence as a reason they should be let off for fiddling their expenses.

richard said...

A.E., yes, i see your point. what i was trying to say and failing to do so, is that you are currently prohibited from carrying ANY object designed for self-defence but (as you point out) an article NOT deigned for self-defence can be used in an emergency eg maglite, car-keys, umbrella. the defence in court of carrying a knife for self-protection doesn't work. but under the BoR it SHOULD work, which makes me think that the BoR is a goner. if the MP's defence proves otherwise it could indeed be significant for the reasons mentioned by CR.

Angry Exile said...

No, the BoR isn't a goner. It's just that in relation to self defence it's been too wordy and allowed an open ended get out. Imagine if it had said instead that Protestant may have any type [insert random noun] allowed by law. Say it was golf clubs. Now say I'm a mad PM with a huge majority consisting of supine lobby fodder who need the fucking whips to tell them to breathe in and out. Say I'm a bit of a traditionalist and I don't like the sound made by modern metal woods, so I pass a law banning them. Doesn't change what our imaginary BoR says so no problem there. Let's say my successor only has a good short game and thinks to ban fairway woods. Well, still no problem as far as our parallel universe BoR is concerned. Eventually someone could ban all golf clubs and the BoR would still be fine because it says you may have any clubs allowed by law, not that that the number allowed by law must be a positive integer. And that's where the real BoR falls down on defensive weapons. 'Suitable' and 'allowed by law' is all it says. It does not say that the law cannot continually reduce the number of allowed weapons to the point where ordinary citizens have nothing but hands, feet and whatever makeshift weapon might be available - which I'd call as close to zero weapons allowed as makes no difference.

"if the MP's defence proves otherwise it could indeed be significant for the reasons mentioned by CR.
I wish, I really do. But I doubt it will unless they're arguing that the whole BoR is needed for their defence, and I very much doubt that. The legal argument will be over the parts that relate to Parliamentary Privilege and whether they can call submission of expenses a Parliamentary proceeding. I hope not, not just because I think they should be tried but because it's a dangerous precedent to set. What else could they claim was protected from being heard in any court but Parliament itself? Would groping secretaries be the next thing that some sack of shite would want to label a Parliamentary proceeding so he could gain legal immunity unless his enemies in the Commons had enough numbers to impeach him instead?

Anyhow, back to the BoR's current validity. Consider this: can Mrs Windsor set taxes or raise an army on her own whim? Nope, because the BoR says she can't - Parliament must consent to it. If the three troughers lose will Mrs Windsor be able to set taxes or raise her own army then, or will the BoR still prevent her?

Giolla said...

Oddly OPSI have the bill of rights pegged as 1688. But it seems un-amended and they're normally ok at showing what bits have been repealed.


Not sure how much good it will do if it is upheld but it does look like it could cause all sorts of interesting legal challenges for all sorts of things.

richard said...

A.E cheers for the golf analogy, i see what you were driving at.

GoodnightVienna said...

Ahoy Cap'n. There are plans afoot for the 'harmonisation' of EU Civil law which could very well have an effect on our Common Law.
What has Europe done for us?
"National civil codes encompass property, contracts, tort and general obligations at the core of civic life, which stem directly from the traditions of each country. They also govern family or employment relations, areas in which the EU’s competences are strictly limited."
I thought you might be interested.