What happened to the rule of law?

Image thanks to BBC

I have avoided writing about Begum for obvious reasons but feel I can’t hold my tongue (or fingers) any longer. On the face of it her actions appear reprehensible yet I am in no position to make any judgement  as all I have heard or read about her has been in the media and we know how unreliable that can be. This is the very point, none of us outside of the Home Office actually know what has happened yet she has been summarily tried and judged.

But what happened to law and order? If we believe that Begum has committed an offence why do we not insist that she is arrested, put on trail and judged? Remember, in our system, the one we are supposed to be fighting to uphold, everyone is innocent until proven guilty and this proof is obtained through a proper fair judicial process. 

None of this has happened. Instead the Home Secretary has taken it upon herself to pass judgement. Who knows, she may be right, yet this is not a political issue but a legal one. If she knows something we don’t then please tell.

I can imagine three reasons for what the Home Secretary has done:

  1. She has given way to populist sentiment and pandered to her base voters and base instincts, appearing strong and decisive. It has certainly done her no harm with her supporters and had the opposite effect with her detractors.
  2. There is insufficient evidence for the reasonable prospect of a conviction and she is worried that putting her through court would become a show, dividing an already divided electorate and leading to an unsatisfactory, for her, outcome.
  3. That she is trying it once, to see if she can get away with it by testing public opinion and appetite. If she can get away with it once then it is a precedent to keep up her sleeve for the next time

The last one is the most worrying. This government has been chipping away at the legal establishment, brandishing insults at anyone who stands in its way, even though they are upholding the very laws that parliament sets. Begum was not the first and won’t be the last. We should all be concerned because without the process of law we are slipping into authoritarianism. This isn’t just about Begum.

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