The Scots Law Student

The SLS : Life and trials of learning law in Scotland

Month: February, 2011

On words

“A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstances in which it is used”

Holmes J, Town v Eisner 245 US 418


Egypt suspends constitution

There is a lot of attention being paid to Egypt just now, and for very good reason. One of the more startling events recently is that the military have stepped in following the resignation of the, nominally, elected president after 30 years of rule.

In a situation that is probably more the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend than anything else Ayman Nour, an opposition leader who was jailed in 2005 after challenging for the presidency said, “It is a victory for the revolution.”

I have watched enough military coups in various countries around to have a reaction of “uh oh” whenever a military regime sets itself up. It is rarely a good thing when generals sweep in, dissolve the parliament and suspend the constitution.

Based on that it is very unusual to see the actions of the military being welcomed and this probably says more about the perception of Mubarak’s reign more than anything else could. They claim that they are only going to hold power temporarily until there are elections in six months or so and I sincerely hope that is true. Only time will tell.


The human cost of control orders

There is a tremendous story in today’s Guardian about two men, best friends, sitting outside one of their homes talking, drinking and eating snacks.

They cannot go inside.

One of the men lives under a house arrest condition and the other is the juror who. along with 11 other people during a seven month long trial, decided that he was guilty of precisely nothing.

It’s a tragically beautiful story involving quite remarkable sacrifice — Lawrence Archer has voluntarily registered himself as a “known associate of terrorists” to be an approved visitor to the home of Mouloud Sihali who has spent the past decade being pursued by the authorities for various things he’s pretty clearly not done at massive personal cost (20 hour curfews, allowed only approved visitors etc).

The reason they met was that the jury, having sat through half a year of evidence about the guy and deciding nothing was criminal, felt that its acquittal was being ignored by the authorities and they sought the exonerated people out to make their views heard. The awesome thing is that the foreman and the man in the dock immediately hit it off.

The jury found themselves facing a situation where their assumptions about the security services were shaken as they faced the wrong end of the authorities.

Before the ricin trial, Archer was almost entirely apolitical, but seeing the criminal justice system at close hand has transformed him into a vocal critic of the use of secret evidence against terror suspects. “I’ve become much, much more cynical about the way the government and security services operate,” he says. Archer also speaks from experience. Once when he was sitting on Sihali’s porch, a team of immigration officials arrived and demanded his name and address. “It was as if I’d gone from being an upstanding citizen to being suspicious. That was quite nasty.”

In the Guardian.