Due process matters

I’ve signed the online petition for First degree murder charges against Derek M. Chauvin. Why don’t you?

Tommy Sheridan

I have not signed this petition and neither do I intend to. I am happy to explain why. The reason I decline to sign the petition can be summed up in two words – due process. The due process that was denied to George Floyd. To deny due process to the individual accused of killing George Floyd is to compound the alleged offence.

Abuse of the authority of public office is a serious offence. It is particularly heinous when the perpetrator is a law enforcement officer entrusted with extraordinary powers over citizens. Abuse of that power undermines the rule of law which is the foundation and supporting framework of civilised society.

Denial of due process undermines the rule of law. In cases where the offence itself abuse of authority – which is in all instances a denial of due process – particular care must be taken to ensure that the tendency to undermine the rule of law is not aggravated by further denial of due process.

That George Floyd was denied due process and the protections he was entitled to under the law is undeniable. In all but the most exceptional of circumstances people afforded due process and the protections of the law do not end up dead by the actions or neglect of law enforcement officers.

Where a citizen does end up dead or injured whilst in the custody of police officers then all the circumstances of the incident must be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action taken against any person suspected of having committed an offence. Due process demands that all aspects of both the investigation and any subsequent action be conducted according to law and by the duly constituted authority.

It is for that duly constituted authority to determine whether further action is called for and what form that action should take. It is for the prosecuting authority to decide whether and what charges should be brought against any person accused of an offence. There is no place for mob rule in due process.

Far from the least of the considerations which must inform the prosecuting authority’s decision on how to charge a person accused of an offence is the viability of the prosecution. It is a matter of what can be proved in a court of law. It may reasonably be maintained that no prosecution is preferable to a failed prosecution. And that conviction on a lesser charge is better than acquittal on a greater charge.

There are a multitude of very sound reasons why public opinion should not be a factor in the deliberations of the prosecuting authority any more than it should inform the judgement of the court in which the case is pursued. Justice is only served by judgement stripped of emotion.

The anger, fear and hatred of the mob is no less an unacceptable intrusion into due process than the emotions of a police officer who abuses his or her power. I will not be part of that mob. I will not contribute to that intrusion. I will not sign that petition.



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2 thoughts on “Due process matters

  1. It is essential to apply due process to all instances of alleged illegal behaviour.

    Without establishing the facts as exactly as possible, and examining the circumstances of the alleged crime or crimes as clinically as possible, we cannot hope to apply the correct treatment to any confirmed illegal activity.

    Without due process and the rule of law we are left with anarchy. When anarchy reigns those with muscle at their disposal, either volume of people – the ‘mob’ – or the instruments of state/private power will carry the day. In all circumstances.

    If we circumvent proper procedures for establishing truth and, in a guilty scenario, assigning appropriate corrective action the rule of law is replaced by the law of the jungle.

    Don’t ‘get angry’. Don’t even ‘get even’.

    Get factual!

    Like

  2. I agree.

    Talking of facts, it is fairly well established that very few police officers have been charged with or sentenced to anything as a consequence of people dying in police custody. In the UK I believe the figure is close to zero, and in the US it is only a handful.

    So due process does not seem to apply when police are involved. Which does not of course mean that it might not, one day, in some utopian future. But I am not holding my breath.

    Due process is an ideal. That everybody should be subject to the same legal procedures is also an ideal. In reality, other stuff happens.

    In the USA if you have darker skin tones, then that reality means learning how to avoid being killed randomly by some moronic nazi in a uniform and watching while white folks can carry battlefield grade weapons into government buildings with impunity.

    I will not sign the petition either because it is not up to me to judge, but it does not surprise me in the slightest that civil war has broken out in the USA.

    Like

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