The Church of England and failures in the administration of justice

Oct 13, 2021 by

by Stephen Parsons, Anglican Ink:

I do not remember at what age I was introduced to two important principles traditionally embodied in the legal system of England. It may have been in a lesson about Magna Carta. Somewhere along the line in my education, I imbibed two key ideas about the administration of justice in this country. The first principle states that everyone is deemed to be innocent unless proved guilty. The second principle is that if a person receives a verdict of not guilty in a court setting, then this decision, whether made by jury or judge, is taken to be the final word on the matter. Because of the double jeopardy idea, it is not possible to keep trying again and again, using the same evidence but with different juries, to find someone guilty of a crime. I am sure that there might have been some push-back in my class, putting forward the notion that guilty people might get away with crimes through having a good lawyer. Whatever our feelings about the justice system in particular cases, most people accept that it generally works well. One special feature of the justice practised in the UK is that we are entirely free of political interference. The moment judges anywhere in the world become pawns to a political system, left or right, that is a moment when these societies begin to deteriorate, to become a cesspit of instability caused by an arbitrary use of power. We can be grateful for our British system of justice. This has been honed over many centuries to provide us with access to a fair and reliable system of interpreting and operating the law.

The political manipulation of justice is something that I met in Greece during the 60s. Individuals were thrown into jail for having incorrect opinions or being seen as some kind of threat to the right-wing junta. This political oppression affected me directly, but not in the sense that I feared for my own personal safety. My problem was that although my studies took me into making contact with all social groups, there were some well-connected individuals who feared any contact with someone from abroad. Even carrying a letter of introduction signed by the then archbishop, Michael Ramsey, could not penetrate these barriers of fear and self-protection that some had built around themselves. Opinions were things that you kept very private in case the wrong person was listening to your conversation. Then your job and even your freedom could be under threat.

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