Monday 21 November 2016

Trial of Thomas Mair

The public trial of  Thomas Mair, who killed my MP Jo Cox, last June, has now lasted a week and is expected to continue for another two.  I cannot see what useful  purpose is served by this. The fact that Mair killed her is undisputed, and whether the verdict is murder, manslaughter, unlawful killing or something else should make no difference to the sentence, that he should be detained  in a secure institution and treated for mental illness until it is safe to release him, which will probably be "never." 

 A sensible system would sort this out in an afternoon. 

There is no sense in which "justice" is served by this protracted legal performance. Instead public money is being wasted on lawyers, who will not be on the minimum wage,  and the expenses of witnesses. The major outcome is the of feeding  the public's appetite for ghoulish details to the profit of the press. 

Sadly that bastion of probity and liberalism, my beloved Guardian, participates in full..


  1. Well, it's over now, but I wonder how you think a 'sensible system' could have sorted it out in an afternoon. Are you really suggesting that a judge could stop a defence case and direct the jury to find a defendant guilty on the grounds that 'it makes no difference to the sentence'?

    Because that's not a system that would be open to abuse at all…

    1. The case has not lasted as long as predicted because Mair offered no defence. It shouldn't have taken long for psychiatrists to offer evidence on his mental state (apparently perfectly rational) and others to offer any mitigating circumstances (apparently none) and for a jury (or even a judge alone) to pronounced a suitable verdict (in this case murder) and for the judge to pronounce a similar sentence to the one given.

      Personally I would not have given "life meaning life" but for a minimum of "x" years and then until such time as he was fit to be released without being a further danger to the public, though expecting that to be "never." I know that is not a popular stance, but, as a Liberal I believe everyone should have hope and a chance to change, howerer unlikely that outcome is.

    2. But presumably you agree that he should have been able to mount a defence if he had wished to? Your initial article suggests you thought that he should somehow have been stopped from mounting a defence.

      Otherwise how could it have been 'sorted out in an afternoon'?

    3. Yes, of course he had the right to mount a defence, but it is hard to see how it could have taken any length of time. He admitted that he did it, was seen by umpteen witnesses to do it, the incident could well have been recorded on CCTV. So he could have claimed in his defence that he did it for political purposes (doesn't take long to declare that invalid) or that he was mentally deranged at the time, which may have made a difference to the technical verdict (murder or manslaughter) but not, as argued above, the sentence. No need for expensive public costs and lawyers' fees for days on end.

    4. Well, it would have made a difference to the sentence, clearly, because if he had been not guilty of murder by reason of insanity then he wouldn't have received a whole-life tariff. So clearly it would have been important to allow him to mount that defence, had he wished, you must agree, so that the jury could decide on it?

      I mean, in this case, it's hard to see why he even bothered to plead not guilty if he wasn't going to offer a defence.

      But more generally, surely you see it would be a very bad idea indeed to give judges the ability to declare that a defendant is not to offer a defence on the grounds that it would make no difference to the verdict (as opposed to, for example, not allowing the calling of irrelevant witnesses, which is a different matter)?

      Determining guilt or innocence is the job of a jury, not of a judge.

    5. I have never claimed that there shouldn't be a trial and that Mair shouldn't be allowed to offer a defence. (I believe the "Not guilty " plea was entered for him as he refused to plead.) I'm simply saying that in this case the matter is so obviously straight-forward that it could have been sorted out in an afternoon.

    6. In that case why did you think it might take another two weeks?

      It could only have been sorted out in an afternoon if he'd plead guilty. Given he didn't, the CPS had to produce witnesses to prove he was there and did it. That is obviously going to take more than an afternoon.

      How do you think it should have been arranged to be sorted out in an afternoon? Are you saying judges should have the ability to treat a 'not guilty' plea as 'guilty' if they decide it will make no difference to the sentence? Because that seems to me to put far too much power in the hands of judges.

    7. I mentioned "another two weeks" because the initial prediction was that the trial would take three. Presumably it was shorter because Mair refused to put up a defence.

      Given that Mair did not deny the killing, and there were umpteen witnesses to see him doing it, it should not have taken more than a few minutes to establish that fact.

      The rest of the afternoon could be taken up with explanations and please of mitigation, if any, followed by the jury's verdict (was it murder, manslaughter or something else?0 and then the obvious sentence.

      I agree that justice must not only be done but be seen to be done, but there's no need to make a ghoulish media-fest of it.