Monday 23 October 2006

It's the law.

Here we have an interesting legal conundrum. It would be illegal for me to name a woman who has made a false accusation of rape. However, it is perfectly legal for MPs and Lords to do so in Parliament. Furthermore, should they do so, it is legal for Hansard to quote them. So a certain woman's name is on the Web right here: last Thursday, Lord Campbell-Savours called her "a serial and repeated liar". As well as the damage she has done to her victims' reputations, she has succeeded in getting one man, Warren Blackwell, jailed for three-and-a-half years. Lord Campbell-Savours reckons she should not only be named, but done for perjury, too. Quite right. As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, women who do this do untold damage not only to their targets' reputations but also to every genuine rape victim.

Anyway, back to the legalities. The reason for this apparent paradox is helpfully explained over at The Anglo Saxon Chronicle:

Lord Campbell-Savours was able to do this because he is protected from legal action for comments made in the House of Lords by Parliamentary Privilege.

That Privilege is granted to him in law by the provisions of the Bill of Rights 1689, which states: That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament.

That's pretty clear wording.

Mr Chronicles has decided to go for the law with a full frontal approach: he's named the woman, as the Bill of Rights clearly says he is every bit as entitled to do as Lord Campbell-Savours, and is daring the authorities to prosecute him. It'll be interesting to see what happens. Good luck to him.

But I'm going for a slightly different approach: merely demonstrating that the law, even if enforced correctly, is useless on its own terms. I mean, look at this post. I haven't broken the law; I haven't named this bastard of a woman; and yet I have legally linked to Hansard, who have legally published the transcription of Lord Campbell-Savours legally naming her. This is ridiculous.

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