Fake Law | The Secret Barrister

Summary of: Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies
By: The Secret Barrister


Dive into the world of ‘Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies’ by The Secret Barrister and discover how our notions about justice are often misled by sensationalist headlines and misinformation. This summary will guide you through English law on personal defense, children’s welfare, compensation for personal injury, the nuances of human rights, and the equality that law seeks to provide to every individual. Packed with enlightening examples and real-life cases, this summary will help you grasp the underlying principles of the legal system and debunk the myths that have developed around it.

Home Defense Myths Debunked

A common misconception is that innocent homeowners defending themselves are treated like criminals under English law. In reality, self-defense is entirely legal, provided that it fulfills two essential criteria: a genuine belief that force is necessary to prevent harm, and a proportionate response to the threat. The infamous case of Tony Martin, who shot and killed an intruder, did not meet these criteria, as he acted as judge, jury, and executioner rather than genuinely defending himself and his property.

Delving into the contentious case of Tony Martin, the farmer convicted of murder in 2000 for shooting an intruder breaking into his home, a common myth suggests that homeowners defending themselves are treated like criminals. However, under English law, self-defense is permissible as long as it satisfies two crucial criteria.

Foremost, those defending themselves must genuinely believe that using force was essential to protect their safety. It is not important if this assumption was accurate, only that the individual thought their life was at risk at that moment. For example, if someone injures a person brandishing a weapon only to later discover it was a harmless object, they could still claim self-defense given their sincere belief of imminent danger.

Furthermore, the homeowner’s response to the threat must be proportionate. Upholding self-defense will become challenging if there is a significant disparity between the perceived threat’s extent and the subsequent reaction. This principle is illustrated when an altercation involves a minor slap, but escalates to gunshots.

In Tony Martin’s case, he did not meet either criterion, which led to his conviction. He claimed he confronted the intruders, but the facts revealed a darker truth: Martin anticipated their entrance, armed himself, and then strategically cornered the intruders to shoot them. Martin’s actions were not only premeditated but also employed excessive and disproportionate force.

Conclusively, Martin’s conviction was not a result of the law’s bias against homeowners but due to his failure to fulfill the necessary self-defense criteria. Dispelling this widely-held myth can ensure homeowners understand their rights and the limits of self-defense.

Prioritizing Child’s Best Interests

Charlie Gard, a two-month-old infant, was diagnosed with the rare condition mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS) that left him dependent on a ventilator, effectively blind, deaf, and immobile. His doctors recommended ceasing ventilation, while his parents desperately wanted to try a experimental treatment in the United States. The courts weighed in, deciding that the welfare of the child should come first. This was not the first time a child’s best interests took precedence over parental desires, as demonstrated by a 2005 case involving Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing a life-saving operation for their child due to religious beliefs. Upholding children’s rights and protection has been a central aspect of English law since the mid-20th century, ensuring that their best interests are always considered first.

Charlie Gard’s heart-wrenching story began when, at just two months old, he was diagnosed with the rare mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS). As days turned into months, Charlie became a permanent resident at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, entirely dependent on a ventilator. Tragically, he was effectively rendered blind, deaf, and immobile with severely abnormal brain function.

His doctors, evaluating Charlie’s grim quality of life, recommended discontinuing ventilation. However, Charlie’s distraught parents could not accept this. They discovered an experimental treatment in the United States and wanted to give their son a chance. This prompted a difficult court decision to determine whether Charlie should travel for treatment or pass away in England.

Throughout the emotional case, English law maintained its unwavering commitment to prioritizing the child’s best interests. Those observing the case closely noted global outcry and opinions, including comments from Pope Francis and Donald Trump. Many felt that the parents should have the final say in Charlie’s treatment.

Despite these arguments, history demonstrates that English courts have consistently advocated for the welfare of the child over parental preferences. In 2005, a child’s life was saved due to a crucial surgical procedure despite their parents’ religious objections. As in Charlie’s case, the experimental treatment was unproven in humans, previously only tested in mice.

The primary focus on the child’s best interests has provided a foundation for children’s rights and protection in English law since the mid-20th century. Even in profoundly sad and challenging cases, such as Charlie Gard’s, the law strives to ensure that the child’s welfare remains at the core of every legal decision.

The Intricacies of Personal Injury Law

The perception that individuals can easily profit from minor incidents has contributed to a distorted view of personal injury law. In English law, there exists a duty of care that individuals must uphold to ensure they don’t cause harm to others. When this duty is breached, claims for compensation can be filed. However, determining the appropriate amount of compensation takes into account the pain, suffering, and financial implications faced by the victim, painting a clearer picture of the reasoning behind seemingly outlandish payouts.

You may have read about incredulous lawsuits in tabloid newspapers, such as a child being awarded £6,000 for being splashed by custard or a cleaner receiving £9,000 for tripping over their own mop. It’s essential to examine these events through the lens of English personal injury law to understand how such large sums of money can be awarded.

In essence, English law mandates that citizens maintain a duty of care towards each other. This obligation extends to any activity carried out by individuals, employers, or service providers, ensuring they act with reasonable foresight to prevent causing harm to others. When this duty of care is violated, such as a factory owner failing to provide adequate safety equipment, resulting in an employee’s injury, the law deems it a breach.

Compensation for such personal injury cases depends on several factors. The court considers the pain and distress endured by the victim, the immediate financial ramifications like lost wages and medical bills, and the long-term consequences, such as reduced ability to work. The seemingly outrageous compensation figures often fail to consider that these injuries can have a lifelong impact on the victim.

Take, for example, the child who was awarded £6,000 for being splashed with custard. The newspaper reports failed to mention that the custard was scalding hot, leaving the child with a permanently scarred face. Considering this, the compensation awarded serves not as a windfall but rather as a form of justice for the victim’s genuine suffering.

Human Rights Act Misconceptions

The Human Rights Act, often accused of championing dangerous criminals, is pivotal in protecting everyone’s fundamental rights, including those who have committed crimes. It emphasizes the human aspect of criminal cases, considering individual rights and the implications for their children when making judgments. The Act is not defending criminals, but rather acknowledging their humanity and the impact of their situation on their dependents.

It is common to hear that human rights are significant, but what happens when human rights law seems too lenient? Take the case of Mohammed Ibrahim, an Iraqi national living illegally in the UK who was convicted of traffic offenses that resulted in the death of a twelve-year-old girl. Once released from prison, the UK government sought to deport him, but a judge ruled this would breach his human rights.

The claim is that the Human Rights Act supports dangerous criminals. However, a closer examination of the UK’s human rights law reveals different intentions. The Human Rights Act 1988, based on the European Convention of Human Rights, guarantees every individual basic human rights, such as the right to life, freedom from torture, and freedom from discrimination.

The controversy surrounding the Human Rights Act arises from the right to a family life protected by Article 8. This article allows non-British nationals to contest deportation orders if they have family in the UK, arguing that deportation would deprive them of family life. This appeared to be a factor for Ibrahim, who had two dependent young children.

Critics typically fail to recognize that courts consider not only the claimant’s rights but also their children’s rights. If Ibrahim had been deported, his children would have lost their father and been negatively affected. Although situations like Ibrahim’s are multifaceted and spark disagreement on the adequacy of justice, the Human Rights Act doesn’t pick sides with dangerous criminals—it recognizes criminals as people and parents, deserving of certain fundamental rights.

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