Sunday, June 22, 2008

But That Was In Another Country.......*

My comment on the Naomi Campbell thread to the effect that she has no previous convictions in the UK has stirred up a bit of comment, here and elsewhere. We all know that she has had frequent brushes with the law, including a community-service sentence in the US. Nevertheless, for the purpose of last week's case, she was treated as being of good character. Some people think that the foreign conviction should have counted against her, but there are quite a few reasons why it should not. The main objections are practical; legal systems and record keeping vary greatly from country to country, and there is no reliable way of ensuring records were complete and accurate. More importantly, there are thousands of acts that are illegal in some countries, but not in the UK. A Swedish man who visits a prostitute commits an offence. A woman who drives a car in Saudi Arabia, ditto. Until half a century ago, there were many things a black could not do in the southern US, just as there were in South Africa until the fall of apartheid. Traffic laws differ greatly, even across the EU.
I remenber seeing PNC printouts in the past that carried details of convictions in, if I recall aright, Germany and Jamaica. I haven't seen one of those for a long time.
One day, long after I have retired from the bench, we shall probably see an EU-wide system of criminal records, but it will take many years to bring in, and probably won't be worth the trouble.

* "Thou hast committed--"
"Fornication-- but that was in another country;
And besides, the wench is dead."
Christopher Marlowe - The Jew of Malta

No comments:

Post a Comment

Posts are pre-moderated. Please bear with us if this takes a little time, but the number of bores and obsessives was getting out of hand, as were the fake comments advertising rubbish.