Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Judgement Call 1

I have been listening to the radio, and two stories have emerged today, each illustrating a finely balanced dilemma. First is the plan to ban alcohol sales in a part of Devon in anticipation of an Internet-organised mass party. On the one hand, we all know about the real and increasing problem of drunken misbehaviour, one that blights the late-night streets of many towns. On the other hand this is a free country, and we are free to go wherever we choose, and to drink alcohol, provided we are of legal age to do so. If, having gone somewhere and drunk alcohol, we misbehave, then we do so at our peril and can and should be punished for it.
Torquay magistrates will be asked to rule on the ban, for which I can see the pros and cons.
Taking off my judicial hat for a moment, I recall an incident during the miners' strike when I was on my way to Nottingham on business, and I was stopped at a police roadblock, where an officer asked me where I was going, presumably for fear of my being a flying picket or some such. I had a Magna Carta moment, and I said (rather pompously, in hindsight) "I am going about my lawful occasions, officer. I am not prepared to tell you where I am going or why. If you have no further questions I would like to get on with my business now". So he waved me past with ill grace and that was that. On an emotional level as well as a practical one, I cherish my heritage of many hundreds of years of an Englishman's freedom, so unlike those foreign chappies.

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