By Andrew Brons.
When Nationalists are persecuted by the state by being prosecuted in a blatantly political trial, their fellow Nationalists have every right to protest outside the court and elsewhere as we did in 2006 in Leeds. We were then saying that the laws should not be on the statute book, at least in that form, and/or the prosecution ought not to proceed.
However, those who demonstrate outside a court, seeking to persuade the jury to give a guilty verdict or to persuade a judge to impose a severe sentence are sending a dangerous, if perhaps unintended, message. They are saying that it is right for politicians, powerful or powerless, to influence judicial decisions to convict and punish severely those of whom we disapprove. Any influence might be minimal, when the parties are miniscule and not exactly on the cusp of power. However, it is saying:
“If we were in power in the state, we would use our authority to tell the court what its verdict ought to be and what ought to be the appropriate sentence.” States in which that happens do not observe the rule of law or the independence of the judiciary. Political organisations that attempt, however vainly, to influence courts to convict and punish severely, are revealing rather more than they should about themselves.
There might be those who say that I am naïve if I think that political influence is never brought on prosecutors and judges in sensitive political trials. The prosecutions of Nick Griffin, Mark Collett and John Tyndall in 2004 followed a special week-end meeting of the National Executive of the Labour Party that considered ways of ‘dealing with’ the threat posed by the BNP. I can assure you that I am not naïve.
The trial and sentencing of the perpetrators of the gruesome murder of Lee Rigby undoubtedly aroused passions among the population at large and among Nationalists in particular. Furthermore, there was little doubt about the guilt of the accused or the aggravating features of the crime. Indeed, there were photographs to prove both.
Should this trial therefore be the exception to the rule that politicians should not campaign for guilty verdicts and severe sentences? No, it must be observed in cases like this as in any other. I am sure that the murderers will seek leave to appeal against conviction and they will appeal against sentence. They might try, however vainly, to argue that the whole life sentence and the minimum forty-five years sentence were influenced by public opinion and the demonstrations outside.
Worse than that, Nationalists will have earned a reputation for believing that the judiciary should be a pawn in the hands of politicians. In the case of one particular politician, we could say that we had already arrived at that conclusion.