Anonymous witnesses and 42 days

The British legal system is falling to pieces, and it worries me. Worse still, when talking to a close friend the other day, I realised that they didn't understand the purpose of having a legal system in the first place.

The legal system is not there to incarcerate or otherwise punish criminals, it is there to protect the freedom of the majority. It protects our freedom by punishing people who break rules that we, as a society, have, willingly and rightly, imposed on ourselves.

The legal system is there to ensure that we can retain as many freedoms as is feasibly possible while allowing large numbers of us to live together in something resembling order and harmony.

So we come to 42 days of detention without charge. You have to wonder if it takes 42 days to gather evidence to charge somebody what the quality of the evidence leading to their arrest was like. 42 days is a ridiculously large amount of time for this process. Canada has 24 hours. Even China, well known for being a bit over the top, 'only' has 37. Welcome to police state Britain.

Then we come to the decision of the Law Lords (those peers that are legally qualified) that evidence given by anonymous witnesses is to be disallowed as the prevention of cross-examination means that the trial is unfair. This is the right decision. It is the only sensible decision. Imagine you are incorrectly accused of a crime, and the majority of the weight of evidence against you comes from an anonymous witness. Shouldn't your lawyer be able to ask questions that would expose them as a fraud?

But the UK government wants to rush laws through making this kind of evidence acceptable.

Letting somebody get away with a crime is itself less of a crime than imprisoning an innocent person. It is time that people realised that the law is there to protect our freedoms, not make it easier for others to take them away.