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Whatever happened to ‘due process’?

HILARY WISE reminds the Labour leadership of some basic legal principles

CONFUSION reigns in the heart of the Labour Party. Sir Keir Starmer was hailed as an experienced lawyer with a strong track record of upholding the rights enshrined in British and international law. 

As leader, he would bring his penetrating “forensic” approach to bear on issues facing both the nation and the party.

So it is embarrassing to have to remind him of the basic principles on which any ethical legal system rests:

• The legal authorities must first establish that enough prima facie evidence has been brought to justify taking a case to court

• The judge and jury should not themselves have a personal interest in the outcome of the case. If they do, they must recuse themselves

• A defendant has the right to know exactly what they are accused of, and by whom

• The burden of proof rests with the prosecution

• A defendant has the right to defend themselves in open court, to question the plaintiff and to bring witnesses in their defence

• If convicted, the defendant has the right of appeal

• If a plaintiff or witness is later found to have provided spurious or misleading evidence to the court, they may be accused of perjury

It is less a question of which of these principles have been violated by the compliance unit, the pseudo-legal body of the Labour Party, in its dealings with many of the allegations of anti-semitism. It is rather which, if any, have been observed?

Starmer’s reaction suggests he will continue to pursue a course which he somehow sees as politically expedient. History tells us it risks leading the party into the most dangerous kind of authoritarianism.

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