Saturday, 16 December 2017

Beware ‘justice’ as a form of revenge

IN recent years the reporting of legal matters such as trials and endless reviews often includes interviews with relatives and

IN recent years the reporting of legal matters such as trials and endless reviews often includes interviews with relatives and friends — and more and more frequently do we hear the word “justice”.

“All we want is justice,” is a common phrase now. Is it really justice, or is the word “justice” being used quite wrongly to mean “revenge”?

In the case of endless reviews, “justice” often appears to mean the result or decision that the injured or offended party wants for themselves.

What has happened is that the true meaning of “justice” as a just, balanced and impartial decision has got lost.

The courts of justice in this country have developed over centuries and, by and large, have tamed and civilised savage mankind to the point where we are regarded by other countries as a model for freedom and justice. The modern misuse of the word “justice” is in danger of undermining such freedoms.

Yes, there are still injustices and, no, we should not lie down and let such things go unchecked and unchallenged and, yes, we should still be free to voice our criticisms and at times take action.

I remember, as a theological student, demonstrating against evictions in London by unscrupulous landlords, sitting on doorsteps to prevent the bailiffs moving in. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple.

The strength of British society is a carefully crafted balance but it needs to be regularly appraised, amended and updated. Any sign of infringement of liberties by stealth, by authorities interpreting laws blindly and inhumanly, needs to be nipped in the bud — it is but a short step to a police state.

Again, any sign of people taking liberties with their freedom, perhaps by manipulating what is legal, to the detriment of others likewise needs to be subject to scrutiny.

The birth of a child to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge reminds us of how blessed we are with our constitutional monarchy, preventing politicians becoming dictators with a consequent collapse of true justice.

Anachronistic as our constitution appears, it has, since the 17th century, prevented the extremes of social upheaval.

Reference to elected rulers and other apparently alternative forms of government in other parts of the world, and historically, should be a warning.

Essentially our constitution is based on justice with balance and tolerance. But we do need to be vigilant to prevent abuses by petty dictators.

Basic to our beliefs in this country, whether we claim to be “religious” or not, is that which Jesus taught — to love our neighbour as ourselves.

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