Whatever Happened To ‘Mens Rea’?

Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea

(An act does not make anyone guilty unless there is a criminal intent or a guilty mind)

There have been two particular cases in the news of late. Both have set social media aflame, with the modern equivalent of barrack-room lawyers spouting their misguided opinions to all and sundry (and that includes almost anyone on Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other myriad sites abounding on the internet for the purpose of ignorant, ill-intentioned, axe-grinding by such dubious, uninformed, individuals).

The first case concerned an American woman involved in a road traffic accident in the UK that resulted in the death of a young motorcyclist. It was a tragic case for both parties concerned, though the car driver received little compassion from either social media, which can be expected, or the mainstream media who might have known better. The woman was driving on the wrong side of the road at night, mistakenly assuming she was in the correct lane because she’d driven on the right-hand side of the road all her life in the USA. The motorcyclist was on his correct side of the highway and the two vehicles collided head-on.

It was a tragic accident. The parents of the motorcyclist were understandably distraught. The woman driver, undoubtedly in shock and reliant on her husband and others for advice, fled back to the USA where she’s been hounded by UK trolls on social media, and is now facing possible extradition to the UK where she’ll suffer abuse from the public baying for their sort of distorted ‘justice’, and the unlikelihood of a fair trial.

The second case is much more serious, if for no other reason than it involved the deaths of 178 people. On the night of the 8th January a commercial  airliner was shot down shortly after taking off from Tehran’s main airport. Five days earlier, on the orders of the President of the United States, a US Reaper drone had attacked and destroyed a convoy near Baghdad airport, killing Qassim Suleimani, the second most powerful man in Iran, and his companion the Iraqi, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. It was a deliberate assassination by the head of a nation not at war with Iran or Iraq.

The Iranians had retaliated by firing missiles into compounds occupied by US troops, but it would seem in such a manner as to cause no injuries. Nevertheless, their military was on highest alert for further attacks from the US and when the airliner flew too close to a military area it was mistakenly judged an incoming missile – with disastrous results.

Two major incidents, neither in any way related. Except that in both the road accident death and the downing of the airliner, there was a lack of ‘mens rea’. What is ‘mens rea’? It has nothing to do with male buttocks. It is Latin for ‘guilty mind’. In criminal law it’s generally accepted that a crime can only be classed as such if the perpetrator knew that his/her actions would result in a punishable offence. In other words,

“Mens rea allows the criminal justice system to differentiate between someone who did not mean to commit a crime and someone who intentionally set out to commit a crime.”  FindLaw.

The woman in the car had no sense she was on the wrong side of the road. Her brain was telling her it was the right place to be. She had no intention of hitting the motorcyclist, or indeed killing him. It was an accident.

The Iranian soldiers in charge of their air defence system had no intention of shooting down a passenger jet with 176 people on board. They were nervous, some might say ‘trigger-happy’, but it was a case of mistaken identity. They thought they were firing on a US missile about to wreak havoc.

In neither case was there any intention to cause harm to those who suffered it. There was a total lack of ‘mens rea’. Yet, the baying heard loudest in both cases has been for the blood of both the American woman driver of the car, and the Iranians who shot down the aircraft.

Under criminal law none of these persons should ever be convicted of an offence.

Take a moment to consider one other person involved in the second of these examples. The perpetrator of the attack at Baghdad airport that caused the deaths of two human beings. It was a deliberate act of assassination, a cold-blooded murder of two individuals carried out with the perpetrator fully aware of what his actions would achieve.  He knew exactly what he was doing. He had the ‘mens rea’.

Not only was he guilty of the direct act of murder, but by committing it he indirectly caused the deaths of 174 other people.

That person was Donald Trump.

Perhaps those internet trolls who bay for blood should direct their focus towards the true perpetrator of these heinous crimes, and while it may be contrary to their natures to do so, summon up a little sympathy and understanding towards those of their fellow human beings who, because they are exactly that and not machines, make simple mistakes that end in dire consequences.

Accidents happen all the time. Most we never hear about. More occasionally, heinous crimes are committed. It would seem, that when wrought by those in power, such criminal acts have become acceptable to us all.


Emmanuel Macron: Thoughts On NATO

Flag of North Atlantic Treaty Organization

There are occasions when the French President, Emmanuel Macron, appears to overstep himself and say or do certain things that give cause for concern. His attachment to big business, the violent manner in which he attempted to quell the Gilet Jaune protests, are just two examples.

He’s not a man to hold back in his beliefs on how the country should be governed, and such forthrightness can create frictions, not just within France, but in the E.U. as a whole. Once in a while, though, he is brave enough to speak out and say what others are perhaps too reticent, or scared, to admit.

This week, in an interview with the Economist, he didn’t mince words when asked about the future of NATO:

EMMANUEL MACRON, the French president, has warned European countries that they can no longer rely on America to defend NATO allies. “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Mr Macron declares in a blunt interview with The Economist. Europe stands on “the edge of a precipice”, he says, and needs to start thinking of itself strategically as a geopolitical power; otherwise we will “no longer be in control of our destiny.”

He’s absolutely right in what he says. Donald Trump should leave no-one in Europe in any doubt that he will operate unilaterally, without  consulting NATO, and have no compunction about ordering US military actions even when detrimental to the interests of other NATO allies.

Of course, it’s always possible that the 2020 presidential elections in America will see the end of the Trump dynasty and a return to more normal relations, but the election of a populist president in the United States has had repercussions around the world, emboldening other ‘populist’ leaders to follow Trump’s lead. The world is in an unstable state, both environmentally and politically, and Europe’s long-time reliance on America to defend its borders has been seriously shaken in the last three years.

He was asked whether he believed in the effectiveness of Article Five, the idea that if one NATO member is attacked all would come to its aid, which many analysts think underpins the alliance’s deterrent effect. “I don’t know,” he replies, “but what will Article Five mean tomorrow?”

NATO, Mr Macron says, “only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” And America, in his view, shows signs of “turning its back on us,” as it demonstrated starkly with its unexpected troop withdrawal from north-eastern Syria last month, forsaking its Kurdish allies.

The cold-blooded, detached, manner in which Trump sold the Kurds down the river to Turkey’s Erdogan is typical of the man. He would probably have sold his grandmother if there’d been a profit in it. The very fact that a nation like the United States could elect a narcissistic sociopath to the office of ‘Leader of the Free World’ speaks volumes about the political earthquakes rocking the world today.

Europe, with or without the United Kingdom, needs to look to its own security. Trump is the living proof that America can never again be totally trusted. The very fabric of that nation is being rent apart by Christian Fundamentalists, White Supremacists, racism, gun-toting private armies, and a return to tribalism that will likely result in confrontations leading to  serious civil unrest.

Europe needs to increase its military forces. Hopefully, NATO will survive the Trump Administration, but even if it does Europe needs to play a greater role in defending the peace of the world against those populist leaders hellbent on extending their power into other regions.

There can be little doubt that Russia’s Vladimir Putin would dearly love to get his hands on those eastern European states that used to be a part of the Soviet Union. China  and Russia are presently cooperating  militarily. Any move by Putin to retake control of eastern Europe would normally instigate blocking moves by NATO, led by the Americans, but while Trump remains in power the question has to be asked: would he move against Putin, or, as has happened in Ukraine, stand back and allow it to happen?

If there’s one thing U.S. President Donald Trump has taught us all…

…it’s that NATO countries can no longer rely on an unstable America to do it for them.

Goodbye UK’s Super Rich? We Can Hope!

Richest 1% Own Half The World’s Wealth

According to the Guardian recently, the super-rich are preparing to leave Britain ‘within minutes’ if Labour wins the forthcoming election. While no great fan of Jeremy Corbyn I think, if I had a vote, this news could swing it his way because, frankly, even though I no longer live in the UK I’d be very happy to see the back of these wealthy parasites who live near tax-free off the backs of ordinary Brits.

In reality though, it makes not the slightest difference to me, a British born and bred citizen, because after Brexit I will no longer have the right to vote in any election, anywhere. Not in Britain, nor France, nor America where I lived for nigh-on fifteen years. Yes, the reality is I’m stateless, thanks to something called the “Representation of the People Act 1985,” which went a long way towards disenfranchising British citizens not resident in the United Kingdom.

I have a near worthless document called a ‘UK Passport’ which has ‘European Union’ in gold letters on the front. If the lunatic fringe, both inside and outside the British Parliament, ever manage to drag the UK out of Europe, those words will be meaningless, though as my passport doesn’t expire until 2027 it will no doubt carry that lie around for another seven years.

The Tory government recently tried to amend the ‘Representation of the People Act 1985’ to give British expats the right to vote throughout their lives wherever they live. It was talked out by this arrogant prat….

…Tory MP Philip Davies, who appears to take some perverted pleasure in filibustering bills just for the sake of it, even if it means going against his own party.

The Labour Party is heavily opposed to amending the rules, apparently based on the outdated idea that only wealthy people live abroad, must therefore all be Tory voters, and as such would help keep Labour out of power in any election. Jeremy Corbyn and Co really should try to drag themselves out of the Victorian era and into the twenty-first century. Most expats today are ordinary, hard-working, or retired folk reliant on a wage or pension to survive. We don’t have luxury yachts in the Med and drive Lamborghinis!

Those that do are all living in tax haven Britain, and most of them aren’t even citizens of the UK.

Let us hope it’s not for much longer!