– Detective Inspector Mark Rothwell, 10th August 2011
The motive...If you remain unconvinced that the scapegoating of Vincent Tabak was an episode of unparalleled evil, then you are guilty of “doublethink”. You undoubtedly accept without question the principle of the rule of law and the proportionate punishment of crime. This presupposes that every member of society has learnt to distinguish rationally between right and wrong, and to anticipate the consequences of his or her actions. You yourself have no first-hand experience of murder, but you fully endorse Mr. Justice Field’s plain designation of it as “a very serious crime”. Twenty years behind bars is the least sentence you would endorse for a murderer. Yet at the same time, a solid diet of detective fiction has brainwashed you into believing that, far from being a serious criminal, nearly every murderer is a person without previous convictions, who, however, has been swayed by some sudden passion, or has seen a chance of great personal reward, or is merely eccentric. You trivialise the taking of life to an act that almost anyone might find themselves carrying out. This huge discrepancy in attitudes is not just wrong, but amoral, anti-social, and logically incompatible with the rule of law.
Admittedly, establishing the motive of a murder suspect who has a history of gratuitous violence and crime may not be a prosecutor’s highest priority – but the Crown must be seen to demonstrate a solid explanation for the action of any other defendant. This must be done transparently and in open court, and the prosecutor must link the motive to the character of the accused. No matter how humble the person in the dock, nor how modest their contribution to society may have been, their character is considered legally and morally a good one if they have continuously abstained from crime and violence. A “law-abiding citizen”, as he or she is commonly designated, is one who has invested in their own trustworthiness. This personal asset is morally neutral until it is confronted by the suspicion of a court of law – but when this happens, both the prosecutor and you, the vigilant outsider, are obliged to respect and uphold a person’s honour and reputation, and to deplore arbitrary attacks on it. The individual reaps benefits from the investment in his own trustworthiness, and society functions only because most of its members can trust each other.
|Crown Prosecutor Ann Reddrop|
|Nigel Lickley QC|
Most real-life law-abiding citizens, furthermore, enhance their trustworthiness, honour and reputation by investing in an education, taking up employment or establishing a business, forming relationships, and raising a family. These investments, too, are of benefit, not just to the individual in question, but also to the rest of society as a whole. A person who has made these investments is well aware of the potential consequences to himself of a prison sentence. A prosecutor who does not acknowledge that a defendant who has made these investments has a great deal more to lose by risking imprisonment than one who has not made them is an enemy of society. The more a defendant would lose by being found guilty, the stronger is the motive for committing the crime that the prosecutor must link to the accused.
Objectively linking the character of a defendant in a murder case to a commensurate motive that can be demonstrated on the basis of evidence testified under oath is therefore not just an issue of statistics and probability, but the plain moral obligation of everyone who claims to endorse the rule of law – ranging from the judge and the prosecutors, to the jurors, the occupants of the courtroom’s public gallery, the journalists who report the cases, and the general public who wish to become victims of neither private crime nor a miscarriage of justice. In the interests of transparency, everyone should suspect the integrity of the police, the prosecutors and the judge in any murder case with the following features:
- The prosecutor does not demonstrate in court a motive attested by witnesses that was also one of the reasons why the defendant became a suspect
- The character of the defendant is good but the defence fails to challenge trivial or false evidence of eccentricity and individuality
- The focus of the prosecution and the news media is on questionable forensic evidence, especially DNA, and on the shortcomings of the defendant’s alibi
- The case is dependant on an admission of guilt obtained in custody, where an accused person with no previous offences is so inherently vulnerable to blackmail by the authorities and torture by fellow prisoners that such an admission is inevitably unsound
- The defendant has a partner whom the prosecution exploits
- Even though it is a first offence, the sentence is exceptionally harsh
The ethical issue becomes extreme in the case of a law-abiding citizen with a high education who takes up specialised work in a different country from his own. Society’s obligation to acknowledge and make allowances for the inherent vulnerability of such a person owing to the remoteness of their family and established social network is expressed in Jesus’s story of the good Samaritan. Nobody would travel to another city or another country if they were not confident that they could trust the public authorities there absolutely – nor would such a highly educated and trustworthy person commit a serious crime abroad without a sky-high motive, because he is well aware that the human cost of being imprisoned far away from friends and family would be even higher than serving the same sentence in his home town. A prosecutor who takes advantage of the vulnerability of a foreign expert to send him to trial without demonstrating any motive at all has violated all the rules of civilised behaviour.
|Who did have a motive to kill|
|Mr Justice Field|
|Defence QC William Clegg|
did nothing to stop
Counsel for the Prosecution
... and the carrot
|Judge Clement Goldstone QC|
According to The Citizen, Burnley, 10th August 2011, Detective Inspector Mark Rothwell, from the Force Major Investigation team, promised Ms Banks’s anguished family: “...following Lancaster’s guilty plea to manslaughter, he will be sentenced to a very long time behind bars.”
Daniel Lancaster had told police that he often choked Anna Banks during lovemaking and he never intended to do her any permanent damage, Manchester Crown Court was told. There were marks around her throat and dried blood on her face. He was a cannabis user and had an alcohol problem. He did not report her death for more than 24 hours, and had been hazily fiddling with his mobile telephone and watching TV when he was found at the scene by paramedics.
Louise Mary Blackwell QC
(photo: Lincoln House Chambers)
|Judge Martin Picton|
put pressure on
|Vincent Tabak’s girlfriend|