by Kevin D. Annett
To no-one will we sell, to no-one will we deny or delay right or justice.
- Clause 40, The Magna Carta, 1215
All persons who were the victims of a crime were expected to raise their "hue and cry" and apprehend the criminal; and upon hearing their cry, every able-bodied man in the community was expected to do the "utmost in his power" (pro toto posse suo) to chase and apprehend the accused as a "posse”.
- 1215: The Year of Magna Carta by J. Danziger et al (2003)
“It’s standard practice here not to prosecute child rapists for a first offense. They have to rape a kid ten, maybe fifteen times before there’s a good chance of conviction”.
“You mean it’s not a crime to rape a child, in practice?” I replied.
“Not really. Not under our legal system it isn’t”
Whenever people ask me why we’ve established our own common law court of justice, I simply tell them that story.
New Yorkers engage strangers with a familiarity unknown to most Canadians, and so it wasn’t long before I fell into a conversation with the cop in question during my all-night vigil at JFK airport last week, awaiting my flight home. He was a Brooklyn precinct veteran who knew the score. At one point, to emphasize what he’d told me about child rapists, he handed me that day’s New York Times.
“Small world” he remarked, pointing to one article.
The story was about a network of Catholic priests and bishops in central Germany who had for years targeted the same children for rape and trafficking. None of them had ever been convicted.
“Damn straight” the cop replied.
Someone once said that if the sun comes up every morning, it is only because of people of good will. I disagree. There are more than enough of us with good will; that has never been the problem. What is needed is to act on what we know is true and necessary, for action alone will stop the hand of the criminal. But few if any of my good willed neighbors will act to save our children if that means having to defy conventional authority.
The law is a lot like the church: a mysterious institution ruled by a high priesthood that is self-governing and unaccountable and thus, a magnet for criminality and corruption, and yet which is, absurdly, relied upon to render justice and salvation for the rest of us. It was not always so.
A thousand years ago, a common law existed among my English and Celtic ancestors that sought to ensure the liberties and security of the people. Based in village courts known as “the Hundreds”, this law rested in the hands of the people, who enacted their own justice independently of the far-away power calling itself “the Crown”.
In this tradition, sheriffs were appointed by the Hundreds to create local juries to name and present anyone guilty of theft, murder or rape. It was up to every able-bodied man in the village to bring such offenders into these local courts for trial and sentencing. These men were known as “posses”, taken from the Latin term "pro toto posse suo", meaning "utmost in his power". Our ancestors were each obligated to take responsibility for the law and the safety of the community, by stopping the criminals themselves, to the utmost of their power.
Naturally, such local justice didn't sit well with the centralized authority of kings and popes, and for centuries, they and their intellectual hacks have convinced us that acting for our own benefit is tantamount to chaos and anarchy. Our long common law tradition of direct citizen action is equated now with "vigilante justice" and (to quote one Canadian Supreme Court jurist) "arrogant mob rule".
Arrogant, in fact, comes from the Italian word "arrogati", which means, "to claim for oneself". Yes, indeed.
The learned big wigs who preside over our present criminal-protecting legal system should really check out their vocabularies and their own precedents before condemning the rest of us. For under Canadian and British law, a principle known as Lawful Excuse or a Claim of Right allows any citizen to break the law for the benefit of the community, and even make arrests of suspected criminals when the authorities refuse or are unable to do so.
American courts call this right a Necessity Defense, and it's been used successfully by civil disobedience activists who blockade missile bases and military operations because of a Necessity to defend their communities from a clear danger. But the idea is the same: a very subversive idea, actually, which says that citizens can and must take the law into their own hands when their lives are in peril, or when the system is not functioning as it should.
Who of us can deny that today the law no longer protects our liberties and our lives, and those of our children? And yet over time, we have unlearned the habits of liberty and action, lulled by the lie that rights are somehow intrinsic to a society, and not in need of winning, over and over again.
We are now under assault, in an undeclared civil war waged by a small ruling elite against our traditional rights, our families, and the earth itself. And the strongest weapon this wealthy elite wields is that they own the law and use it for their own benefit. There is no clearer proof of this than the massive protection given to child raping clergy and their corporate church institutions by courts around the world.
A new judicial mechanism is needed: one that does not reduce the law to the expedient tool of the powerful, but which enshrines justice for the helpless by becoming a weapon in the hands of victims everywhere. And reaching back into our tradition of the Hundreds Courts and citizen-driven common law, we have such a means at hand.
In that knowledge and spirit, we have set up an International Common Law Court of Justice that will inspire many other such courts in communities around the world. Already, we have posted online the evidence and arguments of our Prosecutor's Office, which is seeking the indictment of the officers of church and state responsible for the legal genocide of aboriginal children across Canada. (www.itccs.org)
But the outcome of that Court lies in the hands of all of you reading this, who are charged with the enforcement of whatever sentence is brought down by our fifty eight sworn Citizen Jurors. That's because, resting on the Natural Law understanding that truth and justice lies innately within each of us, it is the civic duty of every man and women to decide the punishment of the guilty, as well as enforce it.
That is the tall and exciting order of the judicial and moral revolution represented in our Court. The People are the Law. We can level all the rough places and create a place of equality and justice for this generation, and all of our descendents – but only by stepping out of the status quo and re-establishing a tradition that was our ancestor's sole bulwark against tyranny.
In the words of one such ancestor,
- Gerrard Winstanley, The True Levellers' Standard, Surrey, England, 1649
Tune in to the first program of our new blog radio program "We the Jury: A Forum without Borders", on Saturday, February 2 at 1 pm pacific time, 4 pm eastern, 9 pm GMT, at www.blogtalkradio.com/wethejury .
Our featured guest is Andrew Paterson, who is withholding his tax money from the Canadian government until it can demonstrate that it will not use it for criminal purposes of concealing crimes against humanity.
Our complete case concerning Genocide in Canada will be posted for your judgement the day before, on February 1, 2013, at www.itccs.org.
Gerrard Winstanley (1609 – 10 September 1676) was an English Protestant religious reformer and political activist during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. Winstanley was one of the founders of the English group known as the True Levellers for their beliefs, based upon Christian communism, and as the Diggers for their actions because they took over public lands and dug them over to plant crops.