Saturday, October 22, 2016

Schrodinger's pardon

Following on from my post earlier today here I have just seen an explanation of the legal issues relating to the so called "Turing Bill" by James Chalmers, Regius Professor of Law at the Unviersity of Glasgow, with the magnificent title of

"Schrodinger's Pardon: the difficulties of the Turing bill."

That title is of course a reference to Schrodinger's Cat in the eponymous thought experiment in Quantum Physics, which manages to be both alive and dead at the same time until you look at it.


Chalmers disagrees with the "Nicholson bill" proposed by the SNP to give people in England and Wales convicted of historic sexual offences a pardon for a different reason from the government, which argued that it might give a pardon for people who had been convicted of something which is still illegal.

He argues instead that it would be completely unclear whether certain people would actually have been pardoned until they checked.

As he points out this, quote "defeats the purpose of the Bill, which was to pardon people automatically without them having to apply to the Home Secretary. We might, in an imperfect metaphor, say that the Bill creates a Schrödinger’s Pardon."

My word. I think I'll go back to trying to work out whether the European Court of Auditors have signed off the EU accounts or not - at least I have a modicum of professional training in understanding that one.

There is another irony. it seems rather ironic that Scottish National Party MPs at Westminster proposed a "Turing Bill" measure for England and Wales and complained about how fast and fat the UK government is moving, when the UK government's proposals would mean that the process is moved forward further and faster than anything which the SNP administration at Holyrood has so far brought forward in Scotland.

2 comments:

Jim said...

I just don't get this whole thing, I really don't.

A crime means that you done something that is against the law at a time when it was against the law.

so if you Break a law, then you are arrested and charged for it, and during your sentance the Law is changed so your "crime" is no longer a crime, then are you still guilty? - the only answer i can give is yes you are, because it was illegal when you done it.

to give any other answer is, in my humble opinion, a slippy slope.

Let me explain why. As people may or may not know I am a former smoker (swiched to my trusty vape a year or so ago and totally quit now, but i digress) I used to be a smoker and was for around 20 years.

During this time and prior to the ban I often used to smoke in a pub. At the time I was not committing a crime, as back then, there was no law, and no rule in any of the pubs, that I could not smoke in a pub.

To smoke in a pub today is illegal, and it carrys a fine for both me and the pub landlord, so by the same logic as "your crime is no longer a crime so we will let you off" then the reverse has to be "for a number of years you smoked in a pub, which is now illegal, so we are fining you £x"

Doesn't it.

Chris Whiteside said...

There is rightly a horror of retrospective legislation if it means retrospective convictions, the case you are concerned about, which would in my opinion be an act of arbitrary tyranny.

A retrospective pardon (or "disregard" of a conviction under a law which is now regarded as unjust is another matter entirely, however, in that it does not create the spectre of someone being condemned or punished because of a rule change.

The justification for supporting some retrospective pardons while opposing retrospective convictions is that under that policy the accused gets the benefit being judged under the less harsh law whether that was the earlier law in force at the time of the relevant action or the later law in force now.