Why blame the judge for applying the law? Change the law
Coffee House is one of those political blogs I generally respect and enjoy — but there’s a rather silly blog tonight: When is corruption not corrupt? When the establishment says it isn’t.
The problem is that the author is applying a moral argument to a legal situation — and the law and morality are not bedfellows.
At issue is a statement by Mr Justice Tugenhadt, who is certainly not my favourite judge. The judge was ruling against the Sunday Times and in favour of Peter Cruddas, whom the paper had accused of offering influence for cash. Now, at the moral level you know that he did this and you know that it is wrong: morally corrupt.
But judges don’t deal in morality, they deal in the law.
Coffee house quotes the judge:
“The present system of party funding, whether desirable or not, is lawful and practical, whereas other possible systems, such as funding out of taxation, or mass membership of political parties, are either not provided for by law, or not in practice available to the parties, however much they might wish that they were. This court cannot declare to be corrupt, as a matter of fact, the system of party funding authorised by Parliament and adopted by the Conservative and other parties. That may or may not be an opinion which people may honestly hold. It is not true as a matter of fact that the system is corrupt.”
But it comments:
If I have read him right, Tugendhat believes that corruption cannot exist in the British state because nothing the British state allows can be corrupt.
Yes. That is (almost) exactly what the judge is saying. But he can say nothing else. He can only deal with the law — and the law says that Cruddas was not doing anything wrong. It may be morally corrupt, but it isn’t legally corrupt.
Coffee House should not be slating the judge, it should be slating parliament. Parliament defines corruption by omission. If it isn’t illegal, it must be legal. And if it is legal, it cannot be legally corrupt, as — correctly and clearly says the judge — a matter of fact.
It is the law and parliament that is the ass, not the judge. And Coffee House should know better.