HEAL UoS

‘All right thinking people?’: Hidden law making and faith

In 2012, Reproduction, Testing project on October 1, 2012 at 11:40 am

Sarah Catt’s case has attracted huge media interest, following her eight-year imprisonment for taking Misoprostol to bring about a miscarriage a week before full-term. She will be in cusody for four years and on licence for a further four years. See, for example, coverage in The Telegraph, the Guardian –  and again – and the latest related story was in the Sunday Times with pharmacists allegedly selling Misoprostol over the counter. There are numerous blog posts, eg Barbara Hewson’s Spiked post in which she argues against any conviction, and Karen Gardiner’s post on the importance of women’s access to services; and – in the interests of balance – also coverage in the Catholic Herald, where there was a call for the judge’s sentiments to be extended to all foetuses and not only ‘healthy’ ones (c/f s.1(1)(d) Abortion Act 1967).

What does this have to do with hidden law-making?

In his sentencing remarks Mr Justice Cooke commented:

[15]. There is no mitigation available by reference to the Abortion Act, whatever view one takes of its provisions which are, wrongly, liberally construed in practice so as to make abortion available essentially on demand prior to 24 weeks with the approval of registered medical practitioners. What you have done is to rob an apparently healthy child en ventre sa mere, vulnerable and defenceless, of the life which he was about to commence. You are not charged with murder and I would be wrong to treat it as such as matter of law. …

[16]. In English Law, none of those offences could be committed in respect of an unborn child, but the gravamen of this offence is that, at whatever stage life can be said to begin, the child in the womb here was so near to birth that in my judgement all right thinking people would consider this offence more serious than manslaughter or any offence on the calendar other than murder.

The tenor of his comments raised a few eyebrows, and media reporters quickly uncovered Justice Cooke’s strong links with the Lawyers Christian Fellowship – a group which has previously campaigned to change abortion law (at the time of writing none of their public policy material was available on their website, www.lawcf.org). Writing for the Guardian, Amanda Bancroft posited the question thus: ‘When one reads the remarks of the judge knowing his belief system, one can only ask: did the judge view this case only on the context of the crime she actually committed, or also in the context of a crime against a god which may not be hers?’  Interesting to note some of the ‘behind the scenes’ influences in the administration of justice.

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  1. “All right thinking people” –should this be read as anyone who disagrees is a left thinking person?

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