There are better legal minds around here than mine but:

But they will also ask for a writ of habeas corpus freeing him from custody.

The common law procedure developed in medieval times and is Latin for “you may have the body”.

Umm, doesn\’t it mean \”we have the body\” or perhaps \”here is the body\”?

The basic idea being that if someone is languishing in some Baron\’s dungeon then the King\’s courts they (or, I think, anyone else?) can demand that they are presented in the King\’s courts to determine whether said Baron (or anyone else) has the right to detain them?

Going back some the point being that the body itself had to be presented at the hearing so that it could be freed if that\’s what was going to happen?

BTW, on this Qatada thing, this specific case, my view is as always. He may be a bad \’un, I have no idea. But he gets tried and treated the same way you and I do. As far as the law is concerned you\’re not a bad \’un until you\’ve been tried and proved to be so. And yes, there are exceptions to this. Flight risk is a reason for denying bail as is the risk of witness nobbling. And there are times, like when we\’re at war, when we have internment which is, essentially, the withdrawal of the protections of habeas corpus.

But we haven\’t declared that last. Qatada hasn\’t been convicted of anything in our courts. He\’s not a flight risk, quite the opposite. And as we\’re not trying to charge him with anything there are no witnesses to nobble.

And we just don\’t do preventive detention for the quite obvious reason that we\’re a free country of free people.

And yes, he\’s a scumbag: and as Larry Flynt pointed out, if the law will protect scumbags then it will protect you and me.

Free Abu Qatada!

15 thoughts on “Eh?”

  1. “if the law will protect scumbags then it will protect you and me.” You optimist Tim !

    The law does indeed protect them, but THEN goes after you and me as much easier and safer targets ! The LAW is the LAW and must be enforced, and similar tripe.

    For example, prosecute Christians for wearing religious symbols, but not A. N. Other Religion followers because you are likely to raise a storm of mindless protest/threat/actions.

    Alan Douglas

  2. Second person singular iussive subjunctive. The translation in the Belly laugh seems about right. Medieval / legal Latin is often a bit dodge though.

  3. Literally, “you have the body”.

    The bit about being a free people in a free country make giggle.

  4. Not a legal mind but a Latin one:
    “You may have the body” is the literal translation.

    I think you, Tim, you may be thinking of Pilate’s “Ecce Homo”, when it comes to the accused being presented in court.

  5. “He may be a bad ‘un, I have no idea”
    Really – google his writings they will soon help you decide
    “The “radical cleric” issues a fatwa, or religious edict, justifying the killing of converts from Islam in Algeria, and their wives and children.”
    He should have been deported 15 years ago.

  6. Is corpus a fourth declension (I think from memory) noun then – otherwise shouldn’t it be habeas corpum?

    But the translation is accurate, although I think the meaning has shifted…

  7. To Watchman:
    3rd declension, neuter, so the accusative is the same as the nominative:
    singular:corpus, corpus, corpus, corporis, corpori, corpore;
    plural: corpora, corpora, corpora, corporum, corporibus, corporibus.
    Mr Pritchard would be proud of me!

  8. The Pedant-General

    My understanding was that the “you have the body” was a requirement to show that you [person supposed to be holding the body] do indeed have the body.

    If you can’t show the body you are in breach of the writ of habeas corpus and you get done for it. i.e you can’t just dispose of someone without falling foul of the law.

  9. Tehnically habeas corpus is, as you say, a writ commanding the gaoler to bring the subject before the court and justify his imprisonment, so that the court can decide whether the imprisonment is lawful.

    So a 3-stage process; ask for writ, then prisoner is produced, then a hearing about the legality of the imprisonment.

    However I’m told that these days the petitioner usually doesn’t bother actually enforcing the writ, and instead the court will hear both sides’ arguments and judge on the legality of the detention without the prisoner being produced.

    Hence them talking about the writ “freeing him from custody”. Not technically what happens, but pretty much what is done in practice because the middle stage, the actual habeas corpus bit, is now often not done.

    Slightly disappointing historically, but habeas corpus was always a procedural device; if you can get what you need without the procedure, then you don’t actually need to have the procedure carried out. It’s just important that the procedure is there just in case.

  10. Also I don’t think the writ actually said “habeas corpus” as a phrase; that’s just a nickname. Think it was something like “that corpus of Fred that you’ve got, habeas it in front of us or else.”

  11. Pedant General (#8), no, physically bringing him before the court, to show that he was alive and not too badly beaten, was only ever one part of habeas corpus.

    The other part was proving your legal authority to hold him.

  12. However habeas corpus isn’t much use against an Internment Act, because it just asks what legal authority the gaoler has to hold you.

    So you’re dragged into court, the judge asks what legal authority the gaoler has, the gaoler answers “Section 3 of the Internment of Dodgy Types Act, 1998” or whatever it might be, and you are sent back to gaol and trip going downstairs.

    A bit more useful now because there can be a ruling on whether the Internment of Dodgy Types Act complies with the Human Rights Act.

  13. He got in on a forged passport. That should have been enough to have him on the next plane back to Bumfuckistan.

  14. Off topic but a question for Alan Douglas, have any Christians been prosecuted for wearing crucifixes ? The only cases I’m aware of are where they have fallen foul of over zealous employers who think that wearing such items will start a holy war or something.

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