Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Literally Anyone Can Commit Crimes. Get Over It.

I watched with more than a little amusement, the media storm over the extradition of Christopher Tappin. Perhaps amusement is the wrong word: he's a local guy, his wife is lovely and I feel for her. I cannot imagine how awful it would be were one of my family members arrested and dragged to foreign soil away from the safety of our own justice system.

And this isn't just any justice system either: it's the US, boo hiss... Orange jumpsuits, gang rapes, Shawshank and Louis Theroux.

Except oh wait this isn't what has happened. 

There are several arguments to be made against extradition of Christopher Tappin. First, he committed the crime in Britain and thus should be tried in Britain. Except this doesn't quite work. Global crime requires global policing and as much as some may resent the fact that the US has taken this mantle, it was essentially forced upon them post 1945 and more recently by successive global governments demanding their attention to internal problems. The USA is far from the only body that extradites the citizens of other nation states, the European Union also does this. It would be long and complicated to enter into the various EU-wide policing bodies however invaluable their contribution to policing of organised crime, but it is noticeable that much of the tabloid debate about extradition has failed to mention this.

For his part, Tappin believes that he is a victim of entrapment and if this is the case it is a serious charge. The FBI has used stings in the past and of course our definition of entrapment differs from their own, but the British media has not actually seen any evidence of this. Nor, they complain, have we seen much evidence at all. Because this is a criminal trial. Where they aren't going to release the evidence of the case before it goes to trial. Because I repeat, this is a criminal trial.

So the non-story rattles on. It has, as we have seen the perfect public comment bait: anti-Americanism. And now, with UK extradition policy in the spotlight, another perfect little angle.

That is, an evil brown man cannot be deported, but a nice middle-class white guy can. To America no less (boo-hiss).

I don't need to tell you that these are different cases though. Right? Right? I mean it's not like you can conflate them just with each other in a headline.

"Preacher of Hate has more rights than me." Daily Mirror. 


Which brings us to my final point. The newspapers in this case haven't actually had to find this story. Tappin supplied it himself. He wore a blazer and cravat on his plane trip stateside to "teach the Americans some class" and has been promoting his own story ad infinitem for the last few weeks. That this won't help him at all Stateside is moot point, he has the perfect media storm: a story that appeals to the tabloiders and readers of the Guardian, despite the fact that it has no merit whatsoever.

Old white guys in golf-clubs commit crimes too and if it emerges that he has sold batteries to the Iranian nuclear program knowingly, then he should go to jail for a very long time and good on the US for prosecuting this case. And if he has not, well that is unfortunate, but justice rolls on and we are generally safer for it.

Finally, a not on constitutional issues. The USA rarely allows her own citizens to be extradited which is one of the things that inspires a lot of ire amongst citizens of other nations. The USA is a constitutional democracy where congress and the courts must ratify international agreements so that a small limited executive cannot sign away the rights of her people without the consent of those same people. If we want to see more sovereignty, more control and more democracy, perhaps it is there that we should look.

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