The Emir's Third Way

Here’s a dilemma: The Emir of Kuwait has to decide whether his own cousin should be executed for drug smuggling.

To grant a pardon would seriously undermine the rule of law in what is supposed to be a constitutional monarchy. But to allow the execution would obviously cause terrible distress to other members of the Royal Family (and, one presumes, the Emir himself). Such a precedent would also worry other Royal Families around the Middle East, says The Times.

But the Emir has a third way, which is to place a moratorium on executions alogther. Often, draconian laws are enacted because those with power assume “it would never happen to me”. They only change their minds when the unthinkable happens.

In other execution news, Andrew points us to, a blog dedicated to the anniversaries of notable executions. It is fascinating and macabre, but commemorates events we would do well not to forget.

White judges and wigs

I’m not sure about today’s Guardian scoop about the lack of diversity in our High Court judges. This blogger notes that the newly anointed judges, as well as being hideously white, male, and privately educated, are also fairly old. The average age of the ten men pictured is 57. Since a long and distinguished legal career is a prerequisite for such posts, it is to be expected that those rising to the bench’s lofty heights now, are those who were educated a generation ago, where the elite public-school-to-Oxbridge route still had a lock on the system. I don’t see how the Judicial Appointments Commission, which was only established in 2006, could succeed in fostering a more diverse bench in just two years, without a rather heafty dose of affirmative action.

In the Guardian‘s photos, the judges are all also bewigged. Wigs and gowns, we are told, are an important badge of office. They serve to focus the mind of lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants on the office and not the person, the process not the personality. So, if diversity in the judiciary is a problem, I have a recommendation. Instead of modernising judges’ attire so they look more like civilians, why not expand the wigs to cover the front of the honourable judge’s face as well? Two peep-holes could be cut through the horse-hair so m’lud could see the trial, but everyone else present would see nothing but a big white perm. Then we wouldn’t know whether the judge was black, white, or brown. And furthermore, the muffled tones that came from beneath the full-face wig during a ruling would probably stop us from sexing the creature too.