The trial of Anders Behring Breivik continues in Norway, I have to commend the people of Norway for their calm way in which they have shown their feelings for Anders Behring Breivik. The public seem to be doing it better than some elements of the UK public would be doing under similar conditions.
I hold the view that trial by media or public opinion is wrong, if a need exists for a trial then a real court with real judges and real lawyers is needed. The court should ignore the fact that 40000 people have protested by singing the song, but if people are going to protest I thinking singing a childrens’ song is far better than some of the things I have seen on the news outside courts.
In the UK when a unpopular criminal such as Roy Whiting or Ian Kevin Huntley appears in court a modern day lynch mob appears outside the court. Typically the mob tends to attack the prisoner transport van and the police are forced to keep the angry crowd back from the van.
What happened in Norway was after Breivik stated that a childrens’ song was a Marxist brainwashing song that he deeply hated a large crowd of people (circa 40000) appeared near the court house and sang the song.
I feel that the trial has been allowed to turn into a soap box from which Breivik is yelling his nonsense to the world, frankly I think that this stinks to the high heavens. I think that some reporting restrictions should be imposed on the court, rather than holding the case “in camera” a press release should be made each day in which a report on the evidence given and the legal arguments presented to the court will be released.
Some people have said that people (even Breivik) have a “freedom of speech”, I would say that no absolute right to freedom of speech exists. For example I can not say to a shopkeeper “I have a gun, empty the till into a paper bag and then give me the bag” and then use “freedom of speech” as a defence for making this demand for money (Most places call that robbery). Nor do I have a freedom to yell during the showing of a film at the cinema, again I do not have a right to shout down the priest during a service. Shouting down the priest is an interesting one, if I claim a freedom of speech then he could then reply by saying that I interfered with his use of his right to free speech !
I would say also that the setting of where the speech occurred is important, for example if I choose to exercise my “right” to free expression by writing a rude poem about Skatterverket (the Swedish tax authority) on my tax return rather than filling in the form in accordance with the instructions then I am sure that I will get into trouble. I am also sure that attempting to use “freedom of speech” will not allow me to avoid punishment.
In the same way the punk prayer of Pussy Riot in Russia which occurred in a place of worship was wrong because it was in the wrong place. I am sure that had they done their rude song about the church somewhere else then no crime would have occurred. I discussed this case with some students recently, some of these students thought that the time and place of an expression does not matter. I say it does, if Madonna choose to sing a blasphemous song at a concert house where the audience have consented to hearing this song (well they have paid to go and hear her sing, and she is well known for doing songs about sexual matters which might be viewed as blasphemous) then it is one thing. But if she jumped up at the “trooping of the colour” (A key part of the official birthday of the British sovereign) and sang such a song then it could well be an offense. The purpose of the trooping of the colour is to celebrate the birthday of the Queen, not for people to listen to dirty songs.
In the same way a criminal court is a time and place for an enquiry regarding the guilt or innocence of a person to be determined. Also it is a place where a judgement about a person’s sanity, state of mind or sentence should be discussed, it is not a place for show business or political speeches !