Today I have a great post from Nephylim, along with an excerpt from her new book. Make sure you check out the giveaway at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!
Justice, what does it really mean?
The two main characters in my new book Project X are law students, and the first half of the book is set in a university where they are studying law. I therefore though it might be fun to use the blog tour to look at some ‘legal stuff’. From mooting, to how laws are made, to how my legal career has influenced my writing, you’ll find it all among the posts on my book tour.
What can be more important to the study of law than getting to grips with the concepts of truth and justice, which are surely at the heart of our legal system?
Everyone thinks they know what these two words mean, but do they? And do the meanings remain the same from person to person, country to country, law to law? From a legal perspective, at least, neither are absolutes.
In this post I will be looking and Justice. Take a look through the other blogs to find the one on Truth. Which is pretty interesting – at least to me. Everyone knows what truth is right? It’s not telling lies. It’s telling things as they are. But from whose perspective? Are even absolute Truths really that absolute after all?
If there is no fixed definition of truth, what about justice? Surely everyone knows what justice is. The Oxford dictionary defines it as – the quality of being fair and reasonable. I won’t even go into a discussion about the words ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’. I’m sure you’ve got a fair idea of how fixed and consistent they aren’t. Neither will I go into too much detail as to what justice actually is, because I’ve done all the philosophising above and I actually believe the reader has enough intelligence to be able to see that everything said about truth could easily be applied to justice. Instead I will take a look at how justice is applied. Surely that must be consistent, right? We may now know precisely what justice is, but we know how to apply it fairly.
According to the UK Legal System there are three main methods of applying justice:-
Compensatory – satisfying a physical need
For example, in the laws of Hywel Dda of Wales, in the 10th century, if someone killed a cat, it was a serious affair. In a rural farming community cats were relied on to keep down the rat population. Rats ate grain and could mean the difference between a family, or even a village, eating through the winter, or starving. In order to satisfy justice the cat was hung up by its tail with its paws touching the ground. The person who killed the cat had to pour grain over it until it was covered to the tip of the tail. Laying aside whether you would want to eat grain that had been poured over a dead cat, it at least meant you wouldn’t starve if rats got into your grain.
A similar concept is applied in modern laws, for example with compensation for personal injury, negligence etc. Also fines, community service etc.
Punitive (punishment) – satisfying an emotional need
The victim of crime gains absolutely nothing quantifiable from the punishment of the person who injured the (physically or metaphorically). There is some weight to the argument that the punishment it to ‘teach the perpetrator a lesson’, so they will be discouraged from committing similar crimes again. But what about capital punishment. That teaches the perpetrator nothing, or if it does it’s irrelevant because he isn’t going to be able to commit any crimes when he’s dead.
However, the main aim of punitive justice is to satisfy the emotional, and unquantifiable need for justice, which in this case, effectively amounts to revenge. The victim, and society as a whole gain nothing from it other than a sense that justice has been done, and the satisfaction of knowing ‘he got what he deserved’.
The whole concept of punitive justice rests on the natural human desire for revenge. Didn’t Jesus say ‘turn the other cheek’? Wasn’t he really saying ‘control your desire for revenge’? Doesn’t society get jumpy when the word vendetta is used? Yet, not so very long ago vengeance ranked right up there with honour as a reasonable right. Vendetta takes on a different and more acceptable word in some cultures, where it is still seen by some (although not the law, I have to say) as a perfectly reasonable way to gain justice. Isn’t Batman on a vendetta?
It might be worth noting that the word vendetta comes from the Italian vindicta which stems from the Latin vindicare, which is also the stem for vindication.
Arbitrary – satisfying a social need
In this case, I use arbitrary not in the usual sense of ‘on a whim or personal choice’ but in the context of arbitration. This is used in cases where there is unlikely to be any clear winner or loser, and theoretically no one is at fault. It is used to satisfy two competing needs.
Examples of arbitrary law include the laws relating to children, employment law, equity and trusts etc.
In children proceedings, it is quite common for both parents, or occasionally third parties, to have equal rights with regard to children, and the court is not being asked to decide whether the rights exist, but to choose which ones should take precedence, to best satisfy the needs of the child – which of course are defined by society.
In Victorian times it was quite acceptable, and indeed desirable, to physically chastise children. Right up until fairly recent times, nothing was seen as wrong in older siblings, even quite young ones, taking care of the little ones, to relieve the burden of the parent. It is still seen as perfectly reasonable to send children to their room, or ground them. However, all these things are now considered to be within the definition of emotional abuse and/or neglect. I have personally been involved in cases where a child is placed on the child protection register because parents shout at each other in the presence of the child/ren.
Law degrees, in general, are not concerned with the practicalities of working with the law on a day to day basis, but on the theories and concepts behind it. Our boys will be struggling with these concepts (or maybe not, especially in Morgan’s case), as well as even more abstract theories of at what point does something you are doing become deliberate?
If you’ve been interested in this post, you might find even more to get your teeth into in other blogs which continue to explore UK law, how it’s made and how it’s applied.
Project X by Nephylim
Wayward Ink Publishing
Morgan Bentley is a bastard. Always was and always will be.
At least that’s what Matthew Hopkins thinks. Unfortunately, Morgan is also a brilliant law student, and easily eclipses Matthew, academically and socially.
Matthew insists he hates Morgan. According to Matthew’s best friend, Cory, perhaps he doth protest a bit too much.
Cory has received the chance of a lifetime in the form of an internship with ITM—Information Technology and Medicine—the prestigious research company where Morgan’s father is the CEO. Too inquisitive for his own good, the naturally curious Cory stumbles on a deadly secret inside of ITM. What he has learned will tip the balance of everything, but for good or bad?
Just what is the mysterious Project X?
What is Morgan’s involvement?
Matthew has to sort fact from fiction, friend from foe, as his world is turned upside down and inside out, and nothing can be the way it was.
On Monday morning, I was incredibly nervous. The moot was set for two o’clock, and from what I’d heard round and about, half the university’s student body was going to be there. I couldn’t eat breakfast, and I must have organised and rearranged my notes a dozen times. I waited and waited for Morgan to call me, to arrange somewhere to meet to go over things, but when I’d heard nothing by eleven, I caved and called him.
The first time, he didn’t answer, so I kept ringing, and at the fourth attempt he picked up.
“Hello?” He sounded as if he’d just woken up.
“Where the hell are you?”
“What?” His voice was slurred and unfocused, and it infuriated me.
“Where are you? You were supposed to be going over the presentation with me, before this afternoon.”
“The Moot? You do remember the Moot, don’t you Morgan? Us against the staff? Witnessed by half the world? ”
There was silence for a while, then Morgan all but whispered. “I don’t think… I don’t think I can come.” He sounded spaced out and I wondered if he’d just been deeply asleep, or maybe he’d continued the party from Saturday.
“Are you pissed?”
“Fuck off, Matthew. I’m not anything, just tired.” His voice rallied for that.
“Join the fucking club. I didn’t sleep a wink last night, especially as we were supposed to be meeting up to go over this… and you just didn’t bother.”
“Yeah, you sound it.” He didn’t. He just sounded… tired. I sighed and tried, unsuccessfully, to keep my intense annoyance out of my voice. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but it was your arrogance that got us into this in the first place, and I’m not going to make a fool of myself in front of the whole school by trying to do this on my own. So you’d better get your arse down here, right now, or I’m coming up there to get you.”
“Sorry, Matthew.” The phone went dead.
“What the fuck?” I rang him again, and again, and again, but he didn’t answer. My previous nerves were blasted out of the way by red hot anger. I just couldn’t believe Morgan was doing this to me.
On the spur of the moment, I got into my car and drove out to Morgan’s. I rang him from the front doorstep. This time he answered.
“I’m outside.” I snapped.
“Outside your front door. Open it.”
“I…” It was just a breath, but it conveyed a world of indecision and confusion… which only made me angrier.
“Morgan, get your arse down here and do it now.”
There was silence for such a long time, I thought he’d put down the phone. “All right,” he said finally. “Wait there.”
About the author
Nephylim was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Nephylim has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.
Later in life, Nephylim became the storyteller for a re-enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.
In present times, Nephylim lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son and her two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. The part of her that needs to earn money is a lawyer, but the deepest, and most important part of her is a storyteller and artist, and always will be.
Social media links:
Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Nephylim.author
Adult Blog: http://nephylim-author.blogspot.co.uk/
Young Adult Blog: http://cherylheadford.blogspot.co.uk/