Some new confusion from the Ministry of Justice……

by Ray_North on December 12, 2017

I’m confused… I just can’t work it out and if any of our dear readers are able to offer me any explanation, it would be gratefully received.

The source of my confusion is this – for the last god knows how many years (certainly for the last 19 years, that I can testify to), when a defendant has appeared in the dock in a Court, he has been asked simply to confirm his name. They usually get this right and their case continues. However, for the last month or so, defendants standing in a dock have been asked to confirm their name, their date of birth and their nationality. Now, I suppose I can understand the request for a birth date in the interests of security – but, what about their nationality? Why must they confirm this?

If someone needs an interpreter then, in time honoured tradition, their counsel will inform the Judge; if there is some cultural or religious issue, then again the Court will accommodate, so why the sudden need for a person standing in a dock to make a declaration of nationality?

I don’t get it.

What I do get, along with everyone else in each of the Courtrooms I’ve appeared in since this introduction, is the slight uncomfortable air of tension when a young male charged with violence, declares that they are ‘White British’ or an Asian man charged with a sex offence states that they are ‘Pakistani British’. I’m not sure that the people who decided to add these new questions of identity would have foreseen the strange social divide which seems to make working class caucasians declare that they are ‘white British’ rather than just British, or second and third generation Asians declare that they are Bangladeshi British or Pakistani British – but that is how it is panning out (strangely the middle class and professional classes seem less inclined to add their ethnicity to their nationality when they answer the question).

And it’s weird, because the answer, in a court, where everyone is deemed to be equal before the law, seems to conjure up a division and a defiance that is unhelpful and unnecessary.

If there’s a good reason for it, then I await an explanation with interest, but if it is just the result of pen-pushing or worse, an attempt to root out those ‘who shouldn’t be here’ then I suggest that the idea is scrapped, because a law court is not about where you come from, it’s about who you are and what you have or haven’t done.

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