Jack of Kent has scored a gig writing a regular column entitled Bad Law, which promises to be rather interesting. His first article addresses that thing I’ve mentioned a couple of times on here already, about Cherie Booth and the “religious man”.
It’s worth a read, and it goes without saying that Jack (actually Allen Green) knows what he’s talking about on every level at which I remain an ignorant amateur. Though he does confirm one thing I suspected: that the sentence handed down by Judge Cherie was actually quite reasonable for the offence in question, and not obviously overly lenient.
He points out, though, that the guy’s religion wasn’t something brought up by the defence as a mitigating factor. It doesn’t seem like it had been mentioned at all, before Cherie decided to make reference to it out of the blue, which makes the question even more mysterious of why she felt it necessary or appropriate to raise the subject. (This assumes, of course, that the remarks attributed to her are accurate, but none of it seems to have been denied so far.)
There’s another interesting take at Heresy Corner, and an anonymous commenter there actually brings up an interesting point I hadn’t thought of:
[I]t’s possible that she was… using her knowledge of the defendant’s religious background to try and shame him into behaving better in the future.
To an extent, this seems to work, and makes her approach look thoroughly justified. He was a first-time offender; he may have been genuinely contrite for something out of character that he’d done on the spur of the moment; maybe this contrition could be emphasised by pointing out that his God probably wouldn’t be pleased with him.
But then, looking at both of Cherie’s quotes again, she does apparently claim to be basing the lenient nature of the sentence, in part, on the fact that he’s religious. That’s still not something I can comfortably reconcile with the idea that she has the capacity to remain impartial and unbiased on the grounds of religious conviction, even if it didn’t seem to lead to an improper decision on this occasion.
As another commenter there suggests, some clarification from Cherie Booth QC, or another appropriate spokesperson, would be appreciated – but I also think the National Secular Society may have jumped the gun somewhat in lodging their formal complaint as early as they did.
Hmm. I’ll get some new material soon. I have a backlog of personal anecdotes I keep meaning to write up here. Maybe when it’s not time for tea and bed.