Equality Before the Law; is Justice Blind? | Luke Doherty

Equality is a buzz-word with which we should all be familiar. We cannot escape arguments advocating for equal rights between the sexes or minority groups; nor can we deny the monumental efforts to embed equality into the fabric of British life. This came to a head with the Equality Act 2010 – enshrining protected characteristics into British law. Yet even before this significant piece of legislation, most British individuals would have agreed we are all equal under the law – colour and creed being irrelevant. But how true can we say that it in modern Britain? Can we confidently claim that justice is blind?

It is an odd series of events, and a total coincidence, that Britain has witnessed two large-scale protests exactly ten years apart. In 2010, student-activists protested over tuition fees; and in 2020 liberal-leftists protested over race-equality. What is especially shocking – being that on both occasions the Union Jack was desecrated and The Cenotaph attacked – is the inconsistent employment of justice towards those responsible. In 2010 Charlie Gilmour, the white History undergraduate at Cambridge University and son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, was jailed for 16 months for violent disorder after dangling from the war memorial. His photograph and an account of his behaviour which included a “seven-hour-long rampage” was widely reported and appeared in the national news. Strangely, there was a similar occurrence a decade later. An unnamed woman of colour mounted The Cenotaph and attempted to set fire to Union flag during a Black Lives Matter protest. However, in significant stark contrast to Gilmour, she was only arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, and later released on bail.

The obvious inconsistency between these two cases raises the important question: where is the equality under the law? The rush to prosecute Gilmour was justified, and the sentence he was awarded sets the legal precedence for an outrageously unpatriotic and deeply offensive crime. What is ironic is that organisations like Black Lives Matter only want equality on their terms – and are not prepared to accept the reality that we are all equal under the law, despite protesting for greater equality for black people. The failure to treat two similar yet distinct criminals fairly and equally also reveals a systemic paranoia within our public institutions: the threat of being labelled racist.

Racial tensions intensified during the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests. The numerous attacks on police officers were symptomatic of the error of believing in liberty without order. The social decline was exacerbated by the inappropriate pandering to the crowd – in particular the scandalous taking of the knee. The radical atmosphere that enabled the attack on public monuments continued unabated by government too. Where was impartial justice and rule of law? It was nowhere to be seen. This inevitably infuriated many people.

Seldom is there anything greater than violent protest that animates the British people into demanding a tough line on law and order and blind justice. Rightly so too. The past few months have illustrated to all of us – home and abroad – the very real reality of when lawful protests escalate into a very heated riot, and turn into opportunities to commit criminal damage. Of course, in ordinary circumstances, we are unlike the French who jump at any opportunity to take to the streets and demonstrate. But in recent times, it is becoming ever more popular this side of the Channel.

The chattering classes affirm and congratulate each other when their chant of equality above anything else is taken seriously by public institutions and applies to underprivileged and hard done by groups. What is unacceptable is the refusal to champion equality under the law and implicitly support a partisan treatment of individuals.

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