Today was the first day of Criminal law, the one that we (or at least I) first associated with the law. I am going to give some Kudos to my old housemate Nathan for pointing out the amount of Latin and saying the same thing as my lecturer, just two years prior. Lawyers like Latin [to help justify the fees]. Actus Reus and Mens Rea were brought up several times in today’s lecture. Today’s lecture was more of a general overview of the course, and we didn’t really get into any substantive topics, but I’ll quickly mention a thought on autonomous that I spoke to my old lecturer Tom Cornford about. The question is, are we really independent? We can not control our thoughts, they happen to manifest themselves in our own minds. I have yet to say to myself, thought and then bam! New thought. Maybe I’m missing out on something. The reason I bring up this idea is the notion of involuntary manslaughter. As we are never in full control, can we ever be said to be in control of our own actions? Dr Cornford answered my question succinctly: Try and be smart in court and the judge will probably be harsher towards you. The answer to my question is quite obvious then; it might not be full autonomy, but this does not mean that we are totally incapacitated to make decisions to some degree.
I also had my second lecture in public law. Today we focused on parliamentary sovereignty (in the British sense). It was engaging to see the view of what I have always considered a political concept from a legal perspective. Going through the Diceyan orthodoxy for me was what I was taught in political science. Parliament is sovereign. Nothing is above it. But why? There is nothing to cement this (though there is a case from 1707, the act of the Union), essentially in legal terms parliament is sovereign because it is. Yes, a tautology, but there is no legal source of power. We could change that through a revolution, but as there is no legal basis, we cannot change it through legal means. This may make you think, what can parliament not do? Essentially, it can do whatever it wants. In class, we were asked can parliament bind itself? Well, the lasting Diceyian view is no. This troubles me as the house can say that I am slave, vote for it and pass by a majority of 1. And thus I am a slave. Some fundamental rights should be away from the political whim of parliament, let alone how do we deal with it having power. While I am sure that any government will not do such a thing if it has no intention to use its power this way, then why give it the authority in the first place? Maybe it’s time for a political revolution on rights?