Moving the Goal Posts

France has never been the best advert for just government, but it is outdoing itself with its persecution of Marine Le Pen. Now, it’s quite possible that Marine Le Pen is a horrible person (well, she’s a politician, so she’s unlikely to be that wonderful!), but even scumbags deserve justice; indeed, dispassionately-administered justice is the best weapon against the worst excesses of such people.

Marine Le Pen has been accused of saying nasty things about Muslims. Now, that which has been quoted here in the UK has not been anything sensational or terrible; she isn’t happy about the number of Muslims in France, but that shouldn’t be a crime. Maybe she has said other things that haven’t been mentioned over here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is France’s equivalent of the Political Correctness used to whip critics of immigration in this country. I mean, under most circumstances, when France and Islam occur in the same topic for me, I am slagging off the French for their attitudes, but that doesn’t mean a French person should be denied the right to discuss these issues or feel concerned.

But, the issue isn’t what she did or did not say, nor whether she has the right to say it. The problem is that as an elected politician, Marine Le Pen has immunity from prosecution. She could say anything she liked and she would be immune from punishment. So, the French government has decided to strip her of her immunity. Okay, fine. Immunity from prosecution for politicians is a difficult topic – they need the freedom to be able to articulate controversial ideas and debate them without hindrance if we are to have good government, although outright incitement shouldn’t be protected; but, politicians shouldn’t be protected from prosecution from other crimes such as embezzlement, rape and murder (as seems to be the case in some countries). Although I have read nothing to indicate she has said anything worthy of having such protection removed, if the French government has the evidence, then fair enough.

But, even that isn’t the actual issue. Although the unfair removal of immunity would be wrong, it would be just a petty slight. The problem is that France isn’t talking about removing her immunity so that, should she say something offensive in future, they can prosecute her in the future if necessary. No, they want to make the removal retroactive in order to be able to prosecute her for things she said whilst protected. Even if she abused her immunity, which would be fair cause for stripping her of it, trying to have it stripped retroactively is unjust and shows that Hollande’s leftists are just out to persecute the rightists. Such an act is not only unjust but is a form of entrapment because you’ve told someone that they were immune to prosecution, which may have encouraged them to be more outspoken than they would have been had they thought they might face jail for saying something controversial, only to move the goal posts and inform them that, in fact, they weren’t immune after all.

If Marine Le Pen really is a scumbag, she will trip herself up sooner or later. Remove her immunity and wait for that day to come – or celebrate the fact that you’ve silenced her excesses through the threat of court. But any form of retroactive goal-post moving just makes France look all the more like a banana republic from which Britain really ought to disassociate itself as soon as possible.


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