Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A Cautionary Note

A straw man is the legal fiction your parents created and unwittingly signed over to the Government when they registered you at birth. Your straw man is the "person" created by that birth certificate, and that the Government has title to. (Jersey Blog Posting)

It is important to note that Freemen are not against the Rule of Law, just the deception and criminality that it is now used for by Governments. (Jersey Blog Posting)

Dear Connétable,
Take notice that I am not accepting any transaction of a securities interest at this time.
I do not wish to contract with your Company and decline your offer to a business meeting.
I am a man, your Company is a legal fiction, and as such has no right to make any claims on me, absent a contract.
I return your paperwork herein
Thank you for your attention to this matter
Yours sincerely
All inalienable rights reserved.
(Letter to Constable of St Helier)

You may wonder where this notion that your parents signed over a quasi-legal entity called a "person" by registering you at birth comes from, or for that matter what world the writer of the strange letter lives in - it is, in fact, declining to pay a parking fine, although you would be hard put to deduce that from the wording. But if you are a Guardian reader, you may have seen something similar in one of their "comment is free" articles by Alison Playford. She says something very similar to our first quotation:

Bits of paper like your birth certificate. All registered names are Crown copyright. The legal definition of registration is transfer of title ownership, so anything that's registered is handed over to the governing body; the thing itself is no longer yours. When you register a car, you're agreeing to it not being yours - they send you back a form saying you're the "registered keeper". It's a con. That's why I say I've never had a name.

We are all taught to be a name, the name on our birth certificate. But if you don't consent to be that "person", you step outside the system.
According to the law books, a "natural person" (or human being) is distinct from the "person" as a legal entity. All the statutes and acts are acting up on the "person", and if you're admitting to being a person, you are admitting to be a corporation that can be acted upon for commerce. (1)

Probably the best response to this piece of nonsense is one comment below it which stated that "you are number 6 and I claim my prize", a reference to the TV series "The Prisoner", which actually took the opposite line - "I am not a number, I am a person". But the Prisoner only had to deal with a Village for captured spies, not the strange looking glass world in which these statements are being made. But nonsense it is - as one legal commentator noted "Names are not Crown copyright, registration is not transfer of title, and your car doesn't belong to the Government." If you see "Crown copyright" on a birth certificate, it is simply because the Crown claims copyright to all the forms it issues so that only it can produce them, and not part of some arcane conspiracy.

Unfortunately, faced with a letter that looked as if it had been composed by someone who perhaps did not appear as being of sound mind, the Centenier delegated to deal with the matter told the individual that they didn't have to pay the fine. A triumph for the legal expertise of the writer, or so they saw it. What they failed to see was that the reason for not following up with legal proceedings might just as easily have been because the Centenier decided against wasting hours of time pursuing the matter. As Carl Gardner noted about debts and the freeman defense, "some freemen really have found that small debts have been written off because of the nuisance they've been able to cause."

These strange arguments, which often cite "Admiralty Law", are part of an approach to the law that is described as "freeman of the land".  As Legal Bizzle noted in the Guardian:

Take the philosophy too far and the consequences could be worse. In December 2010, a man was arrested after using freeman-on-the-land arguments to try and avoid paying council tax, and earlier this year Elizabeth Watson was jailed for contempt in the Victoria Haigh case, in part because she claimed that as a freeman she was not under the jurisdiction of the court. (2)

Barrister Adam Wagner warns against these arguments, which he notes is gaining popularity through numerous internet sites.

I can provide two recent examples where it definitely did not help, and probably did harm to, people in the justice system.

The first is the case of Elizabeth Watson and Victoria Haigh...Both Haigh and Watson considered themselves Freemen of the Land, who attempted to step outside of the system. It seems likely that at least in Watson's case, her belief that she had "stepped outside of the system" led to her brazenly to flout contempt laws for as long as she did.

My second example arose when I did jury service last month (a generally positive experience - see my comment on it here). One of the trials involved a defendant who was accused of stealing sports cars. When we entered the court, the judge told us that the defendant had released his legal team and was denying the court's jurisdiction. He refused to cross-examine witnesses - rather, he used the opportunity to ask the judge whether his jurisdiction arose from maritime law - and his closing statement involved the reading of a Latin phrase and stating that he was the "official representative of the legal fiction known as..."

We found the Defendant guilty on 7 of 8 counts, and I will not say anything about our reasoning. I do suspect that the car stealing Defendant's bizarre and misguided defence influenced the judge's sentencing, and I also imagine that if he had retained his representation he may have pleaded guilty in any event. Either way, he probably went to prison for longer as a result of his attempt to trying to "step outside of the system". (3)

But the waste of time caused by this approach can have damaging consequences. As one blogger notes:

Time and money is wasted. Public time and public money: the kind that fills pot-holes and employs medics. The sovereigns have a temporarily
illusion that their little malarkey is working while the authorities waste their time and money trying to comprehend the incomprehensible.

When sovereigns start talking about corporations and contracts and straw men, they might as well be teenage law students who have cherry-picked quotes from law textbooks to construct their own reality. Sadly, the world just isn't that much fun (4)

The lawyer Duncan Roy, who was part of Occupy London's legal team, came across a "freeman" defense from a man called Dom, or to be more precise, ""the man commonly known as Dom", as he liked to refer to himself, who was very disruptive to the legal team and its efforts on behalf of Occupy London. He wrote a blog posting on the matter, in which he noted that

Occupy London fights its battles on many fronts, be they political, publicity, practical and, yes, even legal. It is but one front but if we're going to fight on that front too, we need expert lawyers not babblers of modern-psycho-mystical-nonsense, which is the comedic diversion you provide so beautifully Dom. (6)

Lastly, I'd like to finish with a comment by Barrister F. Gibbons:

A typical mistake Freemen make is to try to apply principles of courtroom law (civil contracts etc) to legal philosophy, i.e. arguments in relation to consent to be governed. For people to be governed subject to the country's laws, including statute law, does not require their signature on a piece of paper. I completely understand why some people would say: 'I didn't consent to this law; why should I be governed by it?' But consent is not required in relation to each and every individual law. Consent is only required insofar as the government needing general consent to its rule so that it is considered legitimate. If everyone rose up against the government's rule, it would not be considered legitimate and general consent would essentially be withdrawn. This is not something written down in the books; it is not a matter of black-letter law. This is quite simply the practical reality of our situation.

Every law is man-made. Even the legal gibberish many Freemen spout is man-made. They are simply trying to replace a set of rules that has been made up and developed over centuries with one they have just made up themselves. Unfortunately for them, the centuries-old set of rules is recognised by the vast majority of the population and the entire judiciary. (8)

(1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/15/welfare-education-law-occupy-london
(2) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2011/nov/16/law-protest-occupy-freemen
(3) http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2011/11/15/freemen-of-the-dangerous-nonsense/
(4) http://rainbow.chard.org/2011/11/10/sovereign-citizens-in-the-uk-a-study-in-nonsense/
(5) http://garrulouslaw.com/2011/11/get-out-of-jail-free.html
(6) http://blog.scrapperduncan.com/2011/11/14/occupy-londons-jester-is-the-perfect-fool/
(7) http://electterryoneill.blogspot.com/2012/01/freeman-phones-it-in.html
(8) http://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/freemen-of-the-land-a-barrister-writes/
(9) http://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/freemen-of-the-land-a-barrister-writes-again/


Anonymous said...

This is quite an important subject, as it is liable to cause a great deal of hardship and misery to those advancing the "Freeman" arguments.

Sadly, they are becoming a mask for some legitimate and serious complaints by litigants simply because they may be unable to obtain good quality legal advice to help them restructure their concerns and any injustices they may have suffered in the past in language the judiciary is able to understand.

Nick Palmer said...

The legal types you quoted defend their system with scorn exemplified in this phrase

"They are simply trying to replace a set of rules that has been made up and developed over centuries with one they have just made up themselves"

and "Every law is man-made. Even the legal gibberish many Freemen spout is man-made"

The problem with this is that in courts the legal system represents itself as some form of "force of nature" as anyone who has ever heard them intone "the law is the law" will realise. Disputing the validity of the law is often reacted to as akin to treasonous heresy.

A defence of the power that the legal system exerts that ordinary people would accept is that it is a system "made up" over centuries to dole out justice - to tolchock the bad guys and favour the good guys. The true nature of how the law actually operates, and who it favours, deviates significantly from this naive Disney'ish faith that the public have.

TonyTheProf said...

Yes, there can be bad laws - as anyone who has read Victor Hugo's Les Miserable, or read Dickens Bleak House, will know. I can think of several in Jersey easily enough - two which seems to have been simply passed to ensure the JDA could not get postal votes easily.

But the law does protect indviduals as well. The children's law, updated in Stuart Syvret's tenure at H&SS, is something he can be rightly proud of, and it helps to protect children. The change to judges rules on rape cases passed this year was a much needed change in the law. The lowering of the age to 16 for (a) the franchise (b) homosexual relationships, was also a positive step.

I've not actually heard any real lawyers say "The Law is the Law" as Inspector Javert does.

I'm doing a blog posting this Sunday on democracy, the Roman Empire, and the apostle Paul's take on Roman law which follows up some of the problems with good and bad laws.

TonyTheProf said...

The "freeman argument" has never succeeded in a court of law, it caused grief to the Occupy London legal team, and I think it is dangerous to suggest it has merit, otherwise people will try it (usually in desperation) and end up in prison (as has happened). That's what I don't want to see - innocent people duped by these ideas. Otherwise I wouldn't have stuck my head above the parapet like this.

I agree there is a case for civil disobedience against tyranny (as Gandhi did, for example), or the Occupy London protests, but that is different. They didn't just say as one local did "His submission was that statute law did not apply to him because he was not an agent or an employee of the States of Jersey, which is a body corporate. He is self-governed, and not operating according to the statutes of the Island."

So let's all just not pay any taxes, parking fines, etc if we don't like it because that's statute law. Do you think that is reasonable? And how do we pay for health, education, etc etc?

Nick Palmer said...

"I've not actually heard any real lawyers say "The Law is the Law""

Well, my wife sat on the Youth Court Panel for 9 years and she not only heard it used, she also said it too (more than once)... Maybe not by lawyers but certainly by Magistrates etc.

Some might say that the benefits to ordinary folk, including children, that the law bestows are only a welcome side effect to the continuing development of law that actually has the primary motivation of protecting something else entirely.

BTW Captchas are getting really hard nowadays!

Nick Palmer said...

"and I think it is dangerous to suggest it has merit"

If it has merit then we need a radical overhaul of the legal system. The primary method of defence the legal establishment have come up with against these ideas is chanting "they have no merit" without actually saying why.

Implicit in the way they act is a belief that the system is some sort of law of the universe being applied by them as agents of the divine. They tacitly admit that the whole system has just been developed ("made up") over centuries and if they say Freeman arguments truly have no merit, they have to make it clear that their primary argument is just that their system has been an established power structure a lot longer than the newer system has been. In effect, they are arguing that their system has merit because it has merit because... etc because it is long established and they have all the power to define and pontificate what is reality - they tell us what has merit and what doesn't according to their interpretation of the words and that anybody else's interpretation is wrong.

Humpty Dumpty, in "Alice Through the Looking Glass, famously said:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master, that's all"

The thing is, if the laws are just based on arbitrary decisions and interpretations of words that are convenient to the power structures that make them up, sold to the democratic majority as a good thing because some beneficial crumbs drop off the table as a side effect, then any other system has equal real merit, at least as far as justification for having system at all goes.

If you wish to argue about the consequences of throwing out the existing system, then that is an entirely different kettle of fish from arguing whether the "competing" systems have intrinsic merit or not. A system whose only claim to more validity than other moral frameworks is that the dominant chimp brains of the time made it up a long time ago, and that subsequent dominant chimp thinkers picked up the ball and ran with it to the present day, should seriously think about revamping its self-justification.

I understand the Freemen swear allegiance to Common Law, so they are not exactly anarchists.

Off with Cyril the Squirrel's head - or at least give him a contempt of court prison sentence!

TonyTheProf said...

Well I've not seen it in any of the judgements on the States legal information board. Were these Jersey or UK magistrates?

The law does not always benefit everyone. That's pretty obvious. In the 16th and 17th centuries it was applied in Jersey to burn people as witches - that was the Royal Court, not the Ecclesiastical Court. Laws supported slavery and the slave trade. You can probably think of thousands of bad laws. But bad laws can be changed, either by politicians elected on a mandate of reform, or pressure from individuals or organisations such as trade unions. No one ever said the system was perfect, no system is. It is always a compromise of sorts. But people brought in laws - statute laws - outlawing slave trading and slavery, improving workers conditions, bringing in social security etc. I'm not a believer in the Whig idea of history that everything is getting better, but there have been some improvements over the last 50 years even (as well as some setbacks).

TonyTheProf said...

"I understand the Freemen swear allegiance to Common Law, so they are not exactly anarchists."

Not as I understand it. There is a lot of criticism on the local website about the Statute laws all being in French, but if they'd done any digging - e.g. Stephanie Nicholle's book on the origins and development of Jersey common law - you'll see that it will pretty well all be French! In fact one of them boasts that they don't understand French, and the law should be in English. Well, if you want common law, then you will need a translator.

English common law has developed seperately, but why should that be applied in Jersey. There is not a single "common law" which is universal across all countries - Scotland again has its own unique brand.

Why should English common law be privileged by someone in Jersey? Surely Jersey common law should be the basis for their arguments? Or is the "common law" defense really something of a red herring?

Yes, you can topple the existing system, and start from scratch. Utopians who overthrow existing systems in revolutions do that. It is rare that the end result is much improved. Often it ends in some kind of dictatorship, either by an individual or a party machine, or the military. And in the meantime, as with the French revolution, you may have the Terror, mass murder, in the name of liberty, equality and fraternity.

To make any revolutionary change work requires considerable wisdom and luck, as those in power tend to take on the same role as the former incumbents - Animal Farm is a fable which illustrates this insidious slide very well.

Anonymous said...

Tony the "Prof" your certainly deriding your own name with your stance on this issue or you are not looking at the same world as me.

Wake up from your ignorance! don't just think outside the box you need to stand a great deal of distance from the box to see the big picture.

Your view is somewhat obscured by your over inflated internet ago and a pretend knowledge recently gleaned for the internet.

Some people I know have full copies of Black's law book and others, and as far as i am aware the law is meant to be a evolutionary collection of proscribed ideas and functions collected and collated over time and have built into them the ability to change and grow with the society that contemporaneously creates on the fly, laws are not meant to have rigidity that you seem to think.

it is also worth a mention that these people who are trying to work their way through the laws and statutes of a corrupt system are at least trying to do something and not just slagging people off.

TonyTheProf said...

One of Ian's comments is:

"‘Registration’ was historically the act of a Ship’s Captain signing over his ship and all chattel contents over to the harbour master for safekeeping. Chattel contents included the condemned, those in debt, prisoners, anything that could be bought or sold and slaves."

He seems to assume that terms retain meanings, and if it meant signing over then, it must do so today.

Words have many meanings, and they change over time. To privilege the original meaning of a word, is a semantic fallacy - the etymological fallacy. Equally to read a dictionary and take the words there as applying to a particular context is another mistake, it's called illegitimate totally transfer.

Unfortunately, Ian's blog does a lot of that. You can see how original meanings fall apart if you look at the word "gay".

Gay has had various senses dealing with sexual conduct since the 17th century. A gay woman was a prostitute, a gay man a womanizer, a gay house a brothel. But from the early 1900s, the word began to shift in meaning to take on overtones regarding homosexuality, which of course is pretty much the primary meaning today.

In linguistics, there are two words used to describe meanings - synchronic - the cluster of meanings a word has today, which may differ in contexts, and diachronic - the changing meanings of words over time.

It something that happens in all languages, the Latin of the 3rd and 4th century had seen significant changes in word meanings, and used to be designated "Silver Latin" by translators.

TonyTheProf said...

"Laws are not meant to have rigidity that you seem to think."

If you've read my posts you'll see that rigidity is the last thing I'm saying a legal system is. Otherwise we'd still be burning witches, ferrying slaves across the Atlantic, and hanging people for stealing a sheep.

Anonymous said...

I see your as bad as the rag for not putting posts up, Noted.

Damocles said...

If "the law is the law" and yet - too conveniently sometimes - it is often not in the "public" interest to charge or prosecute, then is the law really the law or is just an arbitrary and heavily biased ragbag of Jesuitical complexity which means whatever is most convenient to those who administer and enforce it?

TonyTheProf said...

I won't put up comments that are just insults and not arguments - that's why I let Nick Palmer's through.

TonyTheProf said...

The CPS has on its website the basis for its decisions on what is in the public interest.



The principles we follow

The Code for Crown Prosecutors sets out the basic principles to be followed by Crown Prosecutors when they make case decisions. The decision on whether or not to charge a case against a suspect is based on the Full Code Test as outlined in the Code. The Full Code Test has two stages:

The evidential stage
This is the first stage in the decision to prosecute. Crown Prosecutors must be satisfied that there is enough evidence to provide a "realistic prospect of conviction" against each defendant on each charge. They must consider whether the evidence can be used and is reliable. They must also consider what the defence case may be and how that is likely to affect the prosecution case. A "realistic prospect of conviction" is an objective test. It means that a jury or a bench of magistrates, properly directed in accordance with the law, will be more likely than not to convict the defendant of the charge alleged. (This is a separate test from the one that criminal courts themselves must apply. A jury or magistrates' court should only convict if it is sure of a defendant's guilt.) If the case does not pass the evidential stage, it must not go ahead, no matter how important or serious it may be.

The public interest stage
If the case does pass the evidential stage, Crown Prosecutors must then decide whether a prosecution is needed in the public interest. They must balance factors for and against prosecution carefully and fairly. Some factors may increase the need to prosecute but others may suggest that another course of action would be better. A prosecution will usually take place however, unless there are public interest factors tending against prosecution which clearly outweigh those tending in favour. The CPS will only start or continue a prosecution if a case has passed both stages.

TonyTheProf said...

An example, also given, is as follows:

When deciding whether a case should be prosecuted in the courts, prosecutors consider the alternatives to prosecution in appropriate circumstances. This includes a simple or conditional caution for adults or, for youths, a reprimand, warning or conditional caution.