Entries from November 2011 ↓

Get Out of Jail Free?

Hooray! I’m back.

If you’ve been reading the legal blogs recently you will have witnessed a rare and beautiful thing: a broad group of lawyers being unanimous and unequivocal on what the law is.

I intend to add to that spectacle.

Comment is Free recently let some of the more disreputable parts of the #OccupyLSX crowd post on their site. Among them were a group that call themselves “freemen of the land”. Here are some of their articles:

Yes, Defaulting on Debts is an Option

Money has been Privatised by Stealth

Welfare, education and law at the Occupy Camp

Those first two articles’ titles might indicate that the authors have a certain estrangement from reality. Number three looks unobjectionable until you discover that it is written by a chap who goes around calling himself “commonly known as dom”. A bit Pythonesque (scroll through to 1:10).

Absurd titles aside, this group believes it’s discovered a series of amusing loopholes by which you can avoid the jurisdiction of the court and prevent people from chasing you for debts. This group runs sites like Get Out of Debt Free, that offer you meretricious pseudo-legal advice on how to do exactly that. A particular gem is the idea that if you capitalise your name, you forfeit all legal rights.

I’m not going to go into a detailed rebuttal, because they’ve been done elsewhere and I’d recommend you read them if you are interested.

UKHRB: Freemen of the Dangerous Nonsense

Carl Gardner: The law is not the enemy of protest but an essential tool of impartiality

Legal Bizzle (who has to endure these people for a living): Comment is free, but woo is sacred

All I will pick up on is how elementarily stupid the concept of exempting oneself from certain laws is. The Freemen appear to believe that statute law (or for that matter, a court) has no binding effect unless you consent to it. But let’s think about this. If you can opt out, so can anyone else. “Anyone else” includes debt collectors. So, if you opt out of the legal means for pursuit of a debt, the debt collectors can opt out of the sanctions against illegal means.

In other words, if I ran a debt collection agency I could opt out of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the Theft Act 1968, the Criminal Damage Act 1971 and the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales. I could also opt out of the Law of Property Act 1925 and the Land Registration Act 2002.

Having done that bit of groundwork, I could then send some thugs round to what is commonly known as your home (I’ve opted out of the law of property so I don’t recognise your legal title to it), break into it (I’ve opted out of the CDA so it’s not a crime), take all your stuff (I’ve opted out of theft and burglary being offences), smash other stuff, then rough you up for good measure (no assault/ABH/GBH for me, I’ve opted out of the OAPA!). If I were to be taken to court or arrested, I’d just stand up and say something in latin, refuse to capitalise my name and say I don’t consent to the jurisdiction. Get out of jail free, pass Go and collect all your stuff.

If, despite all that the court gets the odd idea into its head that it might be able to exercise jurisdiction over a British subject, I will at the very least have done excellent groundwork for pleading insanity.

There is absolutely no reason why, under Freeman’s logic, this scenario wouldn’t be equally possible. Legal rights, or lack thereof, work both ways.