Freedom of Expression,  Iraq,  Lawfare

Touchy, touchy

Stoppers dismayed by Tony Blair’s confident appearance in front of the Chilcott enquiry yesterday can still console themselves with this stunt cooked up by Guardian journalist George Monbiot.

This site offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, for crimes against peace. Anyone attempting an arrest which meets the rules laid down here will be entitled to one quarter of the money collected at the time of his or her application.

Money donated to this site will be used for no other purpose than to pay bounties for attempts to arrest Tony Blair.

The intention is to encourage repeated attempts to arrest the former prime minister.

Classy. Blair hasn’t been found guilty of anything by any court, tribunal or other competent forum unless you count the High Court of Islington (Chattering Class Division), and of course the Chilcott enquiry isn’t even over yet –  but the Stoppers’ anger at the man who had the temerity to assist the toppling of a fascist dictator still knows no bounds.

Norm has free legal advice for those tempted to take Monbiot’s shilling though:

What Monbiot is urging would still be a tort. Even though he is not suggesting imprisoning Blair, what he is suggesting would be a tortious battery, as it is an intentional unauthorised touching without consent.

Freelance ‘touchers’ might also bear in mind – what with battery being a tort as well as a crime – that Tony Blair would be well within his rights, should he feel so inclined, to bring a private prosecution against those who harass him in this way.

What if the toucher’s bounty isn’t enough to pay the legal costs or damages?

Monbiot would also be liable, as he would have procured the wrong and the wrongdoer’s actions would also be attributed to him. I would suggest, as well, that his employer, the Guardian, would be vicariously liable for Monbiot’s wrongdoing.

Whether George wasn’t aware of the potential consequences when he first set up his website – or was aware of them and decided to go ahead anyway – is a moot point (for the time being at least), but it’s also a good illustration of the trouble you can get yourself into if you treat the law as a weapon fashioned only for the prosecution of your own moral outrage.

And that’s something a fair few people who have gnashed their teeth and rended their garments over the last few years might do well to reflect on.