Law enforcement agencies across Europe are on alert over the proliferation of gun-making software that is easily found on the Internet and can be used to make a weapon on a consumer-grade 3-D printer…
No wonder that in the European Union, which has much stricter gun-control laws than the United States, officials worry that it is becoming much easier to covertly obtain and carry potentially lethal weapons.
A couple of things that are bothering me:
NYT headline: “Court Rules on ‘Stand Your Ground’ Costs“.
And the lead goes on to refer to “a major ruling on the ‘stand your ground’ debate over personal safety”. Except if you keep reading, it doesn’t appear that this ruling had anything to do with “stand your ground”, but is based on self-defense law in Washington state, as well as legal interpretations of that law going back to the 1930s.
(The court ruled that a defendant who successfully argued that he acted in self-defense was entitled to reimbursement for his legal defense and lost wages.)
And Charles Isherwood reviews a revival of “The Winslow Boy”:
During the sometimes languid first act of “The Winslow Boy,” I occasionally found myself wondering whether we really needed to hear so much about a character’s crack cricketing (Rattigan was an avid fan), or, indeed, whether the kernel of the plot — the question of whether a 13-year-old boy stole a “postal order” (whatever that is!) of “five shillings” (whatever that is!) — was really substantial enough to merit such expansive dramatization.
Little Ronnie Winslow (Spencer Davis Milford) insists, even through terrified tears, that he did not steal the fatal five-shilling postal order (let’s just say it’s a cashier’s check for a small sum), and Arthur’s instinctive trust in his son inspires him to question the expulsion, although the school insists that there is ample proof of the boy’s guilt. (The play was inspired by an actual case.
I may be misreading Isherwood here, but he seems awfully dismissive of the case that’s at the heart of “The Winslow Boy”, and, by implication, the actual case it was based on. I admit that I have not seen a production of “The Winslow Boy”, or the film version of it: I would very much like to, but have not. (The play has not yet been produced in Austin, and I just haven’t gotten around to watching the movie. Maybe one night at movie night…)
But some years ago I read Alexander Woollcott’s essay on the real case of George Archer-Shee. Woollcott, as I recall, referred to it as one of the high points of English law, and I have to agree with him. Here is a young boy, accused of theft and expelled from his school without any hearing at all. Here is one of the greatest lawyers in England taking on the government itself. And all of this over a matter of honor. (There’s also some neat tricks here. I like Carson’s use of the “petition of right“. And not mentioned in the Wikipedia entry, but mentioned in Woollcott’s essay: when Carson and the family were trying to secure compensation for Archer-Shee, they got a friendly Member of Parliament to introduce a bill cutting the salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty by 100 pounds a year. That got his attention.)
(“… the school insists that there is ample proof of the boy’s guilt”. Again, I haven’t seen the play. But in the real Archer-Shee case, once there actually was a hearing, it came out that there was basically no evidence at all against Archer-Shee: the entire claim that Archer-Shee had stolen the postal order revolved around the testimony of an elderly half-blind distracted postal clerk who couldn’t even identify the boy.)
This, I think, is a good summary of why Woollcott and I find the Archer-Shee case so moving, and why I think Isherwood’s review gets a little under my skin:
The English public found the Archer-Shee case irresistible with its David versus Goliath implications. The idea of a young boy wrongly accused of stealing and being dismissed from his school without due process shocked and angered the public. They found his family’s behaviour, particularly his father’s willingness to risk his fortune to defend his son, emotionally appealing. The outcome also satisfied the public sense of outrage at an obstinate governmental bureaucracy and at an injustice eventually righted.
Fiat justitia ruat caelum.
(Edited to add: Another part of Isherwood’s review that bugs me: “the fatal five-shilling postal order (let’s just say it’s a cashier’s check for a small sum)”. I really didn’t feel like I needed Isherwood to explain what a “postal order” was to me. I’ve dealt with postal orders and money orders myself, and I’m sure many of the NYT‘s readers have as well. In any case, there should be enough clues from context to allow the average NYT reader to figure out what a “postal order” is, without Isherwood’s condescending explanation.
And five shillings is a “small sum”? According to the British National Archives, five shillings in 1910 money translates to 14.27 pounds in 2005 money. Sadly, the currency converter doesn’t go past 2005, but 14.27 pounds at current exchange rates works out to $23.10. Perhaps that’s a small sum to Isherwood, but I suggest that was a non-trivial sum of money to a 13-year-old boy in 1908.)