Friday 21 August 2009

just doing what cary grant did

If, as predicted, direct action over coal-fired power stations and airport expansion increases (and the number of arrests rise), there will be more and more effort on the part of defendants to use the defence of 'necessity'. That is, the defendant's conduct was necessary to prevent a greater harm taking place.

The defence of necessity rarely succeeds in English law. What was so interesting about the cases of the Kingsnorth Six and the Drax 29 was the degree to which the judges did or did not allow the defendants to explain their motivation.

The Wiki entry on necessity uses the example of the drunk driver who had to escape from a kidnap - just what Cary Grant has to do early on in North By Northwest. Half a pint of bourbon is poured down his throat, and then he himself is poured into a car, and the car heads towards the edge of a cliff.

Cary Grant could justifiably claim that he had no reasonable alternative, he ceased to break the law as soon as the danger had passed, and that he did not himself create the danger that he sought to avoid.

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