Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

Following the diktat of the European Court, Law Lords have ruled that 'control orders' are illegal, because they allow terrorist suspects to be placed under curfew without the evidence against them being made available to their lawyers. A Law Lord commented: 'The government has a responsibility for the protection of the lives and wellbeing of those who live in this country. . . The duty of the courts, however, is not a duty to protect the lives of citizens.

It is a duty to apply the law.'

Ancients would have been incredulous that a law could exist that threatened the lives of citizens; and if it did, they would have changed it. In 369 BC, the Theban general Epaminondas illegally extended his and his fellow-generals' term of office in order to complete a successful attack on Thebes' enemy Sparta. So when he returned home, it was to find himself on a capital charge, brought by political enemies. He demanded that, if executed, the following notice should be posted: 'Epaminondas was executed by the Thebans because he forced them to defeat the Spartans whom they had never even dared to look in the face before, rescued Thebes and liberated all Greece' (and much else). …

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