The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


The reaction to the previous thread reminds me of the link between euphemistic speech and callousness to human suffering. Orwell made the point in his essay 'Politics and the English Language' written in 1946. It's worth re-reading every few years, and here is a core passage, slightly edited:

political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so."

People are 'terminated with extreme prejudice' - a straight lift from Hollywood. They are 'slotted' or 'wasted' or 'blown away' or 'stopped' or 'dropped' - there are scores more euphemisms for the act of killing someone. The polarisation of views on police tactics is depressingly predictable, and I would suggest that the bowdlerisation of the language serves to numb proper human sensitivity. It is easy to write on a Web discussion such as this and to express crude and brutal acceptance, and sometimes relish, at a killing. I venture to suggest that very few of those who express acceptance or even satisfaction at the shooting of someone (and I stress again that I am not talking about the current case - it's a general point) would be so callous or indifferent if the person hit with seven bullets were their brother or son or lover. So I repeat my earlier point; sometimes the police have no choice but to shoot, but that must always be a last resort. The police have all the time and resources they need, as they showed in previous confrontations. They are a trained and disciplined force. That is why we expect a lot of them. I hope that today's managers are of the same quality as those who did such a fine job a generation ago.