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Thabo Meli revisited : the pernicious effects of results-driven decisions

journal contribution
posted on 2013-02-01, 00:00 authored by Kenneth Arenson
Despite the hackneyed expression that ‘judges should interpret the law and not make it’, the fact remains that there is some scope within the separation of powers doctrine for the courts to develop the common law incrementally. To this extent, the courts can effectively legislate, but only to this limited extent if they are to respect the separation of powers doctrine. On occasion, however, the courts have usurped the power entrusted to Parliament, and particularly so in instances where a strict application of the existing law would lead to results that offend their personal notions of what is fair and just. When this occurs, the natural consequence is that lawyers, academics and the public in general lose respect for both the judges involved as well as the adversarial system of criminal justice. In order to illustrate this point, attention will focus on the case of Thabo Meli v United Kingdom in which the Privy Council, mistakenly believing that it could not reach its desired outcome through a strict application of the common law rule of temporal coincidence, emasculated the rule beyond recognition in order to convict the accused. Moreover, the discussion to follow will demonstrate that not only was the court wrong in its belief that the case involved the doctrine of temporal coincidence, but the same result would have been achieved had the Council correctly identified the issue as one of legal causation and correctly applied the principles relating thereto.

History

Journal

Journal of criminal law

Volume

77

Issue

1

Pagination

41 - 55

Publisher

Vathek Publishing

Location

Isle of Man, England

ISSN

0022-0183

eISSN

1740-5580

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

2013, Vathek Publishing

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