ONE of the Conan Doyle stories hinges on the strange fact that the dog which ought to have done, didn't bark. I have forgotten quite why but I remember that its silence was the one that led to the solution of the case. Sherlock was no fool.
As I see what is happening to the law in this country I keep wondering why the dogs do not bark. 1 cannot even decide which dogs ought to bark. Local government and the trade unions have in the last few years been taught their lesson. Have the churches lost their voice? Are the journalists silenced or part of the Murdoch club? Are university professors too busy fighting for their institutions?
Something rather sinister is going on and the dogs, if not silent, are certainly not making enough noise. I suppose I woke up before most people because I had to. Several years ago now there was the clearest evidence of government malpractice in relation to CND. Phones were being tapped, letters were being intercepted and office espionage was going on.
The evidence came from a brave official who was responsible for ordering some of these activities but who became disgusted with what was going on and, at great personal risk, spilt the beans. But the Government just said that everything was in order and whatever had been done was done in the name of national security. No dogs barked. After all it was only CND.
Since then a series of odd events have come to light. The
Spycatcher saga has become a
bore. As a result of the Government's paranoia everyone with the mildest interest in politics has read the book and the author has become a millionaire. His is a story of lawlessness. "We burgled our way across London", he says.
He has revealed a world of real power operating behind and sometimes against democratically elected governments. The case for a public inquiry is overwhelming. But there is not going to be one. The Government does not want one. And the dogs do not make much noise.
Then comes the Stalker affair. I do not know if there was a "shoot-to-kill" policy in Northern Ireland, but considering what has already gone on there I would not be in the slightest surprised if, at one time, there was. But that there was a cover up and an effort to stop Stalker getting to the truth is as plain as the fingers on my hand.
Cover-ups by officials are illegal but the Attorney General says that no one is going to be prosecuted. It would not be in the national interest. And the dogs do not bark. Then we hear about an extraordinary trio. You may have already forgotten them since they shot so rapidly in and out of our papers. Their leader was apparently a Mr Larsen who, after various lies turned out to be a Norwegian. They were in possession of false police passes and other documents to which they had no right.
It seems quite probable that they were engaged in a conspiracy to kidnap political refugees possibly on behalf of South Africa. They claimed MIS connections. At least for the false documents and for lying to the police they ought to have been prosecuted. But they were not. All of a sudden a deportation order was rushed through and away they went out of the country. And the dogs did not seem to notice.
Finally, though the list could be much longer, comes the judgement of the Appeal Court in the Birmingham bombing case. In terms of justice it is inexplicable. The new evidence was overwhelming. These men were beaten into confessions and convicted on the basis of quite inadequate forensic tests. But the Appeal Court operated the Old Boys Stick Together principle and innocent men (if one is still innocent until proved guilty) stay in prison.
"National security" used to be the justification for doing some very nasty things to people in the Argentine and elsewhere. Are we moving in that direction I wonder? Do not forget what Thomas More had to say about law in A Man for all Seasons . . .
"This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coastmans laws not Gods — and if you cut them down . . . do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?"
Today it is the Government and its agencies that are doing the cutting down in the name of national security. It is time for us all to bark very loudly indeed.