The Professors passion for "The Science of Deceit" started here...

Employed by the Ministry (in a covert capacity) to help introduce the law ending dishonest politics, you can see his hand all over the posts of past.

Current political circumstances have forced him to reveal himself and as we speak, MPs are signing up to re-introduce The Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill for debate with over 80,000 voters supporting them.

Posts before Jan '08 are purely for the record (with hindsight they make fascinating reading). Posts after May 13th mark the Professor's return.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

State of Mind

Some suprisingly strong debate over the "Misrepresentation of the Peoples Act", especially from the legal community. In particular, what state of mind, or "mens rea" constitutes an offence or defence...

"Elizabeth said...

For this Bill to work, you would need to remove the inconsistency with regard to the mens rea required to constitute the offence. Section 1 states the offence may be committed "recklessly or with intent to deceive", whereas in Section 3.2 lack of intent to deceive can be a defence, effectively excluding the possibility of a conviction for recklessness. So, which is it? Intent or recklessness? A choice needs to be made..."

Seems to us, our elected representatives have a responsibility not to be reckless to the truth, therefore "lack of intent to deceive" shouldn't be a defence - but hey, it's your act - you decide.


  1. If your MP doesn't give a shit about the truth, he's committed an offence.

    If your MP intended to deceive, he's committed an offence.

    If your MP didn't intend to deceive but didn't give a shit about the truth, effectively he didn't give a shit about whether he deceived - he's committed an offence.

    Lack of intent should be a defence, but not for "recklessness to the truth".

  2. It would depend on the individual case whether a politician could use ignorance of the truth in his defence or whether this would constitute recklessness. It is a very difficult problem to solve, but I think it would be a case for the jury to decide given the specific evidence. I don't think it is necessarily a problem with the act.

  3. Can't use individual cases - if there's a conflict in the bill you need to sort it in advance. Suggest you make "lack of intent" not a defence to section 2.3 - "It shall be an offence under this Act for a representative of the people, or agent employed on their behalf to – Recklessly publish (dishonestly or otherwise) a statement, promise or forecast which is misleading, false or deceptive in a material manner."

  4. Surely if you're reckless to the truth, that's intent to deceive.

    You couldn't use a defence of "lack of intent" if you were reckless to the truth.

  5. Seems to me that being reckless with the truth in a politician’s situation smacks of incompetence. An incompetent politician should be removed from office, but not treated as severely as one deceiving with malicious intent.

    Perhaps both should constitute an offence, but with different punishments?

  6. recklessness should include 'sexing up' documents right?

  7. I reckon so...

  8. All this assumes a politician's capable of having a "state of mind". Does this mean they can plead insanity as a defence ?

  9. Some people have suggested that if “recklessness” with the truth becomes an offence, the UK government could be prosecuted for negligence (by, for example, the Iraqi people) – how plausible is this threat?