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9th April 2020

BBC defends Retrospective Legislation

The BBC has finally replied to our Director’s complaint on 2nd December 2019 about a Today presenter promoting the concept of Retrospective Legislation.

They claim Nick Robinson was not promoting the idea but challenging the Justice Secretary over his apparent failure to consider it. They also claim:

“While Nick did interrupt Mr Buckland to clarify his point, he did then allow the justice secretary to respond to the question in detail and without interruption.”

This second claim is misleading because the effect of Mr Robinson’s interruption was to move the discussion on from why Retrospective Legislation in the criminal context is a “serious” matter to managing the particular case in point. In other words, it silenced discussion of the important philosophical and legal point behind Mr Buckland’s answer.

While claiming not to promote Retrospective Legislation, the BBC response does not condemn the concept. Rather, it reads:

“Nick acknowledged that using retrospective legislation is a serious step, but also raised the point that if there is a high terror threat then such measures may be appropriate.”

Thus the BBC apparently believes Retrospective Legislation can sometimes be appropriate.

The Diverse Diversity Campaign cannot agree. Its Director, Ken Petrie said as much today, arguing the concept undermines “the whole concept of The Rule of Law.” He wrote “It puts the citizen entirely at rulers’ mercy as if there were no law at all.”

Even Parliament could not function, since a future Parliament controlled by a future government, could outlaw an action of a previous parliament and have its members arrested and punished for their part in it. Thus it would chill our democracy into fear and politicians would be unable to function with any confidence at all.

He added the Campaign could never support “the very concept” of Retrospective Legislation for that reason.

Full text of complaint and reply