Friday, 28 January 2011

Hyperbolic lies.

(N.B. This post was originally to be titled "Everything Tom Utley says is wrong and he deserves to be torn limb from limb by dwarf hamsters". Apparently that's too long, so just bear in mind that's what I'm calling it in my head.)

As you may or may not recall, the other day, the Mail printed an utterly charming and in-no-way-fallacious story about a recent (very narrow and long overdue) ruling by the Supreme Court entitled "Shout at your spouse and risk losing your home: It's just the same as domestic violence, warns woman judge". I covered it here.

Today, Tom Utley, esteemed Mail columnist, offered his delightful take on it. It's titled "Like every weedy husband, I don't shout - I sulk. But how long before a judge says that's domestic violence?". There are not enough faces, and not enough palms, in the entire world to adequately express my feelings upon reading that headline. It is like the complete zenith in the era of facepalmery. It's like a million monkeys did a million facepalms and then were given a typewriter and came out with that headline. Or something.

Anyway, dangerously overstretched similies aside, all this article does is to propagate the same hyperbolic lies that were made in the original article.

It is too shockingly bad to be dealt with adequatley by picking quotes out, so I will post the whole article here, with my comments in red.

"My wife and I have dear friends whose marriage has been one long shouting match since the day they went to the altar some 30 years ago.

The slightest thing sets them off, screaming blue murder at each other, whether it’s a mislaid corkscrew (‘where the hell did you put it this time, you stupid woman?’) or a dispute over who should make the tea (‘won’t you ever get off your fat a*** and do something yourself for once, you insufferable man?’). Sounds... charming Tom. Not really anything to do with the case in point though, is it? Given that they shout at each other equally.

I well remember one occasion when the four of us arrived late for a wedding in the country. With no time to book into the hotel where we were to stay, we had to change into our finery in the church hall, where catering staff and other guests were milling about.

He started the fight this time, letting out a mighty roar that made everyone stand stock-still and look round: ‘You’ve forgotten to pack my tie, you bloody idiot!’

Matching him decibel for decibel, and completely unselfconscious among all those strangers, his wife gave him her reflections on whose responsibility it was to pack his own ruddy tie. 

Warming to her theme, she touched upon other failings she’d identified in his ­character, appearance and conduct over the years, a pretty comprehensive list, while he answered in a similar vein about hers.

To those onlookers who hadn’t met them, they must have sounded like a couple heading straight for the divorce courts. But we had known them long enough to appreciate that this was their way of ­coping with the everyday stresses and strains of marriage, and that it signified nothing whatever to worry about in their relationship. Great. Remind me again what the point of this delightful anecdote was? Since it's absolutely and in no way similar to a person in a relationship undergoing emotional or verbal abuse.

Indeed, I reckon this perpetually warring couple are among the most devoted of my acquaintance, whose union will last long after many more outwardly lovey-dovey spouses have split up. Good for them. Even more reason why it's ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE JUDGEMENT IN QUESTION.

In what strikes me as an extraordinary judgment, with worrying implications for the way we’re governed, Lady Hale said the ­meaning of the word 'violence' had moved on since Parliament passed the Act in 1996. Actually Tom, they were discussing whether it had moved on since the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 (s.1(2)(b)). This Act was consolidated with other housing legislation into the Housing Act 1985 (s.58(3)(b)).When the Housing Act 1996 came into force, it merely transposed the original meaning of the risk of domestic violence (i.e. "violence from a person with whom he is associated, or threats of violence from such a person which are likely to be carried out") to section 177(1) of the 1996 Act.

Anyway, I thought of our friends immediately when I read Wednesday’s ruling by the Supreme Court that men and women who shout at their partners are guilty of domestic violence, and liable to stiff penalties including eviction, while those who get shouted at may have the right to be rehoused at the taxpayers’ expense. We're back to my overstretched primate-based simile here, aren't we Tom? OK. Firstly, it's not about people shouting at their spouse, it's about systemic emotional abuse. That's... just slightly different. Secondly - "liable to stiff penalties including eviction"?! I want you to say these two words after me: STARE DECISIS. I'm going to guess you don't know what they mean, so I'll explain. Stare decisis is one of the most important (and basic) legal principles. It means that like cases should be treated alike. It stops judges just making their own law to suit their own principles (no, really - it does! Not that you'd guess that from most tabloid media.). Now. The case we're discussing here hinged on whether Mrs Yemshaw made herself intentionally homeless under the Housing Act 1996 when she left her husband. That's it. That's all it applies to. Slippery slope arguments are not how the English legal system works.

A panel of five judges, led by Lady Hale, had been hearing the case of Mihret ­Yemshaw, 35, who said that she was a ­victim of domestic violence and, therefore, entitled to a new home under the 1996 Housing Act. Officials in Hounslow, West London, had turned down her claim after hearing that her husband had never hit her, nor even threatened to do so. This is killing me, it really is. She wanted to secure accomodation because her and her two infant children were homeless because of her husband's abuse. She didn't just swan up to the council offices one day because she felt like a change of scenery!

It all came down to the meaning of the word ‘violence’. Yes. It came down to a modern interpretation of the nearly forty-year-old definition of the word 'violence'. Let's just remember it's only twenty years since it was ruled that marital rape was still rape.

Mrs Yemshaw told the court that her husband — a 40-year-old bus driver born, like her, in Ethiopia — had shouted in front of their two children, failed to treat her like a human (whatever that may mean) and hadn’t given her any housekeeping money. She also said she was frightened that he might take the children away from her. Does this amount to violence? Lady Hale thought so. AARGH! OK. 1) So what if they're Ethiopian Tom? So fucking what? 2) I think, apart from you apparently Tom, we can all imagine what "failed to treat her like a human" might entail. 3) Not just Lady Hale, but THREE OTHER OF THE MOST SENIOR JUDGES IN THE COUNTRY. It's not an easy job to get Tom! It's not like you can send off three cereal box lids and join the Supreme Court!

In what strikes me as an extraordinary judgment, with worrying implications for the way we’re governed, she said the ­meaning of the word had moved on since Parliament passed the Act in 1996. *headdesk* SEE ABOVE.

Violence, she said, ‘is capable of bearing several meanings and applying to many different types of behaviour. These can change and develop over time’. Yes, like, for example,the phrase "eligible to vote" has changed and developed over time (as much as you might not like it Tom).

Now, I can imagine that in some relationships — and I exclude my dear friends — it must be pretty miserable to live with a loud-mouthed, domineering partner (although Mrs Yemshaw’s ­husband protests that he ‘never even screamed or swore at her’). He probably would, wouldn't he? Still, I think she's overcome enough legal scrutiny for us to be pretty damned sure he did. Also - it went a bit beyond being "loud-mouthed" and "domineering", didn't it?

So the last thing I want is to make light of it. REALLY?!?!??! But the point is that when our elected representatives passed the Housing Act 1996, they were aware that there are degrees of unpleasant behaviour in a marriage or partnership, ranging from mild carping or nagging, all the way up through shouting and swearing to actual, physical violence. It's like he's not paid attention to anything I've said, isn't it?

They had to decide at which point on that scale of unhappiness the State, in its mercy, would offer victims of ill-treatment the statutory right to a separate home. And since large sums of public money were at stake, they set it high — at the point of ‘violence’ or the credible threat of it. NO! This did not happen at all! You made it up! She doesn't have "the statutory right to a seperate home"! She has the right to be recognised as homeless after she left an abusive partner!

The rot started with the Human Rights Act, ­enforcing in British Courts a European Convention so loosely worded that it offers endless scope for judicial lawmaking on the sly. Excuse me? WHO mentioned the HRA? No one? Thought so.

As Lady Hale seems to accept, they meant physical violence. After all, if Parliament had intended to offer new homes to partners who’d been shouted at or denied housekeeping money, wouldn’t it have said so? *deep breaths* See. Above.

But this argument cuts no ice with m’lady, who has got hold of the curious idea that when a word shifts its meaning, so too does the law. Isn’t this a thoroughly dangerous notion, in a world in which ‘wicked’ is so rapidly coming to mean ‘good’? I'm horribly inclined to believe he's serious here. Please tell me he isn't. And please tell me he didn't just try and use "m'lady" in a patronising moment. Please, please do, because otherwise my head might actually explode.

Mind you, I don’t believe that violence really has changed its meaning in the blink of an eye since 1996. It seems to me that Lady Hale, out of the softness of her heart, simply wishes that Parliament had been more generous with your money and mine when it decided who should and who shouldn’t be rehoused. YOU'RE ON TO HER NOW TOM!

So she and her fellow judges have taken it upon themselves to invent a law, redefining violence to include non-violence. True, I must make an honourable exception for Lord Brown, who voiced ‘profound doubt’ about the majority ruling. Nope, you're completely right. The gays, the judges, the feminists and the muslims got together and decided that MORE MONEY HAD TO BE SPENT. We did this just to piss you off Tom.

But as for the rest, Lewis Carroll put it well in Through The Looking Glass: ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

Or as Lady Hale put it in a similar tone: ‘It is not for government and official ­bodies to interpret the meaning of the words which Parliament has used. That role lies with the courts.’ Or as Tom Utley and the Mail said, "Fuck it, let's just make shit up now, they'll probably buy it". A judge's role in court is to interpret the words of the statute. That IS their job. It's what they're trained to do!

Well, up to a point, m’lady. But in my respectful submission, like so many judges, you’re going far beyond that fuzzy line between interpreting the law and making it up as you go along. Of course, the rot started with the Human Rights Act, ­enforcing in British Courts a European Convention so loosely worded that it offers endless scope for judicial lawmaking on the sly. He. Did. It. Again.

But the judges’ opinion of their role has become even more inflated since the ­inauguration of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in 2009.

Flattered by that imported title, they seem to believe they’re as august as the Supreme Court in Washington, which stands at the pinnacle of the U.S. Constitution. EH?

In fact, there are myriad differences. Not least is the intensive congressional, judicial and FBI scrutiny that American judges have to go through — examining and re-examining every aspect of the cases they’ve tried, their politics, business dealings and family lives — before they can be admitted to the highest court in the land.

Here, democracy doesn’t get a look-in —and it’s pot luck whether we get a toughie or a softie, an arch Tory or a staunch Labour supporter. Is this any way to run what is becoming a legislature, in all but name? Unlike in America, where judges are appointed because of their political beliefs, and woe betide those who don't agree.

Oh well, I suppose we’re saddled with Hale’s Law for the foreseeable future — and no doubt there’ll be queues of aggrieved partners, fed up with being shouted at, demanding their right to new homes. Yeah. In fact, even though I'm single and childless, I quite fancy this lark. I'm off to get my free house now.

I can’t help wondering where this will leave my shouty friends, if they ever get sick of each other (which I doubt they will). Each will have a cast-iron case against the other. So who gets to keep the house? Plenty of lucrative work for the lawyers there. If he mentions the eviction myth one more time, I swear I will scream.

As for myself, I have nothing to fear from Hale’s Law, because I’m not much of a shouter (and I’d never dare yell at Mrs U if she failed to pack my tie). Even though she'd deserve it, right?

No. Like so many of my weedier fellow Englishmen, the weapon I prefer to use on the battleground of marriage is good old passive aggression: the martyred look, the sigh, the over-elaborate apology for the most minor offence; the faux-meek ‘Whatever you say, dear’.

I know, I know. It must make me hell to live with. How long before Lady Hale ­classifies me as a violent criminal?"
Unfortunately for you Tom, I've just classified you as criminally facepalmable. Sentence? A GCSE in Law and community service in a domestic violence refuge. You absolute lying twat.

Just because I know you're all masochists when it comes to this, the top rated comment, at midnight on 29/1/11 is on 142 green:

"Actually you would be surprised what they can class as DV in the family courts nowadays and also where children are concerned that old chestnut 'emotional' abuse. Why do you think both men and women have been campaigning to change this 'grey' area into a written explaination of facts, here's a clue, social services can take children into care for little more than the child missing a dental appointment, it 'may' cause the child harm, they argue. The key words in these laws to look out for are 'can' lead to- 'may', lead to, and 'could' lead to. Now I can 'kill' someone, I may 'kill' someone or i 'could' kill someone under these rules, but it doesn't mean i'm 'going' to- am 'likely' too or 'would ' kill someone. The law is an ass, especially when it's open to interpretation by idiots." - michelle, herts, 28/1/2011 3:31

The lowest is on 17 red: 

I think this says it all.


  1. God I've been married 40 years this year, we have had our ups and down like everyone else, on the whole it's worked OK.

    I've not hit her and she has not hit me, perhaps thats because once our kids grew up, we had to look after two grand kids, both now teenagers. We have not had the time to fight, we have been to broke to go on holidays, and two broke to drink a lot, and to intelligent to bother reading the Mail.....

  2. Utley and Coren operate from within the bubble of privilege which includes a Cabinet of 8 Old Etonians.They 'thrive', like hothoused bacteria, on an oxygen of entitlement.They are increasingly emboldened to spout their brand of ultramontane male chauvinist drivel, especially for cash, in this uniquely (for them) congenial environment.
    Let's be clear about this, they know nothing, and care less, about the Law, Society,or human values.They not only revel in wilful ignorance, they are professional evangelists for it.If this studied blindness extends to their relationships, there maybe a juicy headline in a future 'Mail' which reads, 'Suitcase Battering In Country House Hotel, wife of Columnist held'.We can but hope.