I am not a legal expert so this post at Longrider's is making my head hurt. It concerns the wife of a bomb-plotter, arrested and taken to court because the CPS thought she must have known what her husband was up to, and she didn't tell police. She insists she could not have told police information she didn't know.
Fortunately the jury acquitted her, otherwise things could get very 1984 indeed.
Suppose I'm in a pub and some pissed-up oaf says he's beaten up an old lady. Suppose there was such an incident recently. Do I call the police? He might be full of crap, trying to sound like some tough criminal whereas his real job is measuring the spacing between lampposts or something like that. On balance, I would probably report it if it coincided with a real incident, but probably not if there was nothing to suggest it really happened. If he was just talking rubbish then, if nothing else, it'll put him off talking rubbish again. If he really did beat up the old lady and I didn't report it, I would feel worse. So I would.
Suppose that same pissed-up oaf says he is going to beat up an old lady? Do I report that? No crime has actually been committed and although he has stated an intent, he's a pissed-up lardass and we know such people are always making threats and never doing anything about them. Reporting him for thoughtcrime is a step too far for me. So I wouldn't.
What's my position in those two situations?
There's been a real beating-up, someone tells me they did it, I'm convinced enough to report it. I'm in the clear whether he did it or not. I'm just reporting what he told me.
There's been a real beating-up, someone tells me they did it, police ask me whether I know who did it and I say no. If he did it and I deliberately lie to cover it up, I am an accessory after the fact. Clear enough.
There's been a real beating-up, someone tells me they did it, I think he's full of crap and don't report it. Turns out he did do it. What's my position? Should I report every pub crime-brag just in case? The police could get sick of the sight of me very quickly.
There's been a real beating up, someone I know did it but I'm not aware of it. He is arrested and so am I. As a regular drinking companion, I must have known. I say I didn't. The CPS charge me as an accessory anyway. How can they possibly prove I knew about the crime and the criminal before they told me about it? How do I prove I didn't?
Worse, there's been no crime committed but the police have evidence of a conspiracy to commit some serious crime by a friend of mine. I'm arrested because they think I must have known. I didn't. How do I prove I didn't know something before the police informed me of it? Remember, nothing has actually happened, it's a plot the police have uncovered. I am arrested for not reporting it.
That seems to be the position this woman was in and it's dangerous territory. There is no way to prove whether or not I already knew because once the police tell me, I do know. Whether I knew before they told me is the question and that's getting into the supernatural.
How does the law work on this? Where does this assumption of possession of information end? If a second cousin twice removed once considered blowing up a tea shop, should I be expected to read their minds and report this?
I have no idea whether any of my friends are plotting to kidnap the Dreadful Arnott or the Dumb Shenker and entertain them with a potato peeler and a bag of salt. If they are and I don't report them, is not knowing the existence of the plot a robust enough defence? It surely must be.
How to prove it though?