Thomas Mair has been convicted of the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox (Batley and Spen) . His sentence was a whole life tariff which makes it very unlikely that he will ever be released.
There is something distinctly odd about this case for the reported facts of the case do not seem to hang comfortably together. That Mair killed Cox is clear and his ostensible motive for committing the murder , namely, that she was a supporter of the remain side in the EU referendum is established, but precious little is else is satisfactorily explained.
Mair has no revealed previous history of violence , yet his attack on Cox was both sustained and involved not only the shooting of Cox but multiple stabbings. For a supposed first time killer Mair showed surprisingly little panic or squeamishness when confronted with the actuality of attacking someone in such a physically intimate manner. Instead , he was remarkably self-possessed during the attack and afterwards according to media reports, so much so that when a man called Rashid Hussain tried to intervene during the attack on Cox Mair coolly told him “ Move back, otherwise I’m going to stab you.” He also reloaded his .22 gun twice, shot Cox three times and stabbed her 15 times. Such determined and unflustered behaviour is unusual to say the least for someone who had never done anything like it before. About the only thing amateurish about the attack was the fact that he did not kill the MP quickly.
After the attack, Mair made no meaningful attempt to flee – he was arrested a mile away from the murder – and he did not disguise himself either during or after the attack. A number of people witnessed his attack As the killing was near Mair’s home the odds against him not being rapidly identified were vanishingly small.
After being arrested Mair refused to answer questions put to him by the police including questions about his political leanings. Again he appeared very self-possessed. Photographs showing him in a custody booth could have been taken of a man waiting quietly in a hospital before he is called for an examination.
During the act of killing he was reported to have shouted “Britain first”, “this is for Britain”, “Britain always comes first” and “keep Britain independent” and when he made his first appearance in court he gave his name as Death to Traitors, freedom for Britain”. There is some dispute about the exact words but the discovery of a good deal of hard right literature in his home makes such statements plausible. Mair’s behaviour to this point suggested he wanted to be caught and to use his trial as a platform to complain about the EU and the support MPs such as Cox gave to it.
At his trial everything changed. When called upon to plead he refused to do so and pleas of not guilty to the various charges were entered on his behalf, as is usual in English courts. The refusal to plead could be interpreted as Mair doing what many politically motivated people do when placed on trial, namely, attempt to remove legitimacy from the court by refusing to acknowledge it. However, people who take that course generally make it crystal clear what they are doing. All that Mair offered was silence until he had been convicted for he did not give evidence in his own defence. What his attitude or strategy was in behaving in this manner is debatable because he can have had no meaningful expectation that he would be found not guilty. Hence, he would have had no reason to fear cross examination because the fact that he killed Cox could not be reasonably said to be in dispute and prosecuting counsel would have had little to get hold of or theme to develop. Mair would have been able to have his own barrister lead him through whatever Mair wanted to say without much fear of the prosecution making him look silly in cross examination.
After conviction Mair did try to speak before sentence but was refused leave to do so by the judge Mr Justice Wilkie . The ground for the refusal was Mair’s failure to give evidence. This struck me as very rum so I asked an experienced lawyer whether such a refusal was sound judicial practice and their answer was an unequivocal no. The refusal seem more than a little rather strange not least because little if any mitigation was presented by his barrister. Nor as we shall see later was Mair’s sanity being brought into his defence.
After sentencing there was one last loose end put into the public arena. The police announced that they were trying to find the person, if any, who sold Mair the gun with which he shot Cox. The gun was legally held by someone other than Mair before it was stolen in August 2015. The police have had more than four months to do that and it is somewhat surprising that they have made no progress to date. It may even be that the police have only just started looking because the Daily Telegraph on 23 November 2016 stated that “ A major manhunt was underway on Wednesday night for the person who handed the 53-year-old loner the modified bolt-action rifle, which was stolen almost a year before the murder.”
What are we to think about Mair’s failure to give evidence? If the man was driven by his politics his natural course would surely have been to make a statement to police detailing his reasons for killing Cox. Moreover, he was distinctly bullish about his motives and politics during the killing and at his first court appearance. He might have been overwhelmed with what he had done and the reality of the circumstances he found himself in. But his calm demeanour after arrest and during the trial itself makes this unlikely and in any case he wanted to speak before sentence.
It is possible although improbable that Mair decided he would refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court by failing to either plead or give evidence until he was convicted and then give whatever message he wanted to put before the public . If so he was thwarted by the judge. However, I can find no media report which either carried details of a protest in court by Mair at being denied an opportunity to speak or of his barrister making representations on his behalf that he should be allowed to speak. It is conceivable that the media collectively decided not to carry details of Mair protesting or his barrister arguing that he should be allowed to speak, but that would surely be stretching credulity past breaking point.
The only really plausible explanations for Mair’s behaviour would seem to be that he is either mentally ill or that he was intimidated by the authorities into not giving evidence.
Mair’s history of mental illness
One of the most surprising things about the case is that no psychiatric evidence was offered in court. This was noteworthy for two reasons. The first was the obvious one that Mair’s behaviour and the nature of the crime itself was such as to make an assessmentof his state of mind necessary if justice was to be seen to be done. The second was the fact that Mair had not only received psychiatric treatment in the past for depression but on the day before the killing he attempted unsuccessfully to get help for that condition.
There is plenty of opportunity within the justice system for mental illness to be picked up. The police have powers to order a psychiatric examination of someone they suspect has a mental illness. The question of fitness to plead may be raised before arraignment by the prosecution, defence or Judge. Requesting psychiatric reports after conviction but before sentencing is often done. It is important to note that an accused cannot simply declare himself or herself as fit to plead.
Despite all these opportunities there was no psychiatric evidence presented to the court. Of course if Mair instructed his lawyers not to bring his mental health issues in court as a defence or mitigation they could not do so if he was considered fit to plead which he was. However, the court itself could have ordered psychiatric reports before sentencing took place and apparently did not do so.
But if Mair instructed to his lawyers not to use his medical history in the case that would make it all the more extraordinary that he failed to either give evidence or to make a public protest when he was being denied an opportunity to speak.
Had his psychiatric history been used at his trial it is possible it could have made a significant difference to the sentence Mair received . The charge could have been reduced to manslaughter if Mears was judged to have diminished responsibility or lead to a sentence of something less than a whole life term.
What the British state had to gain from Mair’s silence
The alternative explanation that state actors have frightened Mair into keeping quiet raises the question what did they have to gain? The British elite are very twitchy about having trials in which those charged with breaches of the totalitarian ideology known as political correctness are unwilling to plead guilty. Moreover, even those who do plead not guilty very rarely rest their defence on the right to free expression seeking instead to blame their behaviour on things such as the side effects of prescription drugs. Often those who start off with a not guilty plea will be gradually worn down by officialdom until they agree to plead guilty. A first rate example of this is the case of Emma West who, after complaining on a tram about the level of immigration, was first held in the UK’s nearest to a maximum security prison for women and after being given bail was then harassed for months simply because she would not plead guilty. Eventually worn down by the delay and fearing that her young son might be taken away from her, she pleaded guilty to some lesser charges than those originally laid.
The reason why our politically correct powers-that -be fear a not guilty plea in such cases is they do not want their willingness to suppress free expression attacked or simply made starkly visible in a public forum or for those in the dock to challenge the politically correct view of the world. Part of the politically correct narrative is that political correctness does not impinge on free expression. This is self-evidently absurd, but it is an essential plank in the enforcement of political correctness. For the politically correct to say otherwise would be to undermine political correctness and show it nakedly for what it is, a totalitarian creed which insists the only acceptable view of anything which political correctness touches is the politically correct one. In principle this means everything important in human existence because the concept of discrimination lays every aspect of life open to intrusion by the ideology. No totalitarian ideology can survive if it is questioned and political correctness is more vulnerable to intellectual demolition than most because it is series of injunctions which conflict horribly with human nature .
It could have been this elite fear of having political correctness challenged which prompted the judge to refuse Mair leave to address the court. Mair’s case was of course very different from those prosecuted for non-pc speech because of his undisputed crime of murder, but the threat of someone calling those with power who supported the UK’s membership traitors, as Mair most probably would have done judged by his previous public statements during the killing and his first court appearance, might have seemed a little too close to home for our politicians in particular to view with equanimity. Treason is a unique crime. Whether it is on the statute book or not, whether it is formally defined one way or another, everyone knows in their heart of hearts what it is, the most heartrending of emotional blows, namely, betrayal.
There was also the possibility of elite fear of what one might call the Anders Breivik effect. If Mair had spoken in court and given a purely political motive for the killing and justified on the grounds that Cox was committing treason this would almost certainly this would have created an ambivalent response amongst the public. The British experience with Irish terrorism are a good example of the tendency where Irish Republicans would often say after a bombing atrocity “I don’t approve of their methods but….” There would have been condemnation of the act of killing of course, but along with that in quite a few minds there would be a sense that Mair’s political reason for the attack, that he was killing a traitor, somehow softened the purely criminal sharpness of the deed. There will also be a hard core of those who were unambiguously glad to see her dead . A piece of research carried out by Birmingham City and Nottingham Trent Universities on tweets about the murder of Cox found that at least 25,000 out of 50,000 tweets studied celebrated her death.
A silent or at least a Mair not allowed to speak publicly is a perfect fit to fill two roles for the UK’s politically correct elite’s narrative. First, he could be typified as the type of person the remain side of the referendum said was the typical leave voter, someone who was ignorant and potentially violent; second he could be pointed at as a “far right” terrorist to balance against the many Muslim terrorists. This has already happened : here are a few example links one, two, three .
There is also the possibility that the security services or the police knew about Mair and did not take any action because they hoped that he might do something which would promote the idea of that those who wanted to leave the EU are dangerous extreme rightwingers . It is conceivable although very improbable , that in some way the security services surreptitiously encouraged Mair to attack Cox to feed into the general propaganda of the pro-EU side of the Brexit referendum that portrayed leavers as racist far right know-nothings. Much more plausibly the security services thought that Mair would not do anything more than engage in a public protest or perhaps a bit of criminal damage and they seriously misjudged the situation. It would be very damaging if that was the case and they had been forced to admit such a thing in the witness box.
What is the chance of the British elite behaving badly. Well, consider the case of the Liberal MP Cyril Smith. Smith admitted to the then leader of the Liberal Party David Steel that when involved with the Cambridge House boys hostel he had both spanked boys with their pants down and conducted what he euphemistically called medical examinations on the boys . Steel took no action and Smith remained within the Party and an MP.
One thing is certain about this case, we have not heard anything like the whole truth about it. We are being asked to believe that a politically motivated killer of his own volition steadfastly failed to use his capture and trial to send a political message to the public. It makes no sense.