The problem with treating enemy combatants as civil defendants. It doesn’t work.

The scene: The Old Bailey, sometime in 1942. Four German Luftwaffe airmen are in the dock charged with dropping bombs over England.

Defence Counsel rises: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, my clients emphatically deny the charges you have heard today that they did deliberately drop explosive bombs on the Assembly Rooms in Bath, Somerset, causing the deaths of several residents of that fine city. The prosecution have presented no evidence whatsoever to link those bombs which tragically fell on the city that night, to my client’s aircraft, a Ju 88 manufactured by Junkers and Company of Dessau, Germany. My clients were in just one of many aircraft flying in the area at the time and any one of the others may have accidentally released the bombs with unfortunate consequences. Yet the prosecution have singularly failed to arrest any of them as suspects or even to question them as witnesses. The case against my clients is therefore one entirely of speculation. My clients were on an innocent pleasure flight, wishing only to enjoy by moonlight the pastoral scenes made famous by such renowned artists as Mr John Constable, RA, and to admire the architecture of some of our great cities, assisted in their exploration by a guide to Great Britain published by that noted Anglophile, Herr Karl Baedeker, a copy of which they had with them on their journey. It has to be said that their treatment as visitors to our country has been deplorable. They were quite outrageously attacked and shot at by a Royal Air Force fighter plane, causing them to crash land and to sustain whiplash injuries which may keep them away from operational duties for days if not weeks. The unprovoked attack on their aircraft, from behind, was a cowardly act completely disproportionate to the offences for which my clients stand accused and which they emphatically deny. Furthermore their subsequent treatment at the hands of the police fell far short of that expected in a civilised society such as ours. The police failed to provide wurst and sauerkraut when requested, and served instead tea with cucumber sandwiches from which the crusts had not been removed. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I am sure you share a deep sense of shame at what has been done to these fine young men in the name of our country, and I urge to you find them innocent of all charges.”

Verdict: Not guilty. Crown ordered to pay compensation to the aircrew, and damages to the German government for the loss of their aircraft.

Further news: An un-named RAF pilot has been arrested and charged with causing criminal damage to a Junkers bomber.

Further further news: A former poet has been jailed for life for race hate crimes after inciting violence against the residents of Slough, Berkshire. Sir John Betjemen said as he was lead away to prison, “I weep for my country.”

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