When the Government make the occasional feeble gesture in the direction of defending the public from criminals, defending our borders from economic migrants, or our nation from terrorist attack, a host of lawyers and interest groups spring to the defence of said criminals/asylum seekers/terrorists.
"Political justice !" they cry. "Separation of powers !" "An independent judiciary !"
Another day, another initiative overturned in the courts, to applause from Amnesty, Liberty, the BBC, Guardian, Indie and all right-thinking people. The idea that a politician can influence the length of a prison sentence has been discredited in the very wonderful European Court. A Home Secretary setting the tariff for an Islamic terrorist ? Leave that to the judges, mate.
Only one exception. When the politicians are letting murderers out.
The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland provided for large numbers of terrorist killers to be released long before the terms to which they ere sentenced expired. Peter Hain is about to let various murderers who are on the run return to Ulster - in a deal which involves them turning up in court on the understanding that they won't be punished.
Strange. I haven't heard a peep from Mike Mansfield, Gareth Peirce, Helena Kennedy or Clive Stafford-Smith. No Guardian editorials on interference with the justice system, no Indie front pages claiming that Blair is usurping judges' powers. You'd have thought they'd have been straight down the courts demanding a judicial review, insisting that the law was to be applied by judges not politicians. How very odd.