So, today was my first day as a law student. I’m older, slower, goutier, and more cantankerous (only partly due to the gout) than my counterparts, but it’s been an interesting day.
Especially the bit where they covered how, in tort law, it’s generally a lot easier for the plaintiff to get their way, because the standard for burden of proof is lowered. A criminal conviction requires proof “beyond reasonable doubt”, which is the standard I guess most of us are familiar with; apparently to be awarded damages for a tort, evidence merely has to suggest that the defendant offended “on a balance of probabilities”.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this explains the popularity of the defamation suit as a tool for political repression in Singapore. I mean, if you want to consistently jail your opponents or have them branded criminals, you’re either going to need to use emergency powers (a la Operation Coldstore), or lower your standards of evidence to the point where the entire justice system becomes a farce.
“Not harassing people who did nothing wrong” is obviously not part of the equation.
So it’s a lot easier to prove that people who say you’ve done bad things have hurt your reputation, since they have; I guess it’s up to the defendant to then prove that he’s done so deservedly. It’s not defamation if it’s true, after all.
I’m not sure if the failure of anyone to defend himself from a defamation suit brought by the Powers That Be is a sign that said powers are truly above reproach, or that they’ve made information inaccessible to the point where proving a claim becomes impossible. I know, usually when someone claims that the lack of information is in itself a form of evidence is when everyone realises he’s a crackpot conspiracy theorist, but in Singapore you can’t help but wonder.
Maybe we need fewer political pundits and more satirists. It’s one thing to accuse someone of something that you can’t prove; it’s another to bring up something someone’s done that’s true beyond a doubt, which you also represent as being funny at their expense.
Anyway, this also signals a change in my general approach to blogging and content. I guess I’ll be posting more frequently, because I really do want to chronicle my journey through law school, especially as someone who’s way older than his classmates. I also hope to do more candidly retrospective stuff, since I’m no longer tethered to good behaviour by a paycheck.
Hope you guys’ll join me. All this is new territory to me, too. Let’s explore it together.