The Governor’s Pleasure

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North American readers of this blog may not know this phrase – it is a peculiarly British term for a way of doing what law and the lawyers might otherwise decry.

It is applied most often here in Western Australia when a criminal is so mad, or bad, or dangerous as to present a real danger to himself and others. The dear, comforting old sentences of flogging and hanging having been abolished a couple of decades ago, there is sometimes a lack of real stopping power in the laws that govern the land.

Murder someone in a clean and polite way and you get a life sentence which then gets trimmed down to as little as 7 years in jail. If your crime is dirtier or more inconvenient you might get a few more years, but the legal aid societies, ladies lunch clubs, and ambitious young lawyers who can’t get into the aboriginal industry will eventually winkle you out and give you a chance to go straight. Straight to your next murder victim…

To ground this there has always been a legal phrase ” His/Her Majesty’s Pleasure”…transposed to ” The Governor’s Pleasure ” here in the colonies. I means that even when the sentence runs out, you don’t. You are still gaoled until the Governor says you are not, and never mind what the judges think. It might have been used for political punishment in the past, and it might be used for personal vendettas at any time, but the vast majority of the population actually welcome it as a safeguard against the legal system. I should be sorry to see its repeal.

Note: Citizens of Singapore, Malaya, The Dutch East Indies, French Indochina, and pretty much all of South America might regard this phrase as redundant. Much like saying ” humans breathe air  “. They know that anything they ever do is at the let and hindrance – the pleasure –  of their rulers and this is the way it has always been. They might be slaves but at least they are realistic ones.

Latest example of this is the decision announced by the Sultan of Brunei to implement religious law in his Sultanate. He is not a man to be trifled with, particularly if the trifle contains sherry rather than sharia. He’ll pass the cake, and custard and bits of maraschino cherry, but the wine is out. He probably doesn’t go a bomb on uncovered female faces or canoodling either and I expect we will se some show trials followed by show floggings, show stonings, and show amputations. I suspect the Sultan is a bit of a showman. Well, you’d expect that…after all his job description, after the bit about being hereditary ruler, and just before the clause that lets him control all the oil revenue, does mention that he is expected to be the SOB…





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