Now, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but have you noticed the spookily prescient nature of this blog in recent days? A mere week ago, I wrote about Vicky Pryce, and a scant fortnight before that I tackled the issue of reasonableness. And now the two subjects have been united by the dismissal of the jury in her trial for – among other things – not understanding the concept of “reasonable grounds”. Legal commentators are, as we speak, picking over the bones of the “weird questions” asked by the jury. The one about whether they could convict on the grounds of reasons not presented in court or supported by evidence was a hoot, and rightly deserving of derision. What on earth were they going to suggest? That she must be guilty because she looks a bit mean, or that anyone going out with Denis MacShane must be up to something? Or perhaps they were thinking of Ogden Nash and his view that “Women would rather be right than reasonable”.
But the whole saga does raise again this question of vocabulary. In the same way as common sense is actually not all that common, perhaps the idea of “reasonable” is not reliably consistent. Behaviour that I might consider reasonable – cycling all the way back into town because I have forgotten the Jaffa Cakes and are you mad of course a plain Rich Tea won’t do – could be seen by others as, frankly, a little unhinged. I don’t want to repeat what I said in that earlier post about reasonableness and the associated objective test of suspicion, but as you know the AML legislation, regulation and guidance (whatever your jurisdiction) is riddled with words open to varying interpretations: adequate, proportionate, appropriate, and even suspicion itself. And as ever, things are always much clearer with hindsight: what appears perfectly adequate, proportionate and appropriate at the time might not appear so under the critical eye of the prosecution barrister years later – just ask Michael Wigley.