UK Constitutional Law Association

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Andrew Le Sueur: Crazy constitutionalism

I’m reading David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History (2009). It’s excellent, but although it makes passing reference to conspiracy theories about the European Union it says nothing about one that deals with the foundations of the British constitutional system.

Sunstein and Vermeule have defined a conspiracy theory as ‘an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who attempt to conceal their role (at least until their aims are accomplished)’: see (2009) 17(2) The Journal of Political Philosophy 202, 205. Of course, some conspiracy theories – defined in this way – are both justified and true. What concerns me are those that are unjustified and false. In a bewildering, uncertain and unfair world, where participation in and respect for organised politics is declining and public understanding of the constitution and law is poor, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some people turn to outlandish ways of explaining the constitution. The lack of surprise should not, however, mean that mainstream constitutional lawyers should ignore what I call ‘crazy constitutionalism’. In this blog post I want to shed some light on one particular conspiracy theory and suggest a course of action.

Throughout the UK, there are people who make the claim that the whole constitutional and legal apparatus in Britain is a conspiracy to rob men and women of their common law rights. Drawing on the ‘freeman of the land’ movement from North America, UK groups of various political leanings subscribe to the main tenants of this theory. They include The People’s United Community (TPUC), Lawful Rebellion, the British Constitution Group and White Rabbit Education Network. Their view of the world is propagated through websites, social media, and events across Britain. New supporters are actively recruited. Dozens of people spend evenings and weekends in the study of law, drawing on legal materials but unconstrained by the mainstreams’ basic frameworks of understanding.

On one level, the world imagined seems like a heady mix of ‘The Truman Show’, a Dan Brown novel, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ with a sprinkling of quasi-religious self awakening.

But the freeman belief system is also a call to practical engagement with government and courts. Actions include adopting a particular stance towards official forms (for example voter registration documents, jury summons), which are returned with a series of questions. When an official asks ‘Do you understand’, a freeman of the land will respond ‘I do not stand under that statement’ (to avoid, according to freeman of the land thinking, accepting the jurisdiction of the official).

In legal proceedings in which freeman come to court (‘de facto courts’) in relation to non-payment of council tax, repossession actions, bankruptcy proceedings and criminal prosecutions, hearings are disrupted by self-proclaimed freemen of the land working through a series of rituals: on entering a court, he may say to the judge: ‘We claim common law jurisdiction before we enter this vessel … do we have an accord?’. (The reference to the court as a ‘vessel’ is explained by the central place given to maritime law in the legal worldview of freemen).  The judge will be asked if he or she is ‘on oath’. Confusion may reign as the freeman places a birth certificate before the court. Most dramatically, on 7 March 2011 several hundred freemen stormed a court in Birkenhead in an attempt to arrest the judge.

Freemen of the land dismiss mainstream accounts of the constitution and legal system as a deception, perpetrated on a huge scale. At the heart of freeman of the land constitutional framework is the idea that there is a fundamental distinction to be drawn between a natural man/woman and a corporation. When parents register the birth of a child, they are entering a contract with the State to ‘sign over the legal title of the baby’. At that point, the child becomes a ‘strawman’, a fictitious legal entity owned by the State and used as collateral in commercial transactions. Significance is attached to the fact that birth certificates have similar physical attributes to documents used in commerce – watermarks, dates of issue, registration numbers, and so on. Using the naming conventions of freemen of the land, “Mr Andrew Le Sueur” is the person – the legal fiction or birth certificate; “Andrew, of the Family Le Sueur” is the man. In court proceedings, a freeman of the land will produce a birth certificate as the ‘person’ summoned to appear and the man is regarded as a ‘lay adviser’.

Freemen of the land express their understanding of the constitution using what at first sight seems like vocabulary and legal concepts which are familiar to mainstream constitutional lawyers: ‘personality’, ‘jurisdiction’, ‘lawful authority’, ‘common law’ and ‘the rule of law’.

A basic aspect of the belief is that public bodies – local authorities, the police, government departments, courts – are corporations run for profit (as evidenced by the facts that some have ratings by credit reference agencies and some have county court judgments registered against them). Another key tenet of belief is that men and women have the ability to choose which ‘law form’ they operate under. This state of affairs is thought to be derived from clause 61 of Magna Carta 1215 (a provision omitted from later reissues of the charter). Freemen of the land assert that they are not bound by legislation or commercial law (of which maritime law is of especial importance) unless they consent to be bound in a particular situation. Official demands – for payment, to appear in court, to complete the census – are merely invitations that may be declined.

Lawyers working in the mainstream are likely find it easy to dismiss the freeman of the land movement as pseudolegal woo (at the same time as accepting that there are sincere and well-meaning people involved in the cause). If the movement in the UK were confined to a few websites, clips on YouTube and meetings in draughty community centres, no more would need be said. Trivial disruption of public administration – whether it’s refusing to complete the census or pay TV licences—might also be overlooked. But the events in Birkenhead County Court on 7 March 2011, even if it praised by some Daily Mail readers—escalates matters. It is time to take the freeman movement seriously.

A starting point needs to be research into the phenomenon, its impact on public administration and the rule of law. It would be interesting to know whether HM Court and Tribunal Service keep records of hearings disrupted by freemen of the land tactics and what, if any training, magistrates and other judges receive in dealing with freemen.

One practical strategy advocated by Sunstein and Vermeule is introducing some ‘cognitive diversity in the groups that generate conspiracy theories’ (op cit, 226). They have in mind infiltration by ‘government agents’. In an era of radical cost cutting in public services, suggesting that local government officers and civil servants should spend time contributing to freeman of the land online discussion sites is unthinkable; I also have doubts as to whether official intervention is desirable. But shouldn’t academics and legal professionals – as concerned citizens – dip into them now and then, to ask some challenging questions and state some facts?

About UKCLA

The United Kingdom Constitutional Law Association (UKCLA) is the UK’s national body of constitutional law scholars affiliated to the International Association of Constitutional Law. Its object is to ‘encourage and promote the advancement of knowledge relating to United Kingdom constitutional law (broadly defined) and the study of constitutions generally’.

20 comments on “Andrew Le Sueur: Crazy constitutionalism

  1. Old Holborn
    July 22, 2011

    I live quite happily as a freeman. The only true philosophy is that no one has more authority over you than you and you do not hand your sovereignty over yourself to others.

    Amazing how the system wasn’t designed for people to simply to say NO and mean it.

  2. Scotty
    July 22, 2011

    At last Andrew, the most fair and objective article on the Freeman movement to date. Until now, articles were either pro the movement (written by those in the movement), or relegated to the NUTCASE category (with, surprisingly, a very small amout of legal rebuttal of freeman thinking).

    I have been studying this for a year now. Some it really is crazy, but there is no doubt that portions of it warrant further investigation by sound legal minds. Case in point: why do the Magistrates sitting in council tax hearings continually refuse to produce their oaths of office?? Surely that on it’s own warrants some form of inquiry?

  3. captainranty
    July 22, 2011

    I have been a Freeman since June 2008. One year later I entered Lawful Rebellion. (You conflate the two but you should be aware that one can be a Freeman, a Lawful Rebel, or both at the same time, but they are not the same thing).

    Saying “No”, politely and firmly, has saved me many thousands of pounds. My life changed dramatically for the better when I learned to ask why. Why do I have to pay you this money? Why did you fine me and what for? Why do you imagine you have control over me? Why did you ever imagine that people would not wake up and smell the deception?

    I would never have dreamed that I would switch off the tellybox and immerse myself in law books, and a myriad of statutes, but I did, and the scales fell from my eyes.

    I regained my sovereignty, my self-respect, my pride and my dignity.

    Once you “see” why being a Freeman or a Lawful Rebel (or both) is the most important thing you can ever do, you will never unsee it. Nor will you want to.

    CR.

    • Lisa Reynoldson
      February 22, 2013

      how do you become a Freeman or enter lawful Rebellion please let me have insight ,

  4. Volker
    July 22, 2011

    Hi guys

    yeah, what an interesting topic !

    People are very strange, ….so many of them want to serve a king, because they don’t want to think for themselves ! I specifically used the word “people”, as that is what they are, they lost their identity and don’t know who they really are – but, that is just a belief away from what they can be – the sad thing is, that reality for them can not be different, then what the system have taught them. Question: What is your reality ?

    No, I don’t think it will be heaven on earth with only freemen around, but there will be much more justice to everybody and the aspect of non-control over the spirit of men and women will bring out much greater things – as inventions and other brilliant ideas to live in harmony together. Because of the en-slavery, many of us do not realize, that they work for the big five, who actually control the wealth of the planet. As I said, the freeman’s movement also does not have all the answers – and some things they say, is scary and sounds like “pay back time” to the system that enslaved them. That will swing bad to the other side and will cause stupidity of actions. Freemen, are not unlawful, well, at least they are not supposed too, but with this so called utopia which they entered, many think that there are no rules to obey at all ! What a deception that is ! Rules and laws are there to protect the individual in the community, but it is the controlling spirits that heap up wealth, by enslaving men and women – that is what should be changed.

    Arrogant slogans like – “Don’t speak to me, speak to my lawyer” on bumper stickers show the manipulating authority to thread the common man and woman on the street. May God help us not to forget, that He is the one that makes the globe turn for a new sunrise to enjoy every morning.

    Oh, …this topic has no end – but thanks for sharing your ideas !

    Bless

    Volker

  5. Marc Daniels
    July 22, 2011

    Scotty, out of interest, what law requires magistrates to produce their oath of office?

  6. Scotty
    July 22, 2011

    Sorry, not sure. I am actually based in South Africa. It makes sense though – you can ask any public official for the ID so why not a judge? The Freeman movement claims that courts rent rooms in their buildings that look like courts, but are not really. They operate purely on contract law so they expect you to ratify any agreement they put forward. Ratification is a very clever concept used by lawyers all the time to trick laymen.

  7. UKCLG blog editors
    July 22, 2011

    Andrew Le Sueur asks: I’m confused by this talk of a judge ‘producing an oath of office’, as if it was written on a piece of paper. An oath is the action of saying a statement — a pronouncement — not a physical document. In England and Wales, the form of oath that is taken when someone is appointed as a judge is set out in the Promissory Oaths Act 1868, section 4 (see here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/31-32/72/section/4).

  8. Scotty
    July 22, 2011

    Very good point. I don’t know – I do know that here in South Africa (and I have seen some in the US) where Judge’s oaths are hanging on the wall or on a plaque. What rights a person has to demand to see an oath of office to prove that a judge is who they say they are is unknown to me. I would really like to know. I can tell you that here in SA you get “acting judges” who preside in the High Court. I just don’t get this – how you can have a stand in judge is beyond me.

    • Paul
      August 8, 2011

      You have similar ‘deputy judges’ in England and Wales too, but it should not be very difficult to grasp. They too swear the judicial oath, so it is not like you have real and fake judges; all it describes is those that sit full-time and those who sit part-time (and usually spend the rest in practice as a barrister). There’s no magic to it.

  9. CT
    November 18, 2011

    “Throughout the UK, there are people who make the claim that the whole constitutional and legal apparatus in Britain is a conspiracy to rob men and women of their common law rights. Drawing on the ‘freeman of the land’ movement from North America,”
    Incorrect. They believe that a part of the law has been subverted to conceal a definition of the law that is more fair and protective of rights. Also, it started in canada. Not NA.

    Now that ive established that you do not know the fuck what your talking about. We may move on to the biases and fallacies within your argument.

    “Sunstein and Vermeule have defined a conspiracy theory as ‘an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who attempt to conceal their role (at least until their aims are accomplished)’:”
    Considering that some of those subscribing to certain conspiracies that are historical fact, like the burning of the Reichstag for instance, are themselves powerful and anonymous. Then sunstien and vermeule are themselves conspiracy theorists by their own definition. This is a circular argument, aswell as an appeal to authority fallacy.

    This is nothing but an attempt to ostracise instead of understand, this is particularly obvious as they do not describe a non-conspiricy theorist as the opposite. A person who does not explan anything by reference to the choices of, by definition, powerful people.

    I hope you realise how stupid this is.

    “On one level, the world imagined seems like a heady mix of ‘The Truman Show’, a Dan Brown novel, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ with a sprinkling of quasi-religious self awakening.”

    A humourus straw man fallacy considering magistrates still go around in wigs and other garb, but the freemen have no such uniform.

  10. CT
    November 18, 2011

    “When an official asks ‘Do you understand’, a freeman of the land will respond ‘I do not stand under that statement’ (to avoid, according to freeman of the land thinking, accepting the jurisdiction of the official).”

    I notice you dismiss this without actually trying to provide any proof. We know that legal jurisdictions exist, partly, because you can LEAVE legal some jurisdictions. For example, when going abroad. From this we also can say that jurisdictions can be entered by the consent of both parties, except in the case of extraordinary rendition, when someone is kidnapped to a different jurisdiction. Yet to disprove the freemans argument you would have to prove that entering this jurisdiction is NOT consensual by both parties, but infact a condition of entering, a condition of being born, existing etc which legally, it is not.
    My research has led me to the fact that courts and other public services, which jurisdictions are attributed, are actually corporations, or royal chartered corporations and therefore have jurisdictions which can be left, or denied without going anywhere.

    “he may say to the judge: ‘We claim common law jurisdiction before we enter this vessel … do we have an accord?’. (The reference to the court as a ‘vessel’ is explained by the central place given to maritime law in the legal worldview of freemen).”

    All courts are common law jurisdictions, and therefore laws should not interfere with those rights. You cannot break the law to establish a law, and, as common law has not been repealed, it still stands. The doctrine of implied repeal does not extend that far into constitutionally significant documents.

    “Freemen of the land dismiss mainstream accounts of the constitution and legal system as a deception, perpetrated on a huge scale.”
    It is not a dismissal, you can tell the difference because you are perpetrating a dismissal right now by not justifying that statement.

    The fact of the matter is that legal dictionaries have subtly changed the definitions of legal words. This may be a cause-of or an effect-of new laws and juristic society misinterpreting or deliberately corruptly interpreting legal words for the enhancement of their own authority and the diminishment of rights. Several examples of these ‘favourable interpretations’ exist and is in effect the principle-agent dilemma. Whereby political control of the law has been asserted.

    “In court proceedings, a freeman of the land will produce a birth certificate as the ‘person’ summoned to appear and the man is regarded as a ‘lay adviser’.”
    Your prior explanation paragraph was more or less correct. Particularly in the case of duel nationality and the logical point that, there are no slaves, so a contract must at some point be offered.
    Otherwise, if the Uk gov wished to restrict services to, say, illegal immigrants, they cannot argue of an implied or automatic nationality.
    However the above quote is incorrect. You are principle of the person, as it is a corporation. You are responsible for it. But in some cases no more than a shareholder.

    “A basic aspect of the belief is that public bodies – local authorities, the police, government departments, courts – are corporations run for profit (as evidenced by the facts that some have ratings by credit reference agencies and some have county court judgments registered against them).”
    You dont disprove anything here. So i assume you agree.

    “Another key tenet of belief is that men and women have the ability to choose which ‘law form’ they operate under.”
    Instead of ‘law form’ read, jurisdiction, and, since the jurisdiction changes the legal rights and even name, the person indeed acts this way.

    “Lawyers working in the mainstream are likely find it easy to dismiss the freeman of the land movement as pseudolegal woo”
    I dont dismiss anything, i disprove things. For instance, your pretty little word there, redirects to a wikipedia social website which hardly has any credibility as it can only be edited by a select few, who already agree with its definition.
    Even its definition is flawed. Psuedolegal is a buzz word which means frivolous which in turn means wasteful. However it is all a straw man fallacy and ad-hominem and assumes what it is trying to prove.

    “One practical strategy advocated by Sunstein and Vermeule is introducing some ‘cognitive diversity in the groups that generate conspiracy theories’ (op cit, 226). They have in mind infiltration by ‘government agents’.”
    Ask yourself, is that a political strategy? Is the government really the right people to be generating ideas? The acceptable method is to encourage a logical debate, something which doesn’t seem to be in your vocabulary. No level of infiltration is a legal part of protecting citizens rights.

    “dip into them now and then, to ask some challenging questions and state some facts?”
    Goose for the gander.

    And until you can perform better, making less fallacies and so on. You will not be winning any debates.

  11. Stephen
    November 18, 2011

    It’s a v risky strategy for freemen to believe they can beat the law. I would advise them to think twice before acting on their beliefs.

  12. allan of the powell family
    April 8, 2012

    I notice it is only solicitors and barristers with a lot to lose that argue, nay, contradict the freeman status without proofs. Who of them will deny the John Doe fiction? There are none so stupid and willfully ignorant as stupid and willfully ignorant experts.

  13. Pingback: Verfassungsblog › Verfassungsparanoia

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  16. Andrew Le Sueur
    February 4, 2014

    As a footnote to this blog post, readers may be interested in the Canadian judgment in Meads v Meads [2012] ABQB 571 http://canlii.ca/t/fsvjq, in which Assistant Chief Justice JD Rooke provides a detailed account of the “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument”.

  17. uksocialcontract
    September 13, 2014

    Reblogged this on uksocialcontract and commented:
    A useful if limited position on the UK and lack of a legal basis for Freemanism. Some comments are worth reading too…

  18. Kevin of the Bartram family
    August 7, 2015

    how do I join the freeman movement? I live in hull in England.

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