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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Pondering Personhood

Personhood and when it commences is a hot topic
in law and philosophy not because of the free man
movement but because of abortion.
Hansard is a wonderful tool and there are records back for nearly 200 years if you just know where to search.

Now in my opinion and that of Hypocrates (of Hypocratic oath fame) life begins at conception but this article is not going to address any issues relating to abortion and for the purposes of this post you will need to proceed on the basis that this is fact, it is irrelevant either way as no absolute proof can be offered to confirm either side of this particular argument.

Is the murder of a pregnant woman two murders or one? Do the Courts look upon such acts with greater condemnation than they would the murder of a man or woman who is not pregnant? I would hope that they would.

It will however extend the argument that if the legal protections of personhood do not apply from the moment of conception, when do they apply. If the legal protections do not apply at the moment of conception then surely statutory obligations cannot apply until a certain point into life. I will try to extract when this occurs and whether or not we are bound by these statutes by looking through the evidence available from Hansard.

Most UK MP's are legally trained and most Lords will have dealt with thorny legal points over many years, their knowledge and expertise will undoubtedly far exceed anything any Lawyer in Jersey can offer.

The earliest reference I can find to 'person' being extended to legal or fictional persons is in 1864 in the Committee stage of a bill before the House of Commons.

The Interpretation Act 1889 is the source of the definition of Person which was used in the later Interpretation Act 1974 and also in the Interpretation Act (Jersey) 1954.

In fact the acceptance that the term person includes corporations, partnerships and sole traders is now so thoroughly accepted that it is no longer necessary to list all the types of person individually.

But one statement did strike me in particular relating to the inapplicability of personhood at early stages of human development
The real difficulty is that the concepts in the existing law of person, the rights of persons, the concept of chattel and so on do not fit the embryo. (The Lord Chancellor, House of Lords Feb 2006)
The Lord Chancellor concluded that an embryo could not be held in law to be: a person, a child, a foetus or a chattel (property). Not least because an embryo could not be subject to income tax or the poll tax.

Later in the debate we see that the bible is still the basis upon which decisions are made.
I am asking for the Bill to follow the truth. Here scripture is relevant. In John, Chapter 8, verse 32, Jesus says: If' you continue in my word you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free". The amendments present the simplest, most honest and yet workable format for improving the Bill with regard to artifical insemination. It avoids the pretence of calling someone else father, and children will know that, although artificial means may have been used in their conception, at least their parents are their parents. I commend the amendments to the Committee. I beg to move. (Lord Kilbracken)
There must therefore be some point in the development of the Natural Person from embryo to foetus to child to adult at which a Natural Person can be held to be a Person.

Further in discussion in the House of Commons in 1943 Mr Davies states:
"There are special difficulties here. Where, for instance, a son is employed by his father, but does not live with him, being a married man with a family, and is paid a wage, that son would, as I understand the matter, be an employed person under a contract of service, and a case would lie against the father if he did not submit to the law. I repeat that it does not matter what discussions we have in this Committee today; the courts will have to decide in the end whether a person is an employed person under a contract of service."
To which the then Solicitor General responds
"I think hon. Members will agree with me that it lays down the following requirements for a worker to be included in the Bill: First, there has to be a worker. Secondly, the worker has to make an arrangement by way of trade. Thirdly—and this is a point which I would ask my hon. Friend the Member for the High Peak (Mr. Molson) to consider, because I think it meets his difficulty, as I am very anxious to do—the worker must make that arrangement by way of trade with the persons who are carrying on the undertaking. Fourthly, he must work in pursuance of the undertaking. Fifthly, his work must be performed for the purposes of the undertaking. I do not think there can be any dispute about this matter. Those are the clear essentials which are connoted and denoted by the definition which we have put in."
So a Son when under a contract of service is an employed person and the statutes thus apply, otherwise the statutes do not apply. It is the entering into contract which makes the Son a person.

Again in 1932 we see that the term in person refers to a natural person who represents a legal or fictional person
"Mr. JONES
Are we to understand from that answer that there is to be a definite representative in person of Labour at the Conference?
Sir S. HOARE
Yes, certainly, that is what my answer is meant to imply."
Indeed the term 'person' is used wherever possible as it brings the full weight of statute upon the party involved such as in the debate on the Broadcasting Bill 1996.

For Natural Persons, personhood commences at the time of issuance of the full birth certificate.
What is the difference between a short and a full birth certificate?
"A short birth certificate only shows the name, date of birth, sex and registration district. A full birth certificate is a copy of the entry in the register, and includes everything shown on a short certificate, but also includes parents' details and the child's place of birth. If you are applying for your child's (or your own) first passport, and the birth took place on or after 1 January 1983, the Passport Service require a full birth certificate." Registrar FAQ's
The 'Short Birth Certificate' or registration of live birth as it should more properly be known is simply a record that you were born. The 'full birth certificate' or extract from the register of births is the incorporation of the person. You may wonder what the difference is when getting a passport, the reason is that when you enter another sovereign territory, the British government is accepting liability for your good conduct. It is only willing to do this for persons who are its trustees (employees). The Short birth certificate is not proof of trust, the full birth certificate is.

The person is created at the point at which the full birth certificate is issued but we all know that the natural person exists irrespective of whether their is a full birth certificate or not.