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  • 32. The Concept of a Pardon

The Concept of a Pardon

  • Category(s): Political / Legal Essays
  • Created on : 31 August 2013
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  • Author: Richard Michael Lamb


The role of Pardon as it is shown through its religious beginnings.

1. Introduction

This is a meaning going back to pre-Biblical days and it is rooted in Christianity e.g. the words of the prayer of St Francis “in pardoning we are pardoned”.

2. Pardon in Modern Parlance


We speak of “beg your pardon” or “I beg your pardon” in response rightly to troubling or offending someone. This is the bedrock of our Christian practice and belief in respect to seeking pardon from others.

3. The Pardoner’s Tale: Chaucers Canterbury Pilgrims

In this Tale the account revolves around those seeking a pardon in medieval times and the Pardoner himself. Essentially he extracts monies from his so called penitents by exploiting their remorse. The implication is the Pardoner is a lay man and therefore an upstart but he wields priestly power. It is a satirical “play” upon the abuses in the Church whereby the Church charged money for indulgences (ie: less time in purgatory) and yet Geoffrey Chaucer holds back from pointedly and overtly attacking the Catholic Church as the Pardoner is portrayed as outside Holy Orders. Even Chaucer realized the Roman Catholic Church of Christendom was not that bad. The Pardoner’s “pardon” would still give so called solace to these sinners yet it was all deceit by the Pardoner. He was bogus yet these sinners were genuinely sorrowful and that is enough for God however defective the Priest or Pardoner. Thus the sinning pilgrims had the last word. No one can come between God and the penitent so says Chaucer in this tale which is analytical and amusing. Metaphor is redolent in the telling as in all the Canterbury Tales (“Don’t tell tales” is the old adage).

4. The Modern Concept of a Pardon shown in Scotland (Meehan Case)

The pardon is granted by the Monarch on advice from his or her advisors and ministers. It is a legal concept and remedy practically unknown in our England and Wales jurisdiction in modern times. The best example is Patrick Meehan who was pardoned for his Convictions for two murders (Ayr murders) in Scotland in the 1970’s. It essentially meant Meehan was stripped of the adverse and penal effects of the convictions for these two murders yet the two verdicts of guilty were not reversed nor the convictions themselves. I wrongly said his convictions were “quashed” by the Court of Session in Edinburgh in my Adversarial Essay for which I apologise. It was for this reason Waddell’s Counsel who was later charged with the same murders argued his client could not be convicted as the original convictions of Meehan had not been “quashed”. Waddell was acquitted as it turned out of these Ayr murders by the Jury.

The plea in England to match Waddell’s pleading would be “autrefois convict the specific criminal plea in Scotland by Waddell was that another had committed the murders (Meehan) and had been convicted which was coupled to the pleading based on the mere pardon as opposed to overturning the convictions.

5. The Consequences for libel and defamation law of a Pardon

Even after a pardon the pardoned individual cannot pursue an action for defamation based on his innocence of the “pardoned” crime as the conviction will be conclusive of his guilt in the defamation Court despite the pardon. That is the way the Pardon works in law. The pardon is not an acquittal. The Hon Mr Justice Oliver developed this theme in a half day hearing before the Benchers of Lincoln’s Inn to decide whether to admit to that Inn of Court, a former Malaysian Police Inspector who had been convicted and then pardoned for supplying cannabis in Malaysia (the Malaysian Case). The hearing was in the late 1970’s before these Benchers.

6. The Malaysian Case

In this particular Malaysian case I had direct involvement in the process before the Benchers. The interesting feature was the prospective student seeking admission to Lincoln’s Inn argued his pardon in Malaysia had been granted on account of his admission of his guilt of the alleged crime but he was found guilty after trial and went to prison yet still urged his innocence before the Benchers. In effect he was resiling from the veracity and sincerity of his admission to gain the Pardon in the Kingdom of Malaysia. It was essentially a matter of classic demurrer i.e. admit the crime but argue for a pardon to deny the trappings of the criminal conviction. It was a “tactical” admission of guilt to obtain the pardon in Malaysia that did not wash with the Benchers. He was not admitted to that Inn of Court at the Hearing referred to.

7. Conclusion

The essence of a pardon is that it requires contrition. On earth the Priest absolves – in other words “pardons” the zealous members of the faithful. The stain of sin is removed yet the memory of that sin for the person who confesses endures. I do not believe in “forgive and forget”. That is not the message of the Good News – Au Contraire it is unreality and unaccountability. A man should remember all his life experiences and build his philosophy and way of life upon and around them. That way he will live “la vie consacre” and tread “La voie sacre” so essential to the route to the Son then the Father. Do not ignore these lifetime signposts and remember your sins and be thankful for the absolution of Holy Mother Church if you are privileged to belong. No one not even the priesthood can deny you God’s pardon. Have no fear you will be saved if you desire and seek salvation. That is the message of Christ Himself – the Good News itself. The Church Catholic’s primary and Solemn aim is to bring about eternal happiness for everyone yes toute la monde.