Case : Somerset V. Stewart Essay

Case : Somerset V. Stewart Essay

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Case 1: SOMERSET v. STEWART
This case relates to the technical defeat of slavery in the British Isles. It is useful not only from a Humans Rights perspective in that the case laid the foundations for outlawing slavery globally but also in that it shows how radical movements such as the abolition of slavery didn’t just begin and end with one case. The actual details of the case relates to a slave brought into the country, James Somerset. Somerset escaped his master in 1771, but was recaptured and imprisoned on a ship. However, he was baptised as a Christian, meaning that his Christian godparents brought it to court that his imprisonment without trial was not actually legal. This was an unprecedented challenge against the treatment of slaves and attracted a significant amount of coverage from the press.
The judge ruled that slavery was ‘odious’ and could not exist in Britain. Therefore, the legal result of Somerset v. Stewart was that slavery in the British Isles was essentially declared abolished. This was significant as it meant that no one in Britain could be considered a slave or sold as such, however, the ruling did not make any attempt to challenge slavery in the British Empire . In fact, the overall significance of the ruling could be called into question as slavery in the British Isles had been a non-issue up to this point so in real terms declaring it illegal had relatively little effect. However, it could also be argued that the case established a precedent to allow for the eventual outlawing of the slave trade and ultimately slavery itself in the British Empire.
I believe that due to the nature of my question, it would be of benefit to look at the relevance of such a case in the modern day. One could argue that, the ca...


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...inal decision:
It is possible that, keeping in line with the Selmouni case, Strasbourg will re-open Ireland v. The United Kingdom and apply the rule of law based on the 2016 conventions on what constitutes torture. Keeping in mind that the case was originally judged under the 1970s view of torture, I believe that it is highly likely for a finding of torture to be handed down upon the UK.
However, an article from Amnesty International suggests that evidence withheld at the time by the UK brings up the possibility that even by the standards of the 1970s, a finding of torture should have been handed down to Britain . Although, I would argue that this results is less likely as the data would be classed as a secondary finding, of debatable usefulness until it can be conclusively decided whether or not the UK intentionally withheld material evidence from Strasbourg.

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