Robert Bolt ‘ s play “A Man for All Seasons” was about Sir Thomas More , a barrister and Lord Chancellor at the time of King Henry VIII . More did not agree to Henry annulling his marriage to Katherine and breaking off from the Roman Church in order to marry Anne Boleyn . He thought the law would pro tect him if he only kept silent and refused to criticize his King . But of course it didn ‘ t . He was found guilty of treason and beheaded in 1535 .
When More was still at the height of his power as the Lord Chancellor , his future son in law Roper urged him to arrest a man who was said to be as evil as the devil himself . More refused for the man had not committed any offence . Roper accused More of giving the devil the benefit of the law and vowed that he would cut down every law in England to get to the devil . More said , “Oh and when the last law was down and the devil turned on you where would you hide Roper , all the laws being flat ? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast , and if you cut them down , do you really think that you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then ? Yes I ‘ d give the dev il the benefit of the law , for my own safety ‘ s sake . “
It is exasperating for laymen why the law sometimes allows evil man to go free . More likened laws to trees which he thought were planted to protect both the evil and the good . But it didn ‘ t . The law could not protect any – body if those in power refuse to abide by it .
I was reminded of More ‘ s tragedy in the recent debate over the Chief Executive ‘ s term of office . Irrespective of what the law clearly says on the face of it ; the NPCSC can always interpret it to mean something else . At least in modern times , there is no more beheading for the Secretary for Justice if she were to refuse to give the advice wanted . Indeed she may even resign with dignity , but may be that is too much to expect of a loyal servant .