Orwell’s dystopian novel imagines the ‘worst of all possible worlds’, where all the social, political and religious institutions have broken down as a result of never-ending war, leaving the population oppressed by the ‘government’ (the ‘PARTY’) and under its constant surveillance. The story takes place in Oceania which is a super state consisting of Great Britain, the Americas, Australia and many more countries, all under the control of the Party. The main character Winston Smith feels the need to rebel against the Party by writing his thoughts in a book, which is a ‘thought crime’ and by being in a forbidden relationship with a woman named Julia.


Now, this makes us question the popular belief that law always has a single and coherent body. For this, I draw upon the question raised in the LW927 Law and Humanities module at the University of Kent of whether “the idea of a coherent body for law still work towards the delivery of justice”. Some might find it hard to relate this question to Orwell’s novel but the key to this lies in the interpretation of the text.

反乌托邦往往是傅的恐惧的产物ture following actual or past events and to be able to warn people effectively, the scenarios depicted are often the worst possible ones. So, every aspect described in the text is quite extreme but is a fair representation of what is really going on in the actual world. Firstly, the fact that ‘no laws’ exist is an absurd idea; the ‘coherence’ factor in ‘coherent body’ is hence, already thrown out of the water. However, despite this claim, Winston can still be punished if he commits thought crime and eventually the premise that there is no legal body or system is trumped by the fact that there are some things considered ‘illegal’. So, law whether written or unwritten, coherent or not, does exist in Oceania and has existed in any other totalitarian regimes in the past(or present even?) in the real world. The people are still being regulated and oppressed by a certain set of beliefs, ideologies and even ‘rules’. The story goes further as the Party tries to control the population’s behaviour by inventing ‘Newspeak’ a new language where the main tactic is to limit words to restrict independent thoughts and this ‘dumbing down’ will make disobedience unthinkable and the State (the Party) will have absolute power. Is this kind of regulation there to deliver justice? It is very much unlikely.



“The dignity of mankind is in your hands; protect it!” – Friedrich Schiller, German poet, philosopher, physician, historian and playwright

In the final year of my undergraduate degree I once had a lesson which I remember in a notably way: Our teacher demonstrated the moral and ethical limits of Law and where it seems to reach a dead end.

We discussed the German“Luftsicherheitsgesetz”从2005年开始,一项法规旨在通过建立法律规范,恐怖袭击和针对空中交通的破坏行为来保护空中安全;包括武装部队“ultimaratio”。该法律规范在德国律师,政客和伦理学家中引起了巨大和有争议的讨论。

中心问题如下:如果确定的是,如果允许国家允许该州开除恐怖分子的乘客飞机,将被恐怖分子劫持,将被击倒,并意识到数十名无辜的乘客将是面对某个死亡?Can one sacrifice a few to save many?

By chance a few months later this ethical dilemma was filmed in the German TV movie “恐怖”,这再次是基于德国刑事辩护律师和作家费迪南德·冯·施拉赫(Ferdinand von Schirach)的戏剧:德国飞行员被劫持了一架被劫持的飞机开火,正受到审判,被指控谋杀164人。使电影与众不同的事实是,观众从“现场”的角度和实时见证了审判。在宣布审判电视观众之前,请通过电话或短信投票;无罪释放或定罪。

There was a clearly outcome among the German TV audience: 86, 9% voted for an acquittal, just 13, 1% argued for a conviction.

During the movie the different parties presented a couple of arguments, all focusing on one main question: Should the state, or in that specific case the pilot, be allowed to act as “a master” about life and death? And if we approve that question, which factors should be taken in consideration when taking that decision?

Is one life more valuable than another? If taking an utilitarian approach, one can say that it is better to kill 164 passengers, who might die anyway, than thousands of people in the stadium, in other words “taking the lesser of two evils”.

In addition to that the pilot raises the question whether travelling by plane is, as sad as it may seem, part of the “general risk” of living in our modern society. From a legal point of view this could be discussed as a consent from the passengers in their own killing; there is no doubt about that being an adventurous assumption, but when thinking about it in more detail, there is something to be said for it.

But is it that “easy”? Would this be the right decision?

The problem is not new at all: The German philosopher Hans Welzel already dealt with it in terms of his famous“Weichenstellerfall”: Imagine a freight train is about driving against a fully occupied passenger train by reason of a wrong switch stand. Imagine further a pointsman noticing that and redirecting the freight train on the side track to save the people in the passenger train. Unfortunately he kills a few platelayers on the side track who have been busy with maintenance work. How would you judge his criminal liability? And would you change your mind if a few parameters would be changed, like the American philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson did, by throwing a fat man in front of the train as being the only chance to stop it? In that modification one has to kill by one´s own hand, and most people wouldn´t do that, whereas most people would act like the pointsman in Welzel´s example. Where would you draw the line in deciding who should be sacrificed for whom and under which circumstances? The question of weighing life against life can occur in many different variations.

Coming back to the previous discussed German statute: The wording of the controvertible legal norm(第24章如果有理由假设飞机将被用作抵抗乘客的武器,允许使用直接的武器,而使用武力是防止这种危险的唯一方法(ultima ratio). The German Constitutional Court adjudged it for not being in line with the German Constitution: It violates the right to life and physical integrity as well as the inviolability of human dignity, which overrules the whole legal system.(Art. 1 I 1 GG: Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar.)

In response to Germany´s dark past and the atrocities by the Nazis, the creators of the German Constitution put the protection of human dignity on top of everything and considered it to be the most important value.

No human being should under no circumstances be treated as an object by the state. One can never weigh one life against another. In almost hopeless situations there is the constitution for sending us “on the right path”, not to mention more practical questions: What if the passengers would have been able to get into the cockpit and stop the terrorist? What if the terrorist would have changed his mind?

关于伊曼纽尔·康德的著名“categorical imperative”作为他杀死乘客的义务学的一部分,将把他们降级为对象。

“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law”.

根据他的人类不应该胎面ted as an instrument, irrespective of the result. If one supports his assumption and favours the decision from the German Constitutional Court no one is allowed to fire off the plane; one would just abandon all people to their fate.




The case and its ethical dilemma is thought-provoking: Law is not just about taking decisions. It is in fact about huge responsibility. We as lawyers should be aware of our fateful practice and the far-reaching verdicts we might render.

In my opinion the behavior of the pilot seems to be the only right thing in that situation and when I was watching the movie I voted for an acquittal. Nevertheless I do sympathize with the idea of human dignity as a “head of everything” in any circumstance and the constitution as the highest rule. But at the same time I am asking myself: Why would it feel so wrong to convict the pilot for murder?