"All rise," the Magistrates' Clerk said as
three magistrates filed onto their bench. Her Majesty's magistrates
are laypersons, with no schooling in the law, so it is the job
of the Clerk, an educated barrister, to advise proper procedure
in the Court. "Trial in the matter of the Crown v. William
Thomas Hellanback, also known as William Thomas."
The first witness was Constable Timms, who explained
that the defendant had been "unable to give a good account
of himself" and was apprehended in Dover.
"Did you have any reason to suspect that I had
committed any misdeed, violated any law, or threatened any person?"
the defendant asked.
"No," the constable answered.
"No further questions."
The Crown's second witness was Rose Montengenry, a
clerk for the British Home Office, in London, who testified that
Thomas had never "made any attempt to regularize his stay"
in Great Britain.
"Have you ever seen me before?" asked the
"No," Mrs. Montengenry said.
"No further questions."
Next came Brian Wells, who was employed as an immigrations
official at the Port of Dover. On the witness stand Mr. Wells,
who held several index cards in his hand, at which he glanced
before answering questions put to him by the Crown's Attorney,
identified Thomas as the William Thomas Hellanback who had entered
Great Britain at the Port of Dover on June 29, 1979, when he was
issued a thirty?day visa.
"Mr. Wells how many people do you see each day
in the course of your job?" the defendant asked.
Don't know, exactly," the official admitted.
"I would like you to tell the Court, from the
hundreds of people you see every day in your job, exactly how
you are able to remember that I am this William Thomas Hellanback
who you just identified."
"Irrelevant," objected the Crown's Attorney.
"This is the only witness who has identified
me as being this Hellanback person. It is obvious that Mr. Wells
has been responding to the Crown's questions after reading from
pieces of paper which he is holding in his hand. The question
of whether Mr. Wells has some personal knowledge that allows him
to identify me as Hellanback, or whether Mr. Wells is just reading
from little pieces of paper, is, it seems to me, quite relevant
to whether or not a proper identification has been made."
Mr. Vetch took the stand. On direct examination he
testified that he had questioned the defendant for hours before
learning where he was born and the date he entered the country.
And that once he had obtained that information he initiated a
search of the landing cards on file for that date, discovering
that Thomas had been issued a thirty?day visa.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Vetch. You just testified
that you questioned me' for quite some time.' Is that correct?"
"That's correct. Yes, you were very reluctant
to give me the information."
"Do you recall what you said that finally changed
my mind? What you said to convince me to give you the information?"
"Yes. I told you that if you weren't wanted
by the police we would let you go."
"I move that the charges be dismissed on the
grounds that the place of my birth, the date of entry to this
country, and the landing card which was obtained as a result of
that information are inadmissible as evidence in this Court under
the law of this country." Thomas said to the magistrates.
The three magistrates appeared to be confused.
"Are you saying that the Crown has no case?"
the Magistrate's Clerk perceptively asked the defendant.
"I guess that's what I mean," the defendant
assented, wondering why the three magistrates still seemed perplexed.
The Clerk pulled out a book and began to read to the
magistrates, ".... evidence which is obtained by force, threat,
intimidation, promise or inducement shall not be admissible in
a court of law."
The magistrates put their heads together for several
minutes. "Mr. Vetch," said the middle head, popping
from the huddle. "Do you think that what you said to Mr.
Thomas amounted to a promise?"
"No, I don't think that it amounted to a promise."
"In that case your motion to dismiss is denied,
"You've got to be kidding me!" Thomas exploded.
"You're in jail ... somebody says he'll let you go if you
tell him where you were born ... and that's not a promise or inducement?"
"The motion is denied," the magistrate
said mechanically. The Clerk rolled his eyes, glanced at the
ceiling, and looked at Thomas as if to ask, "What more can
The Crown rested its case.
"Mr. Thomas you may remain silent, you may make
a statement from the dock, or you may take an oath and testify
from the witness stand. If you take an oath and testify your
statement will carry more weight, but you will be subject to cross
Thomas took the oath, and testified:
"If freedom exists I believe that it must begin
from the individual's ability to choose what he is or is not going
to be. It is true that I was born in the United States but I
had no choice in that matter. Just as an individual may be born
into the Catholic Church and upon reaching an age of reason may
decide that he believes in the tenets of the Church of England,
or an individual born into a family of Nazis after thinking about
it decides he'd rather be a Laborite, when a person cannot change
the arbitrary circumstances which birth has imposed upon him that
person cannot be said to be free.
"After much serious thought I came to believe
that American citizenship was incompatible with God's Will. Basically
I feel that the weaponry of the United States bears mute but plain
testimony to the fact that the United States stands ready to eliminate
human life, if necessary, to protect its lifestyle. In preventing
me from making such a decision a court would in effect be ordering
me to worship through association with what I consider to be a
demonic power. I do not believe that a human court may tell a
free man which spiritual powers he must worship.
"Of course I am not specifically charged with
worshipping the wrong power. I am charged with violation of an
immigration regulation, designed to regulate the population of
this country. At the same time it is obvious from the Crown's
testimony that at the time of my arrest I was trying to leave
this country. Thus there are no grounds to suspect that I pose
any threat toward increasing the population or burdening its natives.
"There was testimony that I made no attempt to
regularize my stay. That is true. But the reason that I made
no attempt was that no means exists by which I might have regularized
my stay. While I believe that certain policies of the United
States government are grossly immoral, I also believe that any
other nation possessed of the material capabilities of the United
States would behave in the same manner. Therefore, on the same
standards by which I must forego American citizenship, I must
forego citizenship with any nation. As my concept of God allows
no citizenship, I can be entitled to no passport. As I am entitled
to no passport, and as it is not regular for the British Home
Office to tattoo visas on people's wrists or foreheads, there
was no way for me to regularize my stay.
"Finally, when I entered this country I was an
American citizen, the thirty?day visa that was issued was issued
upon that fact and was a contract between an American citizen
and the British government. I discarded my passport after two
weeks, with two weeks remaining on the visa. On my part the only
binding strength of that particular contract was my American citizenship.
I do not think it can be reasonably said that, in the absence
of my American citizenship, I can still be held liable for obligations
which were predicated solely upon my American citizenship."
Counsel for the Crown declined cross examination.
"If that is all you have to say, you may return
to the dock," a magistrate said.
Thomas returned to the dock, the magistrates pronounced
him "guilty." He was asked whether he had anything
to say before sentence was imposed.
"I'm afraid I do. I say it to the Court and
I say it to each of the witnesses. None of you have taken the
time to understand what I am trying to do, but it should be obvious
that I am not trying to hurt anyone. Maybe you are not trying
to hurt anyone, but you are giving testimony and making judgments
that you don't know anything about. All you know is that you
have a familiar way of life and fear that if you don't do your
job your little life might be disturbed. And if your mindless
job requires you to harm another, as I think this proceeding shows,
you'll do it without any compunction. Therefore, if any of you
pretend to value freedom then I would think that person is a hypocrite.
I don't say this to hurt your feelings but because I have a duty
to tell the truth."
"Thank you very much for doing your duty, Mr.
Thomas. Now, unfortunately, we must do our duty," a magistrate
explained. "You are sentenced to three months imprisonment."
The maximum penalty allowed.