Is your birth certificate a sinister plot by the Government to trap you in debt for life? Can we really choose to divorce our flesh-and-blood self from the fiction of our ‘legal name’ and free ourselves from the burden of a tyrannical and oppressive government? Do we really live under maritime law, allowing us to opt out of the laws of the land and ignore trivialities like taxes and speed limits? Or is this all just a load of nonsense?
Over the last decade, the ‘Freeman on the Land’ or ‘Sovereign Citizen’ movement has spread across the globe, with an increasing number of people believing that the complex world of law and order can be circumvented if you know the correct quasi-magical phrasing to beat the lawyers at their own game. Freeman on the Land arguments have been used to argue against the payment of TV license fees and speeding fines, and have even been used in court—inevitably, without success. On a more sinister front, Freeman of the Land ideology is promoted alongside dangerous quackery, such as Black Salve and Miracle Mineral Solution, to highlight the cancer cures they don’t want you to know about.
Joining barrister Geoff Whelan to explore this world of pseudo-legal woo are constitutional law professor Michael Dougans, solicitor Emma McClure, and freelance investigative journalist Justin Stoneman.
Michael Dougan is a Professor of European Law at the University of Liverpool, specialising in EU constitutional law, the Single Market and EU welfare law. He has published widely on the EU’s constitutional framework after the Lisbon Treaty, on the principle of direct effect of Union law in national courts, and on the enforcement of Union law. Ahead of the EU referendum his video on the facts behind the rhetoric went viral, gaining almost two million views.
Emma McClure is a solicitor specialising in prison and public law whose work sees her regularly representing prisoners during parole hearings and bringing judicial reviews against public bodies. She has given talks around the country on the way in which over-confidence in the veracity of forensic science can lead to miscarriages of justice and has gone undercover to investigate psychics, faith healers and Mind Body Spirit fairs.
Justin Stoneman is a news journalist and broadcaster specialising in undercover investigations. He has written for every national British newspaper. His recent work has uncovered Amazon marketing fake cancer cures, charities being given tax breaks for promoting homeopathy to AIDS patients, chiropractors treating newborn babies, promoters of Miracle Mineral Solution as a cure for autism, and more. Throughout the last two years he has investigated the Freeman of the Land movement and its links to alternative cancer cures.
Geoff Whelan is a criminal barrister and chair of the Greater Manchester Skeptics. He writes a regular legal column for ‘The Skeptic’ Magazine and will also be hosting the ‘March of Unreason?’ panel.