Down here in The People’s Republic of Liverpudlia we are a fairly peaceful lot. At Americana-UK Towers we employ our own security staff but down in the village and the surrounding hamlets matters of policing the populace fall to the local constable handily named… err… Bob. He quite delights in the moniker Bobby Bob and can often be found helping old folk across the road, dishing out bicycle safety lessons to the young folk and giving directions to lost motorists. Never, or only very occasionally, is he accused of brutality, false arrest or vexatious harassing of our various ethnic communities. It was with some surprise, then, that he approached The Council of Ministers of The Republic and enquired whether or not he had ‘Qualified Immunity’. After some umm-ing and arr-ing it was decided that he did indeed have qualified immunity and that he could rely on such a status should he ever need it. It was supposed that he wouldn’t need it so nobody bothered to find out what it meant.
Then, after an unsavoury incident or three in which bogus allegations were made against our Bob, the Clerk to the Ministers had his technically minded nephew look it up on the interwebs. We found that it was a popular thing in The Republic of the Americas. In essence it’s a legal doctrine which provides protection for government officials and shields them from personal liability whilst carrying out ‘discretionary’ acts whilst performing their duties. So essentially Bobby Bob could pull out his Magnum .44 and pop off a jaywalking bad guy or beat senseless a suspected shoplifter in an extreme act of craven violence and pretty much just say “I was only doing my job, Guv”. It’s incredibly useful because the peasants can’t come back with silly civil lawsuits looking for recompense or even justice. Bobby Bob has to able to do his job without all of that nonsense hanging over his head we reasoned. The killer bit is that in order to succeed in a civil lawsuit against Bob there has to be a precedent and clearly established law. In other words someone else must have done it first (and in exactly the same way) for it be proven against that benchmark. And if no one has done that (and they can’t because there was no previous benchmark) then the case loses. A deliciously Kafkaesque Catch 22 we thought.
So Bobby Bob trundles around on his pushbike down the lanes and paths of Liverpudlia safe in the knowledge of his impunity… er sorry… immunity.