Caught red-and-white-handed

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Denmark is on the front page of English Wikipedia today as it is constitution day (5 June). In connection with writing on Wikipedia I ran into paragraph 57. It reads “No member of parliament can without its consent be prosecuted or subjected to imprisonment of any kind, unless he is caught in flagrante dilicto”.

There are a number of strangenesses in the Danish constitution and this sentence is among them. Why should there be a condition on “caught in flagrante dilicto” (red-handed)? And when are you red-handed? What exactly does it mean? Do you need to be in the process of stealing to be red-handed or is it enough to just be in the process of publishing information which are illegal to publish? Or drunk-driving?

Former minister of justice Lene Espersen once had a traffic accident. As she herself contacted the police I suppose you could say that she caught herself red-handed… Nevertheless the parliament was involved to release her parliamentary immunity.

Another thing that bothers me a bit with the sentence is the possesive adjective “its”: it refers to “parliament”, but could be confused with with a reference to “member”.

(Photo by Per Palmkvist Knudsen, CC-BY-SA)

 

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