Tsunami, death certificates, terrorism and the law.

I've been thinking about the tsunami and the fact that relatives of the tsunami missing will get death certificates even if no body is found. In the UK, where no body is found, there must elapse seven years before a person is presumed dead. This is to avoid the situation of someone going walkabout and having their possessions distributed. Whilst I have every sympathy for the families of the victims, and fully recognise both their plight, being stuck in 'legal limbo' as well as the magnitude of the disaster, I keep coming back to one basic question:

How is the situation of a relative of someone lost in the tsunami different from the relative of someone who drowned in the sea whilst swimming, if no body is found?

For the two families, the result is the same, a legal limbo before the estate can be managed, but one case prompts an exception, a change in the law, and the other does not.

Whilst I can see that the tsunami case is of such magnitude that it may prompt a rethink, I don't see the virtue in treating these two cases differently - after all, in both cases the hardship which could occur is the same.

The UK government is churning out a lot of laws for one or two cases at the moment. There is the case of the law aimed at a single protestor outside parliament, named Brian Haw. This was rather inelegantly described as 'a sledgehammer to crack a nut' by Blunkett - so if you protest against government, you are, de facto, a nut?.

There is also the case of draconian laws being introduced due to the government not knowing what to do with a handful of people. 'Family and friends of terrorist suspects held under house arrest could be subject to tough sanctions even though they have not been accused of a crime, it was disclosed yesterday.'

There is a rule of thumb: 'Hard cases make bad law'.