Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Still a travesty.

Remember this guy? Via Constantly Furious I see he's been let off with a non-custodial sentence, but still a fucking piss take and a good example of the fundamental problem with strict liability laws. An every day example that millions, possibly billions, of ordinary people will know well is speeding. In most countries speeding seems to be a strict liability type offence, though the legal terms probably very a lot. To be prosecuted for speeding you need simply drive faster than an arbitrarily chosen speed. It doesn't need to be dangerously fast to get you a ticket and a fine. If it goes to court the prosecution have no need to prove that there was a crash or a near miss, or even any significantly increased risk of there being one. Even if there is a crash there's no need to prove that speed was the cause or even a factor in the cause of the crash. To give a very extreme example if you crashed because someone cut your brake lines and for no other reason, but at the time you first applied the brakes and found you didn't have any you were slightly over the limit, then a very unsympathetic judicial system could still go ahead and prosecute you for it. You had used the accelerator to get up to the illegal speed after all.*

Strict liability also applied to Paul Clarke. The cops clearly didn't give the faintest shit that he was only in technical possession of the gun, and the fact even that was only because he didn't want the fucking thing lying around where anyone could take it. It was stated clearly in court during the case:
"... in law there is no dispute that Mr Clarke has no defence to this charge.
"The intention of anybody possessing a firearm is irrelevant."
As with speeding the police need not concern themselves with anything so trivial as an investigation once they've established that he was certainly in possession of the gun. The gun doesn't need to have been fired, no one needs to have been shot, hurt or threatened with the gun and the accused need not have been irresponsible, let alone criminal, with his handling of it. Simnply having it is all that's necessary to prosecute. It must be every lazy cop's wet dream, and not just the cops either - strict liability suits everyone in the criminal justice system from the police through the CPS to the Home Orifice/Justice Department. Everyone apart from someone whose been accused of a crime that has no victim, no outcome and possibly even no complainant, and in the case of Paul Clarke seems to have been with the greater good in mind. So if he had picked up a recently thrown hand grenade in order to drop it down a hole that he happened to be right next to would he have been prosecuted for being in possession of an explosive device or something? I'd give odds that's a strict liability offence as well.

Constantly Furious has more though.
What about Clarke's allegations that the police had been harassing him? That his house had been 'turned over' 5 times? That a warrant card had been planted in his house, for which he was threatened with arrest? Should we forget all that 'fuss' now, and get on with the Christmas telly schedule?

What about Clarke's statement today that he was sleeping with one of the female officers at the very same station, and that he was worried that "jealousy" may have been a factor in his harassment? Should we be concerned about the integrity of the police involved, or should we be content to wonder whether or not it will snow on Christmas day?
So, on top of a shit law we may have here police that have a motive to be particularly inflexible when it comes to an individual when the opportunity to hammer the poor bastard good and hard comes up.


* In the case of speeding it gets even dafter. Imagine for a moment the only motoring law was to obey speed limits: you could drive like a complete twat at just under the limit and they wouldn't be able to touch you for it. Now obviously in reality there are lots of other motoring laws and I'm not saying that you can get away with driving like a complete twat at just under the limit, but quite often it feels like that. Certainly the fucktard in the truck that nearly took me and another car out on the freeway last week, which was genuinely fucking frightening I can tell you, won't have been prosecuted for driving like a twat. But had he been speeding I'm sure he might well have set a camera off somewhere and got a fine and some points. The point is that speed limits are too crude an instrument to prosecute unsafe driving - dangerous drivers below the limit can be overlooked in vast numbers (and I suspect many believe they are safe because of religiously watching the damn speedo needle), while a sensible driver exceeding the speed limit only when and where it's clearly safe to do so is still risking prosecution because of strict liability.

1 comment:

JuliaM said...

Even more worrying than the case itself is the number of people commenting 'Oooh, no smoke without fire..' and intimating there must be more to it. As if that's somehow better...

Related Posts with Thumbnails