Saturday, September 03, 2011

Justice beyond the grave

One has to admit that our justice system is wondrous to behold. Thus did Tamworth resident Barry Bartin, 65, receive a letter stating his wife, Evelyn - who had died four years ago - had been summoned to court for a motoring offence supposedly committed in February of this year. He rang the court and they said it was the fault of the DVLA, then contacting the DVLA and sending them a copy of his wife's death certificate.

But Barry was then furious to read in his local newspaper that magistrates had fined the long-dead Evelyn £175 plus £60 court costs and a £15 "victim surcharge". No doubt these diligent justices thought they were doing a real good job for the community they "serve" - having established (not) that Evelyn was alive and that she had actually committed the offence. Whatever happened to proof? What happened to the requirement for the prosecution to prove its case "beyond reasonable doubt"?

The ultimate irony here, though, is that an individual is being "fined" for failure to process paperwork properly. But when the state commits the same "offence", it is nobody's fault. It never is.

One now worries that this might catch on. After all, fining dead people for offences they did not commit does have distinct advantages. Normally – at least, without a séance – dead people can't answer back. Thus the courts can continue their "rubber stamp" functions uninterrupted, and do not have to trouble themselves with the idea that their hearings have anything to do with justice.