Saturday, July 10, 2004

“We have no choice…”

Idling through the back copies of The Times, as one does, I picked up a cutting from 30 May 2004, with the headline "Protest: Gathering storm - the drivers ready to rebel".

It reported how Ernie Harbon, from South Normanton in Derbyshire, this year became the first person in the UK to be jailed for refusing to pay a speeding fine. The story continues:

He had been fined £60 for doing 38mph in a 30mph zone but claimed he had thought the limit was 40mph. Emerging from jail in January, after serving half his two-week sentence, an unrepentant Harbon said: "I'll stand by my original decision and go back to jail again if I have to. It's simply a matter of principle."

This is bad enough, but what particularly caught my eye was the story of John Hopkinson, who was jailed for five days for refusing to pay a fine for parking outside his home in Falmouth. The plumber had received a £30 fine in 2002 but refused to pay, claiming he needed quick access to his van for emergency call-outs.

This was rejected in court and the fine was raised to £65 with £35 costs. After another appeal failed, further costs of £50 were added. Hopkinson then agreed to pay - but only the initial £30; the magistrates said they had no choice but to jail him.

What is remarkable is the comment of the magistrates, who said they had "no choice" but to jail him. That is precisely what the egregious Brian Venables said to me when he jailed me. One wonders if these morons ever listen to themselves.

If the magistrates truly had no choice, what is the point of having magistrates at all? You might just as well have "go to jail free" robots. If you combined them with "speak your weight" machines, at least they'd have some use to society.

The point is, of course, that they did have a choice. In the Hopkinson affair, the magistrates could have adjourned the case sine die, leaving it on file without action. They could have told the prosecutor to rethink, and asked him to come back a few weeks later with his decision. Or they could have – after the famous scene in "A Bridge Too Far" - jailed him for 15 seconds. There does not appear to be a minimum sentence that they are bound to hand down.

Instead, these lame-brains supported the status quo, bleating "We have no choice". I would prefer a robot.


At 6:38 pm, Blogger Mick in the UK said...

Welcome to blogland Dr Richard.
I came here from a link in the T&A, although they did'nt quite get it right.
Before you became 'famous', I had already made a few comments in my own blog about the police SERVICE in Bradford (my home town as well....BD6), and how bloody useless they were.
"Get a burglar alarm", yes I was listening to your interview on 5 live, and some people just don't have a clue do they?
I'll put a link to this site on my blog and hopefully you will get more visitors.
We're going out shortly, not to see the p***heads down in Wibsey High street I'm glad to say (haven't had a pint down there for 10 yrs,) but I will read the rest of your blog tomorrow.


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