Thursday, July 11, 2013
The Arthur Daley Principle - The Price Is All According
The principle referred to in the headline was a favourite of my first Justices' Clerk, who in those dear dead days described himself as a cross between the family solicitor and a butler. He trained and mentored us, and set the culture of the bench. There is a fine old hoo-ha going on at the less reputable end of the Street of Shame over a fine imposed on a footballer (as a direct alternative to a community penalty that became impracticable). Footballers earning the money that they do, the fine looks derisory, but of course that sort of thing happens every day, albeit not on this scale. I believe that we fine the rich far too little and the poor far too much. As an example, a straightforward drink-drive carries a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine and/or six months inside. In reality we never see fines of anywhere near that level, even on some overpaid Porsche-driving hooligan. Since the increase in the pesky surcharge (that is at a rate that takes no account of income) even low-level offences can easily run into several hundred pounds, that are then deducted from benefit until the cows come home. Financial Penalties in general lack any consistent sense of proportion: £60 for jumping a red light (that can potentially kill someone) to £100 plus for driving in a bus lane, or £70 for parking outside Sainsburys without a 60p ticket. One day, someone will have to sit down and take a look at the system and bring the whole lot into some sort of order.