Archive for category Crime and Justice

Why do people go to prison for non-payment of a tv subscription?

From 2011-2013, 107 people were sent to prison for failure to pay fines for non-payment of the ‘tv licence’. The TV licence has to be one of the most bizarre and anachronistic crimes left on the statute books. I (like alot of other people) subscribe to netflix. If I pay the fee, I am granted access to tv and films. If I fail to pay the subscription, I lose access to said content. There are no other ramifications.

Subscribing to the BBC however is not as straightforward. If you fail to pay for the subscription, you will retain access to the shows, but run the risk of imprisonment. Wouldn’t it be easier to prevent people from being able to view it?

The ‘tv license’ has to be the only public service, which everyone is required to contribute the same amount, regardless of their income or savings. A student, surviving on a meagre loan, is required to pay the same amount, as someone living in a mansion (and the aforementioned mansion owner can have a tv in every room).

Anyone who is imprisoned in Britain, will automatically be classed as a category A prisoner and sent to a maximum security prison. A man, convicted of the crime of watching ‘Celebrity Pointless’ without paying for it, can end up in HMP Belmarsh (whose almuni include the likes of Charles Bronson and Ian Huntley).

It is becoming increasingly difficult to defend the BBC. Their news website, remains one of the most informative and impartial websites there is. Without it, the UK would be entirely at the mercy of the billionaires who dominate our media -the Barclay Brothers, Viscount Cowdray, Alexander Lebedev and of course Rupert Murdoch . Nevertheless the way the BBC is funded needs to be overhauled, as does the nature of it’s spending and management.

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What will Lord Janner’s trial achieve?

On Friday 14th August, an 87 year old man with dementia stood trial for crimes committed in the 1960s. I do not for a minute condone Greville Janner’s alleged crimes. But we have to consider the effects of trials, which are in real terms pointless. At the moment the average defendant spends over ten weeks on remand. Is it hardly surprising considering the volume of elderly and infirm defendants – some of which have to be taken out of nursing homes to stand trial?

The judgement seems to accept that Janner is ill (“Drs Poole and Warner are agreed that his dementiais so advanced as to preclude his understanding of or contribution to legal proceedings”). Yet “We are not persuaded that the Defendant failed or failed adequately to consider an alternative.” In other words – yes he is ill, but we’ll work round that.

This case, is yet another example, of why we need statutes of limitations – I do not for one second condone child abusers – but at a time when courts and prisons are swamped, it seems a simple step would be to stop hounding the elderly.

The trial is to be a ‘trial of the facts‘. Like Lord Lucan, Janner will be tried in his abscence and no sentence will be passed. Stretched resources – such as the Police, courts and CPS, will be have to spend time on what is little more than a glorified mock trial.

Janner is unable to defend himself. He is not able to make informed decesions based on advice from counsel, let alone get in the dock to account for his actions. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial. This trial, makes a mockery of justice.

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