Affordable law-breaking

Robert Blake, after spending $10 million on his defence against a murder charge, famously said, You’re innocent until proven broke”. This observation permeates the Western legal system, in which the only winners are (certainly not the victim) are the lawyers who always get paid. This is not to say that every lawyer is bad or that they do not do some great pro bono work, but the fact that the legal system is so complicated that you need full time guides who dedicate their time finding shortcuts, using (sometime black) magic to achieve strange outcomes.

Breaking the Law

It used to be a right to be tried by a jury, by the ordinary members of the community, for even the smallest law breaking. But since there are so many laws that is no surprise there are so many law breakers. Laws supposed to reflect the morality and the ethical standards of society, but we can see that laws are really slow to follow our evolving consciousness. So instead of investing time and love to change the attitude of people we came up with ideas how to “streamline” the courts, to be able to deal with more law breakers. Like a big friggin’ factory of the criminal justice industry in which private corporations are running jails.

You can get an “infringement notice” for speeding. The CROs or chief revenue-raising officers (also known as parking officers or rangers) can pollute the windscreen of car with penalty notices for any small “offences” such as parking longer than allowed or even parking too close to a corner even on a quiet street. Unlike police officers the parking rangers exercise next no discretion. At least there are no demerit points for parking offences, but if you do not pay your fines your licence will be suspended, even if the ticket was issued in error.

So what other offences can attract fines instead of having to go to court? Do you feel like tipping into your swear jar to unleash a tirade of nasty words in public? Think again! The “ Criminal Infringement Notice” will show $150 fine, for the summary offence of using offensive language. Somebody caught entering a vehicle or a boat without consent of the owner can be fined ($250). There is also a fine for obstructing traffic, having something stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained in possession or even for stealing something of lesser value than $300. Originally there was consideration to introduce fines for assaulting someone. The big issue with this is that once the fine is paid the offence does not appear on the person’s criminal history. While we can agree it is OK in the case of swearing, but it may be beneficial to know that someone stole stuff before we employ them in certain positions.

The real worry is that the corporations and their leadership can get fined instead of charged with a criminal offences for injecting toxic chemicals into our water (e.g. fracking), selling us toxic or unhealthy foods or other products (e.g. genetically modified, carcinogenic). Such conduct could be considered borderline manslaughter or even attempted murder by a sufficiently awakened society.

Governments around the world, corrupted by transnational corporations, legislated to protect polluters of Nature from being charged with criminal offences, instead of being tickled with monetary fines. But the other issue here is that the owners/leaders of corporations who engage in such conduct or instruct their employees to do so cannot be touched as long as they are allowed to hide behind a corporate personhood.

Of course we can’t blame corporations alone for being greedy or having an “undue, corrupt and disgusting influence” on our public life. They have shareholders to answer to, not the community. Some of those shareholders may even try to masquerade as members of the community by engaging in publicity stunts such as donating a tiny fragment of their enormous wealth to some charity. It will never erase their wrongdoings against Nature and the community such as polluting the environment, exploiting their workers in order to maximise profits and so on.

We must stand up for ourselves against the immoral profiteering. We must become our own representatives. By not buying anything from corporations engaging in criminal or morally and ethically unacceptable conduct. We must buy our food from local farmers, we must work with Nature; eat seasonal fruits and vegetables, we must keep corporations answerable to us not to allow them to afford to break our legal standards and get away with a laughable monetary fine.