Going by the quantity of programmes, fact and fiction, revolving around ‘the law’ it is clearly a major interest, and maybe a major issue for a lot of people.
I started thinking back about how true this was when I was a teenager, to pick one period of my life. The only impact I can really recall was that pubs had to close at 10.30 and that your car or motorcycle had to be taxed and insured. Even those simple constraints on life were not fully imposed in that it was the norm to try and keep your drink till a bit after the 10 minute drinking up time and when you acquired a new bike or car you would postpone getting it taxed if you could, and even maybe insurance just for a bit.
Except for a bit of ‘fringe’ criminality of this kind, by and large people lived within the commonly understood law and if it was inconvenient, well, life is just not perfect.
The police were like teachers, as long as you acquiesced when you got caught you usually only got a bit of a ticking off, but don’t get caught twice by the same person!
We now seem to live in a society which thinks it should challenge everything, just to see if we can get away with it. So ‘ordinary people’ try to get off driving offences like speeding or parking fines, and even drunk driving, and of course there are plenty of lawyers willing to take your case on, it is a good a simple income for them and much less messy than ‘real crime.’
People living and sometimes working in this country without permission will use every legal loophole to stay here, including those who advocate the killing of others as part of a religious mission, evil people like Abu Qatada, who must find it ironic that the system he hates prevents him from being deported to Jordan to face terrorism charges.
Maybe the interest we have in the law, in all its guises, is because it is inherently confusing, it is inherently contradictory, it is often, seemingly, bang against ‘common sense’.
We have been lead along the path that everything should ‘make sense’, that it should be ‘reasonable’, meaning you can break it down into small pieces and they should all be coherent, that one thing should clearly lead to another, without contradictions and with a clear sense of fairness. So we are against ‘postcode lottery’ delivery of health services, but we are also in support of a local focus to solutions, we want all schools to reach the same high standards but we want the ability to make ours better than anyone else’s. We want justice for all, but we want to be let off our parking fine, well, we were only stopping for a few minutes.
It seems to me that the baseline for all law has to be that it is law by common consent, and that means law by common moral consent. When in Rome, we live as the Romans do. The more we challenge every little facet of life with ‘the law’ by written statute and practice the more we create opportunities for the smartest people to escape all punishment, including speeding fines, while most of us succumb to ever increasing nonsense so that we have to agree that our phone call may be monitored and we have to agree to the 20 pages of terms and conditions that we never read and if we did read we would never understand.
I think we should all consent to being held to account on the basis that what we did was clearly ‘wrong’, that we should hold our hands up when this happens and rest easily with the knowledge that those who are judging us and imposing punishment will do so on the basis of a moral consensus of what is fit and proper. For those who repeatedly offend the common moral code then the crime, unless in the truly serious league, should be that of ‘transgressing the moral code’, with the understanding that there is a clear link between disrespect for that understanding, treated, on the 4th offence or more, as ‘perverting the cause of justice according to the moral code’ with penalties which would be shown by sound research to truly act as a deterrent.
Abu Qatada transgressed the moral code from his first preachings of hatred. On the 4th occasion he should have then been removed, without question.
People who continue to drive while disqualified should know that the outrage is against their disrespect, and it is the disrespect that leads to ever more severe punishment.
And people who moan about their parking fines should be aware that it is they who are leading us into a 1984 kind of State of the Nation, so pay up, it is the right thing to do, and shut up, we don’t really want that kind of moaning.
There are those who argue that only by rigorously defending the rigour of the law do we ensure justice for all. I think the opposite is true, the more we reduce the law to what it says on lines of script on pieces of paper the more we take it away from a true sense of balance and understanding, that mostly, the law is by moral consent.