Do people have the courage of their own convictions these days?
After a media onslaught, Jimmy Carr issues a mea culpa and promises to pay more tax. What a snivelling coward! What he should have done was to tell the politicians who are responsible for writing tax law that if they actually paid attention to what they were doing, they would not leave such massive loopholes in the law that can allow such schemes to see the light of day. This is yet another example of trying to tie everything down with prescriptive, or maybe proscriptive regulations so that if one dots these i’s and crosses those t’s then it is lawful, but if one misses a single i or a single t then it is not. Tax is simply one example of the unnecessary complexity that our politicians, especially Labour have introduced into our legal system. I find it outrageous that there is a requirement under a statutory instrument that certain documents have the colour of ink with which they must be signed specified.
Listening to the radio in the car the other day, I heard part of the second Reith lecture by Niall Fergusson in which he made a great deal of sense when talking about bank regulation when he said that the powers that be in the central bank, in our case the Bank of England, need to be given much more discretion about the manner in which they exercise their powers, but that there should be much more effective enforcement for those who fail to comply with their requirements. Then I thought a little wider. Is this the effect of european legal thinking on the British system of law? Under the Napoleonic types of code, everything is forbidden unless it is expressly permitted, while under a common law system, everything is permitted unless it is expressly forbidden. for example, in an article on stupid laws, in France it is forbidden to call a pig “Napoleon” Well, I’ll wager that screwed some of George Orwell’s sales on the continent.
Is there really any reason why we cannot have a principles-based approach to law in all areas? The principle should be that where the matter is criminal the punishment should become increasingly severe until the perpetrator stops committing the crimes and that reparation be made to any injured party automatically. In cases with identifiable victims, damages should be awarded to the victim against the perpetrator, and paid in preference to fines, but fines still levied, so that the force of the state would be responsible for collecting the damages and the fines. In cases of perjury, where a person could be subject to a prison sentence on the basis of one or more false statements, the persons making the false statements should be subject to the same sentence as the person originally accused would have faced. And I would include false accusations of rape in this too. I had a previous girlfriend who, I discovered later, had problems with her knicker elastic who told me a man had raped her, but when I asked her to go to a police station to make a formal statement to this effect, she admitted that she had not wanted to have sex “until just before he entered me.” Had I not tried to force the issue with her, on the grounds that I could do nothing to this man, but the forces of the law could, I may have gone to my grave wrongly believing that a certain man was a rapist when in fact he was simply a skilled pick up artist. But I suppose I am asking for the sun, the moon and the stars with the present politicians.