Category Archives: Law

That’ll learn ‘em

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Tony was a prison guard at one of the prisons in NSW. He wasn’t a violent man, at first. But the other guards kept telling him what scumbags many of the prisoners were, and of the terrible things they’d done. They reminded him that his taxes were paying to feed the bastards. The Daily Telegraph told him that prisoners (presumably in other jails, because all the ones he’d seen in real life were actually pretty awful) were eating lobster and playing Playstation on their flat-screen TVs. He started to feel a bit resentful about the whole thing. And then one day as he was moving one of the prisoners to his cell, the prisoner called him something insulting. With words. From his mouth. And since it was already a bit of a physical environment, dragging another adult around and shoving him into things, it wasn’t a stretch for Brad to punch the prisoner in the mouth. The other guards laughed and said he had it coming.

After that, Brad discovered that he quite liked the feeling of power he got from assaulting prisoners. He punched, and he kicked, and he dragged, and he hurt them. And the other guards told him he was actually just meting out justice. People joking in the pub about prisoners being bashed told him that he was meting out justice. The Daily Telegraph cheering on violent assaults on prisoners told him he was meting out justice.

He did like his job “meting out justice” and feeling powerful through vicious assaults on other people in his care.

But Tony totally maintained the boundaries between his work and home life and did not in any way start to apply what he’d learned in prison in the outside world. He never ever hit his family members when he got annoyed, even though he spent his days reinforcing that it was okay to do that. No prison guard trained to feel powerful by assaulting other people ever has, at least not in any significant numbers, for all you know.

* * *

Joe was a violent thug who’d been in and out of prison for most of his life. Unlike Brad, he’d always known he liked hitting people.

And what was awesome about his time in prison is that, so long as he only brutally assaulted the people out of favour with the guards, they let him! In fact, they told him he was just meting out some “justice” to people who deserved it. Joe loved the feeling of some weaker person crumbling before his fists, and he kind of looked forward to his time in prison where when he beat people up, nobody in authority really cared. The guards didn’t tase him like the police might have. If he sent a prisoner to the hospital they made jokes and often if they caught him doing it they even cheered him on. He began to feel that basically he was quite justified in assaulting other people, and he was doing the community a service, and it didn’t really matter if he did stuff on the outside that sent him to prison because that was where people respected his particular skills.

But still, despite all that, he totally didn’t commit any more assaults when he next got out, because he’d learned that violence was wrong and he should avoid going back to prison.

* * *

Tim was not a violent thug, at least at first. He was in prison for trafficking cannabis. He had a pretty serious drug problem who’d bought some in bulk, figuring he could sell it to his other drug-using mates to pay for his habit. And in NSW they sent him to jail for it. What he learned in jail, as Joe belted him to a pulp that first week with the guards not giving a damn, was that being on the receiving end of physical violence sucks. He couldn’t rely on the prison authorities to protect him from brutal assaults, so he would have to do it himself. He spent the rest of his time in prison bulking up until he was strong enough to assault weaker prisoners. He learned the law of the jungle, how to use physical violence to exert power. He learned to like it.

But when he got out of prison he totally did not continue to rely on his recent training in thuggery. He wasn’t at all brutalised and turned into a force of anger and rage that would violently lash out at ordinary citizens when he discovered he had no employment opportunities because of his record and basically would have to return to crime to survive, but this time knowing how to hurt people. It all worked out fine.

* * *

Rupert was actually a pretty horrible person. What he liked most was raping people. Eventually he was caught and sent to prison, where he feared he would be under the authorities’ eyes twenty four hours a day and wouldn’t even get to beat anyone up, let alone rape them.

But there was good news in store for Rupert. It turned out that people were happy to turn a blind eye to his raping other people in prison so long as they were sufficiently terrible. The guards would turn a blind eye. When he caught sight of a copy of the Daily Telegraph he’d see people joking about it, suggesting that his raping of other prisoners was actually “justice”. Yeah, he thought, justice! This is great! And his victims were trapped with him. And he got to rape so many people that by the time he got out he’d discovered new and more disturbing types of sexual assaults. And why would he mind going back to prison, since it gave him more of what he wanted?

So Rupert learned his lesson that rape is one of the most serious crimes that society does not endorse in any way and once he left the prison system became a model citizen and never raped anyone again.

THE END.

The awesome triumph of austerity applied to UK legal aid

Takes a comedian to make the point most brutally:

First, Legal Aid will have an eligibility threshold of thirty seven and a half thousand pounds. To be fair, that doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world. And I can be confident about that, because right there next to it, as if deliberately placed for purposes of comparison, are two of the worst ideas in the world. One. Defendants will no longer have the right to choose their own lawyer. Two. Legal Aid contracts will be awarded, on the basis of price competitive tender, ie who’s cheapest, to private companies. Like Tesco and Eddie Stobart. You know, the lorry guy. Though I’m sure he’s also an excellent lawyer.

So, instead of you picking a solicitor on the basis of how well you think they’ll represent you, the new plan is that the government will choose one for you, on the basis of how cheap they are. And they will be very cheap indeed – a minimum of 17.5% below current rates, but of course with competitive tendering, it’s all about how low can you go… the floor’s the limit! You might almost wonder whether this could affect the quality of the representation in any way at all. But the government assure us it will not, and of course they’re right. We all know from our own lives that the cheaper you go, the more the quality stays exactly the same. But just out of curiosity, how do they intend to ensure quality? Well, Chris Grayling, Minister for Justice and dispenser of none, has given a clear and simple answer- he doesn’t know. Not yet. That’s one of the things they’ll work out now they’ve had the consultation. But they’ve worked out what they want to do, and precisely how much money they know it’ll save, somehow – that’s the important thing, surely? They can fill in the boring ‘how the hell will it work’ stuff later.

And there’s more!

“Austerity”: how to make a justice system cost more, be less just, and increase crime

Just a reminder to idiotic state governments who insist on tinkering with criminal justice by slashing legal aid and changing the law to send people to prison for longer without funding appropriate rehabilitative services: you are making things worse.

You are making offenders worse.

And you are costing the taxpayer a lot more money.

A reminder today from a UK judge of how slashing legal aid actually costs more money in wasted court time (h/t Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes):

What I find so depressing is that the case highlights the difficulties increasingly encountered by the judiciary at all levels when dealing with litigants in person. Two problems in particular are revealed. The first is how to bring order to the chaos which litigants in person invariably – and wholly understandably – manage to create in putting forward their claims and defences. Judges should not have to micro-manage cases, coaxing and cajoling the parties to focus on the issues that need to be resolved. Judge Thornton did a brilliant job in that regard yet, as this case shows, that can be disproportionately time-consuming. It may be saving the Legal Services Commission which no longer offers legal aid for this kind of litigation but saving expenditure in one public department in this instance simply increases it in the courts. The expense of three judges of the Court of Appeal dealing with this kind of appeal is enormous. The consequences by way of delay of other appeals which need to be heard are unquantifiable. The appeal would certainly never have occurred if the litigants had been represented. With more and more self-represented litigants, this problem is not going to go away. We may have to accept that we live in austere times, but as I come to the end of eighteen years service in this court, I shall not refrain from expressing my conviction that justice will be ill served indeed by this emasculation of legal aid.

This is even worse in criminal law and family law, in which litigants are even less knowledgeable about the law and the consequences of errors are even more serious.

Meanwhile, judges in Victoria, confronted yet again by another product of a prison system that is focused on “punishment” and pays mere lip service to rehabilitation, ask why we’re bent on making people who’ve committed crimes in the past worse:

The prison system is failing society by making young offenders more anti-social and increasingly likely to commit violent crimes after their release, the head of the Victorian Court of Appeal has warned.

Calls made four decades ago to reform the system and encourage rehabilitation had not been heeded, three judges said after hearing an appeal against the sentence of a youth with a long history of violence, who had been in and out of the juvenile justice system when he committed an unprovoked knife attack in 2011.

”The community would still ask today why the prison system has to be so antisocial in operation, why it cannot be improved so that people for whom there is a prospect of reformation are given a real opportunity for self-improvement,” said Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell and Justices Marcia Neave and Stephen Kaye. ”Time and again courts are told that correctional authorities are simply not adequately resourced to provide the sorts of facilities which are essential if those in prison – many of whom have very serious psychological and behavioural problems – are to be meaningfully rehabilitated and assisted so that, when they are released, they will have some real prospect of reintegration into the community.”

Fortunately, the politicians know that they can completely ignore the above because the mass-market media will almost completely ignore it.

And in the meantime we all pay more to make things worse.

NSW: the state to continuously make the criminal justice system more expensive and less just

Nice job, NSW Liberals.

Destructively and pointlessly bugger up the right to silence, and further waste court time with ludicrous requirements on defence teams which will cause great expense to everyone (particularly the taxpayer).

As if the NSW system of the police not preparing witness statements (ie the actual evidence on which their charges are supposedly based) until after the accused decides to plead not guilty wasn’t stupid enough.

The most absurd thing is that there are lawyers in the Liberal Party who’ve acted in criminal matters. How did it appear to any of them that these were good ideas?

ELSEWHERE: Fellow NSW criminal lawyer Andrew Tiedt is also annoyed – particularly on learning that not even the DPP was pushing for this travesty.

Of course you can’t make Lord of the Rings movies without decimating citizens’ rights!

I was considering purchasing the blu-rays of the Lord of the Rings movies. But seeing the nasty anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-citizen laws Warner Brothers managed to bully out of New Zealand to make the new ones there… not so keen any more.

How much taxpayer money can Warner Bros. demand from the government of New Zealand to keep production there (rather than, say, in Australia or the Czech Republic)? That answer turns out to be about $120 million, plus the revision of New Zealand’s labor laws to forbid collective bargaining among film-production contractors, plus the passage of three-strikes Internet-disconnection laws for online copyright infringement, plus enthusiastic and, it turns out, illegal cooperation in the shutdown of the pirate-friendly digital storage site Megaupload and the arrest of its owner, Kim Dotcom.

For keeping Warner Bros. happy, Prime Minister John Key, a former Merrill Lynch currency trader, got a replica magic Hobbit sword from U.S. President Barack Obama and a chance to hang New Zealand’s fortunes on becoming the tourist destination for Middle Earth enthusiasts. What could go wrong?

Would Peter Jackson really have abandoned NZ to make the films elsewhere if the NZ government hadn’t agreed to screw over their own citizens? I want to see him being asked that as he flies around the world being gently massaged by entertainment “journalists”.

Point made

So an Australian protester JUMPS INTO THE THAMES, delaying a BOAT RACE, in order to protest inequality and elitism in the UK…

…and they jail him for six months. Jail. The most serious punishment in their system (and ours). What we do to murderers and those committing violent assaults and people for whom other options have been shown not to work. And not just a short sharp sentence to make the point. Six months. Shove a political protester in with violent criminals. Why consider other sentencing options like community work or fines? When you can just rocket up the sentencing scale and do what you can to brutalise the bloke for, remember, jumping in the Thames and slightly delaying a boat race.

Why would the community want the guy’s sentence to be something that puts back to the community, like community work, when instead taxpayers can pay the huge amount of money it costs to jail a person for six months?

By the way, if you were looking to make the guy’s point that the British system is massively skewed in favour of the interests of the rich and against ordinary people – you probably couldn’t have made it more clearly. Congratulations.

PS If he has a history and they’ve tried other options before, then that should have been in the bloody report. From the barrister’s remarks quoted in the Independent article, it sounds like he had no priors.

ALP and Liberals bent on another destructive US copyright agreement

When the ALP and the Liberals are determined to sign us up to another liberty-destroying, overbearing US “copyright” regime (in which we adopt the harshest aspects of their ludicrous laws – see here for the most recent absurd example – but without their Constitutional protections), thank God that one party in the Parliament will stand against it:

“Not content with supporting the ill-fated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which would endanger the legal status of generic medicines and was overwhelmingly rejected by the European Parliament, the Trade Minister is now pushing for an Agreement that offers no protection for copyright exceptions enshrined in Australian law.

“ACTA was an absolute dud, and the Government wanted to jump on board before the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry had even warmed up.

“Now, information on the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement revealed over the weekend show the US and Australia want to defeat a proposed clause protecting domestic intellectual property laws.

“New Zealand, with the support of Chile, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, proposed this clause to permit a signatory to ‘carry forward and appropriately extend into the digital environment limitations and exceptions in its domestic laws’. Only the United States and our own government oppose this perfectly reasonable provision. Why is the Government promoting the erosion of our independence in this way?

“There are two inquiries currently underway into the future of Australian copyright laws in the digital age. Shackling our intellectual property laws to a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement dominated by the United States would render them virtually worthless. The Australian Greens urge the Government to back New Zealand’s proposed protection for independence and to reject any Agreement that puts the civil liberty and welfare of Australians at risk.”

That’s Senator Ludlum, and I’m bloody glad we have him there to make the point. If only we had a few more Greens MPs whose votes could stand against any legislation associated with such a “treaty”.