Friday, 3 February 2012
Taking One For The Team
Where I work (at least, for the time being, ha ha), we often play host to a company who use our facilities to run speed awareness courses for those caught a few clicks over the limit and who choose to pay £80 to be talked at, rather than have points on their licences. One of my duties is to check these people in and direct them to the correct location for the course. In this role, especially with the conscientious ones arriving half an hour early, I often have a brief chat and try to make them feel, at least temporarily, welcome. Some are just in a bad mood and don't want to talk (which is fair enough) and one lady was even highly abusive to me - I think because she blamed me for her getting caught in the first place. Perhaps the uniform triggered something. Most are in a cheerful but resigned frame of mind, and prepared to have a laugh about being put through all this nonsense for doing 34 in a 30 limit, or whatever. A few arrive in hot hatches or well-worn Beemers, but the majority are ordinary folk that you wouldn't give a second glance to in a car park, let alone think that they were dangerous or aggressive hooligans.
What has amazed me, however, is the number that say "Oh, it wasn't me: I took the blame for my husband because he needs his car for work." Yes, it's usually women who do this. Sound familiar?
Equally amazing is how everyone who has admitted this to me has done so with a laugh, as if it's no big deal. What I don't mention, but is at the back of my mind, is that they have moved - perhaps ignorant of the fact - from a traffic offence to a criminal one. From what is a minor irritant that most people have a bit of sympathy with, to something that, if they were caught, could land them in prison and leave them with a criminal record. Perverting the course of justice is not a trivial thing, nor should it be.
Perhaps a high-profile case involving someone famous (well, famous-ish) will give people a different perspective?
None of this really affects me at the moment. Anna has kept her licence clean all her life (although I think there's been a fair bit of good luck involved) and mine is currently in one of its clean phases. On the one occasion when I was caught speeding in her car, she shopped me without a second thought. But if I was on nine points and was caught by a camera, would I ask Anna to take one for the team? I regard myself as law-abiding and I would like to think that I wouldn't. But I can't say categorically. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do.
Does that mean I would be tolerant of a high-profile public servant doing it? Absolutely not. Those who make the law must obey the law without exception, or how are we ordinary Joes expected to take any of it seriously? The things that are most corrosive of faith in the legal system are where the law-makers become law-breakers and get away with it.
The last three years have afforded us many examples, none of them very edifying.
If Huhne is guilty (and from what I have seen of the evidence I think he probably is) then I hope he goes down for a long time. Pour encourager les autres, and because justice demands it. If he gets off on a technicality, or if he is found guilty but given a small fine, then look out for a million ordinary citizens doing the same thing. That can't be good.
(Footnote: if he is found guilty, what a delicious irony that the offence committed by the Minister for Climate Change was in a Toyota Pious.)