Friday, 5 March 2010

Brain pain.

I am not a legal expert so this post at Longrider's is making my head hurt. It concerns the wife of a bomb-plotter, arrested and taken to court because the CPS thought she must have known what her husband was up to, and she didn't tell police. She insists she could not have told police information she didn't know.

Fortunately the jury acquitted her, otherwise things could get very 1984 indeed.

Suppose I'm in a pub and some pissed-up oaf says he's beaten up an old lady. Suppose there was such an incident recently. Do I call the police? He might be full of crap, trying to sound like some tough criminal whereas his real job is measuring the spacing between lampposts or something like that. On balance, I would probably report it if it coincided with a real incident, but probably not if there was nothing to suggest it really happened. If he was just talking rubbish then, if nothing else, it'll put him off talking rubbish again. If he really did beat up the old lady and I didn't report it, I would feel worse. So I would.

Suppose that same pissed-up oaf says he is going to beat up an old lady? Do I report that? No crime has actually been committed and although he has stated an intent, he's a pissed-up lardass and we know such people are always making threats and never doing anything about them. Reporting him for thoughtcrime is a step too far for me. So I wouldn't.

What's my position in those two situations?

There's been a real beating-up, someone tells me they did it, I'm convinced enough to report it. I'm in the clear whether he did it or not. I'm just reporting what he told me.

There's been a real beating-up, someone tells me they did it, police ask me whether I know who did it and I say no. If he did it and I deliberately lie to cover it up, I am an accessory after the fact. Clear enough.

There's been a real beating-up, someone tells me they did it, I think he's full of crap and don't report it. Turns out he did do it. What's my position? Should I report every pub crime-brag just in case? The police could get sick of the sight of me very quickly.

There's been a real beating up, someone I know did it but I'm not aware of it. He is arrested and so am I. As a regular drinking companion, I must have known. I say I didn't. The CPS charge me as an accessory anyway. How can they possibly prove I knew about the crime and the criminal before they told me about it? How do I prove I didn't?

Worse, there's been no crime committed but the police have evidence of a conspiracy to commit some serious crime by a friend of mine. I'm arrested because they think I must have known. I didn't. How do I prove I didn't know something before the police informed me of it? Remember, nothing has actually happened, it's a plot the police have uncovered. I am arrested for not reporting it.

That seems to be the position this woman was in and it's dangerous territory. There is no way to prove whether or not I already knew because once the police tell me, I do know. Whether I knew before they told me is the question and that's getting into the supernatural.

How does the law work on this? Where does this assumption of possession of information end? If a second cousin twice removed once considered blowing up a tea shop, should I be expected to read their minds and report this?

I have no idea whether any of my friends are plotting to kidnap the Dreadful Arnott or the Dumb Shenker and entertain them with a potato peeler and a bag of salt. If they are and I don't report them, is not knowing the existence of the plot a robust enough defence? It surely must be.

How to prove it though?


Old Holborn said...

seen this?

JuliaM said...

"How does the law work on this?"

Well, if they keep everyone off balance, and asking themselves questions like this, I'd say 'rather well'. For them...

watching said...

I now know you are thinking your friends may be going to entertain a person with a potato peeler and a bag of salt so I am now duty bound to inform the nearest Plod. PCSO or litter inspector that a person I don't know is aware of these things. Perhaps we should have a "let's all ring crimestoppers weekend".

Smoke and mirrors.
The state seems to be pushing the envelope, as it always has, but the god called the internet doesn't let them do it in secret.

Get over to Ranty's place and watch the Schaeffer Cox videos. There is another way.

Anonymous said...

The defense is that council workers never makes mistakes...

however on the same site this article pops up!

so which is it?

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

I would suggest, if the person is a public-sector employee, dob them in. Otherwise, otherwise.

After all, if they are council employees or civil servants, they are ipso facto embezzlers anyway.

Dave H said...

Even if she had been found guilty, surely 'not doing something' isn't very high up the legal culpability scale.

Moral guilt isn't the same thing, I just don't think it's right that the law should strive to punish inaction.

After all, how would the legal profession itself survive the criminalisation of inactivity?

(Especially not a day after news that the same system of justice lets a guilty-as-hell, half-a-dozen-serious-offence-committing scrote off the hook)

Anonymous said...

Leg Iron,

This is nothing new. The laws concerning "accessory before the fact" and "accessory after the fact" have been in existence for centuries.

Essentially, it comes down to whether the jury believes (beyond a reasonable doubt) that you had information that someone was about to commit a serious crime and you did not contact the police about it, but instead allowed the crime to proceed.

An accessory after the fact is someone who knows that a crime has been committed and assists in hiding the person concerned, or assists in covering it up.

The thing is, historically accessory crimes were only punishable when the actual crime was very serious (murder, rape, armed robbery, etc.).

Given that criminal idiots are known to brag about how they're "gonna kill da paper boy 'cause 'e got a funny 'ead", courts normally require a pretty solid chain of evidence to even let a jury hear an accessory case.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, all assuming that the jury system survives. The government is trying to destroy it. And so is the EU.

Then what?

You're guilty if they don't like you.

Leg-iron said...

OH - Dick Puddlecote beat me to that one.

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