Wednesday, November 17, 2004

More on the weird world of UK laws

A recent screening of "Alien vs. Predator" set me thinking about some of the more blatantly unfair UK laws. Not that the movie itself put me on that track - it was more the warning that came up before the movie started.

(A minor aside, for those who care - the movie itself was surprisingly watchable. The Alien and its offspring were just as gooey and disgusting and corrosively slimy as ever, and the Predator(s)... well, they were ugly too, but at least they didnt slop acid slime everywhere - and they wore helmets that hid most of their ugliness! Also, all but one of the human characters were eliminated even quicker than is standard for a horror flick!)

Anyway, getting back to what got my attention... it was a warning to the public not to make illegal copies of the movie by using a videocam, camera or other recording equipment, on pain of being banned from cinema theatres, imprisoned AND having an "unlimited fine" imposed.

Would you call that overkill for such a trivial offence? I certainly would. In the larger scheme of things, a crime such as making an illegal copy of a movie before it's available in video and DVD should be negligible - robberies, burglaries, violence and murder are FAR more deserving of really stiff punishment.

But that doesnt always happen. I recently read about a case where two (rich) men who were racing each other in their cars down a single-lane country road hit a motorcyclist and pillion rider coming the other way. The pillion rider, the motorcyclist's bride of three months, was killed. The motorcyclist himself lost both legs. The merry racers were sentenced to 6 years imprisonment - which, according to me, is nowhere near enough. That wasnt the worst bit, though.

The worst was when a bleeding heart judge cut their sentence by two years because he felt that it had been "unduly harsh". He said the two men had "shown sufficient remorse" and what was more, they were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. No kidding. My heart just melted with sympathy for the suffering of those unlucky, irresponsible rich boys - NOT! Nowhere in the article was there a mention of the poor man who had lost his wife AND both his legs. What about the suffering and stress that he underwent? Nobody seemed to care.

There was another case in 1999, which might be more well-known - concerning Tony Martin, a farmer who was jailed for killing a teenage burglar and wounding another when three of them broke into his isolated farmhouse. It didnt seem to matter to the prosecution that Tony Martin was defending his home, that he had been burgled more than 7 times, and that all the burglars had previous offences. Instead of being commended for having rid the world of a repeat offender and temporarily incapacitated another, the farmer was actually arrested - and imprisoned - for murder! If the farmer had been killed instead, I doubt the burglars would have been prosecuted with half as much fervour.

The mother of Fred Barras, the teenage burglar who was killed, defended her only son's activities by saying something to the effect that he only turned to crime didnt have much to do and that he had a "heart of gold", he was a boy "who would never steal from family". What a gem!

As for Brendan Fearon, the 33-year-old burglar who was injured in the legs and groin - he actually sued Tony Martin for "loss of income" and because he couldnt function properly as a man any more. Isnt that just the final irony - a burglar who has never had a proper legal job, suing a hard-working farmer for "loss of income"? Yet the authorities didnt seem to find this strange. As for Fearon's - hopefully permanent - impotence... that's all for the good! Who needs another potential burglar in this world?

To top it off, Tony Martin was at first denied early release because of the risk he posed to Britain's burglars. Yes, really! Talk about screwed up... an innocent man kept in jail so that burglars could go about their business in safety.

And here are some more "cant-do"s based on the human rights of criminals (my husband says it's all true):

- Householders cannot use barbed wire or pieces of glass on the top of even high compound walls because those could cause injury. As I see it, only those with criminal intent would be injured... any normal honest person wouldnt think of trying to climb over people's walls, right? However, there's an exception - every foot of the compound walls of Buckingham Palace is covered with four-five rows of outcurving, dangerous razor wire. I guess Royalty has more right to security than the common people.

- If a householder has a security dog inside the house or yard, but does not have a visible warning board to that effect, any burglar who is injured by it while trying to burgle, has the right to sue the householder. The householder could also be arrested for possessing an undisclosed "dangerous dog". And the dog, of course, would have to be put down for doing its job.

- If a householder were to electrify the windows/walls on the upper floor of his house, and a burglar were to get a shock and fall, thereby injuring himself, the householder could be arrested for manslaughter. If the burglar died, it would be a murder case. Never mind that only somebody with unlawful intentions would be trying to enter a home from the top floor or the roof!

Apparently you cant even have security measures inside your house that might injure the uninvited nocturnal visitor. If you do, you have to put up warnings. Why not just lay out the red carpet for thieves and burglars, then? With large-scale maps of the house's contents and big arrows pointing out the way (in case they cant read). That would ensure that criminals dont get hurt while going about their unlawful business.

Human rights activists tend to get on my nerves when they go to great lengths to support the rights of criminals. What about the rights of those who have been mugged, burgled, beaten up, murdered? Why isnt there a VOCAL human rights group that demands severe punishment for criminals, that takes up the fight on behalf of victims who cant prosecute because they're dead? Human rights... hah!

To my mind, anybody who deliberately breaks the law should automatically forfeit some or all of his/her human rights prerogatives, in the eyes of the law. And that should be that. But I dont suppose that would be implemented anywhere but in Utopia. And then again, Utopia wouldnt have crime, would it?


Harish said...

Mr. Bumble was right! The law is an ass!!

As an aside, here's something that I noticed..
The colours of your posts seem to match the mood it was written in.

Your rants about UK laws and the guy who "did" 10 countries in 12 days were blue.
The humourous stories had u tickled pink.
The post on the samosas was fried Golden Brown. :)
And every alternate post is in a colour which I suspect is the default for ur template.

If you hadn't noticed it yourself, meet Curses - Resident Blog Psycho.. chi.. psychologist.
If the colours were intentional, hey, I deserve an applause anyways! :)

harry said...

hey shyamala..well thought and analytical article..i thought only Indian laws were bad it seems like britain's is no way superior..