Monday, 22 August 2011

You’d better give the suckers an even chance

The recent riots in England have raised the question as to whether such a situation could unfold in New Zealand.

I would have to say that I seriously doubt it at present, but that is not to say it is something you could rule out entirely. As things stand right now, I feel it is unlikely as the ‘powers that be’ (of low wattage though they are) seem to have worked out just the right formula to keep the plebs from revolting. The method seems to be to offer just enough of a carrot from time to time so the rabbit still thinks he’s got a chance of actually getting the rest of it.

However if you don’t offer the subject something good, albeit in small measure from time to time, he will go feral and scratch you up big time. I don’t know how many of you are aware how much damage a feral bunny can do, but let’s just say the scratches are only the beginning. Once the infections kick in things get really messy, and it is that serious bacterial infection that caused the ‘rash’ of violent acts that England experienced.

Much as I can’t stand that upper class twit of a British Prime Minister; I can’t help but feel he hit the nail on the head when he said, “The greed and thuggery we saw during the riots did not come out of nowhere. There are deep problems in our society that have been growing for a long time: a decline in responsibility, a rise in selfishness, a growing sense that individual rights come before anything else."

Way to go Davey! And it’s not just the politicians and other civic leaders either!

But for a society to reach the sort of tipping point where it is cars they want to tip and not waiters, it only requires for most people to feel others are granted privileges they are not simply based upon their income or family standing.

Our society is already heavily weighted in favour of those in a position of economic or political power. Most of us accept that to a certain extent because it has been so deeply entrenched that nothing short of violent revolution is likely to completely eradicate it. And even then, as anyone who has seen the film of the Harold Robbins book, The Adventurers will know; that is no better solution than moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.

However I think even placid Kiwis will have their limits. Just how high their threshold actually is; who knows? I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying to find out, though.

And that is why we need to wipe out the sort of circling of the wagons and self interest protection that happened when 39-year-old Hawke’s Bay barrister Sacha Beacham was convicted for her third drink driving offence last week.

For those who haven’t seen it; Beacham was stopped by police because of complaints they received about how erratically she was driving. When she was breath tested she blew 561mcgs which is nearly 40 percent over the limit. I suppose I should be grateful inasmuch as this is lower reading than her last conviction and about the same as her first. In 2002 she gave a blood alcohol reading of 112 (40% over) and then in 2007 she blew 703mcgs (76% over).

Under the Government’s much publicised tinkering with the legislation we were all told that offenders would go to jail on their third drink driving offence. I hardly need add this has not been the case for Ms Beacham. She was merely fined $1200 with costs of less than $150 and disqualified from driving for 9 months. Big deal.

But wait, there’s more as they say in Infomercial-Land. She called the shots on where she was to be tried. She didn’t want to be tried in her home town where she would have to deal with Probation Services personnel who knew who she was (oh, the embarrassment!) So the judge kindly agreed to move the trial to Auckland for her. And then she didn’t even bother turning up because she heard a media application had been lodged to take pictures of her in court.

The judge expressed his annoyance at her not turning up to court, and they had to hold another hearing to complete the matter, but that doesn’t appear to be reflected in the sentence. Furthermore he denied the application from media to photograph the defendant in court.

An enterprising Fairfax photographer seems to have swiftly realised all bets were off OUTSIDE the court and managed to snap a pic of her anyway.

But I am not that bothered about whether her picture is in the paper or not. This issue is that she appears to have been treated differently to, say a beneficiary from Flaxmere who might find himself facing the same charge.

The Law society say they might investigate Ms Beacham’s suitability to continue holding a practicing certificate, although the statements they have made remain ‘theoretical’ and avoid any direct comment on this particular case.

I’m thinking they might be a bit embarrassed about it too, considering Beacham’s track record. She was first convicted in 2002. This apparently did not make her unsuitable at that stage because she was admitted to the bar in 2005.

Then in 2007 she racked up her second conviction but apparently was still suitable at that stage. Now she has this third conviction and it should also be mentioned the police laid a charge of disorderly behaviour in connection with this latest offence. However that was dropped because police said it ‘had been dealt with by means of a formal caution’. Now that might not have been anything as dramatic as an assault, but clearly she must have reacted in some way when stopped that gave rise to such a charge. Is the New Zealand Law Society going to think this is alright too?

For laws to work they have to be applied evenly and fairly and when they are not the number of those who feel no affinity with nor have any respect for society grows. That is the climate that creates riots like those in England. That is not to say that the rioters in England weren’t a bunch of rabble-rousing criminals; I’m sure most of them were. But the point is if you create an environment where the rule of law can break down; you give such people an opportunity. And if the omens are right, they’ll sure as hell take it.

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