Monday, December 17, 2007

Darwin Awards

The Bad and the Ugly

News that John Darwin, seemingly the architect of a scam to extract money from an insurance company by pretending to be dead, has been remanded in custody should come as no surprise to enlightened observers of the English legal system.

Quick recap. John and his wife have swindled an insurance company and the government out of a considerable sum of money. On the plus side – no-one has been seriously hurt. No-one is dead. No-one is ill, destitute or dying as a result of what is, at the bottom line, a fairly amateur attempt to perpetrate fraud.

John should appear very soon on the Darwin Awards web site.

The Darwin Awards are given to folks who generously remove themselves from the gene pool in order to help promulgate the rest of the species – who are, by definition, nowhere near as stupid as the recipients.

In the meantime his case neatly demonstrates two important points regarding the English judicial system. Point one: if you are accused of a crime which involves allegations of stealing money from the state, you will be persecuted to the rigour of the law. Point two: if you are so accused, your chances of obtaining bail are nil.

Neither of these points are very sensible or very fair.

If we contrast Darwin's misdemeanors with some other of society's miscreants, it might prove instructional. For example, get drunk, mow down a few innocent pedestrians and attempt to evade arrest and you will get into trouble. How much? Depends. You might get a jail term of a few years. With good behaviour you could be out in 18 months. Most certainly you will not be remanded in custody whilst the police make inquiries.

Lose the entire DHSS data base by posting it to your granny in Inverness and you will not even be named, much less blamed. “Systemic failure” in the system will probably pick up the tab for that one.

The English have a curious ambivalence towards a “fiddle” Whilst deploring it in public, in private everyone secretly loves a rogue. Robin Hood. Alfie. John Stonehouse. George Best. The list is long.

But, when the rogue in question defrauds the state, it's another story. Just a s likely, after a long period on remand, a short trial and a swift sentence, you will find your self examining the Scrubs – from the inside and for a fairly long time.

Not only is this not very fair, it's a waste of police time, court time, my time and your time, not to mention our money. Mr Darwin, if convicted, should not go to jail. He should have to pay back the money. Turning what is a crazy human interest story into a cause celelbre' is silly – if not downright criminal.

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