Showing posts with label law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label law. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What is crime? What is law?

 Crime is an inevitable outgrowth of capitalism. The ideology of the cash nexus between man and man are the prime social incentives to crime.

A criminal is literally a person accused and convicted of being harmful to society. But is he really harmful to society than the old gent in the wig who pronounces sentence upon him? A crime is an act forbidden by the law of the land all laws devised by the strongest force in a community, and in the last analysis, made for the protection of the dominant class. This means that law has not been evolved to protect society but rather a tool developed through the class struggle used to protect that class which dominates the State. Within propertied society the law’s most important task is to protect the right of possession; that is why by far the largest class of crimes may be called crimes against property. One of the first rules of capitalist society is that where people offend against the laws of property the solution is to punish them into submission.

 Criminality continues to grow, and the punishments inflicted, though they can neither protect nor indemnify the honest, only succeed in corrupting and degrading. Crime is mounting, bred by the miseries of  capitalism and the great majority of crimes are motivated by inferior economic position, by elementary need. Crime policy has little to do with reducing crime or protecting the public, and much more to do with controlling economically deprived sections of the population, providing an ideological diversion from more serious problems.

There are criminals and there are criminals. Society rests on private property. Go to the county estate owner and listen and you will soon think the poacher is the embodiment of all diabolical vices while the poacher invariably and rightly regards the land-owner as the emissary of the evil one!  In the  past the land was held in common and there is abundant evidence that all early human communities were communistic in character. The man who attempted to retain for himself land or goods, or who fenced off a portion of the common ground was a criminal of the deepest dye.  Nevertheless these criminals have clawed their way to the top and have become the respectable members of modern society. The poacher asserting a right  belonging to a past time is condemned as anti-social! A poacher may be an outside the law but he preserves the mentality of honest people.

The gangsters of the Al Capone type merely expresses the dominant  power, afflicted with the drives of the capitalist but without the sanction of social superiority and acceptance. Anti-social behavior remains anti-social, whether it be called the individual initiative of the millionaire or the racketeering of a mobster. “This American system of ours, call it Americanism, call it capitalism, call it what you will, gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it”  Al Capone has been quoted as saying and elsewhere he said “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class” Al Capone

It cannot be denied, of course, that the causes of crime are many and varied. But to lump all possible factors together indiscriminately is to obscure an elementary truth. Broken homes, family tensions, slum areas, gang activities, unemployment and insufficient income, lack of recreational facilities, poor educational methods and opportunities – all these things are indubitably involved in the creation of the criminal.  This is just another way of saying: Capitalism causes crime. For what are all these “complex” factors but aspects of our bourgeois culture? What are they but  illustrations of an outmoded system of private property?

The materialist viewpoint is invaluable because it shows us the interrelation of causes; it makes clear which factors are primary, which derivative; it explains how various elements are intertwined in a dynamic cultural pattern. The Marxist does not insist that all crimes are economic in character (although the evidence indicates that the great majority of crimes are such) ; we do, however, make it plain that the economic structure of society determines the cultural facts which orthodox theorists hold are non-economic in essence. Is the broken home a contributing factor in the origin of crime? Very well, but is not the broken home a manifestation of the conflict of capitalist culture, particularly prevalent in those unprivileged areas where unemployment, etc., inevitably disrupt normal family relations? Are slum clearance and housing projects important? Quite so: but the slum is an inevitable product of capitalist development, and the utopianism of hoping to achieve adequate housing under an outmoded system of private property is evident from what has come out of the none-too-laudable housing schemes. Poor educational opportunities, lack of recreational facilities – what are these but proof-by-example of class oppression? Mere enumeration of possible causes is not enough; what is necessary is a social theory which indicates which factors are basic, which of a reflex or secondary nature. The Marxian analysis, which relates cultural factors to the economic bedrock of society, makes it clear that the social scientists who enumerate multitudinous factors as isolated causes are guilty of the therapeutic error of symptom treatment: they are attempting to cope with factors (education, housing, unemployment, etc.) which are on the periphery of social reality. The primary fact is capitalist class society, organised on the basis of private property and private profit; from this basic economic fact flow the surface evils with which muddled sociologists are preoccupied.

The socialist recognises that in our class society, with the controlling social stratum enabled through its monopoly of the means of production to exploit the non-owning groups in the interests of its own material profit, there exists a fundamental clash of interests, which takes overt form in such phenomena as strikes, revolutions – and criminal acts. All of these expressions of class conflict represent, more or less directly, an attack upon the right of private property by the non-owning, or working class. Individual criminal acts are products of direct economic oppression, or of attitudes and sentiments engendered by class divisions, or of both.  Crime and organised revolt, then, are but two expressions, the former primitive and futile, the latter conscious and purposeful, of the same fundamental class conflict. This conflict grows out of the the competitive principle of private property, exercised in the interests of a minority.  The development o capitalism has produced the widest extremes of wealth and poverty; created enormous slum districts and underprivileged areas; wars in every generation; and formulated a most elaborate system of checks and restraints upon individual and social conduct and all the time while lawlessness and crime have been ever increasing because the sacred interests of private profit is leaving people in a condition of insecurity which sooner or later resolve themselves in revolt, or assert themselves in criminal behavior. More and more repressive laws have been created, more and more agencies of enforcement established. Criminal threats upon property rights must be prevented by the principle of deterrence through fear. Capitalist society  necessitates an ever-increasing degree the policing of the lower class by the agents of the ruling class.

 The socialist movement has the  power to put an end to the system responsible for the deprivation and poverty which give rise to crime in the first place. Socialists seek to abolish the present machinery of so-called justice, with all its painful and inhuman aspects, but we do not want to replace it with either total individual liberty to do as one wishes or the crowd’s summary justice of the lynch-mob. Socialists  are usually blamed for the vagueness  of our proposals to solve the most painful social problem as soon as it comes to dealing with the problem of reconstruction and practical life in the future society. However, it is not up to the Socialist Party to fix the future beforehand, but rather to simply guarantee the conditions of freedom necessary for the social evolution to eventually secure the greatest well-being and the greatest material, spiritual and intellectual development for all. We do not boast that we possess absolute truth, good for all times, universally applicable, or determinable in advance, but that instead, once freedom has been secured, mankind will go forward discovering and acting gradually with the least number of upheavals and with a minimum of friction. Thus our solutions always leave the door open to different and, one hopes, better solutions. In the interest of public safety it is useful that railwaymen, for instance, specialise in their job and doctors for example  entirely devote themselves to their skills. But we need not permit  someone to be a  judge by profession. Everybody should take care of social defence, in the same way in which everybody promptly helps when disaster strikes. If people do not feel sufficiently protected by the public, no doubt they immediately call for the policeman. Therefore, the only way of preventing the policeman from existing is to make him useless by replacing him in those functions that constitute a real protection for the public.

Let people remember that among the most hideous crimes are the millions of deaths by slow starvation during the first years of a child life.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Law for the rich, another for the poor

Both the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland have criticised the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill. The Faculty of Advocates warned that the reform will create a system where those who can afford it receive the best legal representation, while those on legal aid will suffer.

People relying on legal aid would automatically be represented by an advocate in the Court of Session, but in the sheriff court that would only happen in “exceptional” cases, it claimed. The faculty said in a statement:
“The effect of these combined measures will, in the view of the faculty, fundamentally undermine both access to justice and equality of representation...The proposal would in effect deprive individuals on low and moderate incomes and SMEs [small and medium sized businesses] with serious cases, of the right and ability to instruct an advocate. This aspect of the proposal would favour wealthy and corporate litigants, who can afford to instruct counsel, over ordinary people and would create inequality in the justice system.” (our emphasis)

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Saudi justice

24-year-old Ali al-Khawahir will be deliberately paralysis for stabbing his friend in the back 10 years ago unless he pays his victim 1m Saudi riyals (£177,000) in compensation. diyya, blood money is paid instead of the implementation of qisas – legal retribution. Originally, the religious prescription to seek diyya in lieu of punishment was seen as a way of preventing bad blood fomenting between communities and encouraging compromise. In the modern age it commodifies justice, where the price of crime is arbitrarily determined by the state. An eye for an eye … unless you can afford to be spared. In an another case in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, a father sexually molested and murdered his five-year-old daughter, but avoided jail by paying money to her mother. It has become a way for the rich and the powerful to purchase impunity.

You called (Saudi Arabia) a friend of the civilised world.

It is. In my view, what it is doing in respect of the Middle East now...

It chops people's arms off. It tortures people.

They have their culture, their way of life."

 And we have larned never to bite the hand that feeds us!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Victimised atheism

The latest census reveals that in the UK respondents with no religion was up 10 points to 25%. A detailed survey in 2012 revealed that religious people make up 59% of the world population, while those who identify as “atheist” make up 13%, and an additional 23% identify as “not religious” (while not self-identifying as “atheist”).

Many countries criminalize manifestations of atheist convictions or skeptical thoughts. In prosecuting these “crimes” it may not be necessary to accuse the person of atheism. Many states prosecute people who express their religious doubts or dissent regardless of whether those dissenters identify as atheist. More commonly, secular people experience discrimination when they manifest their conscience by acting against the dictates of the religion of their family, community or country. In some societies allegations of religious dissent are manufactured for use against minority belief communities, or vulnerable individuals, or to settle personal vendettas. A handful of countries criminalize atheism per se. In addition, there are several forms of legal measures found across many countries that either criminalize the expression of atheist beliefs or result in systematic discrimination against atheists and those who reject religion. These include laws regulating:
• Apostasy and religious conversion
• Blasphemy and religious criticism
• Compulsory religious registration, usually with a list of permissible religions
• Religious tests for citizenship or participation in civic life
• Religious control of family law
• Religious control of public education.

Atheists in at least seven countries can be executed for their lack of religious belief and suffer persecution or discrimination in many other parts of the world. Expression of atheist views can bring capital punishment in Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

In a range of other countries -- such as Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait and Jordan -- publication of atheist or humanist views on religion are totally banned or strictly limited under laws prohibiting "blasphemy." In Greece and Russia, the Orthodox Church is fiercely protected from criticism and is given pride of place on state occasions

 In others like Malaysia, atheists have to register as adherents of a small number of officially-recognized religion. Atheists are thereby forced to lie to obtain official documents without which it is impossible to go to university, receive medical treatment, travel abroad or drive.

In Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin and North America, countries which identify themselves as secular give privileges to or favor Christian churches in providing education and other public services.

In Britain the 26 most senior Church of England  Bishops are automatically granted membership in the House of Lords – the upper chamber of Parliament – where they have the right to speak and vote on all legislation. They acquired this right solely by virtue of their position in the hierarchy of one particular denomination of one particular Church. They are unaccountable to the public.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Drug Legalisation?

The Home Affairs Committee recently released a report on drugs use in Britain. After a year of research the committee concluded that "the international drugs control policy has failed to curtail consumption," and that our government should consider a major shift in policy.

In 2005 (largely based on 2003 data) the UN estimated that the illegal drug trade is worth more than $320 billion, 0.9 per cent of global GDP. According to the UN 2012 World Drug Report the total retail market for cocaine amounts to some $85 billion and the opiate market amounts to some $68 billion (figures for 2009).  According to IMF data, a nation with a net worth equivalent to that of the global drugs industry would be the 34th largest economy in the world, just above Denmark and below Venezuela. Scotland's GDP is $177 billion

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Legal Class Struggle

Defence lawyers are protesting against a change to the legal aid system contained in the Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance Bill, which will not only force anyone with a disposable income of more than £68 a week to contribute to the cost of their representation in summary cases, but will make lawyers responsible for collecting the money. "Due to the nature of criminal law, a huge number of the people you are dealing with have substance abuse problems, alcohol problems, mental health problems or learning difficulties,” says Cameron Tait, the president of the Edinburgh Bar Association “Trying to get these people to play ball, to turn up at court and to engage with the criminal justice system can be difficult enough, but when you are trying to get them to pay part of a fee they can’t afford, it’s going to cause an impossible situation. The underlying point is that the Scottish Government knows most of these contributions will not be paid and they want the profession to take the hit." Unlike in England, those contributions will not be refunded in the event of an acquittal.

Andrew Houston of McSporrans explained “We are concerned that people on relatively modest incomes are going to have to make that contribution in straitened economic times,” Houston says. “Will they think: ‘Instead of paying I’ll just plead guilty to get it over and done with’? Then they’d be forfeiting the right to challenge the prosecution.”

If defence lawyers decide it is no longer worth their while to take on summary legal aid cases, those accused of crimes will either have to defend themselves or be represented by the Public Defence ­Solicitors Office. The problem with that is the PDSO is run by the state, it’s not independent – so you would have the situation where the state was prosecuting and effectively the state was defending as well and that is not a fair and equal system of justice. Reports also suggest that more guilty pleas are proferred by PDSO clients.

14 firms in Scotland last year received more than £1m in legal aid payments and reports showing the country’s legal aid bill is higher than that of Italy, a country with a population of 61 million, it’s little wonder people find it difficult to believe they are motivated by anything other than concerns for their own profit margins. Scandals involving lawyers who have made “false” or “excessive” claims have helped perpetuate the image of legal aid as a giant racket. Law Society president Austin Lafferty accepted the industrial action was a “hard-sell”. “People don’t think of lawyers being any kind of deserving case,” he said. “But the moment you get a call from the police saying your 19-year-old son has been caught up in a fight and he’s going to be in a police cell until Monday, when he’ll be in court charged with breach of the peace, then we are one of the emergency services – then you want the best lawyer you can get.”

While defence lawyers are aware the public sees them as belonging to the wealthiest section of society, they claim the cuts mean that – when it comes to summary cases (which make up the bulk of their work) – they may be paid a lower hourly rate than a plumber. Defence lawyers receive a fixed rate of £485 in the sheriff court and £295 in the district court, which covers all preparation and court attendances up to and including the first half hour of any trial (their fee is halved if their client later changes his plea to guilty). Every time a case is adjourned they lose out because they are being paid a fixed fee. On the first day of the trial the lawyer is paid just £100 in the sheriff court. The daily rate rises if the trial runs to a second or third day but few do. The fee was frozen from 1998 to 2008 and then cut to the £485 figure. Few professions anywhere that has had a pay freeze for a decade followed by a pay cut.

Cameron Tait said  “There are proposals to shut down sheriff courts around the country, so people in rural areas will have to travel far to get to court, the Procurator Fiscal’s office is understaffed and underfinanced – ­justice is in crisis.”
Oliver Adair, the Law Society’s Legal Aid convener says the non-payment of legal aid contributions will disproportionately affect rural firms which are already operating on tight profit margins and don’t have the volume of the business to make up for any loss of revenue. If those firms go to the wall, people in rural areas will find it more difficult to find representation.

Not only have they been asked to stomach a succession of cuts but they are being ignored on matters of fundamental importance, such as whether or not the need for corroboration – the historic requirement for two separate sources of evidence to secure a conviction – should be scrapped.

Tait believes if lawyers don’t take a stand now, the weakest people will suffer most. “We need to protect the independent criminal bar because we are the safety net for the most vulnerable people in society – people who can’t speak up for themselves, people who can’t represent themselves,” he says. “That’s such an important part of the criminal justice and such an important part of democracy as a whole – and it’s being eroded.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Even the lawyers are striking

Lawyers in Edinburgh caused chaos in a court as they staged a walkout in a dispute over changes to the legal aid system.

Anyone with more than £68 of disposable income each week or with £750 in the bank will be expected to pay all or part of the cost of their defence in court under the plans, designed to cut £3.9 million a year from Scotland's legal aid bill. Solicitors say the move will risk miscarriages of justice and deny access to legal representation for all.

Edinburgh Bar Association and Glasgow Bar Association have already voted to take industrial action over the issue and in the first round of action, members at Edinburgh Sheriff Court walked out of the custody court at 11.45am yesterday and protested outside.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bigoted law

In updated guidance to police, Frank Mullholland, Lord Advocate, Scotland’s most senior prosecutor, has warned singing or chanting songs which “glorify, celebrate or mock events involving the loss of life” should be viewed as offensive. The ten-page report also says that “flags, banners, songs or chants in support of terrorist organisations” are “likely to be offensive”. Songs “which promote or celebrate violence against another person’s religion, culture or heritage” are also “likely to be offensive”, according to Mulholland. It is understood Mulholland’s guidance outlaws songs like the Billy Boys, The Boys Of The Old Brigade, the so-called Famine Song, and the chant “Ooh Ah, Up The Ra”, which is sung by Celtic supporters. Where the song is religiously prejudiced the relevant aggravation will be libelled.

Socialist Courier wonders just how many countries national anthems fall under that classification. "But we can still rise now And be the nation again!" A call for rebellion in Flower of Scotland? And verse 6 of God Save the Queen? "Lord grant that Marshal Wade, May by thy mighty aid, Victory bring, May he sedition hush And like a torrent rush, Rebellious Scots to crush"

Hibs fans Andrew Whitson and Paul Swanbecame the first people to be convicted under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act last week when they admitted singing songs that were “of a racially derogative nature” on a train between Ayr and Glasgow. They were fined a combined £380.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

who owns the sea-side?

Socialist Courier reads that MPs on Westminster’s Scottish affairs committee recommend that the Crown Estate Commissioners, the body responsible half of Scotland’s coast and almost all the seabed should be stripped of the role and control of the coast handed back to the local communities.

“The point is to conserve these assets and maximise the benefits to the island and coastal communities most closely involved with them.The only way this can be done is by devolving as much of the responsibility – and benefit – down to those local communities as possible.”

Socialist Courier previously but briefly touched upon this subject when it highlighted the continued existence of the Viking-derived Udal law found in Shetland. Scottish Courts have acknowledged the supremacy of Udal law in property cases and in particular about shore ownership rights, where it declared that the Shetland community owns the sea and seabed around its isles. The Crown Estate had to admit the supremacy of Udal Law.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Justice for all?

Legal experts have raised concerns about a lack of justice over health and safety failures.

Only 3% of complaints ever lead to a prosecution or enforcement notice in Scotland. The number of cases recommended for prosecution has fallen by nearly 50% in two years.

One in three deaths at work is not scrutinised by a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) , despite being mandatory by law. The cases that do result in an FAI, they take an average of 30 months to set up. In one-third of instances, it took three to four years for an FAI to be held. None took under a year.

Patrick McGuire
, of the major personal injury specialists, Thompsons Solicitors Scotland, said: "Breaching health and safety legislation is a crime but is not treated with the seriousness it deserves. For as long as the perception remains that this is not a 'proper crime' that devastates lives, the effectiveness of health and safety legislation will not be maximised. Disregarding people's safety at work or anywhere is a serious offence. It deserves the most serious enforcement measures possible."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

one law for the poor , another for the rich

Ten years after legislation banned the blood-sport forever, fox-hunting still goes on.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act was passed – in the teeth of furious opposition led by the Scottish Countryside Alliance – on 13 February, 2002. The legislation outlawed the hunting of wild mammals with dogs, but made some exceptions. It is legal to use dogs to flush a fox from cover in order for it to then be shot, so long as this is done as a form of pest-control. The act further states that no offence is committed if the dog kills the fox during the course of this activity, in other words if it was not the intention of the huntsman that the dogs should do so.

These loopholes have allowed fox hunting to continue in Scotland. Hunts now present themselves as pest-control operations offering a service to farmers. The packs of hounds, followed by riders, chase the fox towards waiting gunmen who attempt to shoot it. If the fox is killed by the hounds before it runs towards the guns then that is regarded as an accident and therefore within the law. Hounds are also used to kill foxes that have been wounded by the gunmen or are otherwise seriously injured or diseased.

Trevor Adams, huntsman with the Duke of Buccleuch’s Hunt for the last 23 years, suggests that of all the foxes killed by his hunt, one third are dispatched by hounds. However, as a result of the introduction of guns, many more are now killed than before the change in law; in the case of the Buccleuch, it is thought that up to three times as many foxes now die in a season. This means that roughly the same number of foxes are being killed by hounds as before the ‘ban’, and there is no reason to believe that the Buccleuch is unrepresentative. Indeed, the protocol on how to hunt foxes within the new law was developed by the Buccleuch and endorsed by the Master of Fox Hounds Association, the governing body for fox hunting in the UK. The new approach was then tested in court when – in 2004 – Trevor Adams became the first person to be prosecuted and the first to be acquitted under the new law.

The Duke of Buccleuch’s hunt is the largest in Scotland, covering a huge area from west of Hawick to east of Kelso, from the foothills of the Cheviots to the bottom of the Lammermuirs. The hunt essentially belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch, the UK’s biggest landowner, and it is no surprise to see the Duchess of Roxburgh go trotting by on a white horse, or to notice one of the foot followers tip his cap to her. The Buccleuch Hunt has a membership of around 150, the majority of whom are mounted; the remainder follow the hunt on foot. Riders pay subscriptions ranging from £300 to £1,000 per season, depending on how many days they intend to hunt. One might pay £5,000 for a horse, £150 each week for stabling, plus additional costs for equipment, clothes, transport, and for the farrier. It isn’t cheap.

Although fox hunting is presented as a form of pest control, few if any of the riders with the Buccleuch – or, surely, with the other hunts – pay their annual subscriptions because they want to help farmers protect their hens. Trevor Adams is quite open about it. “We are very definitely in the entertainment business,” he says.

The landed rich cannot conceive that their will cannot run untrammelled. The attempts of the rich and the powerful to maintain their power over making the rules and laws of society is an affront that serves to illustrate how shallow democracy under capitalism really is.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

one law for the rich ...

The millionaire owner of the House of Bruar retail complex escaped a driving ban and was allowed to stay on the road despite now having 14 points on his licence after persuading a court it would cause him exceptional hardship. Birkbeck claimed he would be forced to sack staff at the shopping complex if he was banned from the road as no-one else in the company was capable of buying the goods on display at the upmarket shopping centre. He was fined £300.

Birkbeck was driving a £70,000, 3.6 litre Range Rover Vogue TDV8 when he was detected by police speeding at 90mph on the M90 motorway.

“If he is disqualified for six months there will be a large number of redundancies at House of Bruar...He would have no option but to let people go – breadwinners who live in the local area." Solicitor David McKie, defending, said.

Actually, to Socialist Courier, that sounds very much like blackmail.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Not legal eagles but legal vultures

Two solicitors who took millions of pounds from compensation payouts given to sick miners have been struck off.
The Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard the men acted "unacceptably" by charging clients even though the government was paying their fees.
Beresford, 58, said last year to be Britain's highest-earning solicitor, and Smith, 52, made millions of pounds from personal injury claims for miners under the government's coal health compensation scheme. Tribunal chairman David Leverton said: "If ever there was a group of persons who needed the full care and attention from solicitors, it was these miners. Mr Beresford described himself as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, his attitude allowed himself and Mr Smith to put commercial goals before his clients' best interests."
The lawyers were also accused of not giving adequate advice and entering into contingency fee deals against their clients' best interests.The tribunal heard that up to 30% of a miner's damages could be deducted by Beresfords. In one case, the firm deducted a "success fee" from the widow of a miner, leaving her with a total payout of just £217.73, the tribunal heard.
Beresford and Smith's joint earnings went from more than £182,000 in 2000 to £23,273,256 in 2006.
Perhaps , Socialist Courier wouldn't go as far as Shakespeare's "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" but we are sorely tempted .

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The police and the class war

Scotland's rank and file police are to call for the right to strike, currently denied them by law.
Members of the Scottish Police Federation , representing ranks up to chief constable, will debate the issue at their annual conference.

Police are prohibited by law from striking. The nearest they came to industrial action was a demonstration last year when 22,000 off-duty officers south of the Border protested over the pay deal they had been given. Many officers believe not being able to strike means they enter pay negotiations at a disadvantage and there is an increasing feeling within the federation that pay levels have been slipping.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

...Names will never hurt me

Two of Socialist Courier contributers felt the need to comment on recent health and safety statistics and the rise in deaths at work .

Why increase the expenditure on safety? It cuts profits and capitalism hates that! said RD

The Sunday Herald carries a story with much the same conclusion concerning the weakness of the recently passed legislation governing "corporate killing", which has just received Royal Assent and is expected to become law within months.

In the UK, between 1966 and 2006, more than 40,000 people have been killed in work-related circumstances, according to Gary Slapper, professor of Law at the Open University. 40,000 deaths .

But under the common law of culpable homicide (or manslaughter in England), only 34 companies were prosecuted and only seven convictions were secured. In Scotland, only one company has ever been prosecuted for corporate homicide - utility firm Transco for the Larkhall gas explosion, caused by a leaking main, which killed Andrew and Janette Findlay and their two children in their house in December 1999. Although the company was eventually fined £15 million in 2005 for breaching health and safety laws, the homicide charge failed because, given the disperse communication channels of large companies, the court could not find a "controlling mind" or pin the blame on one senior figure who knew enough to be liable.

The new legislation removes the requirement to find a "controlling mind." Now, it must only be shown that someone in senior management was guilty of "gross negligence". YET , under the new legislation, there are no extra duties that directors must adhere to. The maximum penalties are the same as under existing health and safety laws.

Courts will now also be able to order the company to publicise any conviction. The reputational damage and stigma is thought most likely to act as a deterrent and encourage directors to take health and safety concerns more seriously.

Patrick Maguire, legal adviser to the Scottish TUC who was also a member of the Scottish Executive's expert panel , however interprets the new law as one that simply finds new scapegoats .
"...the need to identify the "controlling mind" has simply been replaced by the need to find a senior management who committed "gross negligence"...It is not the board of directors that makes these decisions on health and safety. They delegate the task to middle and lower management. They are going to say the guy who got it wrong was not a senior manager "

A Labour regime that purports to be "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime", exempts business from this treatment.

Voicing what the capitalist class thinks - and echoing the words of RD that the a central concern with any proposal which could mean stricter laws coming into force in Scotland, would scare businesses away , David Watt, director of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, said: "We don't have different company law across the UK. We don't want bits and pieces of company law pulled out and made more punitive in Scotland. We need all the incentives we can for people to do business here."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Crime Pays for Some

A junior barrister was handed more than £1 million in legal aid last year, it was revealed yesterday. Balbir Singh, head of Birmingham’s Equity Chambers, was paid £1,116,000 in 2005/06.

The second-highest paid was Nigel Lithman, QC, who received £978,000 in legal aid, followed by John C. Rees, QC, with £947,000.

Four of the 10 top-earning criminal barristers were from the same chambers: 2 Bedford Row in London. Mr Lithman, William Clegg, QC, Jim Sturman, QC and Howard Godfrey, QC had a combined pay-out of £3.3 million.

Tuckers Solicitors was the highest paid criminal firm, receiving £8.5 million in the year from the legal aid purse. They were followed by Irwin Mitchell (£5.3 million) and Burton Copeland (£5 million).

In a separate list of community legal service firms - carrying out non-criminal work - the highest paid was Duncan Lewis Solicitors with just under £7 million, followed by Irwin Mitchell with £5.2 million.

The law is an instrument of the owning class, that pretends to be for everyone, but is only for the rich. It's an instrument of class domination.

Shakespeare's Henry VI — “First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers” - Perhaps , on reflection that maybe a sanction a little bit too severe .