I’ve had a bit of a disagreement with several twitterers and FaceBook people over my views on Huhne’s potential custodial sentence. It seems that it’s pretty automatic for anyone convicted of perverting the course of justice to be sent down to meet Mr Big who runs D Wing and hands out the extra-slippery soap.
For the first half hour after the news broke, I shared the schadenfreude. Rejoice! An MP politician will be sent to jail. Only 649 to go!
But then I asked myself , who was the victim here?
Maybe his ex-wife is the victim. It seems he may have put her under pressure to accept the points on her licence. But she was, it seems, a willing victim. He may even have paid her fine. The only harm she would have suffered is a number being appended to her driving licence, perhaps increased insurance premiums (which maybe he paid), and a record on a computer system somewhere in Swansea. It seems to me that she was not an unwilling victim, nor was she harmed, her property violated, or anything else.
Maybe “society” is the victim. After all, if people get together with friends and family and decide who will take the rap for someone else’s crime, then society is not getting the justice from the criminal that it demands. This is true when it comes to murder, rape, burglary etc. But remember, we’re talking about points on a licence here.
Maybe it’s road users who are the victims. After all, if everyone did this, then more dangerous drivers would be out on the roads putting us all in peril. But remember, there was no accident, no one was killed, no child injured. So there was no victim.
It’s even been put to me that some general crime victims are the real victims in this, as their crimes weren’t given the priority they deserve as the police were focussing on Huhne’s crime instead of theirs. I would argue that it’s the police who were wasting time on this trivia, rather than putting the fault at Huhne’s door.
My thoughts on this put me at odds with many people who I consider to be sound libertarians. Maybe I’m missing something?
I consider it to be one of the basics of libertarianism that the state should not deprive someone of their liberty without a very good reason indeed. The default position, for me, is to not incarcerate someone unless absolutely necessary for the protection of the public or to send a clear deterrent message to others who might be encouraged to try the same.
Lying to the police and courts is not a good thing – and must be discouraged. But at the end of the day, no one was harmed, no one had their “rights” abused. I believe the punishment must have regard to the nature of the “crime” about which justice was perverted. Speeding is just about the lowest level of “crime” that we have. It is victimless. As such, no matter what we might think of politicians, a custodial sentence would seem to be the genuine perversion of justice in this case.
As I said, I seem to be in a minority of one on this. Maybe I’ve missed something here….