MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
I am sick of the good guys being the fall guys. Let me elucidate. At its most simple it’s that honest, good citizens (the good guys) who transgress, for let’s say, staying on a parking meter or pay and display a few minutes over time get a ticket – and pay it.
The bad guys – who perhaps don’t bother to find a meter and park illegally and get a ticket or are involved in a traffic incident or so on – by contrast frequently don’t pay. And the worse they are, the less likely they are to pay – because they’ve not got up-to-date car tax, not got insurance, not got a license, given a fake address, using a stolen car, can’t be traced via the DVLA or because of any of 101 other reasons.
It all amounts to the more honest you are, the more likely you are to be punished if you make a mistake or have a momentary lapse of judgement. Don’t get me wrong – I am a great supporter of proper traffic and parking regulations – and if we park illegally we should be done for it and pay up – but the rules have to be fair and they have to be right. But the zealous – often over-zealous – chasing up of people who are easy to find whilst others can escape completely means we have the opposite of how a fair and just system should work. Good guys get the punishment, bad guys escape. Yes, punish people if they break the rules, but punish people more severely the worse their actions.
Even worse, those who aren’t easy to trace because of the tax and insurance etc dodges are often flouting not just those rules but, on the too rare occasions they are caught, turn out to be wanted for a host of other offences too. Pursuing the habitual wrong-doers would therefore reduce all sorts of misdeeds and clean up a whole range of misdemeanours.
So – you would think – that the authorities would invest in catching the bad guys. But think back through the recent government announcements and ideas – spying on people’s litter bins, mandatory national ID cards, introducing a database of all the phone calls and emails in this country – and they’re all ones that involve putting huge resources into keeping tabs on innocent people.
Rather than really going after the people they should be pursuing, time and again the government goes for the petty authoritarianism of wanting to keep even more tabs on innocent people.
We need to rebalance the system – and that includes holding to account those who make mistakes that end up harassing the innocent.
Only recently, one Haringey Councillor went public on the fact that two yellow junction boxes in the borough were illegal – yet hundreds of people have been ticketed from those junctions. (By the way: if you know of any more instances where there is bad signing or illegal markings – let me know.)
Haven’t heard Haringey Council announce refunds to all those good guys who did nothing wrong and paid up. And perhaps local authorities should be fined for tickets that are wrongly issued or are the consequence of poor or confusing signage – that would give a real incentive to get rules right and to treat everyone fairly. And what could be better than that?
(c) Lynne Featherstone, 2008