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Crime (not effort) really does pay.

Byline: Fay Goodman

It's amazing in this day and age that people are sentenced to death and an execution is carried out immediately. There is no appeal, no delay in carrying out the sentence - it is immediate. This is Chinese justice entitled A means of education.

Yet, interestingly, we, in the UK, are accused of being too lenient. We have no capital punishment and many 'known' criminals appear to walk free. Victims are victims twice over in our judicial system.

I am not advocating the introduction of capital punishment. But, equally, punishment must fit the crime and stiffer sentences where life means life with no privileges surely should be standard practice to act as a major deterrent.

Talking to friends in the legal and judicial system, there appears to be great frustration. On the one hand we have our 'protectors' - the police and magistrates who seek justice - and on the other those - the criminal fraternity - who flaunt the judicial system knowing how to play every trick in the book to their advantage.

I was very annoyed recently at a driver who deliberately drove into my car. He then pulled in front of me, jumped out of his car and gave verbal abuse with signs of becoming physically aggressive. I am pleased to say I kept calm and defused the situation at which point he drove off. I dutifully took all the details of his car and a good description of the driver. I went straight to the police station, reported the incident and took an incident report form to complete.

Upon completion of all the paperwork, I then had to attend my local station with all my details to prove I was the legal owner of my vehicle!

Some two weeks later I receive a letter from the police to say that the owner of the vehicle could not be traced as it had not been registered and that the car was the subject of criminal activity. But I had given a detailed description - no matter, his identity had to be protected.

So the bottom line is I have a damaged car, which I legally own and pay all

the insurance on, along with excess. I or my passengers, who could have been children, could have been seriously hurt, yet this young man walks away free because he was not law abiding. So, help me here - am I missing the point or does crime pay?

From the small business perspective it can be a nightmare. Seeing our hard earned savings being stolen, vandalised or going up in flames beggars belief when they are flaunted by the very criminals who carried out the senseless act. Losing thousands through fraud, dishonesty and paying high insurance costs to protect our business all seems a waste of time if criminals can walk free.

We are unfortunately witnessing a major imbalance in terms of justice.

If you run a small business and are a limited company you cannot get legal aid and the number one worry is 'Will I be the next victim of crime?' That is, of course, if you have not been burgled 20 times already.

But it does not end there. Another example of justice needing a serious overall is the metric madness syndrome.

We warned some years ago of the implications surrounding the introduction of the metric system over the imperial system and that it was only a matter of time before some small business owner would bear the brunt of the imposed legal change.

Yes, Steve Thorburn drew the short straw. He wanted freedom of choice to weigh his bananas in pounds - but it was illegal! The cost to SMEs in changing their scales, pricing, tags and so on was another bureaucratic nightmare.

So where are our freedom of choice and human rights? Brussels imposed this change on our system, yet the metric system was already legal in Britain for more than 100 years. So effectively what Europe has done is made the British system illegal in Britain.

Now add this to the introduction of the Human Rights Act and we are in serious need of help.

Fay Goodman is small business correspondent of the Federation of Small Businesses, PO Box 4464, Sheldon, Birmingham B26 2AQ. Please write to Fay at the above address or telephone 0121 784 8268 Fax 0121 783 7798 e-mail
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 18, 2001
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