Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Boy racers": the details II

So, what's actually in the government's anti-"boy racer" legislation? Here's the details on the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill.

This is the bill which actually allows the crushing. It amends the Sentencing Act 2002 to insert new sections allowing for the confiscation and destruction of vehicles for a third street racing offence. It begins to get decidedly draconian when it introduces the Orwellian term "substitute for the offender". You see, Judith Collins thinks that at the moment

[i]llegal street racers are currently able to commit an offence in another person’s car and avoid the full force of the law
Her solution? Punish the person who owns the car, regardless of actual guilt. And so innocent third parties who own vehicles become (with the service of a legal notice) "substitutes for the offender", and if the offender doesn't actually own a car to send to the crusher, theirs will do instead. And if they no longer own a car, the "substitute for the offender" (fuck it, lets call them what they really are: scapegoat) can be banned from owning a car for 12 months, just to ram the point home that they shouldn't have not done that thing they're not actually on trial for (or even accused of doing).

Putting it like that shows the fundamental absurdity here: this law aims to punish people for things they are not even accused of doing. And that's not just absurd, but fundamentally immoral.

The second part of the bill allows vehicles to be seized and sold for unpaid fines, and extends the scapegoating mechanism to allow "substitute" vehicles to be seized and sold if the offender doesn't have one.

This isn't justice, it's a legal lynching. Unfortunately, the drafters of the BORA never considered that our lawmakers would throw the entire idea of justice - you punish the actual offender, and you punish them proportionately to the crime - out of the window and instead start vigorously squicking innocent third parties, and so there is no actual protection in law against this. The closest thing that applies is that it is by definition disproportionate - but that obscures the real horror of what is being proposed.

To put it in printable language, I am exceedingly angry about this. Our justice system may be flawed, it may get it wrong sometimes, but it at least tries. Collins doesn't think we should even bother. Her proposals would corrupt our police and justice system into a mechanism for handing out random "punishments" with absolutely no link to behaviour. It is as if she was sending the police out to beat random people on the street in response to burglaries. That is not justice, and if the system is going to do that, there is no point having one, and we might as well be back in the metaphorical State of Nature.

And why is the government doing this? So Judith Collins can get a few "tough on crime" soundbites. Again, I'd prefer our Ministers kept their impotence issues between them and their psychologists, rather than working them out in public by crushing our human rights.