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November 29, 2004

The Star Chamber Cometh.

This is billed as a little clean up of the law, a simple clarification to make the system work that little bit better:

Proposals to decriminalise a series of environmental offences such as fly-tipping, water pollution and unlicensed water abstraction will be unveiled at a Government conference tomorrow.

Sounds good eh? Ah, but as always, the devil is in the details:

The agency would have total discretion as to the level of fine that was levied and the offender would not have to go to court.
Experts say the right of appeal to a court would be needed under such a system, but, controversially, ministers do not appear to be proposing one at this stage.

The offender would not have to go to court. Ah, how nice of the little sweeties to let us off an appearance in person. Now, run this through in your mind again. A bureaucracy gets to set the level of punishment on its own. They are also the people who inflict the punishment. Not only do you not have to go to court to cough up the dough, you cannot go to court to cough up the dough, nor may you go to court to discuss whether you should cough up the dough.
A quite wonderful advance in freedom and human rights eh? Some zit brained civil servant can bankrupt you for an environmental offense (just as an example, someone fly tips a fridge on your land and you do not remove it) and you have no access to the court system whatsoever. Just pay whatever they demand.
Has anyone actually thought this thing through?


November 29, 2004 in Environmentalism | Permalink


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I imagine it's been thought through very carefully. The moral hazard inherent in a scheme like this is obvious, yet it seems not to register. It's rather akin to the dreadful decision to let the cops keep traffic camera fines.

If I were magically transformed into Britain's benevolent despot, I rather think that the very first thing I would do is outlaw the Statutory Instrument and repeal any and all legislation introduced under its aegis.

Posted by: David Gillies | Nov 29, 2004 8:32:24 PM

I have to disagree with David. It has not been thought through very carefully, and in all probability it was given the very minimum of attention necessary. The drafting of laws in the UK is a disgrace, with NO care or attention to detail given a subject that should, by rights, deserve the very best.

Posted by: Jules | Nov 30, 2004 1:34:54 AM