Over the past eight years the Thatcher government has managed to survive economically thanks to North Sea oil and privatisation. This latter strategy. flogging off the family silver. has netted some £30 billion. Naturally the good bits have been the first to go: gobbled up by the bargain hunters. Latterly the government has taken to ofﬂoading the more difficult items by providing a variety of sweeteners; giving away Austin Rover by writing off the purchaser's tax bills: selling Royal ()rdnance fora fraction of the value ofa single factory site. ‘But hold on!‘ you cry. "l'his can't go on for ever. The well will run dry sooner or later'. 'l‘liat is undoubtedly true but before then the (iovernment will have to think small: not in the sense of being petty minded but rather in serving up to the public nice little local earners for privatisation. Let us offer a modest example: the District Court. Our case study of this local industry in Iidinburgh has convinced that here is a business with almost unlimited potential for increased profitability and diversification. With an imaginative mangement prepared to make. literally. life and death decisions (mostly death) then the potential profits/earnings ratio will be high. The local ‘(‘rime lncorporated‘ will be a certain star performer on the Stock Exchange. Institutional buying will be especially keen. after initial profit taking. as the large portfolio holders look for a business able to increase business and profits come boom or slump.
Edinburgh‘s [)istrict (‘ourt at present grosses some £370.00“ per annum through fines levied by lay justicesofthe peace. Its powers are ‘ limited to levying fines up to a limit of 5; Hum or custodial sentences not exceeding (itl days. This is unsatisfactory and reflects a bureaucratic lack of foresight. Edinburgh District (‘ourt is what our researchers classify as a ‘single product producer‘. content over the years to rely heavily on the police for its custom with no control over its volume of trade. It patently cannot in a time of recession advertise for more customers or have the equivalent of('hristmas sales. It is vulnerable to factors beyond its control.
'l'hrough the medium of a North of the Border Justice Privatisation Bill Jl’s will be replaced by Ms (Private Judges) who will be the company directors. Given their solemn civic responsibility they would normally be expected to have a crime free record. I lowever gifted individuals with a specialised criminal background eg company fraud. insider dealing. off shore scams etc may be recruited. like retired chief constables and Ml’s. as consultants. This would enable the new company to move into the highly lucrative and largely untouched field ofwhite collar crime where substantial lines would be calculated as a hefty percentage of the cost of the crime.
MAKING CRIME PAY
Getting into the swim ofthe privatization craze, Dickie Alexander and Andrew MacDonald suggest a novel approach to justice.
New legislation would allow (‘rime Inc. to act on behalfof the Inland Revenue on a commission basis to collect avoided tax I’Js would be empowered to set fines at whatever limit the customer would bear. Fines would be controlled by market forces. For if the fine for a certain crime deterred its future commission the PJs could judiciously reduce the figure until a satisfactory arrest and conviction rate was once again achieved. The flotation ofa local Crime Inc share issue would receive an enthusiastic response from the small investor who would be encouraged to increase their dividends by reporting crime. Local legislation. enacted by I’Js would permit conviction on the uncorroberated evidence of a shareholder. They would also enjoy the new power ofshareholder's arrest. replacing the redundant citizen‘s variety. (‘I store cards would offer the elderly shareholder a range ofexclusive and discounted home protection items ranging from
high voltage ‘lace' curtains ( 'see the look ofshock on your attacker's face as he climbs through the window" . . .)to Pit Bull 'I‘crriers(‘. . . or ifhc livestoclimb back out! . . .'). Investors would also enjoy cheaper fines. depending upon the size of their portfolio. in much the same way as Ferry companies offer cheap crossings to their shareholders.
The introduction of a wide range ol new offences would not only keep shareholders busy but give employment to a small army of accredited bountyliunters levying spot lines on a commission only basis. Fine imposition on an area basis would be franchised to local voluntary organisations to supplement their flag days Individuals who pass a rattling can would be immediately fined for the temporary offence of harbouring
.uncharitable thoughts. (‘I would. by
such devices. enhance its corporate image.
Edinburgh has an enviable reputation as a tourist centre.
Respecting this CI. through its Heritage Division. would seek to enhance this aspect of the city's popularity. On any summer‘s day gaggles of tourists can be seen strung out along the Royal Mile listening to guides recounting a grim and gory past. (‘I Ileritage will bring yesteryear to life by a vivid. day in. day out demonstration of those good old fashioned punishments we all remember with a ffection; punishments abolished by Nth century (‘asper Milktoast reformers and their pusillanimous parliamentarycronies. Large numbers of tourists will on any lunch hour willingly pay to watch the traditional nailing of felons' ears. attached to their owners. to the door of the Iron kirk. In bad weather the tourist need not venture out. The felon can be nailed fora. modest additional premium. to the hotel door or any convenient wooden surface. Ducking. scouiging and flogging are all consumable grist to the treadmill of today's tourist demanding value for money authenticentertainment. 'l‘ourists wold be encouraged to take part. Eventually the theme would be expanded into a full flown International Festival of(‘orrectiy e Measures. The Festival would be supplemented by a trade fair featuring the latest instruments of torture employed by our less democratic allies.
()ne of the main arguments for public punishment is its power as a deterrent. But it can be easily argued that every act of punishment is in itself an admission of failure. The daily decapitation of poll ta.\ dodgers (surely a fittingpunishment) would soon lose its value as a deterrent but not as a source of income. I Iowever many modern pests such as lager louts. football hooligans and other threats to the fabric of society could on conviction be suspended in public in the type ofslatted wooden cases rises to transport w rld animals. 'l‘hese would be displayed in major thoiouglilaresand carry the Iitlittburgh District ('ouneil slogan ‘liiiproving Sentences ( rating Yolis'
()tlicr lypesol legal foiuiih would disappear. unable to u tlllpk te in open competition with ( l. I’.l courts would replace ( ‘liildien s l’aricls. taking over the adiiirriistiation of juvenile justice in a sympathetic manner. I‘lie many -laeettcd and deep-seated problems of today‘s troubled youngsters would still be treated in the contest of the family unit. l’he whole family would be punished.
finally a largely redundant police force would rey ert to their traditional role of telling kiddies the
l time andgiving people directions. . .
until such time as losing one's sense of time or direction become punishable ofleiices
(Dickie Alexander and .-\iidrew MacDonald are .lI’s but would prefer to be I’Js).
I'he List 27Etllllitr} - 9 February 57