In a civilized society, especially a democracy, there are laws that govern our behavior. If we perceive someone wrongs us, we can’t go taking the law into our own hands and start dishing out physical punishment. Not without some consequences.
In a perfect world there is a trial and an outcome where the punishment fits the crime. In the real world, there is a police department and prosecutors who decide if charges will be brought, and often none are forthcoming. No one goes to court, and no one gets punished.
If a case does go to trail it is up to judges, (Or magistrates for minor offences in the UK.) to decide what punishment is meted out. This is where the system falls apart, and there will be extremes where in one case there is little or no punishment, and in another the penalties are too harsh.
Take two recent cases in the UK. A little over two weeks ago, British cyclist Christopher Wade went to trial before a Magistrate’s Court in the town of Skipton, in Yorkshire. He was charged with assault on the driver of a white van, who Chris had alleged had driven too close.
Chris had banged on the side of the van with his fist, and the driver stopped. An argument ensued, and Chris handed the driver a bare knuckle sandwich.
In court Chris tried to claim self defense, saying the van driver bit him on the hand. However, reading between the lines, it seems to me the more likely scenario is that Chris’s fist was traveling towards the teeth, rather than the driver biting Chris’s hand as he rested it on the edge of the van door.
Had it been me I would have plead guilty, been very humble, but pointed out the extenuating circumstances such as the van being close enough to bang ones hand on the side.
The Magistrate handed Chris a penalty of 840 (British Pounds.) that is $1,300 US Dollars. Ouch. This was in the form of a fine, compensation to the victim, and court costs. My thought as I read this was, “Motorists on both sides of the pond get fined less than this for actually killing a cyclist.”
The injustice of this was rubbed in this week when another British cyclist was involved with yet another white van, when the driver got out, chased the cyclist, knocked him down, and assaulted him. The whole incident was recorded on the cyclist’s helmet video cam.
In spite of this overwhelming piece of evidence of an unprovoked assault, West Midlands Police in the town of Moseley, near Birmingham, England, have refused to press charges.
Taken together, these two cases show extreme injustice, with a strong bias against cyclists in the UK. Some consistency in police procedure, and the courts would be nice.