Reaffirming My Faith in Humanity

by Charles Miller on June 15, 2005

Case one. On Saturday, Foxtel called me up to arrange a time to collect my set-top box. My cable TV has been disconnected about three months now, and I'm not sure it's really worth the money to keep a few dozen channels of shit I don't really miss. Over the phone we arrange that the courier will arrive on Wednesday between eight and ten in the morning. This would be early enough that even in the worst case, I'd still get to work at a somewhat reasonable hour.

On Tuesday, I get a call from the courier company responsible for picking up the box.

"We're just confirming we're picking this up tomorrow, between 10am and 1pm?"
"Huh? Foxtel said it would be between 8 and 10"
"Yes, we know, but..."
"Sorry, I have to go to work after that, I can't be there any other time."
"OK. Between 8am and 10am"

The moment I hung up the phone, I knew that there wasn't the slightest chance that anyone would show at the allotted time, but I dutifully sat around twiddling my thumbs anyway. The moment the clock struck ten, I logged a call with Foxtel customer service and made sure they had it on record that I was here waiting. I suspect the bill for me wasting their time would be pretty high. Why can't I charge them for wasting mine?

Case two. I'd like to think there's a special section of Hell reserved for those members of the media who decided it was a good idea to give Pauline Hanson a second life as a minor celebrity. If anyone deserves to rot in obscurity, it's her. One day, I hope, karma will catch up with all of them, from the Seven executives who booked her into that stupid dance program, right through to Rove McManus for lending her legitimacy by featuring her on his chat show.

Case three. Unless you've been hiding under a pretty big rock lately, you'll know that (a) Michael Jackson is probably guilty of molesting children, but (b) it couldn't be proven in court to the satisfaction of a jury.

On one hand this kinda sucks, because you'd like to think that if someone does something wrong, they'll be punished for it. On the other hand, from post-trial interviews it seems the jurors feel the same way, but were aware that being "pretty sure" someone's guilty is no substitute for a prosecution proving their case beyond reasonable doubt.

The British and American legal tradition incorporates the belief that criminal penalties should only be applied if someone is proven guilty under very stringent conditions. All sorts of laws and conventions regarding the gathering and presentation of evidence and the burden of proof exist to protect the innocent at the expense of also protecting the guilty. Personally, I prefer this society over one where guilt is just a matter of someone in authority saying you did something wrong.

Certainly, if I ever find myself accused of a crime, I'd like to think that society will be required to prove persuasively that I did something wrong before it has the right to imprison me.

On the third hand, however, ample evidence exists to suggest that this ideal of the law applies far more to the wealthy and famous than it does to the average Joe, and that for every celebrity court case with the benefit of twenty-four hour media scrutiny, there are dozens of obscure trials where the burden of proof tends to be be interpreted far more loosely.

Previously: Because I Had To

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