Thursday, 12 November 2009

This Is Why We Should Never Get Rid Of Jury Service...

Ian Mitchell, 68, of Crayford Way, Crayford, had denied obtaining £5,000, by making three claims for council tax benefits between 2000 and 2002, when he had undeclared savings.
Bang to rights then, eh?

Not quite:
Mr Mitchell has been waging a longstanding battle against Bexley Council, accusing it of failing to do anything about the yobs who have targeted him and his home.

The court heard how Mr Mitchell was driven to such despair that last year, he set fire to his house.

It was so badly damaged he now lives in a shed in the garden.
The story is horribly familiar.
Mr Mitchell told the court between 1993 and 2006 he had complained to Bexley 81 times and asked for its help.

He claimed local yobs had smashed his windows, covered his car in oil and pelted him with beer cans and eggs.

He said he had been abused by motorists who blocked his entrance and even parked on his driveway.

To make things worse, some of them were service vehicles.

On the advice of police, he began photographing them, but this brought even more abuse.

He said local youths would gather outside his home drinking, sitting on his and his neighbours’ walls and even leaning up against his house.

He said he had spent nearly £2,500 on CCTV cameras to film the culprits, but no one had ever come to view the tapes.
So he had a plan. Let them take him to court to get some publicity for his plight:
He told the court he had claimed the benefits to get back at the council.

He said: “They screwed me, so I wanted to screw them.”

Mr Mitchell added he had even told the council what he was doing, “so I could have my day in court”.
And for once, it worked!
A jury at Isleworth Crown Court, Middlesex, took just 20 minutes to acquit him.
No wonder they were so keen to do away with jury trials. It's the only time the ordinary people get to stand up and say 'No. We're not standing for this'.

13 comments:

Letters From A Tory said...

No doubt the yobs were of no interest to the police as they had already met their 'arresting yobs' quota.

Tom Paine said...

In academic terms, this phenomenon is known as "criminal equity" and before democracy it was one of the main ways that "the people" changed laws. The hated "game laws" of the 18th Century which applied the death penalty to starving people who ate the creatures reared for the aristocracy's sport, were only repealed because juries refused to convict at all, when the penalties were so outrageous.

Given a choice between criminal equity and democracy, I would feel safer with the former. British democracy is beginning to feel - to productive taxpayers - rather like being robbed by a cheering mob of state dependents.

Quiet_Man said...

Good for him, shame on the council and police for driving him to such lengths.

indigomyth said...

Another argument for the possession of guns. You would be amazed how much gunfire focuses the mind on going away.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Maybe a legal eagle reading can tell me why this was heard in Isleworth Middlesex, when we have perfectly good Crown Courts in Kent, and most cases in this area are heard at Southwark.

I know in the US you can request a change of venue as a 'local' jury may be partisan to either the defence or prosecution. but can that happen here?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Good for him, but the wider point must be that council estates could be segregated into some for "yobs" and some for "normal people".

I'm sure there's a nice-ish estate somewhere with only one 'problem family', so they could make that family swap places with Mr Mitchell, and so on, problem solved, everybody's happy.

The normal people behave themselves on their estate and the "yobs" end up in what is effectively an open prison. Preferably in the middle of Dartmoor.

James Higham said...

Yes, I'd read this one and wondered how it had ended up. there, but for the grace ...

Fat Hen said...

Hm, one wrong does not make the other ok, remember, this is paid for by all of us, the council jobsworths don't care either way, they file this sort of thing as 'entertainment'.

As for the rest, whilst I have sympathy for his plight, setting your home on fire is plain stupid.

I'd rather have rented it out to another set of chavvy chaos merchants, or old it.

The entire story sounds like a not too bright guy got trolled into doing stupid things...

(I however agree on the jury service, with some caveats, for a number of reasons). I'd swap juries for elected judges I think.

nnemo_sum said...

Good on you, sir! I wish many more would do the same kind of thing - thank you.

Optimistic Cynic said...

Yup. I've already decided that if I was on a jury for a drug dealer that I would point out to the rest of the jury what jury nullification is and would utterly refuse to find them guilty of drug dealing.

When Labour got rid of the right to jury trial for some cases, it just showed how useless our monarch is in terms of protecting us.

JuliaM said...

"No doubt the yobs were of no interest to the police as they had already met their 'arresting yobs' quota."

Indeed! This case has echoes of Fiona Pilkington about it...

"Given a choice between criminal equity and democracy, I would feel safer with the former."

Me too. The push to abolish juries for 'lesser offences' was one of the first signs of the creeping authoritarianism that we would get from this government.

"Maybe a legal eagle reading can tell me why this was heard in Isleworth Middlesex, when we have perfectly good Crown Courts in Kent..."

Hmm, odd, that. Unless they thought there was an element of potential for jury knowledge of this man? But as you say, iunlike in the US, this never seems to figure as a concern in UK trials.

JuliaM said...

"The normal people behave themselves on their estate and the "yobs" end up in what is effectively an open prison. Preferably in the middle of Dartmoor."

What a cracking idea! Didn't the Dutch try this out, with housing made of shipping containers?

"Hm, one wrong does not make the other ok, remember, this is paid for by all of us..."

True, and setting fire to your own house is a pretty stupid method of conflict resolution, but in this case, I'm happy to bear the cost. The importance of having an option for redress is too great.

"When Labour got rid of the right to jury trial for some cases, it just showed how useless our monarch is in terms of protecting us."

Yup. Just a figurehead to bring in tourist dollars now, sadly...

Malthebof said...

Surely his best plan would have been to not pay his council tax. The grounds being that he was not getting any 'service' from the Police Service.
QED