Saturday, 25 June 2011

Playing the System by Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce: the picture of innocence

Would I ever commit a crime?  I can safely and confidently say, no, I wouldn’t.  I don’t download films or music over the Internet I don’t buy pirated DVDs and when I was a teenager, I once walked half a mile back to a sweet shop, because I had bought a penny chew (remember those?) and realised half way home that two were stuck together – I had to go back to pay the extra penny (don’t laugh). 

I attribute this rather extreme form of honesty to my mother, who, when I was a toddler caught me filling my pockets with nuts in a hardware store (they are so very shiny, aren’t they?).  She made the shop assistant (whose instinct was to tell me it was OK) inform me that she was in fact calling the police.  Apparently I spent some considerable time terrified that I was going to prison and hiding every time I heard a police car!  Thanks Mum.

My point however, is that although I would never commit a crime, I have thought about how I would go about it, y’know - if I did. 

Nowadays we have excellent forensics, everything gets recorded, uploaded, downloaded etc. so the chances of really, properly getting away with any crime, well it’s kind of small.  A criminal mastermind could perhaps do this – get away scott free with the will in his pocket, but I think a cunning criminal, one just clever, not genius, nowadays doesn’t try to duck the system, she plays it.
An avenging angel?

I live in a lovely village, but unfortunately there are some less than lovely people in it.  Recently there has been a spate of burglaries (my own house was broken into, but nothing was taken thanks to a bat-eared neighbour who heard my garage door being opened and hit all the security lights).  The police know exactly who is doing the B&E … but they can’t do anything about it.  They’ve even caught the man with stolen goods in his hands, but can only get him on possession as he claims he’s looking after the stuff for someone else. 
A couple of months ago, my neighbour caught this individual in her front room with a torch at 4am.  The police had her word that he was in her house, they had his wet footprints on the cardboard box she had inside her back door and they picked him up at 420am sneaking back into his own home (they didn’t have to chase him around the village, they just went to his address and waited for him to turn up – that’s how confident they are in his identity).  A couple of weeks later we heard that he wasn’t being prosecuted – there wasn’t enough evidence.  He hadn’t actually taken anything from my neighbour’s house (she scared him off first) so they were letting him go.  He got to pick up a nice benefits cheque and my neighbour hasn’t slept since.  

Let’s look at some statistics …

% of incidents reported to the police that are successfully convicted in the courts (attrition)
% of convictions after the case has gone to court (conviction)
Violence against the person

Leaving aside the horror that is the statistic on rape (that’s a whole other discussion) we can see that in 2009 only 4% of cases of violence against the person that were reported to the police ended in conviction (and if the case is taken to court, there’s still an almost 30% chance of getting off).

So, for example, if I wanted to say, take revenge on, someone … let’s call him Mr Bat Curglar I could:

1. Make sure everyone knew I was completely OK with his night time ‘habits’ – because I’m such a forgiving soul
2. Visit the doctor and make sure I was down on record as suffering, and I mean really SUFFERING with horrible, uncontrollable PMT (just in case it goes to court you can use this one to get off with temporary insanity)
3. Establish that I am having a bit of car trouble
4. Run the bastard over next time he’s out and about at 4am
5. Leg it home.

Now I might not even be reported.  But if I was, I have a 96% chance of never being convicted and then if I do go to court, a 30% chance of getting off.  To help that along, I have a decent temporary insanity plea, established car trouble (the brakes weren’t working that well) and let’s face it, even if I do get sent down – I’d be out in six months anyway.

When you weigh all that up, getting caught hardly seems like a deterrent at all. 

So there you go – my perfect crime.  Revenge manslaughter, maximum six months in prison, if I’m unlucky and I’d probably pick up a nice benefits cheque on my release.

Sadly I’m sure a lot of individuals out there have weighed up those exact figures (Mr Bat Curglar for example) and come to the same conclusion. 

It’s frankly terrifying. 

Bryony Pearce's debut novel Angel's Fury is published on July 4.

1 comment:

  1. That is truly terrifying. It just shows the awful atate the world is in at the moment. Like giving acupuncture for free to an alcoholic while his family struggles to pay the bills. Where is the justice :(