Judicial pardon by postcode

Judicial logic often has me scratching my head, but a couple of recent cases have really left some splinters in my poor old cranium. Top of the list was the magistrate who dismissed a drink-driving charge against a young woman on the grounds that she lived in a remote area and needed her car. She had some drinks after work in Sydney’s eastern suburbs then was pulled over by police as she drove home to Cattai, north-west of the city. The area is poorly served by public transport. Therefore … case dismissed. The magistrate sent some strange messages to the community – the important number is not what you blow but your postcode, and if you have a drink-driving problem, just move to Cattai or somewhere equally remote. “If she lived in any other suburb around Sydney, like Paddington,” he said, “there’s no way on earth I would consider dismissing the charge. It’s not like she could jump on a 333 bus to Bondi.” That reasoning did to me what the magistrate did to the driver – took my breath away. Couldn’t he have told the woman either to change address or – here’s a novel thought – change her drinking habits? Come to think of it, if being poorly served by public transport really was grounds for having drink-driving charges dismissed, surely just about every NSW resident could get smashed with impunity. The transport system is a mess, even for many people who do live near a bus or train route. I wonder if this sort of logic could be extended to other crimes. For instance, could I murder someone then seek a pardon on the grounds that I live in a stressful area? Or that I live in a remote area, and my kids need me to pick them up from footy and netball training? Speaking of blue murder, the David Jones sexual harassment case has also left me puzzled. The complainant is seeking $37 million in damages. That’s 37 followed by six noughts. No-one has been murdered here. I don’t make light of the sexual harassment issue, not for a moment. But really … Apparently the damages claim was calculated on the basis of what the alleged sexual harasser earned (a lot, as CEO) and the profits of the company during the period of the alleged offences (a lot, as a major retailer). Does this mean, then, that you should be financially better off if you are harassed by a rich person rather than a poor person? It sounds a bit like postcode logic to me. If, however, they went for a huge amount partly to generate publicity about the evils of sexual harassment, then good luck to them. By the way, how about those comments by the fashion designer Alannah Hill? “I wish it was me,” she said. “I wish he’d touched me up. “I would have gone back to that flat in a heartbeat.” Intended as a joke or not, they set back the women’s cause by decades. Gilbert and Sullivan wrote a witty song about making the punishment fit the crime. Kevin Rudd’s crime, it seems, was to be unpopular, at least among his colleagues in the Labor caucus. Did his punishment – axing by his fellow Labor MPs – fit the crime?Will Julia Gillard escape being portrayed as the lord high executioner? Or has she opened the way for Tony Abbott to become prime minister? It looks like a lottery to me. I feel like I may as well pick ’em by postcode.
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