This is our truth, tell us yours
You can find any opinion you like about Dave Lee Travis and the courts.
You can debate the jury’s decision all you like – you don’t need my permission.
Travis had the best defence the money from the sale of his million pound house could buy. Like me you might wonder if a council house tenant from the wrong side of town would have had the same defence. Like Travis, you might wonder how the defendant can end up footing the bill when the prosecution have not made their case.
In fact, the one good point about the Travis case, the one that doesn’t need you to take sides, is the issue of how the cost of court cases, and the cost of defending prosecutions, is dealt with.
I have been in courts in a number of roles. When I was prosecuted for a car insurance offence, a solicitor wanted £200 to attend the local magistrates to defend me. He expected me to plead guilty, take the points and the fine, which would be less than his fees. I did the job myself, and won on a point of interpretation. At the time I was a student, and had not two farthings to rub together, and there was no offer of legal aid for motoring offences. I was, by most definitions a fool, but as I left the court, having paid for child care, and my travel to the court, no-one offered to defray my expenses.
The state has an overwhelming interest in the legal system working, and being seen to be fair. If it’s not, then perfidious marxists like me will argue that the court system is just another theatre in which class interests are acted out.
Imagine if Travis had been found guilty. He would face a well deserved prison sentence, but his costs would amount to a fine of hundreds of thousands of pounds. If Mr Miggins from the council estate were convicted of the same offences, he would get a prison sentence, but no fine in the form of costs. Does that make sense?
Of course, it’s probably the case that Mr Miggins will not get the same quality of defence that Dave Lee Travis deployed. That, again, is a rather sneaky way of arguing that the court system is just another theatre in which class interests are acted out -DLT, as a property owner, gets a different result from the court system than Mr Miggins.
Leave aside the issues about how we prosecute historic offences. Leave aside the issues about whether we should prosecute historic offences (because we should, and because we must). Ask yourself if any fair or decent system can justify outcomes that vary according to whether you’re a property owner or not, or where the accused gets his pick of lawyers, who earn huge fees, while the victim has no choice other than to accept the decision of prosecuting authorities.
That, probably, is the only lesson we can all agree on about the DLT case – that the court system isn’t working.