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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Friday October 07 2005

Last night I posted a piece by my very good friend “Diana Quaver” on Samizdata, about Daniel Cuthbert, quota-convicted yesterday of computer hacking.  The law is now on autopilot.

They see a problem.  People are pissing in the street.

They draft and pass (all one process these days) a law which makes it illegal to do whatever they are worrying about, and illegal to do lots of other perfectly innocent things of a related nature, like piss in your own lavatory.

The fact that you have just taken a piss in your own lavatory comes to the attention of a policeman.  Your neighbour doesn’t like you and saw you at it.  Or, your toilet has one of those new electronic wifi DNA RFID piss detectors fitted.

The police are no longer judged according to how well they uphold the law, but according to how many people they can convict.

Convicting an otherwise honest and law abiding person whose only crime is pissing in his own lavatory is obviously far easier than convicting a genuine criminal, who has been, I don’t know, robbing banks or murdering people, so the police arrest you for pissing in your own lavatory.  Like I say, far easier.

You come to trial.  The judge, regretfully, notes that the law does indeed state that you may not piss in your own lavatory, so you are convicted.  You only escape prison because there is no more room in them.

That isn’t much of a caricature.  And that was the process that Daniel Cuthbert fell foul of.

Cuthbert’s blunder, apparently, was that when first confronted by the police, he lied.  Don’t blame him.  Not being a genuine criminal, he didn’t know how to handle himself.  That’s all part of why non-criminals are so much easier to stitch up.

The verdict is still unjust.  He was found guilty of computer hacking.  He should have been found “guilty” only of impeding the police in the course of their stupid investigation of something that should have been none of their damn business in the first place.

Best Samizdata comment so far is from Natalie Solent:

Julian Morrison writes: “I’m thinking, with the sums of money involved, this case does have some legitimacy. Okay, he didn’t mean anything, but still. A cop catching you with a bunch of lockpicks at the back door of a bank isn’t going to listen to “I was just testing my cash is secure"."

I don’t know much about computers, but going from the description of the facts given in the main post Mr Morrison’s analogy is too strong. A better analogy would be that Mr Cuthbert was found poking or tugging at the fascia of a cash machine, having become suspicious that it was an overlay put there by criminals.

Quite so.

Incidentally, if you google Daniel Cuthbert, you get to photography by Daniel Cuthbert.  And yes, Diana Quaver assures me, it is the same guy.

Here’s my favourite of the photos at his site:

image

Don’t know what that is.  A mob of horror movie peasants outside a law court perhaps?