We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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Safe?

The Royal College of Nursing has just won a case against a bureaucratic body in England that many may not have heard of, the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). The victory is a fairly minimal one: it has been ruled that the ISA must confirm to some elements of fair procedure, and may not ban people from their professions automatically without hearing. None of the professional bodies or establishment human rights organisations such as Liberty appears to be challenging the principle of state vetting in employment. They are fussing about the procedure.

But to me this is an epitome of the degree of state intrusion into our lives that is now accepted in Britain as completely normal.

Here, from the Nursing Times report, are summaries of the cases on the basis of which the most recent ruling was made:

Mr O is a nurse with an exemplary record. Mr O’s wife left their children alone for a short time while Mr O was at work. Mr O’s wife was arrested and detained overnight and subsequently cautioned. Mr O attended the police station the following day voluntarily and was also cautioned. There is no suggestion that Mr O was aware that his wife intended to leave the children alone. However, on 2 March 2010, over nine months since Mr O accepted the caution, the ISA wrote to inform him that it had automatically included his name on the Children’s and Adults’ Barred Lists for a full 10 years. Mr O remained on the Barred Lists until 24 July 2010 until his name was removed after representations were made by the RCN. During this time he was unable to work as a clinical nurse.

Mrs W is a nurse who was automatically included on the Barred Lists for 10 years by ISA on 7 June 2010 after she had accepted a caution for leaving her 11-year-old son at home on his own when she went shopping. Mrs W’s case was referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council which made a finding after an investigation that she had no case to answer. Mrs W was unable to work as an agency nurse as she was prior to being placed on the Barred Lists and remained on unpaid leave. This placed her under significant financial pressures as a single parent responsible for her son. Mrs W was removed from the auto bar list on 18 August 2010 after the RCN made representations on her behalf.

For those who are unfamiliar with English criminal law, “accepted a caution” is a sort of plea bargain in the hands of the police. If one accepts a caution, one is admitting an offence in return for no further action being taken by police (except keeping a record on you, fingerprints and DNA, till you reach the age of 100). One might believe one was avoiding punishment. That would almost certainly be suggested by police (whose figures are improved and paperwork decreased by disposing of offences by caution). Nevertheless the routine admission of a minor offence can be used by distant bureaucrats (whether they give you a hearing or not) to deprive you of your career (and in the case of British nurses wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers money in training). And not only that but such a decisions makes it a criminal offence for anyone to employ you in any capacity in medicine, education or social care. Mr O and Mrs W would have been barred not just from professional nursing, but scrubbing the lavatories in a school after hours, or driving a bus for the elderly. (Or even, by a bureaucratic version of magical contagion, a bus for carers for the elderly. see pdf Q.35)

And cautioned for what? In the one case leaving a near teenager alone for a short while. In the other for allowing (allowing!?) one’s wife to leave the children for less than a working day. Who knew these were criminal offences?

I want children to grow up to be independent. That means them learning to manage themselves as early as they can. Leaving your children on their own for short periods, perhaps overnight or for a weekend, with proper provision and knowledge of who to call in case of problems, is not criminal. It is fine. It is laudable.

But we live in a state that demands you not use your judgement, that cannot bear the possibility of error and learning. It fears mistakes enough that there are now rules about how you may bring up your family, requiring all minors to be treated as needy infants. All adults, on the other hand, whether at home or in their working lives, are deemed to be cruel monsters unless restrained by the threat of excommunication from the benevolent database.

The state knows what is right. The ISA was originally to use a checklist to assess lifestyles for ‘risk‘, though that has been deferred for the moment. You are either among the elect, or you are damned – and the ISA has a list saying which is which.

30 comments to Safe?

  • I have to admit- and this might not be the libertarian PC response- that since medical cartels have been so instrumental in implementing the Proggie regime, I sort of felt on reading this “serves them right”.

  • “Authorities” such as this “ISA” are merely the proximate authors of miniature tyranny – petty, but monstrously so. They must be abolished.

  • Oh, they definitely must be, but they won’t be. If they cause sufficient ire, they will be reconstituted in a new form. But once the Proggie State captures a power, it never returns it to the people, in the same way as the EU as a policy never returns a power to the member states. It’s a fundamental rule of progressivism. Always forwards, never back.

    Which is why I have no faith in incrementalist approaches to liberty. Resistance can certainly take the edge off the Proggie State on occasion; as with the campaign against ID cards. Nothing wrong with that. But to regain our freedom will need nothing less than a revolution in which the State and all its institutions are dismantled and then those few functions we may require of it are reconstituted anew.

    By revolution, that does not mean necessarily insurrection and bloodshed. So long as the form of democracy remains, it may be achieved by nothing more than the election of a government of uncompromising reaction; a “super tea party” if you will. But while the Proggie philosophy remains in power, we can only watch its growth.

  • “But to regain our freedom will need nothing less than a revolution in which the State and all its institutions are dismantled and then those few functions we may require of it are reconstituted anew.”

    I agree with you Ian, though I would add that I doubt revolutionary institutional reform can be made to work in the absence of cultural and psychological changes of similar magnitude.

    Incidentally, I thought you had the better of the debate on an earlier thread with Laird about the electoral franchise.

  • Thanks Mike.

    On your first sentence, I agree. You can only get a libertarian society as a consequence of a libertarian population. It is not something that can be imposed.

  • It is not something that can be imposed, but still, it is a chicken and egg kind of thing, and one has to begin somewhere. It’s not as if one can make a plan and stick with it In practical terms this means that work needs to be done on both fronts, and no opportunity on either front should be wasted, since one front always influences the other for the better, at least in the long term.

  • APL

    Never accept a caution.

  • RRS

    Am I the only one constantly baffled by the insistence on REIFICATION of governmental or administrative organizations as “The State?”

    These very articulate and intelligent analyses of the effects of direction by some over the actions and relations of others, such as in this piece, seem to avoid the point that all these effects stem from the actions of individual human beings (who are generally known to act from motivations, if not intelligence), whether acting as committess, councils, boards, or what have you. These are incidents of human (notSTATE”) actions upon other humans.

    True, those persons are using facilities (governmental, trade union, quango, and other) constructed for a function or functions (often devised as instrumentalities for the objectives of those who will operate them); but, the actual “decisions,” “orders.” “findings,” “listings,” etc. are the acts of human beings conducted through but not by those impersonal, cloaking instrumentalities.

    Perhaps nothing is more demonstrative of this “cloak” of thsoe instrumentalities than the difficultities encountered in learning who and how determinations are made within them for execution of their functions.

    Still, that is what need be done. Name the persons, identify the officers who insist on “Caution.” Find their reasoning (if any). Name who sets “policy” for “Caution.” etc.

    Don’t fixate upon THE STATE.

    It is the humans who act with its powers that are the problem.

  • “Mr O’s wife left their children alone for a short time while Mr O was at work. Mr O’s wife was arrested and detained overnight and subsequently cautioned.”

    I am aghast. Is that all?

  • “she had accepted a caution for leaving her 11-year-old son at home on his own when she went shopping.”

    I know this article is about something else, and I shouldn’t be surprised but… What the fuck?

  • Rob, I know you know this already, but it’s the “lottery” status of Progressive Law. We are all criminals now, breaking some regulation or other every day. It’s just a matter of random chance which of us come to the attention of the mutaween. Parents are particularly vulnerable because one of the primary drivers of the Proggie regime is the Child Saver movement.

  • Sunfish

    1) Let me make sure I’m getting this right, because we don’t have them here: a ‘caution’ has the effect of being a conviction on someone’s record, only without any sentence imposed.

    2) An 11-year-old was left alone for a few hours? Was the child somehow in need of special care? Or was he just a normal preteen? Or was there some other underlying problem that made that a police matter?

    [1] I can sort of see how it would be, but that would be speculation on my part and even if I’m right the UK system probably took it too damn far for not much good reason.

  • Sunfish, you must be familiar with the child savers over in your country.

    The basic intent is to impose the idea (well, it’s already been done) that anybody who has ever done anything slightly wrong ever must not be able to contact children. This means increasing numbers of people excluded from the most basic contact with children and, via the now routine “CRB checks” (Criminal Records Bureau) means the old idea of “paying your debt to society” is completely gone. Once you’ve come to the police’s attention, that’s it.

    As an example, my sister works in a garden centre. They have a Santa’s Grotto this year. THe other day, the management sent down the rules. “Santa” has to be CRB checked. Any staff having any association with the grotto have to be CRB checked. Even staff who pass the check are barred from any interaction with the children. They are specifically only allowed to talk to the adults.

    For a Santa’s Grotto in a garden centre. This of course means that any staff with a criminal record, however trivial- cautioned for a bit of weed twenty years ago- will be revealed to the management, since they will not pass the CRB checks.

    Oh, and the Association Of CHief Police Officers- a private company which apparently “represents” police officers- you would think such a thing would be banned, but no- earns a fee for every CRB check they do as a contractor to the State. And they do a very great many CRB checks.

    It really is now a police state, and an implicitly corrupt one at that.

    So anyway, point is, it’s not just nurses or teachers, pretty much everybody is getting sucked into the web of being checked routinely. Which, to do my old Class War schtick, generally impacts the lower class rather more than professionals, since they are, as you are probably aware, rather more likely to fall foul of the law for minor infractions.

    The ultimate aim appears to be that only a small class of Child Saver approved professionals will have any significant involvement with children at all, or indeed be able to work anywhere; since even, for instance, garden centres won’t want to employ somebody on the blacklists.

    That whole yankee thing about have you ever been a member of the communist party, that all seems rather trivial by comparison.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Garden centers are allowed to show Santas? What degeneracy is this? Santa is not mentioned in the koran, and so should be offensive to someone! Ban them, quick, in case someone gets offended!

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Hate it and leave it, Britisher pals.

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    And why do I suspect that the ISA is NOT among the quangos which are to be shut down?

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    ‘Hate it and leave it”? And go where? Aren’t all countries imperfect to some degree? It makes more sense to reform the country you are in, than to seek a hypothetical perfect land somewhere! If your life is being threatened, then leave, but you should stay and work within the system otherwise!
    All countries fall short to some degree- or we’d have all moved to Paradise, and be congratulating each other! In person!

  • David Gillies

    I remember the aghast consternation I felt (25 years ago) when it was first vouchsafed to me the extent of credentialism already extant. This was sitting in a café in Amsterdam and learning the wait staff needed some sort of spurious “qualification”. It’s only got worse since then. Just the other day we saw raids in Florida on ‘unlicensed’ barbers. This was touted as a crackdown on businesses which were being used as fronts for low-level crime. Of course it was noting of the sort, but the assertion of state power over those who would live without its clutches.

    I know this is skirting the edge of Godwin’s Law, but this is from Mussolini:

    Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato (“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”)

    Anyone think we’re not just about there?

  • guy herbert

    @Sunfish:

    1) Let me make sure I’m getting this right, because we don’t have them here: a ‘caution’ has the effect of being a conviction on someone’s record, only without any sentence imposed.

    That’s correct. Entirely within police discretion, if the person charged agrees to accept it. As APL said—though never say never—someone with no prior would usually be very ill-advised to accept a caution. But people who do not think they have done anything very seriously wrong often do not seek advice, and may believe it is just a bit of insignificant procedure. (Given mere arrest can now have lifelong significant consequences, that impression has been reinforced.)

    2) An 11-year-old was left alone for a few hours? Was the child somehow in need of special care? Or was he just a normal preteen? Or was there some other underlying problem that made that a police matter?

    The underlying problem is child-protection practice. The law of child neglect is old (the offence dates back to 1933) and reasonable. But by interpretation and institutional change it has been massively extended in application by a vast lobby made up of huge charities and local authority social services departments and the erstwhile Department for Children, Schools and Families (now renamed the Department for Education, which might be a promising indication of intent on behalf of the new government), all of which have an interest in demonstrating “child abuse” is endemic. To that end the definition of “child abuse” has been steadily broadened to include any exposure to risk.

    The capstone was the Children Act 2004, which though it did not change the notional definition of the offence of child neglect, altered the statutory context. It gave the authorities a statutory duty to organise cooperation between various state agencies (including the police) [s10]:

    (2) … with a view to improving the well-being of children in the authority’s area so far as relating to—
    (a) physical and mental health and emotional well-being;
    (b )protection from harm and neglect;
    (c) education, training and recreation;
    (d) the contribution made by them to society;
    (e) social and economic well-being.
    [...]
    (4) For the purposes of this section each of the following is a relevant partner of a children’s services authority in England—
    (a) where the authority is a county council for an area for which there is also a district council, the district council;
    (b) the police authority and the chief officer of police for a police area any part of which falls within the area of the children’s services authority;
    (c) a local probation board for an area any part of which falls within the area of the authority;
    (d) a youth offending team for an area any part of which falls within the area of the authority;
    (e) a Strategic Health Authority and Primary Care Trust for an area any part of which falls within the area of the authority;
    (f) a person providing services under section 114 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 (c. 21) in any part of the area of the authority [Note: this means contractors and commercial partners collecting information on, and providing databases to the state about, children who are fed to them on a notionally voluntary basis, the most important being Connexions - GH];
    (g) the Learning and Skills Council for England.

    (5) The relevant partners of a children’s services authority in England must co-operate with the authority in the making of arrangements under this section.

    [My emphasis.]

    “Protection” is, in line with modern bureaucratic assumptions, frequently interpreted as “protection from the risk of”.

    I believe that pretty much everywhere in the western world child protection has got out of hand and is a key part of the rhetoric of socialised risk-aversion. (“Won’t somebody think of the children!” … “If it saves just one child…”) Which requires the authorities to ignore the fact that almost everyone loves children and will look after them spontaneously, and suspect everyone of being a danger to them. But in England, and perhaps more so, Scotland this seems to have gone further than elsewhere.

    A further example:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1231947/Home-schooling-parents-criminal-checks-ensure-theyre-paedophiles.html

    The best more skeptical (though they are not as radically skeptical as I am) source of information about the tide of state intervention in families in the UK is ARCh:
    http://www.archrights.org.uk/

  • This isn’t new; the Child Savers were a major bloc in the First Progressive Era. The “reasonable” laws introduced then were a major step forward in state control of the family and created the infrastructure and precedents. I cannot resist quoting GK Chesterton, writing let us remember in 1922

    A final instance, which can be sketched much more briefly, can be found in this general fact: that the definition of almost every crime has become more and more indefinite, and spreads like a flattening and thinning cloud over larger and larger landscapes. Cruelty to children, one would have thought, was a thing about as unmistakable, unusual and appalling as parricide. In its application it has come to cover almost every negligence that can occur in a needy household. The only distinction is, of course, that these negligences are punished in the poor, who generally can’t help them, and not in the rich, who generally can. But that is not the point I am arguing just now. The point here is that a crime we all instinctively connect with Herod on the bloody night of Innocents has come precious near being attributable to Mary and Joseph when they lost their child in the Temple. In the light of a fairly recent case (the confessedly kind mother who was lately jailed because her confessedly healthy children had no water to wash in) no one, I think, will call this an illegitimate literary exaggeration. Now this is exactly as if all the horror and heavy punishment, attached in the simplest tribes to parricide, could now be used against my son who had done any act that could colourably be supposed to have worried his father, and so affected his health. Few of us would be safe.

    Murray Rothbard gives us an excellent description of the first cohort of Progressive women in the USA, the activist spinsters focussed on families, women and sex in Origins Of The Welfare State In America including this gem regarding the Sheppard-Towner Maternity And Infancy Protection Act (1921)-

    Caustically, Senator Reed declared that “It is now proposed to turn the control of the mothers of the land over to a few single ladies holding government jobs in Washington…. We would better reverse the proposal and provide for a committee of mothers to take charge of the old maids and teach them how to acquire a husband and have babies of their own.”

    The second significant cohort of sexually disturbed puritan spinsters arrived at university from the mid 1960s onwards at the height of the sexual revolution. Horrified by the liberalism all around them, they retreated into a movement they called “radical” feminism, the “radical”, significantly, meaning “back to its roots” rather than radical in the more usual political sense. The roots they went back to were the erotophobic likes of the cohort described by Rothbard but, rather than admit to being celibate- something impossibly uncool in 1970- they styled themselves “lesbian” instead. (Interestingly enough, this has led to celibates like Addams being retconned as lesbians!). Being mentally disturbed and unable to have sex, relationships and children themselves, just like the first cohort they took an obsessive interest in those aspects of everybody else’s life, leading a furious charge against sexuality, traditional relationships and the family. Wrapped in a cocoon of groupthink driven by paranoid fantasies, they steadily and surely pushed forward an agenda of styling every normal family as a cover for constant abuse. Here’s Catharine Mackinnon describing everyday family life-

    You grow up with your father holding you down and covering your mouth so another man can make a horrible searing pain between your legs. When you are older your husband ties you to the bed and drips hot wax on your nipples and brings in other men to watch . . . Your doctor will not give you drugs he has addicted you to unless you suck his penis.

    They needed however a big campaign to really push themselves into the mainstream, and they found it in the reaction against liberalism from the Christian Right, and the Satanic Ritual Abuse Panic, which spread like wildfire from the USA through social work networks infested with spinster feminists, cultural marxists and their ilk. By the tme SRA had been officially debunked, a series of orchestrated panics had drawn the mass of the population into paranoia, believing society to be infested with organised abuse networks- the language of SRA remains with the “S” stripped out, as we all discuss “grooming” and “paedophile rings” and, of course, the demonic figure himself, the paedophile; a word unknown in everyday conversation a generation ago.

    On that extremity was hung a witch hunt mentality, and corresponding extreme legislation such as the Childrens Act here in the UK and the ISA itself and, most significantly, a thorough distrust of all families- which are now presumed routinely to be the site of the paranoid fantasies described by the spinster feminists. It’s a depressing illustration of how society can be led so easilyn into very dark places by a small group of people who are both psychologically disturbed, and well organised.

  • John Galt

    ‘Hate it and leave it”? And go where? Aren’t all countries imperfect to some degree? It makes more sense to reform the country you are in, than to seek a hypothetical perfect land somewhere! If your life is being threatened, then leave, but you should stay and work within the system otherwise!

    The problem is that the system is no longer capable of reform.

    “The problem is it’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.” — Claire Wolfe from 101 Things to Do ‘Til the Revolution (1996).

  • llamas

    Sunfish – yes, the UK status of ‘caution’ is an extreme oddity – it’s essentially a guilty plea, but made to the police/CPS and not to any court. It goes on the citizen’s record as though he/she had pled guilty in court.

    It’s used for minor offenses only – IIRC correctly (30 years out of date) only for offences which could be summarily disposed of in the magistrates’ court.

    In theory, it’s supposed to be a simpler disposition of a case which would be a slam-dunk at trial – not only does the citizen have to admit guilt, but there is supposed to be sufficient evidence outside the admission of guilt to make a prosecutable case with a high probability of a verdict.

    And the citizen is supposed to accept a caution only with informed consent as to the consequences.

    Two things have diverged from this ideal.

    The very nature of what a ‘caution’ is is being misrepresented to citizens. Officers who are driven by targets have found the caution to be a quick and easy disposition which gets them good numbers with the minimum of time and effort spent. Many citizens are being pressured into accepting a caution as a sort of plea-bargain – and the very term sounds relatively innocuous, doesn’t it?

    Coupled with that, the standard of sufficient evidence outside the admission of guilt has been steadily eroded.

    It’s a bad deal. With the amazing expansion of the pre-trail process in the UK (searches and warrants and DNA testing and all sorts) the ‘caution’ is a tool that’s just ripe for abuse, and especially against first-time offenders and those who have a lot to lose by becoming entangled in the CJS – even if they are entirely innocent. No 5th Amendment there, and remaining silent can be used to impugn your defence at trial. After a day in the grip of the police, a ‘caution’ looks like an easy out with few immediate consequences.

    llater,

    llamas

  • guy herbert

    llamas’ answer is comprehensive.

    But we now also have something called a conditional caution, where police can hold the possiblity of prosecution suspended against compliance with arbitary conditions, and even impose a punishment of certain kinds. The difference may not be obvious to the punter.

    http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/police/powers/cautioning/

    This is of a piece with the ad hoc creation of tailored law to control individuals, through the family of civil-standard orders backed by improsonment of which ASBOs are the best known.

  • Sunfish

    So, in other words (specifically, translated into US terms), the police in the UK can effectively impose probation terms and even sentences without the involvement of the dumbest and most-easily-led-around person ever to graduate at the bottom of his law school class and put on a black muumuu.

    As for “conditional cautions,” we have something very vaguely like that in my state. However, compliance by the would-be defendant will still result in no conviction ever happening, and it still requires the involvement of a real judge. (Who is not appointed by the Home Orifice that we don’t have.) Originally, they came along as a way to resolve juvenile cases without the kiddies getting a criminal record, but someone started applying them to adults as well.

    Ian B-
    I know the “Won’t someone think of the baaaaaabies!” people too, but it’s apparently a lot harder to end up convicted of child abuse here. As in, none of the few that I’ve been involved in have ever actually resulted in conviction, in the absence of actual injury.

    And misdemeanor (meaning that serious bodily injury or death did not result). child abuse won’t automatically revoke a professional license, but employers themselves can still end employment for it. It would be career kiss-of-death in my place of enjoyment, but would probably be irrelevant to truck drivers or accountants. (That is, a conviction won’t. Prosecution resulting in acquittal or dismissal shouldn’t even be reported to licensing authorities here and I don’t know why it would be there.)

  • llamas

    Sunfish wrote:

    ‘So, in other words (specifically, translated into US terms), the police in the UK can effectively impose probation terms and even sentences without the involvement of the dumbest and most-easily-led-around person ever to graduate at the bottom of his law school class and put on a black muumuu.’

    Well – yes. Doesn’t that seem like a good idea to you?

    The ‘sentence’ for a straight caution is time-served – but the conditions for a conditional caution can get quite interesting.

    One of my friends in blue in the UK e-mailed me with more. It seesm that the caution has now taken on more of the aspects of a plea-bargain. There’s a large number of petty offences in the UK which are known as ‘either-way’ – can be disposed of summarily in the magistrates court OR can go to the Crown Court on indictment. It’s supposed to be at the discretion of the CPS, depending on ‘the totality of the circumstances’.

    Seems that what’s happening is that the police are saying to the citizen – this is an either-way offence. Now, you can be a good boy and take this caution and go home today – or you can take your chances in the Crown Court, which is where we will press this to if you don’t take this deal.

    No pressure, mind you . . . .

    The police get to record it as a cleared-up case, either way – they get full ‘credit’, but the ‘caution’ is an easy win. So they use the threat of the Crown Court.

    There is a very effective tool for trivia like this – the magistrates can ‘bind over’ any and all parties to keep the peace/be of good behaviour, with conditions/surety if deemed necessary. This is a civil sanction which sunsets if the conditions are met, and is not recorded as a conviction.

    But this resolution doesn’t do anything for the police – it’s like it never happened. So – amazingly enough – trivial and/or non-violent and/or he-said-she-said matters, that used to be effectively dealt with by binding-over, are now dealt with by cautions all rounds – as we see in the instant cases. It wouldn’t suprise me a bit if these defendants were told “well, you could take your chances with a Crown Court jury, spend 6 months on bail, hire lawyers, and if they go against you, do a year or more – or you could take this shiny caution and be on your way. . . . .’

    llater,

    llamas

  • Sunfish

    Well – yes. Doesn’t that seem like a good idea to you?

    It’s brilliant, it is. Every time I’ve ever been involved in anything that wise, the story starts with “And then we started drinking tequila.”

    The only better idea I’ve ever had involved getting back together with my ex.

    I used to think that guns and written constitutions were the most important things to have to protect liberty. It seems that I did not give separation of powers nearly enough credit.

  • Sufnish-

    Prosecution resulting in acquittal or dismissal shouldn’t even be reported to licensing authorities here and I don’t know why it would be there.

    Another significant victory by the Child Savers carried in on the back of some high-profile child murders, particularly the Ian Huntley one. The idea has now been accepted that any accusation of child abuse is smoke indicating a fire, even if it resulted in no action or an acquittal, so is kept on record and used in these blacklists.

  • The following is off topic but this seems as good a place to ask around as any, what with all the expert legal googlers an’ all.

    Here in Ecuador the socialist govt recently decided to put pressure on absent fathers who do not pay maintenance for kids being brought up by mum. Their brilliant idea was to make the father’s entire family legally responsible for maintenance payments. Thus, if the father didn’t pay then his parents had to. If they didn’t, and no other family member stepped in, and Dad himself was unavailable for arrest on account of being in another country (a common scenario in Ecuador) those parents went to jail.

    There have already been cases of frail octogenarians of both sexes going to prison because their estranged sons had done a runner on the wife and gone to live in Spain or the USA, and the money just wasn’t there in the kitty.

    I would like to start spreading the meme that this kind of thing doesn’t happen anywhere in the civilised Western world. Would I be right?

  • Laird

    Endivio, perhaps some of the law enforcement types who frequent this site can give you more information, but to my knowledge there is no such thing occurring (yet) in the US. We do, of course, villify “deadbeat dads” (circumstances never seem to matter; evilness is presumptive), and their wages can be garnished and even their tax refunds seized, but as far as I am aware we haven’t resorted to such an extreme (and retroactive) form of “corruption of the blood” as in Ecuador. I think there would probably be some constitutional problem with it, but given the current state of our constitutional jurisprudence and the quality of our judiciary I’m not entirely sure about that.

  • Sunfish

    Endivio and Laird:

    I’ve never heard of that happening here. Two constitutional problems that I can see:

    1) The ‘corruption of innocent blood’ issue, which means that a person can’t (generally[1]) be jailed for a family member’s misdeeds;

    2) In most states, a person cannot be jailed for a debt. The closest to a hole in this rule is where the non-payment of the debt is in breach of a court order and amounts to contempt of court, and even that’s not available in most civil matters. Actually, the only time I’ve ever seen that is where the debt is delinquent child support and the delinquent parent isn’t just in arrears, but has actively blown off his obligations.

    In theory, in my state, it’s possible to someone to be sued, lose, and refuse to pay the plaintiff the amount owed. He could then be summoned by the court to a ‘debtor’s examination,’ in which he’ll be required to disclose assets that could be seized or sold to pay the debt. Refusing to come to the examination is the only way to get arrested for this, and even then the purpose of the arrest (as is the purpose of most custodial arrests) is not to punish but to deliver a person to the court.

    Oh, and failing to pay or dispute[2] a traffic ticket for what’s classified as a civil traffic infraction can potentially result in cancellation of one’s driver’s license, and it becomes a misdemeanor to drive after such cancellation. Again, non-payment of child support is also a basis for cancellation, but IIRC it requires a contempt of court judgment, not just one check being late.

    [1] If a parent induces his child to commit a crime, then the parent has committed his own crime of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor,” but I don’t see much of a connection here. I just wanted to get this in before someone else brought it up and punctuated it with comments about ‘lying pigs’ or something.

    [2] The process of arguing a civil traffic bite is a lot like arguing a misdemeanor in my area: show up, plead not guilty, and when the court sets the matter for trial, convince the judge to a preponderance of evidence that it didn’t happen. Every traffic ticket issued in my state has a court date just for that, and that the person will appear to argue it is supposed to be the default assumption. But that’s a threadjack of its own…