Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The One That Wonders What The Court System Is For. . .

Yet another blow for the judicial system which has served us fairly well since 1215, Al-Beeb reports that the government has decided that absentee parents who do not pay their child support bills can have their passports and driving licences seized by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Odd that, I wonder if the DVLA can seize the pension payments of motorists who don't pay parking fines. or if the Identity and Passport Service can intercept your wages if you don't play ball with the government over their ID card scheme?

But that's not the best bit, the DWP can take these documents from you without a court order. So the only assumption is that an agent of the state will be able to come round to your house and enter your property without a warrant issued by a magistrate and rifle through your belongings until they find your passport and driving licence, which they can then take away.

Here's a scenario: Bob is a lorry driver and has a bit of a fling with Doris, Bob is sensible and always bags up. After a couple of weeks, Bob discovers Doris is a very friendly young lady who has showered other men in her town with affection whilst he's been picking up widgets from the factory in Bratislava for delivery to a plant in Coventry. Bob does not appreciate this lack of exclusivity and dumps Doris in a humiliating fashion.

Nine months later, Doris gives birth to a beautiful baby boy. Despite Bob's rule about using condoms, Doris wants him to be the father of the boy so names him on the birth certificate and chases him for support payments.

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission come calling and demand he support his child. 'Hang on a bloody minute,' says Bob 'what sprog? There's no way in the world this is mine, I always used a condom when I screwed the bitch.' He reasonably demands a DNA test. Doris, so keen for the truth to remain hidden, obstructs this with objections and ooman rights allegations so the case file gets sent to the 'It's not my bloody kid' team where it is lost in short order in a chaotic filing system buried under doughnut boxes.

After a spell of nothing happening at the CMEC, Doris kicks up a stink about her lack of cash, the CMEC take details of Bob, because they can't find the file, and send an agent round to get his passport and driving licence, whilst the office is turned up-side down looking for the file.

Bob then has to explain to his boss that he is unable to go to Bratislava to pick up this week's shipments of widgets as some crazy bitch has relieved him of his passport and driving licence. Bob's boss, Keith is sympathetic, but they rely on the widget contract, and he has no option but to let Bob go.

Of course the politicians and senior managers would say this could never happen. But, dear reader, you forget I am a civil servant. I know how an office which is populated by demotivated staff and subject to budget cuts whilst the budget for diversity training and Panglossian glossy in-house magazines goes through the roof, runs. It will happen. The pressure on middle managers from their senior counterparts to meet ever increasing targets means the front line staff are encouraged to cut corners, they are told 'just do it.' Then we get to lessons learned', blah blah.

You cannot deprive people of their liberty without the say so of the courts. This has been the case for 800 years now. It isn't about making the system 'faster, simpler and easier for the taxpayer', it is about propriety, accuracy and proportionality.

Yes, of course it should be an offence to father/mother a child and then bugger off leaving the other half to bring the kid up by themselves. I should imagine it is also an offence to make an application to the CMEC and wilfully claiming that an innocent party is the father. This is what courts are for, and the main duty of government agencies are to ensure that the decisions made and actions taken are the correct ones, not the cheapest ones.

Believe me people, the goverment does not know best. They are not best placed to make decisions in cases regarding parentage and their financial means. 'The Government' is not an expert organisation, it is staffed by normal, flawed human beings, under pressure to make things run in the face of a system that must make savings, but not in areas of Righteous control.

It can only end in tears.

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