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Law to evicerate undesirable laws

No harm no foul
(+1, -1)
  [vote for,

"So long as a man rides his hobbyhorse peaceably and quietly along the King's highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him — pray, Sir, what have either you or I to do with it?"
-Laurence Sterne

Over time, the UK legal system seems to have accreted a number of laws intended to regulate behaviour on solely moral grounds.
That is, laws creating offences for what are victimless crimes.

After some introspection I realised that this is the rotten core of what I find so painful about the legal system.

I propose a new law to fix this. Obviously it would need to be couched in the appropriate language to make it precise and accurate. I have no problem with the politicians taking the time and care to get it exactly right.
However, the gist of it would be:

A valid defence against any prosecuted offence is to show that there is no victim. The defendant is not a victim. A consenting party is not a victim.

Great swathes of outdated and mis-applied laws would be blocked at a single stroke. If a number of prosecutions under any legislation were to fail on these grounds then this would be a good reason to review and fix that area of law.

I now try to forstall invalid objections by stating and rebutting them, in QA format:

Could this be used to avoid prosecution for insurance fraud / non-payment of tax / cruelty to animals etc?
No. all these harm other entities : the insurance company (and hence other insurees paying a higher premium), the rest of the population and animals, respectively.

Would this make some current legal behaviour with a harmed entity (eg. killing bacteria with disinfectant; abortion) illegal?
No. The proposal doesn't create new offences.

Would this make consuming drugs in private legal?
Yes. Recreational drug use may (or may not) increase. Incidentally, studies show that the illegal state of drugs which causes more societal harm than the drug use itself.

Would this legalise assisted suicide?
Yes, within an appropriate system of safeguards.

Would this make <some sexual practice between consenting adults in private> legal?
Probably, yes. Get over it. It's not your business anyway.

Would this make statutory rape (adults engaging in sex with minors under the age of consent) legal?
No. Except that in jurisdictions where both parties are currently guilty, the underage one would not be.

Other questions given in comments may be added below.

Would this prevent punishment for safety offences (eg. speeding)?
No. Endangering others would still be a crime. Dangerous driving on a public highway would always be prosecutable.
However, endangering yourself (only) might become legal under certain restricted circumstances. Typically such circumstances are already legal though.


Other jurisdictions may benefit from such laws. For example I've read that children in the USA have been prosecuted for using their phones to send others pictures of themselves. A law intended to protect children is imprisoning them for harming - if anyone - themselves. I don't think that's desirable.

Loris, Sep 06 2013

Scotland bans smut. What smut? Won't say http://www.theregis...r0n_law_no_defence/
A law clearly intended as a weapon for the prudish [Loris, Sep 06 2013]

Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do http://en.wikipedia..._Business_If_You_Do
The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country [ytk, Sep 06 2013]


       Do you have any specific examples from UK legislation?
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 06 2013

       //Do you have any specific examples from UK legislation?//   


       There have been multiple cases involving assisted suicide, and even assisting people in going elsewhere to do so.   

       Apparently there were some guys in Scotland who took pleasure in nailing each others private parts to tables, who were prosecuted for doing so. Not my bag, but I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed to indulge themselves.   

       Also some categories of image are illegal to possess in the uk. This includes hand-drawn images and cartoons, however crude. (Incidentally, this theoretically criminalised the 2012 olympics logo.) In Scotland, they won't even give advice about what images are illegal. See link - (it took some time to find that again).
Loris, Sep 06 2013

       //Speeding on a public roadway is often thought of and referred to as a victimless crime, but if it isn't discouraged by the threat of legal/ monetary punishment, it will encourage more people to get in the habit of ignoring posted speed limits which will result in increased traffic collisions, which are certainly not victimless.//   

       My proposal concerns 'true' victimless crimes.
Risking other peoples safety is not a victimless crime (as you note), so the defense wouldn't apply.
(added to the QA section)
Loris, Sep 06 2013


       Fair points.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 06 2013

       I agree with this idea 100%. But it's hardly a new idea. This is pretty much the (USA) Libertarian Party's platform, for example. Numerous books, essays, opinion articles, and so on have been written decrying the existence of victimless crimes. Link provided to one of the most widely known examples.   

       //nailing each others private parts to tables… Not my bag//   

       Or any other part of you, I should hope.
ytk, Sep 06 2013

       // The defendant is not a victim. A consenting party is not a victim.   

       Meaningless blanket definition. Of course both could be victims.   

       Although it's possible that some of the consequences listed in the QA may happen, it's just as likely they would not happen, and the door is wide open for unintended consequences. What constitutes a "victim" is open to interpretation in every instance given in the QA, and the right lawyer can make the right judge believe anything or anyone is a victim (or is not a victim) in virtually any circumstance.   

       So fishbone for high hopes but little practical value.
tatterdemalion, Sep 06 2013

       /bag-nailer/ [marked-for-dictionary inclusion]   

       //evicerate// [not-so-much]
FlyingToaster, Sep 06 2013

       I'd generally agree that no victim is a good guideline. Although I would limit consent as a liberating factor to a few things like drugs, and some sexual acts, and probably not extend it to things life threatening. Assisted suicide should be legal, but only for those who need assistance, for example someone who is too scared to follow through would not qualify. Some drug dealing I would still have illegal such as to minors, or extremely addictive substances in some cases.
rcarty, Sep 06 2013

       I'm not convinced about this. This is the kind of thinking that would make being Welsh legal.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 06 2013

       That's only using scare tactics.
rcarty, Sep 06 2013

       //evicerate // It means "to remove something from being rated a vice".
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 07 2013

       Any law at all will be upheld under the claim "society" is the victim.
Voice, Sep 07 2013

//It means "to remove something from being rated a vice".//

The trouble is, now I'm in two minds whether to fix it.
Loris, Sep 09 2013

       Stupid Second Law. Always thwarting my plans for energy supply domiance.
RayfordSteele, Sep 09 2013

       //// The defendant is not a victim. A consenting party is not a victim.////
//Meaningless blanket definition. Of course both could be victims.//

       I'm not sure where you're coming from with that. Did you understood that I gave a simplified, human-readable description rather than the full text of the proposed law? And the idea was that no, people couldn't be considered as victimising themselves for the purposes of prosecuting them.   

       //... and the door is wide open for unintended consequences. What constitutes a "victim" is open to interpretation in every instance given in the QA//   

       If the time was taken to write the law correctly, and was debated at length, with care - then it should be water-tight.
...And if it isn't, we fix it.

       //, and the right lawyer can make the right judge believe anything or anyone is a victim (or is not a victim) in virtually any circumstance.//   

       If you have such a low opinion of the law as to think that, then certainly no law can possibly make any difference to anything.
Loris, Sep 11 2013

       Of course a defendant or a consenting party can be victims. Being the person who does the thing, or consents to the thing, does not and should not mean you give up your rights to any claims afterward. Why should that be so? It isn't so, and would remain not so regardless of any law you make.   

       Just because you say they are not victims, and just because you construct a law that says they are not victims, does not mean it is true.
tatterdemalion, Sep 11 2013

       Yeaaahp, the nub here is, as has already been identified, is that we need to identify victims. Without a victim, the crime is victimless and Loris's carve out functions. What we need to do it not define victim but to establish a test for the state of victimhood. Of course, to create a test for victimhood, we need to look at a definition of "victim" so please disregard the second sentence of this paragraph, Miss Jones, take a memo.   

       Because we are doing this on the back of a fag packet, we can create the test for victimhood by looking at the components of victimhood and the key caveat/qualifier.   

       Component one: a person
Personhood is a well understood legal concept, so we can blithely refer to existing case law on this are and bash on, pausing only to note that this would most definitely include corporate entities, so shoplifting is not, in this formulation, a victimless crime.

       Component two: harm, injury or dun dun duunnn death
Harm or injury are also well-kent concepts. There is a world of case law relating to delictual (or tortellionian, if you're that way inclined) harm and the valuation of the impact of those harms. Vandalise public property and the public authority has to incur the cost of the clean up. Vandalism is not a victimless crime. Stick a high pressure air hose up a rectum and let of a blast of air, at once inflating and tearing the guts of the inflatee and there is harm to the guts of the inflatee (true story) There is also a cost to, in the UK at least, the taxpayer, in relation the patching up of said guts. This brings us to:

       Component three: proximity of consent
Taking the shattered back passage of our hapless hose-enveloper. Can he consent to having his bum shredded? Possibly (though it is more likely that he did not envisage having his arse ruined by these ill-considered hijinx), arguably, maybe. Is there a reasonable expectation that the public purse will cover the cost of rectal rebuilding, relocated saliva glands, chimpanzee acne and of course moosebumps, even if the need for these groundbreaking medical interventions is p much self-inflicted? In some countries. In the UK, the NHS is (hopefully) sufficiently embedded in our sense of self that patching up balls nailed to boards is seen as something good, and therefore the less proximate stakeholders (the NHS/the taxpayers) are deemed to have agreed not to get involved in the consenual private lives of others, even if those private lives have a marginal bottom line (ho ho ho) cost to the public purse. In other jurisdictions, I don't think this bleeding heart permissiveness would fly.

       Component four: proximity of harm
Did the behaviour complained off cause the harm? This is a matter of fact, so not worth getting buried in. Just note that it's a thing and move on.

       Component five: the caveat: consent
Round these parts, you cannot consent to be killed. Your right to life is, in fact, an obligation that you cannot divest yourself of, other than by doing it yourself while no-one is watching. Brilliant system, well done the UK. Anyway, can you consent to have your balls squeezed until they burst? This is a grey area. The basic consent principle re run of the mill sexual activities is clear: consent must be given, consent can be withdrawn or modified at any time by the consentor and the absence of any element of the consent at any time should prevent the acts not consented to. I would be reasonably happy if this was the test for this law, I am just not sure that the facts would necessarily show the existence or non- existence of the consent with the same clarity as the legal test.
calum, Sep 11 2013

       I"d prefer a law that states any law unused in the last year goes on probation. If no one is charged under it's provisions in the next two years it simply expires. Psssst.   

       The legislature can write a better law. The police can charge you under a more valid practical or common law.   

       "When in trouble or in doubt run and holler, scream and shout." Famous quote from ? . The legislature tends to write laws to fix things that don't need fixing or that already have perfectly good laws written to deal with the crisis. It is one way they "run and holler, scream and shout " .
popbottle, Sep 11 2013

       The discussion must once again inevitably turn to the issue of necrophilia, and beastiality. It is rather difficult to come up with new victimless crime examples, but as my thoughts turned to darker subjects it struck me that performing injustices upon the dead may be enough in grey areas to be topical. Not just necrophilia but grave robbery, or indeed robbery of the corpse for necrophilia, seems not to harm a legal 'person', and because no 'person' is involved, nor is consent. As a dead person is not a victim, does [Loris]' proposal damn the world to a zombilike puppetry of the dead by the sexually deranged? Likewise will ill satisfactions derived from the hinds of the menagerie become commonplace?
rcarty, Sep 12 2013

       Fine, assume no next of kin, or ownership of the body by the offender. In the case of animal abuse, beastiality is more interesting, there was no prosecution for a long time simply because they were entitled to no legal status or rights. People wear, eat and enslave them afterall. That they can be legally considered victims is open for debate.
rcarty, Sep 12 2013

       //it's a form of cruelty to animals//   

       I remember my Criminology prof (an ex-Mountie) talking about this very topic. They came across a guy, umm, 'servicing' his mare while standing upon a stepladder. The topic of whether or not this was cruel was valid cuz I don't care how you're hung - you are no stallion. And the mare could walk away at any point.   

       Just saying that nothing is cut and dried.
AusCan531, Sep 12 2013

       I do know that several decades ago there was a push for the Canadian Criminal Code to be expunged of all "status" crimes . These are instances where people were punished for being something rather than doing something - being homeless for example.
AusCan531, Sep 12 2013

       //Of course a defendant or a consenting party can be victims. Being the person who does the thing, or consents to the thing, does not and should not mean you give up your rights to any claims afterward. Why should that be so? It isn't so, and would remain not so regardless of any law you make.//   

       Then I think you don't understood the scenario.
The proposal isn't to remove rights but to confer protection.
The state prosecutes people for things they've done of their own volition, which don't harm anyone (or anything) else. I'm saying it shouldn't.
Of course being the perpetrator of one crime doesn't preclude being the victim of another. Nothing here suggests that.
Loris, Sep 12 2013

       Also, we should be careful not to confuse relationships here. Loris is dealing with the state-person relationship, the notion of "claims" covers both state-person and person-person.
calum, Sep 12 2013


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