These are the times in the last thirty something years that I have broken the law:
Speeding, on numerous occasions, but particularly once through roadworks where the speed limit changed on my usual route to work.
Realising after hours of shopping in a large shopping centre that I had a bunch of bananas in a polythene bag on my wrist from M&S that I hadn’t paid for, and being too tired to bother to go back and pay.
I can’t think of a number 3. We do still have a Mr Men library book that my mum didn’t take back when we were children, but I am not sure if that is a crime or not.
When I was travelling I spent a few months in a hostel in Melbourne. The only rule in the hostel was 'no bongs'. It was OK to smoke marijuana, but no bongs. Once I asked the owner why this was the rule and he said 'you have to draw a line somewhere'. I suggested that it would be more logical to draw the line at the same place the law had drawn the line, but apparently that was crazy logic. And would have put off a lot of customers.
I have always chosen to stay on the right side of the law. I’ve never smoked weed, in a bong or otherwise, or even the special brownies my university housemate once made. I haven’t used Dominic Cummings as an excuse to stop following the lockdown rules like a number of my friends. In the words of Rizzo, I don’t steal and I don’t lie. It is just a large part of who I am.
It also seems to be a large part of a number of other lawyers, who have been loudly commenting this week on the toppling of the Colston statue. They have compared it to something from Lord of the Flies, saying the statue should have been removed through the proper channels. Criminal damage, they say, is never OK.
I say that a number of those lawyers, and about 50% of us overall, wouldn’t have the right to vote if it weren’t for the criminal damage caused by the Women’s Social and Political Union- or more accurately the attention it brought their campaign.
I say that 'taking a knee' wasn’t working well enough or fast enough for black American footballers, and that sometimes you have to take to the streets in a pandemic to make your point.
I say that a statue is a symbol, someone who has literally been put on a pedestal, and the sight of it being brought down is even more symbolic. I say that it gave me the opportunity to talk for the first time to my young children about the slave trade and open their eyes to racial injustice for the rest of their lifetimes.
I say that I really, really hope you have been as vocal in your condemnation of police brutality as you have about this.
I also say that I would have had an abortion before 1968, if I had needed it. I say that if I was a gay man I would have exercised my right to a private life before 1967. I say that I will beat to a pulp anyone who ever hurts my children.
I say that there would only have been one season of 24 if Jack Bauer had been locked up for killing a few bad guys whilst saving the world from complete destruction.
My point is that it is possible to disagree with protesters causing criminal damage, to wish the statue had been taken down democratically (note- it hadn’t been taken down democratically, and branding humans with your company name to assert your ownership over them has been frowned upon for a while now) and also to understand and accept why it was done.
*Some facts and identities have been altered in the above article