When is a public service not a public service?
I broke my leg recently and received superlative, unstinting treatment for it on the NHS.
I received and shall continue to receive that treatment free, shall I not? Well, no, actually. I pay my taxes and the NHS is paid for out of the public purse.
I would look askance were I to be presented with an invoice at the conclusion of my treatment. That would be laughable and an outrage, would it not? It would be a case of double taxation.
Much has been written in protest against the uniform levying of charges on all convicted of criminal offences. Yes, it is disproportionate in its effect according to many offenders’ means. Yes, the enhanced levies following conviction after trial also amount to a clear and perverse incentive to plead guilty.
But why are we even going there? Logically, philosophically, constitutionally and morally there is no difference between my receiving an invoice from the NHS and an offender facing a levy on conviction.
Our justice system is run as a public service and an integral feature of any properly functioning democracy. We are all, in our different roles and at different times, users of that service. It makes no more sense to raise a levy against witnesses or even victims than it does against the offender.
Are those offenders who have contributed by their taxes also to be subject to double payment?
A moment’s clear-headed thought helps us to see this sleight of hand for what it is. We must have no truck with it.
This is a con trick and must be denounced as such.
Malcolm Fowler, Dennings, Tipton