Public Law – Private Crime – Adjusted Justice

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A friend has just related an incident in which he observed theft from a grocery store and reported it to his local police station. He was rebuffed with the comment that any complaint would have to come from the injured party – the store – and that he had no role to play in the affair. That’s odd – should any complaint and prosecution take place he would have the role of witness and be severely bound by the rules of evidence.

Another reader of his report has said that the grocery store would not even take notice of the theft of several trollies of goods – recovering the cost from an insurance company. This leaves us with a series of intriguing questions…

a. If there is an offence that is not reported, is it an offence at all? My friend reported it and was told to basically walk away.

b. Who can be offended? Not my friend, apparently, or at least not by a flagrant act of theft. Only the grocery store has the right, privilege, power to take offence. If they do not, then there is no offence. Does that mean that there was no immorality.

c. Is there no independent arbiter and proclaimer of morality? In this case, the pronouncements that might flow from a church, schul, mosque, temple, or court seem to be non-events. Shall we close them down?

d. Are all prohibitions likewise to be ignored unless there is a complaint by a powerful body? What if a powerless woman complains of torture or assault by her husband…or by anyone else who might do it? She’s not a national retailer, so why take notice?

e. IS there an actual base of law or morality, if there is no notice taken of a breach of it? If I obey the treaty of Bern it is a law…if I ignore it it is a scrap of paper. If there is no enforcement of it, is it even a scrap of paper…?

f. Are any of us bound to help the police with their enquiries if, when we help the police with their enquiries, they ignore us?

I don’t have answers, and I am sorry I have to ask questions, but I am going to lock up tightly and sharpen the sabre just in case.

Not that the cops will care…


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