A Good Neighbour Law

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Having trod the corridors of Justice to find Justice denied, I submit this petition to provoke meaningful discussion about changes in the Law and to make the public aware that many Victims of Crime have been denied Justice. This can be a life destroying experience for them.

Lord Chief Justice Hewart said in 1924; ‘Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.’ A phrase quoted in Law lectures around the world including Scotland. At times not only is Justice not seen to be done it is not done because Scots Law states that complainants must have two independent witnesses. Much crime is committed without such witness, or as my petition implies with witnesses who will not come forward, even anonymously. There are even some organisations standing in a “safe zone” who do not act fully to investigate suspicions of wrong doing.

Many Victims of Crime stand testimony to the fact that when Justice eludes them there is no closure for them; no end to their torment. They must bear the results of crime and false accusations often alone, forgotten, pushed aside as nuisance material to live with the repercussions for the rest of their lives. They often feel stigmatised as, with no proof in Law of their innocence, the adage “no smoke without fire” is whispered in dark corners by those who do not know the full story. This can be compounded by the fact that those who caused years of suffering to innocent people walk seemingly unchallenged to carry out similar acts again. 

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."           Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929 –1968

 We live in the Social Media Age, no longer in communities where we know our neighbours thus blurring our sense of responsibility towards them. Reports can be found about witnesses to racism, robbery, assault, murder and rape doing nothing to change the course of events. Social media is used as a tool to harass, intimidate and bully sometimes leading to victim suicide. Mobile phone footage is downloaded on to social media, aired live, viewed by thousands while onlookers cheer criminals on.

Media outlets have reported incidents of abuse and assault related to race, religion, age and sexual orientation on our streets, care homes and on public transport. Reports of bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace are of scandalous proportion with caregivers and charities involved. These events have one thing in common, witnesses. Witnesses who saw and heard and did nothing to either intervene or report the incidents at the time.

Edmund Burke`s 1729–1797 statement “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that the good do nothing” resonates through time and should be taken to heart by all who uphold the Law. If we did the law-abiding citizen would take back control of society and some criminality could be stopped in its tracks. Evil does thrive when the good do nothing.

We appear to be sliding towards a “mind my own business” society with the criminal fraternity clapping their hands in glee. Perhaps by doing nothing we could be considered partners in crime by omission. What would it cost us to call the Police and forward mobile phone footage, even anonymously? As reporting becomes the norm negative reaction to it would lessen each day.

Criminals including racists, bullies and sexual predators continue down their destructive paths because they can; they are given permission by those who do nothing. Time for organizations and individuals to recognise they have moral and legal obligations towards their fellow beings. We give £millions each year to the world`s needy, time to give witness to victims; to stop ignoring crime. One day we could be the victim.

Scots Law must legislate to accommodate societal changes; to ensure every person recognises the rights of all by working with and for the law. Reporting crime immediately would save lives, years of victim torment, Police investigation time and public money. It would bring successful prosecution and a reduction in crime.

It should be a “common sense” law. Danger to witnesses considered with built in safeguards to protect and support them. Pre-legislative Consultation should be for full public consideration.

There are many practical obstacles to such a Law and It may meet with horror and opposition. However, even if only debated it may still serve a purpose; to remind people that the law is to protect them and that they must play an active role within its structure.

Graham Hughes wrote in Criminal Omissions, “The law often lags half-century or so behind public mores” Scotland, lag no longer. Time for a Law of Omission. The Good Neighbour Law.