Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fine for whom?

In the course of's unrelenting pursuit of information, I end up reading some stuff of interminable dreariness. Magazines that even ‘Have I Got News For You’ would refuse to believe anyone could be motivated to write, let alone read, or, even, in some cases, reach in their pockets for. Yet they are out there. Even the most obscure niche of the most specialist industry has a community, and the nether reaches of the re-world has some doozies.

And I really couldn't face talking about any of them.

But a small piece in one, that was nothing really to do with any specific industry, caught my eye. Basically, some poor devil lost his life at work, and his firm had been fined £10,000. Other than seeming a rather woeful amount for a life when a rich director get £50,000 in the same week for a paper saying something nasty about him, this got me to wondering. I do presume that the victim's next of kin would be attended to by company and/or personal insurances, no matter what the circumstances, accidental or criminal, careless or negligent. A fine certainly would seem to indicate that the employer/company was deemed at fault. But getting hooked on semantics, a fine doesn't sound like an award, which I would further presume would go to those who are suffering from the consequences. And if not, to whom does it go? The regulators? Staff party? Making up for the shortfall in London's congestion charge costs? Filling the gap in Gordon's fiscally prudent pensions black hole?

Even if financial penalties do end up swinging by the nearest and dearest, I've often wondered in some cases why some have benefited. If, say, a hospital is responsible for the death of a young parent, I can easily appreciate that compensatory funds should go to those they will no longer be around to care for (so long as the public purse is spared further by the guys responsible being held to account in tangible ways not involving money). But I'm not quite clear on where money goes in a lot of other cases where all it would be is... money.

Taking the medical world again as an example, and if you believe in a state-supported health service, as I do, then all that is happening is much needed funds are being diverted away from those who most need them to those who do not. All I can see as the main beneficiaries from this ‘fine’ culture is those who have managed to buy off accountability for their responsibility with blood money, and those who have allowed themselves to be bought with it. Plus, of course, the lawyers (don't get me started).

So it would appear that justice never gets served, nor is there any tangible incentive (jail, job loss, demotion...) to put right what has gone wrong before. When reported, along with the amount I’d like it made much clearer where these monies go, come from, for what, who authorised them and why.

What are the odds?