ENGLISH LAW RUNS OUT OF COMMON SENSE ON MARATHON

Before I start writing most mornings I listen to BBC Radio 4 and read a (usually yesterday’s) newspaper. That normally warms me up for writing, with only the occasional bout of shouting at the radio and banging my head on the table. Sometimes this process provokes ideas for stories or scenes for inclusion in pieces I am writing. Occasionally I come across items that make me wonder where the world I thought I lived in went to. Sometimes these are so huge that they defy rational encapsulation. I still cannot understand, believe or rationalise the motives behind the vote to leave the EU. Others are not as all encompassing, but of equal enormity.

Stanislaw Skupian was recently convicted of three thefts and sentenced to three weeks prison for them (a strangely pointless period I would have thought – messing up the system and his life with no obvious corrective effect in a throwback to 19th century moral attitudes rather than any concept of what the justice system is trying to achieve). How he was convicted of theft is unclear as the items appear to have been discarded stationery and a lost pass. However, let that be a matter between the magistrates and the unfortunate man’s legal representatives.

But much worse apparently according to Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court, was the fact he had jogged in the last three miles of a road race. For the ‘crime’ of picking up a discarded number on the road, 300 metres from the end of the race, and crossing the line he was gaoled for 13 weeks, 4.3 times the sentence for the three thefts.

As a display of the idiocy surrounding ‘sport’ and the law in our society it is hard to beat.

Of course the ‘race’ was the London Marathon and the charge was fraud – although bar the crappy participants medal it is hard to see what benefit he obtained, and the medal is worth how many pennies? I suppose at the most it could be worth the £39 ballot fee paid to enter, but frankly I doubt it, as that fee covers a lot of other things that had already been consumed at the point Mr Skupian entered the scene.

Now the London Marathon is a ‘national treasure’ and I understand some people take it inordinately seriously. It’s a ‘serious’ road race with a massive ‘fun run’ attached. I understand that many of the less serious ‘athletes’ in this latter event dress up and take the opportunity of their self punishment to raise money for charity. I won’t comment further on this; charity and its place in a modern society is another discussion.

Bu it sounds like the ‘fun’ element of running has no place in this case. Skupian joined in, without a numbered bib, about three miles out (isn’t part of the idea to enthuse people to join in with exercise?). Now the rules say no-one is allowed to finish without an official number and the owner of one bib lost his, and was hoiked out of the race by ‘fun loving’ officials. He had lost his number c300metres from the finish. Mr Skrupian, approaching the point where he too would have been evicted from the race without a number, found the lost number on the road and put it on, finished the race and was chucked a medal.

The fun decidedly stopped there.

He was arrested, charged and prosecuted for fraud.

To do that to someone who on the spur of the moment joined in, picked up a lost number and received no pecuniary advantage worth the name, is more than strange. It is perverse, unjustified and brings the event into disrepute, but more importantly rips up the social contract between the law and the governed and, one would hope, opens the law up to total ridicule.

This is one of the grossest miscarriages of justice and I wonder if the attitude of those pursuing this to the bitter end would have been the same if the ‘perpetrator’ had been Mr S Smith, jovial English jack the lad, having a ‘larf’ and not someone with a distinctly un-English sounding name who has been resident here for only eleven years? I am sure justice would have been blind.

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