Occasionally I find myself despairing at some obvious injustice dished out by the judicial system. I’m not talking about the the criminal justice system – that’s way out of my league and I have no experience of it whatsoever. I’m not sure we even need one of these where I live. I’m talking about the system for righting the minor civil wrongs that are part of the fabric of our law-abiding lives – you know the sort of stuff: not parking on the correct side of a line in a municipal car park, or being a minute and a half in arrears with your council tax, or worse still, being recorded by secret cameras as you furtively sneak away from Aldi’s car park after ten minutes of ‘free’ parking.
Anyway, a large part of this system is deployed and maintained solely to settle disputes between landlords and tenants. Being a landlord, I am, undeniably, an immensely rich Tory who is about to get his come-uppance from the Millibrain, who is intent on starving me and my species into oblivion by nationalising the private housing stock and giving it to workers on zero-hours contracts who have no capacity (and probably no intention) of paying the rent. Anyway, when they don’t pay the rent, I’ll be obliged to take a trip to the small claims court.
In these hallowed halls of justice I’ll meet a ‘judge’ who has no interest whatsoever in examining the case on its merits and come to a reasoned conclusion based, as it should in a civil case, on the ‘preponderance of evidence’. Instead, they will come to decisions based on their assessment of the balance of power between the landlord and the tenant, if they bother to asssess the facts at all.
Here’s an example. I once had to take a tenant to court for wrecking a perfectly good flat. I was counter-sued by the tenant for not protecting his deposit in a deposit protection scheme. I explained very carefully that I didn’t have to do this, and presented case studies from the high court to the district judge in our local county court to prove that I didn’t. He had no choice but to agree with me, and the claim by the tenant failed. But don’t forget, I was also suing the tenant for wrecking my flat.
As part of the wrecking spree, the drunken slob had put his fist through a number of my doors. As retribution for my capitalist victory in the first case, the same judge then ruled – and this is completely true – that the damage to the doors had been caused by the central heating.
Please read that again.
And this, despite the tenant having agreed that he’d damaged the doors, and despite having spent a good part of the previous week attempting to repair them. Not to mention the photographs.
I used to respect the county courts. Now I just think they’re experimental laboratories for testing how close to the edge the state can push an ordinary citizen.