Sometimes trying to do the right thing would get you in trouble. Hell, make that most times. In many situations, the wrong thing is usually the easiest way out, and unsurprisingly many people take that route.
Sometimes the law can be the most impersonal of arbiters. And sometimes there is just no right answer no matter where you turn.
Magistrate Nigel Allcoat was probably not making any of these considerations, just trying to help out a fellow human in a terrible situation. Unfortunately, it did not end well for either of them.
‘ A senior magistrate who pulled £40 from his own shirt pocket to pay the court fine for a destitute asylum seeker has resigned his position, after being suspended by authorities for the good deed’, UK’s The Guardian reports.
‘The 65-year-old magistrate said the young man in his 20s had appeared before him in early August having defaulted on his fine, and had to also pay £180 in mandatory court charges, under legislation introduced late in the last parliament by the former justice secretary, Chris Grayling.’
The mounting fines on the destitute asylum seeker, who had defaulted on an earlier fine, led to the Magistrate attempting to chip in his own two cents to help defray the costs.
“We were looking at the computer system that was pulling up this man again for non-payment. It was spontaneous, but I had £40 in my shirt pocket and thought: ‘What if I chipped in? If a burger stall owner can?’ And I thought it would just feed the computer,” the magistrate recalled.
“The lady standing next to me also wanted to pay, though she had left her handbag in the retirement room.”
The increasing fines lumped on criminal offenders came into effect in April to ensure convicted adult offenders pay towards the costs of running the criminal justice system.
The penalty is in addition to fines, victim surcharges, compensation orders and prosecution costs.
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The asylum seeker in question had little chance of settling his debts, since his status also prevented him from holding any employment. He had some people helping him out, it seems the magistrate just could not be one of them.
So he has been suspended pending an investigation by the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee. Allcoat resigned so he can have freer reign when speaking on the issue.
Allcoat said he felt compelled to help because of the current migrant crisis which had a deep impact on him.
“What can someone do in that situation, when you tell them they need to find £180 or they will go to prison, but they cannot work?” “They could steal the money? Commit another crime? That would cost the state even more money to have him put in prison. It costs more to keep someone in prison than to send a boy to Eton.”
You would think there would be a way to accommodate a person doing a good deed, not just out of the goodness of his heart, but actually trying save the same system causing the problem more expenses down the line. It was more efficient to pay that £40 than for the asylum seeker to be jailed.
Maybe it was all for the best. Magistrate Allcoat, a professional organist, would now have more time for his music.