back to article Conviction by computer is go, confirms UK Ministry of Justice

Petty criminals in Britain will soon be found guilty and sentenced by computers, under new government plans. Originally floated last year in a public consultation scheme, the UK government has now announced it will press on with its scheme to persuade low-level lawbreakers that pleading guilty online is a good idea. "Under …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Victim surcharge

    In the case of fare evasion on SouthEast trains exactly who is the victim ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Victim surcharge

      Certainly not SouthEastern trains, they get paid compensation for delays by Railtrack, even when they don't pay it to passengers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Victim surcharge

      Seems like crime is being treated more like a revenue stream than a problem.

      1. earl grey Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Victim surcharge

        Shouldn't that be "alleged crime"?

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Train fare evasion is nominally a private matter between the privatised operating company and the passenger but is enforced through archaic 19th century laws that make it a criminal offence."

    Given that it's effectively a form of fraud it's not surprising that it's a criminal offence.

    1. Smooth Newt
      Meh

      Train fare evasion

      Given that it's effectively a form of fraud it's not surprising that it's a criminal offence.

      Fraud: wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.

      Q. Do you have a ticket?

      A. No.

      It is hard to see where the deception needed for fraud is, unless the person claims that they have a ticket when they do not have one.

      1. patrickstar

        Re: Train fare evasion

        So what happens if you lose your ticket? Off to the court you go, you horrible criminal ticket-loser?

        1. Jason Hindle

          Re: Train fare evasion

          "So what happens if you lose your ticket? Off to the court you go, you horrible criminal ticket-loser?"

          My rough understanding.... The fine comes with a threat of criminal proceedings. Pay up, and it is treated as a private matter; you don't have to plead guilty to anything. Manchester Metrolink even offers a discount for swift payment of fine. I agree, it can be unreasonable, and the otherwise friendly inspectors operate on the principle that mercy is for the weak, but at least there's a clear enough line.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Train fare evasion

            Wasn't that the problem with the Oyster card on buses?

            The same people in charge of paying for the system to be fixed were making more money from fines paid by people whose card wasn't recognised

  3. James 51 Silver badge
    Holmes

    Good, bad or indifferent; if the system costs more to run than it rakes in in fines it will be scrapped.

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Joke

      You're new here, aren't you?

      That would be much too sensible, and set a precedent.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You're new here, aren't you?

        The point of online fines is to reduce the costs of the system, presumably so the fines will be larger than the costs.

      2. billse10

        Re: You're new here, aren't you?

        "set a precedent."

        There's a bit from Yes Minister, can't remember which one: Sir Humphrey warns the Minister that something could "create a dangerous precedent". Hacker "You mean, if we do the right thing this time, we might have to do the right thing next time?"

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Good, bad or indifferent; if the system costs more to run than it rakes in in fines it will be scrapped.

      Only after millions of pounds has been thrown at it, and the person in charge can blame his/her predecessor

    3. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      "Good, bad or indifferent; if the system costs more to run than it rakes in in fines it will be scrapped."

      No way! That's not how government works!

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "We have considered the responses in full and think it is possible to prosecute low-level cases via an automatic online conviction procedure and impose an automated, standard penalty in these cases without compromising the principles of our justice system.

    Translation: we've ignored the consultation & will go ahead with whatever we feel like doing.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Further Translation: It worked for Tom Cruise in Minority Report, so by jingo it'll work for us!

      1. David L Webb

        Further Translation: It worked for Tom Cruise in Minority Report, so by jingo it'll work for us!

        I thought Minority Report had psychics predicting future crimes rather than computers trying and sentencing offenders.

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          "I thought Minority Report had psychics predicting future crimes rather than computers trying and sentencing offenders."

          There was a computer involved at some point. Because you had that scene with Cruise wiggling his fingers on a hologram keyboard.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Cruise wiggling his fingers..

            Ah. Same keyboarding skills I have then.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Cruise wiggling his fingers..

              Wasn't it more of a dance routine?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "I thought Minority Report had psychics predicting future crimes rather than computers trying and sentencing offenders."

          That comes next, after they've sampled everyone's DNA and used that to predict if we are criminals or not....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "after they've sampled everyone's DNA and used that to predict if we are criminals or not...."

            AC: that briefing paper was marked Top Secret, Prime Minister Only. Please report to your nearest detention centre for immediate processing. (Isn't it wonderful, the stuff we can do now we can leave the ECHR without anyone complaining, we just parrot "the will of the people"?)

          2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Minority Report

            Perhaps Brazil is a more apt movie for comparison mostly because it doesn't involve Tom Cruise, but also because the broad scope for abuse is all too realistic (and also no Tom Cruise).

    2. Smooth Newt
      Pint

      Consultation

      Translation: we've ignored the consultation & will go ahead with whatever we feel like doing.

      They usually do that - public bodies have to do public consultations, but aren't obliged to take notice of the results.

      The official response says it all really - We ... think it is possible to prosecute low-level cases .. without compromising the principles of our justice system. Possible isn't the same as likely. Isn't even close.

    3. veti Silver badge

      I think a more detailed translation would be:

      "We think it's a cool idea, so we're going to do it anyway. The fact that my son-in-law runs a database company is neither here nor there."

  5. User McUser
    Unhappy

    Prosecution Costs?!

    Defendants persuaded to plead guilty online will automatically be issued [...] prosecution costs

    And exactly what prosecution costs would those be m'ludd? The 1p worth of electricity the server uses processing the form submission?

    1. disorder

      Re: Prosecution Costs?!

      Don't discount the hundred million £ development cost of an insecure, barely functional (and only on IE, at that) website by the favoured contractor of the month.

      1. John Arthur
        Joke

        Re: Prosecution Costs?!

        'Don't discount the hundred million £ development cost of an insecure, barely functional (and only on IE, at that)'

        That would be IE6 presumably!

      2. You aint sin me, roit
        Pirate

        Re: Prosecution Costs?!

        IE?

        I'll take my chances with a jury... chokey would be better than using IE!

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Prosecution Costs?! @User McUser

      ??? - Of course there are still costs.

      The offense still has to be written up, and actually entered as an offense. A case still has to be made before it could be prosecuted. The evaluation of whether a case is likely to succeed if taken to court still has to be made.

      I agree that the costs should be fairly minimal, but they are still costs

      But to my mind, this new system is really intended to offer people who know they have committed a crime to admit to it, and have a means of going through the justice system without having to go to court, reducing the cost of the whole procedure and saving precious court time.

      We already have such a system for traffic offenses. You get caught speeding bang to rights, you can offer to pay the fine, accept the points, and never see the inside of a court room.

      In motoring offenses, if you think you're not guilty, you can still opt to go to court, plead your case and let the magistrate decide whether you're guilty or not. The way I read this, you will be able do exactly the same for a number of other minor offenses.

      The difference here is that they can be minor criminal offenses, but still, probably ones that would only result in a fine, not a custodial sentence. What's wrong with that?

      If you know you're guilty, plead guilty through the web site, and avoid a physical court case. Think that you're innocent, or you've got a chance to avoid it, take your chances in court.

      It's not as if the computer will be deciding guilt, taking the place of a magistrate, judge or jury.

      The only way this could be seen as disruptive to the justice system is if you are encouraged to plead guilty when you're not, merely to reduce the financial burden. That really would be unjust!

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Prosecution Costs?! @User McUser

        "I agree that the costs should be fairly minimal, but they are still costs"

        To get CPS to charge the Police need to prepare a pre-charge pack. Roughly 4 hours of paperwork ignoring the evidence collection.

        Then they need to spend 2 hours on hold to "CPS Direct", the CPS call centre.

        Charge out rate for a Constable is about £60/hour (yes, you can hire Police officers privately). So that's £360, plus CPS lawyer time.

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Prosecution Costs?! @User McUser

          "To get CPS to charge the Police need to prepare a pre-charge pack. Roughly 4 hours of paperwork ignoring the evidence collection."

          Luckily, in this country, Police time spent investigating an offence is not counted as a prosecution cost, and only actual prosecution costs are counted. Otherwise long investigations would run into the millions.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Prosecution Costs?! @User McUser

          They could always do it the way press regulations can be made to work: you actually win, but you still have to pay the other side's costs?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Prosecution Costs?! @Peter Gathercole

        Re: "The only way this could be seen as disruptive to the justice system is if you are encouraged to plead guilty when you're not, merely to reduce the financial burden. That really would be unjust!"

        That's the whole point of this plan. Pleas bargains are all about money.

        British Government - taking the justice out of British justice. Yet again.

        We can only marvel at those societies that don't think that "justice" like that handed out 300 years ago is anything to aspire to.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Prosecution Costs?! @Peter Gathercole

          We can only marvel at those societies that don't think that "justice" like that handed out 300 years ago is anything to aspire to.

          There are societies or countries like that???? Where?

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Prosecution Costs?! @AC

          Most of the time, cases only make it to court in the UK if there is a very good chance that the accused will be found guilty, so a significant number of the cases that make it to court will end up with the accused pleading guilty anyway.

          If you can reduce the cost of this process for both the accused and the court system, it looks like a win-win situation to me. Just as long as those who think they've been unjustly accused still have access to the court system if they want.

  6. Suburban Inmate

    Somnio (2016)

    Must find a source for that and watch tonight...

  7. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    This is how NY stop light violations and out of state speeding tickets are handled in the USA. Other than the usurious charges to pay by credit card (and the attempt to shame me into same on the part of the NY Stop Light Fascisti by printing "GUILTY PLEA BY STOP LIGHT SCOFFLAW SCUM" in bold, black shouties on the envelope*) it works well enough. I break the law in some trivial way, get caught dead to rights, pay the fine and everyone gets on with their lives.

    No-one forces me to plead guilty, but I have to make a court appearance if I don't.

    And if I can't afford the time, I shouldn't do the crime. Or at least keep it down to 9 mph over the limit in South Carolina on I95.

    * I paraphrase, but the "GUILTY PLEA" is definitely in there somewhere. The ploy fails because if I had any shame I wouldn't have shot the light in the first place.

    1. DNTP

      Re: "it works well enough"

      The reason you're getting a downvote is that I got one of these automatically generated citations for:

      1. A different state I'd never been in at the time

      2. A car I don't own and in fact have no license to operate

      So do I travel to court in a different state to dispute the charge, just pay the $50, or hire an out-of-state lawyer to represent me? Why is the system set up so that when the charge is inevitably dismissed, the company automatically generating these complaints doesn't have to cover the costs of their perjury or face any legal penalty?

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: "it works well enough"

        Well, you could do either of those, or you could just do what you are supposed to do.

        If you can prove what you say you simply send back the citation with the little boxes in the back filled in and the proof you were somewhere else or a statement to the effect that you never owned the vehicle in question.

        Of course, if this is a sign you are the victim of ID theft, then you have an uphill battle, but then a ticket is the least of your problems. Someone bought and registered a vehicle under your name. You'll almost certainly need a lawyer to begin sorting that mess out.

        As for the "wasn't there, was somewhere else" scenario; happened to my wife a while back when the Triboro Bridge Authority tried to dun her for tolls she never incurred. Easily fixed by return mail.

        Honestly, why would you think that these contingencies hadn't been covered? This could easily have been researched before you knee-jerked. Sometimes I wonder about the people in the IT game these days.

        1. cream wobbly

          Re: "it works well enough"

          Ooh, look at all the clever downvoters who're embarrassed they never thought of the contingencies and want to be angry at something, and if they can't be angry at the system they thought was wrong, they'll be angry at the person correcting them, bigorra!

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: "it works well enough"

            "Ooh, look at all the clever downvoters who're embarrassed they never thought of the contingencies and want to be angry at something, and if they can't be angry at the system they thought was wrong, they'll be angry at the person correcting them, bigorra!"

            Oi! Listen twat: we're downvoting because the 'corrector' is trying to ignore the person's actual experience of the system. You don't get to say 'but contingencies!' if someone is standing there saying 'that system fucked me over'.

            1. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: we're downvoting because

              the 'corrector' is trying to ignore the person's actual experience of the system

              So my numerous personal experiences of the system as related don't count but his one does, just because it confirms your knee-jerky expectations of perfidy and malfeasance?

              Tough crowd.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "it works well enough"

          "If you can prove what you say you simply send back the citation with the little boxes in the back filled in and the proof you were somewhere else or a statement to the effect that you never owned the vehicle in question."

          Plus a bill for your time, at the same rates a top lawyer would charge.

          1. Swarthy Silver badge

            Re: "it works well enough"

            Some of the auto-ticket agencies will have a (non-toll-free) number to call so you could dispute the ticket, after waiting on hold for half an hour or more.

          2. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Plus a bill for your time

            If you can't afford the time, don't do the crime.

            Easy peasy puddin' and pie.

  8. Ogi

    What about the consequences of admitting guilt?

    I mean, unlike parking tickets, where you can pay the pound of flesh and go on your merry way, my understanding is this deals with criminal convictions.

    So in theory, if you click "guilty" online, you now have to tick the "Have you been convicted of a crime in the last 5 years" checkbox on job applications, which 95% of the time fast tracks your application to the cylindrical filing cabinet. Not to mention other things (like car insurance) which want the same information, and I never clicked "yes", but I don't think it does your insurability any good to do so.

    Sounds like there would be more reason to appeal and refuse the "one-click convict" system being proposed here. I think anyone would want to have this heard by an actual person. There is more at stake than just paying the penalty here.

    This seems really ill thought out as concept. Besides, I thought Amazon has the patent on "one-click" online shit. Would love to see the arguments with reference to this.

    Also worries me what the background thinking is behind this.. something along the lines of "Soon we are going to turn so many people into criminals with our law changes, we are going to need an automated one-click justice system to be able to handle the load"?

    On the other hand, black hats will ply a busy consulting trade, hacking the system to minimise the penalties or otherwise mess with the justice system to the benefit of their clients.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: What about the consequences of admitting guilt?

      People will have to tick that "I'm a criminal" box whether they admit guilt online, in court, or are found guilty by the court.

      I can see no advantage to going to court and pleading guilty over doing that online. In fact, going to court would likely be the more expensive option.

      The rationale for the scheme is that it costs money and wastes time to have people come to court only to admit guilt and have a judge sat there rubber stamping that. And other cases, which do need to be heard in person, will be delayed while that hearing is in progress. There are savings to be had if people who are going to plead guilty can avoid court appearances completely.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about the consequences of admitting guilt?

        I can see no advantage to going to court and pleading guilty over doing that online. In fact, going to court would likely be the more expensive option.

        For the likes of you and me, yes. But that's because we would expect to be paying costs. But that will only work for "amateur" criminals, whereas for any hard core crims (the sort that never pay their fines or respond to bail) why wouldn't they elect for a day in court? If they have no legitimate income or assets, then the costs will never get recovered, and there's always a chance, no matter how remote, that their legal aid funded defence will get them off. Quite logical for those people to elect for a court appearance.

        A bit like long term convicts appealing their conviction when they know there's no chance of success: For them it breaks the monotony of clink, and costs nothing.

      2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: What about the consequences of admitting guilt?

        "The rationale for the scheme is that it costs money and wastes time to have people come to court only to admit guilt and have a judge sat there rubber stamping that."

        On the other hand: The cheaper it gets to process "crimes", the more stupid laws we will get. A nice little, or large, extra income for the state aparatus with the added bonus of letting the serfs know their insignificant place.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about the consequences of admitting guilt?

      I don't think it does your insurability any good to do so....Sounds like there would be more reason to appeal and refuse the "one-click convict" system being proposed here.

      I don't like this proposal because I don't trust the British government (of any political colour) as far as I could throw the fat, talent free fuckers, and therefore expect this to be extended far beyond the original scope at their whim......But, but, but, the negative impact on employability and insurance will be no different to either pleading guilty in court, or pleading not guilty in court and subsequently being found guilty, so I'm not sure that your rationale is terribly strong.

      As currently proposed (and as others have noted) this is no different to the machine justice of red light, speeding and bus lane cameras (which can affect insurance and ultimately employability). The costs of running even a volunteer magistrate's court are considerable, and if we can get some of those caught red-handed to 'fess up and pay up online, that might be a good thing. Until government abuse the scheme....

    3. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: What about the consequences of admitting guilt? [4 Ogi]

      "I mean, unlike parking tickets, where you can pay the pound of flesh and go on your merry way, my understanding is this deals with criminal convictions."

      Avoiding a train fare earns a criminal conviction in the UK?

      The trains are that spiffy?

    4. Dr Scrum Master

      Re: What about the consequences of admitting guilt?

      Never mind that "Have you been convicted..." question, there are enough situations where one is asked "Have you been arrested..."

    5. Public Citizen
      Mushroom

      Re: What about the consequences of admitting guilt?

      And how long before the Ransomware people figure out how to hack [or make it appear that they have hacked] the system to generate false cases unless some sum of Monetary Compensation is paid?

      The "Judicial System" is just making the Protection Rackets available for online automation.

      Wait till someone figures out how to tickle the system to make every M.P. into an ~official~ low level crim.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about the consequences of admitting guilt?

        "Wait till someone figures out how to tickle the system to make every M.P. into an ~official~ low level crim."

        Oooh .. how can I help? I think we start by designating every MP who votes against their constituents' wishes an "enemy of the state" (yes Diane Abbott i mean you, you blazing hypocrite)

  9. M7S

    The Way Back

    B7, S1, E1

    I refer you to the impartiality of the justice machine and remain confident in the inviolability of any such system that may be introduced, and expanded in scope over time. Yes indeedy.

    That said, for the principle of dealing with the proposed scope, and retaining the option of a day in court for those accused wanting to appear, it might just save a bit of public time and money, like some fixed penalties do, although I've more faith in the police ones as they've no financial incentive, whereas the councils on the other hand.....

    1. Graham Marsden
      Unhappy

      Re: The Way Back

      As soon as I saw this article I was thinking exactly the same thing.

      That edition of Blake's 7 was broadcast 40 years ago, I'm just surprised it's taken so long for real life to catch up...

  10. hellwig Silver badge

    Tim & Eric already did this bit.

    Season 4, Episode 9 of Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!.

    The Cinco brothers use their on E-Trial software to defend against murder charges. Needless to say, it did not go well (or rather, went exactly as planned).

    In all seriousness, what happened to post mail? When I got a speeding ticket, my options were plead innocent and await a court date, plead no contest and pay the prescribed fine (via mail), or some third option I think about mitigating circumstances, not sure. How is a website that does the same any different?

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Tim & Eric already did this bit.

      Not sure where you live, but in England your options are:

      [ ] I'm a scumbag, please take my money

      [ ] I'm prepared to waste my time attending court and risk getting hammered by professionals

      And for some motoring offences:

      [ ] I'll spend time and money on a "retraining" session

  11. Herby Silver badge

    What could possibly go wrong.....

    Kumputers is Perfekt.

    That slamming noise is of the jail door being shut behind you.

  12. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    What about not guilty

    US traffic courts use a similar system and one can pay the fine online. It is restricted to cases where a small fine is assessed. All other cases require a court appearance. If one does not pay online then one must make a court appearance.

    The question for these systems, is what type of cases are they being used for and how flexible are they. Also, is there actual judicial oversight and not a blind reliance on a program.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: What about not guilty

      I can only speak for traffic violations in the state I'm in... cop pulls you over and writes ticket. Arguing with the cop is noted. Cop consults little book and writes in fine amount on ticket. Variables... being pleasant and admitting you screwed up to the cop may induce him/her to reduce the "term" of the violation.. say from 30 over the speed limit to 20. Plead guilty on the ticket and mail in fine. You'll get a check back by the amount the fine was reduced for paying by mail.

      Yeah... I was doing about 80 in a 55 mph zone. Told the cop I was guilty as hell. He put down 70 with a fine of $150. I sent off the ticket and check and got a refund of $50. I ate the points for the ticket but what the heck...

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "defendants who opt into the online procedure." OMG An HMG computer system you have

    to opt in to use.

    In the conventional use of the term, not the weaslly inverse logic method of CMD for ISP to not filter your content.

    But let's keep in mind the 2 word to watch out for where gumint systems are concerned.

    Mission creep.

    Today fare evasion (but it's still a criminal, not a civil offense). Tomorrow....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "defendants who opt into the online procedure." OMG An HMG computer system you have

      Plead guilty online and pay a fine

      Go to court and the fine is 2x as much plus fees.

      This gradually grows into a scheme where going to court is 10x as expensive, then the court starts demanding a bond that you can pay the fees in case you lose.

      Then the scheme is expanded to a bunch of other minor crimes.

      This is how the police over this side of the pond get such high rates of convictions from poor black defendants. Plead guilty and pay a fine, or we hold you in jail for a week so you lose your job and your house and then if you are found guilty in court the fine+costs are more than you can afford - so unless you know a really good lawyer just pay up

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New business idea...

    1. Wait for this harebrained scheme to go live.

    2. Set up an authentic-looking website to copy the genuine payasyouconfess.gov.uk site (with obligatory PayPal facility)

    3. Print violation tickets for spurious 'crimes' and distribute widely (under windscreen wipers, through letterboxes, supermarkets ("shopping trolley abandonment outside of a designated storage facility" = 50 quid or 6 months imprisonment))

    4. Profit!!!

  15. Baldy50

    Off topic but....

    Somebody might like to read as well.

    http://www.universityherald.com/articles/64193/20170207/university-student-guilty-cybercrime-sentenced-probation.htm

  16. ZaphodsTechie

    Parking fines

    "Appeals mechanisms against these systems, which must be provided by law, are normally designed so their time scales run well beyond the "discount" payment period"

    Actually, In my experience the 2 week discount period is put on hold as soon as a challenge is logged - that's true of the legit council tickets anyway, I can't say it's necessarily true of the private protection racket, I mean parking enforcement companies.

  17. Captain Packrat

    "Ten Eurotechnicians were today sentenced by the Justice Computer to be banished for life to the prison satellite Penal One."

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      @Captain Packrat - upvoted for obscure ELO reference. Now I can't get that tune out of my head, thank you so very much!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The official response was: "We have considered the responses in full.."

    Yessss.... I'm sure that's right.

  19. John 104
    Trollface

    In England and Wales one needs a rod licence to go fishing.

    Huh. No wonder you Brits are so up tight. Here in the states you just head to your local pub and offer a drink and a chat. No license required.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Tell that to the 36 million Americans who have fishing licenses.

      Source.

  20. Rol Silver badge

    If you're prepared to plead guilty, then does it really matter what the offence is?

    No one is suggesting you can't have your day in court to plead your innocence,but if you accept the charge then should it really be necessary for all the pomp and ceremony, along with the breathtaking costs that circus comes with?

    Once the punishment has been delivered, everyone still has the automatic right to challenge its severity and hence access to a human gavel waver to perhaps throw in some IT lacking perspective.

    Otherwise, how is Lord and Lady Muck supposed to get their version of punishment from an egalitarian computer, when being dragged away from murdering foxes all day, is clearly punishment enough.

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      If you're prepared to plead guilty, then does it really matter what the offence is?

      No one is suggesting you can't have your day in court to plead your innocence

      All of that is both reasonable and sensible but this AC seems to sum up the major area of moral hazard.

  21. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    No worries mate

    I'll just log in and fix that for you ... clickty click...

  22. zhveurnq

    What actually happens when you have a parking fine is that the prosecuting authority ramps up the fine, denying that you have made representation, etc. and that you have No Alternative But To Pay 3x the original (undiscounted) fine. Then they have to go to court. The court then sends you a relatively simple questionnaire such as, did you fail to receive proper notification of the offence, did you make representation against it, and two or three other *valid* pleas. And you make a sworn statement at a court which may or may not cost you £10 depending on the court (at least it did c 2008). And if S*******k Borough Council Parking Offences Unit have been lying little shits you never hear from them again. But making a representation usually causes the fine to be reset to the lowest level for two weeks.

    It's been a few years now since being a courier in the Smoke. Maybe it has all changed.

  23. Chris G Silver badge

    Justice

    The British Justice and it's ministry are well on the way to becoming oxymorons, I wouldn't trust them to run this scheme well. Are there any indications of what the appeal system will be if you find the sentence too steep after pleading guilty?

    Where I live, the boss of the local nick as well as the Commissioner of Police are dining buddies, parking and driving misdemeanors tend to go away, that's my kind of justice.

    Full disclosure: I am not a mason.

    1. Red Bren
      Facepalm

      RE: Justice

      "Where I live, the boss of the local nick as well as the Commissioner of Police are dining buddies, parking and driving misdemeanors tend to go away, that's my kind of justice.

      Full disclosure: I am not a mason."

      But you have just disclosed that you're a serial offender and that you, a local prison governor and a senior police officer have repeatedly colluded to pervert the course of justice. And you chose the public forum of an internet news site to do so? That is full disclosure!

      El Reg, I think you have a lead for some investigative journalism...

  24. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Bugritt

    Apologies for my earlier comment about Australia. Our lot are much further down the road to insanity.

  25. DarphBoBo

    Animal Farm

    This will be handy for those that get parking tickets and such with their Bentley on a daily basis. However for the common peasant it will be another automated means to keep us in our box pleading for crumbs, while the state stamps a heavy boot on our bloody face's in another dastardly plan which will inevitably lead to a means to create a healthy profit for said owner of the aforementioned Bentley.

  26. Doc Ock
  27. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    I'm sure they will also have the brilliant system whereby if you pay quickly, it's half price (i.e. not double the price).

  28. Red Bren
    Holmes

    GUILTY! Until proven solvent

    In theory this sounds like a great idea, why waste court time rubber stamping an uncontested case but the practice is inherently corrupt. By offering a reduced* punishment for pleading guilty online, you introduce an element of coercion, making an innocent person choose between lying under oath (a crime in itself?) to minimize the punishment, or contesting the case and risking a heavier punishment if wrongfully** convicted. The bigger the differential, the greater the coercion, especially if you can't afford to pay the higher price, regardless of the future economic consequences of a criminal conviction. Throw into the mix the withdrawal of legal aid and capping recoverable costs even if you win, and suddenly justice becomes a very rare and expensive commodity. Meanwhile the government gets to play the "tough on crime" card and the Daily Mail readership can rejoice that conviction rates are going up.

    * I know that discounts are already offered for early guilty pleas, but the cost saving of online versus physical courts are so much greater that the temptation will be to coerce as many defendants as possible to take the easy option and plead guilty when they're not.

    ** The British establishment has form for miscarriages of justice, and they don't tend to get resolved until after the perpetrators are dead.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry, I'm late to the party...

    TRAIN WANKERS!!1!

  30. DaveLevy

    I think we need to ask Messrs Sue, Grabbitt and Runne to look at this though the lense of Article 22 of the GDPR,

    "... data subject shall have the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated

    processing, including profiling, which produces legal effects ....

    There is a similar right in the DPD

    1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      RE: Article 22 of the GDPR

      The System isn't making the decision, the person is. the computer asks guilty or not guilty, you click guilty and get the fixed penalty.

  31. Cereberus
    Holmes

    One rule for you, another for me

    There are 2 main issues that I can see, both already covered - the additional costs of not pleading guilty by proxy and incurring extra costs encouraging people to take the 'cheap' option, and mission creep so what can be dealt with using this proposed system.

    There is also the 'human factor' though. As Chris G clearly showed in his 'Justice' post there are 2 tiers of justice as well.

    I am reminded of a few years back when I went to a job which meant we had to park on a private road leading to a garage. The millionaire owner agreed initially then decided he wanted us to move, although we had a legal right to park there (won't say what I was doing) and tried to work with him. He then blocked one vehicle in before lifting mine up on a fork lift truck. The police were called, 2 hours wasted giving statements and he was charged with TWOC.

    Several weeks later I get a letter to advise he had been given a caution. If it had been some yoof wot dunnit they would more than likely have been charged, fined, sent to jail.......

    In my view he should have been charged and had to attend court for what is a serious criminal offense. If he only got a small fine he would still have received a formal criminal record which may have made him start thinking a bit harder about his actions. A warning just says sorry to have to bother you with this, please forgive us oh mighty one but will you accept us telling you not to be naughty and we will forget all about it.

    To add perspective, this garage owner had a long record of run ins with the police being called out to attend disputes and problems. The officer also told me how he had been fined for speeding whilst water skiing. He sent twice the fine amount in, and when contacted back to say he had paid too much his response was 'keep it for next time'.

    The benefit of this system would be that everyone is given the same punishment for a specified action, however everyone should also be treated the same and given the same access to justice so they can prove themselves innocent without additional penalties, or receive the same punishment if guilty.

    1. Toltec

      Re: One rule for you, another for me

      "Several weeks later I get a letter to advise he had been given a caution."

      Cautions are an interesting thing in of themselves, while they are usually considered spent immediately they do remain on your permanent record so can have an effect on employment or any later offences. If you accept a caution because you think it is less hassle than possibly being arrested on the spot then going to court to prove your innocence you may have a nasty surprise later. A caution can turn up in a DBS check and it will not look good if you ticked the 'no' box on the application even if it was a decade ago and you had accepted the caution because it was all just a misunderstanding.

  32. phuzz Silver badge
    Trollface

    "Please type in your name for the court proceedings:"

    Robert'); DROP TABLE Defendants;--

  33. tiggity Silver badge

    missed chance

    Alternatively they could have reformed the stupid laws on rail ticket offenses.

    I get bored with their "You realize you should have purchased a ticket before you got on the train" spiel.

    When:

    It's short notice and short distance travel - so not been able to get ticket in advance (and code to punch into machine not an option as see below)

    It's an unmanned (and no toilets or other facilities) bleak station with large number of passengers waiting for train and 1 ticket machine (and a huge queue for ticket machine so FA chance of getting to use ticket machine )

    So I could wait an hour for the next train or on train "revenue protection" muppet could actually provide a service and sell me a ticket now as you deliberately do not provide enough ticketing facilities for peak demand times.

    In the event I do know a few days before what's happening work wise and get a ticket in advance but then the situation changes and I need to be on a different site that day then I lose out financially (as can get ticket refunds but minus a tenner handling fee, so if you work on multiple sites and have short notice site changes getting advance tickets is an alternative to setting fire to tenners so "on the day" purchase only real option)

    In scenarios where trains are frequent then the must have ticket before getting on train approach is OK, but when a long wait between trains then they need to be aware their pre purchase idea is fantasy land

    They have never tried the issuing a fine approach with me, that may be related to my I'm honest not fare evading ,sell me a ticket or that portable ticket machine goes through your alimentary canal the wrong way look in my eye in such situations.

  34. akeane
    Holmes

    Is prepay available?

    You could get a discount up front, say a few hundred to be able to go and clobber a board director from a certain Southern Rail company...

  35. Christoph Silver badge

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Computers Don't Argue

  36. Al fazed
    WTF?

    only defendants who choose to plead guilty

    And here in lies the evidence - a friend was processed in UK court by CPS in such a way that he was persuaded to plead guilty, (i) in order to shorten the court procedure time (ii) under assurance that if he did plead guilty, he would not go to jail for the offence.

    He was convicted of uploading unlawful images and persuaded to plead guilty using download logs as evidence of wrong doing. He didn't have enough money for IT forensic specialist to prove the obvious, it wasn't even his PC.

    Bring on the machines

    ALF

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