Further to our last post, if the police are looking for better ways to spend the money they are currently spending on meaningless slogans, we have a suggestion.
It was fascinating to note how police were called to a circus in Belarus which defrauded its customers. Advertising promised a show that included black bears, monkeys, crocodiles – note the plural – and “orcs”. What the customers got was a poor display of poodles, a crocodile – singular – and drunk jugglers who kept dropping their props.
It could be argued that the customers had no right to expect that the advertisement was literally accurate – after all, it ought to be a clue when orcs are promised: they do not exist outside the pages of J R R Tolkien. Yet there is a serious question here: at what point does failure to provide what was contracted become fraud?
The rule of thumb must be that breach of contract is fraud when it is clear that one of the parties never had any serious intention of honouring the contract. In practice, this is very difficult to prove – especially since, in most cases, the courts are involved only long after the event.
In most jurisdictions, breach of contract, even where it is almost certainly deliberate, is a civil matter. Proving it might involve a great deal of litigation. By the time it is established, the wronged party’s chances of obtaining full compensation are fairly remote. Con men know how to keep moving.
The involvement of the police at an early stage would therefore be very helpful in many cases. This does not mean carting people off to jail as soon as a complaint is made. The police should be very cautious – perhaps more cautious than they are at present – when it comes to slapping on the handcuffs.
All that is suggested here is that the police should be asking questions more often. The fact that they may have to justify their business practices to the police might keep some people honest. Also, having police statements as evidence would help civil court judges sort genuine victims from the merely litigious. A pattern of complaints would enable the police to identify those who require more detailed investigation.
Some businesses might object to the prospect of greater contact with the police. In police states or where the police are corrupt – often the same thing – more police intrusion is the last thing business wants! Yet, contrary to media stereotype, most businessmen are instinctively law-abiding, and businesses are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. Despite that, and despite the taxes we pay, we usually get a poor service from law enforcement. Shoplifting, vandalism, and criminal trespass are rarely taken seriously by the authorities. In most places, we have a right to demand better value for money from our investment in public protection.