Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Stocks, and a Matter of Public Record

In the old days, if you were convicted of a crime one of the possible punishments was essentially public humiliation.  You wore your crime literally in public, locked away in a wooden crossbar with your transgressions on display.  People threw rotten eggs and produce at you.  This was the law.

Modernly if you live in British Columbia (for instance) the stocks still exist, only without wood or iron bars or any physical structure.  If you want to know someone's transgressions (at least their provincial ones) all you need to do is look them up in Court Services Online.

St Helena goes one step further.  As a part of the public service function they serve, the newspapers publish details of every criminal offence that happens on the island.  If you get into an argument with a police officer, if you're arrested for assault, if you shoplift a chocolate bar you will literally see your name in print (p22) in the next run of the newspaper along with a description of what happened.  People even go so far as to post editorial responses to the incidents to refute or argue with the crimes they're accused of, or to try to salvage their name or reputation on the island.

Besmirch your good name and absolutely everyone will know about it.  I was curious about what is culturally distinct about the island... the lack of secrets stood out almost immediately as one of the most profound differences, with far-reaching implications.

There is definitely more to learn about this place.

No comments:

Post a Comment