Crime and punishment

Bob Wakeham
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For the record (so to speak): I’ve been arrested three times. Twice I was convicted — once on a shameful impaired driving charge and on another occasion for carelessly having a loaded rifle in my possession while riding in the back of a pickup looking for Mr. Moose.  

In my third time on the court docket, charged during a strike with obstruction for trying to block trucks from picking up Evening Telegram papers, I got off on a technicality.                 

But what’s really separated me from the unfortunates who’ve spent time in that depressing building down by Quidi Vidi Lake is having

a horseshoe up the appropriate anatomical aperture during many (way too many) ticklish situations.

And just one anecdote here to illustrate my life of luck in the world of crime and punishment, a story my friends and relatives have heard ad nauseam, but a yarn that still prompts them to shake their heads in bewilderment whenever it’s told.

It was sometime in the mid-’70s and I was watching a sports event with a buddy at his place on Monkstown Road. After copious amounts of beer and a scattered toke, we decided our attack of the munchies necessitated a trip by me down to Duckworth Street to pick up a couple of those submarine sandwiches that had recently become available in St. John’s for the first time, a cheap culinary rage. The drive down and back was uneventful, as far as I was concerned. But when I pulled into the curb at Monkstown Road in my dilapidated Maverick, a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary car came alongside, and the subsequent conversation went something like this.

Cop: “Driver’s licence, registration please.”

Me: “I don’t have either.”

Cop: “Well, I’ll tell you what, young fella, here’s what I have you on: no driver’s licence or registration, one charge; you were speeding up Prescott Street, two charges; you ran the red light at Rawlin’s Cross, three charges; you didn’t have your headlights on since leaving Duckworth Street, four charges; and you are impaired, are you not?”

Me: “Yes, b’y, I am.”

Cop: “That’s six charges. What do ya have to say for yourself?”

Me: “Well, I was wonderin’ … what are the chances of a break?”

The poor cop didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but, for reasons inexplicable to this day, he told me he wouldn’t charge me with anything if I promised not to leave the house on Monkstown. I swore I wouldn’t.

He should have thrown the book at me. But he didn’t.   

So that was just one occasion when I managed to escape the claws of the law.

But that was another era, right? There’s no way to get away with breaking the laws of the land now. In today’s world, in today’s Newfoundland, the long arm of the Black Maria crowd is more prevalent than ever before. Enforcement of the law, prosecution of criminals, the general protection of society, along with the rehabilitation of lawbreakers, are priorities with any sensible government, areas that would never have to worry about having  budgets shamelessly and foolishly cut to save a few bucks.

Naw. No government would be that stunned.

There’s no way any administration would reduce the number of Crown prosecutors it employs; surely it wouldn’t take a chance on having impaired driving cases thrown out because a government lawyer wasn’t available.  

And you can’t convince me any reasonable premier would compromise security in and around courtrooms.  

Or that any cabinet would give the OK to reducing the money spent to catch poachers.  

Or reduce the number of probation officers.

I just can’t see it. There was time you could get away with a few transgressions of the law. Like I did. But not now.  

And I would never believe any right-thinking government would, at the same time it’s poking financial holes in the justice system, allow its MHAs to spend public money pushing their fat little fingers on buttons hour after hour to inflate its image every time the CBC or VOCM has a thought-provoking, Earth-shattering question of the day.

Surely, any politicians with that kind of agenda, that kind of budget, would be tossed out on their arses, wouldn’t they?  


Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: CBC

Geographic location: Monkstown Road, Duckworth Street, Quidi Vidi Lake Newfoundland and Labrador Prescott Street

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Recent comments

    April 06, 2013 - 13:03

    A column well and bravely written Mr. Wakeham. For the most part, I concur with your assessment that government has - once again - acted stupidly. That said, I do think we need be mindful of the impact government spending has had on this province's longer-term economic outlook. The problem here is fairly straightforward. We have a premier who, together with her predecessor, spent foolishly and rashly. The squandering of our newfound, non-renewable, mineral wealth might not have taken on such ominous proportions were it not for two things - government's mistaken belief that oil prices would continue to rise, and its decision to forge ahead with an enormously expensive, unnecessary and potentially disastrous investment at Muskrat Falls. Polls - to the extent they can be trusted - continue to show significant public support for the latter. One wonders however whether that public opinion is fully informed. Has it really sunk in with ordinary people in this province, the extent to which our ability to fund even the most essential functions in such areas as health, education, justice and public works has been seriously compromised by this taxpayer funded mega-project. Government's defenders have insisted, of course, that Muskrat is self-financing - and indeed it is true that domestic ratepayers will bear the primary burden as utility rates soar for decades to come. But ratepayers haven't, can't and won't stand the full cost of this boondoggle. That isn't possible as already evidenced. For the past several years there has been a substantial, deliberate, clandestine leakage of taxpayer funds from the treasury to feed the insatiable appetite of NALCOR. These transfers have had an enormous impact on government's ability to maintain services. This became even more painfully evident when the upward momentum in oil prices suddenly reversed itself. Government could no longer count on an ever expanding revenue base to sustain its irresponsible spending habits. And it is a well understood facet of human nature, of course, that it is easier not to have given in the first place than it is to have given and then taken away. The public failed to speak out against the madness of Muskrat, and the public sector unions stifled any urge to question the judgement of their political masters as long as the gravy continued to flow. That may be about to change but alas it is undoubtedly too little, too late. The die is cast. We are now faced with a new fiscal paradigm that will constrain government generosity and flexibility in this province for decades to come. Nor can we say that, because health, education and the administration of justice are essential functions, we must continue to spend whatever it takes to satisfy their needs. Whether we like it or not, all of these areas will necessitate rationing - even severe cutbacks - in the months and years ahead. Sure we can prioritize but ultimately there will be no sacred cows. We have made a choice - I think for worse - but one nevertheless that we must all now live with. Even the prospect - indeed the likelihood - that the party in power will be turfed out within a couple of years will not alter that new economic reality. And trite though the saying may be, from a historical perspective in this province it is unfortunately a case of deja vue all over again.

  • No More Rookie Quotas
    April 06, 2013 - 09:19

    No breaks now from those rookie cops trying to earn their quota and stripes, even for minor infractions. One day going up Kenmount went 71 in a 50 zone where most people go 80, up by Avalon Ford. Pulled in and ticketed for 21+ over, wouldn't even write it up for 10 over. Another night going down a one way street turning right onto another one way street with perfect visibility and made a rolling stop. Got a ticket. After 2 tickets in one year (even for minor offenses) my insurance started charging me nearly triple the usual rate.

  • jp
    April 06, 2013 - 08:37

    nice column bud by god i hope this government does get tossed out on their a rses

  • Sy
    April 06, 2013 - 08:30

    You still owe me for that Sub!!

  • Colin Burke
    April 06, 2013 - 08:27

    One of the reasons that government claims not to have the money to do what only government can and what government ought to confine itself to doing, is that, in order to keep us "free citizens" dependent on business employers for economic prosperity, it has to arrogate to itself the "duty" to spend more money on keeping employment by business from redounding "unduly" to our disadvantage.

  • Stephen Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    April 06, 2013 - 07:17

    Love that story Bob and I can relate to it. Back in the day, the question of "how much have you had to drink sir?" was the last and least important. I remember days were whiskey bottle rolled out the car door stopping at a young constables shiny black boot. He said "pick that up please and put it back in your car". I'm not sur if they were "the good old days" or not, but the truth was, they didn't go for full prosecution on any matter unless it was somewhat serious and complaint was filed. The new Canada wide accepted legal system needs a full compliment of support staff.....all of them, not less. It has made us civilized in the eyes of the world