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 email@example.com.