I recently asked myself “What is the price of justice?”. The first answer that surged through my mind, with strong feelings associated to it, was something along the lines of “It’s priceless, of course!”.
But what does that mean? If it means that it can’t (or shouldn’t) be bought or sold, then I think most of us would agree.
However it doesn’t mean that justice is administered for free: otherwise lawyers and judges would be a very poor lot (and by all accounts they are not), and of course police, court staff, facilities, equipment etc, they all cost money.
As part of society we all benefit from the justice system (except when it goes wrong), so one might say it is right that we pay for it through our taxes.
Some time ago in the news, however, the case of a robbery (loot value about £1.75M) collapsed for the third time (or was it the fourth?), and so far the bill to the taxpayer has been about £22M, over 12 times the value of what was stolen.
Now we all agree that justice needs to be done, but as you wouldn’t expect a shoplifting case to up to the high court (as the gravity of the crime is not worth it), is it worth spending all this money in prosecuting a case where the crime consists of less than a 12th of the money stolen?
As for the victim(s), he/she/they could have been repayed at much less a cost to the taxpayer, so the compensation part of justice could have been done.
In case of compensation only to the victim however, that part of justice which demands that the perpetrator of the crime pays for it, and gets the appropriate punishment, would still be unresolved.
So how valuable is this aspect of justice? Can a price tag be put on it?
Is it priceless? Does that mean we should be ready to pay any price to see justice done?