Is socially accepted injustice inevitable?

If you have ever made a complaint you will recognise this scenario.  Aware that something has gone wrong and being a good citizen you take the time to alert the authorities.  It makes no difference if this is the NHS, ICO or any other acronym you care to think of, they all work the same way.

The conversation you have with the customer service desk is likely to be the most positive part of the experience.  They will listen to your story, ask to see your evidence and give you details of what to do next.  From here it is all downhill.  The person who assesses your evidence will find any reason to close down your case;  out of time, not in our remit, no case to answer.  All bodies will have acted ‘reasonably’ in the eyes of this particular individual.  The supervisor who deals with your review request will agree with this prognosis and so will the CEO, the legal team or the chairman of the board.  Each in turn will agree, there is no case to answer.

If you were to meet any of these people in the street.  If you were to fall in front of them and require their help, every one of them would pick you up, call for an ambulance and show genuine concern for your welfare.  They are not bad people.  Yet each in turn delivered an injustice and looked away from the truth.

How do good people do bad things?

In 1960 Lee Harper wrote ‘To kill a mockingbird’ and everything you need to know about socially approved injustice is contained within that book.  Tom, the black labourer is accused of raping a white woman and is given a ‘fair’ trial by jury.  As the story unfolds it become obvious to everyone in the courtroom that her father beat her up when he found her flirting with a coloured man and in all probability her father had been sexually abusing her for years.

The punch to her eye was delivered by a left-handed blow.  Tom’s left arm hangs limp by his side, powerless due to an accident with a threshing machine.  Her father signs a paper with his left hand in full view of the court room.  As the evidence mounts there can be only one conclusion; Tom is innocent and the father guilty.  So the jury go out and the jury come back and each and every one of them finds Tom guilty as charged, because the cost of not doing so was too great.  They had to protect themselves from the reality that a white man could rape and assault his own daughter.  Everyone knew that a black man was no better than a beast.  To accept that Tom committed the crime was the only option.

The weakest are always sacrificed.  

Our regulatory bodies find themselves in this same moral dilemma.  Like a house of cards they all lean against each other, ICO backs up PHSO who defends the NHS.  In order to handle your complaint with any honesty they would have to report that people within these organisations blatantly lie, breach policy, withhold data and destroy records.  The price is just too high.  So they rubber stamp the garbled whitewash, agree that everyone has acted reasonably and go home to their families.






  1. Tim

    I do not share your opinion of the ICO. My personal experience is that I have had, sometimes, to educate them in Data Protection law (how bizarre is that?), but that the DPA is upheld pretty well. FoIA is outside my experience with them.

  2. Jeff

    “The price is just too high. So they rubber stamp the garbled whitewash, agree that everyone has acted reasonably and go home to their families.”

    Reminds me of the “appalling vista” remark by Lord Denning (the case of the Birmingham Six):

    “Just consider the course of events if this action is allowed to proceed to trial. If the six men fail it will mean much time and money will have been expended to no good purpose. If the six men win, it will mean that the police are guilty of perjury, that they are guilty of violence and threats, that the confessions were invented and improperly admitted in evidence and the convictions were erroneous.””


    “This is such an appalling vista that every sensible person in the land would say that it cannot be right that these actions should go any further.”


      Thank you for your well informed comment Jeff. The parallels are plain to see. This was, of course instrumental in the downfall of Andrew Mitchell at his recent court action. In normal circumstances he would hold the trump card, but in this instance the judge had to find that five Downing Street policemen had colluded and lied. A price too high, so Mitchell was sacrificed instead. The real truth of the matter will probably never be known and is largely irrelevant. The state must be protected is the only mantra. Better to find that a single minister was ‘confused in the moment’ than publicly declare our police force to be corrupt.

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