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Your Cheating Heart

Some offences are forever associated with students, however unfairly. In fact they are just as likely to be committed by non students. Section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 springs to mind. The section reads:

“8.—(1) Subject to subsection (2), a person who, knowing that payment on the spot for any goods obtained or any service done is required or expected, dishonestly makes off without having paid as required or expected and with the intention of avoiding payment on the spot is guilty of an offence.”

This is the offence committed by people who intentionally leave a restaurant without making payment for the meal they have eaten. Of course, it applies to a wide range of situations, from sales of goods and services, as in the case of a restaurant, to services only as in hairdressers and taxis.

We solicitors, like other debt collectors, frequently fail to see much difference in the terms of the Section and the failures of people in commerce to pay their bills. These failures are sometimes “cultural”. Who, from Ireland, is not struck by the success of the US system of delivering newspapers to consumers on the street? They insert money and gain access to the entire paper contents of the dispensing station but remove just the one copy for which they have paid.

It is hard to think that system would work in Ireland, but we surely cannot have more than the average rate of “free riders”?

The appropriate word to describe free riders is “uncivilized”.

This evokes the first cities of Sumer;Eridu, Ur and Uruk. Ur was a port city on the Persian Gulf. It is believed that Ur was founded in 3,800 BC. It is estimated that, by approximately 2,000 BC it had a population of 65,000. These cities could not have existed without the development of the personal qualities of the inhabitants whereby they looked, not just to their own interests, but to the interests of the community as a whole. Admittedly, if you did not belong to the community civilization stopped short of you; slavery was an early adjunct of the life of the cities.