Let’s put so-called psychics in prison

Charlie Brooker isn’t just there for the nasty things in life. He can be educational too: if it weren’t for his column, I wouldn’t know about the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951, under which psychics can be jailed.

Unfortunately there’s a flaw in the law, which is presumably why only five or six people have been prosecuted under it: you need to prove that there was an intent to deceive for financial gain. So if you genuinely believe that dead people talk to you, or can at least lie convincingly about it in court, you can get off scot-free.

The good news? The act’s being killed and brought under new consumer protection law from April 2008. As Downing Street says (in response to a petition demanding the FMA be updated):

Although the average consumer would arguably not be misled by a person who claims he is able to contact the dead, such conduct would still be unfair under the CPRs if it deceives the average member of (i) the group to which it is directed, or (ii) a clearly identifiable group of consumers who are particularly vulnerable to this type of practice.

Unlike the Act, there is no requirement in the CPRs to prove an “intent to deceive”. This means that where practices are aimed at vulnerable consumers or average members of particular groups, it should be easier to take action against fraudulent mediums than under the Act.

The CPRs will be enforced by both civil (injunctive) action and criminal sanctions.

Going after individual psychics is probably overkill, but what about the pushers – the psychic TV networks, the magazine publishers, the premium rate phone operators and their ilk? If these businesses made their money by broadcasting video of the ill, the grieving and the desperate being happy slapped they’d be in the dock before you could finish calling them bastards. But riffling through the wallets of the ill, the grieving and the desperate? Well, that’s just dandy.

Come on, let’s put the lot of ’em in prison. If they’re really psychic they can get their dead pals to break them out again.

9 thoughts on “Let’s put so-called psychics in prison

  1. Gary says:

    Oh, and while we’re at it – let’s start enforcing the Cancer Act 1939 against quacks too:

    (1) No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement—

    (a) containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof;

  2. Squander Two says:

    Wouldn’t the Cancer Act also prohibit private oncologists from advertising, well, the fact that they’re oncologists? Or are there get-out clauses for that sort of thing?

    Also, completely off topic, but isn’t the date on it a great example of complacency? Fascism’s rising across Europe. The Nazis have taken Germany, and seem to be killing their opposition. Germany has taken Czechoslovakia. That Mr Hitler really does seem quite serious about building this new empire of his. Quick! Ban adverts for cancer treatments!

  3. Squander Two says:

    Bloody hell: Holland & Barrett’s star rating is a tad misleading.

    “Science Ratings” it says. Maximum of three stars. Two stars means “Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.” One means “For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.” In other words, anything less than three stars is quackery. Now, call me an optimist if you will, but isn’t two stars out of three kind, of, you know, two thirds? And shouldn’t two thirds be quite a good score? Come to that, one third isn’t bad. There should be a no stars rating. We’d all know what that meant.

  4. Gary says:

    Quick! Ban adverts for cancer treatments!

    Maybe that was the next part of Hitler’s dastardly plan – bringing Blighty to its knees by flogging duff cancer treatments. I imagine him sitting in his bunker, on fire, bellowing “Damn you, Cancer Act 1939! Damn you to hell!”

    Or maybe that was Planet of the Apes.

  5. tm says:

    >but isn’t the date on it a great example of complacency?

    Just because there is a war comming, you can’t stop dealing with the more mundane aspects of life. You can’t assume you really know how things are going to turn out.

    Anyway maybe this very act is the reason that our history books aren’t full of stories about the great post-war cancer snake oil scam. ;-)

  6. tm says:

    >>but isn’t the date on it a great example of complacency?

    More seriously, I love things like this. I know all that ‘soft-history’ rubbish can be dull sometimes, but little things like that show you things that really were affecting peoples lives at the time (I mean they cared enough to actually ban the damn things) – even with the storm clouds gathering.

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