"Well!" said Willbury, rather sternly. "I don't think I approve at all. Our friends the boxtrolls have a rather strange attitude toward ownership." (5.34)
When Arthur first meets Willbury and the boxtrolls, Willbury makes introductions all around. He can't help himself, and has to comment on the fact that boxtrolls tend to "liberate" other people's belongings, without regard for their ownership. It seems like boxtrolls have a different sense of rules about property than humans do. And besides, boxtrolls use their stolen goods to keep the Underworld waterworks maintained… but does that make stealing okay in the first place?
Then Willbury gave Arthur a rather disapproving look. "Mind you, I don't hold with taking other people's things. None of this would have happened if you hadn't helped yourself to that lady's bananas." (7.25)
Turns out Arthur doesn't always follow the rules when it comes to ownership either. His gathering expedition, which leads to the run-in with the banana lady, is what gets him into trouble with Snatcher in the first place. Willbury, who of course is a huge rules-follower because he's a lawyer, apparently couldn't keep himself from commenting on this situation.
"Marjorie took her application and prototype of some new invention of hers for approval, but the man who was checking them went for lunch with them. And never came back. Now Marjorie's stuck there—if she leaves the queue, she could lose her invention forever!" (12.34)
Mr. Whitworth gives Willbury and Arthur this summary of why Marjorie's been held up at the Patent Hall for so long. It seems like there are a lot of rules involved in trying to get your invention patented. Poor Marjorie followed all the rules, but since there may have been foul play, she doesn't have any options to try to get her invention back, without risking losing everything. It's a major bummer.
"You've got a beam engine! […] Where on earth did you get it?" Marjorie said excitedly.
Kipper looked around nervously and Tom spoke up. "Err… we acquired it…" (16.5-8)
Pro tip: When a pirate says they acquired something, you'd be wise to raise an eyebrow skeptically. Luckily Marjorie seems too excited about the awesome technology to really care where it comes from. Willbury, on the other hand, who is super judgmental about such things, is a different story.
The Squeakers now came down the towpath as fast as they could without causing themselves too much discomfort. Emergency calls were rare, and as the Squeakers were paid by the number of incidents they attended and arrests they made, they were in a rush to get to the scene. (28.3)
This is just a thought, but maybe paying police by the number of arrests they make might not be the best idea. Of course, Ratbridge is a very special kind of place. Since emergency calls are rare, it could be that they don't have a very high crime rate. Or maybe criminals are smart enough to get away with their shenanigans. Either way, something about the police strikes us as a little shady.
"Drop your gangplank, sir! Any failure to do so will be seen as hindering the police in the course of their duties and may force me to arrest you and your entire crew." (28.33)
Uh-oh, the crew of the Ratbridge Nautical Laundry is potentially in trouble with the police for harboring Arthur. Willbury's attempt to smooth things over by implying that he is still a judge doesn't go well, either. Lying to the police: not the best idea ever.
"I am sure your diligence will be well rewarded," Snatcher said with a smirk to the Chief Squeaker. "I will arrange for some 'paperwork' to be delivered to you later." (28.57)
Did Snatcher just imply that he was bribing the police to do what he says? Yeah, it looks like it, and he wasn't very subtle about it either. Sigh. We're not exactly sure how the chain of command works in Ratbridge, but who do you complain to if you believe that the police are taking bribes?
The two guards approached the boxes. One of them rubbed his chin and looked about. "I am rather partial to sweets… Do you think anyone is going to miss one of these boxes?" (35.15-16)
Jeez, is there anyone in authority in Ratbridge who isn't totally corrupt? First the police, now the town guards. And not only are they corrupt, they're kind of dumb, too. Just because some boxes are sitting outside a sweet shop doesn't mean that they actually contain sweets. In this case, they contain boxtrolls, and humans and rats in boxtroll disguises, which doesn't sound tasty at all if you ask us.
"I knew I would never be safe aboveground again unless I could find you as a witness to the truth." (39.55)
Grandfather is telling the story of his framing and escape to Herbert (to jog his memory, since he was there but was poisoned immediately after) and to Arthur (who is hearing this for the first time). We've complained about Ratbridge's legal system before, and it seems like it wasn't any better in the past than in the present. After all, Grandfather was accused of a crime he didn't commit, but he had to live his life in hiding since he knew he'd never be cleared. Sounds like a crummy criminal law system to us.
Willbury raised a hand. "I think, sir, that it ill behooves one who has assisted in kidnap and wrongful imprisonment, handled stolen goods, aided in a plot for the destruction of the official offices of this town, been a member of an illegal organization, and connived with those who have been illegally hunting cheese and experimenting on animals without a license to cast the first stone." (53.30)
Way to go, Willbury. Now that the situation with Snatcher has blown up (literally), Willbury has enough proof to go up against the police, who've been collaborating with Snatcher all along. We know that as a former lawyer and judge, Willbury excels at playing the rules-game, and here we finally get to see him shine. You go, Willbury—take those corrupt police to task.