« Home | Which part of "unconditional ceasefire" don't you ... » | "I don't think it's helpful to get into that..." » | Phew, what a scorcher! (or, don't mention the war.... » | Yo Blair, how are you doing? » | de Menezes: An absolute sham. » | The rise and rise of the idiots. » | Just keep saying it: Israel has the right to defen... » | Those shocking, sickening, outrageous photographs ... » | When the Levy breaks. » | Craig Murray forced to remove source documents. » 

Thursday, July 20, 2006 

Rebekah Wade for Home Secretary?

"Dr" John "Oh fuck, not health" Reid's plans for "re-balancing" the criminal justice system have been well-trailed, but it's no surprise that the plans announced today were leaked last night to the Sun. As you might well expect, they are predictably claiming victory for their campaign against so-called soft sentences. In fact, it's even worse than that. Almost every point that the Sun demanded is now to be implemented, without any reasoning behind what causes crime in the first place, or realising that prison fundamentally does not work.

THE Government today bowed to pressure from The Sun by axing soft sentences for the nation’s most dangerous prisoners.

In the biggest shake-up in sentencing for a generation, the automatic right to parole at 50 per cent of a life term is being scrapped.

That means murderers, repeat rapists and paedophiles will have to serve the FULL term dished out by a judge. Judges will also get far more say in the sentences given to dangerous villains.

The automatic third off for those who plead guilty — even though they were caught red-handed — is also being dumped.

And there will be an end to the bizarre double jeopardy rule, where Appeal Court judges who increase a soft sentence must give prisoners a discount due to the “trauma” of going through the case again.

The move, unveiled today by Home Secretary John Reid, comes in the wake of The Sun’s hard-hitting Charter for Justice campaign, which demanded tougher sentences for paedophiles, rapists and killers.

Outlining the changes in the House of Commons, Mr Reid also announced plans to provide an additional 8,000 prison places and confirmed the maximum penalty for carrying a knife would be increased to four years.

He said: “Too often it appears that the criminal justice system is on the side of the offender - protecting their interests and individual rights over those of the victim and the law-abiding majority.

“That has to change. The proposals set out today all have at their core the re-balancing of the system in favour of the victim and the law-abiding majority.”

The requirement that judges should automatically halve the minimum term when setting the earliest release date for those serving unlimited sentences will also go.

But it will NOT affect criminals already serving time.

A source said: “We understand very much the concerns of the public that justice must mean justice.

“It’s a nonsense that the most dangerous inmates are not serving their sentences.

“It destroys people’s faith in justice and that criminals get punished properly, let alone that the public can be protected.”

The shake-up is the brainchild of Home Secretary John Reid, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer.

It will see all crown prosecutors forced to sign a new “victim’s charter”.

They will promise to put the victim and their family first in all cases.
And so it goes on, with some bilious outrage still at the end because the government doesn't think that naming and shaming "soft" judges is a good idea. Not that all of the Sun's demands were idiotic, one-sided or counter-productive, some do make good sense, such as the double jeopardy rule over sentences which are considered too lenient, and unanimous decisions by parole boards.

The problem is that despite the Home Office website promising that it is to "stimulate a wide-ranging public debate on the way forward", it's already clear that like the so-called debates over Trident and nuclear power that the decisions have been made, and in this case the government has only listened to one side of the story. The re-balancing argument is complete and utter rubbish and has been from the start: the criminal justice system shouldn't be balanced in favour of the victim or the "offender" (the Sun likes to call them villians); it has to be independent, neutral and transparent.

Take for instance the automatic reduction in sentence for pleading guilty. In the case of Craig Sweeney, who as the Sun likes to remind us, was found literally with the blood of his victim on his hands, this resulted in his sentence being reduced dramatically. It should be obvious to anyone that in cases where guilt is apparent this shouldn't happen; yet those who now admit to their crimes where guilt is not immediately obvious and save the taxpayer the money and time of a trial, as well as trauma of the victim having to go through their ordeal again, no such reduction will be available. This will mean that more people are likely to plead not guilty and increases the possibility of some who are guilty going free. Not something that the Sun would like to be found responsible for.

Other headline-grabbing measures are the increase in maximum sentence for being caught carrying a knife, and the increase in number of available prison places. The former will do nothing to stop the mainly young people who carry knives from doing so; it's the typical knee-jerk reaction that ignores why the person carries the weapon in the first place. As the figures released today show, street muggings are up 8%, mainly because of the amount of the public who are now carrying various expensive gadgets which can be quickly sold on and fund those with drug addictions. It's also mainly young people who are robbing young people; the older targeting the younger easier targets who are less likely to fight back. Having a knife therefore makes the average youth feel safer, which is why more and more are doing so, as well as the fact that they can also increase social status. Increasing the sentence then makes it more likely for those who use the knives for pure protection being convicted and sent to prison for longer.

The increase in prison places is along the same lines - it assumes that prison works, when it should be increasingly obvious that apart from protecting the public from the most dangerous criminals it does nothing of the sort. Britain already has one of the highest prison populations in Europe,
and more spaces will just encourage judges who have already been shown to be getting progressively harsher sending more to jail. It's been noted that when there are more places available and when the public seems to be in a punitive mood, more offenders get sent down for longer as a result. When those 8,000 extra spaces are full, will we just build even more places? Where does it all end?

Other parts of the Sun's, sorry I mean Reid's plans seem designed to deal with single issues which have outraged the aforementioned newspaper's delicate disposition: "Restricting the ability of the "plainly guilty" to be released on appeal due to "procedural irregularities" seems to be obviously designed to stop the likes of the Afghan plane hijackers fiasco being repeated; they were freed on appeal after it was ruled that the law about whether they had acted under duress had been wrongly applied. Nevermind that they had fled from one of the worst regimes in recent memory in the only way they possibly could, treating their hostages properly and giving themselves up without a fight; they need to be sent back to their home country which has been so successfully liberated and returned to peace.

As mentioned earlier though, what's more striking is what is missing from the plans at the moment. While Reid promises a white paper in the autumn, there is nothing here about how prisons have come to be so overcrowded (because judges are no soft touch, despite the Sun's constant harping), or whether there's anything to done about it apart from increasing the number of places. Those with severe mental ill health who are dumped on the prison system aren't considered worthy of victim status, nor are the drug addicts who can't all get on the treatment programmes which are horrendously oversubscribed and underfunded. Dealing with the mentally ill and drug addicts should be done outside the penal system, not within it, as it often is at the moment, as it's clear it's failing spectacularly. The number of beds for those who are mentally ill has dropped so dramatically over the last few years that are no places for those who have committed crimes as a result of their condition and who need constant care and therapy in order to stop the cycle being repeated.

Those with drug addiction are caught in the same cycle. While such treatment regimes are no panacea, they can be help a great deal, especially if enforced with a carrot and stick approach, with those who fail to comply with orders set down by courts sent to jail for longer. It ignores the fact that non-violent offenders are best kept outside prison, as where those who go in often come out as even more hardened criminals. Community sentences need to be seen as tough but working, which thanks to the likes of the tabloids they are not even where they are shown to be the best option.

The crime figures released today speak for themselves. Crime has been dropping overall since 1995. Last year it was either down 1% or up 1% whether you believe the Home Office or the British Crime Survey more. Either way, it's more or less stable. The murder rate is down. Fatal shootings are down. Car theft and burglaries are at historically low levels. The worries though are similarly self-evident: violent crime, often influenced by alcohol continues to climb, as does that involving drugs, although the police say it's down to the amount who have been formally cautioned for carrying cannabis. Why then is some of the public so concerned? It can't just be blamed on the ever outspoken tabloid press; it also has to be that while some middle class suburbs experience next to no criminal offences, it's the working class estates that are plagued by it, much like town centres are the focus at weekends. This has been picked up on by the government and the tabloids; hence Labour's dedication to tackling anti-social behaviour which few complained about before Blair started banging on about it constantly. Things are not that bad, but as usual media coverage blows certain concerns out of all proportion.

The government then has more or less turned over the entire Home Office policy agenda to the likes of Murdoch and Wade, just like it seems to have turned our foreign policy over to the hawks in Washington. It ignores dissent and has come to only one conclusion: that the "victim" is being failed. We should have seen this coming; after all, the government is planning to slash the money paid to those who suffer miscarriages of justice, and the position of chief inspector of prisoners is to be abolished, incorporated in with other organisations, just as it becomes apparent how badly the likes of Anne Owers are needed. The authoritarian populism which prospered under Blunkett has re-emerged, having been made to behave under Clarke. While Labour suffers in the polls and Cameron repositions the Tories in the centre ground, the Blairites have sought solace under the protection of the Murdoch press, determined to keep the likes of the Sun on side, no matter whether it disillusions Labour's natural support or not. The only obvious further step for Labour to take is the example of Lord Drayson, now a junior defence minister after donating a large amount of money to the party and making a pretty penny out of providing the smallpox vaccine: give Rebekah Wade a peerage and make her Home Secretary. At least then Labour would be being honest not just with itself, but also with us.

Update: Reid did actually mention taking the mentally ill and vulnerable women out of the prison system. We shall have to see whether this actually happens, and gets the same amount of time and effort dedicated to it as that which has been to making sure the Sun is placated.

Share |

blairs get tough with sentences
has come a bit late for shanni taylor who was almost blinded by
a demonic female with a blade
then had the jury of mainly woemen
believing her violin story that
(she only meant to scare her )
this is what happens when u watch
soap operas, big brother
and other rubbish shoulda had
mainly blokes on jury as we dont
believe jackanory

Actually Anonymous, Shanni Taylor had been bullying the Somalian girl who slashed her, with nothing being done about it. Her attacker had an IQ of 45. http://www.septicisle.info/2006/07/truth-will-out.html The school failed in protecting both of them, and your drivel is unhelpful to say the least.

Post a Comment

Links to this post

Create a Link


  • This is septicisle


Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates