Crime & Punishment
|Published: 28th May 2008 08:53|
It is with considerable interest that I read the reports of our local Police forum and the laudable efforts of 'Neston Voice'.
One of the many things that regularly angers me is the state of Policing, the Prison Service and the Criminal Justice System in the UK. Don't get me wrong, I'm convinced that 95% of the people involved in these unenviable jobs are working their butts off to try and make things better - but are struggling upstream against a hefty current of EEC Directives, Political Correctness, Human Rights gone-mad and horrendous misdirection 'from above' with a Governmental focus on the ubiquitous 'box-ticking & targets' disease that is endemic in our society these days.
As with most things the Government administers, 'spin' is everything, and it is far more important to be 'seen to be doing the job' than actually having any fundamental, positive effect. That the Police, Prison Officers and Judiciary can still function in this environment is a testament to their dedication and commitment - however if things are going to improve long term, for all our sakes, fundamental change is needed.
I have lost count of the number of relatives, friends, acquaintances and strangers I have had this debate with - and strangely, have yet to hear a single, dissenting voice. So I present to you, a recipe for sorting Britain's crime problems once and for all...
1) Prisoners' Rights:
What drives me potty (along with everyone I know) is to hear that someone who has been convicted of a crime can have the government 'dancing to their tune', bleating human rights issues. This is barking mad. Our society has a set of clearly defined rules which everyone is expected to abide by. These rules are called laws and are not optional. If you live in this country you are expected to abide by its laws and to contribute to the financial well-being of society via taxation. The 'rights' we all benefit from, by living in a prosperous, democratic society should NOT be viewed as sacrosanct. They should be dependent on abiding by the Laws and Rules of the society. If someone commits a crime, they are flaunting those laws and are not giving the slightest consideration for anyone else's human rights. It is therefore essential that our rights are directly related to compliance with our society's laws. If someone then commits a crime, they are voluntarily giving up their own rights in our society. If someone is convicted of perpetrating a crime, then for the duration of their incarceration, they should not expect to benefit from the same rights as the rest of us. The fact that Political Correctness and Human Rights campaigners go on so much about prisoners' rights is an insult - both to the perpetrators' direct victims and the the rest of us - the 'indirect victims' - who have to fund their well-being while incarcerated.
Plainly and simply - we need more, full stop. It's incredulous that we hear there are insufficient spaces to accommodate 'demand' in our prisons, resulting in convicted perpetrators attending open prisons, attending prison 'part-time' and generally, having a very easy ride. Prisons should be incredibly unpleasant places to attend. Why are there any television sets in any prison? If we are concerned with amending criminals' behaviour and reintroducing them to society - why not train them up as builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters etc. and put them to work during their spell at Her Majesty's pleasure building more prisons? A double whammy solution - get new prisons built by a workforce we are already paying to clothe, feed & house and retrain them with skills that will be valuable when released. Seems a no-brainer to me. Having more prisons would also generate more jobs - for prison staff in all roles. That can't be bad either.
Given that it is essential we have more prisons and cells, sentencing should be ABSOLUTE. What is it with this "time off for good behaviour" rubbish? Good behaviour in prison should be mandatory to avoid not having your prison term extended - not the other way around! Serious and violent crime should have seriously long-term sentences. A life sentence should mean life - with no hope of early release. End of.
4) Capital Punishment:
I should imagine that many readers of this article will assume my next call would be for Capital Punishement to be reintroduced. Absolutely not! Capital Punishment is wrong on all levels. Yes, a life sentence should mean life in prison - but to execute somebody, whatever their crime, is simply an act of revenge. The clamour for this punishment is understandible from any victims whose lives have been irrevocably changed by crime - but it is still wrong. The 'deterrent' argument is similarly flawed. If the death penalty worked as a deterrent, then America would not have as many inmates on death-row - and the Moors Murderers would never have commenced their awful string of atrocities. If someone is convicted erroneously, and later evidence proves their conviction to be unsound, then despite the missing years of their life, they can be released and compensated in some way (if only financially) but you can not pardon a dead person. No other argument is necessary. Of course, were someone I know to have been murdered then I would also want revenge, retribution and Capital Punishment for the perpetrator. That is only a natural reaction when faced with such tragedy - but for the greater good, the decision must be made by people not influenced by such emotive circumstances. A single life taken in error is not worth 100 murderers correctly executed.
5) Sentencing As A Deterrent:
I'm not convinced this principle works at all. Many crimes are un-pre-meditated 'acts of passion' - and any potential 'deterrent' does not apply in such 'heat of the moment' cases. Furthermore, the fundamental driver behind anyone committing a crime is that they either
a) do not think they are going to be caught
b) have assessed the chances of "getting away with it" vs the risks of being caught/sentenced and deem the risk acceptable
or, more likely,
c) do not consider the issue whatsoever.
If you are a product of an upbringing where you are predisposed to commit crime, then you will commit crime no matter what sentencing deterrent exists. Sadly, the responsibility lies more with family and peers to engender a sense of respecting others' rights as a paramount consideration. Every one of us has a responsibility to those we nurture and our fellow community in this respect.
6) 'First Offence':
This is wrong, WRONG, WRONG! The 'First Offence' plea for leniency needs to be scrapped now and replaced by the simple statement: "The significant likelihood is, that this is the first time the offender has been caught offending." Realistically, what are the chances that someone caught comitting a crime is being caught in the act of committing their very first offence? Extremely remote! They would have to be either very careless or extremely unlucky. Either way, the odds are stacked against them and it is far, far more arguable that they have offended before yet 'got away with it'. The 'First Offence' plea must be scrapped - if not for the above argument, then for the sake of the victim. I don't care if the person who steals my car is stealing their first vehicle or their hundredth! The overriding fact is, they STOLE MY CAR! Get that? STOLE MY CAR! IGNORED MY HUMAN RIGHTS! COULD NOT CARE LESS ABOUT THE EFFECT ON ME! Well guess what? The feeling is mutual. 'First Offenders' should get the full works when being sentenced, otherwise it is just another issue undermining any 'perceived deterrent'.
7) Catching The Miscreants:
At the risk of going on about the "Good Old Days", when I was a kid in the 70's, I regularly spied Bobbies on the beat - around the remotest suburban streets - not just the problematic town-centre ones. Every town or village had it's own cop-shop which was manned 24 x 7. Why on earth can't we have the same today? Whenever I see a policeman/woman or a police patrol car, I don't feel persecuted - I feel safe and reassured! I'm sure the argument will go along the lines that crime itself has changed over the last 30 years and the police force needs to adapt etc, etc.
Why? Why couldn't the Police Force continue as it had been, but be augmented and boosted with extra head-count, not the reverse? Why can't we double or triple the size of the Police Force? Why can't we employ people to perform administrative and clerical duties (form-filling, phone answering etc.) while the Bobbies do the important stuff - preventing and investigating crime? The bottom line is - it costs money. But would it cost as much money as the cost of the crime that is not currently being detected or prevented? I for one would be happier to pay more tax provided I were assured the money was going to this crucially important area. If we can feel safe in our homes and on our streets, then the other problems of society will diminish as a consequence.
8) Targets And Box-Ticking:
Grrrrrrrrrrrr! I'm sure I echo the sentiments of most police men/women whan I claim that 'needing to be seen' to attain certain targets - i.e. "a set number of convictions "etc. - is just mad. You can not run an effective Police Force via such false targets - any more than you can a Health Service or an Education System. It's 'need to control' gone mad. Crucial services like Policing, Health and Education are a necessary overhead and should only ever be seen as such. We have to have them and we need them to work effectively. False targets are deflecting resource away from areas where unquantifiable, fundamental good can be done. It's just potty.
In summary - we need more Police, allowed to dedicate their time to Policing, a support network of clerical staff, a Police station in every town/village, more prisons to house offenders long-term, prison training schemes to train inmates to help build more prisons at no extra cost to the public, and firm and immovable sentencing. Oh yes, and if you commit a crime you are, by default, electing to relinquish your own societal rights until such a time as you have completed your deserved spell of punishment. To support that we need a 'Societal Contract' - otherwise known as a 'Constitution'. Did you know Great Britain is the only Democracy in the world that does not have one? Perhaps it's time we did!
So how are we going to pay for this? Well, tax increases would be inevitable - but if we knew for sure the money was going where WE want it to be spent, this would of serious benefit to us all! Deflecting expenditure from defence (why are we in Iraq?) - even if it means retraining forces staff as police staff (and what better pool of resource) would have a hugely positive influence.
I would love nothing better than someone to review my suggestions - and to estimate the potential annual cost to the British Public. Millions? Billions? Exactly how much more would my pound need to be taxed to fund these changes? I'm sure extra taxation is unpalatable to many, particularly the less community-minded among us, but crime does not discriminate by class, status or income levels. If you are the victim of one crime in a year, the chances are that you would suddenly find yourself wishing you had paid the extra tax to have avoided the experience.