Sunday, May 29, 2011

licence to steal

The human rights card is becoming torn and tattered by frequent use and yet again it has been played in a case where it has no right to take part.

A single parent of five children received 4 months custody for burglary and another 4 months for dangerous driving. After serving 1 month in prison he has been released on appeal because the judges reckoned that his kids had been deprived of family life under Article 8 of you know what, and the criminal should go home and look after them. The judges have again got it wrong and Article 8 does not apply when someone has been sentenced in accordance with the law. But, leaving that aside, common sense tells us that the children would not have been worse off without him for a while longer.

Burglary is a vile crime, particularly when it is of a home. Though treated as a mixture of trespass and theft, it is more akin to violent assault, or even further along the scale towards rape, as it can cause the victims great harm and suffering for the rest of their lives. In this case it was an almost comic burglary of a rugby club, stealing only some chocolate, then driving off, clipping a police car, driving through red lights, and ending up down a cul de sac where dad of the year was arrested. Not showing much promise for a new career in crime. But the intent was there and the sentence was by no means excessive, to deter him and others from further attempts. Once the propensity to burgle is established, the target soon changes to homes where the crime becomes so much more serious.

Those who want to adopt or foster children undergo stringent examination to assess their suitability. But a criminal is taken out of prison so that he can care for children that he has already shown he does not care enough about, leaving them whilst he went off for the night to steal. He didn’t have much regard for their welfare or safety and he knew the risk he was taking if he got caught.

His children have the right not to be influenced by a criminal and would have managed without him while he served his full, but brief, prison sentence. A lot of children suffer much worse things as a result of what their parents do. Children can't choose their parents or their parents' behaviour. They play the cards they are dealt and we can't keep excusing the parents because of what might happen to the children as a result of their actions.

His mitigation for the crime was a low income, which would not have been given much weight by the sentencing judge, and yet he fathered five children, showing that his paucity of planning capability was not restricted to his criminal activities.

The absurdity of this case was compounded when the appeal judges ordered the sentence to be suspended. Oh right. So now if he commits another offence he will go to prison. Wait a moment; he's got children; so he won't. As he well knows. What, Justices, was the point of that ?

Finally, they told the court that criminals should not think that children can provide some sort of licence to commit offences with impunity.

Children don’t provide that licence. The appeal court just did.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

publish and be damned

Crime will increase as police numbers fall, unemployment rises, drug addiction climbs, courts close, and the government meddles without clear rationale in the criminal justice system to the confusion of lawyers, magistrates, judges and court users. Prison numbers will be forcibly reduced to be replaced by community sentences that are not adequately funded, resourced or managed. Grossly overpaid judges and barristers will waste their time and taxpayers' money interpreting, often erroneously, the semantics of human rights legislation with the outcome of preventing the deportation of foreign national criminals under the guise of protecting their hastily contrived relationships, rather than dealing speedily and justly with the enforcement of criminal law. To make things even worse the wigs and gowns have infected us with an epidemic of super-injunctions.

The ludicrously wealthy perpetrators of whatever titillating but ultimately oh so tedious misdemeanours they are guilty of, run with their cheque books to judges to grant them injunctions that will protect their names from being mentioned by newspapers that will print almost anything to generate greater readership. Their reason is to protect their families, showing a barely noticed touch of irony in that it is their actions that may have harmed their loved ones in the first place.

But the result is self-defeating because, when a scandalous story does then get into the public domain, it will now be assumed to be more plausible in the aftermath of a judge removing or not granting an injunction, deciding that the private life of the celebrity is in the public interest (often confused with being of interest to the public). Meanwhile the online scavengers will have disseminated their judgement of the identity of the guilty party, sometimes getting the name right and sometimes wrong, but they don’t care. Morality and the internet are by and large mutually exclusive. Politeness and integrity don't get a look in.

And so are created the victims of this ridiculous process, who have to fight to repair their reputations that have become damaged by false accusation. They will recover of course; but whilst they have been under the media microscope the attention has been diverted away from real victims.

Victims of crime, victims of poor health, victims of the economic collapse, victims of the incompetence and greed of bankers, and victims of nature’s disasters are ignored whilst the chit chat is all about super-injunctions to protect the super-egos of the super-rich.

So bring down the wall. Let the newspapers publish and let the public become bored senseless with the genre of celebrity relationships, as each story blows hot for a few days and then cold forever, whilst more and more real crimes of real public interest go undetected and unpunished. Let the media suffer the financial losses from the legal action taken by those they have wrongly accused until they get the message that they should be presenting us with news of a much more important and much more frightening kind. Let them all grow up.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

no AV no vote

I almost smiled at the irony that my vote for a change in the voting system was very likely my last ever vote. Of course the Alternative Vote won’t happen because the majority of the electorate have not heard the overwhelmingly powerful arguments for it. A vacuous debate dominated by personality politics, gross lies from cabinet members and passionless, ineffectual rhetoric from an ineffectual Labour leader who could not bring his party to a united voice.

Many have voted NO for irrelevant and superficial reasons, the chief of which is to punish the Liberal Democrats and, in particular, Nick Clegg for their failure to implement some of the policies of their 2010 manifesto. You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things. As a junior coalition partner they never stood a chance of doing so. Their mistake was not to make that clear.

So, in the referendum and the local elections, they will take a bullet for what the Conservatives have done. What a nonsense. A much superior voting system has been sacrificed to give a few Libdems a really lousy few days. The long running, honourable campaign to improve our elections and give more voters some little power over those who want to govern, whether by way of PR or AV, has ended; not with a bang but a whimper. Democracy has scored an own goal and lost.

FPTP will be with us for the rest of our lives. As will safe seats, minority governments, arrogant and lazy MPs, pointless childish exchanges in parliament and the restriction of meaningful and significant votes to a tiny minority of the electorate. No change.

Why bother to vote under such a primitive system ? More and more, the refusal to add to the turnout percentage or to mark frustration with an intelligently spoilt ballot paper look like the stronger statements.