June 23, 2006

Blair to attack the 'Justice Gap'

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5108158.stm

From the BBC, we hear that Blair, after meeting campaigners for 'victim's rights' we are to address the apparant 'justice gap'. Apparantly, the rights of criminals are 'outweighing' the rights of the victims. Well maybe so, especially when victims call for the right to execute/castrate/flog or whatever.

Also, we hear that there "is a huge and growing gap between the criminal justice system and what the public expects from it". Well that I agree on, or at least there is a gap between public perceptions of the criminal justics system and that inconvienient thing called reality. Talk to you're average Joe (no offence Joe..) on the street and he'll tell you crime is out of control in this country, not enough people get locked up, and judges are becoming 'soft' in terms of sentencing. When you mention that crime is falling year on year consistantly (despite the waves of new criminal offences introduced under Labour), the prison population is "within weeks" of reaching capacity (according to the cheif prison women in an interview in the New Statesman the other week..I forget her name), and that sentencing has in fact gone up rather than down in terms of length served in prison, one gets an awkward silence…

…followed closely by the heckles of being a pansy liberal falling at the shoes of blood thirsty murderers, and worse, peodophiles. There's just no telling some people..

It all reminds me of one time when I was 15–16. In a corner shop a woman approached me to ask me to sign a petition for a 'Sarah's Law', whereby addresses and phone numbers of peodophiles are made available to the public.. I told her quite frankly that I didn't believe in the vigilante justice that would be the inevitable consequence in some areas of the UK, and that any civilised justice should be left up to the courts. She called me a peodophile. I left.. Again, there's just no talking to some people..


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  1. Matthew Jones

    As the great philosopher Tommy Lee Jones said: "A person is smart; People are dumb, panicky, stupid animals.

    23 Jun 2006, 10:57

  2. Well, being a Joe who is fairly average I will tell you that crime is not falling, not "truely criminal" crimes anyway… overall what people call "crime" is opn the up; whereas the total amount of "law breaking" is going down.

    I would also disagree that the length of time served in prison has actually gone up, although the only evidence I have for this is somewhat shadey personal feelings… If you have any statistics I would like to see them.

    I would like to see hanging brought back; it's cheep, it's quick and the recidivism rate is 0. I heard the other day that over 90% of peado's will re–offend within their lifetime… I'd rather they were 6 foot under, posing no threat to anyone.
    I saw on the news today 2 people who were involved with the random murder of a student in the street for no reason at all could be out 5 years from the time of arrest… how the hell is that justice? I've quoted it before and I'll quote it again "being hacked to death is too good" for them

    I too am against Sarah's law… it would create individuals who are going to commit crimes including assault and possibly murder. An individual never has the right to commit a crime but the sovereign has the right to demand anyone's life… so we should take it at sentence.

    Also finally I would say that any justice system that requires less than death for murder has a "justice gap"... the killer will eventually get out of prison and be able to live… that's more rights than the victim has. Death is fair for that crime.

    23 Jun 2006, 22:43

  3. 2 people who were involved with the random murder of a student in the street for no reason at all could be out 5 years from the time of arrest..how the hell is that justice?

    so 2 people who were "involved" in some way of a "random" murder "could" be out in 5 years.. That's a bit vague don't you think? Perhaps details?? O wait, there's the things you don't find in the alarmist press, details..

    BTW, will try to remember to dig some stats about sentencing going up.. I heard it in two columns, from writers I tend to trust.. if I remember, I'll try to get something more concrete though..

    24 Jun 2006, 03:06

  4. they were involved to the extent that they were there and helped in the attack, granted they didn't do the final stabbing, but everything leading up to it… so they are as guilty as the man who did the actual stabbing… if he hadn't stabbed him, the man could have died anyway, so the guilt is the same.

    I wouldn't go as far to say that they were the sine qua non of the death, but I highly doubt whether the actual killer would have gone into the attack if his friends weren't there willing to aid in the attack. To me this says that the involvement was serious and warrents being treated the same as the person who finally ended up enacting the final blow.

    The Murder was random because it was based on no reason.
    I might as well mention this here… a gay guy was killed in london I think because he was gay, the judge sentenced them to a prison sentence of about 20 odd years I think. The judge said it was more serious because it was a hate crime… I feel like all murder is a hate crime, and should be punished the same regardless of "reason". (note that I do not feel that there is any legitimate reason for an individual to kill and am in no way saying that being gay is a reason).

    The "could" refers to the fact that it is highly possible that 5 years from being arrested (probably 3–4 years after conviction) they could walk out of prison should they say the right thing at the right time (and this isn't difficult to do)... in fact so long as they don't committ any crimes in prison then they'll pretty much deffinately walk out at the earliest point.

    I also like the way you implied that I read "alarmist" press, when in fact I read the only remaining true broadsheet, which is generally praised for the quality and accuracy of its reporting and private eye… but that's not alarmist either. Besides, I heard of this case on the BBC: link and on channel 4 news… how are any of these "alarmist"? …...seems to me that someone is being "alarmist" and missing out on details ; )

    24 Jun 2006, 09:44

  5. Any of the main press when it comes to their current 'fad' are alarmist. They highlight a problem to a far more serious extent to the original problem.

    A while ago it was knife crime, with reporting from all main press making the public believe we were under siege by knife weilding gangs of youths. I remember when it was gun crime, especially in regard to the shooting of a police officer. You had to dig quite hard to find statements such as "this is the 20th officer to be killed on duty in 20 years" (I'm not sure if that's the exact figure, but it's it's definately ballpark).

    Unfortunately, any assessment of these 'killers' by you is unlikely to be sound. As said in (quite a good, balanced) comment in the Sunday Times :

    …a recent experiment in which two groups of people were asked their opinion on a sentence. Those who were given all the judge’s papers thought it too severe, while those relying on media reports pronounced it too lenient.

    Also that:

    In the period when people are complaining about some 210 lenient sentences, 4,000 were found to be too severe.

    and..

    Most of the 53 released “lifers” were jailed under the controversial “two strikes means life” policy, in which offenders convicted of a second serious or violent offence were given automatic life sentences…“It forced courts to pass life sentences in cases where they wouldn’t have dreamt of doing so,” says Thomas. He recalls the case of an “incompetent and daft” second offender who robbed a shop at the point of a banana, concealed in a bag. “After the robbery, he got on his motorbike and collided with the police car that was answering a 999 call.” He became a lifer.

    I know that quote is unsatisfactory because it only says 'most' but you'll forgive me for saying the press surrounding these 53 released 'lifers' was indeed unduely alarmist..

    By the by, I know I promised stats on sentencing..but alas no, couldn't find any this morning.. will try again though.

    24 Jun 2006, 11:28

  6. Scott: "You had to dig quite hard to find statements such as "this is the 20th officer to be killed on duty in 20 years" (I'm not sure if that's the exact figure, but it's it's definately ballpark)"

    Actually it was 36, but I would like to say that you didn't have to do any digging; it was me who did that. I wrote, in the ICA newsletter on the 21st November 2005;
    "A lot of countries routinely arm police, notedly in America, but is the seemingly low number of deaths of police in Great Britain over the last 20 years (36) a result of the culture of not carrying guns?"

    – Just thought I'd mention it… it also nicely shows why people should read the newsletters (and inherently join the society).

    On your reply more generally I know that it might seem in some circumstances that maybe they don't dereve a really harsh penalty… but they do. Two violent or serious crimes is two too many. They were given a second chance (already one too many for me) and then they still couldn't avoid trying to kill or rob people. All they had to do was not do anything truely criminal, but they couldn't even manage that. They deserve a long time in prison just for the idiocy of it.

    24 Jun 2006, 15:26

  7. James

    Time for comment on one aspect only. There is much talk of giving vicims a 'voice' in the sentencing process, hence we have victim's impact statements (VIS) and the like. The media are obsessed with victims, too, hence the near–celebrity status of unfortunate people such as Ken Bigley's brother, Paul.

    I'm all for giving support to victims of crime. One of the reasons justice has to be seen to be done is so that the victims can see it. But I don't see the point of VIS and these other developments. Some victims are forving, some are hangers and floggers, some sit on the fence, and some are clueless. What weight should their views be given in the sentencing process? Won't that just mean that criminals' luck will depend on which victim they randomnly chose? Ideally there should be consistent sentences applied using the most objective criteria that we can muster, with an inevitable degree of discretion. The fluke that a criminal has found a forgiving victim (or not) should not be a relevant factor.

    Secondly, of course one feels sympathy for the Bigley family. it is tempered in my case by the fact that Bigley was a privateer who chose to go to Iraq because of the cash on offer, and fully knowing the risks involved – in contrast to the soldiers who went because they were ordered to do so on pain of court–marshal. (Interestingly Mr Blair attended Bigley's funeral – whose death he had no responsibility for – but has never attended the funeral of any of the deceased soldiers, whose deaths he certainly does bear some responsibility for. Cretin.)

    However, Ken Bigley's loss has not made Paul Bigley an expert on the legitimacy of the Iraq war, or on the wisdom of the Spectator's editorial on Liverpool. Yet he's wheeled out at every opportunity to vent his spleen. Rather like getting an editorial on Africa from a rock star rather than an African studies expert. Or taking sentencing advice from any random Joe.

    24 Jun 2006, 20:10

  8. Joe

    I really should start taking all this joe bashing personally…

    I do agree though, James, Ken Bigely knew exactly what the risk was, he thought he could make a few quid more and pay less tax and evidently this fact carried more weight to him than the possibility of being killed and the impact that this would have on his family. I don't completely lack sympathy for the man but he certainly knew what he was doing and did it for the good of no one but himself. The Army is a moot point. They know what they are signing up for; to kill people and risk getting killed. War is not nice, they accept this though for money and the possibility to work for the greatness of out Queen and country. They do not have a right to say no to any war in my mind. I'm unsure about whether the army should have the right to refuse to engage in an un–provoked attack against a liberal democracy, it could be debated.

    I whole heartedly agree Blair is a cretin who should not be allowed in office, and the same is true for the Labour party en bloc. The sooner they leave the better for everyone.

    You are right that having a misfortune befall you does not make you an expert or even qualified to speek on the matter. If a person who felt that forgiveness was the most important thing in the world was to be wronged they could feel they should plead for the most lenience. Whereas others feel justice and retribution are the aims of sentencing; so you have a plee for the most harsh penalties. It would be random. I do feel that people can try and pressure the government to change the rules and increase or change punishment that way (they could vote on it or start a petition or, dare I say it, support a papers campaign).

    Justice must be consistent.

    24 Jun 2006, 21:18

  9. Joe:

    Blair is a cretin who should not be allowed in office, and the same is true for the Labour party en bloc. The sooner they leave the better for everyone.

    hmmm.. replace a Tory with a Tory.. I'm not sure if that's really gonna make much difference somehow..

    They do not have a right to say no to any war in my mind. I'm unsure about whether the army should have the right to refuse to engage in an un–provoked attack against a liberal democracy, it could be debated.

    Soldier not only have a right, but a duty not to follow illegal orders. So only the illegality of a conflict should be debated, not whether the soldiers should fight it or not..

    Justice must be consistent.

    Here, here. And indeed, justice must not be hijacked/distorted by pressure from the media who pick and choose the most interesting/disturbing cases.

    24 Jun 2006, 23:14

  10. A few thoughts:

    I will tell you that crime is not falling, not "truely criminal" crimes anyway
    … overall what people call "crime" is on the up; whereas the total amount of "law breaking" is going down.

    I regret I cannot supply a dircet source but isn't a lot of the 'increase' in crime due to an increase in reporting of it. Especially amongst minorities, people seem less willing to just accept the occasional cry of "Paki"/gaybashing and are more willing to report it. True, I suspect there is a steady increase in some crimes (possibly including knives though that's too faddy at the moment for objectivity). Someone recently informed me that gun crime is falling in many previously gun afflicted areas, such as Manchester. It's too complicated to call on whether crime really is falling.

    I would like to see hanging brought back; it's cheap, it's quick and the recidivism rate is 0.

    The Birmingham six, Sally Clark, the Guildford Four Stephen Downing, I could go on at length, but basically no. The death penalty solves nothing and creates more problems than its worth. It's not worth the innocents, those in ambiguous cases etc who would die if it existed.

    I saw on the news today 2 people who were involved with the random murder of a student in the street for no reason at all could be out 5 years from the time of arrest

    I've highlighted the one word which people always overlook in these cases. Could. They probably won't be and besides to get released you need to satisfy loads of conditions. Yes, some people reoffend but a lot don't. It's justice not vengence in this country.

    24 Jun 2006, 23:44

  11. what people call "crime" is on the up; whereas the total amount of "law breaking" is going down

    Can Jonathan Rose give examples of "crimes" which aren't law–breaking?

    Some of the fundamental concepts surrounding the Rule of Law is that every attempt should be made to pin down exactly what constitutes a crime. And to define crime by the act and not by the status of its victim or the person who commits it.

    I think half the journos deserve hanging along with the politicians who follow them … only joking. They wouldn't produce sensationalist tripe if there weren't people to believe them.

    25 Jun 2006, 11:26

  12. firstly George, you can call me Joe, everyone else does and usually when you see people around the society refering to a "Joe" it's me (as was the post above)

    I can't produce evidence of crimes which are not law–breaking, but that is not what I was talking about. I was saying that crimes are either "regulatory" or "truely criminal". A regulatory crime would be ones in which it is better for society if everyone doesn't do it but if someone does there is no real harm caused to anyone. A truely criminal crime is what people call a "crime", something like murder, where there is a very large negative impact against someone. I was saying that although the amount of regulatory crimes is falling which is how they can say "crime is falling" the number of truely criminal crimes is on the up, which is why I say crime is on the up.

    Holly, whilst I am aware that there have been miscarages of justice in the past (and still are at the moment), mostly these do not aquire a unanimous jury verdict, and the only way that they would is if someone was deliberately lying and altering evidence (I know that this happens but it could largely be solved by actually prosecuting people for doing this… and making the punishment a more harsh one, instead of "ok, you can retire and keep all your pension")

    25 Jun 2006, 11:39

  13. Christopher Rossdale

    This idea of victims having any say or influence in individual cases is laughable. In the modern justice system, we attempt to make verdicts and sentences along an objective framework which has subjective grounding. It's difficult to philosophically class something as 'wrong' – but we have designed a society where guidelines of what is and isn't acceptable has been somewhat accepted: our justice system must act along those boundaries.
    Victims have a subjective interest in what is happening, passionate involvement makes an objective viewpoint near impossible. The external and objective force of the justice system means that there are clear guidelines for most scenarios – involving those closely associated with any crime breaks down this system.

    25 Jun 2006, 14:46

  14. James

    Which is pretty much what I said above. All this 'victim' focus is media driven, I think, given the Bigley obsession and other such incidents. Another example is the wheeling out of the Paddington Rail survivors to give their views on rail safety, as if they had any knowledge on the subject. As to Bigley, I said on my own blog that he's the epitome of the saying "if something sounds too good to be true, that's cause it is

    25 Jun 2006, 19:07


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