Several stories in the papers in the last few days have made me come back to an issue I feel is blighted by some very confused thinking. It all starts with hippies.
The 60s counter-culture had some quaint notions that if we burned down the prisons and treated criminals with compassion and understanding, a brave new world would emerge. In a way they were right. In many parts of the country, a young person or an old-age pensioner really does need to be brave to go outside.
But seriously, the more criminals are treated with a light touch, the more decent people have to retreat. Efforts to change the balance are always attacked as “right wing” or “hang-em-and-flog-em”. Sneers of “Daily Mail” are inevitable. But why? Being tough on criminals – the most antisocial elements – is a progressive action, not a right-wing reaction.
Nothing underscores this more than an honest look at which communities are most blighted by crime. Whose lives are shattered? Whose futures compromised? Invariably, it is the poor, the weak, the marginalised.
What’s more, it is these who are most likely to be victims of violent crime. In South London, a 5 year old girl is fighting for her life. She has the sad distinction of being the capital’s youngest victim of gun crime. She and others were caught in the cross-fire as a gang exchanged shots in broad daylight in a high street shop. In Brighton a pensioner is attacked and beaten. He testifies: “youths run unchecked in his area while residents stay in at night out of fear.” By no means are these isolated incidents.
Of course, all this is pooh-poohed by those idiot-left media pundits who romanticise crime as some sort of revolutionary act, or reaction to poverty, or some other excuse. Accusations of “hysteria” and “fear-mongering” hiss from their mouths, secure in the knowledge that they’re least likely to be victims of crime, violence and antisocial behaviour.
In yesterday’s papers, a story about research into what burglars target revealed that they’re not interested in the rich.
One thief said: “There’s no point in going for rich houses because they’ve only got the same stuff as ordinary houses, but it’s harder to find because there’s more rooms and they have better security.
Indeed. It’s “ordinary” people who are hit by crime. Not, as many misguided idealists on the Left seem to think – and therefore excuse – “the rich” (as if even that would make crime morally justified).
Of course the big issue today is the argument over whether government spending cuts will harm front-line policing. But one blogging front-line office says its an irrelevant debate:
People just don’t seem to get it.
All this argument about whether budget cuts will affect the so-called police front line completely misses the point. Even if the front line was a million strong, with the piss-poor sentencing we currently have, it would make no difference.
Take Billy McBride from The Swamp Estate in Ruraltown. Billy was nicked again by my team this morning on suspicion of stealing a minibus. He was clearly seen on CCTV doing this, his dabs are inside the vehicle and his DNA is all over the seats. In addition to this, he admitted the whole thing, even giving us the location of the CD player from the dashboard before we could finish getting the caution out.
I was present when the ‘strike’ went in at Billy’s mother’s house. He was found in the rear yard, hanging out the washing and greeted the team with a smile of resignation. No attempt to run, no angry denials, no demanding to know why we were there. Billy is totally comfortable with the whole criminal justice process from start to finish because he knows that he is largely untouchable for some reason. He has over 100 previous convictions for similar offences. He goes to prison for just long enough to get processed, before he is out again, released on some scheme or programme to steal again.
It’s well worth reading the rest of the story. (Hat Tip ‘Scooby’ in the comments of my previous post)
Too many crimes are committed by people with strings of previous convictions. One gruesome example is, of course, the murder of Ian Baynham. He was kicked to death in Trafalgar Square by youths who had previous – but ludicrously light – convictions for violence. Had their criminal violence been treated more seriously, the mild-mannered Mr Baynham might still be alive.
The counter-argument is always that the prisons are already too full. But perhaps that is because short sentences only encourage repeat offending. Perhaps if a prison stay was longer and harder it would be seen as less of an occupational hazard and more of a deterrent.
Only a stable society can deliver social justice and a decent quality of life for all. Stability starts with discipline and security. The unrestrained, selfish, chaotic forces of violence and disorder are the real reactionaries, not those seeking to restrain them for the communal benefit of the vulnerable – and the ordinary.
Mel in the comments below draws our attention to another police blogger. She criticises the Coalition government thus:
The Conservatives 2010 manifesto promised to ‘rebuild confidence in the criminal justice system so that people know it is on the side of victims and working for law-abiding people not criminals’. But under the Coalition’s latest plans, new sentencing guidelines promote fewer prison sentences for violent offences and greater use of the sort of community orders that the likes of Nattriss and Onyenaychi will not blink at before breaching. More and more convicted recidivist robbers and thugs will be released early, and parole restrictions or community orders won’t stop them reoffending because they’ve had to commit two dozen offences to even get sent to prison to start with.
Why isn’t the Met Commissioner jumping up and down, pointing the finger at the criminal justice system and demanding to know how he can be expected to protect the public when his officers are spending days, weeks and months locking up the same people for the same crimes, time and again.