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Saturday, 8 September 2012

Burglary ...

As ever, Josephus is able to provide a wealth of information on the way in which "justice" has come to the low pass it has. Part of the problem, as I see it is the fact that successive "liberal" attempts to soften the law on crimes against property have resulted in a situation where a crime in which no one is physically threatened or injured - is not regarded as "serious." It therefore does not attract much attention from either the police or the Crown Prosecution Service, and it attracts even less attention, in terms of punitive response, from the courts.

While I acknowledge the point Josephus makes concerning the fact that prisons tend to be sinkholes of drug dealing, bullying, abuse and a training ground for further criminal activity, I do not think that not sending someone to jail solves either problem. Surely, if the jails are in this state, it is time to overhaul them? If some reports are to be believed (and I hasten to add that I take a lot of the sensational press reporting with a shovelfull of salt) prison inmates now enjoy a range of 'rights' that many on the outside would envy. I also fail to see a 'suspended' sentence as a punishment. It is all too easy to play the system to the point the sentence lapses and then simply revert to type. I would have more faith in this system if the condition included a daily attendance at a detox clinic designated by the court and proof that the addict has been 'clean' and gainfully employed for a much longer period before being released from the threat of a suspended sentence.

Statistics published by Crime Watch a couple of years ago suggested that most people awarded suspended sentences broke the conditions with impunity and were never subjected to the sentence imposed simply because there was noone monitoring it. Several studies recently report that drug addicts rarely succeed in staying clean unless they can be removed entirely from their former circle of friends, the environment they were in and placed in one where they can be kept away from contact with the addictive substance. As that is almost impossible to achieve, it suggests that those driven to crime by their addiction are unlikely to be 'saveable.'

I do not advocate a return to Old Testament 'justice.' As Josephus says, it is not appropriate in the 21st Century, though the Sharia system (first codified according to my sources in the 17th Century) demands the full 'life for a life' treatment for crime and I don't think that is a good direction either. That said, we have a situation where the criminal seldom is seen to 'pay' for his or her crime and the victim doesn't get considered at all. As someone whose home was burgled (many years ago) I can say that it is the most devastating experience to have one's home violated by some scumbag ransacking it for valuables. I think the excuse that "he/she was 'driven' to it by their addiction" should be given far less weight than it is. At least one magistrate I know says he hears this offered far to often and wishes he could impose a really harsh regime - but can't.

It seems to me that if the prisons are awash with drugs, then it is high time the system was overhauled and tightened. How about the imposition of an automatic extension of sentence if found in possession of drugs? Better, how about an automatic doubling of sentence for supplying them inside one of HMs Prisons? How about an automatic five years inside for anyone caught actually smuggling them in in the first place? If the prison authorities are 'content' to allow heroin to be available inside because, as Josephus says, this keeps the inmates 'chilled' and amenable, perhaps it is time to take a long hard look at the management of the prison system.

The Howard League and other "prisoners friends" argue that prison is not about "punishment" but about "reforming" the prisoner. From all the evidence, I would say this concept has failed spectacularly. Prison neither "punishes" nor "reforms" at present. Again the statistics published by various bodies monitoring this suggest that 80% of inmates reoffend within months of release. Does this suggest we should refrain from locking up those who commit crimes? According to some, (and the judge at the centre of this storm seems to be one) the answer is 'yes,' but this is a 'soft' option. It doesn't guarantee reform and it certainly doesn't punish. It seems that the reform of the obviously failed prison and judicial punishment system is 'too hard' and therefore not to be considered.

Perhaps, however, if this latest display of judicial idiocy does nothing else, it will compel someone to consider what is going on in the prisons and who actually runs them. The drug dealing, manipulative offenders and their supporters in the Howard League and Human Rights groups - or the Prison Service and the Judiciary? If, as Josephus suggests, you could fill stadia to witness public hangings or corporal punishment, it would apear that the public at large is sick and tired of criminals not being punished for the misery they inflict on the rest of us.

It may well be time for the Whitehall and Westminster denizens to stop uttering platitudes and tinkering around the edges of the problem and take note of the victims of people like this "brave" burglar.

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