I'm horrified to read of the appalling state of decay into which the British system of justice is falling. It seems to go from bad to worse by the day - and there are parts of the US criminal justice system that appear to be following their example.
Three reports this week caught my eye. The first describes how heroin addicts who commit crimes to 'feed their habit' may now be excused punishment on those grounds. As Peter Hitchens fulminates:
People don’t become heroin users by accident. They don’t catch heroin as if it were measles or the flu.
They go out and look for it, and having once found a reliable supply, they carry on taking it again and again until it is part of their lives.
And they cannot really be surprised when it has bad results.
The fact that possessing heroin is against the law is a useful clue for would-be consumers that maybe it isn’t a good idea.
Also, heroin ‘addiction’ is a myth. Anyone can stop taking this illegal muck if he wants to.
The problem is that heroin users like their habit so much that they don’t want to stop.
The State, by treating them as poor victims instead of the selfish crooks they are, encourages this view.
The ludicrous portrayal of ‘cold turkey’ as a death-defying ordeal in the film French Connection II has a lot to answer for.
But our criminal justice system is now in the hands of people who see it as their job to make excuses for wicked behaviour.
And last week, they laughed in the faces of the good and the law-abiding once again. The Sentencing Guidelines Council ruled that thieves can in future be let off prison if they can show that they stole to ‘feed an addiction’.
Thus, if some low-life snatches your handbag in the street, or pretends to be a meter-reader to plunder an old lady’s tiny savings, he will not go to prison if he can show that he did this to pay a criminal dealer for his illegal drugs.
One crime is now an excuse for another.
This Sentencing Guidelines Council is a collection of highly educated nitwits, twerps and lawyers (plus, of course, a liberal copper).
It is a representative sample of the British Establishment, the people who have presided over 50 years of uninterrupted national decline and still show no signs of realising that they might be mistaken.
Go to their website some time and look at all their silly, smug and simpering faces, and you will see exactly what is wrong with this country.
There are many good reasons why heroin possession is illegal.
One of them is that those who use it become so single-mindedly selfish in pursuit of their chemical joy that they will steal callously from their closest friends and family so as to pay for their unearned pleasure.
We would be doing all involved a great favour if we punished them, hard, when they started.
That way, they would never get to the stage where they could pretend they were ‘addicts’ and could grizzle when told they weren’t going to get any more.
The problem is this.
Our governing class have no morals. While millions of us know perfectly well that some things are wrong and must be punished, our ruling elite simply refuse to believe this.
They think that those who do bad things need help.
And they then get wellpaid jobs providing that ‘help’. Sometimes they sit on panels that come up with moronic ideas. Sometimes they hand out free needles to drug abusers, or free drugs (paid for by us) .
I’ve tried arguing with these people but I am afraid it is useless.
They adopt a superior tone and freeze their faces into masks of superior contempt.
They regard me (and you) as barbaric throwbacks. I’ve now reached the stage where I actively hope that they all personally encounter the evil they have unleashed, seriously enough to feel its power but lightly enough to survive the experience.
And I hope that this teaches them what the rest of us all know, and have always known.
If you don’t punish wrongdoing, you will get more of it.
I couldn't agree more! It appears that Dr. Dick Soper, a senior British magistrate, is of similar mind - and has finally had enough.
A senior magistrate has resigned in protest at Government policies that impose soft punishments and undermine the courts.
Dr Dick Soper says criminals are walking free from prison after serving just a quarter of the sentences he and his colleagues impose.
Others are being handed fixed fines or police cautions - taking justice out of the hands of the courts and away from public scrutiny.
Dr Soper, 64, a GP, has served 26 years on the bench at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
He used his final session yesterday to deliver an angry broadside, saying: 'Although I could serve for another five years I no longer feel my time is being usefully spent in court.
'I feel that this long-standing system which has served the public well for centuries has, in recent years, been more and more interfered with by politicians.'
He told how he recently jailed an offender for six months but saw him walking about the town just six weeks later.
Dr Soper said: 'My greatest frustration and that of my colleagues is the very early release of prisoners.'
He said virtually all offenders are released automatically halfway through their sentences, while emergency measures to tackle prison overcrowding means many have another 18 days knocked off their sentences. Yet the judges and magistrates who heard their cases have no say over their early release.
Dr Soper said magistrates considered 'very hard' how to punish criminals, and added: 'It is frustrating when that careful thought seems to be undermined. It has certainly reduced my confidence in the system.'
He also complained that sentencing guidelines appear to be increasingly influenced by Whitehall.
Dr Soper said: 'The heavy hand of the executive seems to run through them and you get the feeling that greater central control is being exerted over this previously independent organisation.'
Community service and unpaid work have been trumpeted by ministers as punishments to help ease jail overcrowding, but Dr Soper said his own research locally showed only 60-65 per cent of offenders bothered to turn up.
Police were increasingly preferring to deal with offenders through cautions and on-the-spot fines rather than charging them and sending them to court, he said - undermining the principle of public and media scrutiny of justice.
Dr Soper said: 'It is not just minor cases they deal with - theft and violence are included and this court recently had a violent offender who had previously been cautioned by the police for causing grievous bodily harm.'
In his years as a JP, Dr Soper said, the number of courts in West Suffolk had dropped from six to three - and will soon be cut to just one.
'The idea of local justice, one of the strengths of the system, is disappearing fast,' he said.
'Now I hear that the courts budget is to be cut further, so what next?'
What next indeed? Perhaps a clue is given by a judgment handed down in the British High Court.
Rapists and paedophiles must be given the chance to erase their names from the sex offenders register, judges ruled yesterday.
The law which puts serious sex offenders on the register for life violates their human rights, three High Court judges said.
The decision, reached over the rights of a child rapist and an adult paedophile, was greeted with 'extreme disappointment' by the Home Office, which runs the register.
It came less than a fortnight after Justice Secretary Jack Straw told the Daily Mail of his 'frustration' with the courts' use of the Human Rights Act.
Sex offenders now join a list of apparent wrongdoers who seem to have benefited under the Act and in particular its eight article.
Beneficiaries of the article, which guarantees the right to privacy and family life, include murderers protected from deportation.
Police and experts believe many paedophiles and rapists are unlikely ever to cease being a danger.
That last sentence says it all. I've worked with such criminals as a prison chaplain. I totally agree that many of them are beyond rehabilitation or 'cure', and will be a perpetual danger to society - yet now, at least in Britain, they may be able to avoid easy identification as such a danger, in the interests of their 'human rights'. What about the rights of the next person they rape? Do they count for nothing?
I'm seriously disturbed by the growing culture in many parts of the world - including here - that lets criminals get away with their crimes, often for a very minor penalty. Let's face it: if you knew that you could make a living from crime, with only a minor slap on the wrist now and then instead of any meaningful punishment, wouldn't you be tempted?
All I can suggest is that we watch for this sort of nonsense in our own nations, regions and cities, and fight it vigorously whenever it rears its head. If we don't, we'll all end up victims.