Friday, December 19, 2008

It used to be called the 'Justice System' . . .

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.



Anonymous said...

The schism between a system of law and a system of justice will be resolved, one way or another. If the government has stopped being of the people, by the people, for the people, then it is merely an awful mix of tradition and tyranny. I realize England is still ostensibly a monarchy, but if it hadn't happened, the word regicide wouldn't exist, would it? Sooner or later the populace is going to shed the monstrosity their government has become and start fresh.

Wow. That went a bit long, no?

Loren said...

While it does not excuse their actions, addiction is very real, and needs to be dealt with as such, and not just someone who wants another hit. I'm not addicted to a drug, but I am an addict, and while mine has yet to cause a lot of trouble in my life, a more powerful one would have that power. Most illegal drugs are very good at it, too.

A heroin addict who steals to support his habit should be put in jail for his crimes. But that won't help the addiction, and then there's the underlying social issues that led him to drugs in the first place.

LabRat said...

1. I agree totally with the basic thrust of this article- no excuses. In this day and age, anyone who starts using an addictive drug and claims to have been unaware of its eventual effects is an egregious liar and a coward to boot.

2. Heroin addiction is not "a myth", it's about as well-documented a physiological addiction as you can possibly come up with. It has extremely definable neurology, progression, and consequences. While anybody CAN quit it, the physical consequences for doing so are far more than the forgoing of oblivion.

One of the things I really despise about the responsibility-destroying culture is the definition of anything that is gratifying- sex, chocolate, shopping- as an addiction. That's bullshit. Heroin, however, is up there (and arguably, well beyond) with nicotine as a real physiological addiction. Confusing the issue doesn't exactly help our side, as no blatant lie does.

dave said...

Regarding the recidivism rates of sex offenders, I would refer you to Jacob Sullum's articles at Reason (and undoubtedly other places). In particular, the article at states:

" Among prisoners released in 1994, 46 percent of rapists were arrested again for any offense within three years, compared to 62 percent of violent felons generally. Recidivism rates for nonviolent criminals were even higher: 79 percent for car thieves, 74 percent for burglars.

Even if we focus on repeats of the same offense, rapists do not stand out. Less than 3 percent of them were arrested for a new rape in the three years covered by the study. By comparison, 13 percent of robbers, 22 percent of (nonsexual) assaulters, and 23 percent of burglars were arrested again for crimes similar to the ones for which they had served time."

He also asserts (in

"It seems that a large majority of people forced to register as sex offenders are actually former sex offenders who will not repeat their crimes. Moreover, registration laws cover not only rape and child molestation but nonviolent offenses such as consensual sex with a teenager, indecent exposure, and possession of child pornography."

Just a little counterpoint to the apparent disinformation provided by the government.

Owen said...

as the above commenter said Heroin = on hell of an addiction. After that the British court is off their bloody rockers. Holy Christ those articles make me sad.

Peter said...

Dave, you make good points, but you're not allowing for the capricious nature of the law.

As Sullum rightly points out, some sex offenders are more 'offenders' than others. I've met all types. Those who are 'statutory' offenders (i.e. those who've broken the letter, rather than the spirit, of the law, like a fifteen-year-old couple who've had consensual sex, making the male a 'statutory rapist', or the man who has sex with an eleven-year-old willing parner who looks sixteen - and yes, that happens) are much less likely to reoffend than those who are 'hard-core sex offenders' like rapists, pedophiles, etc.

I think that many of the studies about the likelihood of sex offenders to re-offend don't discriminate between the types of offenders, but simply conclude that this or that percentage are more or less likely to do so. In my time as a prison chaplain, and based on many discussions with prison psychologists and other therapists, I came to the conclusion that a 'hard-core' sex offender - a paedophile, a rapist, and so on, in the true sense of those labels (not the 'statutory rape' variety) - is very hard indeed to cure, perhaps impossible. On the other hand, a 'statutory' offender had much better prospects for rehabilitation.

In that sense, Sullum is right in his comparison of overall recidivism rates: but in the sense of the really hard-core sex offenders, I submit he's wrong. I'd say their likelihood to re-offend approaches 100%. There's only two cures I know for such criminals, and one is lifelong incarceration. The second I think you can guess.

AaronE said...

As to the prison time and overcrowding...rack and stack them, I have NO sympathy.

Heroin and a few others, that is a WICKED physiological thing to that they DO need some support...but have to possess the fotitude to STAY quit once quit. THAT too few have.

Shopping/chocolate and the like, simply weak wills and an unwillingness to do what NEEDS done (this one I'm being the bad guy in my home...tis NO fun)

Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA said...

If heroin isn't all that bad maybe we should just make it available over the counter?

Crucis said...

My father was born in Newcastle, UK and came to the US as a child. He was always and anglophile. But, even he would not be able to believe how low and how far the UK has sunk. I would just how long it will be the United Kingdom?