Monday, 4 July 2011

It's not about being tough on crime, it's being fair...

Two crime related stories in the news last week.  

Firstly there was the story that the police had been applying the legislation around bail conditions that police can deploy.  From the few articles I have read I seem to be in a minority that thought that this was a good thing.  The only measured analysis I read was by the excellent Mark Easton, actually looking at what the effect (if any) would actually occur from this. 

As far as my limited understanding, the legislation as previously interpreted meant that the police could arrest someone, hold and question them for say 6 hours, release them on bail, and repeat this process up to 15 more times  (taking 6 hour periods for argument's sake) up to a period totaling 96 hours, without any additional evidence.  For which time I can only assume that the individual would have quite a lot of specific restrictions placed upon them.  

Now I like to believe in the presumption of innocence - especially when the prosecution don't believe there is enough evidence to charge a person.  Surely given these rules there is no incentive for the police to work quickly to eliminate someone from their inquiries and that person will be left with a cloud over their head.  The newer interpretation as far as I see it doesn't stop the police doing their job - as soon as new evidence comes to light they can call the person back in again.  I am therefore disappointed to see that the Government is likely to push through Emergency Legislation to reverse the effect of this ruling (irrespective of the outcome of the review).  The main reason I am disappointed is nobody has stopped to think whether or not this Emergency Legislation will be a good thing - I feel it is another case of pandering to the reactionary right wing press.

Another policy that has been created just to appeal to the press (and repair Ken Clarke's/the Tories' reputation as being tough on crime) is the 'clarification' over the amount of force a person can use on an intruder.  The best analysis of this I have read has been over on Caron Lindsay's Blog, as always I think she is spot on.  

In particular, I know that any crime committed against someone I care about (or myself) I know I would wish disproportionate justice on them.  There will always be the urge to get even on someone/make them suffer for inflicting suffering on you, that urge may be stronger if you know that there will be no come back on yourself.  As Caron points out - there are good reasons why punishments are subjected by an independent body. 

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