Crime and Punishment

Rookwood, Going Postal
Alcatraz Prison
Alexander C. KafkaLicence CC BY-ND 2.0

As a victim of numerous criminal enterprises, two of them to use the modern politically correct vernacular as “Life changing”, I’d like to think I have an intelligent and valid opinion on the justice system. Apart from the usual plethora of attempted car thefts, housebreaking etc, some would consider me unfortunate to be in the position to suffer such a statistically high exposure to the darker side of British society, others would suggest with some cynicism that I was in some way complicit. Neither are a true reflection of the matters surrounding these incidents, of which the most serious have left me with physical and emotional scars that no amount of prison time will ever redress. One irrefutable fact is that violent crime is more prevalent in areas of extreme poverty and poor education, and unfortunately fate decided that I would find myself living in such an environment for a proportion of my life. What of course is not said, is that a similarly high proportion of crime is also present in respectable, middle and upper class areas. It is just that the crimes in question are generally better hidden, executed more efficiently, less frequently prosecuted, and certainly are considered more “socially acceptable”, if such a term can be used concerning any lawbreaking. If you are in any doubt, just take a look at the “Rotten Boroughs” section of Private Eye, a column, that despite decades of publication, has resulted in probably close to zero prosecutions of corrupt local government officials. Criminality is truly non-discriminatory insofar as any individual of any age, of any gender, of any race, can be either a perpetrator or a victim. The other taboo is that certain groups or demographics have a certain criminal preference. The seasoned lawyer or policeman will define this understanding as criminal profiling. While not 100% accurate, it is indeed a good rule of thumb. The final taboo subject is punishment, particularly corporal punishment. Or to frame the narrative in a slightly different way, how do we as a society, deal with acts that are so abhorrent, that clearly the offender must never be allowed the opportunity to commit a similar act ever again?

If we are to accept that the UK justice system is well and truly beyond redemption, an opinion which I personally believe to be the case since the late sixties at least, a solution and some deep soul searching is in order. What should we consider to be a crime? How can we maintain a fair and equitable justice system based on adversarial principles when clearly the richer you are, the greater the chance of a “Not guilty” verdict? When institutions such as the NHS, local authorities and banks are protected in law to the degree that only an exorbitantly expensive High court action can bring a prosecution, what chance is there for the individual or community to see justice carried out? Most tellingly, how do we extricate ourselves from the plethora of international laws that on the surface are meant to protect human rights and freedoms but ultimately destroy them?

My first observation is the triple whammy of the abolition of the death penalty, the legalisation of abortion, suicide and homosexual offences and finally the criminalisation of recreational drug usage has permanently warped our sense of natural justice. We have decriminalised the indefensible and outlawed the acceptable. And before anyone gets on their high horse and accuses me of both liberal and illiberal thinking, let me explain my rationale behind such a viewpoint. I do not believe for one second that our government should ever be our moral arbiter, rather they should be the human representation of our national conscience. Only a small proportion of the UK population is a criminal, and most of us have sufficient decency and ethics to avoid an encounter with the local constabulary, never mind some of our more learned friends. In reality, most of UK PLC is self policing. What two consenting adults wish to do in the privacy of their own bedroom (or indeed kitchen or broom cupboard for that matter) should be just that. A private matter. However, once that formerly taboo choice or lifestyle decision starts to gain special legal protection, it becomes such a parody of human weakness that only line upon line of Draconian legislation can enforce any level of “respect” from the public at large, as the boundaries are invariably further expanded. The hate speech laws, equality legislation etc. are all shining examples of this inexorable slide towards lawlessness reigned in by increasingly desperate, poorly conceived and unjust legislation. Rather than enforcing the previous set of rules rigourously and equitably and for all, irrespective of lifestyle, sexuality, race or physical ability, dominant classes or groups emerge – the politically protected species. Instead of a more accepting and tolerant society, we end up with a “Them and us” mentality. This in turn, drives even more division and separation. We may have moved on from the Victorian workhouse and debtors prison, but as far as common decency is concerned, we have fallen far behind. I’d far rather see a thousand infants abandoned on the freezing doorstep of the local orphanage than the countless despatched daily at a four, possibly five figure profit per head that the legalised abortion industry commands for the remains of its victims. As to making suicide illegal, good luck with that one. Regarding sexuality, I’ll address that vice in a minute, but lest to say trying to legislate against the sexual preference of consenting male adults is as rational and effective as fucking for virginity. It is an interesting aside to note that there was not any corresponding legislation prohibiting lesbianism. Clearly, the more liberal and accepting we try and become, the more irrational and paranoid our outlook as what was considered the historical and civilised norm is eaten away by the canker of progressiveness. What we really should be attempting to do is to become more just.

Secondly, we need to look at the effectiveness and purpose of prisons. Once again, the Victorians were ahead of us, as the greatest reforming movements in prison conditions and purpose happened during that era. It was during this time that the concept of rehabilitation took root, and surprisingly, some of the prisons built during this time were years ahead of their time in having individual cells for inmates. We have lost that pioneering spirit in much the same way as that of the old fashioned Peeler policing by consent. Prisons are now dumping grounds for the uneducated, drug addicted and frequently mentally ill, and in all honesty there is no surprise that the level of recidivism is such that by far the majority of convicted criminals will see the insides of another prison within 3 years of release. I’ll go one better than suggesting that prisoners should have individual cells with satellite TV and a games console. How about not sending them to prison at all and giving them the £50K it costs the taxpayer per year to house them? Sarcasm and facetiousness aside, until we wake up to fact that most prisons are universities of criminality rather than reform and punishment, the treadmill of reoffending behaviour will plague our society like the brutality of the rusting iron and steel monstrosities that were a common sight in penal establishments during the industrial revolution.

One of the most appalling political con-tricks ever pulled on the British public was the New Labour policy of “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”. Apart from overseeing the mass import of some of the most vicious criminals in living memory to the UK, Blair civilised crime. Wonder why the police do not prosecute shoplifters any more? It is because the shift was from criminal to civil enforcement. The whole ASBO (Anti Social Behaviour Order) principle was based on the idea of giving local government enforcement officers more paper powers, in an attempt to staunch petty criminality such as littering etc. It was mooted at one point that EO’s would be given the power of arrest, a frightening thought when little old ladies have been prosecuted for feeding ducks. During his tenure, the only outstanding crime to carry the death penalty (treason) was abolished. Go figure that one.

The age old conundrum of how to deal with anti-social and criminal elements in society has raged for generations. From the amputation of hands to sending your remaining family the invoice for the fatal bullet, everything has been tried. And failed. As an unrepentant pragmatist, like the poor, I believe the criminal will always be amongst us. The question is how do we manage and control this element in society? The first thing to realise is that be it a hole in the ground or a luxury palace, most professional criminals consider arrest and detention as part of the job. The only time they have any respect for the law is when they can bend or twist it in the hands of a usually very highly paid lawyer for their benefit. Secondly, we need to understand the type of criminal we are dealing with. The petty drug addict is an entirely different character from the psychopath. A large percentage of our prison population, currently running at just under 100,000, are drug addicts or if not, soon will be. To illustrate the point as to the stupidity of attempting to legislate to the smallest degree against the vagrancies of human nature, consider this. The decision was made to outlaw drug use in prisons via mandatory drug testing with increased sentences for offenders. Fair enough you might think, but this policy has had disastrous unintended consequences. As any astute prison governor will tell you off the record, it is better to have 250 sedated but reasonably contented cons in your charge than 50 suffering serious withdrawal, the potential of serious rioting and insufficient manpower to control it. Ever wonder why contraband is such a problem in prisons? If the system was properly policed, there would soon be complete anarchy. So a blind eye is inadvertently turned. This decision has forced a move in the prison population from smoking weed to heroin and “plant food” as the longer time taken for the body to metabolise the former was sufficient to trigger a positive drugs flag. Very little has been written on the effect of smoking bans in prisons, but you can bet your house that this policy has really worked as well. The darker side of humanity, be it addiction, sexual drives, or a destructive idealogical pathology, are very difficult or impossible to “cure”, never mind manage.

Which is why the courts and our justice system is in urgent need of reform to triage the deluge of lawbreaking that is taking place in this country. As to the middle and upper class epidemic of corruption and fraud, the cure is simple. We need a fully independent anti-corruption watchdog with serious teeth, serious investigative powers and serious sentencing to match. So in other words, the exact opposite of the current suspended national enquiry into child sexual abuse. Anyone who has watched the excellent film Serpico, will understand the critical role of the Knapp commission in the United States that was formed to deal with the relentless corruption in the NYPD during the 60’s and early 70’s. We need the same in the UK, but covering  our institutions – local and national government, the police, NHS, care homes, the media and indeed a service sector that rhymes with wanker. The little man needs to be able to come forward and say this is clearly wrong, state his case under severe penalty if he is dishonest, and have it investigated. Having being part of a major citizen driven investigation into local government corruption and fraud, it is well nigh impossible to get any traction on such matters. How can you, when the Chief Executive of the local authority concerned is not only corrupt, but is friends and responsible for the appointment of the local Chief Constable? Police forces cannot investigate crime that have taken place outside their boundary, so referring the complaint to another area would be pointless. The media are not interested as this is not news, and as to professional bodies, they immediately refer you to the police in any case of fraud or corruption. As to Crimestoppers, they are only interested in politically correct crimes, the agent who answered my call refused to take my complaint as corruption “Is not something we deal with”.

Next, we need to identify the really dangerous criminals, not only those with a pathology that is incapable of change, but those who have betrayed society to such a degree that their crime is effectively irredeemable. Terrorists, child molesters, cop killers. Those that prey on the elderly and vulnerable, the executive that signs over the pension rights of his employees to save his own skin. Like the the law against female genital mutilation, the offence of Misconduct in public office is a well meaning and useless piece of legislation, like many others, sitting on the shelf to virtue signal how “civilised” we are. Until there are many more prosecutions under these pieces of legislation, those responsible for stalling or denying any proceedings under such acts are worthy of the full weight of the law being thrown at them as well. Be that life imprisonment, the death penalty, internment on a Scottish island with no visitors rights, TV, radio and being fed a diet of porridge, raw fish and stale bread, I honestly can’t answer as to the best punishment. It is clear our establishment is so corrupt that the death penalty is currently a step too far, for justice has got to seen to be blind. At the moment she is only blind to the wholesale corruption. But I’ll happily put my name forward for judge and jury, provided I can be the executioner.

That leaves the run of the mill muggers, rapists, murderers, thieves, fraudsters and tax evaders. Some might be candidates for rehabilitation, some not. It all depends on how genuine their regret for their crimes may be. Judging that regret is an extremely difficult task, often misjudged. Which is why I tend to sympathise with the Sharia concept of Qisas, where the victim or their family can recommend the sentence to be carried out. Saying that, we are looking at a legal system that considers murder to be purely a civil matter. So maybe it would be best not to encourage such heresy.

Finally, the drug addicts. The Victorians, indeed even 1960’s Britain knew how to deal with that problem. Cocaine, hashish and opium, as well as gin, was freely and legally available in Victorian Britain. Even in the 60’s, a drug addict was given heroin on prescription. Methadone, as any recovering drug addict will tell you, is not a viable solution. If we licensed addicts, dispensed their fix free of charge, we would cut the petty crime figures by at least 10%, the prison population by about 30%, and put some major criminals out of business. Maybe that would leave some room for those that truly deserve to be inside. Like the latest prime example of unrepentant wholesale barbarity, Usman Khan.

© Rookwood 2019

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