The riots last week were an indicator of a society which has some things wrong with it. Not broken, as the Tories love to keep telling us, but there are some places where things could be a lot better.
Another indicator of our society’s dark heart can be found in the state’s response to the riots. Harsh and overly punitive sentencing handed out by the 21st Century equivalent of hanging judges seems to be designed to satisfy the blood lust we’ve seen in the media and on blogs. Even some self-proclaimed libertarians suspended their principles, making them subservient to impotent rage. This populist approach to the law will serve to further reduce the public’s faith in the judiciary and alienate further a section of society which feels it has already been poorly treated. A judiciary which follows the howls of the mob is not just and not fit for purpose in a liberal society.
Then there’s talk of the government suspending communications media in an attempt to hamper the organisation of looting sprees. That’s the kind of illiberal response we’d expect from China or the Yemen. If our government is taking tips from the cruellest regimes in the world then we should be worried.
Now Theresa May has announced that the coalition government is going to lavish the UK’s police forces with even more powers, including the right to declare curfews. If it goes ahead it represents a huge change and a terrifying shift of power to the police force. A government which came into power promising a great repeal of Labour’s illiberal laws has quickly got hooked back on the good old Tory addiction to authoritarian rule.
This isn’t a party political issue. If anything, the Labour opposition response has been little more than a water treading manoeuvre, allowing Labour front benchers media airtime without actually saying anything useful, or potentially risky. Despite Ed Miliband’s lacklustre and unconvincing appeal for a ‘tough on the causes of crime’ approach, if Labour had been in power and Jack Straw had been on that podium instead of Theresa May, I’m confident he would have talked in similarly tough terms and would have happily sacrificed more of our liberty for a half-baked notion of security. The Lib Dems, who consider themselves to be a moderating influence on government, are a failing to protect true liberal values, and just seem to be shoring up a Coalition where their influence is non-existent. They’re a pitiful joke.
At the minute, it looks like no-one in Parliament can be trusted with our liberty.
I wonder if people like MP Andrew Turner, who support capital punishment, do so with the confidence that they will a) never murder anyone, or b) never be falsely convicted of murder. If you want no a simple reason to say no to the death penalty, then it’s b.
British history is full of miscarriages of justice: the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven, Stephen Downing, Barry George and Stefan Kiszko. Fortunately they were incarcerated after the death penalty had been abolished in the UK, and most of them lived to see freedom.
Derek Bentley wasn’t so lucky, and over the years of a tyrannical legal system weighted against the poor and the uneducated, many innocent people like Bentley, with severe learning dificulties and psychological problems, were executed. Many such people are still executed with alarming regularity today in the USA. Some victims of the death penalty were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The argument for the death penalty according to Leicester city councillor Barbara Potter is:
“I’m a mother myself, so I want to keep them as safe as possible. I believe in an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a life for a life.”
With such a bronze-age attitude to justice, Potter would fit better not on the board of a modern British local Police Authority, but as a black-hatted judge in Victorian Britain, or in a modern-day sharia court in Saudi Arabia.
“With all the DNA technology we can be 100% sure that someone is guilty and when we are 100% sure that this man has killed this child and the evidence is there, then capital punishment is appropriate.”
The naivete is staggering. This idiot shouldn’t be let anywhere near the justice system. DNA evidence is just that, evidence, and subject to interpretation as part of a wider body of facts to build a case. There is no 100% certainty.
Add to that the danger of a tabloid media only too quick to convict murder suspects in the pages of their rags, sometimes the only evidence being that the suspect looked a bit weird.
Unfortunately the justice system is just as fallible as it was forty years ago, and the risk of a faulty conviction is always present. That’s why the death penalty should never be returned.
There’s no walk to freedom from the grave.
There’s no shortage in irony when the world’s most wealthy and powerful religious corporation plays the persecution card. It looks like there’s going to be no let up in revelations (no pun intended) of more incidence of child rape at the hands and dicks of Roman Catholic priests, but instead of trying to see justice done, the Roman Catholic Church seems intent on offending as many people as possible. Today’s sermon by the Pope’s preacher, Raniero Cuntallamessa, went in big time and compared the criticism faced by the RCC with anti-Semitism, describing it as ‘violent and concentric attacks’. Essentially, the Pope’s private priest is implying that anyone critical of the RCC and the Pope’s handling of priestly child rape scandal is a Nazi. If he had posted this on an internet forum he would have been laughed off as Godwin spewing moron.
Despite the massive pain caused by the child raping priests, so far there hasn’t been any evidence of a violent backlash against the RCC or it’s clerics. Indeed, our own government and legislature seems intent on giving religions more influence in our society and has provided them, after no small amount of lobbying from the RCC, a get out of jail free card when it comes to employment legislation.
There is little doubt that at several levels the RCC attempted to hide the incidences of child rape, even threatening excommunication for those clergy who would dare to report such behaviour to the proper authorities (references here). It’s a powerful deterrent – few devout Christians, particularly clerics, would risk a one-way trip to hell.
Why then, has not one of the church’s child rapist’s been excommunicated?
As a former dog owner, I think tagging dogs is a good idea. I also think that it’s prudent to insure your dog. But I also think that it’s the owners’ prerogative.
The government’s plans to introduce legislation to force all dog owners to tag and insure their dogs, because of the behaviour of a few irresponsible owners, is little more than collective punishment for all those careful dog owners who love and care for their animals without incident. The issue of dangerous dogs does need to be attended to, but those with chav dogs won’t be queuing to get their dogs tagged or insured.
Other than being utterly draconian response, the policy seems like a concession to two main groups. First the posties union the CWU seem proper chuffed, but the real winners will be the insurance companies, who almost overnight will have a new captive market to profiteer off. And let’s not forget the new bureaucracy that will need to be funded.
Not everyone with a dog will be able to afford this extra cost, so those who can’t pay for the government’s new finance industry bailout will either be criminalised for not paying up, or many dogs will be abandoned by families who can’t cope with the additional expense on top of everything else this economically incompetent government has decided to lay at household doors. That means more stray dogs on the streets, more cost to councils to manage the problem and more animals being needlessly put to sleep in Labour’s drive for the next knee-jerk lazy populist policy.
I’m never ever going to vote Labour, but if I was a swing voter and a dog owner, this policy would swing my vote well away from them, and any other political party that thinks this is a good idea.
A Wood praises the BNP for having “tough policies on crime” (Have Your Say, February 1st). These “tough” policies don’t seem to apply to the BNP’s own members. A BNP councillor in Calderdale was found guilty on October 19th 2006 on four counts of benefit fraud involving several thousands of pounds. The BNP has yet to disown him or demand his resignation. Another BNP councillor, in Burnley, was convicted of attacking his wife and a police officer, yet the BNP continued his membership.
These examples of the BNP’s “tough” attitude to crime represent just a fraction of a party featuring fraudsters, thugs, liars and incompetents. The record of serving (I use the word loosely) BNP councillors across the country is a catalogue of failure that suggests an innate contempt for voters.
A Wood admires the Gazette’s reporting. I wonder if the admiration extends to the BNP volunteer who was so committed to the fascist project that he wouldn’t provide his name in the interview? Then again, this behaviour isn’t new as it’s common practice for BNP members to use false names – even their press officer uses a pseudonym.
This implies that they don’t want to be publicly associated with the party that is the spiritual heir of Hitler’s Nazi Party. Why trust a party whose own members can’t bring themselves to put their names to their ideology?