Thursday, May 11, 2006

Well Said

The Lord Chief Justice gave a speech recently when he spoke about the need for more appropriate sentences. He eloquently said in two paragraphs of his speech:

"In arguing the merits of alternatives to custody, I have been concerned to demonstrate that these are in the interests of victims, of potential victims and of society as a whole. There is a further point to make. They are in the interests of the offenders. I know that it is unfashionable to refer to the interests of offenders, as opposed to those of their victims. Of course, victims have the first claim on our sympathies and on our actions. But this does not mean that we must disregard the interests of offenders. For if we do not we can never hope to deal with the underlying reasons for offending behaviour. And it is this that is in all our interests."

Also:

"I have been talking about the large number of inadequate or damaged members of society for whom minor criminality is the only way of life they know. Short spells of imprisonment followed by re-offending is an expensive and ineffective way of dealing with these. Meaningful punishment in the community, coupled with a proper programme of rehabilitation, properly resourced and managed, must be the better option."

I am no liberal, and many of my Clients that are sent to prison do deserve to be there, but sometimes a Court will just get it wrong and impose a sentence that does not have any real effect. Sentencing is about punishment and rehabilitation. Once those presiding over cases in the Magistrates Courts learn that sending a repeat offender to prison for two weeks over a shop lifting matter is not a sentence that either punishes or rehabilitates we will all be in a better position. Clients that I deal with on a regular basis say that short custodial sentences are pointless because they are simply locked up for a few weeks and that is no deterrent to them. I am quite frankly very impressed that the Lord Chief Justice has got such a good understanding of the problems that defendants face, and that he is able to express a well considered opinion. Cure the underlying issues that caused the crime and you are likely to start to address reoffending behaviour.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cure the underlying issues that caused the crime and you are likely to start to address reoffending behaviour.

With all due respect, Gavin, British Socialism has been trying and failing to do this for over fifty years.

It may now be time to accept that in any society you are going to have troublemakers and that with some honourable exceptions they are incapable of reform. It then becomes a case of placing them where they can do the least harm to society.

Every day a drug addicted persistent burglar is off the streets, is a day they are not breaking into somebody's home. So if the problem is that Short spells of imprisonment followed by re-offending is an expensive and ineffective way of dealing with these then the answer is to considerably lengthen the terms of imprisonment.

An added benefit is that not only are the criminals not victimising people while locked up, they also have no way of breeding a future generation of criminals.

No doubt the Lord Chief Justice can afford to be magnanimous. For those of us whose homes are not protected by armed police, and deprived by law of the right to defend ourselves, we rely on the system over which he presides for our safety.

Gavin said...

Anon,

This is a very good point: "So if the problem is that Short spells of imprisonment followed by re-offending is an expensive and ineffective way of dealing with these then the answer is to considerably lengthen the terms of imprisonment." The logic is simple, but it is a short term solution to a long term problem.

Locking people up for petty, non-violent offences does not work because there is no deterrent. If you impose longer terms for the same offences there will still be very little deterrent. A junkie or crack head will quite happily sit in a prison with free board and lodging for a period of time, afterall drugs are generally available in prisons.

Maybe criminals are not victimising people whilst they are locked uyp, would it not be a better if their behaviour could be changed so that at some point they stopped the victimisation altogether? I am no hippy liberal but the real problem in crime is drugs. I have seen Clients go for periods of years without coming back to the criminal justice system where they have had some kind of drug treatment. The ones that have no drug treatment come back to Court within days or weeks of being dealt with.

Treat the issues underlying crime such as drugs and you will get less crime. Lock the druggies up and you will get the same effect of less crime but only for as long as they are locked up - and it is cheaper to treat the drug use than it is to lock them up.

Anonymous said...

Locking people up for petty, non-violent offences does not work

I could not agree more. We should absolutely be reserving prison for violent offenders, and not fine-dodgers, students or single mothers caught with small amounts of drugs, and the like.

Treat the issues underlying crime such as drugs and you will get less crime

There also seem to be arguments in favour of legalising drugs completely. You will never stop people using substances to escape the reality of their everyday lives. Why did the state get into the business of trying?

I am not arguing for or against drug legalisation but I do wonder what would happen to the robbery statistics if individuals could get hold of all the drugs they wanted cheaply.

Gavin said...

A large bulk of robbery statistics are made up of youths stealing mobile phones and not violent muggers or bank robbers.

If there was a 'magic' cure fro drug related offending it would dramatically reduce offences of dishonestly such as theft, shoplifting, deceptions, and low level frauds.

Appparently Mexico is about to legalise all drugs including cocaine and other hard drugs. We can watch that experiment from a safe distance!

Sam said...

It is my opinion that the persistent rate of unemployment among certain groups, a culture of disrespect - for all authority figure, especially teachers and the police - among a certain group, the rise in low level crime (including the use of drugs), the lack of manners, correct behaviour and (sometimes violent insolence) and the general gaudy nature of some parts of popular culture of all symptons of one and the same thing: the underclass. This is the real issue we must deal with, tackling any other areas on their own is like dealing with a hyrda. Already we are seeing the very rich lock themselves away in gated communities, to we really want to be heading for a society like that one finds in New York or Rio de Janeiro? How one deals with the issue of the underclass is beyond me - although I would posit that it is more than about basic facilities of education and work opportunities, they exist but are not taken up - although I think a good starting point for the government would be to offer fiscal benefits for those who choose to bring up children in an traditional family enviroment, where values such as education, a work ethic and common decency are promoted.

Gavin said...

The children that I come across who are deemed to be 'persistant offenders' generally come from broken homes where the parents take little interest in what happens to their children.

motoring solicitors said...

he gave a great speech!!!