Category Archives: POLICE

Bleeding Heart Liberals or a Sane Voice in an Insane World

Swift justice and stiff sentences were called for after the riots as the politicians fell over themselves to be “tough” on crime.

Well it appears that is just what we have.  Courts have been sitting through the night to deal with the hundreds of people arrested and an unprecedented number remanded in custody either as a sentence or awaiting trial.

All was looking like just what Mr Cameron ordered until a rather peculiar thing happened – newspapers started reporting that sentences were too harsh and inconsistent. Remarkable because usually the complaint over the past 30 years has been that sentences were too lenient rather than too harsh.

A new political debate is now on the cards and whispers of “divisions” within the coalition are muted by such places as the Guardian and elsewhere.

I now find myself in a rather peculiar position, having been accused of being a “bleeding heart liberal” in the past.

I watched an interesting debate a few nights ago in which Michael Howard (yes the former Tory leader who lurched to the right in a cynical attempt to pick up votes and who proclaimed “prison works”) defended the sentencing being laid down by the courts for those perpetrating the riots and looting.

Others broadly described as “on the left”, “liberal thinkers” or those campaigning for “human rights” and “prison reform” have argued that many of these sentences are too harsh and inconsistent.  Not only that, but it has been argued that the appeals procedure will bring the justice system into disrepute and cost the tax payer more money.

As written in a previous post What are the causes of the riots?: An impossible question but one we have to ask I am sympathetic to and insist upon finding the causes behind why there is a section in society who seem to not feel they belong to society or their own community and have a set of values many of us simply do not understand.

However, I along with many others have been so shocked and sickened by the rioting and looting that went on as also discussed in Armageddon Days – Britain’s Riots   that the call for tough sentencing did not just come from the usual suspects on the right of our political system.

Seeing violence and looting on a mass scale without any immediate causal link like “the cuts”, “political demonstration”, or “poverty” – but rather naked wanton violence and thievery on an opportunistic mass scale regardless of the harm it caused to their own neighbours, community or wider society was shocking.

45 people lost their homes and 4 people died in the riots, and be it for a lot of luck, more would have died as the haunting pictures of the Polish lady jumping from a first floor window to escape the flames shows.

Not only were large businesses affected, but small businesses where a small interruption to their activities will send them to the wall and thus people losing their jobs. There is also the much unreported events of looters breaking into peoples homes in places like Ealing while people were in their homes and breaking into restaurants where guests where locked into basements while the staff fought off looters and rioters.

These people took part in riots without thought for their victims or society at large, because they thought they could get away with it and even if they did get caught they had nothing to fear.

Talking to Police – it appears that there is so much evidence they have obtained, from blood samples, finger prints and cctv evidence that they will still be making arrests in 2 years time.  The culprits did not take hardly any precautions because they never thought they would be caught.

Then there are those who committed “minor” offences of receiving stolen goods.  However, anyone who “received” stolen goods during or immediately after the riots when “picking up a TV set off the street” or “buying stuff in the pub off someone he didn’t know”, must have been living on the planet Venus not to know where these items had come from.

Michael Howard said famously that “prison works” – he was partly wrong.  Prison breeds criminals and starts a vicious circle of crime and institutionalisation. However, we have to have as a society an ultimate sanction.  In our society we no longer thrash people, or throw tomatoes at people in stocks or thankfully hang people – so for us prison is the ultimate punishment.  Prison works to keep those dangerous off the streets.

It seems obvious to me that if you take part in the worst rioting seen in this country for a hundred years; where it was wanton greed and violence; where 4 people died and 45 people lost their homes, then a prison sentence is likely to be the appropriate outcome for  good number. Indeed, to put rioters and looters back on the streets immediately could be seen as asking for trouble.

I do not accept the argument that people appealing their sentence brings the system into disrepute.  It is inevitable that there will be SOME inconsistency in the system as magistrates and judges are after all human (shock horror).

It is very easy to cite a few cases where sentences are disproportional or inconsistent when over a thousand people have been sentenced in a short period of time.  That is why we have an appeals procedure and that is how the law works.

I find myself, in the peculiar position of agreeing with Michael Howard, (if I believed in God I may well ask for forgiveness at this time!).  Prison sentences in many cases will be appropriate and the context of the riots should be taken into account.

The public appear to agree with this as seen in a recent YouGov polls showing that OF THOSE SURVEYED 81% either agree with the sentencing or think they are too lenient. However, as with all surveys we should be guarded. It is also easy to follow the mob in justice as in rioting.  During the riots it is worth noting that 33% were polled as believing the Police should use LIVE AMMUNITION on the rioters.  Yet another shocking statistic in the saga.

The question for the politicians now is what they do about the numbers game. Their prison policy is in tatters as the prisons are now about to be full to bursting point as Newsnight have reported that those convicted of knife crime are being housed in a Premier Inn Hotel rather than a prison!

They will surely be preparing a U-Turn for the Justice Secretary soon enough.  It may well be time for a rather more searching debate on the role of our justice system in future.  A balance between punishment and rehabilitation without policy led by the need to save money.

On this occasion I would have to say the “bleeding heart liberals” have got it sadly wrong.

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KENNETH CLARKE, RAPE and SENTENCING REFORM: He gives his enemies within his own party ammunition

We live in strange times.  What the storm over the remarks by Ken Clarke have shown is just how many on his own side of the political debate want to knife him in the back.

In today’s papers it appears that Ed Miliband and the Labour leadership has signed an unholy alliance with the Daily Mail and others in the right wing press.  While the more left/liberal leading publications appear to be the only ones backing him.  Not for his form of words yesterday, but rather there is something else going on.

The right and the core support for the Tory party do not like the way the new law and order reforms are going.  They don’t want to “educate” or give out “community sentencing”, they want to “hang and flog” and “lock them up and throw away the key”.

15 years ago if someone would have told me that the Labour party would be seen as more tough on crime than the Tories I would have laughed.  If someone would have said that labour would have a more right wing criminal justice policy than the Tories I would have had pains in my stomach laughing.  These however, are the times we live in.

Blairism has done something strange to labour, it has stripped away the liberal veneer and has made it ok to scare people over security, national defence and crime.  90 days detention; identity cards, and the ever increasing prison population is labour’s right wing policy, that is ever moving further in that direction.

The Ken Clarke debacle shows who his friends are, or rather who they are not.  David Cameron is rumoured not to particularly like the policy but is using the deficit to justify all that the government does.  The core vote of the Tory party does not like it, Labour does not like it and the over whelming press that politicians court everyday don’t like it.

In their minds, the cutting of public services is fine; reducing pensions and devouring   the NHS is fine; but giving people shorter sentencing or educating the criminal classes;  cutting the Police force and reducing prison places is certainly not.

It is ironic that David Cameron, WITH the support of the Liberal Democrats is destroying the Tories own core support by attacking the areas that traditionally they always defend.

Theresa May got a rough reception at the Police Federation conference yesterday and now the right rather than the left wants to oust Ken Clarke, who would be a Europhile scalp.

What this puts into focus is the actual policy of the government on the criminal justice system and law and order.

There is no doubt in my mind that there will be fewer Police on the streets or in any capacity fighting crime in 3 years time than there are now.  Efficiency savings can only account for a small number on the savings scale.  To go to 20% cuts will cut services.

People ignorantly talk about cutting administration and back room staff.  Back room staff that has been employed because they do a job that has to be done and can be employed for LESS and will cost less to be trained.  Take away a substantial number of these people and all that happens is that Police Officers have to do their job.  Ironically this turns an EFFICIENT SERVICE into an inefficient one.

With prisons, Ken Clarke on the one hand wishes to introduce a more effective criminal justice system, and most other than at the fringes agree this is a good thing.  The problem arises when he brings in the arbitrary numbers to justify policy decisions.

First he cuts 3000 prison places, not on the basis that they are not needed but because it will save money.  Then he wishes to bring in bigger cuts in sentencing for guilty pleas. Criminals already get a third off their sentence for this and then only serve around half their sentence anyway.  Is there rhyme or reason, other than money, why we should go further down this road?

The language used by Ken Clarke yesterday, has brought into focus, not just his lack of understanding over the technicalities of the crime of rape, but also details of a proposed policy that neither the government or the public really want.

CARTOON OF THE DAY

The price of undercover sex in the Police. article in the Guardian 25/01/2011.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/25/undercover-sex-police-climate-activists

Perhaps it’s not Andy Gray’s sexist remarks we should be concerned about but the Police abusing their powers in order to infiltrate left wing tree huggers who do terrible things like err, dressing up as clowns and having meetings about protesting in a democratic society!

Such evil doers! I wonder if the Police are undercover/sleeping with those working in banking corporations for queen and country?

Do the Police have a split personality?

The Police are one of the most important institutions in our democracy. They uphold the democratically made laws which make up our complicated constitution under very difficult circumstances trying to adhere to human rights issues and public concerns. They have to deal with financial constraints and political interference. Yet most people support the police up and down the country when it comes to protecting communities and individuals.

This good will people have is suddenly thrown away however when it comes to the Police handling of demonstrations. Over the past few years, time and again the Police make themselves look, well, thuggish and dishonest.

At climate camp, attended by families, children and lots of well meaning people the Police employed disgusting tactics to police the event. Using unlawful means of stop and search and misusing anti-terrorism legislation. Using loud noise to disrupt the camps lawful activities and brutal behaviour to police crowd control.

The Police even engaged in disgraceful politicking by preparing press conferences attributing finding chains and knives in the surrounding area and without any evidence whatsoever attributing them to the climate camp. They didn’t mention the childrens toys confiscated at the gate of the climate camp so obviously a threat to security!

At the G20 demonstrations we had again the use of brutal behaviour used against people doing nothing more than sitting down and singing! Hitting people in the face and trampling over people. The assault of a man leading to his death and what appears to have been a cover up with an inept (or corrupt?) autopsy hastily convened.

Kettling the favoured tactic by Police to constrain crowd behaviour does exactly what it says on the tin. It creates the conditions where pressure is exerted which leads to the frustration and the release of that pressure sometimes leading to violence.

The government does it’s best to politicise the Police which dates back to the miners strike of the 1980’s and beyond. Amazingly members of the Police manage to have removed their identification numbers when policing these demonstrations which we are supposed to believe is not deliberate.

For democracy to work effectively, we have to facilitate demonstrations and Police tactics need to evolve to deal much better than they have done in recent years. The scenes we have seen over the past few years puts ordinary people off from demonstrating and this is a crying shame for our society.

It now transpires that there WERE UNDERCOVER POLICE at the G20 demonstrations when previously this was denied. Members of the press and of the crowd demonstrating were adamant that there were and the Police flatly denied this. Now they have been proved to have lied over this. This again undermines the public’s confidence. (Londonnet)

I am not some lefty tree hugger who goes to each and every demonstration for a day out (not that I have a problem with lefty tree huggers!). But I believe it is every persons right to demonstrate peacefully and for the reputation of the Police to be upheld and to be seen in a good light by the general population and for democracy to function properly.

This split personality of the Police needs addressing. The next 2 years I fear will be the most socially turbulent we have seen since the early 1980’s. Demonstrations will become commonplace and anger will be running high. Effective and trustworthy policing allowing our democratic rights to be facilitated is essential.

Londonnet, (2009), Police now admit undercover cops were at G20 protest, [online], Loondonnet website, available at http://www.londonnet.co.uk/news/2011/jan/police-now-admit-undercover-cops-were-fatal-g20-demo.html