Thursday, 15 August 2013
While The Twitter has gone for over-egging yesterday’s ovarian assault on beleaguered Ed Miliband under the #EggMiliband hashtag, the bit of news I’m focusing on today is the assertion by one ivory-towered Andrew Ashworth that we shouldn’t jail thieves and fraudsters. In The [not] Independent he states, “The law says that a prison sentence should not be imposed unless the offence is so serious that neither a fine nor a community sentence can be justified. My argument is that for pure property offences like theft, handling stolen goods, criminal damage or fraud, prison should not be used; fines and community sentence should be imposed instead.”
I'm sure the many victims of multiple repeat offenders will be delighted to hear it. Long before anybody gets anywhere near a custodial term for such offences as burglary they will have to have been up before the beak many times. Each time a huge cost to the public purse, each time any fines or costs levied will have been unpaid and any community sentences will have been ignored. The career criminal already knows jail is an unlikely outcome so, brilliant idea Andy old son, let them know up front that they'll do no time.
They must be quaking in their boots. Some are so recidivist that the ONLY preventative measure that can be applied is a restriction of their liberty, but one of Ashworth’s justifications is that imprisonment is our most extreme punishment and it should be reserved only for crimes against the person. Well, apart from the fact that there are already different tiers of incarceration, there’s an easy way to solve that problem – introduce some harsher penalties. I’d ask the victims what they think should be done, if I had the time, but here are a few ideas to throw into the mix.
First off, reintroduce the death penalty - as a clear majority of ordinary voters back the idea, this would also be democracy in action - that takes care of the ‘most extreme punishment’ argument right off. Second, get prison right. We could bring back ‘hard time’ and ‘corrective training’; remove all the prison reform do-gooders and get right back in there with some retributive justice. They won’t pay fines, they won’t stop robbing, but they will cost the country a fortune in ineffective rehabilitation so fuck ‘em. Sod the ‘brutalisation’ theories - make prison really hard and, if necessary, break them. Just like their activities have broken many lives.
For every long term prisoner who gets to write a book and become a celebrity amongst the simpering liberal softies there are a thousand, ten thousand nasty, antisocial animals who are being told they can get away with pretty much anything. Prison CAN be used to deter crime and to redirect the wayward but society also needs to be able to remove and restrain those who won’t behave and yes, there is a very definite public appetite for prison to be a plain and simple punishment in some cases. In fact, taking the temperature of the public mood, reformers like Andrew Ashworth and the whole human rights brigade might well need to be incarcerated at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, for their own safety.
Are there any women here?
Of course none of this matters very much because in a generation or so it’s quite likely we’ll be having public executions and the hacking off of limbs live on national television. Under Sharia Law there are already some very effective non-custodial remedies for wrongdoing. Including blasphemy. “All I said was, that bit of Halibut was good enough for Jehovah!” Which way to the stoning?