THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

Posts categorized "Crime & Punishment" Feed

Crime in London

Screenshot 2016-07-30 01.55.10

The Metropolitan Police crime map makes for interesting viewing, particularly when you drill down to the more specific data. My own manor shows as "Low or no crime" for burglary and violence (hurrah!) but "High" for thefts from vehicles. I am puzzled why that should be, but happy that Speranza has her own secure parking space away from brick-wielding opportunists. 

Overall I live (as do most Londoners) in an area with "average" levels of crime. In fact it's striking just how "average" most of London is. Only one borough – Westminster – suffers "high" levels of crime. Hammersmith & Fulham and Camden are "above average". Only three outer boroughs are "below average". 

The white spot in the middle of the map is the City of London, where the Met's writ does not run. The specialist force there is reputed to be the best in the world at solving complex frauds, but rubbish (as hardly anyone actually lives in the City) at solving burglaries.

The City of London's crime map is here.

Too Many Laws?

Too Many Laws: Why Police Encounters Escalate | Mises Wire.

The linked article from the Mises Institute blog contains interesting statistics on police activity in the USA. 
Dealing with violent crime constitutes only a small minority of what police deal with on a daily basis. For example, in 2014, out of 11,205,833 arrests made nationwide (in the US), 498,666 arrests were for violent crimes and 1,553,980 arrests were for property crime. That means 82 percent of arrests were made for something other than violent crime or property crime [my emphasis]
I wonder what those numbers are in the UK? Most of us think of "real crime" as involving violence, theft, fraud or at least property damage. On reflection however, perhaps it's not surprising that 82% of police activity in the US relates to other matters. For all the fairy dust it blows in our eyes, the state is just another organisation shaped from the crooked timber of mankind. The people working for it – including police officers – have their own agenda, just like the rest of us. Unlike us however they face no competitive pressures to subordinate it to that of their customers.
Public servants in Britain earn more on average than those of us in the productive sector who pay their wages precisely because those operating the state's monopoly of force are not our moral superiors. Who among us, if we could set our own prices, fees or wages without jeopardising the demand for our services, would not earn more? 
The earnings hierarchy of public servants reflects neither their merits nor the demand for their particular "service". Rather it is the product of a mathematical formula that factors in their power and their remoteness from public accountability. Once the importance of this second factor is grasped, it's no longer surprising how many public servants are "paid more than the Prime Minister". She has more power than them, but she's also more accountable. An increase in her pay would dominate tomorrow's news. The pay rises of local authority panjandrums, fake charity chairmen or civil service specialists however will usually pass unnoticed; lost in budget numbers so astronomical as to be incomprehensible to most. 
More laws create more job opportunities in the public sector. We humans being no better than we should be, that is undoubtedly a factor both in the rate at which they are created and the rarity of their repeal. I suspect that many of the activities occupying 82% of the time of law enforcement officers in the USA involve – one way or another – maximising both the demand for their services and the resources from which public servants' wages are paid. As the article says
Contrary to un-serious and absurd claims that the police "enforce all laws," police use their discretion all the time as to what laws to enforce and which to not enforce. Those laws that are enforced are often laws that can lead to profit for the police department — such as drug laws which lead to asset forfeiture — or laws that can make for easy arrests — such as loitering and other small time laws — which improve a police officers' arrest record.
"Asset forfeiture" is a euphemism you may not be aware of. It began with laws permitting the confiscation of the proceeds of crime. These days it often involves confiscating assets merely suspected as such. In 2014, the cops stole more than the robbers in the good old liberty-loving, property rights-respecting US of A. I would love to know the corresponding figures in the liberty-despising, all-hail-the-Bitch-Goddess-State United Kingdom.
Reflecting on the current crisis in US identity politics the article concludes
If we want to be serious about scaling back the degree to which police interactions with the public can lead to violent escalations, we must first scale back the number of offenses that can lead to serious fines and imprisonment for members of the public, while shifting the concentration of police efforts to violent crime and property crime. The emphasis must return to crimes that have actual victims and which are reported by citizens looking for stolen property and violent criminals. Not only will this increase the value of policing, but will also improve relations with most of the public while reducing the footprint of the state in the lives of ordinary people. 
People often ask how much law there would be in a libertarian state. Given that a libertarian US state would only prohibit the initiation of force or fraud, these statistics suggest it could manage with about 20% of its current criminal laws. Imagine how well they would be enforced if all current police officers diverted their efforts to them! The "War on Drugs" is is the most obvious example of how de-criminalisation would reduce crime, both directly and indirectly (by removing the incentive to commit crime to fund a drugs habit). I suspect it's just one example among thousands however. If we reverted to the model of a "fire service" police that only responded to public calls for assistance, we would also acquire a useful measure of whether a law was necessary. Any "crime" for which the police were never called out could be safely abolished!

The lesson of Orlando

The Orlando massacre tells us nothing about the killer save that he was insane, but it's telling us a lot about ourselves.

Just look at the politicians warning of islamophobia. The people virtue-signalling on Facebook. The triggered leftist storming off British TV because he thought the discussion was focussing on the terrorism angle rather than the hatred of gays. Donald Trump turning the horror to predictable political advantage. Give it a day and the gun control advocates will be complaining about the ease of buying weapons in America and the NRA will be calling for more heavily-armed homosexuals. Plus ça change...

We need to learn lessons but for that we need to open our minds. Every comment I have read so far is someone seizing on a new event as proof of the correctness of old ideas and the continuing wickedness of old adversaries.

If facts don't change our minds what is the point of having them? We might as well all curl up in a corner and live in our deranged imaginations whatever life we fancy. Or to take my ambiguous question the other way, why have minds if facts don't change them?

A libertarian says "think of the children" in calling for less law

Discussions of "sexting" in the media and on websites advising young people and their parents, focus on the risks to teenagers of being coerced, blackmailed or subjected to "revenge porn".

There is another, perhaps worse, risk from the criminal justice system.

Firstly, the law on this subject is very badly drawn, having been enacted in the course of a moral panic about child pornography. Secondly, Britain has the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Europe: just ten years old. It is a criminal offence to create, publish or possess pornographic images of a minor. There is no carve-out, as in wiser jurisdictions, for images exchanged between minors. They are just as guilty, ludicrously, as an adult pornographer making an image of them. Or an adult pervert sending them pictures of his or her genitals.

Surely the law should protect children against sexual exploitation by adults, not from their playing the digital version of "doctors and nurses"? Even your august and respectable blogger has memories of a game of strip poker backstage during a school play that could have had legal consequences had the smartphone been invented (and this law been in place) in the 1970s.

I would not encourage a child to commit their genitalia to digital immortality. Of course I wouldn't - for all the good reasons mentioned above. But if he or she made the common mistake of doing so (I have seen estimates as high as 40% of British teenage girls having published sexual images) I do not think a criminal conviction or worse - a lifetime on the sex offenders register - should be the consequence.

Given how common this crime is, why are more children not convicted? Most offences go undetected or are detected only by sensible parents who quietly deal with it themselves. Where complaints are made, the police and Crown Prosecution Service mostly choose not to enforce a terrible law that would trash young lives without in any way serving the public interest. God bless them for that. Practically, irate parents complaining about an erect member on their daughter's smartphone are usually less keen for the boy to be prosecuted when they realise daughter dearest is just as guilty. And vice versa.

Prosecutorial discretion however is not justice. Far from it. It is the very opposite of the rule of law because it subjects us to the whims and prejudices of the men and women concerned. We need only good laws, which is to say necessary laws that protect citizens from genuine harm, and we need them consistently enforced.

Even if a case is not pursued, vulnerable young people at a point in their lives where their sexuality is often as alarming and worrisome as it is fascinating and compelling are having their studies disrupted and their lives turned to horror. Imagine the police telling your mum or your headmaster about your sexual indiscretions and showing them your bits. All for being just as horny, stupid and normal as your forefathers and foremothers, but in a more technological age.

When the politicians come calling in election mode and ask what they can do for you, please consider mentioning this injustice they have wrought and asking them to fix it. Give them a copy of this post and ask them to email I will be happy to help them draft an amendment to the law, entirely free of charge.

Free speech

Is this what our law has come to?

A Muslim extremist linked to Woolwich killer Michael Adebowale was jailed for five years and four months today (Weds) for glorifying the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in a series of YouTube videos. Royal Barnes, 23, was filmed by his veiled wife Rebekah Dawson, 22, laughing hysterically as he drove past the scene of the attack. Dawson, who has caused nationwide controversy by refusing to remove her niqab in court, was jailed for one year and eight months. The couple ridiculed the memorial flowers left by friends, family and members of the public for Drummer Rigby and Barnes described the murder as 'absolutely brilliant'. Dawson also boasted in a text to a friend: 'Did you watch it? It was really inciting and almost glorifying lol.'

Two young idiots upload stupid films to YouTube. They express primitive, ignorant, violent opinions. Opinions rather like those expressed by revolutionary socialists every single day (but with far less chance of influencing anyone).

Did their childish, ignorant words represent a threat? If so, then we are a feeble society too decadent to deserve survival. This is using the sledgehammer of the criminal law to crack something that merited the toffee hammer of an Anglo-Saxon imprecation at best.

These idiots are pathetic, yes. But so are we for having nothing better to do with the hard-earned money taken by force from decent people than to pay policemen, lawyers, judges and prison officers to deal with them. And for not understanding that it's better to hear dangerous opinions and know where threats may come from than to drive them underground.

Human rights from the wrong humans?

Tory plans to axe human rights laws will remove obligation on state to protect its citizens, says Keir Starmer - Telegraph.

Keir Starmer illustrates, all unwittingly, exactly what has gone wrong in Britain. Take his hilarious statement that:
In the pre-Human Rights Act days, a civil liberties approach and the common law (sic) struggled to achieve this.

Were Britons in any way at a disadvantage to those citizens of civil law countries whose "positive rights" were in the gift of their rulers? I think not. I don't think our grandfathers thought so. They would have regarded such a notion as both stupid and unpatriotic. I agree with them, unfashionable as patriotism now is. Stupidity, of course, is always in fashion.

Our rights as humans derive from our being human. They are not the gift of any state or inter-state agency. Particularly not the United Nations, which routinely has dictators and thugs chairing its "human rights" committees. As soon as they are shaped by politicians rather than moralists they will become instruments of control. 
As a side light on this subject, I looked up the etymology of the word politics to reinforce my point and found this wonderful quote;
Historically speaking, all political communities of the modern type owe their existence to successful warfare.[6]
So much for the moral inferiority of private property rights to those of the state, eh? The statists who seek to control more and more of our rights are the organisational heirs of our conquerors. Their whole argument - for all their camouflage of "social contracts" (show me a copy) and the "consent of the governed" (take away the state monopoly of violence and see if behaviours change) comes down to "might is right". Love the boot, even as it stamps on your face.
Our human rights are ours to defend. If anyone interferes with them, we are entitled to act. That right of self-defence is itself a moral human right. The only reason we have so many "victims" in our society for Starmer's fantastically benevolent state to "protect", is because that same state has removed that human right.
In general, our rights as free men and women should be to do anything to anyone or anything not specifically prohibited by a clear and unequivocal law of universal application (including, by virtue of the Rule of Law, of application to the State and its agents). All other laws are morally wrong.
In the sick minds of Starmer and Britain's other state-lovers they are not our servants but our masters. Like good little slaves we should look to the massas to keep us safe. The more power they have to do that, the more content we should be and the safer we should feel. To the extent that we think about it at all, of course. We shouldn't really trouble our little heads as it's a distraction from our working to keep them in style in the big house.

Even more insulting is his stupid observation that

Around the world, citizens have fought for years for basic rights from their governments. In the UK, having now got them, some want to hand them back.

We can't hand back what was never theirs. They have no rights to give us. They exist at our sufferance.

All we want (from a state so small and weak as to present no threat in itself) is a clear set of laws with broad agreement from all. Not laws that tell us who to be or how to think, but laws that leave us free men and women with full rights of thought, speech and self-defence. We don't want them by the thousand so that even a lawyer can't know them all. We want only necessary, obvious laws that derive from clear moral principle. If we can't find a nexus between a new law and the non-aggression principle then to hell with it and to hell with the deceivers who propose it.

Mr Starmer's vision of us as children in the arms of Mother State is insulting, demeaning and - most of all - immoral. The state's imagined "duty" to protect us has already transformed, predictably, into a raft of laws designed to shape us to its aims. Such a state will attract to the ranks of its thugs, cronies and - most of all - leaders, the lowest, most exploitative type of bully.

Of verbals and planted evidence

Downing Street police arrested over allegations of pornography exchange | UK news | The Guardian.

When I practised criminal law in my youth, I was sceptical of clients who said the police had made up false statements or 'verballed' them - giving false evidence of oral confessions or remarks suggesting guilt. As a nice young man brought up to respect the boys in blue, I did not believe they would descend to such dishonesty. I didn't want to believe it.
I presented the cases as best I could of course. I hope the magistrates didn't detect my scepticism.
The Metropolitan Police have finally convinced me that those long-ago clients were telling the truth. Its officers verballed Andrew Mitchell and made up false statements about the 'plebgate' incident so casually that it's obviously routine. They expected to get away with doing it to Mitchell because they had so many times before.
My clients also told me that the police routinely planted evidence. I didn't believe that either. Now we learn that evidence has been found on the smartphones of the very officers who embarrassed the Met.
It's easy to put damning materials on someone's computer or mobile phone. You can do it at your leisure and don't even need the sleight of hand required to put drugs in someone's pocket. There now almost always seems to be illegal content on hard drives seized by the Bill.
My scepticism is rather heightened when I read that the disciplinary proceedings against these officers have been suspended while the CPS decides what to do about their alleged 'extreme porn' habit. Suspended until the public loses interest perhaps?

The Raccoon's Return

Watch Out! There’s a Raccoon about!.

Many of us feared that - her blog having been taken down as she said would happen if she died - that Anna was no more. I am delighted to see that she's blogging again, though concerned to learn she is still very ill.  
She has returned bravely, or foolishly, to the theme of Yewtree and the alleged depravity of Jimmy Savile.  We will never know to what extent Mr Savile took criminal advantage of his fame. He is far too dead to stand trial. We do know that many an unprepossessing young man has became a DJ or musician for the enhanced sexual opportunities. Some of them have innocently taken jail bait. Some have overstepped the mark and should take the legal consequences. In this puritanical age, it seems many forget the atmosphere of jollier times. And no, I did not just equate jollity with depravity. If you made that connection, you did it on your own.
Go watch American Hustle, as I did last night, and you will see a lot of people having a raucously good time. It's a good portrayal of the 1970's, including the music and the appalling fashion, but also capturing the social atmosphere. Only some of the people in it are criminals. Only some of them are corrupt politicians. Only some of them are Feds engaged in despicable entrapment. Most of them are ordinary people having fun (although sadly I don't remember any girls dressing like Amy Adams' character, Edith).
There was a lot of ill-advised sex of the sort people pretend to regret all their mature lives but remember with delight on their death-beds. I suspect that statement is true of every era in human history. Even ours.
Common sense suggests it's logistically improbable Savile abused as many as now claimed. It seems vanishingly unlikely that ordinary decent BBC, NHS and charity employees covered for him on the scale that would have required. It also seems clear that wicked people seeking money and sad people seeking fame have piled in to take advantage. 
It happens Anna had some personal knowledge from her time at Duncroft School that enabled her to throw doubt on anti-Savile evidence given great prominence in the media. She published it on her now taken-down blog and there followed much abuse. As is traditional in such campaigns, to fail to cry "witch" is to risk the mob turning on you. She took it womanfully in her stride.

In her latest post she makes some observations that raise concerns about this affair;

Nobody, in so far as I am aware, has ever been the subject of a libel action as a result of walking into a police station and asking that a possible crime be investigated. All the media’s claims that ‘draconian libel laws’ (they do love that adjective) prevented ‘Savile’s victims’ from ‘obtaining justice’ are total nonsense. What the libel laws did do was prevent the media from publishing stories without the sort of evidence that would stand up in a court of law.

Even more controversially, she asks this question; 

The ‘accused’ fall into one of three categories; right wing comedians, disc jockeys and those who unwisely raised their heads above the parapet to comment on the Yewtree progress. Now the music business has since the 60s been a major employer of the black community – and yet they are strangely unrepresented in the crop of ‘he was a monster but I was too scared to speak out before’ arrests. What is it that unites them? Are we to believe that no left wing comic, or black disc jockey, or black musician come to that, has ever had any contact with a young girl that she feels in hindsight was abusive?

It may be rash of her to write it in modern Britain. She will now attract a different, larger, and more violent mob but does she not have a point?

I am not one for conspiracy theories. Most people are too incompetent to organise a conspiracy or, having pulled one off, to keep it secret. Yet is it really too cynical to suspect that, amid the genuine distress of real victims, the lies of the compensation-seekers and the histrionics of the attention-famished, some scores are being settled?

Who serves whom?

We don't call them police forces any more. That's too explicit an acknowledgement of their role as the enforcers of our all-powerful state. Policing, God help us, is now a 'service'.

The question is; whom do our policemen serve? Is it us, the public, or the political class that guarantees their unfunded pensions from the incomes of taxpayers yet unborn? If, as they claim, it's the public, why does it sometimes feel they are serving us in the agricultural sense; as a bull serves a heifer?

Ordinary people don't believe the official crime figures because they don't accord with our experience. For years the Establishment line has been that the figures are accurate but that our fear of crime is the problem. We are neurotic and should be more trusting of our benevolent masters. Yeah right.

PC James Patrick, an analyst with the Metropolitan Police 'service' recently gave evidence to a House of Commons committee that the figures are improperly manipulated by senior officers to make police performance look better. He said

Things were clearly being reported as burglaries and then you would rerun the same report after there had been a human intervention, a management intervention, and these burglaries effectively disappeared in a puff of smoke.

How embarrassing for the political class that has used the rigged numbers to assure us it's doing its job of public protection! It seems our 'neurotic' belief that they were feathering their own nests while not giving a flying expletive about us except as sources of feathers was well-founded.

I have been waiting with interest for the state's response to this revelation. And, the Alistair Campbell approved interval for the story to die down having elapsed, here it comes. The Times reports this morning that PC Patrick has been placed on 'restricted duties' and forbidden to speak to public or media. The whistleblower has received his usual reward.

So that's clear then. Lying to make the state look good is fine. The public has no right to know the truth about the performance of the police service it is forced to fund. The career of any public-spirited person with a sense of duty and honour is unlikely to advance in the Met. In marked contrast to that of an officer who heads a botched operation that blows the head off an innocent man, for example.

Nothing to see here folks. Move along now please or you might just find yourself being served.

Left, Right, Wrong

The traditional political division into 'left' and 'right' must be used with caution. For much of Europe 'right-wing' refers to nationalist authoritarians seeking to impose traditional values on society at large. I would be uncomfortable in such company. No right-winger on the Continent and few in America would share my stance on what they would call 'social issues' and I would call 'none of your damned business.'

The 'good guys' of Continental Europe are usually called Liberals. The bad guys of American politics have made that glorious name unusable in English. In their constant gee whizz quest for euphemism, our American cousins have made a cuss-word out of a formerly-useful term. They do that a lot. How little of a life would you have to have to keep up with American fashion on what to call a black man or a red indian, for example? 

These labels matter more than they should. Serious political debate is of interest only to a minority. Most voting decisions are made on impressions rapidly formed by the free use of labels as either praise or abuse. How many voters analysed what Tony Blair meant by 'New Labour' for example? They simply thought of themselves as left, hated the mess Old Labour had made and welcomed a new brand they weren't embarrassed to be associated with.

For my part, I hate the Labour Party as I hate the very devil. Indeed I suspect Old Nick would make better company than any socialist and might actually have better intentions. Yet I hate the fact that saying so makes most Brits label me as what I am emphatically not; a Tory. I am, in truth, a Liberal. I happen to know from personal experience that there are gallant members of the Liberal Democratic Party in Britain still clinging to the true meaning of the L word, but they are out-numbered by leftists too snobbish (and who can blame them) to be in the same party as John Prescott. So the label I use in my head is no use in the wider world.

The conversations in my primary school playground were conducted in a higher register and exchanged far more complex information than most political 'debates' that make a difference to voting intentions. In the Labour heartlands where I grew up, calling someone a "Tory [Anglo-Saxon expletive of choice]" was all it needed to win an argument. I have never lived in a Conservative constituency until recently, and judging by the copies of the Guardian in evidence around here, I doubt it will remain one long. Perhaps there are Tory Shires where one could similarly raise the tribal flag to end all discussion? I don't know.

It's pointless to be a purist about this and dismiss the use of 'left' and 'right' altogether. They carry an emotional weight that cannot be denied. Just as every Brit knows which side he would have been on in the Civil War, he knows if he is left or right, often with an unjustified prefix of 'Centre-" to make himself feel moderate. It would be great to have more accurate labels, but we don't.

The easy route to explain my position to my fellow citizens is to say that I am socially-liberal and fiscally-conservative, but that doesn't tell the truth either. 'Social liberals' in Britain are highly illiberal. They are more like authoritarian Continental Christian Democrats in seeking to impose moral orthodoxy. Why, for example, was I expected to pay tribute to a dead foreign Communist before Fulham FC's game against Aston Villa yesterday? No similar tribute was offered when Margaret Thatcher died and rightly so. But a darling of the 'social-liberals' must apparently be lauded, however disgusting his political views.

For another current example, it's not enough that you don't give a damn who shags Tom Daley. They expect you to 'be supportive;' to 'ooh' and 'aah' sympathetically and tell him how 'brave' he is. If someone in my immediate circle is gay and wants to introduce me to his or her partner, I will buy them both a drink. If I liked him or her before the news, I will after (and will try to like the partner too). It's my business because I am a relative or friend and I need to know their situation so as to welcome their new partner into our family or group of friends. The sexual preferences of people outside my circle, however, are properly a matter of indifference.

Genuine liberals don't give a public damn what you consider to be right or wrong as long as you don't impose it on others. We only want laws to limit physical or economic aggression. As to the rest, go to it with a will and take all the consequences yourself. We afford you the tolerance we expect of you, but we don't demand or offer approval of private choices. The clue is in the adjective, 'private.' So don't be so needy. Shut up and get on with it. We will think what we please, to the extent that we become aware, and will factor it in in deciding whom to drink with or give the time of day to. Feel free to do likewise.

The right-wing and left-wing in Britain share a disgusting desire to shape thoughts and private preferences by law. They seek to pull in different directions. It's the pull I mostly resent. If they are of the Right seeking to reinforce traditional Christian views of marriage, they insult their God by thinking He needs the feeble help of Earthly powers to enforce His Divine will. If they are of the Left seeking to suppress the expression of 'inappropriate' opinion on Twitter, then they should have more trust in the ability of 'the people' to deal with such matters informally. Both expose the feebleness of their views by doubting their eventual triumph without misuse of law. Law is a blunt, violent instrument. It is not a teaching aid.

If you have a need for approval from strangers, I suggest you get professional help. You may think that's harsh but on the other hand, if you leave me to make my own life choices, I will happily take no interest in yours. Furthermore, I am remarkably unlikely to preach to you. Most likely, I will offer you no opinions on any subject not affecting my family's interests unless you are my friend and you ask me.

Does that make me right-wing or left-wing? You choose.