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

Posts categorized "Crime & Punishment" Feed

Grammatical incrimination

Dear diary: thief makes record of armed robbery - Telegraph.

Please notice how the idiot wrote it:

Robbery happens.

All my criminal clients spoke this way when I was briefly a defence lawyer, many moons since:

I was doing so well staying out of trouble, Mr Paine, and then this happened.

I have blogged before about this. It's not that really that they robbed someone, you see. They were there and a robbery happened. My theory is that we could distinguish between the responsible and the irresponsible in society by simply tracking excessive use of the passive voice.

Perhaps we had better not though. The politicians would only want to redistribute wealth from the former to the latter.


Journalistic ethics

News of the World: bereaved relatives of 7/7 victims 'had phones hacked' - Telegraph.

I was tempted to leave the space beneath my heading blank, save for the link, but that would hardly have been fair. It's wrong except in jest (and this is no laughing matter) to condemn a whole group at one stroke. That's true whether the group comprises bankers, lawyers, journalists or even politicians. I will not descend to Andrew Marr's level.

There are ethical journalists. Of course there are. Some of them are even ethical at the occasional cost of their political loyalties. I am sure for example that Carl Bernstein would have been just as dogged in pursuit of a Democrat President. And that Pravda on the Potomac's publisher, Katharine Graham, would have been just as supportive of his work. Give me some time and I will give you a British example. While I am thinking, please feel free to suggest names in the comments.

When next I read or hear a journalist's denunciation of the ethics of the City of London however, I shall remember this story. I understand and share the indignation being expressed across the nation, but lack enthusiasm for the measures proposed. I fear that, as always, the wrong 'uns have spoiled it for the rest of us and that that the outcome of this affair will serve dark forces. For example, as I write, Ed Milliband at PMQs is in full cry, not for journalistic probity, but for political revenge and political advantage. It's not as disgusting as what the News of the World did, but his exploitation of public concern for his own advantage is still pretty sickening. And this is just the beginning.

Those calling for a  boycott of the News of the World don't read it. Those who read it, won't care; at least not until the story acquires a salacious slant - preferably involving a naughty vicar and a sexy bacon-slicer from the Co-op. Those calling for the a boycott of News International in its entirety have, I suspect, an agenda that has little to do with journalistic ethics. Tony Blair's best mate Rupert Murdoch has it in his own hands to cleanse his tabloid stables and he is well hard enough to do it quickly and well. Having followed his career for many years, I imagine he is waiting only to be sure that when he strikes, he does not need to strike again, thus dragging the story out. As a newspaper man of many decades standing, he has nothing to learn from Alistair Campbell about killing an embarrassing story. There are plenty of journalists to replace anyone he chooses to fire and his enemies are already so numerous that he need not fear to add a few embittered ex-employees to their number.

Crimes have been committed here, as have civil wrongs. There must be prosecutions and I am sure there will be civil suits. Those who are liable (whether personally or vicariously) should be held to criminal and financial account. But I sincerely hope there will be no new laws to limit the freedom of the press and no wasteful public enquiries. What was done was already illegal. The "something" that everyone is baying "must be done" is already provided by law. A public enquiry (which the PM sadly seemed to concede today) will be yet another waste of public funds. Now is one of those recurring times to remember that laws are evils in themselves. New ones should only be made when they are lesser evils.

As to the ethical question, of course journalists should have standards. Of course they should be prepared to stand by them, even at the risk of not being able to pay their mortgages. I make no excuses for the conduct of the News of the World's journalists and editors in this case. I merely observe (as is equally true of The Guardian's readers who are defending a self-confessed liar because he lied to make their heroes look good) that the morals of a newspaper are those of its readers. You simply don't sell newspapers by telling your readers what they don't want to hear. Of the professional media outlets, only the BBC, compulsorily funded even by those who despise it, has the privilege to set its own line.

Britain's yellow press is as it is because of Britain's moral bankruptcy. We should look to ourselves, and the choices we make each day - both as to the newspapers we read and the television programmes we view - and then acknowledge these bastard journalists as our offspring.


Justice: RIP?

Justice: RIP? | Beneath The Wig.

In the wake of Levi Bellfield's conviction for the murder of Amanda ("Millie") Dowler, I have been conducting an unpopular defence of our adversarial system of criminal trials over at the excellent blog of Inspector Gadget. It's an important issue. Our rights to be presumed innocent if accused of a crime and to have our arguments put vigorously in open court to an independent judge and a jury of our peers are more important than our right to vote. Before anyone indignantly tells me that we owe those rights to politicians, please remember they predate democracy in England by centuries. The right to choose our masters is less valuable than the restraints on their power. Democracy itself has, after all, proved to be no restraint, as politicians bribe election-swinging minorities of voters with cash extorted violently from others.

The debate at Gadget's gaff has been depressing. If some of his readers are representative of Britain's police, our ancient rights are neither understood nor valued by a constabulary that would give us up to Continental style inquisitors in a heartbeat. The Bill, it seems, regards defence lawyers as the enemy; stereotyping them coarsely as mercenaries who profit from keeping offenders at large. That part, at least, is sadly not surprising to me. Burglars stole all our wedding presents in the weeks after our marriage. At the time I was practising (as I did for one year after qualifying) as a criminal lawyer. Mrs P. and I have a sad, humiliating memory of our tiny flat full of amused police officers (including an inspector). They showed up to gloat when they learned over their radios both that a criminal defence lawyer had been burgled and that he was living (we are self-made and were just starting out) in entertaining poverty. There was scarcely room for the scene of crime officer to dust the place for prints.

Even more depressingly, the influential Conservative blogger Ellie Seymour has failed to live up to her surname and joined the blindly sentimental tabloid frenzy claiming that the treatment of the Dowler family by Levi Bellfield's defence team amounted to a "travesty of justice". In particular she calls for defendants to be forced (at gunpoint, Ellie?) to testify. If neither our Conservatives nor our policemen understand or value the presumption of innocence and our open, adversarial system of justice, what hope is there for Liberty?

I was girding up my loins to write a piece here summarising my comments elswhere, when I read the linked post. It makes further effort on my part redundant and I hope as many people as possible read it. It is an important antidote to the sickly, cloying, Oprah Winfrey-style, sentimentalism of the media coverage of the Dowler family's ordeal. Hypocritical coverage given that the media's sickening pandering to the prurience of the British public made it an ordeal. Not to mention of course the prurience of the investigating police officers which had them taking their eye off the ball (the metaphorical ball, not the one in the father's gag).

I can't help but feel that the hue and cry for Bellfield's legal team is a cynical attempt to distract attention from the failings of others. The cosseted, self-esteem-laden products of our "all must have prizes" education system and our "no-one must be offended" victim culture may whinge and moan about the rigours of a trial their yeoman ancestors would have handled with courage. Our political class may curry favour with the ignorant by betraying the rights that made us free. Our journalists may sell papers with prurience and hypocrisy. Our constabulary may seize the chance of using a hard case to demand bad laws to make their lives easier (and ours more dangerous). But justice has, for now, been served. I am not optimistic, given all I have read, that it will always be so in this country.


Fiona Pilkington and justice. Shall the twain meet?

Fiona Pilkington case: police face misconduct proceedings | UK news | guardian.co.uk.

Fiona-Pilkington-left-38--007
I am not arguing with the findings of the IPCC. I don't know enough to do so. Nor am I belittling these tragic deaths. These women were as entitled as you or me to a life untroubled by hooligans. I have a sneaking sympathy however for the police officers concerned.

I am sure, before ever the IPCC ruled, they were already feeling guilty and wondering if they could have done more. Yet how easy was it for them, I wonder, to differentiate Fiona Pilkington's genuine pleas for help from the thousands of false allegations routinely made to them? Inspector Gadget, at his most excellent blog, has often explained how members of the underclass use the police as weapons in their quarrels. They are able to do so because of the stupid rules about treating all complaints equally that were imposed by the last government (and have remained untouched, so far, by the present one). Vulnerable people like Fiona and her daughter are condemned to live alongside an underclass created by the policies of a metropolitan elite that denies - from a place of safety - that such a class really exists. It's not just their car insurance premiums that are adversely affected by their unsavoury post codes. It is also, sadly, their credibility when they cry for help.

A policeman's lot, more than ever in modern Britain, is not a happy one. Like only the most unenlightened of employers, the government expects to replace its workers' intelligence with its own; laying down so many and such detailed guidlelines that they end up using a policeman's arm but not his wits. If our police could (as they used to do) dismiss stupid complaints with contempt, while charging those who make malicious complaints with wasting police time, perhaps they would be more available to those in genuine need. As an additional benefit, the parasitical underclasses would be educated in the need to solve their own problems.

Perhaps the officers in question could have done better. I am sure they wish they had. However, this is another example of the point I made recently about our lives being governed by or, at least, for the worst of us. There is a real sense in which the criminals, chavs and simpletons who waste so much police time are to blame for this tragedy. As most of all, of course, are the scumbag "youths" who tormented poor Fiona beyond her endurance.

As the police officers in this case face disciplinary proceedings for failing to prevent those people from causing this tragedy, I wonder what are the prospects of bringing the real villains to justice?


When is a rape not a rape?

When is a rape not a rape? SHOCK « POLICE INSPECTOR BLOG.

Inspector Gadget is a brave man. His post today will set off a stampede of sacred cows. I sincerely hope he doesn't get trampled. Regardless of the inevitable synthetic fury from the luvvies, I believe him. I am still quite shocked though. The Wimmins Studies brigade would have us believe that false allegations of rape are vanishingly rare. If he's right in suggesting that 8 out of 10 allegations are false, the debate is even more appallingly skewed than I already thought.


Crime is not progressive, it’s reactionary

Harry's Place » Crime is not progressive, it’s reactionary.

Since I spend much blogging time criticising the writings of those on the Left in Britain, I feel it's only fair to highlight the linked article, which is amazingly sensible. Those of us who grew up in working-class areas have never understood the Guardianistas' / Islington Labourites' apparent affection for the criminal classes. I have often argued that the Labour Party itself, with its absurd education pollcies, incentivisation of idleness and disincentivisation of thrift is the working man's worst enemy. Though I was once a criminal defence lawyer, I would strongly argue that the criminal class is a close second.

Criminals are lazy. Criminals are (thank goodness or they would never be caught) stupid. Criminals can rarely be arsed to venture far to commit their crimes. As the one disadvantage of their lifestyle is that they can rarely (at least not now sanity has returned to the mortgage market) borrow money to buy a house, they are usually to be found in public housing, blighting the lives of poor but decent people around them and offering terrible role models to local youth.

Criminals deter people from earning and consuming because their activities are an income tax (unofficial, but with the same economic effects). They also drive up insurance premiums, creating an effective wealth tax. You may be able to afford that nice watch or necklace now, but can you keep up the premiums on your household insurance for the rest of your life, expecially when you have retired? As the linked article notes, the homes of the rich are likely to be full of security measures - not only because householders feel the need but because their insurers insist. Again, that's an effective wealth tax. It makes it more expensive to live in a high crime society and is another pressure on the rich to move away and/or consume less.

The only people who benefit from crime are criminals, policemen, criminal lawyers (prosecutors, defence lawyers and judges), probation officers and other social workers, insurers and security firms. The poor are disproportionately likely to be victims of crime. The last time my home computer was stolen I was secretly quite pleased to have the chance to buy a new one on the insurance. A poor person, often uninsured or paying higher premiums because of his postcode, will not feel the same way.

I am delighted to encounter a so-called "progressive" advancing these points. New Labour's idea of "tough on crime" was to create many more crimes, rather than rigorously and vigorously to enforce the few that really matter. They set targets for higher conviction rates, when an occasional conviction is no deterrent unless sentencing is (to use one of my most hated words correctly for once) "appropriate".

One of the best features of the criminal justice system in Britain is TIC ("taking into consideration"). It offers a convicted crook the chance to offer up all his other crimes for punishment (at a sentencing discount) so as to ensure he cannot be charged with them again later. The double jeopardy doctrine then guarantees that when he leaves prison, he has a chance to start again with a clean slate. Other countries don't have this idea and criminals would never dream of confessing to undetected crimes. The detection rate in Britain would be far worse without it. One consequence is that you really don't have to catch the criminal every time he offends. Once in ten or twenty times is quite enough, if the punishment is appropriate and offers a sufficient deterrent. The rat does not need to find cheese (or in this case poison) in the maze every time to be on the alert for it and think carefully about his choices.

Let's take the heat of detection targets off the police, so as to reduce the well-documented distortions to which they have led. Let's scrap most crimes, to allow the police time to focus on the ones that really matter (in my view, mostly the ones that were known to Common Law before Parliament's legislative incontinence began). Then let's revise the sentences for those "real" crimes to ensure (when occasionally caught) that those who commit them spend their lives where they cannot blight the lives of those around them.

By the way, if this doesn't sound very "libertarian" to you, you haven't grasped the concept yet!


Imaginary Stories: There should be a law against it

Child poverty shames the UK – so use the budget to invest in our young | Paddy Ashdown | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

Imaginary
Even necessary laws are evils. Unecessary laws are worse. Yet, with leftist imaginations given legislative free rein, it's hard sometimes - even for a libertarian - not to fantasize about the things one might forbid if given power. If allowed one non-libertarian law of my own devising it might be this;

"It shall be a criminal offence, punishable by a lifetime ban from public office, to use the word 'invest' in relation to public expenditure from which there is no reasonable prospect of a financial return."

In the spirit of the Red Kryptonite-laden "Imaginary Stories" of the Silver Age of DC Comics, what other laws would tempt libertarian readers from their principles?


Public is not realistic

Public is not realistic about terrorism, Scotland Yard chief says - Telegraph.

Isn't it odd that the police regularly tell us that our fear of crime is irrational but now also say we are not afraid enough of terrorism? If we are wimps, surely we would be overly afraid of both? If we are brave or reckless, you would think we would pour scorn on both.

I don't suppose it has anything to do with the fact that the police want us to feel they do a better job of fighting crime than our own perceptions suggest? Or that they want us to be more afraid of terrorism in order to get more powers and better toys?

Just asking.


£1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of this man and his accomplices

£1,000 Reward Offered for Extinguisher Thugs - Guy Fawkes' blog.

Wanted
Libertarian blogger Guido Fawkes is living up to the "order-order" bit of his blog's URL by offering a £1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those involved in throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of the Conservative Party headquarters building this week.

Guido's initiative gives the lie to those who conflate libertarianism with anarchism or Statist Toryism. Libertarians believe in having only those few laws necessary to protect life, limb and property - rigorously enforced. We also understand (as those who debase the currency of law by using it for social engineering do not) that respect for the Law tends to vary inversely with the number and scope of the laws.

Had the extinguisher hit someone (as to which those throwing it were at best reckless) there would undoubtedly have been a death. Unless witnesses can confirm it was aimed at the policeman it just missed, I doubt a jury would agree with those bloggers who call this attempted murder. I have no doubt however that a serious crime of violence was committed. This is not ASBO territory. These people belong in gaol.

If you have a blog, please spread the word. One of your readers may recognise him.


I am tired of the rich

I am tired of the rich, but not the same ones as Dr. Cable. Good luck to the City "spivs", I say. No-one has to give them their money to invest. Every fee they make is paid by choice. Every trade they organise is between volunteers. If either party to the trade loses, it's his own problem (unless the Government chooses to make it yours). Frankly, if we had as many choices about the greater part of our money now taken and spent by government as we do about the small part we have free to invest, we would be happier folk.

The rich I am tired of are the "old money" sorts who - from their comfortable homes in the country and the more elegant parts of London - lecture those of us who earned every penny we have (not to mention all the pennies we don't have because stolen to be frittered away by government). I am thinking of the Cleggs, the Camerons, the Millibands, the Toynbees and - let's not forget - the Blairs. From their places of safety, they blather on about social inclusion and "the vulnerable" but their drippy view of the world - as informed by guilty consciences played upon by Marxist educationalists - exposes the rest us to danger. If they had to live next to "the vulnerable", they might appreciate the "social exclusion" they are lucky enough to have inherited.

Being in the UK means having my heart started in the morning by the Today Programme on Radio 4. It's now a sort of Dragons' Den for "social entrepreneurs" - people pitching for taxpayers' money, supposedly to solve social problems, but actually (in many cases) to provide themselves a living from the public purse. Today someone advocating special drug courts set my heart pounding with words to the effect that it was ridiculous to imagine that people "disabled by their addiction" should "run their own lives" well enough to avoid having their children taken into care. Almost everyone is capable of running his or her own life. Only the belief - supported by the welfare industry - that someone else is better able to do it, can change that.

This kind of irresponsible thinking led to the police losing control of our streets, as reported by Sir Denis O'Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary;

One study showed that almost half of almost 6,000 people surveyed had changed their routines through fear of anti-social behaviour, by avoiding certain streets or not going out at night.

Tell me again who "the vulnerable" are! As Inspector Gadget notes, the problem is all about insulating people from the consequences of their own choices. Nothing could be more stupid. Nothing could be more predictable than the consequences of such stupidity. Those whose parents or grandparents became rich (with the assistance of previous generations of City spivs) are well able to scorn those who have yet to pull it off. Old money has always despised new. Old money has also always affected lofty concern for the downtrodden. The warped consciences of those who have never known poverty are, by their political expression, a threat to our civilisation. The possessors of those consciences - including the not-short-of-a-bob-or-two Dr. Cable himself - are the rich I am tired of.