Thursday, November 6, 2008

Jolly Oulde Blighty

This is from my clip-file. It perhaps offer a view of what we have to look forward to. It seems very relevant, considering the president-elect's oft-expressed vows to disarm us. (I apologize for the line breaks. This is posted from an on-line copy. Still worth reading, despite the slight annoyance.)

The Wall Street Journal 

"Mad Dogs and Englishmen"

June 17, 2006; Page A11 

With Great Britain now the world's most violent developed country, the 
British government has hit upon a way to reduce the number of cases 
before the courts: Police have been instructed to let off with a 
caution, burglars and those who admit responsibility for some 60 other 
crimes ranging from assault and arson, to sex with an underage girl. 

That is, no jail time, no fine, no community service, no court 
appearance. It's cheap, quick, saves time and money, and best of all the 
offenders won't tax an already overcrowded jail system. 

Not everyone will be treated so leniently. A new surveillance system 
promises to hunt down anyone exceeding the speed limit. Using excessive 
force against a burglar or mugger will earn you a conviction for assault 
or, if you seriously harm him, a long sentence. Tony Martin, the 
Norfolk farmer jailed for killing one burglar and wounding another 
during the seventh break-in at his rural home, was denied parole because 
he posed a threat to burglars. The career burglar whom Mr. Martin 
wounded got out early. 

Using a cap pistol, as an elderly woman did to scare off a gang of 
youths, will bring you to court for putting someone in fear. Recently, 
police tried to stop David Collinson from entering his burning home to 
rescue his asthmatic wife. He refused to obey and, brandishing a toy 
pistol, dashed into the blaze. Minutes later he returned with his wife 
and dog and apologized to the police. Not good enough. In April Mr. 
Collinson was sentenced to a year in prison for being aggressive towards 
the officers and brandishing the toy pistol. Still, at least he won't 
be sharing his cell with an arsonist or thief. 

How did things come to a pass where law-abiding citizens are treated as 
criminals and criminals as victims? A giant step was the 1953 Prevention 
of Crime Act, making it illegal to carry any article for an offensive 
purpose; any item carried for self-defence was automatically an 
offensive weapon and the carrier is guilty until proven innocent. At 
the time a parliamentarian protested that, /"The object of a weapon was 
to assist weakness to cope with strength and it is this ability 
that the bill was framed to destroy."The government countered that 
the public should be discouraged "from going about with offensive 
weapons in their pockets; it is the duty of society to protect them." 

The trouble is that society cannot and does not protect them. Yet 
successive governments have insisted protection be left to the 
professionals, meanwhile banning all sorts of weapons, from firearms to 
chemical sprays. They hope to add toy or replica guns to the list along 
with kitchen knives with points. Other legislation has limited 
self-defence to what seems reasonable to a court much later. 

Although British governments insist upon sole responsibility for 
protecting individuals, for ideological and economic reasons they have 
adopted a lenient approach toward offenders. Because prisons are 
expensive and don't reform their residents, fewer offenders are 
incarcerated. Those who are get sharply reduced sentences, and serve 
just half of these. 

Still, with crime rates rising, prisons are overcrowded and additional 
jail space will not be available anytime soon. The public learned in 
April that among convicts released early to ease overcrowding were 
violent or sex offenders serving mandatory life sentences who were freed 
after as little as 15 months. 

The government's duty to protect the public has been compromised by 
other economies. Police forces are smaller than those of America and 
Europe and have been consolidated, leaving 70% of English villages 
without a police presence. Police are so hard-pressed that the 
Humberside force announced in March they no longer investigate less 
serious crimes unless they are racist or homophobic. Among crimes not 
being investigated: theft, criminal damage, common assault, harassment 
and non-domestic burglary. 

As for more serious crime, the unarmed police are wary of responding to 
an emergency where the offender is armed. The Thames Valley Police 
waited nearly seven hours to enter Julia Pemberton's home after she 
telephoned from the closet where she was hiding from her estranged and 
armed husband. 

They entered once the danger to them had passed, but after those who had 
pleaded for their help were past all help. 

To be fair, under the Blair government a host of actions have been 
initiated to bring about more convictions. At the end of its 2003 
session Parliament repealed the 800-year-old guarantee against double 
jeopardy. Now anyone acquitted of a serious crime can be retried if 
"new and compelling evidence" is brought forward. Parliament tinkered 
with the definition of "new" to make that burden easier to meet. The 
test for "new" in these criminal cases, Lord Neill pointed out, will be 
lower than "is used habitually in civil cases. In a civil case, one 
would have to show that the new evidence was not reasonably available on 
the previous occasion. There is no such requirement here." 
Parliament was so excited by the benefits of chucking the ancient 
prohibition that it extended the repeal of double jeopardy from murder 
to cases of rape, manslaughter, kidnapping, drug-trafficking and some 20 
other serious crimes. For good measure it made the new act retroactive. 
Henceforth, no one who has been, or will be, tried and acquitted of a 
serious crime can feel confident he will not be tried again, and again. 

To make the prosecutor's task still easier, he is now permitted to use 
hearsay evidence -- goodbye to confronting witnesses -- to introduce a 
defendant's prior record, and the number of jury trials is to be 
reduced. Still, the government has helped the homeowner by sponsoring a 
law "to prevent homeowners being sued by intruders who injure themselves 
while breaking in." 

It may be crass to point out that the British people, stripped of their 
ability to protect themselves and of other ancient rights and left to 
the mercy of criminals, have gotten the worst of both worlds. Still, as 
one citizen, referring to the new policy of letting criminals off with a 
caution, suggested: "Perhaps it would be easier and safer for the 
honest citizens of the U.K. to move into the prisons and the criminals 
to be let out."


Anonymous said...

If Rahm Emanuel reads this, you will soon be on your way to the reeducation camps. The good news is, they'll probably be building them out near where you live so you won't have to travel far!

Rio Arriba said...

I'm too old to be re-educated. And if they come to bundle me off I'll be able to do a little re-educating of my own.

Roxie said...

We never learn from other people's mistakes; we're just doomed to repeat them over and over. May God help us.