Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Ken Clarke is proposing not locking up so many people because 'prison doesn't work'.
It is significant that the kind of low level offenders that Mr. Clarke intends to deal with without recourse to custodial sentencing are the relatively low level offender that are more likely to offend against residents of or visitors to poorer areas.
It is significant that in 2000 Mr. Clarke voted in accordance with a commons proposal "That this House condemns the Government's policy of giving prisoners special early release on the Home Detention Curfew scheme;"
I remember a time when assaulting a police officer would have meant a custodial sentence if found guilty, irrespective of mitigating circumstances or severity of the assault.
I remember when assaulting anybody would most likely attract a custodial sentence.
I remember there were far fewer assaults then. 
I accept this is anecdotal and there could be many other reasons why custodial sentencing gives the average man in the street the impression of fewer offences and makes him (or her) feel safer. But the point is it has an effect on the confidence of the public and this alone is good reason to lock up offenders. It also means that while he (or she) is behind bars, the only other people that he will assault are other criminals.
Lord Hewart CJ said:"...a long line of cases shows that it is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done." 
That is to say, no matter how fairly, legally and equitably proper a decision is made IT MUST BE SEEN TO BE SO! This involves a principle of perception. If a decision is perceived to be unfair, unjust or improper, then that decision cannot be acceptable. 
And so this should extend to sentencing. If the public perceives that convicted criminals are free to continue to commit crimes and that locking them up stops them committing crime, then we should lock them up.


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