Sunday 18 March 2007

Life should mean life for everyone

Our corpulent Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has said that the Soham murderer Ian Huntley should never be released from prison. He's quite right, of course. Personally, I'd rather see Huntley hanged, but in the absence of the death penalty, life imprisonment is the best alternative.

However, I have a problem with the reasoning behind Lord Falconer's comments. The Sunday Telegraph reports that Lord Falconer said:

"[Lord Phillips] referred to geriatric lifers - well there will be some and I think if you want confidence in the system that's got to be the position."

Asked whom he meant, Lord Falconer replied: "Ian Brady is somebody I would have thought should stay in for the rest of his natural life. Robert Black is another. It is extremely difficult to see circumstances in which Ian Huntley could ever be released. Those are three obvious examples. It is because of dangerousness but it is also because society does require retribution in those sorts of cases and if it doesn't get it people will not be confident of the criminal justice system."

It is this last sentence which gets me. While I quite agree that society requires that these reprehensible men face condign punishment, the line about people losing confidence jars. Because, while Lord Falconer may talk about the likes of Brady, Black, and Huntley, and the fact that they will never be released from prison, it is nonetheless the case that, among murderers, they are in a minority. Most murderers do end up being released from prison, having served sentences which can be as short as ten years. A sentence for manslaughter can be less than five years.

The general rule is that life does not mean life, even for murder. It is this which damages public trust in the criminal justice system. What Lord Falconer is doing, by picking out various high-profile murderers, and saying that they really will never leave prison, is throwing a bone to the masses. The likes of Huntley are set up as a smokescreen, to obscure the fact that less high-profile, but equally evil and dangerous, killers are being released back into society. This in turn reduces, or is at least intended to reduce, the justified anger of the public, without effecting any change to the general rule. It is deceit.

Lord Falconer believes that public confidence in the criminal justice system can be increased by grandstanding over a few particularly odious murderers. But the truth is that public confidence is harmed by the fact that when a killer receives a life sentence that means, in practice, 10 to 15 years. Only when life genuinely means life will public confidence begin to return.

Or we could just bring back hanging.


bernard said...

Good writing 'Fulham'.
You know in a way we do have capital punishment, and it is done ad hoc by the police now and then.
The shooting dead of Menendes (and others) is a case in point.
Most coppers want the return of CP, but their political masters say no.
Policemen are the same as us in that they feel deep down that abolition of CP forty years ago was a mistake, and that wilful murder, pro rata, has continued to rise.
With all this in mind, he pulls his gun and says to himself "what the hell, the state has'nt the guts to administer righteous justice...I'll do it!"
Taking away the courts 'final sanction' on wilful murder has distorted the clarity of justice in Britain. And it's all wrong.

Fulham Reactionary said...

The decision to abolish the death penalty was one of a number of decisions made by the political elite which were opposed by the public at the time, and which the public have steadfastly continued to oppose - a fact equally steadfastly ignored by the powers that be. The decision to unleash mass immigration upon the UK was another such decision.

As to the police agreeing with ordinary people: the impression I get is that the police service is divided between decreasing numbers of traditional coppers (traditional in the sense that they wish to stop criminals and protect society), and growing numbers of liberal idiots, who often seem to side with the criminals, who regard it as an impertinence if a member of the public expects them to do the job they're paid for, and who consider it a far more valid use of their time to investigate Cambridge students for upsetting Muslims than to arrest Muslims for inciting murder. The latter type tends to dominate the upper echelons of the service (Sir Ian Blair would be a case in point), in particular.
Then there's the third kind: non-white officers using their uniform to give them a soapbox from which to peddle the kind of grievance politics that certain minority groups specialise in. Examples would be Ali Dizaei, and the members of the National Black Police Association. Like the second kind, this kind also appear to exhibit an undue sympathy with criminals.

The problem with all this is that members of the first group tend to have been recruited when society was in a slightly healthier state, and in consequence are often around retirement age, so that their numbers are rapidly falling. By contrast, the numbers falling in the latter categories are growing quickly. For this reason, I have very little faith in the police to do much good for society, at least in their present state. Indeed, I often wonder whether we wouldn't be better off without them altogether. Rinie Mulder (vide ante) certainly would be.

bernard said...

Whether older generation coppers are more robust (on CP) as compared to the new liberal intake, I have never seen any statistics, if there are any.
But when a poll of the public was taken over 10 years ago, a return of some 70% showed in favour of the restoration, so it would seem unlikely that the police would move the opposite way.
Don't you think, intuitively,(liberals apart) that given a say, the police would vote for a return?
Polling the police is forbidden, I believe, which is why the report that the Force is "institutively racist" was pure nobody knows WHAT they think.

Fulham Reactionary said...

A poll today in the London Lite freebie newspaper has 59% of respondents supporting capital punishment, 41% against. Given that Londoners tend to be rather more liberal than people in the rest of the country, a national figure of 70% in favour seems reasonable. Doesn't cut any ice with the politicians, though.

As you say, we can't be sure what the police overall think. But it certainly does seem that the ones who get into senior positions are on the liberal wing of society. Sir Ian Blair I mentioned in my previous comment, or the senior policeman in South London - recently mentioned by Laban Tall - who told concerned members of the public that if they wished to avoid street crime they shouldn't leave their houses, and that otherwise they'd just have to accept it.