Monday, 24 December 2012

We should cool it on taser use

The Independent reports lofty outrage at the use of tasers against teenage yobs. Amnesty argues their use against children "should be avoided in all circumstances". They seem untroubled by the related notion that police are supposed to neglect self-protection, and protection of others, in these circumstances.

If a ban ever came into force, we can be sure what it would mean in practice: police afraid of carrying tasers and using them in almost any circumstances. Violent criminals don't tend to operate with neon signs advertising their age. So police would be forgiven for thinking it better to avoid any risk of losing their jobs because the thug in question later turned out to be under 18.

This wouldn't bother many liberals. They would likely welcome a situation where police are afraid to use tasers on anyone. Their boundless faith that talk and reason and doling out endless taxpayers' money can change even the worst criminals means they naturally welcome anything that leaves authority armed with little else.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Helen Newlove is a good choice for Victims' Commissioner


Helen Newlove, Victims' Commissioner 
The appointment of Helen Newlove to be the government's next Victims' Commissioner is a welcome one. Since the terrible murder of her husband in 2007, Baroness Newlove has proved an able campaigner.
Given the dozens of charities and lobby groups aimed at protecting the rights of the wrong-doer and reducing the sentences passed it is dispiriting how few organisations exist to represent the interests of the victims of crime. When the EU's European Social Fund decided to award a £144 million grant, it chose to spend all the money on criminals and nothing on victims. This has led to a situation in which 79% of the public believe the criminal justice system protects the rights of defendants and offenders while only 65% believe it meets the needs of victims.
The role of Victims' Commissioner is therefore a particularly important one, and needs the right person speaking up for decent people against the thug and thieves who victimise others.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Sentencing in 2012

Prison sentence for theft, dangerous driving and deliberately accelerating ones car into a policeman: 11 months - ie 5.5 months.

Prison sentence imposed for inflicting borderline slavery on many individuals over decades: between 2 years 3 months and 6 years 6 months - ie between 1 year 1.5 months and 3 years 3 months.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Thefts of presents for seriously sick children at Great Ormond St Hospital

The Metropolitan Police is right to attack the theft of 20 presents from Great Ormond Street Hospital as "disgusting". One wonders how many previous convictions the thieves had - and the punishments they received. (Only 19% of those convicted of theft received a prison sentenced in the year up to 2012.) If they are ever caught, an enterprising journalist would be wise to find out.

Less impressive is a statement from South Yorkshire Police explaining recent shoplifting as 'desperation': "What we are seeing is a small number of individuals - particularly young mums - who are committing crimes to feed their children... If you look at powdered milk or baby food it's quite expensive."

It is always worth understanding the motivations that lead anyone to commit crimes. But that needn't mean accepting the perpetrators' excuses at face value, and then using them to portray shoplifters in the most sympathetic light. Did the shoplifters go without food themselves, or alcohol, and still run out of money? Do they cancel their television subscription packages? Or are they in fact blowing their benefits and incomes on luxuries for themselves, knowing they can steal if they run out of money, and see a meagre punishment or none when they are caught?

One should remember too the many parents who struggle just as much but decline to steal from others.

The BBC quotes The Centre for Retail Research:
"in the six weeks to Christmas the crime will cost stores in the UK more than £500m. 
'I think people have the idea that if somebody steals something worth £5 the shop has to find five pounds somewhere else,' said George Elliott, of Rotherham Voice, which is a business group. It is actually worse than that - they have to make £5 of profit. It affects prices in the stores so at the very, very basic level customers will have to pay more because of the theft.'"

Day release granted to "highly dangerous" criminal - who then escapes

The BBC reports on a prisoner who was "five-and-a-half years into an indeterminate sentence for robbery, taking without consent and burglary". A month ago, he was given day release but has failed to return to prison.

A spokesman from Surrey Police adds that the criminal is "a highly dangerous individual and I would urge members of the public not to approach him but to phone police immediately if they believe they have seen him."

This confirms a double failure by those who granted day release. They misjudged his likelihood of returning to prison, and they either didn't check or didn't care how dangerous he was.

Even if they do return to prison the same day, why should any "highly dangerous" criminal be given day release?