Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Sun and the crime: here we go again.

We're getting into one of those periods again when the Sun decides it's time to go after Labour's record on the criminal justice system. This is one of those dividing lines where the "hawks" think that Labour hasn't been harsh enough, i.e. the Sun, other tabloids and the Tories, although I doubt they'll be much difference should they get into power, and the "doves", i.e. the likes of bleeding hearts like me, who think that Labour has legislated far too much and imprisoned far too many even while crime, according to the official statistics (and replicated across the Western world) has fallen to levels last seen in the early 80s.

Last week we had the claim that Britain was the most violent European country, while also claiming that also included the United States and South Africa, where there are other 20,000 murders a year. This was based upon highly incomparable figures released by the European Commission, which were then compiled by the Conservatives, who sent them on to sympathetic newspapers. The actual data on which these were based either hasn't been released publicly, or hasn't been by any of the organisations involved in compiling it - there's nothing on the EC site, nothing on the Eurostat site, and nothing on the Tories' site, making it impossible to even begin to verify the claims.

Today the Sun is stunned, stunned to learn that "life" doesn't mean life. Alongside the obligatory report on Michael Jackson's funeral, the front page shrieked about how "Lifers do just 9 years". Those who don't bother to read the story, or the further explanation provided in the paper might be surprised to learn that this doesn't include those convicted of murder, as they might imagine. They instead do an average of 16 years. Rather, those sentenced to life imprisonment but convicted of manslaughter, violent rape or armed robbery and released from prison in 2007 served an average of 9 years, based upon the 146 who were allowed out. This is hardly surprising, as those sentenced to life are always given a minimum term which they must serve before they can apply for parole. What the Sun doesn't mention, and which is often glossed over in the tabloids when reporting such "shock, horror" figures, is that those sentenced to life imprisonment remain on licence for the rest of their lives - if they commit another crime after being released they are immediately recalled to prison. This of course doesn't always happen - as the other figures released yesterday, which amazingly revealed that up to 1,000 people meant to have been recalled instead made a run for it, suggested. The vast, vast majority are though, and if the Sun has a problem with the time served by "lifers", it ought to take it up with the judges who originally set the term, not the prison and probation system which then have to work with those limits. It also notes that 6% of mandatory lifers were then convicted of another offence after being released, which seems remarkably low considering that up to 67% of those sent to prison are recidivists, having previously been behind bars.

All of this overlooks that not only has the prison population vastly increased under Labour, but that sentences have been getting longer, as a past Prison Reform Trust report found. A report released on Monday by the Howard League for Penal Reform reached much the same conclusions and called for a reduction in the prison population, for some prisons to be closed and for local authorities to take control of the prison system, as well as for a major expansion in community sentencing as opposed to short, worthless, if not downright damaging sentences which are currently keeping the prisons full and which have expanded massively under Labour.

This is naturally diametrically opposed by the likes of the Sun. That isn't "tough"; that's "soft", just like Labour have been, and as today's editorial states:

CAN you believe 1,000 criminals, including murderers and rapists, are walking free when they should be behind bars?

Of course you can. After 12 years of "Soft Labour," nothing surprises us about our shambolic criminal justice system.

This doesn't of course take into consideration that this was the first ever complete audit of those meant to have been taken back into custody and dates back to 1984 - 13 years of which Labour can hardly be blamed for, although that hasn't stopped either the Sun or the Tories. The real blame here lies with the police for not chasing warrants or being given the resources to do so, not with the criminal justice system itself.

No wonder, when convicted criminals are let off with non-custodial sentences or let loose on licence after serving half their time.

"Let off" - doesn't even give a chance to either fines or community sentences. The reason why so many are now serving half their sentence, or even just a third is down to the continual demands for harsher sentencing and more prison places; continual growth in places simply isn't possible without planning restrictions being rode over and greatly annoying those in the vicinity of the new establishment. This was the case when the Sun called for Connaught Barracks to be turned into a prison - the local community predictably went up in arms and saw off any chance of it happening.

The average "life" term is a derisory NINE years! Some thugs might consider that a price worth paying.

Well, no, it isn't, as its own story makes clear. The idea that anyone will consider the potential prison sentence they will receive before carrying out a crime which will attract a life sentence is to give credit to them which they almost certainly don't deserve. 9 years in prison is hardly a walk in the park, regardless of how often the Sun claims our jails are "cushy".

Now the Justice Department admit hundreds of prisoners who have broken their licence have done a runner.

They include 19 murders, two convicted of manslaughter and 26 sex offenders including 12 rapists.

The government claim this is because of their crackdown on licence breaches.

But most people will believe a different explanation... that releasing violent offenders early puts us all at risk.

Except as noted some these date back to the 80s, and they don't include just those released early, but those released on parole at the end of their term who have then re-offended. The Sun, by such repeated attacks, helps ensure that there can be no change in the policies on law and order between the two main parties. We urgently need to put a stop to the war on crime in its current form, just as we do all the other so-called wars.


Why, what do we have here? Some confirmation of yesterday's post perhaps? From further on in today's leader:

TORY leader David Cameron risks being accused of promising all things to all men.

He wants cuts in public spending, yet ring-fences the gigantic NHS and foreign aid budgets against any serious pruning.

He rightly vows to slash the hugely expensive brigade of bossyboots who run meddling quangos like Ofcom.

Unlike the brigade of bossyboots and meddlers in Wapping and News International, naturally.

1 comment:

Costigan Quist said...

I did some work on those soaring violent crime claim from the Tories at http://bit.ly/JROBF

Turns out to be quite interesting when you dig down into the figures.