MichaelCD - The Blog.

The thoughts of Michael Cadwallader. Coffee loving, history book reading, Cheshire man.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Criminal Justice - An Example of Wilful Negligence?

Being a small ‘c’ conservative in the modern climate can be tough. Sometimes it feels like swimming against a tide, with iron weights attached to your feet. It feels even more so when some within the conservative movement have all but given up on some of its most important principles.

But, there is no subject in modern life that is more at ease for a conservative, than the subject of crime. Whilst liberalism has infected the area thoroughly, especially in areas like sentencing and policing, it has not fully captured the hearts of the public in the way that government nanny-statism and loosining of morals have. Sure, liberals do preach about rehabilitation and criminals as ‘victims’, but those in government realise that they must do so concomitant with a ‘crackdown’ of some sort. I’m thinking specifically here of Tony Blair’s mantra of ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’.

Interestingly, as if to illuminate the point, the Liberal Democrats have sent through their local election literature this week. Their national policies, of course, include giving the vote to prisoners. However, the leaflet striking a decidedly ‘tough on crime’ stance, demanded more policeman on the beat.

A question arises from all this - do politicians believe that being tough on crime really works? If so, why are they always sending out mixed messages? It was with these questions in mind, and because I am simply fascinated by the workings of the criminal justice system, that I originally decided to read books on the subject of crime. Recently, I have read the most brilliant and damning of them, which has finally answered most of the things puzzling me was David Fraser’s Magnus Opus: A land Fit For Criminals.

Opening the book, immediately gives you an insight into the thinking behind it:

We do not need psychologists to tell us the simple truth that if you reward bad behaviour you will get more of it…We should not be surprised that we are now engulfed in crime. The offenders have taken their cue from us.

The book looks at the post-war view towards criminal justice, and is fairly similar to Peter Hitchens’ book, the Abolition of Liberty. Unlike Hitchens, however, David Fraser is an insider; he spent 26 years working at what is now National Probation Service. So, he has a clear advantage over Hitchens in terms of technical and insider knowledge.

These facts may lead people to conclude that this is a dry academic prose, written for other professors, and lacking in Hitchens brilliant ability to tear into the dark under-belly of liberalism. But such a view is mistaken, as Fraser makes clear in his introduction that this is not ‘a calm, dispassionate review of this subject’, it is in fact ‘a passionate cry for the public to be aware of the gross deceptions that are worked on them’.

The book examines the post-1950s period of crime, which corresponds with the post-1960 crime explosion. Crime has, however, started to fall since 1990 (in official statistics). John Reid even claimed that the government had reduced crime by ‘a third’, since 1997. What he is probably referring to is the British (actually it only covers England & Wales) Crime Survey, which reported a fall from 18million-recorded crimes in the late 1990s, to 12million in July 2004.

Fraser’s response to those official ‘figures’ was short and sharp: nonsense! He cites a little known home office report which showed the true figure was nearer 60 million, and that their own separate reconviction figures, have not shown any decrease over the same period. If crime really has reduced by a third, there would have to be some sort of statistical reduction in these figures, so its claim that crime has reduced is very dubious.

I sense that most people don’t believe government figures anyway, but it’s always edifying to see them savaged in print. Whilst figures can be spun and distorted, the individual’s experiences of crime are what really matter. Big differences exist between the statistics and the reality, and this allows 'progressives' to attempt to subvert and divert debate on crime.

That's what make this book such an invaluable source. For instance, there is a dubious claim from certain quarters who claim that high crime-rates are due to police detection rates increasing. Therefore, it's only public perception that crime is increasing. Fraser exposes this as at best a fallacy, and at worse a downright lie. I turns out that the rates are no different now than in 1979, and twenty years earlier, as there was less crime, it is more than likely that there the rates were even better.

So, why has the establishment decided that liberal policies are the answer to crime, especially given that such policies have never gained full public support? Fraser talks of a ‘criminal justice elite’, spell-bound by political correctness. He shows the way they have intimidated magistrates who oppose their views. And, for a view of just how influential these people are, PragueTory had a post a while ago showing the Howard Reform League’s closeness to the Prime Minister’s wife.

Their motivation bears the classic hallmark of the culture war, waged and won by the left using the universities. With the growth of pseudo-scientific subjects like the social sciences, the bureaucrats who have the levers of government at their hands have been indoctrinated in ‘crime is primarily society's fault’, type theories. And, therefore, the anti-prison doctrines within this fraternity are regarded as set-in-stone, and can never be challenged even if evidence points to the contrary. This is Fraser’s main bugbear in the book, as you suspect that for years he has tried to counter this propaganda in meetings, but has been dismissed out-of-hand.

That’s not mentioning the role of successive governments within the criminal justice debacle of the last half-century. Almost always, the view that the financial costs of prison are too much has been the motivating factor behind their decisions. The propaganda presented by liberal civil servants has just played into the hands of this argument.

The award for the worst government must go to the Labour government in the 1960s/early 70s, but the Tories in the 1980s and early 90s were not far behind in the rankings. Both Hitchens and Fraser mention Roy Jenkinstinkering with the police whilst he was Home Secretary, as a seminal part of the new order created.

Jenkins was in thrall to ‘unit beat policing’, based on the style of policing used in the big American cities like Chicago. This was nothing more than the dismantling of the Peel police force. Instead of whistles, radios became ubiquitous; instead of a bobby walking the beat, ‘Panda’ cars were introduced; finally, local police stations were closed down in large numbers, to be replaced by remote ‘headquarters’. This was a response to rising crime and to ‘manpower shortages’, which Hitchens doesn’t believe is borne out by the figures. But what it did was to encourage the police to 'consider themselves as a special body set above the rest of the citizenry, and 'it has also nurtured the idea that the police are mainly a detective and record-keeping organization, rather than an active preventative force.'

Jenkins’ other passion was for amalgamating the smaller forces into large organisations, which were supposedly better at fighting crime. Again, this was modernisation for its own sake. And there was no evidence that larger police forces were any more efficient at fighting crime, especially the low-level crime that bedevils the lives of ordinary people. But the clamour for modernisation led to this being adopted almost un-opposed.

The regional super-forces, with a chief constable who had little or no links to the local community, were the beginning of the modern ‘career’ chief constable. This is the sort of character who values his sociology degree above fighting crime, and attempts to influence government policy via the ACPO.

As for the Tory mistakes, well Hitchens fingers the Police and Criminal Evidence act, from 1984, as the tombstone of the old Peel-type police force. The bureaucracy that is so prevalent nowadays was born from this act, as was the police complaints authority. The effects were dramatic:

The constable was already a radio-controlled automaton sent to crime scenes after the event, robbed of his initiative and of his main function, the enforcement of the public will. Now, bound by the Act and threatened with the career-ruining procedures of the Police Complaints Authority, the police officer is almost powerless to act even when an arrest could be made. Officially, he is not trusted to do the job for which he is paid.

It doesn’t stop there, however. The 1982 Criminal Justice Act placed severe restrictions on the use of imprisonment for young offenders. The consequence of this, has been a huge rise in the number of street robberies, a crime predominately caused by those aged 15-20.

Then there was the Crown Prosecution Service, set up in 1986, was described by Fraser in scathing terms: “No organisation could have done more to make the lives of criminals easier, safer and more rewarding”.

The 1991 Criminal Justice Act, introduced by the Major government, started the early release of prisoners. Those serving four years and over could be considered for release on parole at the half way stage, but, otherwise, would be automatically released at the two-thirds point of the sentence. Taken together with the 1990 liberalisation of abortion laws, the 1992 Maastricht treaty, the sex-scandals and in-fighting, the only conclusion is that that un-conservative government was almost, if not equally, as bad as our current incumbents. Only Michael Howard can come out with any praise from its misrule.


If you are, like me, totally bewildered by the current state of British justice, reading A Land Fit For Criminals is essential. It shows the way that the police have become burnt-out; how the judiciary have wilfully let the public suffer at the hand of career-criminals; the pseudo-intellectual propaganda that has led to criminals being painted as victims; and the political lies that have no connection to reality.

After you have put the book down, you’ll feel anger and, probably, despair. It looks very much like we are headed to a world where officials will trumpet their success at fighting crime, whilst people are more scared than they have ever been. In the future, it’s easy to see public anger turning to vigilantism. And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Labour does acknowledge, whatever they say with their silly statistics, that there is a crime problem. Unfortunately, the only way they believe they can deal with it is through illiberal measures such as a DNA database and an ID Card scheme. Fraser shows this to be totally unnecessary, and that the solutions to the problems are simple: more proper police (not CSOs), and more prisons. In both Singapore and New York, these simple measures have proved deadly efficient.

The Abolition of Liberty shows that traditional police methods were junked in favour of modernisation for its own sake. All it will take is someone with the foresight to learn that traditional police methods, sending offenders to prison and zero-tolerance, are all that is needed to make our streets safe again. And, most importantly, what is needed is the will to implement these against a hostile ‘criminal justice elite’. Let’s hope we do not have to wait too much longer for that will to manifest…

A Land Fit For Criminals on Amazon

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At 6:05 am, Blogger Praguetory said...

Good piece. A powerful recommendation for further reading that I will take up. Best, PT.

At 7:41 am, Blogger evision said...



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