Monday, 31 March 2008

The right to be different

The latest in a seemingly endless round of 'violent youth' news stories - 'Boy Convicted of Goth Park Murder'

The victim was attacked, according to the reports, because she and her companion had stood out as being different to their attackers. As 'goths' they were instantly recognizable to their teenage pursuers and were apparently subjected to an appallingly violent assault for this reason alone.

There are a number of questions that this story prompts. The first, and most obvious, is 'what should be the punishment to fit this crime?'

If you read my earlier post you won't be surprised to hear that I believe incarceration is appropriate, and I will be following this story to see what sentence is handed out. A commentator on that post brought up the subject of capital punishment, and if there is a case that better deserves such a penalty for the perpetrator then I struggle to think of one. However, such a sentence is not in the arsenal of UK courts so I will not take that line (for now).

The second question, for me at least, follows from the first and is 'What duration of prison stay fits the crime?'

There is a tendency within the UK justice system, it seems to the common man, that when a criminal is sent down there is no certainty that he will serve his full time. Indeed 'life' seldom means life anymore. If our lawbreakers know they will regain their liberty before the end of their sentence, surely this diminishes the deterrent value of incarceration? And what is the law-abiding citizen to conclude of a system that threatens a hard blow but pulls its punches? Surely 5 years should mean 5 years, 10 should mean 10...and lifers should never see the outside of their prison again? I am in favour of rehabilitation, sure. But let's get the punishment right first.

A third question begs an answer, and that is 'If alcohol fueled this attack (as was reported), then should it be banned from sale to minors?'

You'll again not be amazed to hear from me that in my view, yes, alcohol should be made unavailable to minors. I see no reason why society should tolerate drunken under-21's roaming our streets. Not every drunken 16 year old is a murderer, but how many attacks would be prevented if little Jimmy had been denied his Super Strength Lager on Friday night?

There is, of course, a civil liberties issue awaiting the NoBollocksPolitician here. Should society deny all of the innocent, law-abiding youngsters the right to have a good time? To cast them all in the same role, painted with the same brush?

Well sadly, I think it must to a degree. If a contingent of the populace cannot act responsibly then greater society, perceiving a threat, should have the right to act to correct them. There is a principle at stake and it is that 'the needs of the many outweigh those of the few'. Of course we must narrow our aim as much as possible (age ID for alcohol sale, zero tolerance of drinking on the streets, prosecution of retailers caught selling to underage drinkers). But for every tearaway prevented from wreaking drunken havoc using such measures we have to accept that an innocent person has a liberty curtailed through no fault of their own. That's regrettable, but still the preferable alternative.

A final question, which I shall not answer but leave for thought, is 'What would be the best way to prevent crimes of this type happening in future?'

There are many factors - policing, parenting, social engineering to name a few. All are in the hands of the real politicians to change. Who knows, if one comes along who can be believed when he/she says they will make those changes then perhaps they might earn a few votes.

The victim of the crime reported was exercising a right to be different. I cherish that right and I believe that society has a complementary right - to use a firm hand with those who would deny such liberty.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Crime and Punishment

Ok, so what's the solution to the prison overcrowding crisis?

Is it

a) release prisoners early
b) release prisoners early, especially if they are convicted terrorists
c) hand out more community sentences in place of custodial ones
d) forget that your slogan was 'tough on crime, tough on the causes blah blah blah'
e) none of the above

Well there's no denying that we are in a sticky spot right now. You can play the blame game and start to slag off our elected masters, questioning why they let things get to this state. That's a fun game but it doesn't actually move you too much closer to the solution.

Of course you could take the view that the next set of elected masters could do better and wait around until you get a chance to vote them in. That might work, but it takes time. And the NoBollocksPolitician tends to anticipate much of the same from the next lot, even if they do sport an attractive - though differently coloured - rosette.

The problem is here and now. So what to do.

Well, sorry liberals and human rights activists. You're not going to care much for this view.

Perhaps we should think about our standards, you know, the one's that say that a prisoner has a right to a certain level of treatment.

The average prisoner - notwithstanding the ones who suffered terrible miscarriages of justice and found themselves incarcerated innocents - go to where he is by being a bad person.

Now I am not actually much of an advocate of free will (but that's a topic for another blog). But until someone comes along that can give me a better explanation for the cause and effect of human actions, I'm going to have to conclude that people who do bad things do so out of choice, by and large, and in the full knowledge of what may/will be the consequences.

If they choose to be the bad guy then they have to accept that the effect is punishment. And if that means they lose some eligibility to be treated as a full member of society, then so be it.

To my way of thinking, if there are more bad guys at the moment than we can cope with at the existing level of allowed 'rights', then the 'rights' have to be diminished.

If that means more people to a prison, so be it.
It that means more people to a prison cell, so be it.
If that means lower standards of living behind bars, so be it.
If that means we pay to build more prisons, fast, so be it.

The basic right of the citizen, the innocent upon whom the criminal preys, should not be diminished. He or she should be assured that no matter how many bad guys are caught they will all be punished according to the law. And that does not mean that they will stand they chance of winning the 'prison full' lottery and getting out into society again ahead of time.

My thoughts. Yours?


Well hello,

Here I am, adding my two pence worth to the trillions of other worthless opinions cluttering up 'cyberspace'.

Who am I? I'm an ordinary sort of guy I guess. In the real world I'm a 40-something Englishman, pen-pushing accountant, married, kids, moderate income. Never been involved in politics before, but getting to that stage in life when I have started to pay more than a passing interest in what's going on in society. So does that entitle me to preach to the masses? No! But then again I feel strongly enough about a few things that I want to put finger to keyboard about them. This blog will probably catch me when I feel most strongly about some news item or other, so may well not always be coherent. But it will be from the heart and will say things as I see them. I titled it - a little cheekily - "NoBollocksPolitics", because it's probably the precursor to me moving, eventually, into politics proper. The prefix is because I, like many I suspect, feel that in the UK at least we the populace are being fed a sterile blend of the same old fodder from politicians of whatever ilk happens to be in power today. My hope and aim is to cut through the self-interested rhetoric of our representatives and get to the core of what we the everyday man and woman of Britain actually cares about. Of course I'm one man, and I can't truly hope to encapsulate the thoughts, the zeitgeist, of every one of my co-citizens. So far as it goes I guess this is also an attempt to see if there are like-minded individuals out there who care to comment, plus or minus, on what I have to say.

My first 'opinion', just to start the ball rolling, is on population growth.

It seems to me that there are a number of elephants in an awful number of rooms. Be it immigration, global warming, economic downturn. There is a base cause that no-one, be it politician, eco-warrior or financial analyst will name. In just about every country in the world we now have record population numbers and a continual growth in populace. What are the effects of this growth on a) world food supplies, b) carbon emissions and c) land use? Every pundit I listen to seems to regard population growth as either non-existant or an uncontrovertable human right. But how can we sustain the huge increase in numbers that carries on relentlessly? The USA, to take an example - and I could take any number - has an annual population growth rate of about 1%. Not much you may say. But 1% of 300m people is 3m people per year. That's a big city EVERY YEAR. In a world with limited resources how can this continue?

"Human Rights!" I hear you cry. You can't tell people that they can't breed! But when do we reach the point when that's unavoidable. In a world with 6bn people how many do we have to accomodate before that's an inevitability? 7bn, 10bn, 20bn?

This is fundamentally against the capitalist ethos, the thinking of the free nation. But it has to happen, and that my friends, is NoBollocksPolitics.

The other defining characteristic of a NoBollocksPolitician - other than speaking the truth as he sees it - is that he/she will see reason if it is placed before him (or her). I invite you to share your views and look forward to hearing from people who DON'T agree. Because there's nothing worse than a politician who does not listen and learn....