Monday, 1 September 2008

Prosecution, Prosecution, Prosecution.

A rant written prior to TFL dropping their prosecution.

As with the age of the 90's when the amount of claimaints went up and the apparent "sue" culture became its own, it now appears that a prosecution culture has arisen. This culture being the antithesis of its predecessor, seems to be tackling people of all the spectrum regardless of the degree of what offence has occurred and treating them in the same way.

For example the woman with a pram who was prosecuted for getting to touch in, or the student whom got on the bus found out she didnt have enough money on her oyster card but was hawled away to the next stop where ticket inspectors were. Regardless of the reliability of any stories, there seems to be a very zero-tolerance Blairite policy of attacking anyone who commits an offence and not treating them different from one another, therefore the habitual offender is treated as the same as someone who is mistaken or has various mitigating circumstances.

Now what I see is a trend towards the classical criminal justice system, that of Bentham and Beccaria. This sort of disproportionate punishment seems to be more and more apparent with the introduction of strict liability offences, and the only thing left for magistrates/judges to do is to determine innocence or guilt, a system that is dependant on the criminal act rather than the individual offender. I am not a fan of this, obviously ;)

On the other hand one can look and hope towards a positivit criminal justice system we look at the individual offender and how they can be rehabilitated in society, less stringent on imposing maximum and minimum sentences, but more interested in the individual and the external factors that surround them. Therefore we do not need "targets" for sentencing criminals, nor need to impose a definite sentence for such a like.


Oliver Smith said...

The focus on more low level crime has come around for a number of reasons, in my opinion. These reasons are:

1) The Government believes that it is these low level offences that the public want sorted and as such that is what they've turned their attention to (they may be right about anti-social behaviour, but their way of dealing with it is very wrong indeed)

2) Every crime number that is issued must have a conclusion and simple strict-liability offences such as fare evasion provide an easy way to keep detection statistics up and thus allows the authorities to please their government masters.

There is too much government intervention in the criminal justice system. The top down, central control favoured over the last 11 years is damaging the Criminal Justice system along with many other things (e.g. the NHS) that we take pride in and are grateful to have.

Lost said...

Good analysis Oli!!!
You can get an ASBO for behaviour that would warrant a criminal conviction!! I don't personally agree with ASBOs myself as they subvert the criminal justice system, as they are a civil injunction!

Nice other points!