Friday, August 19, 2011

Riots - Firm punishment and hand-wringers

So, the courts are being firm with rioters. Clearly, a riot is an aggravating factor for any crime and couple that with the fear imposed on whole communities it is right and proper that rioters be punished at the upper end of the scale for their actions. That hasn't stopped the professional do-gooders though, who have complained both about the length of sentences and supposed inconsistencies. For the former it is both a matter of deterrence and public confidence. People who may be considering involvement in a future riot will be brought up short by what has happened to the very large number of those caught for mayhem this time. No-one can argue that people are getting off with a slap on the wrist, and the fact that so many people have been arrested and processed so rapidly should make all but the thickest potential rioter think again. As for inconsistencies, sentencing is not an automatic process and reflects the details of a particular case. The idea that punishments should be drawn from a tightly drawn set of rules regardless of circumstance is actually quite illiberal.

This plays into public confidence. Consider a parallel universe where the police had been less vigorous and the courts had been handing out community service orders for assaults and property damage. Ordinary people would conclude that the system was not there to protect them and would act on that, abandoning high streets or whole areas and engaging in vigilante actions to protect themselves, because who else would be doing it? Society would be seen as distorted in favour of criminals and the loss of faith in our country and institutions would be corrosive. However, this hasn't stopped some talking heads telling us that the poor, misunderstood rioters shouldn't be treated so badly.

My take on this is that if you don't want to do the time, and incidently probably mess up the rest of your life with that criminal record, then don't do the crime. As for those two clowns who used Facebook to try and organise riots in their own communities and got four years apiece for it. All I can say is LOL.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Riots - fools argue the case for doing nothing

There are pretty standard techniques in politics when you don't want anything to happen. One is to seek to widen whatever the issue is until it becomes too broad to be addressed. So, let's link the riots to bankers and MPs expenses or better yet the morals of our entire society. Then argue that unless you fix all of that you can't or shouldn't do anything. This is pretty much Miliband's approach, and that of many commentators on the left, and a few on the right. You see it sounds all grown-up and the voice of wisdom, when in reality it is an abdication of any practical measures. In this case it means having a high-level debate about public morality while dismissing any other measure as 'knee-jerk'. Let's leave our estates under the control of criminal gangs and don't make any practical policing and criminal justice changes while we let the leader writer's pontificate. It's a recipe for people in leafy suburbs or nice detached cottages to feel good about themselves because they aren’t just condemning the criminals who torched our city centres. Of course, while they are off being mature those same inner cities have to deal with criminal thugs who are effectively being protected by the people for whom extended debate is a substitute for action. In fact, these are people who actually hold those who advocate action with contempt.

This approach melds into the second great way to make sure that nothing changes, which is to hold a public enquiry, Miliband's second great idea. So, everything is put on hold until the enquiry reports, which typically takes a year or two. Then the measures that it proposes may or may not be adopted. Meanwhile on the ground nothing changes, which is, of course, what certain people want.

It is one thing for a fool like Miliband to adopt a policy of doing nothing. After all, anything else would mean confronting his own prejudices that families don't matter and that the only issue is how much public money is thrown at a problem. I do find it depressing when those on the right start to ape his language, as if dealing with financial regulation will help the family living next door to a bunch of 'gangstas' on one of our inner-city estates. To those people I simply say that the majority of the public are simply not interested in your hot air and want the primary problems of criminals and gangs dealt with.

If you don't understand that then you need to get out more.