BRITISH criminal justice is pathetic. By default, British police are observers rather than enforcers, lest they become ‘victims’ of complaint. They are most reticent where ‘minorities’ are majorities locally, lest the complaints be racialised. They are reticent also where protesters organise themselves with ‘legal observers’ and journalists. These factors came together when ‘Extinction Rebellion’ shut down thoroughfares and bridges in central London last week.
The police were forewarned, but stood around in large groups socialising. They danced with protesters, shared skateboards, and expressed support.
The head of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, was reduced to urging protesters to move. And where does she want them to move? Not home, so protesters and authorities can negotiate a march. No, she wants them to camp in the little park around Marble Arch, which they will befoul and destroy – more than the migrants who already camp there and are ignored by the law.
Cressida Dick exaggerates the challenge. On Saturday evening she said she had never seen such a scale of arrests in all her career, but ignored the riots of August 2011. She said her force had made more than 750 arrests in six days, but thousands had broken the law, refused to comply until the last moment, then moved on a few yards, while only those who had chained or glued themselves to vehicles or other obstacles were inevitably arrested. Only 28 were charged. On media, protesters boasted of being released after arrest and returning to the fray. New arrivals were keen to tell journalists that they were prepared to be arrested. That’s easy to say without consequences.
Who suffers most? Rule-followers who pay their taxes to fund apathetic public servants, who have jobs but can’t get to work, who have businesses but can’t receive customers.
The costs will linger beyond the immediate disruption. London again looks unsafe and unreliable. Potential visitors, businesses, and investors were already discouraged by riots in 2011, an explosion of violent crime since 2017, perpetual protests against Brexit, the self-segregation of districts into ethnic and religious enclaves, over-crowding, decaying infrastructure, and the collapse of good manners, service and safety (starting at London Heathrow airport).
We should admit that the police are badly led by the Crown Prosecution Service, judges, and politicians. Amazingly, our current explosion in crime has occurred under nearly nine years of Conservative government, except it’s really fake conservatism, as fashioned by David Cameron and Theresa May, who was Home Secretary before she succeeded him as premier in July 2016.
Police can rightly blame Conservative cuts – they employed fewer personnel in fiscal year 2016-2017 than at any time in 30 years. Central government funding fell from fiscal year 2011 to 2016 by about as much as it had soared from 1998 to 2010. By July 2018, police officers were at their lowest count in 36 years. Fewer than 10 per cent of crimes led to an indictment. Homicides reached a ten-year peak. Knife crimes and acid attacks reached record highs. May’s government turned the funding back on in autumn 2018, but not as much as needed, because fake conservatives still seek to outspend Labour on healthcare and welfare.
The fake conservatives have ruined law enforcement with policy, not just under-funding. For instance, May stopped stop-and-search in 2014, pandering to criticisms of apparent racism, even though the Home Office had shown that whites were likeliest to be stopped (controlling for local demographics and propensity to be on the streets). Her dishonesty wasn’t exposed until 2018. May’s policy contributed to the resignation of her successor as Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, in April 2018, coincident with re-introduction of stop-and-search.
Rudd’s successor Sajid Javid is marketing himself as a potential leader – not by being tough on crime, but by talking about himself as a victim, and promising ‘a public health approach that will help our hard-working teachers, health workers and social workers support young people at risk of getting drawn into crime’. Notice there’s no mention of law enforcement.
The CPS is still obsessed with prosecuting hate crimes and sex crimes as if the accused is already guilty. By April 2018, every rape case in the country was under review after the collapse of four such trials within two months, when critical evidence was disclosed just days before cases were due to be heard in court. The Government declined to extend the contract of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, after five years.
Why didn’t the government fire her? Because it wanted to be seen as right on with liberal/progressive fashions. Hate crimes and sex crimes continue to be prioritised as subjective experiences, such that hundreds of police officers are dedicated to cautioning people against, for instance, ‘misgendering’ on Twitter.
Judges have contributed to this madness by making excuses for criminals, such as poverty, youthfulness, and cultural difference. Politicians encourage them. Justice Secretary David Gauke and Prisons Minister Rory Stewart say that prison sentences of six months or less should be abolished, because prisons are crowded and violent. Criminals jailed for six months or less have committed 50 previous offences on average. These are the serial offenders that the government wants to keep on the streets. Most offenders never go to jail. The solution to crowded prisons is to build more prisons, and to enforce the law as deterrent to breaking the law in the first place.
Yes, police are badly led by politicians, prosecutors, and judges. However, they need to take responsibility for their own part in the shift from law enforcement to crime observation.
The police were rightly criticised for degrading the seriousness of crime, or not recording it at all, so they could report to Tony Blair’s New Labour government that crime was falling. That problem did not end with Blair’s government. In April 2018, May’s government revealed that police forces in England and Wales measure knife crime in different ways so as to under-report it. One wonders what on earth the Home Office does with its time if it can’t even standardise crime reporting.
The riots of August 2011 were rightly blamed on the shift from law enforcement to making communities feel safe, which leads to de-policing, appeasing and pandering to the noisiest groups. Police stood by while buildings and cars were burnt and shops looted, oblivious to violent crimes hidden in the smoke. After a few days police started to enforce the law, but by then they had lost control of city centres all over the country, and the courts would be backlogged for months. Nevertheless, the scale of law enforcement was minor compared to the scale of crimes – about 1,000 indictments against hundreds of millions of pounds in damage, hundreds of victims of violence, theft and vandalism, and at least five murders.
A repeat of those riots is likelier with every public display of police apathy.
And it’s not just policing that puts social relations ahead of law enforcement. Our borders are barely controlled. Illegal entrants need only to claim asylum to be given accommodation and income without any prima facie adjudication. Even if they lie, even if they hijack planes to get here, even if they escape justice in their home countries, British courts will excuse them for duress and will treat being here as a right to remain.
On top of that, we have rule-breaking by our law-makers. Members of Parliament betray their commitments to implement the referendum, betray their manifestos, amend legislated Brexit dates as convenient, vote in Parliament while on parole, break precedent when Remainers want to motion policy and ram through pro-Remain statutes without due deliberation, while refusing to table pro-Brexit statutes.
From borders to streets to legislature, Britain’s authorities are developing a society in which the law doesn’t matter – and that is no society at all.