First things first. Very exciting news. Following my blog (Jack It In) about the folly of prosecuting journalists involved in alleged misconduct in public office, the good news is that the CPS have taken on board my submissions and will not seek a retrial following the successful appeal of one of the journalists. The bad news is that Ms. Saunders, the misdirected Director of Public Prosecutions, has taken charge of an intensive review of all similar prosecutions in the light of the critical judgment by the Court of Appeal. She and a team of lawyers will be working through the Easter break to decide whether to proceed with a further eight pending trials. I can hardly contain my excitement! If I were she, and I am not, I’d take my advice and jack it in, lock stock and barrel. It is doing her and the CPS no credit whatsoever in trying to argue the unarguable, and with a total bill to date of £20 million, time to cut and run.
As the countdown to the General Election gathers pace (yawn yawn), the two main parties vie with each other over crime and punishment. It is a sad reality that so-called right minded people, also known as middle England, see successive governments as soft on crime, and demand ever more draconian measures to punish offenders. It is also a sad reality that rehabilitation is a dirty word, as it is akin to going soft on crime, and is definitely not a vote winner.
The statistics are instructive. When this coalition government was cobbled together in May 2010, the prisons were grossly overcrowded, with a total of 85600 prisoners serving custodial sentences. The coalition government undertook to reduce the prison population to save costs, and 80000 was the primary target.
There are essentially two obvious ways to achieve this objective: the first is to send fewer people to prison, and the second is to release them under licence into the community once they have served the custodial element of their sentence. Neither is working, as the prison population is as high as ever. All the problems associated with overcrowding are still with us, and still middle England bays for blood, or at least longer and longer custodial sentences.
My old chum Harry Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice and now Lord Woolf of Barnes, is scathing about successive governments and their refusal to tackle these problems. He is reported as saying: “Most politicians believe there are no votes in prisons and mistakenly think there are votes in being toughest on crime.”
It is worth remembering that a civilised society is judged by the way it treats its most disadvantaged citizens. Overcrowding, poor hygiene, lack of facilities, violence, little or no rehabilitation and more, all combine to create a flawed system where the rate of re-offending is frighteningly high, and so it goes on, a self-perpetuating shambles which, according to Lord Woolf, no politician wants to address.