21 July 2006

More changes to the criminal justice system


Sweeping changes to the criminal justice system, including scrapping 'soft' sentences introduced only last year, were announced yesterday by the Home Secretary. John Reid told the Commons that criminal justice practitioners would be given better training and access to a hotline providing advice on "how rights should be balanced between offenders and the wider community". Mr Reid said: "The current rules are too restrictive. We want judges to have more discretion ... where the evidence against the defendant is overwhelming." (today's Daily Telegraph)

Once again, our government responds to the chaos and mismanagement resulting from too many laws and schemes, and a mindless zeal for reform, by introducing yet more laws and schemes.

Reacting to the negative effects of mediocracy (= rule of the mediocre, style over substance) by having even more mediocracy is symptomatic of the Blair administration. Underlying this latest example is the other chief symptom of New Labour - dislike of civil liberty. Past experience suggests that by "balancing rights between offenders and the wider community" this government means "dismantling civil liberties which are not required because the modern state can do no wrong". Giving judges "more discretion" also works against the individual, if one is less able to know the law in advance.

As always, the problem is assumed to be soluble by expanding the state apparatus still further, or by providing those who are making foolish decisions, based on foolish rules, with "more training".