Monday, November 12, 2012
Crime in Britain ISN'T falling, it's just that we've given up trying to combat it
Has anything been happening while much of our media have been obsessed with a foreign contest between two mediocrities for a post that isn’t as important as it looks?
Well, how about this blood-freezing statistic? More than 50 rapists have been let off with cautions, without ever facing a trial.
No doubt you thought that cautions were the sort of thing they gave to teenagers found drunk and flat on their faces in the street. But rape? Isn’t that important?
In fact, isn’t it – thanks to political correctness – one of the few crimes that everyone still takes seriously, even Guardian readers? And more than 50 rapists, who have admitted the offence, have been given cautions for it? Shouldn’t the Government have fallen?
You might expect the Tories to make a fuss about this but – now of course you remember – the Tories are in this Government and, in fact, dominate it.
Actually, this is only a small part of a much bigger problem uncovered by the Magistrates’ Association, whose members had begun to wonder why business in their courts was getting so slack. Had crime stopped?
No, it hadn’t. Something else had happened. Criminals, the Government and the police were co-operating in a vast project which benefits everyone except the British public.
The police benefit because they look as if they’re doing something, when they’re not. The criminals benefit because they get let off so they can go and commit more crimes. And the Government benefits because it does not have to build the hundred or so huge new prisons that would be needed to house malefactors if we still took crime seriously.
Actually, it’s far worse than I can fully state here, a horrible catalogue of unpunished evil, under which severe violence, child cruelty, burglary and even blackmail have been dealt with through the law’s equivalent of a shrug.
I plan to put a much fuller version of this scandal on my blog in the next few days, drawn from the jaw-dropping report by the Magistrates’ Association which should by now have been on every newspaper front page in the country.
When you read – as you often do – that ‘crime is falling’, you must understand what this really means. It means that large numbers of wicked acts are no longer considered as crimes by the authorities. If we had the standards of 60 years ago, half the young people in the country would be locked up.
If the police and courts of that era had judged crime by our standards, their prisons would have been empty.
It is not crime that has fallen, it is partly our own moral standard, our expectation of good, considerate, honest behaviour from our neighbours that has fallen.
But it is also that the police and the Government, seeking a quiet life, have found it easier and cheaper to ignore wrongdoing until it gets out of control.
Like all appeasement of evil, this policy invites a reckoning in the future.
An SAS hero has been jailed for possessing a "war trophy" pistol presented to him by the Iraqi Army for outstanding service
A token of British gun hysteria
Sgt Danny Nightingale, a special forces sniper who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to 18 months in military detention by a court martial last week. His sentence was described last night as the "betrayal of a war hero", made worse because it was handed down in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.
Sgt Nightingale had planned to fight the charge of illegally possessing the 9mm Glock. But his lawyer said he pleaded guilty after being warned that he could otherwise face a five-year sentence.
The soldier had hoped for leniency given the circumstances. At the court martial, even the prosecution described him as a serviceman of exemplary character, who had served his country for 17 years, 11 in the special forces.
The court was told that he returned to Britain in a hurry after two friends were killed in Iraq, leaving his equipment - including the pistol - to be packed up by colleagues.
It accepted evidence from expert witnesses that he suffered severe memory loss due to a brain injury.
Judge Advocate Alistair McGrigor, presiding over the court martial, could have spared the soldier prison by passing a suspended sentence. Instead he handed down the custodial term.
Sgt Nightingale and his family chose to waive the anonymity usually given to members of the special forces. His wife, Sally, said her husband's sentence was a "disgrace". She called him a "hero who had been betrayed". She said she and the couple's two daughters, aged two and five, faced losing their home after his Army pay was stopped.
The soldier's former commanding officer and politicians have called for the sentence to be overturned.
Lt Col Richard Williams, who won a Military Cross in Afghanistan in 2001 and was Sgt Nightingale's commanding officer in Iraq, said the sentence "clearly needed to be overturned immediately".
He said: "His military career has been ruined and his wife and children face being evicted from their home - this is a total betrayal of a man who dedicated his life to the service of his country."
Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former infantry officer, said he planned to take up the case with the Defence Secretary. Simon McKay, Sgt Nightingale's lawyer, said: "On Remembrance Sunday, when the nation remembers its war heroes, my client - one of their number - is in a prison cell. "I consider the sentence to be excessive and the basis of the guilty plea unsafe. It is a gross miscarriage of justice and grounds of appeal are already being prepared."
In 2007, Sgt Nightingale was serving in Iraq as a member of Task Force Black, a covert counter-terrorist unit that conducted operations under orders to capture and kill members of al-Qaeda. He also helped train members of a secret counter-terrorist force called the Apostles. At the end of the training he was presented with the Glock, which he planned to donate to his regiment as a war trophy.
But in November 2007, two of Sgt Nightingale's closest friends, Sgt John Battersby and Cpl Lee Fitzsimmons, were killed in a helicopter crash. He accompanied both bodies back to Britain and helped arrange the funerals.
In Iraq, his equipment was packed by colleagues, one of whom placed the pistol inside a container that was sent first to the SAS regimental headquarters in Hereford, then to his home where it remained unopened until 2010.
In 2009, Sgt Nightingale, now a member of the SAS selection staff, took part in a 200-mile fund-raising trek in Brazil. He collapsed after 30 miles and fell into a coma for three days. He recovered but his memory was severely damaged, according to two expert witnesses, including Prof Michael Kopleman of King's College, London, an authority on memory loss.
In May, 2010, Sgt Nightingale was living in a house with another soldier close to the regiment's headquarters when he was posted to Afghanistan at short notice.
During the tour, his housemate's estranged wife claimed her husband had assaulted her and kept a stash of ammunition in the house. West Mercia Police raided the house and found the Glock, still in its container.
Sgt Nightingale's court martial did not dispute that the pistol had been a gift. It accepted statements from expert witnesses, including Dr Susan Young, a forensic psychologist also from King's College, London. She said that he probably had no recollection that he had the gun.
The court also accepted that Sgt Nightingale had suffered severe memory loss. But the judge did not believe that he had no recollection of being in possession of the weapon.
British Conservative group argues for independent press regulation
The "wets" are still around
Any new media regulator must be independent of the press, an influential group of Conservatives has argued.
Proposals advanced by the newspaper industry "risk being an unstable model destined to fail", the group argued in a letter signaling possible support for a limited form of statutory regulation.
Four former cabinet ministers were among those who signed it.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has suggested he opposes state regulation of the press, but some of his Tory party colleagues could be more open to it, their intervention indicates.
In their letter, which was published in the Guardian, 42 MPs and two peers said they "agree with the prime minister that obsessive argument about the principle of statutory regulation can cloud the debate".
But they add that forms of statutory regulation in broadcasting and other professions have been proven to work.
"The Jimmy Savile scandal was exposed by ITV and the Winterbourne View care home scandal was exposed by the BBC, both of which are regulated by the Broadcasting Act," they write. "While no one is suggesting similar laws for newspapers, it is not credible to suggest that broadcasters such as Sky News, ITV or the BBC have their agenda dictated by the government of the day."
They agreed that "no one wants our media controlled by the government" but stressed that in order to be credible, "any new regulator must be independent of the press as well as from politician."
They went on: "We are concerned that the current proposal put forward by the newspaper industry would lack independence and risks being an unstable model destined to fail, like previous initiatives over the past 60 years."
Signatories include the former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, two former party chairmen Caroline Spelman and Lord Fowler, and the former chief whip Lord Ryder.
According to one of the figures behind the letter, the intention was to break the so-called siege of Downing Street by the newspaper industry and enable Mr Cameron to engage with Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.
It is also the first sign that the Conservatives will not respond with a universal opposition to legal regulation of the industry.
The findings of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards are due to be published at the end of this month.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said earlier this week that the Coalition should support the inquiry's findings as long as its proposals were "proportionate."
But Mr Cameron said earlier this month: "We must wait for what Lord Leveson says. I don't want to pre-judge it. We don't want heavy-handed state intervention. We've got to have a free press."
Senior Tories have also previously made it clear they have deep concerns about a move towards state regulation of the media, fearing it could hamper it from investigating wrongdoing.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, last week said ministers should be "very, very, very reluctant" to bring in new laws regulating the press after the Leveson inquiry.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has also opposed state-backed regulation of the press.
Under-used holiday homes should be bought up by councils, union argues
GMB, the campaigning union with 610,000 members, said second home owners should be forced to forgo properties they used for only a few weeks a year.
It argued that councils should have the power to levy taxation on underused holiday homes and empty properties.
Referring to recent figures which showed that more than 170,000 people owned a second home in Britain, the union suggested that those who used them for just a few weeks a year brought little value to local economies.
Instead of being allowed to languish, local authorities should be given powers for compulsory purchase in areas with acute housing need, it was claimed.
Paul Kenny, the general secretary of the GMB, said: "In many areas, urgent action is needed to ascertain if properties used as holiday homes are actually in use at all.
"A holiday home that is only used for a few weeks a year is very different to a holiday home that is occupied for most of the year in terms of its economic benefits to any locality.
"A holiday home that is used only a few weeks a year at a time when there are families in bed and breakfast accommodation gives rise to fundamental questions on the role and power of the local authority on the use of residential property in its area.
"We believe that under the Localism Act, local councils should have the power to levy taxation on under-used holiday homes and other empty properties.
"In areas with acute housing need, questions should be raised in the council chamber as to whether under-used houses should be subject to compulsory purchase."
More than 40,000 people have a holiday home in the South West of England. Another 30,000 people own a holiday home in Wales..
More than 10,000 people from outside Cornwall own a home in the county, while the figure for Gwynedd in North Wales was 7,700 and almost 5,000 in north Norfolk.
Sue Pittendrigh, owner of Second Home Services, said she believed it ought to be a human right for property owners to do what they like with their own homes.
"I think it's disgusting," she said of the proposal. "I would never support that."
"Holiday homes provide work for people and have benefits for tourism. People work hard to buy them, often as an investment, and many intend to retire to it later; they are already contributing to the local economy."
Dan Rogerson MP, Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, has previously argued for a higher rate of council tax for second homes, saying owning a piece of his constituency then leaving it empty "helps nobody".
"There are now whole villages where the lights are off for all of the winter, which is heartbreaking for local communities and leaves a gaping hole in the local economy," he has said.
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said new legislation had already given councils the flexibility to remove council tax relief for second or empty homes.
"The Government is also determined to pull out all the stops to get new homes built," he said.
"That's why to date the Government has sold enough formerly used surplus public sector land to deliver 33,000 new homes, why we're investing £19.5 billion public and private funding in a programme to deliver 170,000 affordable homes."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.