Sunday, 26 September 2010

Crime reform

The Big Man at the Inspectorate of Constabulary has confirmed what so very many people had long suspected. The Police had given up on antisocial behaviour. For whatever reason one subscribes to, there were too few bobbies on their beats. This could well be a ruse to save Forces from cutbacks said to be as much as 25%; I'll not explore that idea.

Regardless of what is done, the police are in the hands of many other agencies. Social Services may want to chip their oar in. Local authorities will have policies. The Prosecution Services will mull things over. And then there are the judiciary who jealously guard their status in deciding what punishments should be awarded. Nicking the antisocial is one thing but it starts off a veritable Snakes and Ladders process.

The very title of Antisocial Behaviour means nothing and leaves open the way that 'high spirits' is differentiated from, say, Causing Criminal Damage. If offences were to be charged as found in the existing criminal law the way in which an offender is dealt with is much simplified and capable of being understood by the lay person. Breaking wind in a lift is antisocial but (thank goodness) not a crime.

A founder of modern policing laid down
the principles under which they should consider their duties."1 / The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
2 / The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.
3 / Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
4 / The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
5 / Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
6 / Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.
7 / Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
8 / Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
9 / The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it."
That little lot would seem to cover much that hides under the stone of antisocial behaviour. And before we leave the wisdom of Robert Peel he also said "His central notion was that "the police are the public and the public are the police". The police, wrote Peel, are only members of the public who are "paid to give full-time attention to duties incumbent on every citizen".

He argued that the effectiveness of the police in preventing crime depended on public support. The police would gain this by showing absolute impartiality, by offering service to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or status, and "by ready exercise of courtesy and good humour". Force should only be used as a last resort.

Socialist principles of seeking to treat all of the community as equals have gone too far. Some parents take care of what their offspring learn from them and well-behaved others. Other parents give not a damn with the results we have seen. One sees on the TV coverage of where uniformed police interact with young hoodies. There is absolutely no sign of any respect for the uniform or what it should represent. The most foul language from children of about 7 or 8 years of age goes unchecked. This disrespect continues up the age band. The days when juveniles respected adults and the aged have long gone. They are - in short terms - uncontrollable. This what must be put right. Like it or lump it, people need to be made very well aware that the majority expect them to conform to the rules that we need to bind us together.

The concept that we all have the same rights each with another has to be re-examined. Any juvenile - say under 18 years of age - who causes trouble of the sort now described as anti-social needs a short sharp shock and left in no doubt that they must change their ways. If the parents are unable or do not assist in this process, it should be made very clear that the offender will be removed from their control and handed over to the State for corrective re-induction as a reasonably behaving individual.

'Short sharp shock' may suggest National Service or "Sisters of Mercy" running laundries in Ireland. That is exactly what it is not. Ritualised cruelty will change a person but it will rarely alter their personality. I was put through National Service in a Corps that demanded high levels of instant compliance with orders and high personal standards. I saw the toughest of feral youth come in full of resentment and animosity to all. Eighteen weeks later we all marched off the barrack square with everyone committed to upholding the tradition and honour of the Corps that had just accepted us. At no time had I seen any physical violence used towards any of them. Certainly, there was verbal abuse but it was always out in the open and we all understood why correction was needed. We were taught that we could rely on the man next to us and he on us. The need for uniformity of conduct was illustrated. The smelly learnt to shower. The drinker learned to control his consumption. Being the odd man out in a room of maybe 40 others can be very uncomfortable. Once the 'hard men' realised that there was no way they could beat the system, things moved ahead much faster and easier for us all.

How this might be accomplished is something I cannot assist with - I am an old man well out of touch with modern thinking. When I was still a teenager, we had Dr Barnado homes Many local authorities ran Homes for Unmarried Mothers - not all these were the brutal prison many imagine. What worked then could be revised, updated and re-used. They provided valuable training for youngsters, trainee nurses and midwives and ongoing care for the mothers.

I speak about the need to inculcate respect for authority - dissing in street slang.In their milieu of gangland, to diss someone is regarded as a serious offence and may well lead to murder. So, they know the concept. All they need to take on board the others that it does not pay to diss.

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