Monday, 30 January 2012

Political crimes

It is good to learn that the appeal for Chris Carter has reached its target.

He has the support of the British Constitution Group among others.  This is not a group I have studied in detail (an introductory video is here, uploaded to Youtube in August 2011), but I understand it to be a group that favours national rather than supranational government, and would prefer us to be subject to UK laws rather than those of the EC, or the UN.

Personally I don't find the Union Jack a particularly appealing symbol (it was used heavily by the far right when I was growing up).  I also find the headline of the piece on Chris quite strong ('One law for smokers ... another for rapists and paedophiles'), to say nothing of the fact that it is linked to the Daily Mail.  (Oh dear – my prejudices are showing themselves.) And the introduction of the piece is almost hysterical:
'Rapists, paedophiles and kidnappers were among the serious criminals getting away with just a caution...1,405 offenders received a ticking off rather than facing the full force of the law in 2010 - including 22 rapists and 144 who had sex with girls under the legal age.'
One thousand, four hundred and five out of how many serious criminals are getting away with a caution? Does that represent a substantial proportion of perpetrators, or not? It looks more like an attempt to shock than a reasoned comparison, or even an attempt to inform the public.

That said, there is a clear point that somebody convicted for an essentially trivial offence (smoking in a town hall, for heaven's sake) with political ramifications is pursued doggedly, and no one points out that in this kind of case short sentences just don't work. It is suggested that a political  offence  is likely to attract a stronger reaction from the authorities than criminal behaviour that actually endangers public safety.

It goes on:
Firstly, the Smoking (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 was made on 14th November, 2006 by the Privy Council. Counsellors (sic) present included Sir Brian Leveson and Elish Angiolini. Secondly, the judges who blocked Chris Carter's submissions from reaching the Supreme Court have also been found to be Privy Counsellors. 
Of course people who make legislative orders should not participate in judging those who breach them.       Legislative process does matter, as does the separation of powers. It is completely wrong that anyone involved in the body that passed the smoking ban legislation in Ireland should be in a position to deny Chris Carter his right of appeal.

This document from the Council of the European Union discusses smoking ban enforcement:
43. When active enforcement begins, many jurisdictions recommend the use of high-profile prosecutions to enhance deterrence. By identifying prominent violators who have actively defied the law or who are well known in the community, by taking firm and swift action and by seeking maximum public awareness of these activities, authorities are able to demonstrate their resolve and the seriousness of the law. This increases voluntary compliance and reduces the resources needed for future monitoring and enforcement.
For 'firm and swift action', read draconian measures. Lighting up in a town hall is an offence only because it defies political dogma.


Anonymous said...

Guido Fawkes Blog

Comment 45

strange bed fellow said...

Terrific blog piece. I also appreciated the article which pointed out the abuse of separation of powers-it's important these things are exposed,(though I did find the info about the 1,400 serious offenders more of a distraction than a useful comparison)congratulations also to its author.

Keep up the good work.

Belinda said...

agreed SBF: abuses of process are what this is all about.