We have thousands of laws, most accumulated over centuries, though some 60 per cent of the new ones have been kindly bestowed on us by the EU.
Since, fingers crossed, we’ll soon be ineligible for such charity, we’ll find that we need no help from the EU to destroy the best legal system the world has ever seen.
Yes, we have thousands of laws, big and small. But that whole sprawling structure rests on relatively few supports, the underlying core principles whose removal would bring the whole structure down.
You know, things like presumption of innocence, double jeopardy, the right not to give self-incriminating evidence (called the Fifth Amendment by Americans, most of whom don’t realise that the English concept predated the US Constitution by some 600 years), habeas corpus – and equality of all before the law.
It’s this last support that has been wantonly kicked out by the Sentencing Council led by Lord Chief Justice Thomas. The Council has issued new guidelines, according to which criminals from racial and other minorities should receive lighter punishments. This is the first time in our legal history that race is officially declared a mitigating circumstance.
I can’t think off-hand of a more subversive measure and one that can do comparable long-term harm. Actually, take that back. There have been a few similar developments lately.
During the tenure of John Major, the concept of double jeopardy was for all intents ditched. The right not to give self-incriminating evidence (and not to have the refusal to do so treated as an admission of guilt) suffered the same fate under Tony Blair.
Neither presumption of innocence until proven guilty nor habeas corpus is doing so well, considering that any number of (admittedly hideous) British subjects have been held at Guantanamo for years without a formal charge.
And now m’lords are burying the sacred principle of equality of all before the law, obviously not realising that the legal buttresses of the realm are being dumped into the same hole.
The new rules tell the courts to give lighter sentences when young offenders have ‘deprived homes, poor parental employment records, low educational attainment, and early experience of offending by other family members’.
Now it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to suggest that few criminals are classically educated youngsters coming from cultured well-to-do families run by successfully employed parents who’ve never as much as received a speeding fine. TV crime dramas may give the impression that tweedy middle-aged gentlemen commit many, if not most, crimes, but reality is alas dramatically different.
However, should such a gentleman now commit a crime, he’d be treated more severely than a ghetto black or a representative of some other minority. Sounds discriminatory, doesn’t it?
I wonder if I qualify for preferential treatment. Hope so. If I ever murder a BBC Radio 3 presenter, this will be my line of defence.
Is this coz I’s from Russia, Your Honour? If you read my book How the Future Worked, you’ll find that, in addition to being an ethnic minority, I grew up in a poorer family than any existing in Britain, lived in a smelly communal flat where six families shared the same loo, bathroom and kitchen, and suffered discrimination throughout my life there. I simply had to strangle that objectionable woman mouthing pseud nonsense in that giggly, plummy voice – it’s on account of my childhood, Your Honour. It ain’t me who done it, it’s the deprived child inside me. Seen The West Side Story? I’s like them criminals there, depraved coz I’s deprived.
According to the guidelines, “There is also evidence to suggest that black and minority ethnic children and young people are over-represented in the youth justice system.” You say children, I say vicious criminals. But yes, the statistical observation is true.
So what? And why do those feral children commit a disproportionate number of crimes? Could it be because of the prevailing liberal mindset waging war on the notion of individual responsibility for one’s actions? Because of the inverse racism of those who believe that blacks must be mollycoddled because they can’t possibly live up to the normal standards of civilised behaviour?
Then Lord Justice Treacy uttered the words that in one fell swoop mocked the millennia of the Judaeo-Christian moral tradition, according to which all individuals are moral agents, rather than puppets whose wires are pulled by society.
“Children,” he declared, “should not be blamed for factors beyond their control.” That denies those ‘children’ their fundamental humanity, with the implication that the crimes they commit are all society’s fault. What about law-abiding, hard-working people from the same backgrounds? How do you suppose they feel? I’d be offended if I were them.
What are the functions of custodial sentences? First, justice: meting out a punishment commensurate with the crime. Second, restoration of social tranquillity: justice is seen to have been done, and respect for the law grows. Third: deterrence, making sure others will think twice before breaking the law. A distant fourth: rehabilitation, making the criminal a better person coming out than he was going in.
The new guidelines fail monumentally on all four counts. And that’s the least of their problems. They attack the very essence of our civilisation, than which no greater crime exists.