There isn’t a government in the world that doesn’t promise to do something about the soaring crime rate. Most of such promises fall by the wayside, only to be renewed close to the next election – with the same effect.
Not so in Britain. As a British subject, I’m proud of my country for leading the world in crime-fighting ingenuity.
As a nation prone to intellectual inquiry, the British first established a philosophical premise. It started with a question: What is crime? Many answers are possible, but the logical British mind boiled them all down to a crystallised essential: Crime is doing something illegal.
Neither you nor I would know where to go from that seemingly self-evident definition. But then neither you nor I possess a keen legal mind with a philosophical bent. Our powers that be are so endowed, which is why they came up with an idea as simple as most inventions of genius appear to be at first glance.
If nothing is illegal, then, as follows from the above definition, there is no crime. Or put another way, there are no lawbreakers if there are no laws to break. Hence the solution to the delinquency problem offers itself: legalise crime.
Now, legalising all crime would be a bit extreme. Murder, for example, has to remain outside the law, for now. But practically everything short of it can be classified as ‘low-level crime’ and left uninvestigated, unprosecuted and unpunished.
Fine, if you insist laws against such crimes can remain on the books, no harm in that. But as long as those books remain unread and indeed unopened, they are left gathering dust on the shelves. They have nothing to do with real life.
In real life, only 3 per cent of assaults without injury result in criminal charges, 1 per cent of thefts from vehicles, 2 per cent of thefts of vehicles, 4 per cent of burglaries, 1 per cent of bicycle thefts – and so on, ad infinitum.
Victims of such crimes no longer even bother to report them: they know the police have more important things to worry about, such as hate crime, saying something someone takes exception to, as reported by The Guardian. First things first, eh?
Such reticent resignation is understandable. Last summer, for example, 751 bicycle thefts were reported to Hampshire police alone. Criminal charges? None – even though the thieves mostly cut through bike locks with angle grinders in broad daylight.
Also in Hampshire, 288 people were pickpocketed. No charges. During the same three months, Thames Valley had 340 cases of blackmail. No charges. Gwent reported 391 cases of non-life-threatening arson. No charges. Warwickshire, 66 burglaries. No charges. So why waste time reporting ‘low-level’ crimes? No reason at all.
If you cast your eye over the list of crimes our legal minds regard as low-level, you’ll see they are all committed against the person or against personal property. That’s basically the same thing: crime against property are actually crimes against the owners of property.
One would be justified to conclude that the government is lackadaisical about enforcing criminal laws in general. Yet I can refute that conclusion with two words: Boris Becker.
Last April the former tennis champion was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison after being found guilty of four charges under the Insolvency Act, hiding assets in a bankruptcy case. Becker served eight months in HMP Wandsworth and Huntercombe Prison, where he was “surrounded by murderers, drug dealers, people smugglers”.
“The British justice system is brutal,” complained Becker. In no way condoning what he did, one has to agree, especially if one were to compare his transgression with burglary, theft, assault and arson that have for all intents and purposes been decriminalised.
Becker left out a crucial word. He should have said that “the British justice system is selectively brutal”. It decides which crimes are low-level, to be left unprosecuted, and which are high-level, to be punished with maximum severity.
Hence stealing a bike from a man who might have had to save up for a year to buy it is just a little innocent fun. However, anyone withholding funds from the Exchequer, be that tax evasion or violating the Insolvency Act, will be pursued to the ends of the earth. He’ll then be thrown into prison, where he may or may not survive contact with “murderers, drug dealers, people smugglers”.
And now the real conclusion: our state’s justice system is increasingly designed to look only after number one, which is the state. Originally instituted to protect the individual, the state has evolved to protect itself – first and foremost.
In 1948 Vittorio de Sica made the film Bicycle Thief, about a poor man who can’t look for a job because his bike has been stolen. He goes to the police, who tell him there is little they can do.
De Sica gets top marks for prescience. What’s going on now is a striking case of British life imitating Italian art.
6 thoughts on “Crime problem, solved”
Alas you identify a real problem: How far should Society go to pursue crime? Is it now going not far enough?
Like you, I deprecate the present situation if it really is as you describe: but once Society decides to slacken its pursuit the incidence of “minor” crime is certain to increase until eventually the size of the increase leads to an increase in the severity of response. Crime and Punishment are generally in an unstable equilibrium, the point of balance oscillating perpetually (?) between poles.
Please, if you can, tell us how to avoid this distressing situation.
”Gwent reported 391 cases of non-life-threatening arson. ”
All arson to a structure is said to be “life-threatening”. It must always be assumed that someone might be inside the “structure” and their life threatened. At least USA.
I think I can proudly claim that California is once again a world leader, albeit in a fashion that I’d rather we weren’t. For years we have been ignoring theft of items totaling less than $950. San Francisco started the ball rolling under District Attorney George Gascon. Impressed by the sewer that San Francisco has become, Los Angeles welcomed George with open arms in 2020. He has since instituted similar policies there. My friends on the police force have told me that criminals are well aware of the difference in prosecution between Los Angeles and Orange counties, and are sure to stay on the L.A. side.
Not to be outdone, our state Supreme Court (supreme in their ignorance, I guess) has ruled that sentencing criminals to time in our overcrowded prisons is in violation of the Federal Constitution’s provision against cruel and unusual punishment. That obviously takes precedence over their remit to keep the public safe.
Three cheers for the republic!
While listing crimes that went unpunished it might be helpful to note there are still crimes that send the police force scurrying to action. For example, in 2016 (the latest year for which I can find statistics – probably due to the filtering done by all of the popular search engines) over 3,300 people were arrested in Great Britain for “offensive” online postings. The keyboard is deemed more dangerous than any weapon in the hands of the mugger/burglar/arsonist/thief.
This most detestable of crimes is defined as:
127 Improper use of public electronic communications network
(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other
matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character;
As has been noted in this space, as long as the offended party is able to define the terms (what is “grossly offensive”), this law will be wielded by the woke against the sane.
The wording makes me consider sending my offensive messages via post, or some direct radio wave connection, such as a walkie-talkie (neither being a “public electronic communications network”).
Oh well, the pen is mightier than the sword. Except, evidently, my pen — they haven’t come after me yet. I’ve been trying, I’ve been trying…
True. You have had plenty of vitriol spewed in your direction, but as yet no formal charges.