“Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.“
How the hell did we get here with the likes of Copperfield, Bloggs and Gadget being joined weekly by more officers all telling tales of the ugly truths of current Criminal Justice? How did we get into a situation where the Circuit Judges are quietly revolting and the Magistrates are as unhappy as unhappy can be with being pushed around by the government? Why has serious and violent crime been on the up every year since 1997? What kind of people have been setting the policies that have kicked such a big hole between the Police and the public? Bluntly, who has had their hands on the wheel whilst public confidence in all arms of the Criminal Justice System has tanked. I have an over simplistic explanation. It’s time to name and shame.
I’m sitting here thinking that we have a Lord Chancellor who has presided as public confidence in the Criminal Justice System is dropping through the floor. Only 31% of us now feel any level of confidence in how our system deals with criminals. His reaction? Well Jack Straw has been busy doing the Hokey Cokey with Bill of Rights 1.1 and foisting a Sentencing Commission onto judges through the Coroner’s and Justice Bill. I say foisting because the rather grandly named Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Juudges broke cover last week and said “We do not consider these sentencing proposals to have any benefit. The proposals are not sought by the judiciary or any other criminal justice group. They are unnecessary, costly and unwelcome.” That strikes me as judge speak for “Stop.“
We started this government with a Lord Chancellor called Lord McKay of Clashfern. Editor of Halsbury’s Laws of England, by most accounts an outstanding lawyer and judge, leader of the Scots Bar, basically a bloody good lawyer and well respected. Fit to be top judge? Oh yes. Man of substance. A man guaranteed to put the interests of a strong independent judiciary above party politics.
A Distinguished and Experienced Lawyer
Cometh the blessed TonyBlair, cometh the old mate in the shape of Tony’s old boss Lord Irvine of Lairgs. He blows £650,000 of our money doing up his grace and favour pad including £59,000 on wallpaper. His career highlights involved marrying his best friends wife, introducing the Blairs and providing legal advice to the Labour Party throughout the 1980′s. A towering legal presence fit for the top judges spot? Possibly not but Tony liked him and he was keen on passing the Human Rights Act.
Tony’s Old Boss
As we slide gently down the ability curve, another mate of Tony’s got to wear the shiney golden robes. Step forward Lord Falconer of Thoroton. Lest you forget, he used to be Tony’s flat mate. Surely, you are thinking, he had more qualification than that? Well, he ran the Millenium Dome for a while, and he was Tony’s mate. At least he was some sort of lawyer and he made QC in 1991.
Tony’s Old Flatmate
That takes us back to the current incumbent Mr. John Whitaker Straw. Well he qualified as a barrister some years ago but since 1979, he has been a full time politician. That’s the man in charge of the Ministry of Justice. It shows.
Some Bloke Who Used To Be A Lawyer A Long Time Ago
That’s how it has been for noble office of Lord Chancellor these last few years. Does the man at the top of the pile inspire any confidence in and of himself? The results are in.
That other twin pillar of the Criminal Justice System, the Home Secretary, how has that noble office of state fared?
We start with the incumbent Michael Howard QC. Say what you like about him but he qualified as a QC on merit in 1982. As a Home Secretary, he authored the quote “Let us be clear. Prison works. It ensures that we are protected from murderers, muggers and rapists, and it makes many who are tempted to commit crime think twice.” He was a Home Secretary who at least seemed to understand that the sentencing system needs to carry a little weight and that punishments need to enjoy general acceptance as fair. He appreciated the containment element of prison as well.
Reasonably Good At Law Stuff
Next up, running the Cops, the previously mentioned John Whitaker Straw. Jack brought us R.I.P.A. , sent Pinochet back to Chile and said of pre Operation Desert Storm Iraq “”we have faith in the integrity of the Iraqi judicial process and that you should have no concerns if you haven’t done anything wrong.” Thank’s Jack.
Perhaps Not Quite So Good At Law
All things must pass and in 2001, it was time for David Blunkett. Regular readers will know my opinions on his reign. A career politician with all the knowledge and experience of law enforcement that you would expect from the preparation of Sheffield City Council and teaching. Seldom has so much damage been done to the Police Service by one man. Along with beefing up RIPA and taking a swipe at jury trial, he started us down the road towards National Identity Cards. He was forced kicking and screaming from office when it became clear that he was somewhat involved in speeding through the immigration status of his mistress’s nanny, and giving the same mistress free train tickets on the public purse. I can do no better than quoting the top cop of the time Lord Stevens “If you are ever asked to meet with Blunkett, under no circumstances should you go alone…he is a bully and a liar.” Just what you want to hear about the man running the Police.
Now David Blunkett was replaced by Charles Clarke. Another career politician with a side line in running a PR agency. He was another man wedded to identity cards with a regrettable ambition to have all communications data stored for law enforcement purposes. According to his successor, he left a Home Office unfit for purpose.
More Of The Same
Enter Dr. John Reid. The doctorate was in history. The doctoral thesis was a Marxist analysis of the slave trade. From there until parliament he was a full time political organiser, you can guess which party. He was surpisingly sound on building more prisons, closing up our porous borders and sorting out the Probation Service but he did not survive the departure of the blessed Tony and the accession of the Dear Leader.
60 Watts In A 20 Watt World
That brings us to Jacqueline Jill Smith, another academic but sans doctoral thesis this time. You all know the score with Jacqui. Total expenses hog. Second home that isn’t. Lots of TVs and a lovely fireplace. The current Home Secretary has made a signed claim for her husband’s prOn and trousered the resultant cash. We don’t ask for much before she claims her expenses but at least she could have pretended to check them and weeded out the obviously bogus stuff. Maybe her husband could have done better by her for his our £40,000 a year. Either way she made a blatantly bogus claim and she is set on brazening it out.
Born To Wear Clown Shoes
I detect a downward slope. We start of with one of the greatest lawyers of his age and we end up with errrm Jack Straw. We start off with a man who understands the public expectations that punishments should fit crimes and we end up with a petty expenses fiddler who tries to pretend she hasn’t been caught red handed. Now I’m not claiming that there was ever any golden age of the Criminal Justice System. That would be foolish, but I am just pointing out that there is a case to be made that the people in the key jobs may not have been the best possible choices .
An Unsubtle Visual Reference