Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Justice without trial

The Guardian reports that the Police in the UK are seeking various powers to deal with "yobs". These include:
- Immediate bans of yobs from "town centres" at night for an "appropriate period", when issued with an informal warning or fixed penalty fine (define a yob);
- Local constables having the right to impose a three-month ban on association by gang members in public or frequenting a particular location. This ban could include "cleaning up local damage". Breaching this would result in a fine, ASBO or a parenting order (woooooooo!);
- Those repeatedly stopped with a car without driver licence, MOT or insurance seeing car immediately seized and crushed (!);
- Ability to stop and search those under reasonable suspicion because of past convictions.
I can understand the concern, but having the Police impose sentences is simply wrong and the ability of the Police to abuse these powers by simply banning people, and ordering them to undertake a punishment is quite real.
There is a disturbing glorification of drunken yobbish behaviour, particularly in some parts of Britain, but there are solutions - these don't need to get rid of the right to a fair trial:
1. Abolish "human rights legislation" that means people can claim discrimination if any property owner seeks to ban someone from his premises. Remind all bar, club, mall and shopowners that they have a fundamental right to prohibit anyone from their premises, for as long as they wish and use reasonable force to remove anyone who breaks this, or prosecute for trespassing.
2. Introduce a points system for offenders which sees people who reach 100 points from past convictions to extended periods in prison (minimum 20 years). Homicide would get you 100 points, vandalism might get you 10 points, aggravated assault or rape would get you 70 points, burglary 20 points (or whatever). You serve your sentence and gain points, at 100 you're OUT (like 3 strikes and you're out, but weighted to the crime - it shouldn't be 3 murders, but also not 3 window smashings).
3. After two convictions, treat all young offenders as adults. You get two chances to fix your life (and this is where rehabilitation needs to jump in, boots and all - and not by throwing teens together in institutions where they feed off each other) if you commit a non-violent offence before you are 18. Violent offences see you given ONE chance. You get points both times though.
4. Forget "wiping the slate clean". An offence sticks with you for life, unless the victim is prepared to agree. Presumably the victim needs to be compensated, or feel like the offender has changed his or her life.
5. Give up on victimless crimes. Shift the policing effort to violent and property offences.
6. Deport non-citizens following the serving of a sentence (or to serve it if you can trust the other country). Migrants who have not got citizenship are guests, and outlive their welcome when they offend against anyone else.
7. Allow retail premises owners to have property rights over common public spaces, like pedestrian spaces, so they can apply bans, employ security and implement any rules on drinking or whatever in that space. They would have obligations to pay for maintenance, which would be deducted from council rates/taxes, but it would give them a vested interest in public space that affects their business and customers.
8. Shoot on sight any male with a shaved head, wearing nothing but a tracksuit, who is not demonstrably going to or from a gym or jogging for exercise. Given that 99% of males in the UK who dress like this are not engaging in fitness activities, this should be easy. By the way this isn't so much about crime prevention, but aesthetics.
9. Deduct welfare payments from parents whose children who live with them commit more than one offence. Either they are your responsibility, and you control them, or kick them out. Every offence loses you the same proportion of your benefit as the points accumulated. So vandalism costs you 5%, rape costs you 70%. Oh and you lose the lot by interfering with the Police's enquiries.

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