People deserve to be protected
In an age in which the liberal judiciary regularly delivers inexplicably lenient sentences, many awful crimes are punished with a prison sentence of six months or less.
Indeed, statistics show that thousands of criminals, found guilty of habitual burglary, serial civil disobedience and repeated threatening behaviour, walk free from court without a custodial sentence.
This considered, I was shocked to hear that some in Parliament believe in the abolition of any and all prison sentences shorter than six months. When asked to justify this position, a Government Minister insisted such sentences ‘are less effective at cutting reoffending than community penalties’.
Whilst I have no doubt that these intentions are good, the Minister, like many others in the wider judicial establishment, appear to misunderstand the purpose of punishment.
Of course, rehabilitation and reconciliation between victims and offenders are noble objectives. However, since mankind first devised the rule of law, justice has been based on retribution, with sociological objectives a secondary consideration.
Not to be confused with revenge, which is motivated by malice, retribution is the innate understanding that it is desirable to punish an offender in just proportion to the crime they have committed. Surely, it’s clear that, irrespective of its potential ‘effectiveness’, handing out soft community sentences to serious criminals detaches punishment from ‘just desserts’. So, such an inadequate judicial response can never be considered fair.
Last week, speaking in the House of Commons, I amplified what so many constituents tell me; crime blights lives, with those in deprived communities affected most by the intimidation, theft and violence, they suffer at the hands of thugs and thieves. It is despicable that bullies and yobs are permitted to do such damage to the peace and wellbeing of those ‘just about managing’.
The primary responsibility of any State, is to secure the safety of its citizens. Allowing felons to stroll immediately from the courthouse, back into the neighbourhoods they have terrorised, puts innocent people at risk, particularly the gentle and mild-mannered. Whilst a miscreant is behind bars, they are unable to hurt the rest of us.
It is true, however, that prisons need reform. Too often they are chaotic and violent, fuelled by drugs, gangs, religious and ethnic division. Prison officers are under-resourced and inadequately paid, leaving them dangerously open to corruption.
Structure, discipline and hard work should be the bedrocks of prison. It is also true that some prisoners are abandoned to victimisation and harassment by those with still harder hearts. The answer is not to let weaker prisoners free, but to guarantee their safety, by any means necessary.
Some time ago, when visiting a prison, I saw those there being trained by shoe repairer Timpson’s, for a life at work after their release. Gaining a skill to get a job means that more ‘go straight’; in addition to which, Christian ministry in prison, providing the chance for personal transformation, should be regular and well-resourced.
It is no surprise that the liberal elite - living their gated lives in leafy enclaves - believe in sending fewer people to prison. Seen through the prism of privilege, crime is so distant from their bleeding hearts that criminals are regarded with at least as much empathy as their victims.
Ending short prison sentences would disadvantage the police, disempower magistrates and disappoint the public. Victims deserve better - a voice that speaks for them loudly and clearly.