Let’s Talk

Hazel Blears, the Labour Party Chair, sent me an email.

This Thursday, the Prime Minister and I are holding an event in Bristol, discussing crime and civil liberties with an audience of party members and people who have experience of crime, anti-social behaviour and representatives of organisations that work in the fields of crime and civil rights law. This is one of the biggest issues facing us today – and I want to hear the views, experiences and ideas of as many people as possible. This discussion is live right now – and I’d like you to be part of it.

There were four questions, and I answered them mostly off the top of my head. I thought I’d put them here as well, in case Labour isn’t really listening.

Question 1: Do you feel the law is on your side?
That depends on whether the law thinks that I should carry an ID card to prove that I am innocent. It depends whether my choice of recreational drug happens to match the current knee-jerk reaction to the latest Daily Mail outrage. It depends on whether I want to protest about the current knee-jerk etc by peacefully protesting in the street. It depends on whether my safety is more important than the perception of some terrorist threat in the mind of an armed policeman. It depends on whether I express my opinion on people driven to violent ends when all else has failed. It depends on whether I am the president of the United States.

Question 2: Does the criminal justice system provide the correct balance between the protection of civil liberties and the rights of the victims of crime?
It used to, but the knee-jerk responses to the latest Daily Mail outrage are in danger of sending us back into the middle ages. I seem to remember that at least part of the slogan was “Tough on the causes of crime”: the poverty, deprivation and school for criminals which our over-crowded and under-resourced prisons have become seem to be causes left untouched.

Question 3: Do the police, courts, probation service and prison service work in favour of the decent law-abiding majority?
What an odd question. The police and courts should not “work in favour” of anyone – they should be impartial and fair. The probation service and prison service should have no contact with law-abiding people, “decent” or indecent.

Question 4: What changes do you think should be made to the criminal justice system to better protect the public?
Bring back the right to silence. Abolish the religious imbalance and de-criminalise blasphemy, so that all myths and beliefs are treated with equal contempt. Stop using the threat of terrorism to take away our freedoms. Stop locking up drug users. In fact, make all drugs legal, instead of just tobacco and alcohol.

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