Posted by: aboutalbion | October 25, 2012

Crime and policing

Crime and policing will be in the UK news quite a bit in the next few weeks because the government has committed itself to starting a new national tradition.  On Thursday, 15 November, everyone will be invited to vote for a Police and Crime Commissioner for their area.

I think that the results will be interesting for several reasons.  (a) No one has voted for this office holder before.  (b) No one in my street has received any literature from any of the candidates (at the time of writing).  (c) No one has experience of voting in a first and second choice election.  (d) No one has voted in a national set of elections in the middle of November for quite a long time now.  (e) And even though this initiative was in the election manifestos of both coalition partners, I sense that this has the hall-mark of a top down exercise for which most people are unprepared.  (f) In addition, it may be unwise to name someone who represents the victims of crime as a ‘crime commissioner’, when one of the usages of the word ‘commission’ is ‘the action of committing a crime’.

In my view, making the local chief constable of police accountable to an elected local person [a Police and Crime Commissioner] doesn’t address crime and policing concerns.  To my mind, it is the probability of detection that is the most effective deterrent to those considering criminal behaviour.  And raising this probability towards certainty is the responsibility of every citizen – and that includes punctual responses to police appeals for information from everyone.

I think that a greater priority should be given to ensuring that all the institutions of civil society (including schools) state, and re-state, in word and deed that the UK is a single ‘rule of law’ society, and that there is no room for private legal systems.

It is the erosion of this principle that has led some concerned parliamentarians to introduce a private bill to create a new criminal offence of ‘falsely claiming legal jurisdiction’ in order to engage with private legal systems.  This bill was given a second reading in the House of Lords last Friday [19 October].  The government allowed it to proceed to a third reading, but also made it clear that it has reservations about the bill in its present form.

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