Monday, June 19, 2006
The BBC reports the frustration of a Chief Constable at the latest example (of many) of the Government dancing to the tune of the tabloid press. Time after time Ministers have forced through laws in an increasingly desperate attempt to appear tough on law and order, reacting to events rather than pursuing a coherent strategy. The result is the unholy mess that we are in now. At a time when most crime is falling, the public are convinced that it is out of control, and they are equally convinced that the judiciary has gone soft despite evidence that points to the opposite conclusion. The flagship 2003 Act, not all of which is yet in operation, is likely to have to be revised, as the Government falls foul of yet another example of the law of unintended consequences. Surely a Government stuffed with lawyers must have heard that hard cases make bad law?
The Prime Minister is to make a speech at the end of the week setting out his plans for yet another rag bag of reforms as he tries to regain control of the justice agenda.
Meanwhile, back at the courthouse, we still have business to do, and we shall carry on doing it. We shall leave the higher courts to carry on sorting out the anomalies and impracticabilities of the flood of new laws, while we carry on as we always have done, dealing with everyday business, the vast majority of which has changed very little. The political and media obsessions of the moment only apply to a tiny minority of cases, and magistrates will get on with applying the law in the 95% of cases that are our responsibility.
JPs have endured nearly a decade of organisational turmoil now. I wonder when, if ever, we will be given time to settle down and make the changes work as they should?