Monday, September 19, 2011

Lies, Damn Lies, and..............

There has been a lot of huffing and puffing recently over the revelation that a good proportion of the rioters arrested in August had previous convictions, and that quite a few had accumulated a dozen or more without seeing the inside of a prison. I find that unsurprising, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you did a random trawl of passers-by in one of London's less salubrious areas in the middle of the evening you might well find that a goodly percentage of those you stopped had convictions. Secondly, the crude number of convictions doesn't tell you very much. Looking through the PNC form, it's quite normal to find a number of smallish convictions spread over a few years, dealt with by discharges, then fines for low level drug offences, small thefts, perhaps a bit of Section 5 Public Order, and suchlike. Disqualified driving and the like frequently appear. Quite a few of these offences are fine-only, so the question of prison doesn't arise. For Drunk and Disorderly and similar crimes-of-the-thick-and-gormless, it is usual to impose a fine and deem it served by the day that has been spent in custody, which clears things up, but leaves a conviction on the record.
When society gets into one of its regular panics about law and order reasoned consideration of the facts goes out of the window. I'm not saying that plenty of rioters were not criminals before the riots kicked off, but simply that these things are rarely as simple as they look.

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