Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Dog That Didn't Bark In The Night

Don't tell anyone that I told you, but I was quietly encouraged by Gordon Brown's 'Not The Queen's Speech' yesterday. It wasn't what he said, but rather the fact that he showcased his housing proposals and left the latest Criminal Justice proposals buried in the middle of his speech. Under Blair the Government's determination not to be outflanked on law'n'order was always apparent, and resulted in a lot of reforms that were at best useless and at worst damaging.
However, the loss of the Suspended Sentence for summary offences will greatly hamper our efforts to deal with offences such as high-level and repeated drink driving, Common Assault (and that's what nearly all domestic violence is charged as) Driving While Disqualified (and that's an offence that is often repeated) Taking a Vehicle (again an offence that is often repeated, thus making a deterrent very useful) Vehicle Interference and others. So while Government policy will continue to lock up thousands of offenders on indeterminate sentences, sometimes for lack of staff to assess them for release, magistrates will lose one of their most useful tools to enforce orders and deter reoffending.
I hope that Brown will not inherit his predecessor's love of the headline-grabbing quick fix. If the courts are given a rest from new legislation for a year or two we may get a chance to make some sense of CJSSS and Community Justice, two worthwhile ideas that will take a lot of hard work and a bit of luck if they are not to fail.

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