Category Archives: British criminal justice system

The long march of sentimentality

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Sudesh Amman

The absurdity of British criminal-justice policy over several decades at the behest of penological liberals

The British criminal-justice system, writes Dalrymple, is one of

elaborate and ceremonious frivolity.

The frivolity

is serious in its effects, not only for its immediate consequences on Britain’s crime rate but also because it undermines the legitimacy of the State, whose first and inescapable duty is to maintain enough order to secure the safety of citizens as they go about their lawful business.

Remission of prison sentences is automatic,

turning all judges into liars. When a judge says, ‘I sentence you to three years’ imprisonment,’ what he means is: ‘I sentence you to 18 months’ imprisonment.’

Appalling as terrorist violence is, the average person in Britain is many times more likely to be the victim of violent common crime than of terrorism, so that Boris Johnson’s announcement that the laws governing the sentencing of terrorists will be made more severe,

by fixing attention on what remains an uncommon problem and ignoring a far more prevalent one, may be doing a disservice.

Dalrymple says that good sense on criminal justice in Britain

will be difficult to put into practice, for a long march of sentimentality has occurred through the minds of the intelligentsia and élites in general. The father of the last man to be murdered by a terrorist recently released from prison said that he hoped his son’s death would not be used as an argument for more drastic sentencing of terrorists.

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Does one laugh or cry?

In Britain, abuse will be tolerated

Compared to the old days, writes Dalrymple, England

has managed the difficult trick of being both much richer and much nastier.

He remembers an Indian doctor in the hospital where he worked half a century ago,

whose exceptional sweetness of character inspired the instant affection of all who met him, telling me that he considered Britain the most civilised country.

No one, Dalrymple points out,

could make that mistake now, not for an instant, for even at the airport at which he arrived he will have noticed prominent written warnings to the British public that violence or abusive behaviour towards staff will not be tolerated: meaning, of course, that in most instances it will be ignored.

From having been among the most self-controlled populations in the world, the British

have gone in half a century to being among the least self-controlled.

Dalrymple notes that the British population is also

the most spied-upon. Britain has almost as many closed-circuit television cameras installed as the rest of the world put together, but they seem to have hardly any effect on the general level of civility. Testifying quite often in court as an expert witness in murder trials, I am astonished to discover in the course of those trials just how much of British life now takes place on camera: every Briton, indeed, spends more time on screen than the most ubiquitous of film stars, whether he knows and approves of it or not.

At the same time,

menace and incompetence have become the twin characteristics of British officialdom.

Dalrymple reflects that societies fall apart when (among other causes)

their ruling élites, political and intellectual, lose faith in their own right or duty to prescribe standards. They become Hamlet-like: the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and they become persuaded that generosity of spirit and broad-mindedness are the only true virtues, even if they result in paralysis in the face of disorder, with all the accompanying miseries of those who suffer it.

Enfeebled England

Sinking further into moral squalor

Why is Britain so lacking in moral confidence? (In this, it is only the worst case of a malaise in the West.) Dalrymple points to the expansion of tertiary education, especially in non-technical subjects. He notes that large numbers of people

have been educated in injustice and grievance studies, which have had for their effect the dissolution of a sense of human beings as agents rather than victimised vectors of forces.

If murderers and other violent criminals behave in the way that they do,

it must be (sociology, psychology, and criminology teach) because of social forces beyond their control. Hence it is unjust to inflict punishment upon them. Punishment can only be justified where a man is a free agent and could have done otherwise; since he is never a free agent and could never have done otherwise, punishment is never justified. Millions now believe this.

Pusillanimity in the face of violent crime

The uncolumnist

Hitchens is a onetime communist (Trotskyist, to be more precise) who unlike so many of this species has had the guts to admit that he was wrong and that the doctrines he espoused were evil

Hitchens is a onetime communist (Trotskyist, to be precise). Dalrymple points out, however, that unlike so many of his kind, Hitchens has had the courage and intellectual honesty to admit that he was profoundly wrong — indeed, crack-brained — and that the doctrines he espoused were murderous and evil

The Mail on Sunday censor has been at work. Peter Hitchens, the onetime Trotskyist who is the Rothermere-owned newspaper’s best writer, has had his columns spiked, the skewering being timed to coincide with the run-up to, and the aftermath of, the British general election.

It is speculated that the newspaper, recognising the commercial imperative of identification with the winning side, decided — after seeing which way the wind was blowing — that it would back the Conservatives. It would help that disreputable party secure a convincing victory. It gagged Hitchens so as to ensure that readers would not be influenced to follow his (wise) counsel. This has long been that right-thinking, decent people ought to desist from voting for the corrupt Tories.

According to the magazine Private Eye, Hitchens (who has not been silenced altogether — there remains much engaging material on his blog) is ‘talking to his lawyers’.

Reviewed by Dalrymple: Hitchens's 2003 polemic

Reviewed by Dalrymple: Hitchens’s 2003 polemic

Dalrymple reviews Hitchens’s A Brief History of Crime

Hitchens’s rage at what has been done to British society is more than justified, Dalrymple writes. In A Brief History of Crime, Hitchens is especially astute on the matter of the failings of the British criminal justice system. Hitchens has discovered, Dalrymple points out, that the systemic corruption causes people no longer

to believe very deeply in the majesty of the law or the legitimacy of the British State; and this disillusion in turn must lead to a kind of resentful apathy.

Hitchens appreciates, says Dalrymple, that such a state of mind

will be highly receptive to authoritarianism: for order will come to be valued over freedom. As the author points out, this is useful to many politicians and it explains why the rigorous enforcement of the law is so essential to liberty.

The spike: destination of Hitchens’s two most recent columns for the British newspaper the Mail on Sunday

The spike: destination of Hitchens’s most recent articles for the British newspaper the Mail on Sunday

Dalrymple writes that in A Brief History of Crime,

Mr Hitchens traces the descent of Britain, in only a few decades, from being one of the best-ordered societies in the western world to being among the worst-ordered.

Hitchens places the blame, explains Dalrymple,

firmly where it belongs: on a supine and pusillanimous political establishment that, for four decades at least, has constantly retreated before the verbal onslaught of liberal intellectuals whose weapons have been mockery allied to sentimental guilt about their prosperous and comfortable lives, and whose aim has been to liberate themselves from personally irksome moral constraints, without regard to the consequences for those less favourably placed in society than themselves.

How Hitchens became an unperson at the Mail on Sunday, as reported by the magazine Private Eye

How Hitchens became an unperson at the Mail on Sunday, as reported by the magazine Private Eye

Dalrymple says that Hitchens’s outrage at the compromising and besmirching of British traditions, values and liberties is palpably

of the genuine and generous variety that comes from a real understanding of the conditions which millions of people now endure — unlike the simulated and self-regarding outrage that is common among liberal reformers.

Examining the way in which British peace and order have gradually disappeared,

Mr Hitchens in every case finds the self-satisfaction of people such as Roy Jenkins, who introduced lenient treatment for criminals without ever having personally to face the social consequences.

Dalrymple thinks Hitchens

Not so optimistic any more: Hitchens discusses the election result on his blog

Not so optimistic now: Hitchens discusses the election result on his blog

is too optimistic about the prospect of the nation coming to its senses: the march of ‘progressive’ sociology through the institutions has been so thorough that there is no constituency left which could preserve the kind of traditional limited polity that he believes Britain once was and which he would like to see restored.

Judging from Hitchens’s pronouncements on his blog and on Twitter since the election, he is no longer nearly as optimistic as he was when he wrote A Brief History of Crime, which Dalrymple commends as

a lucid polemic by a man who is so obviously more interested in the welfare of the common man than in the approbation of his peers.

Hitchens in the People's Republic of the Rothermeres: now you see him, now you don't

Now you read him, now you don’t

 

Hitchens as he was: the conceited Marxist participant in cheap middle-class protest

Hitchens as he was: the conceited Marxist, active in cheap middle-class protest. He gave up the Leninist claptrap along with the donkey-jacket many years ago