Category Archives: liberal penology

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?

When liberal pœnology melts away like snow in spring

Dalrymple writes of the Lavinia Woodward case:

With the notable exception of the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins, no one appeared to think that leniency was justified in Lavinia Woodward’s case. And it was the leniency, not the erroneously assumed harshness towards others, that caused people’s outrage. In all the envy and hatred expressed, liberal penology melted away like snow in spring. Woodward’s parents owned a beautiful villa in Tuscany, where she spent much of her time; she owned Chanel bags at $1,300 a throw; even while on bail, she went shopping for designer clothes.

A student from Magdalen College tweeted: ‘I’m not exactly a prison advocate but . . . a sentence should be a sentence, regardless of how smart/well-off/well-educated you are.’ It is difficult not to see in this, despite its genuflection in the direction of liberal penology (obligatory, no doubt, for the purposes of keeping caste), a desire that Woodward should have been sent to prison. Apparently, many students feared her, and perhaps would have felt better protected from her had she been imprisoned.

Why should others, lower on the social scale, not feel likewise protected when those who are violent towards them are punished by imprisonment? Yet it is the relatively poor perpetrator, not the rich one, who is the main beneficiary, or at least recipient, of the British criminal-justice system’s leniency: precisely the opposite of what most commentary on the case of Woodward would have us believe.