Category Archives: penological frivolity

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?

Pœnological frivolity spurs terrorism

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 13.02.33Dalrymple writes of one of the Belgian bombers:

Before he turned murderously religious, he had been a bank robber. He fired a Kalashnikov at the police when they interrupted him in an attempted robbery, for which crime, or combination of crimes, he received a sentence of nine years’ imprisonment. Of those nine years he served only four, being conditionally discharged. The principal condition was that he had to attend a probation office once a month: about as much use, one might have supposed, as an igloo in the tropics.

No doubt

he underwent various assessments before release establishing his low risk of re-offending; he probably also said before his release that he now realised that shooting policemen with Kalashnikovs was wrong, that he was sorry for it, etc.

One of the causes, then, of terrorism in Europe is, says Dalrymple,

pœnological frivolity. A 40-year sentence would have been more appropriate.

Penology

is increasingly opposed to the rule of law: it favours the arbitrary and the speculative over the predictable and the certain.