It’s Just Not Cricket

I have been incarcerated within my home in Brighton. Sealed up. Locked in.

Quarantined.

Yes, the dreaded swine flu had struck, taking down my two house-mates in a sudden rush of disease and pestilence that would shock biblical Egyptians. I still have not fallen sick, but it’s only a matter of time. We’re on the countdown now folks, and already I’m feeling piggish.

My one real link to the outside news is the press, and one story in particular I want to talk to you about.

Two brothers, Tokeer and Munir Hussain have been convicted of causing grievous bodily harm with intent. They did this by beating a man with a cricket bat so hard it broke into several pieces. Munir was given a 30 month sentence whilst his brother received a harsher 39 months. So far all seems straight forward, does it not?

But it isn’t. The ‘victim’, Walid Salim, was a member of a gang who broke into the Hussain home, tied up the family and threatened to kill them with a knife. Munir managed to break free and called upon his brother for help. When the help arrived the criminals fled, being pursued by the brothers. Salim was the only one caught and was then subjected to the ‘attack’.

Judge John Reddihough, commenting about the sentences, told the defendants, “This is in order to reflect the serious consequences of your violent acts and intent and to make it absolutely clear that, whatever the circumstances, persons cannot take the law into their own hands, or carry out revenge attacks upon a person who has offended them.”

Now, dear reader, please look inside and ask yourself, are these two brothers criminals? Have they really acted immorally? Or are they, as I believe, victims of a legal system that is designed to ‘keep the peace’ rather than punish the guilty.

The Judge went on to say, “It may be that some… will assert that Salim deserved what happened to him at the hands of you… However, if persons were permitted to …inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse.”

What utter tosh. The hallmark of a civilised society is preventing the individual from being abused by the majority, which is exactly what is going on here. A person has a right to defend themselves against a violent criminal using whatever force they feel is necessary. It’s all very well and good, being a commentator after the fact, decreeing that these brothers should have simply sat on top of the potential murderer until the police turn up; but given the fact that several accomplices had fled and could potentially come back, meant that their actions needed to be decisive and robust.

Our legal system does not make us feel safe. It fails us. This case illustrates that we the public aren’t allowed to sort out our own affairs, we’re not allowed to defend our families or our homes. No, the state is the only one who can, but will it? Of course not.

Our politicians and judges are so devoid of moral philosophy that they no longer have any grasp of what is right and wrong, only what is legal and illegal, with no desire to amend these obvious legal follies. We need to stand up for the likes of the Hussain brothers, otherwise next time it could be you being threatened with a knife in the knowledge that the state will not save you, but punish you if you survive.

The Daddy State

Following the case of Paul Clarke, I have been doing a lot of thought about our justice system. We live in an era when retribution has been taken completely out of the hands of the every day citizen and placed squarely in the remit of the state. This has been a gradual shift that has taken place slowly over hundreds of years as the police’s ability to enforce law has become more and more effective. But is this right? Is it reasonable to give such responsibility to the state? And what effect is it having upon us as a society?

First of all, is there even a problem? Some might argue that there is no problem with our justice system. They would cite that crime is far lower in our generation than any previous one. Blame for the belief that crime is ‘out of control’ would be placed squarely at the feet of the tabloid press, who have an interest in scaremongering as such a tactic sells papers. These arguments may be true, but regulation of the numbers of crimes committed is not the issue; the issue is whether, in our current society, justice is being served. Well, is it?

Those who take part in our legal system strive to free themselves from basic ignorance; that is the immediate and understandable ‘eye for an eye’ philosophy. ‘He murdered someone so should be put to death’ or ‘he raped someone so should have his dick cut off’, that sort of thing. So instead of this old-testament approach, punishment is dispensed dispassionately, with cool-headed calculation. These intellectuals are interested in what is better for society, rather than simply locking people up.

For example, a man bumps into a child on a station. As he bends down to apologise, the father punches the man in the face. The man falls, hits his head and dies. Should that father go to jail for life? The cool-headed intellectual says no. What would be the point? they ask. He did not intend to kill, merely to hurt. And the drawbacks for a long prison sentence are major: boy deprived of father, immense cost to the state and prison tends to make criminals rather than break them. The choice for the intellectual is clear: society would be best served by sending the man to jail for a few years, but certainly not as long as a murderer.

“Intellectual Ignorance”

But these people have merely been trapped by another form of ignorance – ‘intellectual ignorance’. So concerned with the mantel of ‘objective thinking’ and so busy thinking about society as if it were a game to be manipulated, that they have forgotten about justice and the right of the individual. The man who died had friends and relatives who need to feel like justice has been served, regardless of what would make national statistics look better in the long run. Three, five or ten years for killing a man is not enough for those who have lost someone. It may be true that leniency and rehabilitation lead to a healthier society, but to think that takes precedence over a person’s need for justice is falling into an even greater folly – forgetting that inside everyone’s head is a conscious being. We are not machines. We are not bees, all part of the same hive. Inside each and every one of us is a mind to whom their experiences are everything. When you deny a person justice is breaks them. It is a punishment that cannot be bared.

So when these judges fail to punish criminals sufficiently what they are really doing is punishing the victims and fuelling what I call the ‘Daddy state’.

“Daddy State”

It has been claimed that we live in a nanny state, where the government has great control over our lives and snoops into our affairs. I think it is the other way around. We live in a ‘Daddy state’, where we think that the state is the solution to all of our problems. Kids aren’t doing well in school – we go running to the state. People are getting too fat – what can the government do to stop it? A crime is committed- it’s up to society to punish those responsible. We have decided that the state should be a father figure, someone to run to over the slightest problem. The state is our ‘Daddy’, and not a nice one either, but a ‘don’t tell your mother about our little secret’ type, and for this we only have ourselves to blame.

And what’s terrible about this situation is that the ‘Daddy state’ no longer looks out for us, but punishes us by treating justice as a way of tinkering with statistics and end results. Over hundreds of years we have allowed ourselves to lose all responsibility for our own justice and give it over to the state, but now we find the state was never interested in justice in the first place, merely about keeping the peace.

The effect of such corruption (of the human psyche) is that we have become as children, afraid to sort out our own affairs. Right and wrong no longer have any relevance when we always have to wait on Daddy’s word, and if Daddy’s word makes no sense to us as people, something has to change. What will it be? Will we go mad, or will we finally grow up?

Mandatory Sentences

judge hand with gavel by Diane M Byrne

judge hand with gavel by Diane M Byrne

On December 11th an ex-soldier from Merstham will be sentenced. His crime carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. And what was this terrible crime Paul Clarke, 27, committed? He found a shotgun wrapped in a black plastic bag at the bottom of his garden and took it to the local police station to hand it in.

He had phoned ahead and arranged a meeting with Chief Superintendent Adrian Harper at Reigate police station. At the station Clarke took the the gun out of the bag and placed it on a table facing the wall for safety. He was then arrested for possession of a firearm.

Despite the fact there is no issue from the Surrey Police to inform the public not to touch any found firearms, it has been decided that Clarke is liable for the blunder, and his dutiful transportation of the weapon a criminal offence. This offence carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

Commenting on the case at Guildford Crown Court Judge Christopher Critchlow said, “This is an unusual case, but in law there is no dispute that Mr Clarke has no defence to this charge… The intention of anybody possessing a firearm is irrelevant.”

So whether you think Paul Clarke is a honourable citizen or a bumbling fool, it doesn’t matter. He’s about to be chewed up by a ridiculous judicial system that seems to come down hard on the innocent, whilst treating criminals leniently. A system that is more preoccupied with sound-bites than doing what’s right.

Mandatory sentences for anything is wrong. It completely negates intent and circumstances. Life is not black and white, there are rarely absolutes. But whilst this is all an academic discussion for us, it is rather closer to Paul Clarke whose life is about to be ruined. One thing is for certain: our judicial system needs to change.