Letter: Fight against crime
Saturday 20 November 1999
The right to jury trial is a crucial safeguard at the heart of criminal justice. It ensures that the individual is judged by fellow citizens, not the state's appointed representatives. The Government's proposal to restrict this precious right as a cost-cutting exercise just as the Human Rights Act is due to come into force is too great an irony to bear.
Although details are unclear, the Government seems to be proposing to give the police powers to forcibly drug test anyone they've arrested. It is debatable whether, in practice, this will be confined to persistent offenders who steal to feed their habit, or whether the powers might find a wider application. But even if confined to the target group, blood and urine testing is necessarily intrusive. Greater coercive measures may get more people on to woefully under-funded treatment programmes, but coercion will never provide the motivation necessary for a successful treatment outcome.
If the terrorism measures go through, then individuals suspected of terrorist offences would have fewer rights than other criminals. It is wrong in principle to have a twin-track criminal justice system. It is also difficult to accept that those motivated by political or religious factors when they commit crimes should be penalised more heavily than those who commit crimes for greed or revenge or in anger. The anti-terrorism laws have led to some of the worst human rights abuses in this country over the last 25 years, contributed to miscarriages of justice and led to the unnecessary detention of thousands of innocent people, most of them Irish.
Contrary to what the Government repeatedly tells us, the erosion of individual rights is not an approach which is genuinely tough on either crime or, more importantly, on its causes. It is a pale substitute for the political imagination which the real solutions would require.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 2 Maisie Williams has an excellent message for one confused fan
- 3 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 4 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 5 Tampon tax scrapped in Canada after petition convinces conservative government
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Big Brother 2015 new housemates: Simon Gross returns as stripper Marc O'Neill, model Harry Amelia Martin and X Factor reject Sam Kay join
Burning Man festival revellers accidentally torch prehistoric artefacts in Israel
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote