'Amputation the answer to crime'

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The Independent Online
A STUDY of crime by two economics lecturers has concluded that it could be all but eradicated if criminals were electrocuted, hanged or subjected to amputations.

Concluding that society has the level of crime it is prepared to condone - and should, therefore, stop complaining about it - Barrie Craven and Brian Dick, of the University of Northumbria, say that social workers and probation officers should be removed so more money could be given to the police to catch criminals.

Central to their theories, published in the right-wing Salisbury Review, is the argument that the cost of crime should be increased to outweigh its benefits. Punishment should outweigh the crime and persistent offenders should have to compare the satisfaction of crime with the punishment it would attract.

'Community service or a suspended sentence does not outweigh the benefits of committing certain crime,' Mr Dick said. 'But, taking our economic model to its ultimate conclusion, losing a limb would. In economic terms, when you want to make something unattractive, you raise its price. This is simply a way of increasing the price.'

The university was quick to point out yesterday that the lecturers' article, Crime and Punishment in an Erewhonian Society, did not represent the faculty's views (and that it was not an April Fool joke), and the two men insisted it was merely an economic model.

Samuel Butler's 19th century satirical novel, Erewhon, featured a society with upturned values, where innocent people were regarded as guilty, and vice versa. Mr Dick said: 'We realised that we have arrived at such a society. Women who are raped are accused of being too alluring. People who are burgled are criticised for not having an alarm.'

They noted that some punishments would not be acceptable in Britain. 'Amputation, for example, would not be condoned, so we would have to find our social equivalent,' Mr Craven said. However, it was inevitable that innocent people would be punished as police activity increased.

'Innocent people may be punished, but at the moment the system is weighted against the victim and in favour of the criminal. Our argument is that if society is not prepared to go in this direction, then it is revealing a preference for this level of crime and should simply stop whingeing about it.'

Alun Michael, Labour's home affairs spokesman, described the theory as 'bananas . . . It is like saying we should stop treating people on the NHS because then they would all die and we wouldn't have to pay for hospitals'.