Editor-At-Large: British justice should not be about revenge - even against looters

Share
Related Topics

The images of gangs of hoodies smashing up shops and looting made me feel ashamed of my country, but the testosterone-fuelled response of our leaders was equally cringe making.

Politicians, police and prosecutors have fallen over themselves to demonstrate just how tough they are. Talk about shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted; for well over a decade a growing group of people has not worked, not been educated properly and not integrated into society, but few people in government wanted to deal with this problem as it wasn't a vote-winner.

Now, instead of long-term solutions and support, revenge seems to be the mood. Iain Duncan Smith wants benefits stopped. Theresa May has told prosecutors to name and shame as many people convicted of offences connected to the disorder as possible, presumably to "teach them a lesson". Manchester police erected huge displays of CCTV pictures of looters in public spaces and are asking people to shop anyone they recognise. When anyone accused of social disorder pitches up for a court hearing, they are surrounded by a baying pack of journalists, anxious for quotes from incoherent youths who can barely spell their own names and from mothers who are judged wanting even though they are not in the dock.

We seem to want rough justice for these modern pariahs – summary incarceration, community reparation carried out in fluorescent overalls for easy recognition. This thirst for public humiliation marks a worrying departure from the normal way of administering justice in Britain. Listening to our leaders, you get the impression they would prefer we were back in the Middle Ages, and we could chuck rotten food at criminals in stocks.

Social workers are outraged; the Howard League for Penal Reform says the lifting of anonymity for children will serve as a double punishment, as their names will for ever be in newspapers and the notoriety will cause problems when efforts are made to help them reintegrate into society.

It will also attract vigilantes. Last week a 16-year-old boy became the first juvenile to be named. He admitted inciting a riot on the internet, although he subsequently apologised. I have not written his name because it's pointless. In the circles this kind of youth moves in, getting a name check in the national press makes you a big deal to your pals. How Ms May thought it would lead to any kind of moral rearmament is beyond me.

So far 954 people have appeared in court in London, with 82 convictions and just 42 custodial sentences, but the Met is busily posting photographs of the guilty on Flickr. Why? Surely it has better things to do with its time, not contributing to internet dross.

Meanwhile, social networking sites have refused to comply with the Home Secretary's wish that troublemakers should be banned. Last week an 18-year-old who used Facebook to urge pals to riot in Nottingham was sent to a young offenders' institution for nearly three years – a draconian sentence that is not likely to result in a positive outcome. Now he's going to be locked up with real criminals who commit violent offences, not cyber ones. Well done, everyone.

David Cameron wants rich investors in invest in "social impact bonds" to pay for targeted supervision and support for deeply troubled families. Successful projects will pay a dividend to those who improve their behaviour. It's a straw in the wind. But it's better than naming and shaming.

Women rule the roost at Edinburgh

Two extraordinary women made my trip to Edinburgh worthwhile. As usual, the stand-up comedy on offer is still dominated by men (the most successful of whom are now of a certain age, but still try to appear youthful on their posters), but the hottest ticket was Sarah Millican, whose sell-out shows attract a mainstream crowd.

This Geordie lass is effortlessly hilarious. We worked together on Loose Women earlier this year. She has mastered the art of self-deprecation. She's certain to have her own show on a major channel any day now. Sarah can deliver the F-word like she's dishing out a plate of chips, and her observations about sex are completely filthy.

Diana Quick is a wonderful actress who isn't on television nearly enough. Her performance as a pushy mother desperately trying to contact her daughter by Skype in Midnight Your Time is utterly engrossing. As Adam Brace's play unfolds, we realise that Judy is not what she first appears: a well-meaning member of the middle-class Islington intelligentsia.

It brought back so many memories of the weekly phone "chats" with my own mum, which always ended in tears and recriminations. This deserves a transfer, and can a television producer please find a meaty role for Diana soon?

Royals in the cheap seats

William and Kate might be worth about £450m, but they can't resist a cheap deal. Last week they pitched up at the cinema complex in Llandudno, on Bargain Tuesday, when seats for The Inbetweeners were only £4.90.

My auntie Vi, who lives less than a mile away, is wondering if they popped into Enoch's for fish and chips. If batter is not on Kate's diet, then Vi will be happy to bake some bara brith.

The couple's film taste seems depressingly lowbrow. Last month they hit the same cinema for Bridesmaids. What about supporting British film? Or is working-class misery too depressing?

Real life trumps fiction yet again

Many people's favourite holiday reading was Nordic fiction, headed by Jo Nesbo's stories about the detective Harry Hole of the Oslo police force. I had to stop reading Nesbo's The Snowman because my dreams were so frightening. Nesbo could never have predicted that a shooting atrocity would unfold right on his own doorstep, far more shocking than anything Hole has had to confront.

Last week, the author was in Edinburgh talking about his latest novel, The Leopard. He told an audience that recent events in Norway will have a profound impact on writers. How can they respond to the Breivik shootings? Real life has turned out more shocking than anything they have dreamt up.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore