THE barbed response of Crown Court Judge Richard Bray to last weeks communiqué from the Home Office, asking judges if they'd be so kind as to stop dishing out custodial sentences, raised a wry smile at the breakfast table:
'Overcrowding in prison is not going to prevent me from passing proper sentences. The reason our prisons are full is because judges can no longer pass deterrent sentences. What message does it send to criminals when they are told they will only have to serve half the sentence the judge thinks appropriate? Until politicians wake up to this, criminals will continue to reoffend and the prison population to rise.'
The endless cavalcade of promises from New Labour to deal decisively with criminality over the years have either proved to be comprised of hollow sound-bites, designed to reassure an anxious public or, if actualised by legislation, have been implemented in a confused and half-hearted manner. It is a demonstrable fact that, as alternatives to prison sentences, ASBOs, ABCs, cautions, the HDC scheme, PNDs, et cetera are wholly ineffective and, through their evident weakness as a restraint, are even responsible for encouraging further wrongdoing.
The Daily Mail put an interesting angle on the situation, reporting that:
‘The prison overcrowding crisis could be solved at a stroke if only
could send home 11,000 foreign citizens serving jail terms here. Britain
‘More than one in eight inmates behind bars in
Englandand is foreign, and it costs the taxpayer some £330million a year to keep them there. Wales
‘In some jails British criminals are in a minority.
Jamaicaalone accounts for around a fifth of foreign offenders in our jails - mostly drug offenders - and there are large numbers from Ireland, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Turkeyand .’ China
Leaping into the cratered trenches beside her beleaguered comrades (at least her camping stove will come in handy amongst the rotting bodies and rusty razor-wire), Margaret Beckett told BBC1's Sunday AM:
‘The Home Office does, unfortunately, go through these terrible phases from time to time and this is one of them. It'll come out the other side and so will John Reid.’For ‘time to time’ read daily. As for John Reid coming out the other side unscathed; well, you can almost hear the rarely-heard and disconcerting sound of Brown chortling in the background.