Perhaps one of the most significant changes to the UK criminal justice system in the twentieth century was the suspension of capital punishment in 1965 in Great Britain. This was followed by its permanent abolition in 1969. The British public were assured that for the most serious of crimes, a life sentence would indeed mean life.
However, the Labour government of the time with Roy Jenkins as Home Secretary introduced the Criminal Justice Act 1967, resulting in a huge boost for the rights of prisoners. Under this new Act, suspended sentencing was introduced. Sentences of less than 12 months were automatically suspended whilst any sentence of up to three years was also eligible for suspension. Criminal rights were enhanced further with the introduction of parole for prisoners who had completed 12 months of one third of their sentence.
One objective of the Criminal Justice Act was to reduce the prison population of England and Wales, which stood at 35,000. The prison population however has climbed year on year to a whopping 84,249 in 2013. Prisons are bursting at the seams. The agenda of Roy Jenkins was to create a ‘permissive society’. Sadly, his legacy of tolerance to crime has created a prison society large enough to elect their own member of parliament. Give it a few years and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will give these prisoners the vote to elect an MP of their own.
Last week, following the release of figures that have shown an 8 per cent year on year increase in the murder rate in the City of New York, former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly blamed new Democrat Mayor Bill De Blasio for his soft approach on crime.
Internationally, Rudy Giuliani is perhaps best known as the courageous mayor that the people of New York could rally behind in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11th.
Domestically, he is rightly credited for transforming New York from one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. to one of the safest. This was achieved through his (and Police Commissioner William Bratton’s) belief in the Broken Windows Theory.
This theory was the belief that by allowing a culture of petty crime, for example vandalism, fare dodging etc. to flourish, you reinforce the negative behaviour and this invariably leads to more serious forms of crime.
The first couple of years of the Giuliani administration saw an introduction of a zero tolerance policy of petty crime and the result was a year on year decline in the overall crime rate. By 2002 – at the end of Giuliani’s second term – the New York City crime rate was significantly lower than the national average.
It comes as no surprise therefore that under Democrat Mayor Bill De Blasio, murder rates have skyrocketed. After all, Democrats in the U.S. like the liberally minded here in the UK relish the prospect at being soft on crime.
On this side of the Atlantic, particularly in London, a ‘softly-softly’ approach has become the norm.
Former Chief Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, now Liberal Democrat Peer Brian Paddick was instrumental in introducing ‘softly-softly’ policing to London with his decision to instruct police officers to not arrest or charge those found to be in the possession of cannabis.
This was supposedly so police time could be put to better use tackling more serious crime. Sadly, the legacy of this policy is such that three London boroughs (Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Brent) are now making London the drug capital of the UK. Westminster Borough had 12 reported incidents of illegal drugs per 1,000 whilst the national average is just 3.1 drug crimes per 1,000. To make matters worse, London is now the world’s leading city for laundering drug money.
It’s not just drug crime that has been on the rise. This year has seen a significant spike in knife crime in London after year on year reductions. Metropolitan police figures shows knife crime up a staggering 18 per cent with ten young people killed in the past nine months and the reduction in the use of stop and search is a primary cause of this. These shocking figures reveal that it was wrong for Home Secretary Theresa May to bow down to demands from for stop and search to be reduced.
Well there you have it. New York and London, two of the biggest cities in the world – culturally, economically and politically very important. Yet, after years of seeing crime rates come down due to a no-nonsense approach to crime, all the hard work of the 1990’s is being callously undone by the soft-touch approach of liberally minded law makers and police chiefs.
Again, it is the case the political class being completely out of touch with the people they represent. Rich politicians are rarely the victim of crime and therefore fail to see the grim reality faced by communities where crime goes unchallenged.
Paul Nuttall is the Deputy Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP)