Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Good Idea At The Time?

I've been thinking about the idea of summary justice. Yesterday Chris Grayling announced that he favoured police officers having the power to temporarily confiscate a young thug's mobile phone to encourage them to behave. It was described as the 21st century equivalent of a clip round the ear. I'm not so sure. Apart from the authoritarian overtones of this measure, could it not lead to an increase in crime, as those who have had their phones confiscated would just go and steal a new one?

We have legal process for a purpose. Summary justice can be a very dangerous thing, especially when it relates to acts of violence or vandalism. Aren't there echoes of Tony Blair's suggestion of marching youngsters to cashpoints if they couldn't pay an on the spot fine? It seems like a good idea until you think about it.

I'm all in favour of new approaches to youth criminality but I actually don't think this idea is a very Conservative one.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Morning Iain, re Mobile Phones, they should be seized from people using them while driving as, after all, they are the evidence, that'll teach them.
Freedom to Prosper
PS Can you imagine the Mirror's headlines if these unemployment figures had come out under Thatcher?

Titus Aduxas said...

It also reeks of abuse - whilst the police have the mobile in custody, they can see exactly who the troublemaker is in contact with, who is in his phone book, etc..

Sounds more like another instance of the same kind as the misuse of the Anti-Terrorism Act that has been so prevalent.

Man in a Shed said...

I'm afraid this goes on the marching thugs to cash machines, (C) A Blair, to pay fines list of headline grabbing poorly thought out ideas.

Not a sheep said...

This smacks of the kind of "eye catching initiative" that Tony Blair favoured. It is illiberal, probably unworkable and almost certainly contrary to "human rights".

iain said...

What we really really need from a new Tory government is not loads and loads of new 'eye-catching initiatives'.

We just need to make sure that *existing* works properly.

The NuLab way was (note the past-tense) eye-catching intitiative, perhaps with a new law tagged on and the relevant minister touring the television studios.

We don't need 'clever clever' we just need competence.

Sean Haffey said...

Thought provoking.

What, if anything, should police be able to temporarily confiscate?

- a mobile phone being used to film a "happy slapping"?
- a weapon?
- a crowbar?
- a disguise?

I am very strongly in favour of individual freedom, but we need the police to have the power to intervene appropriately to reduce both crime and fear of crime.

Happy birthday, btw.

George said...

I somehow fear that this sort of policy is going to fall foul of the Human Rights mafia.

The problem is, that we all know our rights but not our responsibilities. Why? because of the insidious effects of half a century of social welfarism and socialist re-engineering that has cast the population as supplicants to an uncaring and rotten state parent, from early schooling to dole queue.

It will take a generation or two to instill good manners and consideration for others, i.e. discipline, and will require quite a revolution of change.

Taking away phones and bikes and other goodies will only result in resentment and potentially a rather severe backlash, as someone, somewhere says bollocks and lunges with his pocket knife or something larger.

The efforts to change needs to start at the grass roots with a fundamental change of how teachers operate and their powers to enforce discipline.

Anonymous said...

State theft exists in many different forms. This would be just another and very unlikely to increase a youngster's respect for authority.

A genuine clip round the ear though, delivered by a genuine policeman....

I can dream, can't I!

Lady Finchley said...

I had the same reaction - it screams 'unworkable gimmick'!

Mr Angry said...

Not only is this not a very Conservative idea it isn't a very good one either. There are many potential issues with it not least being empowering individual police officers to dispense summary justice involving no judicial process but allowing the confiscation of private property that would probably have had nothing to do with the perceived offence.

Chris Grayling is normally a hell of a lot better than this so I'll just view this particular bad idea as a minor aberation and trust that he will swiftly regain his normal level head.

Oliver Drew said...

If a crime involving the use of said mobile phone has been committed then it should be taken as evidence of that crime.

However the police should not have the power to deal out "summary justice" to anyone. That is what the court system is for.

In my opinion, giving out "on the spot fines" is going too far for the police, so no, I don't think that it is a good idea.

What would be better would be to set up the criminal equivalent of a "small claims court" to deal with "petty" crime, or even to expand the magistrates service and put these things through there - but it would need serious expansion to avoid "gridlock".

Anonymous said...

Summary justice should involve the oik getting a good kicking from a couple of large senior officers.

Hipponess said...

Firstly. A very happy birthday Ian. Hope you enjoy it.
Re: Mobiles. I can't agree with taking them. The plods have far too much power as it is. We should be limiting their powers of arrest and seizures.
Not a happy bunny about this one. Not happy at all!

Kay Tie said...

We recently gave powers to PCSOs and police to confiscate alcohol using summary powers. And what happened? Widespread abuse: in effect, PCSOs decided to ignore Home Office guidelines and impose prohibition.

We have due process for a reason. I'd rather we just accepted that rather than re-learn every generation why the 1689 Bill of Rights was a necessary thing.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

C'mon. You know this is one of the daftest (most desperate?) notions you've heard for some long time. But what more can be expected from ex-SDP defectors? Especially those with a tough street-wise upbringing in the glug-glug glory days of commercial TV? Another one of the on-the-make, on-the-take expenses merchants.

Grayling isn't up to the job. Nor was Grieve. Davis most definitely was. Says a lot about the "talent" in the Tory team. Correction there: in the third-tier in any of the political parties (OK, OK: yeah, yeah: in UKIP the "culture-sag" starts at the top).

Unsworth said...

Grayling's an idiot. Summary justice is exactly not what he should be advocating. He's fallen into the trap of providing ill-considered knee-jerk response to perceived problems.

Frankly I'm appalled that he even considers this to be a sensible approach. What does he want to do - emasculate the 'justice system' in exactly the same way as the NuLab apparatchiks? There's far, far too much in the way of giving the police judicial powers already.

What he should be doing is promising more money to the Magistracy and, in particular, to supporting the hard pressed Magistrates Courts. Under Labour many of these buildings are being abandoned - with nothing replacing them. Maybe Grayling should take a look at Bystander's Blog: http://thelawwestofealingbroadway.blogspot.com/. It's pretty educational.

PSJ said...

I agree with the general thrust of responses above. Summary justice is a terrible idea; the police need fewer powers that work, not more powers that don't; and the problem of thuggishness/larrikinism has far more to do with easy availability of alcohol, absentee or indifferent parents and the breakdown of discipline in schools.

I don't have any easy solutions, but I know a terrible idea when I see one.

Stronghold Barricades said...

Surely we should allow the police to act with discretion

This might then allow the police to restore their lost respect

Matthew Cain said...

It's all a bit reminiscent of New Labour's headline grabbing. Frances Crook makes a similar point: http://www.howardleague.org/francescrookblog/headline-grabbing

Expat said...

A long time ago "Not the Nine O'Clock News" suggested that they should have their balls cuts off. Not sure how this works for the oikettes, but it is a good start for the oiks.

LORD LINDLEY said...

I would prefer that the police did actually 'box the ears' of the little thugs. Perhaps we could allow teachers to issue the cane as a punishment for misbehaving pupils. I know these radical ideas will be poo-pood by our lovey brigade, but they might just help our horrible society of benefit dependant chav's and immigrants that cause 90% of all crime. Here's another idea, abolish child benefit for all! Oh another, reduce tax credits so people want to work. GOD I'M GOOD. and don't mention child poverty in the UK..OR ELSE!

Tom said...

Plus it would make it harder to set up a wiretap...

Cronan said...

Grayling is acting like an idiot. The police do not need more "discretionary" powers than they already have, they need a lot less. If there is a problem, caution the offender, or arrest them.

If Grayling thinks we need to behave like Labour in order to win the next election, he's utterly wrong.

Robin B'stard MP said...

It's just another "knee jerk" idea, a better one would be to instantly uplift the offender to the nearest Army training camp for 6 months square bashing....

A damned good thrashing on the spot is whats really needed not a glut of confiscated mobile phones auctioned off on Bumblebee!

JuliaM said...

"Apart from the authoritarian overtones of this measure.."

Stop right there. There is nothing else to say, is there?

Confiscation of personal property should come only after your day in court, not before.

At least, that's what a Conservative should believe...

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting one, generally i am against giving more powers to the police but the only punishment which seems to work with my 15yr old is to confiscate the mobile phone. It goes everwhere with her. Even if there is no credit or the battery is flat, it is in her hand or her pocket. On those occasions we do confiscate it temporarily we allow her to remove the SIM so she can be sure we cannot access her messages etc.

Nothing works as well as a form of punishment.

Sandy Jamieson said...

I'm very wary on this.

In this age, what will happen is an officer will confiscate say a mobile from and Asian or an African youth.

Because of this pc age and afraid of being accused of racially motivated targetting, the police officer will seek a white youth and on the flimsiest pretext, confiscate his/her mobile. After all that's what they're doing in stop and search

Bardirect said...

Forfeiture orders are generally a good idea in principle, but unfortunately summary justice is often arbitrary and inconsistent so overall unjust. Even when imposed judicially proportionality can be a problem. Seizing the bike of an estate kid is one thing but seizing the bike of a country lad who needs it to get to school 5 miles away might be another. The offence might be the same but the impact of the punishment quite different and its no answer that they should have thought about that before they did the deed.

The fact is that the ostensibly low level anti social behaviours at which this type of proposal is aimed are only at the thin end of the wedge. The underclass affected are already contemptuous of authority, the police, the law generally, their own parents, etc.

Education is the only answer. How that is delivered is the real problem.

National Service anyone?

Ben said...

Would anyone support a law that would allow the police to summarily confiscate your mobile phone? Or any of your property? Of course not.

The only reason such a measure can even be mooted is that the target are 'youths' a group so thoroughly demonised as thugs and vandals that innocent until proven guilty need not apply.

Yak40 said...

"Beer for my horses" might work too.

Jon Forest said...

Err...you could just bring back the clip round the ear and let them keep their phones.
As a way of dealing with minor delinquency, it was cheap, cost effective and, in the long run, a lot less damaging to the miscreant youth than any of the alternatives.

canvas said...

that is sooooooo old school tory. DC must come up with better ideas...buck up your ideas Tory HQ!

That's excactly why not many people are 'excited' by the idea of a Tory government...They just accept it as inevitable - but also undesirable.

In Contempt of Parliament said...

Arbitrary law is here already.

Man arrested for taking a photograph while being too tall. Just one of many.

And what are the Official Opposition going to do about it, eh? Nothing, I bet.

"None of our business, guv. The police are another department." Shrug shoulders, look the other way. And when it's their turn, it'll just carry on.

We get photographed and scrutinised at every turn by the Authorities, but just watch them kick up about "privacy" and "security" if we should dare to look back.

What are we supposed to do about it, Mr Politician? Who are we supposed to go to?