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June 17, 2007


Mark Wadsworth

I'd go with mandatory minimum sentencing, let's say, life-sentence for any acts of violence, OK, maybe a statutory 10 years for ABH. And life should mean life

The criminal chooses whether to murder, rape or attack somebody, the victim doesn't have that choice.

Prison is not about punishment or rehabilitation, it is about prevention. I do not care if they play pool and watch Sky TV all day as long as they are not out attacking people. As to deterrence, forget it.

Drugs and prositution should be completely legalised to make room for all the lifers.


Civil servants do it, too. DfT is trying to work out how to satisfactorily implement the 2008 entitlement for holders of bus passes to use them all over England. Instead of developing a national methodology for combating counterfeiting fraud, they ask the Local Authorities, other interested groups (such as Transport 2000 and Help The Aged), and the general public, to help them. This is embodied in a consultation document on their web site, asking questions such as “Do you consider a hologram or a laminate overlay appropriate security features?”. If they don’t have any security experts of their own, there are plenty available on the market – or they could get advice free from the savvy existing local schemes (they have indeed already been given advice).

chris strange

The love of polls could also be be a case off old fashioned arse covering. Getting polls to try and claim they are justing doing what the public wants them too so when it goes wrong there is something they can use to deflect the blame away from themselves.


Wait until they need to implement something that either the Americans or the arms industry wants. Then see how likely they are to canvass for your opinion.

Will Davies

This is really screwed up. It's utilitarianism eating itself: you take an instrumentally rational view of politics (split ends from means), arise at a range of possible means, then offer them back to the public for their aesthetic delectation. Politics becomes about means all over again (as it is for procedural liberals, just in a much darker way).

What is really going on here is the Tories saying "how would you like us to keep tabs on the underclass? Which method for crime prevention do you feel they most deserve", which is a communitarian shift, that eventually leads towards the US rediscover of chain gangs on the side of roads.
Nasty stuff.

Not Saussure

I don't mean to insult Mr Wadsworth but his comment exemplifies part of the problem of asking the public about sentencing; is he really suggesting that a fight in a pub that leaves someone with a black eye (ABH) should attract a mandatory 10 year minimum? Or that, if life should mean life, the sentencing system should not discriminate between, on the one hand, a professional killer and, on the other, someone who, during a brawl in a pub, picks up a pool cue in the heat of the moment, hits his opponent over the head with it, and leaves him dead on the floor (an outcome he never intended)?

Whenever politicians try to meddle in sentencing to make it tougher, the results are almost without exception, disastrous; the mandatory sentencing provisions for violent crimes in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 are a case in point. The problem is that, when you have such provisions you've got the choice of having them come what may or having a get-out clause that the judge must impose a particular sentence unless it's manifestly unreasonable or unjust so to to.

Don't have such a clause and you'll rapidly have an outcry about sentences that clearly are manifestly unjust and unreasonable. Have one, and it's absolute bloody nighmare trying to sort when, and why, things are unjust or unreasonable; take a look at R v Lang and R v Johnson (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2005/2864.html and http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2006/2486.html ) for an example of the problems this causes the courts.

Admittedly, many of these problems are to do with the assessment of dangerousness, which wouldn't be an issue if you just locked up all violent offenders; but if you down that route and start giving 10 year minimum sentences for all idiotic teenagers who get into pub brawls, no matter how unjust and unreasonable this appears and even though no one thinks there's a serious risk they'll cause severe harm to people if left at large, you're soon going to run into problems.

Mark Wadsworth

Not Saussure, maybe what I posted is a bit extreme, but at least it's nice and simple.

Do you think the chap struck dead in a fight in a pub is any happier about things than the victim of a professional hit?

Plus, the capacity for violence is deeply ingrained, a fifteen year old who brings a knife to school will probably one day use it, and most (obviously not all) murderers work their way up via more minor assaults.

OK, let's modify those sentences a bit (apart from full life for pre-meditated murder) and have a "three (or two?) strikes and you are out" rule.

Chris Williams

I went to school - in the 1980s - with a number of people who brought knives to school once in while. I'm pretty sure that none of them has ever stabbed someone yet.

But Chris D, are you familiar with Durkheim? If the point of the criminal justice system is to remind the law-abiding what the limits are, then this kind of public opinion sampling is entirely reasonable.



Mandatory sentencing sounds great, until you realise you will end up consigning 17 year old boys to ten years in prison (and life on the sex-offenders register) for having sex with their girlfriends... Judges MUST have the authority to decide sentences based on the facts of an individual case... If judges repeatedly give bad sentences then they should be removed.


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