The law and order contradiction which makes no sense

In the wake of the two big murder trials that resulted in gulty verdicts this week, the police have called for an extension to the DNA database so that it covers every single adult in the UK. They say this would lead to an increased in detection rates and more people being locked up in prisin.

Ironically, this is said by the police on the same day as the government have announced again that the prisons are full and that judges and magistrates are being encourage to give out "community" sentences rather than send criminals to prison.

Does this seem slightly contradictory ?

I know that the two murder cases in the news would always result in a prison sentence, but police are arguing that DNA is left at the scene of many crimes, and this will also aid the detection and solving of minor crimes too. However, it is these "minor" crimes that the police routinely don't bother to investigate and it is these minor crimes that criminals are likely to receive a minor slap on the wrist community sentence for rather than a proper prison sentence.

Who says the police and the Labour government lack a sense of irony.


jailhouselawyer said...

I don't think that there is any contradiction here at all. The police are always seeking more powers. This is just another example. What it boils down to is this, the police want Nich Starling's DNA on a data base now just in case he commits a crime in the future and it makes it easier for the police to solve it.

In both the recent murder cases, it was the collection of DNA for totally unrelated offences which led directly to their convictions for the murders. This is a strong argument for widening the DNA data base to include everybody in the country. On the other hand there is the civil liberties argument that it infringes upon the civil liberties of innocent persons.

In the Suffolk murder case, Steve Wright made attempts to cover his tracks but was unsuccessful and the police still found DNA matches which linked him to the victims. In addition, the police were already closing in on him as a result of CCTV footage. Basically, his defence was "yes, I went with these prostitutes, but I didn't kill them". Technology has moved on since the Yorkshire Ripper murders (again he was caught more by chance than good detective work), in its favour is that but for the DNA match Wright might have gone on killing for years.

Yesterday, the trial judge stated that he was torn between imposing a 35 year tariff, and natural life. On the ground that the latter removes any chance of reform and rehabilitation, I am opposed to it except in exceptional circumstances. And, this case warranted the maximum. In the model murder case, the judge imposed a minimum of 34 years upon Mark Dixie. Had there only been 1 year minimum between them I feel that it would have been a travesty of justice.

Mark Dixie's defence was that he just happened to come across the body and jumped on whilst she was still warm. That was a black humoured prison joke that would get lifers groaning in mock disgust. For someone to actually try the defence in court surprised even me. I think a 34 year tariff is very high for 1 murder. Bearing in mind that it used to be 7-8 years on average for a life sentence, and only the worst of the worst would get 20 years. It is disappointing that it has crept up over the years. Having said that, as this case involved both a rape and a murder, the maximum for rape is life imprisonment. It could have worked out that he got 20 years on each count, to run consecutively and not concurrently.

One of the problems with the increase in lifer tariffs is that they get bottle-necked within the system. There are now over 3,000 lifers. Some get released, and recalled for nothing or next to nothing (and some for something) and this means that they are back in the system for a minimum of 2 years. This adds to the overcrowding.

In addition, those with Indefinite Public Protection sentences (IPPs) may only have tariffs of 2-3 years, and they jam up the Category 'B' prisons, which were meant for long-termers, and they can spend longer than that waiting for the Parole Board to release them. And, many of them are recalled as above and put an additional strain on the system with its overcrowding.

Over the years, the Certified Normal Accommodation (CNA) has been altered by placing 2 and 3 prisoners in cells designed to hold 1 prisoner. The Prison Service has been playing the numbers game. Today, it was announced that the system has exceeded its CNA. In truth, it has exceeded this for a number of years. The standard for issuing certificates fit for human inhabitation has been lowered. Many cells are not fit to house 1 inmate, let alone 2 or 3. The crisis is far worse than people outside are aware. Worse, too many don't care.

The whole purpose of creating the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), joining the Prison Service and Probation Service together (with input from the Police), has these aims: "Protect the public, Reduce re-offending
Punish offenders, Rehabilitate offenders, Ensure victims feel justice has been done".

The aims miss their targets. One reason is that probation officers feel their jobs are threatened by the merger, and their unions have been playing silly buggers. There is very little co-operation between the departments. Probation officers have too many clients to deal with, and the prisons are too overcrowded. And, pressure is being put upon magistrates and judges to use less custodial sentences. They feel their independence is being threatened and rebel.

On April Fools Day, the first Chief Executive of NOMS takes charge of all this mess. He has a reputation of being a trouble shooter. I suspect heads will start to roll. Whilst I had every confidence in him as a prison governor, then Area Manager, Deputy Director General and finally Director General of the Prison Service, I fear this is a step too far. One knee-jerk from the incompetent Jack Straw, and the competent Phil Wheatley could lose his job.

Labour has had 10 years to clean this mess up and instead they have made it worse.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I know there is a difference between the police and the government, but sometimes I think the government are guilty of allowing the police to psu for things so they can they use this as an argument for legislating for them.

You make some good points though.