Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Justice must be seen to be done. Violence is all to common and all to often celebrated by young males.

It is often said that as well as justice being done, justice must be seen to be done. For the public to have confidence in the system, they need to see that where someone has been the victim of crime, they are compensated and the offender punished. 

However the flipside of this is the deterrent effect of justice – I would argue that as well as justice being seen to be done, it also needs to be seen to deter. People do not commit crimes – in part – because of the punishment regime which exists, however if they do not 'feel' the deterrent effect of it, then what good is that incentive in the system? Every time a lenient sentence is given out, or a sentence which appears short without good reason given clearly, it sends a system to the violent and criminal that they can basically get away with it.

I was recently contacted by someone who works for a local charity which works with offenders and young people to educate them in the risks of getting involved in violent confrontations. It is hard for them to swallow when stories abound in the media about violent individuals who barely feel the force of the law, despite committing life-destroying crimes. 

So when you read reports such as this one about a man beating his pregnant girlfriend, after having served a custodial sentence for manslaughter, gets an 18 week sentence, it is difficult to see how the deterrent effect of prison is being communicated.

I want to see a renewed look at this. Whereas Chris Grayling has spent his time making headlines for all the wrong reasons, I want to see the system function better as a deterrent, and function more visibly in the interests of justice.