Lore and Disorder
Reiner, Robert, The Independent (London, England)
LAW or order? The right-wing mantra of law and order has gone the way of such other traditional inseparables as love and marriage: it now seems (to stand Frank Sinatra on his head) that you can't have one with the other. On one side, the bobby lobby complains that the constraints of legality and due process force the police to fight crime with one hand tied behind their backs. Against this, civil libertarians bemoan the inadequacy of legal regulation of the police. They point to a string of notorious miscarriages of justice, from Timothy Evans in the 1950s, via such scandals as Challenor in the '60s and Confait in the '70s, to the more recent mass escape of skeletons from the Home Office cupboard: the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six, Maguire Seven, Tottenham Three, Judith Ward, Stefan Kiszko and others.
As David Rose tells us, the mainstream academic analysis of criminal justice over the last 30 years suggests that there is a fundamental tension between the values of crime control and due process of law. Right-wing law 'n' order enthusiasts would make the control of criminals their absolute priority, regardless of any cost to civil liberties, while liberals and the left have appeared more concerned about the sins of criminal justice agents than those of offenders. His riveting, profoundly disquieting book describes an even more disturbing set of developments: with the old law vs order model somebody always won, as the system veered at times towards crime control, at (fewer) times towards due process. What David Rose convincingly calls "the collapse of criminal justice" is a state of affairs where nobody wins - and there is no rollover to look forward to.
Rose's book begins by quoting the death sentence on the old regime of criminal justice, announced by Lord Lane's five words at high noon on 19 October, 1989, setting free the Guildford Four after their 15 years' incarceration: "The officers must have lied." As Rose rightly remarks, Lord Lane's comments "exploded like a depth-charge in a placid lake. His horror and cold fury were harbingers of tidal waves that have yet to subside." Closely followed by the rest of the miscarriage of justice roll-call mentioned earlier, the cases opened up precisely that "appalling vista" of a fundamentally flawed criminal justice process from which Lord Denning recoiled in horror in 1980 when refusing to allow an earlier appeal by the Birmingham Six. David Rose has an outstanding reputation as a campaigning journalist who has exposed many miscarriages of justice. It is hardly surprising that he opens his book with a compelling, vivid and humane analysis of the well-known causes celebres of criminal injustice together with several lower-profile but equally worrying examples of the corruption of power.
It is Rose's impeccable civil libertarian credentials, however, that make his auto-critique of the classic left-liberal orthodoxy so striking and convincing. He begins the argument with heart-rending accounts of the system's failure to deal with serious crimes, notably those against ethnic minorities. Contrary to the standard critical analysis, however, Rose does not attribute this to police or other criminal justice officials' racial discrimination. While recognising the virulent racism which still disfigures too much of the …
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Publication information: Article title: Lore and Disorder. Contributors: Reiner, Robert - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: February 4, 1996. Page number: 28. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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