Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

NOW that we're abolishing the right to silence, the presumption of innocence and jury trial, and will soon have the preventive detention of psychopaths before they've done anything illegal, it is time we stopped pussyfooting around and got tough on crime. And, since prevention is better than cure, it is only reasonable that we should go to the root cause of criminality: the names that parents choose to give their children.

The barest acquaintance with prison rolls will be sufficient to convince anyone moderately numerate and acquainted with British first-names that there is a great excess of incarcerated persons with the first name of Lee. A person called Lee is, in fact, virtually predestined to commit criminal acts, and many of them. It is time, surely, to take forensic advantage of this remarkable fact.

People with the name of Lee should be arrested at birth, or at least as soon as they receive that dreadful appellation, and held in detention for the first 50 years of their life. Furthermore, any male child with a brother named Lee should be held also, as having a hereditary propensity to crime. I do not deny that one or two minor injustices might result from my scheme, but what is a little injustice to compare with a 50 per cent reduction in the crime rate?

The other day in the prison I met a Lee whose detention at birth would have reduced the crime rate considerably within a radius of 100 miles of here. He had tried to hang himself because he was under threat from prisoners in another wing of the jail. He owed them money for heroin, he said, from his days as a free man; and through the bars separating the wings they had shown him a toothbrush handle which they had melted into a razor blade, ready to slash him up at the first opportunity. …

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