Magazine article The Spectator

It's Criminal

Magazine article The Spectator

It's Criminal

Article excerpt

The Spectator, 56 Doughty Street, London WCIN 2LL Telephone: 020-7405 1706; Fax 020-7242 0603

The root cause of crime is the decision to commit it; and the decision to commit it is profoundly influenced first by the chances of being caught, and second by the consequences of being caught. If the consequences are slight, the fear of capture is also slight.

These considerations are so obvious that it might be thought unnecessary to state them. On the contrary: throughout the last century intellectuals have sought to deny them by every sophistical argument which their imaginations could conjure. Their fear of crime is not that of the ordinary citizen - that is to say of being its victim - but of appearing to their peers to be illiberal in their attitudes towards it.

The chances of being caught depend to a large extent upon the efficacy of the police. Since the presence of the police acts as a deterrent to crime, the Police Federation's demand that more policemen should be recruited appears like plain common sense.

However, there is more to police efficacy than mere numbers. There is little point in increasing in an organisation the quantity of drones who increase expenditure without producing results. In latter years, policemen have been turned into quasibureaucrats by a combination of rampant managerialism (the belief that all waste and inefficiency can be managed out of existence, and that the setting of targets conduces to effort) and an exaggerated mistrust of their integrity fomented by liberal intellectuals who pretend to believe that the public has more to fear from the police than from criminals. The result is that each arrest now takes four hours to process as upwards of 40 forms are filled in. Without a ruthless and radical pruning of unnecessary bureaucratic tasks, therefore, police efficacy cannot be much improved merely by recruiting more of them.

It is inconceivable that Labour should address itself seriously to this problem, for most of its vociferous and powerful intellectual supporters are viscerally antipolice, and have no desire that the police should be effective. The fact that most Labour voters, by contrast, would prefer a hard line against crime suggests that voting behaviour is not altogether a matter of cold cerebration. People often vote for what they do not believe in.

When it comes to punishment, the big white chief in the Home Office speaks with forked tongue. On the one hand, he seems almost sadistic in his attachment to ferocity for its own sake, and certainly has little attachment to due process and the rule of law. …

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