Nigel Hastilow: Soft on crime, soft on the causes of crime
A huge Express & Star survey showed 97 per cent of people think the Conservatives are soft on crime. Nigel Hastilow asks are they still the party of law and order?
Home Secretary Sajid Javid had better watch out. He’s one of the front-runners to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister, but his chances must have been dealt a serious blow by the Express & Star’s crime survey.
It reveals the depths of public despair over our failing criminal justice system – and the man supposedly in charge of this appalling state of affairs is Mr Javid, the MP for Bromsgrove.
It’s probably unfair to blame him for the crisis. Indeed, Mrs May must bear most of the responsibility having been Home Secretary for six years. But Mr Javid is in the hot seat now.
And if it were not for the chaos and confusion over Brexit, the big issue dominating the headlines day after day would be the rise in crime: knife-crime, other forms of violence, robbery, burglary, rape and murder.
If the alleged forces of law and order were being held to account, which heads would roll?
The anonymous social workers who run the parole board and let out criminals long before their sentences are completed, for certain.
The people in both the privatised and public sectors who run our prisons and find it easier, or more convenient, to let the inmates take drugs, fail to get rehabilitated, indulge in a bit of rioting and see their friends on the outside break in to set warders’ cars on fire.
The Crown Prosecution Service, which is so casually incompetent it withholds evidence from defence lawyers leading to the collapse of trials which, in turn, can result in guilty people going free.
The courts, where defendants are routinely given soft sentences or convicted of ‘lesser offences’ because it’s too difficult to prove their guilt for the serious crime they’d originally been accused of.
The police, of course, as discussed here at some length last week, who, the survey reveals, are rarely (if ever) found out of their offices and cars patrolling the streets like good old beat bobbies.
Immigration, too? It is beyond doubt some crimes are committed by people who haven’t been in this country very long – for instance the Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi, who killed 22 people after being saved by the Royal Navy from Libya’s civil war in 2014.
Ultimately, though, the people whose heads should roll are the politicians who have constructed this ‘weak on crime, weak on the causes of crime’ system of law and disorder.
In part, it can be a question of money. There may, sometimes, not be enough of it to meet all the demands.
But ‘the cuts’ are an easy excuse trotted out by police chiefs who are desperate to pass the buck onto someone else.
Much more important is the way finances are mismanaged and money is wasted by these same officials.
More seriously, though, it is a question of policies which leave the law-abiding majority feeling abandoned by a system which does not serve their best interests.
Crime has reached such shocking levels that 57 per cent of people in the Express & Star survey do not feel safe in their own area – in their homes, out in the pubs and clubs, at sporting events or just walking down the street.
It is true our sense of vulnerability is not matched by reality. Most of us, most of the time, are perfectly safe and have little need to worry.
But tragedy can overtake anyone, especially as knife-crime has reached unprecedented levels.
So does the legal system protect us? Well, Tyrone Andrew stabbed Reagan Asbury ‘like an animal stalking its prey’ after a boxing match in Walsall and was only jailed for 14 years for manslaughter. He could be out in seven.
Kobe Murray was cleared completely of committing a crime even though he stabbed Ryan Passey to death during a ‘trivial’ dispute in a Stourbridge nightclub.
In such cases, we have to accept the jury’s verdicts. But it does make you wonder about the way the cases were investigated and prosecuted.
And every such tragedy yet again undermines public confidence in a system which is supposed to protect us. It is truly shocking that 94 per cent of Express & Star readers do not have confidence in our criminal justice system.
And just as dismaying that 97 per cent do not think the Government – run by the Conservatives, allegedly the ‘party of law and order’ – is not tough enough to crack down on crime.
In fairness, Mr Javid has started to fight back against the rising tide of criminality. He has urged police officers to use their powers to stop and search suspects after this policy was largely abandoned on the grounds it left officers vulnerable to accusations of racism.
After years of liberal, politically-correct pussyfooting about, this is a start. But Mr Javid has to go much further. He’s got to deliver real reform and tangible results. Urgently.