Comment: We don’t need armed police, we need tougher sentences
By Godfrey Bloom
Let me start with a salute to the bravery of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes and send my sincere condolences to their families.
I am old enough to remember the appalling day in 1966 when Harry Roberts shot dead three policemen in Shepherd’s Bush. Thankfully, the wilful premeditated murder of serving police officers is still a rarity but this week was a painful reminder of the risks they take every day of their working lives.
Whenever a tragedy of this nature manifests itself, the media debates ask whether the time has come for our police to be armed. It is the wrong debate to be having. The solution doesn’t lie in an armed police force but in a hard look at wider society.
The police do not want to be routinely armed; it would not suit their culture or indeed the British people. The concept is in itself ‘un-British’. Arming them would widen the divide between communities and the police. The police need to be freed from the burden of red tape and form-filling to get back to policing the streets. Crime has moved on. Now policing needs to as well.
Forty-five years separate the crimes of Harry Roberts and the killer of the two officers in Manchester. Their crimes are similar; the societies in which they committed them are not.
Old working class communities, living within the extended family, have largely gone. Personal responsibility has been abrogated to the state and welfare has become a lifestyle choice and not the safety net envisaged by Beveridge in 1943.
Single mothers have several children by different fathers, usually absent, and live their entire lives in a twilight world of a worklessness and benefits. Their children are, in turn, let down by a failing education system where discipline and educational excellence are not on the curriculum.
The culture that emerges is, at best, one of apathy and despair and, at worse, one of lawlessness and callous indifference to their fellow citizen. Forty years ago, vicious crimes against pensioners were virtually unknown. Even the criminal community themselves would have been horrified at what is routine today. In 2012, we routinely see our former war heroes battered and beaten for the pensions they worked hard for.
The UK, in common with most of Europe and North America, has a completely failed drug policy. Drugs are more readily available and relatively cheaper now than they have ever been. Where there are drugs, there is violent crime and wider criminality as addicts steal to fund their habit. We must have a complete review of a supply based policy and address the problems which lead to drug addiction and the embedded institutionalisation of criminal drug supply.
But the overwhelming failure to tackle violent crime is down to sentencing policy. Thirty years ago, bail for violent crimes committed by thugs on bail was unheard of. The London riots shocked the world, not so much because they happened, but because many of those that were involved were on bail or had convictions for previous offences. Why is anyone surprised at this? I am not.
Dale Cregan, who is accused of killing the two police officers, allegedly committed the crime while on bail because the police were not sure they had a strong enough case to charge him. Greater Manchester Police said it was “absolutely normal” for arrested men to be freed pending further enquiries. With offences of this gravitas – it shouldn’t be.
Letting recidivist criminals out of prison does not work. Prison must be both a deterrent to the criminal and a way of protecting the public. Resources released with this pragmatic approach could go towards crime prevention which was, incidentally, Sir Robert Peel’s approach when he created a police force 150 years ago.
It would seem apparent to any intelligent lay observer that there are broadly three categories of prisoner: The first time offender, who can be saved with the necessary resources, the social misfit who ends up in prison often because there is nowhere else for him or her to go and the perpetual and habitual criminal who spends a lifetime in an out of prison. This latter category is not acknowledged by the establishment.
We must accept as a society that they need to be incarcerated forever. The revolving door prison policy is straining our police resources and endangering the public. The myth that prison does not work, perpetuated by government administration of all political lives for many years, must be finally abandoned.
The country sent a dangerous message to the violent criminal community when the death penalty was abolished. Let them send another message now by invoking the full majesty of the law against those who understand nothing else.
Let us give the judiciary complete discretion in sentencing with a very strong and strictly enforced policy that lenient sentencing will be overturned on appeal. Moreover, judges who fail in their duty to issue sentences of sufficient deterrence or public protection will be summarily dismissed the bench.
Let the Crown Prosecution Service leave judging and sentencing to the courts. It is not their role to 'cherry pick' cases to go forward to manipulate the statistics of successful prosecutions.
Let academics who refer to burglary as a 'low-harm crime' be publicly upbraided and research grants withheld. Let us report crime statistics without manipulation and let police commissioners prioritise resources on their patch regardless of politically correct pressure from interested sub-groups. Let the new police commissioners oath ring true and polices be rigorously pursued with a view to cutting crime – with serious violent crime at the top.
If elected, I will, if necessary, say to the Home Office: 'No'. The killers of this world will have no place on my patch. Dealing with people like them will be my priority. Back me or sack me.
Godfrey Bloom is Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire and police commissioner candidate for Humberside. Follow him on Twitter
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