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8:36am on Monday, 22nd May, 2006:

Phone Vote


The new Home Secretary is proposing that victims of crime should be given a say on whether offenders should be freed from jail.


Why should they? Is this some kind of scheme to direct burglars to target the houses of inarticulate people who will be unable to argue persuasively that their tormentor should rot in prison? Or is it an attempt to inform muggers that they should pick on vicars, who will be predisposed to forgive them? Or, indeed, is it a cunning plan to reduce prisoner numbers because the families of crooks will lean on victims to try get their relatives out early?

I've never liked the suggestion that the demeanour of victims should make a difference in court cases. For several years now, it's been the case that if I get beaten up but bear it stoically, my tormentor will get less of a sentence than if the victim were some hysterical individual who broke down in tears in court. Why should that be? We've both been mugged; the mugger shouldn't get a more lenient sentence just because one victim is better able to get on with their life afterwards.

This "do you want this criminal freed?" thing is just another step along the road to making justice an entirely emotive affair. Give it a few years and we'll have televised court cases with phone votes determining the verdict...

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).