Swift and certain justice?
Published by Phil Morgan on Thursday, July 5th, 2012 at 10:07 am
“It is swiftness and certainty of justice, not its extent, that is important” said Tim Newburn Professor of Criminology at LSE in response to the Reading the Riots report.
Like many people I was appalled to see rioters wandering round my city centre and proud of those who went out the next day to clean up the mess. Even my usual liberal sensibilities disappeared as I liked a friends Facebook comment that “They caught the bitch that smashed the window” of one well known Manchester store.
Several years ago I was leading a series of discussions with tenants about tackling anti-social behaviour. What struck me was that after tenants had exorcised their frustrations about ASB, and how it affected them and their communities, their priority was in preventing it happening.
However when it did happen their priority was that issues got dealt with quickly and effectively. At the time I had read about a case when someone caught shoplifting had been dealt with within 24 hours. When I mentioned this it had a deep resonance with tenants – it was the swiftness and certainty of action that mattered to them rather than slow uncertainty even with more draconian sentences.
Anyway it’s nice to see that the Director of Public Prosecutions and “a considerable body of research” agree with those tenants. So why don’t we do more to ensure swift justice?
We set targets for dealing with urgent repairs within 24 hours in housing so why not the far more damaging situation of violence and Anti-Social Behaviour for tenants?
Could we see landlords committing themselves to action within, say 24 hours? Upholding tenancy agreements and agreeing ways forward, including tackling any issues that would prevent reoccurrences. And where there is criminal behaviour how about the criminal justice system setting the same targets? With the forthcoming election of lots of police commissioners later this year might some of the candidates be tempted to make a similar promise?
Of course I accept that there are problems with such swift justice at times and some of the use of remand and sentencing of the riots with hindsight looks heavy handed. But at a time when a series of bankers have been committing their own brand of anti-social behaviour perhaps the principle of swift and certain justice could be spread just a little further.
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