Police cautions to be scrapped in England and Walesn

The warnings in question are those sometimes offered to minor offenders rather than charging them with an offence.

The reasoning offered is that ‘victims shouldn’t ‘feel that criminals are walking away scot-free.’

I definitely appreciate that the recommended new system includes making apologies and restitution to victims. This is a step in the right direction. As is scrapping verbal warnings for violent offences including rape. That the current justice system hasn’t taken rape seriously enough to prosecute consistently in Britain makes my skin crawl.

Much to be said on that.

What worries me, however, is a trend towards giving victims a say in how punishment is administered. I think it undermines a push towards a system of properly blind justice. Because the systems in (to be fair) most of the world don’t actually work as they should, we might think that giving the victim a say in punishment will make it more fair, more just. The fact is, however, that someone who has been victimised is likely to want something harsher for the perpetrator than the crime might merit.

Less probable is the likelihood that victims might face retribution from the perpetrator’s circle if they are seen as having had a hand in a criminal’s sentencing.

To be honest, the article seems to be a bit of a hodgepodge. The new program is a pilot to see how better to prosecute low-level crime. This I can support, I think. The last line of the piece is possibly the kicker: 230,000 cautions were issued in England and Wales last year. How does that compare to the number of crimes reported? To the number of not guilty verdicts in crimes that went to trial? To the number of wrongful accusations?How about the speed of trials? Recidivism rates of first-time offenders over time. One of the only quotes in the article comes from the shadow justice secretary. This is an issue because it’s an extended attack on prosecution policy under the Cameron government. This doesn’t help the reader understand the new programme and the writer doesn’t do anything to challenge the bias of the speaker who is trying only to score points against the Cameron government.

Another story in the news this weekend is about a push to get photos of politicians wearing t-shirts that read ‘This is what a feminist looks like’. In theory, I think this idea is fine. Cameron would’t put one on and took flack for it. This, I think is less fine. Don’t give a non-feminist a hard time for not putting on a shirt that publicises a campaign in which he obviously and honestly doesn’t believe. Give him flack for not doing things in his rather huge power that don’t benefit women. The t-shirt campaign is throwing soft balls to politicians who aren’t doing the work of making people’s lives better. It’s easy for Clegg and Miliband to jump on the bandwagon, because women, theoretically are a more important part of their constituencies than they are of Cameron’s.

When we’re after some substantive discussion on the subject, who jumps in but News Corp. No love lost between me and the Murdoch empire, but it’s not as though they work to make the discourse clearer and policy differences more stark. No. What does the Daily Mail report, as reported on the BBC this morning?

The Mail reports that the shirts (which retail for 45 quid, profits donated to charity) are made by women paid 62p per hour in Maurtius sweat shops. The charity in question, The Fawcett Society claims they were promised the shirts were made ‘ethically in the UK’. Halfway down the BBC article a Fawcett rep is quoted as saying “At this stage, we require evidence to back up the claims being made by a journalist at the Mail on Sunday.” The Beeb might have started their article on the matter the same way. When reading anything published in a News Corp paper (or spouted on their TV stations – Fox News to start with), your first question should always be, ‘In what way is this person lying to me?’

(I wish I had jotted down a recent Wall Street Journal piece that Rachel Maddow quoted. She goes all out against Fox News several times a week, but just because the WSJ used to be respectable doesn’t mean it still is since its takeover by News Corp a few years ago.)