I've read too many stories like this over the last few years. Courts have been lenient on offenders then they've gone on to do another, more serious, crime. I fully understand the arguments for not just locking up people, everything from having to build twice as many prisons to it hardening offenders, but surely that just means the justice system is flawed. I'm also not a fan of the death penalty as many of the commenters on the article are advocating, this is a failure of earlier justice and reform should be about stopping crime escalating rather than holding back the stick until the big crimes.
So... how would you fix it?
Here's what I'd do:
Criminals under 16:
- make the parents share any punishments ordered. For example, give a youth a 200 hours community service order and the parents get it as well. Parents should only be excused if they can prove to a very high standard that they tried everything they could to reform the child. In the case of the story here, it's at such a late stage of persistent offending that the parents should be looking at a jail sentence.
- confiscation orders. Strip the kids' family of everything bar basic survival and hygiene stuff and sell it to help compensate victims. Do it anyway if the stuff wouldn't sell or make money. Same burden of proof on the parents as above.
- make handling stolen goods from a burglary a far more serious offence. Automatic lengthy jail time unless you can prove you did everything reasonably possible to verify that the goods are legit. Extend that to the managers of 2nd hand goods stores like Cash Converters.
- humiliating community service. That's the only thing that many youngsters truly don't want to do. Luminous pink Hello Kitty jumpsuits minesweeping public parks on their hands and knees for dog-mess. Make exemptions hard to get, for example if you're fit enough to do a burglary or assault then you have no limitations on what community service you can be given and you cannot get a doctor's note for excusal from your GP, it must be police doctor; many GPs admit to being pressured to give sick notes by intimidation.
Criminals over 16:
- adult versions of above.
- make tracking tags actually neck tags and make them big and bright. Make them automatically emit noise, maybe a siren or annoyingly loud beep, if they go outside their curfew zone. In fact, why not just program it to play S-Club 7 on repeat until they get back into their zones; quite hard to commit crimes while you have "Reach for the Stars" playing away at a loud volume.
- for those on benefits, remove cash benefits entirely and replace them with food stamps and state-paid housing benefits. Random house inspections where the inspector can demand to be shown receipts for any new item and where the money came from to buy it.
- if jailed, then released prisoners should be automatically relocated at least 100 miles from home with a more discrete tracking device fitted for the same duration as their jail time. Automatic return to jail if you go within 10 miles of your former house without police permission. Force councils to house these criminals on a pro-rated allocation basis.
- remove all criminal records gained before 16, except for jail time, if the youth is completely free from trouble from 16-21. Only allow police to access these records and exempt them completely from CRB disclosure.
- the Enhanced CRB should only be available to external reviewers. For example, the case where a teacher was sacked for getting a criminal record for not having a fishing license was an abuse of the CRB process, any criminal conviction should be externally assessed and then only if it's relevant should it be passed onto the employer.
- allow an offender the right to appeal to a judge to have a criminal record hidden from CRB disclosure as a recognition of exceptional public service, e.g. for years of charity work or other substantial point to allow a judge to decide whether to allow someone to live down the stupidity of youth.
Foreign criminals given a jail sentence? Deport them once any criminal appeal has ended, refuse them access to immigration appeals processes. Even the EU ones. It's good enough for France to do and they just give a gallic shrug when someone complains to the ECHR (or ECJ for EU cases) about them. Rights to live in a foreign country come with responsibilities, break the responsibilities, lose the rights. Don't know which country they came from then make a best guess, not your problem if you got it wrong, it's a common problem these days with many disposing of foreign ID documents to hamper deportation. Also, if they're given a criminal conviction that results in any punishment award and they do not have right to remain then it automatically invalidates their immigration application.
Finally, speed up justice. It currently takes a minimum of 6-12 months to get from charge to jury trial, longer in some parts of Britain. First step, allow the CPS to submit requests directly to the Crown Court for trials rather than having at least two Magistrates Court hearings before a Crown Court will even start the scheduling process. That removes about 3 months from the process. Then you could have a two-tier Crown Court, tier one for the most serious of crimes where defence and prosecution are given the current time limits to prepare their cases, tier two for less serious crimes or for persistent offending minor crimes where you can have almost an American style revolving door hearing system for pre-trial stuff to speed up the process.