The Short Arm Of The Law

My praise of the 1689 Bill of Rights got a quick reaction from the Blair government – they dumped a key part of it! They’ve told cops to caution rather than arraign felons for many serious criminal acts. This attempt to take cost out of the criminal justice system will have the reverse effect.

The 1689 Bill of Rights decreed:

Englishmen, as embodied by Parliament, possessed certain civil and political rights that could not be taken away. These included:
– freedom from fines and forfeitures without trial

Cautioning does away with this, leaving felons untried and unpunished, but with criminal records:

Cautions count towards criminal records but offenders are not taken to court and do not have to pay a fine or complete a punishment.

Felons will now get cautions if they (my ellipsis):

(1) commit assault
(2) burgle commercial premises
(3) have small quantities of Class A drugs (including cocaine, morphine & LSD)
(4) (commit) common assault
(5) indulge in threatening behavior
(6) (have) sex with a girl aged 13 to 15 when a relationship is in place,
(7) (have) sex with a boy under 16 who consents.

So if a Brit finds a druggie beating up their 13 year old kid after having sex with them, they’ll deal with it outside the law.

The traditional Anglo legal system was designed to reduce the cost of crime to society. All alleged criminals were tried in a court of law, and punished if found guilty. Punishment raised the cost of crime to the criminal and so reduced its incidence. Jury trials enabled citizens to build social capital, and to check despotic rulers and judges. The state gained legitimacy by providing a public good, and universal and impartial justice made revenge crimes unnecessary.

With that system gone, crime and its associated costs will escalate.

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