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article imageOp-Ed: Knee jerk nonsense on the riots from Call Me Dave

By Alexander Baron     Aug 13, 2011 in Politics
British Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed some instant sanctions to be used against the rioters. It would have been better if he had thought before opening his mouth.
Eleven years ago, then British Prime Minister and future war criminal Tony Blair came up with a novel suggestion for combatting anti-social behaviour, which was then very much in the news. An on-the-spot fine should be imposed on the offender– who was to be judged summarily guilty by an on-the-spot police officer - he would then be marched to the nearest cashpoint and forced to cough up a hundred quid.
Politicians, all manner of policy makers, and others float such ridiculous suggestions all the time, and a lot of good ideas come out of them. What sort of world would we be living in if someone hadn’t suggested investigating the possibility that madness was caused by some malfunction of the human brain rather than by demonic possession? Having said that, the man who is perceived to be running the government if not the country, should perhaps think twice before he opens his mouth. In the heat of the moment, David Cameron has made two suggestions which on the face of it sound as though they might provide some meaningful partial solution, but when subjected to even the most superficial analysis, they quickly fall apart.
One is that the people who have been organising looting – flash mobs as they are called in the United States – should be banned from using social media. The other is that council tenants who are convicted of riot-related offences should be evicted.
Let’s look at the first of these proposals. We have already seen an attempt at something like this with control orders in alleged terrorist cases. This is for men who are considered to be so dangerous that they must be subjected to controls. If they are so dangerous, why aren’t they in prison? Because they haven’t been convicted of any offences. The proper solution is for men who have committed serious crimes to be arrested, tried, and if convicted, locked up for a long time. If they are not British nationals, they should simply be kicked out, regardless of any “human rights” considerations. Give them a few hundred quid a piece, a first class ticket to any destination of their choosing, and march them in handcuffs to the plane.
Although urban rioters are not in the same league as potential suicide bombers, we have already seen widespread arson, and in such situations, arson is always a potentially dangerous act, which is why it carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. What though would banning people from using social media entail? Social media is exactly that; if it is used as anti-social media, or for other purposes, action can be and sometimes is taken against offenders. The current writer was kicked off Facebook at one point after a malicious complaint from two braindead supporters of convicted murderess Linda Carty, and it was only after I wrote direct to Mark Zuckeberg that my account was restored.
YouTube removes videos all the time, usually for copyright reasons, but most ISPs, webhosts, social media, noticeboards, etc, rightly take a Libertarian approach to all their users, and in the spirit of the Internet, they object to any sort of government regulation. As Facebook for example is based in the USA, there is also the little question of jurisdiction. So if bans were to be introduced, they would have to be directed at individuals. Under what law? As no such statute exists, it would have to be drafted. How? And more to the point, how would it be enforced? Perhaps the solution would be for us to have to register with the government before being permitted to use the Internet, or maybe it would be better for all of us to have microchips implanted in the backs of our necks? You think this is some sort of wind up? Try this on for size.
The other suggestion made by David Cameron is that convicted rioters should be evicted from their council houses. One council has taken him at his word, and has already begun legal proceedings against an unnamed tenant. The first thing to note about this is that it is not simply the offender who is facing eviction but the entire family; details have not yet been released but it appears the tenant is the offender’s mother. This amounts to collective punishment, which is clearly immoral, and it is to be hoped that the courts will rule against it. Assuming they don’t, and this sort of nonsense becomes law, it will clearly create more problems than it will solve. In the first place, a local authority has an obligation to house homeless people, so those involved would quite likely end up in hostel accommodation, which would cost even more money. And if they weren’t?
One of the reasons there are so many repeat offenders is that people get caught in a downward spiral. They end up in prison, are discharged with a small grant and perhaps a hostel address, carrying their worldly possessions in a transparent, plastic prison bag, no job, no prospects, no hope. These sort of people are mostly unemployable anyway, or if they were aspiring social workers or fashion models before the riots, they won’t be any longer. Punishment is one thing, but to destroy people’s lives, and to make the world a worse place in the process, is another thing entirely.
The number of riot-related arrests is now well into four figures; rather than gaol these people (those who are convicted) for any length of time, Call Me Dave would be far better advised to set them to work, preferably at weekends, on some sort of community payback scheme. That way they would at least repair some of the damage they have done, and perhaps even make a positive contribution. The alternative is to set them on the aforementioned downward spiral, which at the end of the day only makes bad people worse, and gives those who are only half-bad no incentive and indeed no chance to reform.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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