The British public often react with troubled amazement when high profile cases result in a NOT Guilty verdict. Of course none of those individuals have actually been in the Courtroom to hear the real evidence themselves, let alone in the Jury Room to listen to their deliberations. Oh no, Joe Public gets his/her information on what has happened in the trial from the Press and the rest of the Media don’t they? They have already formulated in their own mind the verdict and have been calculating the sentence as well.
When the foreman/forewoman of the Jury rises and announces a not guilty decision, and that result is bounced around all the news systems, thousands are outraged. The media – the same ones that published all the trial news before- suddenly promote themselves in a different way, by denouncing the authorities for having the temerity to have ever brought the case to court in the first place!
Rebekah Brooks ex CEO of News International, has just been acquitted in a high profile Old Bailey case on phone hacking. She immediately gave press interviews saying she was ‘vindicated’ and it was an abuse that she had ever been charged. This is despite the facts; the Judge said there was a case to answer; and even if it was answered, that wasn’t a trivial task (many months in court – the longest criminal trial ever –and a fortune spent by News International on crack lawyers to achieve it). Mrs Brooks’ defence was that she didn’t know what was going on in her own newsroom –despite her being a renowned professional & hard taskmaster, which puzzles the sceptics.
The British justice system includes a provision ‘imputation’ that requires a person to know the law, but it also needs to clearly define surely that when a criminal offence is committed by somebody then someone else, ‘who knew or ought to have known’, is equally guilty? [‘Common Intention’ offence in Canadian law].
The acquitted accused, if it involves alleged sexual offences, invariably demands that there should have been ‘no publicity’ about their prosecution, and all the others slag-off the Police and the CPS for charging them and bringing them to trial, DESPITE the trial more than adequately demonstrating that they did indeed have a serious case to answer – frequently exposing silly, questionable, or sometimes even despicable, behaviour [like perhaps Michael le Vell or Nigel Evans], which has been decreed as ‘non-criminal’.
What the British public probably don’t realise is that the justice system is fatally flawed and not fit for purpose in the modern age – it suffers from having evolved from historic times, and being rooted in the past. The truth is that the majority of criminals get away with it. Why the hell is that? It is because the system is not geared up for a modern age of sophisticated criminals with access to smart-arsed lawyers (paid for by us), and appeal processes galore (not forgetting interference from the European Union of course).
The ‘do-gooder’ brigade will defend the lax system by quoting statistics showing that we lock-up about a hundred thousand people – a higher proportion than other western European countries, BUT less than a quarter of the USA figure!. Why is it that we have to jail so many, you wonder? Because we have more criminals, that simple! Why is that then? Because they know they will get away with crime here MOST of the time – so they carry on regardless and play the law of averages. Also, it is because there is no real punishment these days – not retribution that any of the criminal fraternity really cares about – doing ‘bird’ is just part of normal life for them and most of them don’t give a hoot, do they?
Verdicts are a big part of the problem. We set the level of proof far too high. Criminals often escape justice in the Criminal Courts, but on the same evidence the judgement goes against them in the Civil Courts (where more sensible balances are allowed on the proof). In the Criminal Court it is either ‘Guilty’ or ‘Not Guilty’, the latter which we are told means ‘Innocent’ – but it doesn’t really does it? It only means surely that the proof of guilt hasn’t met the standard set? There is no verdict available to the Jury that says ‘Not Convicted’ meaning there was strong evidence of guilt or wrongdoing, but not adequate enough. The availability of such a verdict would mean that those released would not be able to claim there was ‘no stain whatsoever on their character’, and perhaps also they might be on a ‘yellow card’ – to use a football analogy.
Sentencing is another matter that gives us serious cause for concern, doesn’t it? Criminals often get let off (the Judge says “I am taking a chance on you” – of course not their personal chance that is; YOURS! Or a ‘suspended’ jail sentences – what a waste of space that is! Or they get a light sentence. Even, God forbid, if they get a proper sentence, they NEVER serve it do they? [Mandatory early release because we don’t have enough prisons you see, so they are out in no time]. We don’t even have any harsh prisons these days – the do gooders have put a stop to all that haven’t they? No, we now have soft & lax prisons, we have soft prisons, we have supersoft prisons, and we have even prisons that aren’t really prisons – you can walk out whenever you chose (open prisons).
Then there is the scandal of Judges in dealing with historic criminal actions, saying they will follow the guidelines of the time of the offence (and give reduced sentences, despite the victims having had longer to suffer). The 1963 Great train robbers stole forty five million pounds at today’s value but only two and a half million at the time, so if caught & convicted now, they would only have to answer for a ‘small’ robbery! If the Judges were consistent, then at least any historic murderers caught today by modern science, would be hung!
[What chance of any changes? What chance of a justice system that stops the criminals in their tracks? What chance of punishments that are effective and meet the crime? What chance of more & harsher prisons? What chance of catching more criminals? What chance of stopping reoffending? What chance of preventing lawless communities creating a new generation of criminals? What chance of our sleazy sleepy self-centred parliamentarians caring? None, none, none, none, none, none, none, none!]