Criminal Justice System

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:38 pm on 13th January 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 3:38 pm, 13th January 2003

My hon. Friend makes a serious point, which relates to a specific case. If he and I were judges, we would be bound to pay the most solemn attention to the guidelines produced by the Lord Chief Justice. That is the problem: there is a disjunction between the view of the very senior judiciary and what I think is the view of about 98 per cent. of our fellow citizens, and—this is the irony—the joint view, I suspect, of the Home Secretary and myself. Both sides of the House overwhelmingly support a particular stance on the guidelines; many of the judiciary themselves support it; a vast weight of the population supports it; yet we are powerless to bring it about, which cannot be right.

We find ourselves in a bizarre situation. The current Prime Minister came to power with some great slogans. XEducation, education, education" I think I remember, dimly. I recall also Xfrom welfare to work". Above all, however, I recall Xtough on crime, tough on the causes of crime". That is well on the way to becoming this Government's version of XCrisis? What crisis?".

The fact is that we have a crisis of police demoralisation. We have a crisis of confidence, or lack of confidence, of the people in the criminal justice system. We have a crisis of old people too frightened to leave their homes, who are in effect subject to a life sentence. We have a crisis of young mothers who dare not take their children to playgrounds. We have a crisis of streets and neighbourhoods that are under the control of gun gangs, pimps and drug dealers. We have a crisis that amounts to a retreat of civilisation and a loss of control of the streets for the honest citizen. The Government are failing on crime, and in so doing they are failing English society.