Although Labour in so many areas has been all spin and no do, they have been revolutionary in their approach to crime and policing. They set out to greatly increase the number of criminals, by widening and deepening the criminal law, creating many new offences, and changing police priorities.
When they came power they inherited a world in which the public thought there was a hierarchy of crime that should be tackled by the police and prosecuting authorities. These included:
Murder (including terrorism),
Other violent attacks on people,
Break-ins and burglary, and
Criminal damage to property.
People expected the authorities to share their concerns about these crimes, and to order their priorities for investigating, charging and prosecuting accordingly. The vast majority of homeowners and people in work saw the police as their allies and wished to help them do a difficult job. There was a trust between the police and most citizens.
Labour set out to change all that. They decided to criminalise the hard working and the law abiding. They decided to set death in accidents alongside murder, seeking to inculpate drivers, railway executives, construction managers and others as similar criminals. They hassled to introduce corporate manslaughter as an offence, although they were reluctant for it to apply to parts of the public sector. All sensible people are worried by the large numbers of people who die on the roads, who might die in a train crash, or who are killed at work. We all welcome steps to reduce the numbers. We do not, however, think private sector Directors and managers regard deaths in such circumstances as just part of the price of delivering shareholder value. The company leaders I know want to prevent accidents like everyone else as most of us share that common human instinct to prevent harm. Such a feeling is reinforced by the fact that it could be their loved one or relative involved, and it is not good business to kill your customers. It is therefore strange for Labour to try to create some kind of equivalence between such deaths and murder, the thing people fear most.
They decided to set date rape alongside stranger rape. Again, none of us want men to rape women, but there is a difference between a man using unreasonable force to assault a woman on the street, and a disagreement between two lovers over whether there was consent on one particular occasion when the two were spending an evening or night together. Labour’s doctrine of equivalence has led to jury scepticism about many rape claims, in situations where it is the man’s word against the woman’s and where they had agreed to spend the evening or night together. Young men do not want to have to take a consent form and a lawyer on a date, just as young women have every right to go on a date and to say "No", having it respected.
They decided to elevate speeding into the role of serious crime, on the false grounds that speeding is the main cause of accidents. Their own research shows that speeding is a factor in under 10% of all accidents, and that deaths and serious injuries on the roads are much more likely to be caused by acts of dangerous driving, by drivers using stolen vehicles, and by drivers under the influence of drink and drugs after a night out. Speeding brought two advantages for them. It could be policed by machines, as Labour put speed camera after speed camera into place, and it was bound to catch a very large number of otherwise law abiding people. Simple observation showed that most people drove at well over 70 on a motorway, and many at more than 40 on dual carriageways where the speed limit was set. It was an easy way of collecting more revenue from fines, and bringing in a whole new army of criminals.
They decided to create a range of new white collar crimes by regulating more and more. Ironically they also decided to bring in similar new regulations for the political class themselves, exposing politicians to the same kind of risks as managers and administrators in pensions, financial services, and a whole range of other services. They have succeeded in making many normally law abiding people worried sick about whether they have complied with everything they need to comply with, and have ensnared some into violations through ignorance or oversight.
They decided to elevate thought crimes to a more serious position than some crimes against people and property. I agree with the government in condemning racial abuse, religious intolerance and incitement to discrimination or violence. I still think that crimes of racial and religious hatred are far worse when violence is added to unpleasant words. The development of a much more extensive law code seeking to control what people say does not necessarily control what they think and do, but it has made the largely law abiding majority very nervous about saying what they think. It has also made intelligent political debate about issues like religion and immigration at times impossible.
Now that Labour has decided to rat on the police pay settlement recommended by the arbitrator there is ill will between police and government. I have sympathy with the police. If you join a no strike profession, and agree for your part to abide by an external body to decide your pay, you should expect the employer to do the same. It is unpleasant to see that someone is briefing, presumably from the government side, that the police are currently unpopular, as if that were a justification to pay them less. Any sensible analysis would show that what is unpopular are the priorities this government has set for our criminal justice system, and the wide increase in the number of offences and the number of potential criminals that has resulted from these changes.
To restore trust in the system we need a government that pays the police whatever the independent review body recommends, and reflects public priorities for policing in its law codes.
To Labour who have deliberately misrepresented this piece, let me repeat: I wish the law to protect women from rape, as all sensible people do, and made it clear that any woman has a right to say "No" which should be respected. I have drawn attention to the large number of cases where courts decide no rape has been committed. These are clearly not the same as rape and must be harrowing to all involved. As some people seem as determined as a silly Labour Minister to misrepresent this piece let me again make it clear that I condemn all rape and wish to see all rapists successfully prosecuted. No force should be used in any circumstances. The issue is so-called "date rape" where the courts judge there was no rape at all.