Crowbar beating…a string of nasty assaults…just what the hell is going on?

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A gang of youths terrorised people in Canterbury on Saturday (stock image)

On Saturday, the Canterbury Journal reported Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott’s reasons for raising the force’s council tax precept by £1 a month.

It was, he said, to pay for a recruitment drive in response to public demand for more visible policing.

Just a few hours into the afternoon Canterbury was then treated to an appalling series of random and savage gang attacks across the city.

Police arrested a 17-year-old for assault and robbery after at least three attacks. A fourth crime, reported to have taken place in the Dane John Gardens, may or may not be connected.

These followed an attack the previous day when it was reported that a boy had been beaten by two teenagers brandishing metal weapons on London Road at the junction with New Street.

When crimes like these take place in broad daylight in public places, it’s all to easy to ask: where were the police?

To which the obvious answer is: not where the crimes took place. Only the most stupid or drunken people commit crimes in sight of police officers.

The real question, therefore, should be: why do people – particularly young people – feel like they can commit such offences.

And the answer to that is alarming.

It is that those committing these crimes – sometimes described collectively as “a feral youth” – have absolutely nothing to fear from the criminal justice system.

Most minor crimes, that is most crimes that you or I might be exposed to or be a victim of, are dealt with by warnings or fixed penalty notices.

And yet it is these crimes which drive people crazy, especially those which involve late noise and disturbance.

So few offences are actually sent to the courts that Canterbury Magistrates’ Court no longer handles criminal cases. It instead deals with inquests and family court cases.

But then if you do find yourself in court, what chance is there that you will go to prison except if you have committed the most serious offences or a repeat offender?

A perfect example of this happened last year when a 20-year-old student called Ali Ketbi broke the hip of a female door supervisor with a flying kick in Guildhall Street on a drunken night out.

His 24-year-old victim suffered life-changing injuries. She and her partner were emotionally devastated by the attack.

Ketbi walked away from court a free man with a suspended prison sentence. And even if he had gone to prison, he would have done only half the actual time he was sentenced to.

All this happens because so much of the criminal justice system these days is dedicated to “rehabilitatation” rather than punishment.

And that has happened because the academics and policy makers and politicians wanted it to happen. It didn’t happen because the broad mass of the public – especially those who fall victim to crime – asked for it to happen.

They want quite the opposite: they want criminals to suffer for the things they have done.

More police on the streets is a step in the right direction to deterring crime. But the most important measure we could take would be to make punishments more severe and prison time harsh.

The thugs, drunks, robbers and vandals would soon be thinking twice about their actions if they genuinely had something to fear from the criminal justice system.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Anyone who thinks that punishment is a deterrent does not understand why people commit crimes.

    I thought this was particularly misguided: “And that has happened because the academics and policy makers and politicians wanted it to happen. It didn’t happen because the broad mass of the public – especially those who fall victim to crime – asked for it to happen.”

    This is the “we’ve had enough of experts” school of thought. The ‘broad mass of the public’ may, in fact, know less about how to prevent crime than the academics and policy makers who actually study the causes of crime. People may well want to see criminals punished and, indeed, ‘suffer’ – I know I would if I were the victim of a crime – but that is provably not the best way to prevent reoffending.

    And as for while young people commit crimes in the first place, this has a lot more to do with the huge cuts to youth support services than it does that we got rid of public flogging and the stocks.

    The Canterbury Journal should really think about whether they want to continue to give a voice to Alex Claridge and his, at best, ill-informed views.

  2. Well said, Jon Beer, to which I would add my particular criticism of the statement:
    “More police on the streets is a step in the right
    direction to deterring crime. But the most important measure we could take would be to make punishments more severe and prison time harsh.”
    The truth is the exact opposite. The greatest deterrent is the fear of being caught. Without that being a real danger, the rest of the process is irrelevant. That requires an effective level of policing, both visible, uniformed patrol officers and well resourced detective branches.
    It is well highlights that drug gangs have been moving to the shires to recruit local kids and expand their business where there is less competition than in the inner cities.
    If this new threat to our relatively peaceful, low crime rate towns and villages is not resisted and confronted by effective policing, as a matter of urgency, the rot will set in and be ten times harder to eradicate later.
    This requires proper investment in the force now, just while our useless government (as usual) does the opposite.

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