'WHEN TO PUNISH THE WRONGDOERS'

By Julian Lewis

Southern Daily Echo – 31 January 2006

Hardly a day goes by without another story appearing in the media about punishments failing even remotely to fit the crimes concerned. Anyone would think that we were liv­ing in a society where courtesy and good behaviour were the norm, and that foul-mouthed abuse, indiscipline and brutality were not increasing on our streets.

Everyone says that the battle for the centre ground in politics has been won by the right wing – even If only the right wing of the Labour Party overlap­ping with the centre-left Conservatives. It seems to me, though, that the so-called progressive left has won a differ­ent battle behind the scenes.

The type of people who gave us child-centred education in the 1960s, leading to the huge decline in reading and numeracy skills, seem dominant in all areas to do with crime and punish­ment. Indeed, many do not accept the notion that people should be punished rather than simply rehabilitated. Will it take 40 years to realise the folly of indulging and appeasing bad behav­iour in youngsters instead of stamping it out?

Hopefully not, if reports of graffiti-spraying yobs on the Waterside being fined £6,500 are anything to go by. Hythe Police and Community Safety officers are to be congratulated on nail­ing four vandals in a way which will make them, and anyone tempted to copy them, think hard before doing so again.

Of course proactive policing policy of this kind involves a concentrated investment of time in order to catch and make an example of the worst cul­prits. In the long run, however, it will save the community much distress and the Police much greater effort because of the deterrent effect on future potential offenders.

An especial word of praise is due for the magistrates at Southampton Youth Court who handed down such a sting­ing compensation order. Magistrates and judges often seem disconnected from the impact of crimi­nal behaviour and undermine good policing by imposing sentences which seem pathetically weak.

I hope that our community will take every opportunity to show its apprecia­tion when the Police do a good job – as they have in this case – and when the magistrates back them up.