Thursday, February 26, 2009
When on a quiet night on a quiet door I often find myself consulting my colleagues about various problems. Some personal, some political and most often social problems.
I believe I have found the solution to criminality.
How to stop criminal behaviour impacting upon the non-criminal.
I know rational members of the bar attempt to get it right, judging each case on its merits and obeying the sentencing guidelines.
The basic problem is the vast majority of crimes being committed by a small criminal minority who see crime and offending as a way of life. The law tries to be blind. Each cheap suited defendant could be up for the sole excursion beyond legality in their life or the umpteenth time they've been caught amongst the innumerable times they've acted criminally. When they've pushed a drunk over or nicked a few cheap clothes its only a minor offence. The maximum sentence will be puny, the reductions for guilty pleas, however late in the days play, takes that down further. The serve a third, probation a third for the inevitable not notably bad behaviour means they're back out bright and early.
For most folks who get a criminal record, it's a one off or part of a short period of poor behaviour, reality kicks in, rationality kicks in and reasoning about future prospects kick in. The system works, the sanction proves effective.
For the minority who don't kick in, the offending continues. They collect hundreds/thousands of offences. They are performing the vast majority of crimes committed. The public is suffering this directly and indirectly in too many ways to list. Insurance, retail prices, taxation, and deprivation of property are to name but a few.
Cumulative sentencing. Clump offences into broad categories. Clock up an offence in any category. Serve all previous offences' sentences in that category after the latest one given by the courts.
Those who persist in drunken low level assaults, those who shoplift for a living, those commit fraud repeatedly, will in their own category get snowballed sentences.
Those who learn and quit, learn and quit. Those who don't could be facing longer and longer times away from the public unable to further offend.
It would also incentivise the police to pursue minor offences if they felt the offender would be away for a while instead of back out by lunch.