Saturday, 13 August 2011

I'm ashamed to be British

Well, the title of this post speaks for itself. I don't know if you're wondering about why I'm ashamed to be British at the moment but, given that this post is going to be an explanation of why, then I'm going to assume you are.

I'm not ashamed of the rioting, as damaging for our reputation as that was, because it was crime committed by a vanishingly small percentage of the population and I would say that the response to the riots (such as the brilliant #riotcleanup) by the people of this country as a whole has been something to be proud of.

No, I'm ashamed by the way the "rioters" are being treated. Now, there are those rioters who've committed serious crimes, theft, property damage and who have terrorised people. They've got no sympathy from me and I'm certainly not going to excuse what they did.

But, reading the newspapers yesterday I was appalled. At the moment the rioters are being put through fast-tracked courts. The cells at the courts are full. Any account of the situation at the courts at the moment will tell you that its virtually chaos. Lawyers don't even know if their clients have arrived and suspects are often brought before magistrates without even having a chance to discuss their defence with their lawyer first. I remember seeing a quote saying that "due process has to be done". Well I'm sure that due process is being done but with fast track cases like these where defendants have almost no time to prepare their defence this is not justice. And justice is what our courts should be trying to deliver. So that's the first reason I'm ashamed.

The second reason I'm ashamed is because of the sentences being handed out. Now, there are those defendants who definitely deserve stiff punishments. I'm thinking of the female university student who'd finished her second year of university, achieved straight As in her A levels and who was found with thousands of pounds worth of stolen electrical goods in her car. She has no excuse for her actions and I hope she gets a stiff prison sentence for it. And there's the girl who was "excited about going to participate in a riot", who smashed up shops as part of a gang of youths, who threw stones at police and who smirked in court when asked, twice, by her father, to apologise for her actions. These kind of people deserve punishment for what they've done.

But you get the other cases where utterly stupid sentences are handed out. You've got the 15 year old GCSE student facing a criminal conviction for stealing 15 packets of wine gums and 21 Yorkie bars from a smashed up shop. What are his prospects going to be like now? He certainly won't be able to get a decent job. He might be utterly ashamed of a one-off moment of stupidity but he'll be paying for it for the rest of his life. He'll never be able to get a well paying job. In all probability he'll never be able to turn his life around now. He might never have been likely to become seriously involved in crime before but I guarantee you that once he's got a criminal record that chance will shoot up.

And there's the college student one year through a two year electrical engineering course. He was on his way home from visiting his girlfriend when he saw a smashed up Lidl and stole a £3.50 pack of bottled water. He'd never been involved in crime before, he came from a good family and he told the court that he had “got caught up in the moment” and was “incredibly ashamed”. So here's a young man who made a serious mistake and deeply regrets it. He's never done anything like this before so you'd think, okay, give him a stiff community sentence cleaning up the damage he's done to teach him a lesson and then let him get on with his life.

But nope. The magistrate sentenced him to six months. The magistrate's idea of leniency was that, because of his "good" background, the young man wouldn't be sent on to the Crown Court which could give him a much longer sentence. Now, a six month sentence means that he won't be able to finish his course at college. Any future employers will just see "six months in prison for rioting" on his record and won't touch him with a barge pole. His entire future is now, in all probability, ruined. What kind of chances will he have when he gets out of prison? And while he's in prison he'll be surrounded by hardened criminals. In all probability, when he gets out he'll find that the easiest path is to turn to crime. And, thanks to his stay in prison, he'll have the skills for committing crime as well.

A lot of these sentences are just making things worse. They are based purely on a knee-jerk vengeance mentality that will pass down harsh punishments in the short term and fuel even more crime in the long term. And then you get the morons calling for all the rioters to lose any benefits they receive and be evicted from their homes. If parliament is stupid enough to actually make that happen then what do you think the outcome will be? Do you really think that the kind of people who participated in property damage and stealing, now finding themselves without a home and without a means to feed themselves will say "fair cop, this is my own fault and I deserve this"?

Of course not. In all probability they'll turn to crime as the only way to support themselves. Either that or work in the black economy. Either way, it'll just make things worse for them, their neighbours and our society as a whole.

This utterly short sighted reactionary response to the riots is probably the most stupid thing I've ever seen. By all means lets punish the rioters but let's do so proportionately and lets use the opportunity to try and make as many of them productive members of society as possible.

But we won't. We'll just make the situation worse through baying for blood.

David Cameron's right to say that some parts of society are not just broken but sick. But I doubt the sick parts of society are the parts he thought they were.

19 comments:

  1. At least there are some people capable of using their brains. These sentences are disgusting and are completely unnecessary and will only cause more problems. The publics (majority) ignorant cries of "retribution" are a key opportunity for authority figures to gain thumbs up. I suspect this is an element of the reasons why they're so keen to jump on the bandwagon of PUNISH PUNISH PUNISH.

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  2. I completely agree with you. The whole thing sickens me apart from the riot clean up. I also posted this interesting talk on my blog and related it to the riots and it covers why the riots actually started and why so many people joined in. http://priggy.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/our-buggy-moral-code-and-the-english-riots/

    Also on a slightly pedantic note - i think you mean you are ashamed to be English not British. Its the English justice system not the British justice system. I do not wish to be tarnished by the English system.

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  3. Yep, but the politicians putting pressure on the magistrates to pass down harsh sentences come from across Britain. Hence it's British justice. Besides, if you want to get technical, these courts are the same in England and Wales so this is the English and Welsh justice system ;)

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  4. Brilliant post George.

    Justice is being SEEN to be done, rather than being done, and I think Cameron is trying to curry favour with the public by being seen to be behind this kind of thing. Tough on crime, tough on the ca... nah, just tough on crime

    The trouble for him, being so detached from what ordinary people think, is that we are all too aware of the fact that politicians stole millions of pounds worth of plasma screens, water beds, refits on houses, settees, shelves, travel...etc over the last 20 years, and only half a dozen faced charges,... and even then they have served a tiny fraction of their sentences.

    The public don't like the way that Cameron and his lieutenants blamed the police, the rioters and anyone else they could; they may not have a lot of respect for the police but they understand that, as some senior officer said, "there's always someone who wasn't there who knows better" ..or words to that effect.

    It's shameful what these people did, but royals, lords, mps, police and press have all behaved despicably in the recent past. As someone said on my blog: "the fish rots from the head".

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  5. tris, absolutely. The media and politicians of most stripes bear a lot of the blame here. But lets not forget, we're the ones who buy the newspapers and elect the politicians. So no one is blameless in this.

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  6. I take your point, George.

    Although we don't have any say in who goes to the "upper" house. And (and I'm sure you'll agree with this) the FPTP system of electing MPs, together with the whipping system that determines MPs' future promotion stakes, means that for many democracy is notional.

    I agree completely that we get the standard of press that we deserve. It says something about the country that the Sun and the NotW are/were the biggest sellers, with their steady diet of scandal about "celerities", a fair dashing of "tits and ass", and a now clearly risible moral crusade concerning "our brave boys" (whose phones they were hacking), or poor parents of murdered-by-"fiends"-teenagers (whose phones they were hacking) or whatever else... (whose phones they were doubtless also hacking, all while paying of crooked police.

    The most bizarre things I have heard recently are lectures on parental responsibility from people whose teenage and early 20s years were filled with vandalism and theft.

    We need to be able to unelect these people as quickly as possible.

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  7. Hi...
    I cannot believe how much worse things are being made... the riots have given Cameron just what he wants & that is so sad & frightening... Anyone who tries to discuss what happens, like me is being accused of excusing... no way!... But what about appropriate justice with an aim for change - all gone?!
    I amm 49 now but as a young girl/teenager I was sexually abused (outside the home)... I was extremely confused & alienated & (although things have changed) I was also very damaged by the police interviews & examination... I turned to alcohol for the pain & nearly ruined the rest of my life...
    My mother DID NOT know I had started to sneak alcohol... one night when I was 15 my parents could not find me so they went looking... I had been drinking by myself with all the things running through my young head & body... i went home but no answer... i started banging the door because I thought they didn't want me & I broke the front door window... I was terrified & bleeding...
    My parents turned up with chips for all hoping I was back home... When they found me they were dumbfounded & we started to talk properly but still not about the sexual abuse...
    32 yrs on my sister, close friends & GP's etc all know 'generally' what happened but still my mom doesn't know & I can't bear her to (right or wrong)... She is my best friend & an excellent mother...
    If this happened today my mother, stepfather & sister could lose their home & me in prison... the only people to win would be the abusers - how can that be right?!... My stepfather & sister have worked all their lives... if their home had been lost then my stepfather may well have given up on the marriage because of me... but i was only guilty of being a very young vulnerable female... What happened to second chances & appropriate & fair justice which for me would have been love & support to speak & recover... instead I developed ptsd & epilepsy, can't function in a sexual relationship & have no children...
    The fact is that a 6 MONTH sentence & a life label for £3.50 worth of water will not serve to show any social justice to young people & those saying there is no difference between £3,000 & £3 are very wrong...
    We are all being rebranded... I have no confidence at all now to go on a peaceful demonstration because I can assure you we will be inappropriately punished for that now & carte blanche to evict people is perfect for hiding housing benefit cuts etc....
    God help us all i've never seen government stoking the fires so high... ordinary law abiding citizens are now being used to change rules that will also be used against them...
    This country has a great chances... what is really happening to us??? Nita

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  8. I'm sorry, the reason I'm ashamed to be British is that people like you believe your right. 40 years of liberalism from all parties has resulted in this, and you lot still can't see that! Oh you're so happy and proud that all the nice people put on their marigolds and cleaned up after the low life scum destroyed it. To me that's more embarrassing for the world to see. In my world those poor people wouldn't have to lift a finger. Those scum would be fast tracked by me personally, and be cleaning up their own shit. And for some to bring colour into it 'which is the reason we can't get jobs' is bollocks, it's because their ASSHOLES!! Wake up liberals and smell the coffee, you embarrass us.

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  9. @tris

    Oh definitely, I completely agree with you. Though when it comes to FPTP the people of this country did have an opportunity to scrap it but they didn't. I'm still hopeful that we'll get STV some day but only a minority of the people have the right to complain about the system given that they endorsed it so recently.

    @Charlie

    Seriously? 40 years of liberalism? So you're going to tell me that Thatcher was a liberal was she? John Major was a liberal was he? And of course liberals like me control the press. I mean, it's not at all like two thirds of newspapers are right wing is it?

    Please. Liberals have not been in power since before the second world war. If anything, we've had a prolonged period of right wing and closet right wing government.

    If you really believe that we've had liberals in charge for 40 years then you've clearly got no idea what liberalism is. Just because you call something liberalism doesn't make it so.

    It amazes me how so many people seem to think liberalism is to blame when liberals have been ignored on pretty much every policy issue under the sun for decades. If we had actual liberalism in place then in all probability the riots would never have happened as you would never have had the social problems that made such riots possible in the first place.

    And may I just say how reassuring it is to see you spouting the exact same nonsense that I was warning about in this blogpost. I'm sure you won't be able to grasp the importance of making sure the courts go slowly and thoroughly to ensure that justice is properly done but it is important and I'm proud that liberals are one of the few groups of people ready to defend the rights to a fair trial and to innocent until proven guilty.

    Also, I just wish to point out, regardless of the blame that you doubtless heap upon liberals (after all, it must be nice to hold one group responsible for everything wrong and feel justified in your close-minded beliefs) at least we know how to spell properly.

    It is well said that "not all conservatives are stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives."

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  10. Nita. There is a difference between demonstrating and straight out rioting, looting and killing. You're not going to loose your house from demonstrating, and this type of misunderstanding is the reason we never get anything done in this country, and can't move ahead i.e. U-turns etc. There is no reason to be afraid of losing your house through any kind of peaceful demonstration. I have no problem with these people being evicted. Innocent people are now having to be processed for new homes and have all the aggro because they were burnt out of theirs. It is unbelievable but true, that this is the result of not a dictatorship, but the other end of the spectrum, of giving people what they believe is their God given right. There are many good single mums out there through no fault of her own, and yes, some by choice, but there ARE useless ones that HAVE had children in order to gain a flat etc. I think that's why they should loose their house/flat too if their son or daughter was involved in the riots and looting. They brought a child into the world to get housed, the child is then brought up neglected by the parent. To me they're both as bad, maybe the youth is not too old to be turned around, but this will probably be the first and only time that youth will actually think about how they lost their families home, which in today's Britain is probably the only punishment that will work. They evict every day people who, through no fault of their own, loose their job and can't keep up mortgage payments. Surely they can evict these scumbags. Don't worry, you won't loose your house if you want to demonstrate against this, but you might if you want to set fire to shops and peoples homes on the way.
    David.
    P.S I'm sorry, I'm still very angry about this. I saw it coming ten years ago when we wanted Mayor Guiliani to come over with his zero tolerance, but everyone knew better and ignored it then, and now they're surprised?!! Anyone remember? Actually there's food for thought. The government didn't want a mayor to come over and do their job, but they're happy for a police chief to come over and do the police's job. Still don't belive they're wrong LOL.

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  11. @David

    The problem with evicting people from their homes is this. Where will they go? How will they pay for somewhere to live if they couldn't afford to do so previously? I'll tell you how, through crime. It's one of these things that's nice and satisfying to do but which will create more problems for society in the long run.

    And, aside from the whole issue of whether it is fair to evict a whole family for the actions of one individual (and let's not forget that some of these families might have very young children who are utterly blameless) there's also the whole issue that it's inconsistent. How can we have a system where people who smashed a shop and stole things on this occasion will received a different punishment to people who did it last year or who might do it next year?

    Punishment should be consistent and well thought out. Justice can't be done in a rush and it can't be subject to knee-jerk reactions if you actually want to accurately separate the innocent from the guilty.

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  12. Yes, seriously, 40 years of liberalism. You could say 42 years since the abolishment of capital punishment here, but maybe this is a little too extreme. It's nice to see you jump straight in at the conservatives as one would expect from Labour and the Liberals even though you should be working with them, but I don't think you quite understood. I wasn't having a go at any particular party, their all clueless, I was having a go at liberalism as follows:-
    The introduction of Channel 4 (approx 1982) starting the decline of anything we could be proud of here in the UK, and focusing on any of the darker sides of Briton. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal don't denigrate themselves for their past involvements. They look to the future and move on.
    Then there was the continual removal of British comedy acts, comedy sitcoms etc, and the moving in of right-on politically correct comedies such as 'The Young Ones' and stand up comedians (the Dawn French brigade) having a go at the right of center, whenever possible, and they could, as stated before, anyone right of centre was being steadily removed from Television. It also depends where you 'right of center' lies, (and please don't presume mine as you got your first assumption wrong).
    Also, please don't tell me that you don't think BBC Radio 4 isn't biased to the left wing!
    Then there's the removal of any presenters that may have right of centre views and the washing down of television media altogether. This does help to groom a more liberal society, if not, it's a bloody good coincidence.
    There are right wing papers I agree, but if your talking about papers like the sun (doesn't even deserve capitol letters (not a mistake)) they're trash , and didn't the sun help labour into power last time? Are they right wing? The Sun just switches sides when it suits them.
    Don't forget there's liberal trash out there too. Have you seen 'Big Brother' and 'Celebrity Get Me Out of Here', or again years ago at the start of all this trash TV 'The James Whale Show' get the picture? Both the left and right have trashy sides.
    Oh and of course, the abolishment of corporal punishment and discipline in our schools (approx 1986) again amazingly coinciding with the down hill spiral of our school system.
    I thank you for your personal (just incase you didn't notice(I guess we're all guilty of that)) patronising attack on my spelling. Coming from a possibly politically correct person such as yourself, it is suprising you didn't check to see if I was dyslexic. Lucky for you I'm not. I just choose not to use spellcheck as that has also helped with the dumbing down of people. Keeps me on my toes, and I'm not bothered for a mistake here and there.
    I believe if we had Liberalism in the first place, as you mentioned, we would have had these type of riots years ago. Both the liberals and labour have proved they are no good when it comes to the economy. I have to sympathise with the conservatives there (even if I don't consider them conservatives) as they always take over when the pot is empty, and spend years repairing our economy, before they can put any real policies in place. By that time, all the sheep have forgotten about Labour's past and vote them in again. The cycle turns. This country and it's people need a sense of belonging and these parties provide none of this. An example is within the black community when the name Winston was popular. They were proud to be part of a confident country that had direction and was rightly proud of itself (every single country has a bad side but to focuse on the good moves you forward). I don't know of any Tony's, through my black friends.
    Yep sorry, not hiding my head in the sand over this one. The courts are just like the government, they need to process this fast, why, they've been sitting on their asses nearly 40 years now.

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  13. Isn't this the problem? we never do knee jerk reactions, we just talk till all the air is gone. They won't be made homless. My idea is that we take some of these offive buldings that are always 'To Let'. We build wards and communal showers, we make it very unpleasant for them to live there and that we've seen it through for more deserved people to be housed. We don't forget them, ( I can hear your think) and we give them chance to redeem themselves and come back in the community and how fortubate they are having a house on benefits is. We have to punish them and hard, it's a wake up call for them as well as it is for us.
    Regards David

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  14. @Charlie

    That was quite a rant. All I can assume is that you are either a) bonkers, b) a parody or c) a troll.

    After all, there's definitely been this massive liberal conspiracy to take all decent proper British comedy off the air hasn't there? And that's why the country has gone to the dogs. After all, it was better back in the good old days when millions went to bed hungry and there was none of this namby pamby nonsense about helping people with mental illnesses instead of locking them up like the bone idle scum they are. Back in the good old days where comedians could make a joke about wogs without the darkies getting offended and if they did get offended then it didn't matter because they were foreign and they smelled funny.

    Back in the good old days we had proper decent comedy like the Carry On films where we had good clean humour about breasts. Not at all like nowadays with that woman priest as a comedy character. Back then people got hanged and if they turned out to be innocent then that was their fault for being suspicious enough to get accused of the crime.

    In case you haven't guessed, the above paragraphs are sarcastic. If you think that Big Brother, of all things, is a liberal tv show then you really are a moron. Reality tv is trashy and cringe worthy but there's nothing that connects it to any political ideology and if you think so then you're a nutter.

    And of course the ending of corporal punishment has led to a complete collapse of our education system. After all, it's not like we've got record numbers of university educated young people nowadays is it? I mean, fine, corporal punishment may have led to lots of people becoming teachers simply so they could exercise their sick desires to beat children but what does that matter in the great scheme of things? <- again, that's sarcasm.

    As for your spelling, remarkably I'm one of these feckless modern youths with liberal parents who went through our supposedly ruined education system and yet I can spell fine without using a spell check. In fact your/you're is one of the things I was taught in primary school. While you, on the other hand, were educated back in the supposed glory days of our education system and yet you can't. Perhaps there's a lesson there if you can take your blinkers off long enough to realise it.

    If you were dyslexic then I'd have apologised but you're not so I won't.

    I'm generally proud to be an Englishman and I love this country. And the biggest threat to my country is bigoted cretins like yourself who want to drag us back to the dark ages.

    When it comes to the economy, the Conservatives were in power for 20 years during which time the economy went from recession to boom to recession again. So do please explain to me how 20 years wasn't long enough for the tories to put any "decent policies" in place?

    Oh, and while you're at it, I think I should point out to you that if PC means taking into consideration other people's feelings and trying not to say things which are grossly offensive then damn right I'm PC and I'm proud of it.
    You have this nice long check list of groups to blame for everything that you see as wrong in the world and you never let facts get in the way. Thankfully, morons who actually believe such crazy and downright wrong ideas don't form enough of the population to ruin things for the rest of us.

    So please, bear this in mind: I am young and liberal in my views. Most of my generation are likewise. People like me are the future of this country. There will always be a minority who think like you but they will ever remain a minority. In time, all the things you hate will come to pass. People like me will run this country some day and Britain will prosper as a result. And the sweetest victory of all is knowing just how much that will wind people like you up.

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  15. @David

    If we did as you suggest then that might work. But that's not what people are proposing to do, they're just saying kick them out without giving any thought with what to do with them afterwards.

    And I still don't see how such a policy of collective punishment would be fair - especially to young children who would wind up having to live in these "unpleasant" conditions without ever having done anything wrong themselves.

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  16. Ah Charlie:

    Everything was good in the good old days?

    Have you heard of 'la vie en rose'?

    I think you'll find that it wasn't quite so nice to live in the illiberal times you write about. Maybe you are old and remember then fondly, having filtered out (as one does) the bad bits, (getting 20 whacks of the cane for not being able to decline a Latin noun correctly) or maybe your granny told you about them (with the same filter)leaving out too, the poverty, misery and the pain (and the fact that your beloved Winston wouldn't have given you the time of day. You being well below him [unless of course I have wronged you and you are aristocracy or minor royalty... your name could suggest that you are fabulously rich and married to Mrs Parker-Bowles]).

    There's an awful lot of twaddle talked about the old days on some of these blogs.

    I wonder how many people, given the chance, would wish to return to the narrow, class ridden, illiberalism of pre 2nd War Britain.

    I suspect rather fewer than the number who sing its praises on-line.

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  17. As the Lib Dems are propping up this Tory government your views aren't really important. Clegg has decided where the Lib Dems are going (and after this term it will be into political oblivion) The Lib Dems and Tories sort of remind me of the film http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Human_Centipede_(First_Sequence)

    As for your view on the riots and the rioters? Well that just shows that no matter what age you are, you are completely out of touch with the poor and vulnerable in society. Vote Tory get riots.

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  18. Hello again Clive. Please do go and do your trolling elsewhere. Best wishes, George.

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  19. I am also ashamed to be British even though this is Kind of irrelevant, but I think it's discusting what Britain has done to Northern Ireland, Having an Irish mother and half Irish family, I always here the other side of the story. How in Nothern Ireland the Catholics were stripped of there jobs and there homes, and all the work was given to the protestants, How the English shot a priest, How the English tipped my legless (disabled) Grandfather out of his wheel chair, I could go on and on. It's discusting, I hate the Queen, The Royal Monarch, I dislike everything about England. And I am ashamed to say that I am half English, I am ashamed to live in this country, Spose theres no other option for me but to move..

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I'm indebted to Birkdale Focus for the following choice of words:

I am happy to address most contributions, even the drunken ones if they are coherent, but I am not going to engage with negative sniping from those who do not have the guts to add their names or a consistent on-line identity to their comments. Such postings will not be published.

Anonymous comments with a constructive contribution to make to the discussion, even if it is critical will continue to be posted. Libellous comments or remarks I think may be libellous will not be published.

I will also not tolerate personation so please do not add comments in the name of real people unless you are that person. If you do not like these rules then start your own blog.

Oh, and if you persist in repeating yourself despite the fact I have addressed your point I may get bored and reject your comment.

The views expressed in comments are those of the poster, not me.