Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 23/03/12

Still Smashing Up Justice

Just in case anyone had thought that the colonic spasms of the self-imagined class warriors who comprise a large proportion of England's judiciary had abated somewhat, I suggest you reconsider that view.

The extreme cloddishness of these bewigged idiots keeps popping up as the backlog of cases arising from last August's 'unrest' continues to be cleared.

This week's "WTF!?" moment was provided by a court at Stratford, London yesterday, when a boy who - aged eleven at the time of his misdeed - was locked up for six months.

What was the heinous offence committed by this example of the 'feral underclass' which the pols and punditocracy want us to believe lurks, Burberry-clad, around every corner? What horrible and foul crime did he carry out which seemingly requires him to be placed in prison? Oh, you could refer to it as a 'Juvenile Training Centre', a 'Youth Re-education Unit' or a 'Pre-teen Consumer Re-orientation Facility' (I wish I had Philip Challinor's facility for concocting fictional but all-too-believable managerial-bollocks-speak); but prison it most definitely is.

He smashed a window.

But it wasn't just any old window. Oh deary me no; it was a florist's window. And, apparently, said breakage caused £6 000 of damage. In which case, I hope the florist's insurance company examined the claim in minute detail.

Yes, that's absolutely right, isn't it? A boy (now twelve years of age, as if it was going to make a difference to the result), a child (and that's not me being sentimental; that's a legal definition), thrown into prison for a minimum of three months for smashing a window.

I will concede, if with a degree of reluctance, the possibility that there was far more hinterland to this case than has been reported. It could be that the child (there, I used the 'c' word again; aren't I brazenly sensationalist?) had 'form' as long as High Wycombe; he could be a Frank Nitti-in-embryo; he could be from that old standby of finger-pointers everywhere, the 'dysfunctional family'; his Mamma may be a crack-whore and his father a buy-to-let landlord.

We have very little further information to go on, largely due to under-reporting of any details, a possible sign that this sort of extreme behaviour (by the courts, I mean) has become so normalised (on the 'man-bites-dog' principle) that it's no longer deemed all that newsworthy.

(And there is a terrible irony in the fact that the boy's name cannot be published in order to 'protect' him; how kind of the court! Except that that is the law, and one suspects that his name would have been splashed all over the media like zits on a teenager's face had statute not clearly prevented such an act).

Whatever the facts, however, no rational and balanced human being (which even I am capable of being at least three days out of five) can be anything but slightly uneasy at the ease with which the judiciary has removed this child (there I go again; positively wilful of me, isn't it?) from his family and thrown him into a scene of complete dislocation. No-one with a spark of conscience still smouldering within them despite the pressure of decades of consumer conformism can feel anything other than a certain distaste at the relish with which the spokesplod for those paragons of ethics and virtue loosely termed 'the Metropolitan Police' greeted yet another piece of offical vindictiveness.

It hasn't been stated in any report I have been able to find whether the sentence was handed down by a bench of lay magistrates or by one of those shadowy and sinister half-beings known as 'District Judges' (née Stipendiary Magistrates). I strongly suspect the latter, as they have been responsible for most of the wilfully vicious, stupid and rebarbative examples of judicial activism we have had the misfortune to witness in the last couple of years.

That happy land which is known, in legal parlance, as Englandandwales already holds an almost Olympian sense of achievement for being the Western, free, democratic, liberal and tolerant society which locks away more children each year than any other (or, indeed, than many of the others combined); that few in that society seem to see anything inherently wrong in this picture; and that so many instead think that the courts don't go anywhere near far enough down that potholed road and should be protected from any attempt by civilised countries to intervene by the reminder that international standards of conduct apply to all who sign up to them; as I say, that few find the wilfully eager resort to the imprisonment of children in any way troubling is a cause of deep unease to those of us whose 'moral compass' does not have a needle which rotates fast enough to be able to power the air conditioning system of a glue factory.

As ever, the cry should be "cui bono?" What purpose is served (beyond the possibility that District Judges - like most of the class from which they spring - get a warm, moist feeling from the notion of subjecting teenage and pre-teen boys to 'discipline') through removing a child (still doing it, note) from his home and putting him in an environment which is likely to be indifferent to him at best and physically and psychologically abusive to him at worst? What good could come of giving a twelve-year-old boy not just a criminal record which will take years to work off, but a prison record as well?

For the boy, and for wider society (that one which we're all in together, remember?), almost certainly none. For those who own and control our economic, political and - increasingly - our judicial systems, there is the great gain of being able permanently to blight the lives of their perceived enemies (c'est à dire the 'lower orders', the 'feral scum', the 'chavs') whilst using those enemies as a convenient scapegoat and distraction to the rest of us from what they are doing to an increasing proportion of us. Make the mass of the population fearful of some bogie-persons (real or imaginary) - young people, Muslims, even the disabled and chronically ill - and give them someone to feel superior to, and you have your majority of reaction in perpetuam.

With every month that passes, we are not only laying up a store of wasted lives, blighted opportunities, anger, bitterness and hopelessness for the future; we are, by our acquiescence, turbo-charging the process. And there is little comfort from the knowledge that, sooner or later, that same process will come around and bite at least some of those urging it on on the arse. By that time, it may be too late - for all of us.