After Blunkett: re-balancing law & order

Hard man Home Secretary Blunkett achieved some good on the order front, cutting crime and introducing measures like ASBOs that have made a real difference to peoples lives. Order’s a good thing, but even dictators achieve order. The real trick is to achieve order while upholding the rule of law. It’s the rule of law that makes it possible for Britain to be a better place to live than Iraq was under Saddam Hussein.

Yet much of Blunkett’s time was spent weakening the rule of law; compromising civil rights to appease the unnecessarily frightened hang ’em and flog ’em brigade who want to be ‘free to kill a burglar’. When he should have been celebrating the the lowest risk of being burgled in twenty years, he instead contributed to the hysteria with a review of our right to defend ourselves. Hopefully, that the only newspaper openly mourning is also the one that did the most hounding is an irony that won’t be lost on new man Charles Clarke, who’s always appeared more level headed.

Unsurprisingly then, Clarke’s first immediate big issue is today’s Law Lords ruling that not even foreigners can be detained without a trial. Blunkett was wrong to imprison people indefinably without charge, on evidence they’re not allowed to see, just as he was wrong not to discourage vigilantes from tackling crime.

Sadly Clarke does perpetuate the myth that 9/11, ‘changed everything [and created a] whole set of moral issues for us both as government in our policing and in our judicial and legal structures’. Dismantling the institutions al-Qaeda’s gone to war with would be the real capitulation.

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