Stupid Ken

Lots of justified outrage today about Ken Clarke’s proposals to slash rape sentences in half, when it’s difficult enough to convict the scumbags anyway.

You need to listen to the whole interview to understand why people are so hacked off about this. People on Twitter have been calling Clarke’s Radio 5 piece a ‘car crash’ interview – but that’s misleading. ‘Car crash’ implies entertainment: Clarke’s interview is just nasty and unsettling. His patrician and dismissive attitude towards the reasonable, impassioned arguments of a genuine rape victim showed the Tory style at its worst. As did the giggling, piping middle-aged men behind Cameron when he was challenged on this at PMQs.

Unfortunately Clarke may not have done the government any real harm. We don’t live in the 1980s and the 6% conviction figure is no longer the establishment’s fault. Police install rape suites and judges take sensitivity training, but juries keep on acquitting rapists. We have to face this – the public still believes that rape alone among crimes is the fault of the victim. Anti-rape campaigns focus on female, rather than male behaviour – don’t get too drunk, don’t wear too little clothing, don’t leave your drink unattended – and you are as likely to hear the ‘she asked for it’ line from middle class hipsters as from working class conservatives.

In fourteen minutes Clarke destroyed his image as the acceptable face of the National Government. As my Twitter pal ‘Ian Plays Music’ put it: ‘Turns out Ken Clarke isn’t the cuddly, friendly old-school Tory that some on the Left made him out to be! Quelle surprise!’

People criticising the Justice Secretary’s laissez-faire attitude on rape should also scrutinise his policy on crime in general. It’s not a great, liberal ‘rehabilitation revolution’. It is about letting dangerous people out of jail to save money. That’s it. Nothing more.

Fact is, some people simply do not change, and sex offenders change less than most. A couple of weeks ago, probation officers complained that the early release system – that allows prisoners on determinate sentences to walk after half the time, regardless of attitude – had let hundreds of violent recidivists back on the streets.

Recent cases include one 40-year-old man, a convicted stalker from the Thames Valley area, who within two days of his release had turned up at his previous victim’s house and conducted extensive internet searches on her, even though he had previously been assessed as likely to kill her. A significant number of other cases that were examined concerned offenders who had been considered likely to assault female partners or acquaintances. Some began hunting down their former partners immediately upon release.

Most of those released had, according to Napo, failed to carry out any offender work or displayed any remorse. Most of the 30 individuals identified were recalled to custody within days of release because of the risk they posed. Others entered exclusion zones or absconded from hostels and most refused to co-operate with their licence conditions.

Harry Fletcher, Napo’s assistant general secretary, said: “It is scandalous that hundreds of prisoners are being released from custody automatically when they have completed half their sentence, despite assessments that they are of high risk of harm to the public. Case histories published by Napo show clearly that there is no incentive for certain prisoners to comply with rehabilitation plans in prison because they will be released when they have done half their time anyway. There is evidence that this is putting the public at risk.’

Clarke did point out on the radio that prisoners on license can be recalled. Which will be a great comfort to the mutilated corpse of the next woman murdered by some piece of shit out on early release.

The leftwing critique on crime is completely outdated. We have been saying for fifty years that crime is caused by poverty, but most poor people never hurt anyone. The Tories talk a good game, but in their hearts they don’t care if vicious individuals exploit the weak and vulnerable, in between ineffective and unattended community sentencing schemes. Ken Clarke can afford private security firms. Most people can’t, and crime – like everything else that’s bad – hits, disproportionately, working class people.

There is nothing progressive about letting monsters walk under the living sky.

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7 Responses to “Stupid Ken”

  1. Gaby Says:

    Great post, Max. Just what was needed and neatly put.

  2. armchairdissident Says:

    Came across this via an RT on Twitter. I’m trying to work out what point you’re making here. First of all, people aren’t hacked off because they heard the interview, they’re hacked off because Twitter got wind of it, and half of Twitter entered it’s usual headless-chicken mode over a very specific accusation: that Clarke was trivialising rape. If you have some specific objection not already covered at great lengths, perhaps you would be kind enough to point it out, rather than expecting your readers to sit through a 15 minute interview that you’ve made clear is outrageous enough to scour the skies themselves.

    You then jump to the conviction rate, which is hovering around 6%. You correctly note that the blame for this conviction rate can be laid squarely on the shoulders of juries who seem utterly incapable of convicting rapists. This is precisely what the 50% proposal is about: getting guilty pleas. That’s where a full half of all convictions come from, with the majority that go to court resulting in an acquittal. And that is only for those women brave enough to go to the police: at least an estimated 70% never get reported. Is it any wonder? When the rapist knows full well that going to court will almost certainly result in an acquittal? The promise of a reduction in sentence is the incentive to avoid this long-drawn insulting and humiliating fashion: get the conviction by getting the guilty plea. What else do you suggest that can raise the conviction rate, while also retaining the accused right to a fair trial? – and the accused *does* have a right to a fair trial.

    Then you jump to the early release system – the system implemented by Labour in 2005. Yes, this is hugely controversial, and yes the Tories really ought to do something about this, and yes they probably won’t because of costs – which I believe was the rationale behind introducing it in the first place. But Clarke is absolutely correct that they can – and frequently are – recalled; usually before – as you put it so delicately – the “next mutilated corpse of the next woman murdered by some piece of shit out on early release”

    As for your comments on class wars: poverty is the single largest indicator of crime. Reducing poverty is the single most effective way to reduce crime. That is a fact. That does not mean that most poor people commit crime, only that most crime is committed by the poorest. What, however, this has to do with whether or not Ken Clarke can afford private security firms, or whether letting monsters walk under the living sky is or is not a progressive ideal, or – for that matter – what this has to do with anything else, I, well, I really have no idea.

  3. maxdunbar Says:

    There is already a third discount on guilty pleas – even when the evidence is so strong as to leave the defendant no other choice – plus early release on determinates. I just don’t think we can cut down jail time any more and keep an effective deterrent, and guarantee public safety and some kind of satisfaction for victims.

    I think a better way to more convictions lies in getting people to report, as soon as it happens, so that physical evidence can be obtained.

    The point about early release is that we are letting people out who have not changed and have no intention of changing. Many people do reform in prison and in these cases yes and by all means give them a free pass. The automatic early release however just lowers prisoners’ expectations and decentivises change.

    I think there is certainly a link between poverty and crime, and a better government would redistribute wealth so that there’d be less crime. Meanwhile, most poor people manage to get through the day without raping someone. Anyone who doesn’t, needs to be dealt with

  4. armchairdissident Says:

    The issue of discounts on sentences for guilty pleas will always be contentious regardless of what the rate it. It’s a classic trade-off with no single, simple solution. If the discount is higher, then hopefully more guilty people plead guilty earlier at the cost of them serving shorter sentences. The flip-side, of course, is you also don’t want innocent people being brow-beaten in to entering a guilty plea because they’re terrified of a much higher sentence if a jury wrongly convicts them. Like so many things, it’s complicated.

    In turns of rape, getting people to report as soon as it happens is simply a non-starter, both in terms of getting a conviction, and in terms of understanding what happens to rape victims. The CPS Rape Manual deals directly with this very issue under the section “Societal Myths” as myth #10 (http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/rape_manual/rape_manual/#a21), and indirectly as myths #6 and #7. Similarly, a Fawcett report of 2009 showed that that there was supporting evidence in 86.7% of charged cases, (http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/documents/Rape%20-%20The%20Facts.doc, caution: Word document)

    On early release, I actually pretty much agree with you. The whole point of early release should be to provide an inmate with the incentive to genuinely rehabilitate. They should be provided with the rehabilitation resources, and should not expect early release unless they do so to the satisfaction on an independent parole board.

    My main umbrage is that none of this has much to do with the reports on what has outraged people over Ken Clarke’s reported statements, and what he has been reported to have said. I don’t particularly like Clarke, and don’t really believe the idea that he’s really a leftie Tory, these reports that he has basically said that rape isn’t really that serious, and he’s a nasty piece of work, does not bear scrutiny. I’ve not, as I’ve said, listened to the whole interview however, so it’s entirely possible I’ve missed something truly outrageous that no-one has chosen to comment on.

  5. maxdunbar Says:

    Clearly there’s a place for formalised guilty pleas and discounts. I think though that there are already sufficient discounts and incentives in place. The argument Clarke made was that we should incentivise people to plead guilty and spare the victims the nightmare of a trial. It’s a good point but is in my view undermined by the huge amount of time off Clarke is offering as a bribe. The discount should be reduced in my view if the evidence is so strong that the defendant would be convicted by any judge anyway.

    The woman who spoke to Clarke was raped by someone who did eventually plead guilty, after two years of pretrial bullshit, got a derisory sentence and reoffended.

    Do listen to the whole fourteen minutes.

    I don’t see that immediate reporting would have no effect. Surely physical evidence, semen, DNA carry weight?

  6. armchairdissident Says:

    The problem with reducing the sentence on the basis of the strength of the evidence is that it’s not the judges that are freeing the rapists: it’s the juries. And an accused rapist does have the right to trial by jury

    And again, on immediate reporting: that’s simply not realistic, and – frankly – you appear to be making the same mistake juries are making: that it is reasonable to treat a woman who complains sometime after the event as less than honest. It’s overlooking the psychological trauma of a woman who has been raped, and assumes an almost CSI-esque view of physical evidence of semen and DNA (which, incidentally, are highly intrusive to obtain. Not something that’s nice to ask of a woman who has been raped).

  7. maxdunbar Says:

    Not really. Many forces have rape suites open 24/7. Not a nice experience but they will make it as easy as possible. DNA evidence is not perfect but better to have than not.

    And I never said (because I don’t believe) that rapists have no right to a fair trial – so why do you keep coming back to that point?

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