From antisocial behavior and crime to illegal immigration, members of the public have one simple but unanswered question. How can we, the many who are law-abiding, allow them, the few criminals, to go unpunished?
There is of course great complexity in these issues. To take illegal immigration as an example, we must consider the free labor market, the black economy, our free public services, lack of data sharing among public agencies, poor enforcement, mediocre budgets, legal complexity, international human rights obligations, court processes, organized crime, and relations with other states. .
But do we – and the political classes in particular – have the desire to enforce the law? Are we really prepared to use the full power of the state to keep the public safe from those who might harm us? Think about it for just a moment and it’s impossible to conclude that we are.
Max WeberThe German sociologist is best known for defining the state as “human society which (successfully) claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of material force within a given territory”. This is something the state does for a good reason, because our civilization, our society and our peaceful coexistence depend on the exclusivity of this power.
Boundaries are necessary to maintain a national society in which people recognize their obligations to one another and mutual self-interest. Police forces and the criminal justice system are essential to prevent and punish violence and violations of the law. So-called “direct action” and vigilance are unacceptable because they are unrestricted, illegal, and not governed by training, process, and legal oversight. So it is dangerous.
This is something conservatives understand. While liberal thinkers have spent centuries arguing that humans want to escape their obligations to others, and seek freedom from the constraints of law and custom, conservatives have always believed differently. Vitality arrived Edmund Burke“Government is an invention of human wisdom to provide for human needs,” and among these human desires is “sufficient restraint over their emotions.” As much as Burke insisted on their liberties, these restrictions “must be counted within their rights.”
But what restrictions do we place on those who break the law and harm the lives of the rest of us? Take, for example, the criminal protesters who are breaking the law and blocking roads and highways in their “Just Stop the Oil” campaign. A recent report from think tank Policy Exchange revealed police college directives telling officers how to respond. He recommends a five-step process: a simple appeal asking the protester to stop; a reasoned appeal explaining why they should be stopped and violating the law; Personal Appeal, to remind the protester that they may obtain a criminal record and waste time if they are arrested; A final appeal, asking if there was anything the officer might do to get the protesters to cooperate with them; And finally the “action”, in which reasonable force may be used, is late.
What is the reason for this shyness? First, the cultural aversion to confrontation within the police force, especially when it comes to more political criminality. Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the British model of policing, declared that “the police are the public, and the public is the police,” which means that policing must remain civilian and be built on consent. But shame in the face of criminality is a perversion of the Bailian principle. Four Bell also said that police “should pursue and maintain the public interest, not by pandering to public opinion, but by demonstrating an absolutely impartial service to the law.” However, the chief of police and the college seems more eager to sympathize with the criminals than to punish them.
The second problem is legal. As Policy Exchange says, there is no legal impediment, despite poor police leadership and college guidance, to arrest protesters blocking highways. However, there is some legal skepticism about the prosecution of protesters where a conviction “disproportionately” conflicts with their rights to protest, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. The ruling that created this suspicion, in the Ziegler case, jeopardized prosecutions for crimes including criminal tort as well.
The Convention, which is now de facto constitutional law for Britain, is, in legal terms, a “living instrument”. In other words, its meaning changes over time. Its modern interpretation – decided by judges in this country as well as at the European Court in Strasbourg – limits state power and removes the “restrictions on sentiment” not only of citizens but of both legal and illegal immigrants here. Convention rights limit our ability to deport foreign criminals, detain illegal immigrants, and uphold the law.
These two problems—police weakness and imbalances created by creeping human rights laws—add to a third problem. Because the problem of radical activity is growing. Extremists who act for ideological reasons are often not subject to the forces of law and order, nor are they punished by the courts. Protesters blocking highways are a joke. Vandals who attack statues and buildings are allowed. The law protects not only foreign criminals, but reckless, ignorant members of the public. Activist groups disrupted deportation flights and, in one case, passengers rebelled to prevent the deportation of a Somali criminal who turned out to be a convicted mass rapist.
In London, councils are instructing schools to stop excluding disruptive and even violent pupils in the name of “racial equality”. Police officers recount how members of the public try to prevent them from searching suspects, even in cases where such searches lead to the discovery of deadly weapons. Naive journalists cite undocumented immigrants for their experiences, while the same immigrants complain that they are being detained by officials because they are “supposed to start work on Monday”. However they do not have the legal right to work.
Among all these threats to our well-being and security, one theme is clear. Reluctance – in public bodies, in law and even in some cases among members of the public – to use coercion. However, the legitimate use of force is what our liberties are based on. If we don’t use it, we risk losing our very own lifestyle.