From Philip Johnston writing in the Daily Telegraph Mar 5, 2009
Here are three stories from today’s newspaper. What is the connection?
First, 65 people sentenced to jail for life have gone on to commit further serious crimes, including murder, when they have been released from jail on licence since 1997. Second, a serial knife attacker is convicted of the murder of Rob Knox, 18, despite complaints being made to the police about his behaviour. Third, a motorist is pulled over by a police officer and questioned – because he is “laughing too much”. The connection? Our criminal justice system has become so divorced from its purpose that dangerous offenders are not dealt with properly while perfectly innocent behaviour is treated as suspect because it is easy to target. It no longer protects the general public.
This is not a specious comparison because it is all interconnected. When dangerous criminals are released on life licence they are supposed to be properly supervised by the probation service yet we have many examples of a failure to carry out basic checks.
In the case of Karl Bishop, the killer of Mr Knox, he had been jailed for four years for wounding but was released after less than two years. He murdered the young Harry Potter actor a year later. The point here is that since Bishop was released at the half-way point, he was always subject to recall to prison if he re-offended. The police were told that he was a suspect in a number of knifings and robberies yet did nothing about it. He was never questioned or arrested despite his history of serial offending. Several police officers, we are told, have been reprimanded and the Metropolitan Police says “lessons have been learned”.
What possible lesson needs to be learned other than to carry out the primary functions of policing, which are the prevention of crime and the apprehension of criminals? How have we come to the point where a motorist is pulled over and questioned for laughing while a would-be killer is allowed to remain free to snuff out a young life and destroy a family? The only people laughing are the criminals.