Thursday 26 August 2010

Top Trumps - Justice

As I said before, you can buy Top Trumps packs but they've forgotten Holyrood (how could they?). One of the comments on the Top Trumps post on the candidates for First Minister suggested that I should have added "Ability to think on ones feet" as a category - it's one I didn't consider but it would hardly be fair, would it? Salmond seems mildly disappointed if nothing unexpected happens while the Labour front bench looks like it would need to go home for instructions if the newsagent didn't have its favourite brand of chewing gum.
On to Justice though; our contenders are
SNP - Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill MSP
Lab - Shadow CSfJ Richard Baker MSP
Con - Shadow CSfJ John Lamont MSP
LD - Spokesperson on Justice Robert Brown MSP (I had to look that up)
Green - I dunno, I'll let James tell us


Tough on crime

MacAskill takes assets from criminals and recycles them into assets for communities - on his watch Scotland’s police and courts have been pursuing organised crime and getting results . This is, of course, a big change since Labour’s time in power - I think he gets 10 out of 10

Baker talks about ASBOs for teenagers drinking but won’t agree with action to address the drinking and wants to jail daft wee laddies who go out with a knife in their pocket but won’t agree with the action needed to persuade them not to. He never mentions serious crime and has never talked about taking on organised crime. He wants to appear to be tough on crime but doesn’t have what it takes to actually be tough on crime. He gets 0

Lamont is new to the job, having taken over after Bill Aitken decided to sing the closing aria on his political career so he doesn’t have much of a record to examine. He does seem to have slotted straight into the strange twilight world of the Scottish Conservatives Justice theory, though, (a pity that he doesn’t take a leaf out of the book of Ken Clarke who takes somewhere approaching sense on Justice issues) and is obsessing on a few matters rather than offering solutions. He’s for short prison sentences and agrees with Labour on jailing wee laddies – wants to appear tough on crime but doesn’t know how. He gets 0

Brown is strange, it’s never very clear where he stands on anything (enough with the ‘typical Lib Dem’ comments, now), he’s unusually indirect for a Geordie. He doesn’t actually say much about the operation of the Justice system and hasn’t brought forward any alternative policies. He most certainly hasn’t spoken about how he would like to see us tackle organised crime. He gets 0

Tough on the causes of crime

MacAskill wrote a fair bit on how to address the causes of crime in the books he wrote a few years ago as well as in articles – firstly address the three Ds – drink, drugs and deprivation, lock up the bad guys, treat those needing treatment, and find ways to give society a fair crack of the whip. In Government he’s implemented restorative justice – Cashback for Communities as already mentioned, but also in putting community service workers to work in places where it will be helpful – like clearing snow from pensioners’ paths last winter or putting headstones back up in Edinburgh graveyards or helping restore peatlands in Lanarkshire. He’s set up a review of sentencing, gave the Advocate General free reign on reforming the prosecution of rape, moved to get rid of short sentences, started the process of addressing Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and started to make sure that offenders pay back to the communities they have damaged.

He’s addressing recidivism – removing short sentences is a big part of it, keeping people out of prison as far as possible and trying to make them productive members of society, keeping prison for those who are a danger to society . He hasn’t done everything yet, so only 8 out of 10

Baker has never laid out his thought on paper as far as I can tell and only comments to say “I’m against that” – I can’t recall a single time when he has said that he agrees with something that is begin done. He’s in favour of short sentences – even wanted a mandatory six month sentence in spite of the overwhelming evidence that short sentences encourage reoffending and embed many people in a life of crime. Instead of offering the underprivileged a hand up and out of the hole they’ve landed themselves in, Baker appears to want to just put a lid on the hole and keep them down there. For a devastating indictment of the lack of vision in Labour’s Justice policy, there’s only one place to go. Scores 0

Lamont hasn’t said much (give him time) but he’s got to defend this barking policy he hasn’t scored yet, but he could do worse than learn from Malcolm Rifkind who delivered the Kenneth Younger Memorial Lecture to the Howard League for Penal Reform while he was the Minister in charge of Justice policy in Scotland in 1988 and he said:
There will always be those who commit serious or violent crimes and who pose a threat to society which requires them to be confined for significant periods. Nevertheless there are many good reasons for wishing to ensure that, as a society, we use prisons as sparingly as possible. While the use of imprisonment may be inescapable when dealing with violent offenders and those who commit the most serious crimes, we must question to what extent short sentences of imprisonment and periods of custody for fine default are an appropriate means of dealing with offenders and there is no single answer to that. Prisons are both expensive to build and to run and do not provide the ideal environment in which to teach an offender to live a normal and law-abiding life, to work at a job or to maintain a family. If offenders can remain in the community, under suitable conditions, they should be able to maintain their family ties, opportunities for work or training and they may be better placed to make some reparation for their offence.
Brown is just wishy-washy, nothing much there, but he does oppose short sentences. Give him 3 points (is this like Eurovision?)

Taking decisions while resisting undue influence

MacAskill Showed his mettle here by holding off the US Government in the decision to free Megrahi, making the decision on the basis of the evidence in front of him rather than the political pressures that were on him. 10 by gum!

Baker doesn’t have that fortitude; he even thought that MacAskill should go and beg forgiveness from the US Senate. Nil points

Lamont – nae record to examine, he hasn’t made clear how he would make decisions. He doesn’t even get to speak on Megrahi, Murdo Fraser does that.

Brown gave MacAskill full support in refusing to kowtow to the US Senate, saying that the Scottish Justice Secretary is accountable to the Scottish Parliament and not the US Senate – then he ruined it with a sly dig – 8 out of 10

This would be an awfy boring game of Top Trumps but you get the picture. I think a legal mind might do a better job of analysing these contenders, I know one who frequently opines on Mr Baker, for instance

Mind how you go!


cynicalHighlander said...

I thought Baker baiting was a crime, oh well one lives and learns.

Jim said...

Welcome back, but why are you trying to convince us that Baker is useless.

Wouldn't it be better for everyone if you explained to Iain Gray that a £520 bung does not a shadow justice secretary make... Then again Gray's the guy that made Jackie Baillie health spokesperson, so maybe he's just running a high level satire at our expense.... would be nice if they stopped taking the piss though!

the marquis said...

Why does anyone bother with Holyrood Labour? They are next to useless. Every time they get into power they just defer difficult decisions to Westminster.