THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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Criminals suck

Apart from the anti-intellectualism of my Northern school-mates, the worst thing about my school was the way the bad children set the rules. Not that misbehaviour was rife. Those were the early days of the comprehensive fiasco. My "high school" had been a tough secondary modern a year before I arrived and the senior people in charge were serious disciplinarians. Radical leftist young teachers (like the one who issued A, B, C, D and E grades in rotation in protest against "elitism") were still waiting their chance to create today's shambles. Still, school trips were suspended for a while because some bad boys ran amok on an excursion organised by a well-meaning, ineffectual teacher. We shivered outside at break times because a minority would otherwise trash the place, smoke in the toilets (or use them for the traditional bully's version of waterboarding).

I never expected it to spread to the adult world. Yet now, just as in school, the criminals, idlers and wasters are a minority, but everything seems to be done with them in mind. They set our insurance premiums and force us to buy the safes and security systems our insurers demand. Decent adults are afraid to interact healthily with children for fear of being confused with paedophiles. We are all ruled on the assumption that we are like the worst of us.

This week I collected some medicines for my sick wife. They are controlled drugs. We recognise that we are pretty unusual for our generation in never having used drugs recreationally, but we just haven't. Until quite recently, we have generally been quite happy with our reality. Yet the palaver involved in collecting those drugs, duly prescribed, was ridiculous. Mrs P. is not well enough to hang around pharmacy counters, so I had to identify myself and be logged as the person taking possession of this dangerous stuff. The meds were brought out in a bag with a warning tag the size of a table tennis bat announcing their nature and reminding the pharmacist to register them in a special book. While a lady in pain waited, we went through a rigmarole that certainly wasn't for my protection. In fact the security theatre exposed me to a far greater risk of being robbed. Because the drugs make a pharmacy a target for thieving addicts, some were held at a secure remote location, causing a 24 hour delay. Mrs P had to endure a day of unecessary pain because - just as in our comprehensive school - the rules were set by the worst people around us.

Of course, if the drugs were legal, addicts could buy them cheaply, in pure form, from Boots. They need not conceal their habit from their medical advisers or families. The drugs could be taxed just enough to cover the cost of treating addiction, while remaining cheap enough not to stimulate crime. There would be no need for the nonsense that wasted my time this week and, far more importantly, caused such unecessary pain.

I hate criminals. And I hate politicians who criminalise unecessarily. If no individual (or his property) is genuinely at risk from another person's conduct, it should not be a crime. For so long as the stupid "war on drugs" continues, however, the bloody criminals are - as usual - hurting all the people around them, not just their immediate victims. God rot them, one and all.


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Vivid's right but there is also the point that the state wishes for there to be a pampered criminal class to tap into later.

Kevyn Bodman

Decent people are inconvenienced and sometimes harrassed but criminals are not punished severely enough.
Drugs should be fully legal,possessing, using or dealing should not be crimes.
But robbery or theft should be punished severely.

'..if a person who smokes crack cocaine doesn't abuse his wife or children while he's high, shows up at work sober,and pays for his habit with money honestly earned, what is the problem that society is trying to solve when it puts him in jail?' (Charles Murray: What It Means To Be A Libertarian')


You make a good point, sir. I did say that I hated the criminalisers as well as the crims, but perhaps I should hate them more.


Personally speaking, if I am treated like a 'naughty schoolboy', I tend to behave like one!


I know what you mean Mr Paine, but wonder whether you have identified the correct target for your ire.

It might be that criminals are doing worse things now than they have done through history, though somehow I doubt it. There can be little doubt that a greater proportion of the populace now has a criminal record because so many more criminal offences have been dreamt up by headline grabbing ministers and voted through by tame lobby fodder. That does not, however, explain why those of us lucky enough to have escaped branding thus far are put to huge inconvenience when doing things that wouldn't have rustled a single eyebrow hair a decade ago.

The real problem is the "official" response to whatever crime happens to threaten an incumbent government's opinion poll ratings. We see clampdowns on this, cautious approaches to that and monitoring of everything else. In the result we find the precautionary principle being applied in ever less appropriate circumstances. It's not so much the criminals to blame as the introduction of absurd over-reactions to minimal threats.

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