The UK Chancellor, George Osborne has today announced that the UK Ministry of Justice will effectively lose 23% of its budget over the next four years. Prison places are expected to fall by 3,000 over the same period but this can only be achieved through sentencing reforms as the prison population rises every year without fail under the current sentencing system.
Could this mean a return to common sense? Not if the militant Prison Officers Association has its way. They, together with pathetic probation officers are threatening to strike over the cuts now that they themselves have been forced into the real world. It is estimated that 20% of prison officers and probation officers will have to go, or at least not be replaced. It is indeed hypocritical that the prison officers in particular are threatening to strike – even though such action would be illegal.
So much for so little…just click on the image above
Perhaps they too will end up in prison?
If the reductions are to be achieved, a complete rewrite of the sentencing manual will have to take place. It is just possible also that the police – who are also facing significant cuts – may now refrain from arresting every easy target that they come across. It is just possible that the CPS may refrain from taking every case to court as they do now and it is just possible that fewer people will be dragged into court on false allegations of rape, sexual assault and racist behaviour, all of which currently require little, if any proof for the prosecution to be successful.
The police, prison and probation services are meanwhile trying their best to frighten the life out of the British public with tales of increased violence, robbery and assault as a result of the cuts. However, most people don’t believe these people at the best of times so it is unlikely that they will believe them now when those who are shouting and moaning so obviously have a vested interest in doing so.
The Government is to be congratulated for sticking to its guns and going ahead with the cuts. Although it has taken near bankruptcy to do it, the unbridled and unwarranted power given to the law enforcement agencies by the now heavily discredited Blair administration seems to be over, for the time being at least.
However, before we get carried away, it is worth remembering that the coalition government is not as pure as one may think. It is still the poorest people in the country who will be hurt the most by the other cuts which have been announced.
Note also that if some prisons close (which is unlikely) or if prison numbers really are reduced, expect the Labour party to start stirring up trouble. They want to lock everyone up – except themselves – on the slightest pretext. They will feed the fears and fuel the paranoia that will come in due course. It is up to the Government not to buckle and to stand fast against what is sure to be strong and vehement criticism from those who were previously in a position to push the rest of us around.
Then there is the torrent of abuse that is bound to come from the tabloid newspapers. We will see if this government, unlike its predecessor, has the guts to stand up to the Murdoch press and the like. If they hold their position it will do Cameron and Clegg no harm at all but if they give way, another election soon may not be out of the question.
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