The Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke was buried today under accusations that he was going ‘soft’ on rapists. Unfortunately, most of the people who were trying to make a case against his reforms got most things wrong and sounded as if they were writing an editorial for the Sun newspaper.
Everyone from individuals, right wing politicians, policemen, prison officers, women’s groups, rape counsellors and others have all lambasted Clarke, claiming that rapists would be out of prison in 15 months. Many of these critics should know better. The judge, not people who make wild assumptions, decides on the sentence having heard all the facts of the case.
In fact, most men convicted of serious rape and child sex offences get very long sentences indeed and often an indeterminate sentence (IPP), a life sentence in all but name.
The tabloids and those with vested interests in keeping more people in prison for longer are focusing on the proposal of a 50% discount on the sentence for rape in return for an early guilty plea. What these people don’t mention is that the discount is already 33% and has been for years.
Nor do they mention that the discount applies to all offences, not just rape.
The subjects of rape and sex offenders generate strong emotions in people and huge profits for newspapers and the media, Most other crimes do not. TheOpinionSite.org is therefore not surprised that critics are being populist in the extreme by accusing Clarke of being insensitive to those who, tragically have been victims of rape and sexual assault.
What really concerns me is that the people making the most noise, politicians and public alike, simply go on repeating the garbage spat out by the Sun and the Daily Mail instead of exhibiting some self-respect by seeking out the real facts. Opportunist MPs are just as guilty and, considering that they make our laws, it is sad that they all appear to be so thick and stupid.
For example, it is simply not true that “It is a fact that 90% of sex offenders reoffend”, as stated on BBC Radio 5 Live this morning, a totally incorrect statement that was allowed to go unchallenged.
In Prime Minister’s Questions today, David Cameron immediately started cowering to the tabloids in his response to questions from the leader of the opposition, Ed Milliband who, stupidly, decided to jump on the band wagon and in the process severely dented his own credibility by asking for Mr Clarke to be sacked.
Milliband too trotted out inaccurate figures, something that Cameron has already done on several occasions when attacked by the tabloids.
The purpose of a discount on sentencing is to save victims of often very serious and traumatic crimes from having to go through it all again in front of a barrister who is accusing them of lying. Politicians, even serious ones, should make sure that this is made clear instead of pandering to the tabloids and the tacky media.
Cameron also claimed – again – that only 6% of reported rapes ended in conviction, largely due to the policies of the previous government. Maybe that is because not all those accused actually carried out the crime in the first place.
TheOpinionSite.org is very clear; rape and other sexual offences are appalling. However, to go the way of the United States in dealing with them is to invite the same disaster that exists today in that country to take place here as well. Billions are spent in the US on keeping many sex offenders in prison for ever, maintaining retrospective registration laws, encouraging vigilantes by publishing names of sex offenders and adult rapists and maintaining a political posture that everyone in power is afraid to change.
This site supports Clarke in his reforms, details of which may be announced next week. It is now up to David Cameron to have the guts not to give in to those who trot out erroneous facts in order to sell newspapers or keep themselves in a job.
If he gives in on this matter and fails to back-up his Justice Secretary, he will show himself to be no better than Blair (who famously promised to double the number of people in prison, a populist policy that back-fired on him) together with Blunkett and others who were in the pockets of Rupert Murdoch. Those who run organisations that do very well out of maintaning the public fear of sex offenders are no better.
Rapists and sex offenders form a group of offenders that are guaranteed to generate cheap votes for those who support the public’s fear but which also offers the risk of political suicide for those who take a more realistic approach.
TheOpinionSite.org believes that Ken Clarke must stay, his policies must stand, accurate figures should be rammed down the throats of those who proclaim inaccuracies to be fact and the Prime Minister should resist the temptation to take the easy option and give in to the Sun and the Daily Mail.