Kenny MacAskill issued a press release today on Penal Reform.
In it he challenges critics "to stop carping from the sideline over proposals to tackle re-offending and help turn the tide of record prison numbers in Scotland."
"There is something truly perverse about the fact that crime is falling yet we are locking up more and more people."
Oh really? Who'd have thought, when you lock up criminals, crime falls. So the SNP's answer, informed by The independent Scottish Prisons Commission is to indulge in non custodial sentences and rehabilitation.
Now, call me old fashioned, but when people commit crimes that justify a custodial sentence, then that's exactly what they should get. And guess what? Whilst they're locked up at Her Majesty's pleasure then the community is safe from their criminal activities.
In a previous post, I pointed out that at Arbroath Sheriff Court, only 36% of housebreakers receive a custodial sentence. I would argue that having your home broken into (bearing in mind that in Scotland housebreaking covers various acts) and the stuff you had worked so hard to buy stolen, then you might expect the thief to go down for it. This is made worse by the fact that victims of housebreakers often feel violated, suffer from prolonged anxiety and don't feel safe in their own homes.
Any yet the criminal sentenced in Arbroath faces a pretty good chance of walking free with some non custodial sentence.
The fact is in my view, the concerns of the community are not being met by the judiciary, and the Scottish Government is making it worse.
Below is a post from a blog that is linked in my blogroll as anti knife crime. The author is Mark Davies. I have known Mark for 20 years now, he was my first martial arts instructor when I came out of the army. He is a good family man that has worked the doors in some of the most deprived areas in Scotland. I consider him a close friend and value his opinion. In one post he states:
"We need to treat anti social behaviour & crime with the severity that it deserves & stop trying to be 'progressive' & warm & fuzzy with habitual offenders. There comes a point where the powers that be need to understand that some people aren't going to be rehabilitated & that the safety of society needs to come first. We have a family here in Arbroath who fall into this category. The entire family are constantly in the paper. Week in week out one of them has been charged or convicted of something. They do drugs, they break into houses, they break into cars, they break into sheds, and they attack people. Everyone I know is sick to death of seeing them constantly get sentences & fines that they are laughing at. These are the same types of folk who carry weapons without a seconds thought. No matter how 'illegal' it is or what the penalty is, they are habitual criminals- crime is what they do! Its people like them who commit the majority of violent crimes. If we want to see a drop in the rate of violent/knife crime we need to stop playing games with these people & GET THEM OFF THE STREETS!"
That's not to say that Mark, or I for that matter does not value the role of educating people against taking part in crime, he clearly states that earlier in the post. But when it comes to dealing with the kind of people that break into houses, assault people and all the other kind of crimes that destroy communities, then we should listen to what people like him have to say.
If we are trying to avoid the cost of prison places then a senior police officer thinks differently.
The old saying of 'justice must be seen to be done' is never truer than now. Beleaguered communities are sick fed up of hand wringing apologists in the judicial system that are happy to send criminals on their way with a talking to and a slapped wrist. The expectations of communities are absolutely not being met and Kenny MacAskill will only make things worse.