Malcolm in WSJ: Roots of British Disorder

In an op-ed appearing in the Wall Street Journal, Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm comments on the roots of the recent violence in Britain, calling it "a sad symbol of the British approach to crime—with its sympathy for offenders, intolerance of self-defense, and unwillingness to pay for adequate crime control."

Tracing Great Britain's leniency toward criminals forward from its inception in the 1950s, Malcolm outlines numerous ways in which the British government repeatedly has hampered the peoples' ability to defend themselves vigorously and adequately against criminal elements.

In addition, Malcolm cites the government's increasing leniency in sentencing criminals, saying, "In 2009, 70% of apprehended burglars avoided prison, according to British Ministry of Justice figures. The same year, 20,000 young offenders were electronically tagged and sent home, a 40% increase in the number of people tagged over three years."

"The result of policies that punish the innocent but fail to deter crime has been stark, even before the latest urban violence," says Malcolm. "The last decade has seen a doubling of gun crime. According to the latest annual report of the Home Office (2009), there was a 25% increase in crimes involving contact, such as assault and battery, over the previous year."

Malcolm concludes by saying, "The lesson from many years of failed criminal justice policies is that deterrence matters, police cannot always protect the public from violence and criminality, and ordinary people must be allowed to protect themselves. Reducing them to baseball bats is unconcionable."

The Soft-on-Crime Roots of British Disorder, The Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2011. By Joyce Lee Malcolm.
"The Conservative government came to power pledging to end the police 'caution culture' and permit more scope for self-defense. But old habits die hard. The Conservative recommendation in December 2009 to permit householders to use any force 'not grossly disproportionate' against an intruder was described in the Guardian newspaper as 'backward and barbaric.'

"And despite the uselessness of police during the recent urban violence—standing in line while thugs hurled bricks and bottles at them and looted and burned—Home Secretary Theresa May initially ruled out the use of water cannons or asking for army help, insisting on Sky News that 'the way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon. The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities.'

"Subsequently Prime Minister David Cameron warned looters and arsonists that they would be prosecuted, and he authorized the use of plastic bullets and water cannon. But the people of London have taken matters into their own hands. In a Turkish neighborhood, shopkeepers and their families protected their street standing guard all night."

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