From last month – Police forced to confront vigilantism in Surrey:
“Surrey’s Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent Adrian Harper was so concerned he had the leader tracked down and called him in for a face-to-face meeting.
He said: “It is my responsibility, and that of my many officers, to ensure those who live in East Surrey are safe and feel safe and I cannot emphasise enough how irresponsible it is for people to take the law into their own hands.
“I will deal robustly with anyone who does resort to vigilantism and targets who they believe may be responsible for these incidents. Often ‘justice’ groups target the wrong person and an innocent member of the community is seriously injured, something which is neither just nor fair.”
Government press release today:
“A group of residents in Nottingham, who are working alongside the council and the police to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in their area, saw offenders doing Community Payback today as part of a visit to the city by the Government’s Crime and Justice Adviser, Louise Casey”
Ms Casey said: “I have been inspired by the determination of the residents I have met today in Nottingham who have said enough is enough to the small minority that are spoiling their quality of life and have had the courage to do something about it. I’m glad that some of these residents are also taking up our offer of free training to make sure they are clear about their rights and even more of a force to be reckoned with.”
I know there’s no moral or legal equivalence between the actions of the Sheffield group and the yobs in Merstham, and I’m sure that those involved in Sheffield have good intentions, but I can’t help but think that the Government’s idea that justice should be seen to be done leads us further in the direction of SpringShield-like vigilantism.
With “Community Payback” schemes, a “Victims’ Champion” and so on we seem to be moving towards a system where the desired outcome of a criminal prosecution is public retribution to the satisfaction of victims or their representatives. With this idea that punishment must be carried out in full public view will come the assumption that, if punishment has not been seen, it has yet to take place. And if it hasn’t taken place, then there’s no time like the present..
And in other random legal news, my local MP Bridget Prentice made the papers for announcing a consultation into libel costs. A Very Good Thing, but surely addressing the fact that the current state of defamation law in the UK is absurd (forcing the accused to prove their innocence, for starters) would be a better start than limiting the potential damage of individual actions.