There is a feeling in the country that the scales of justice are weighted not on the side of the victim, but on that of the criminal. This sentiment is not without foundation. Justice is the most sacred principle and pursuit. The important question Parliament must ask, and continue to ask is ‘are victims of crime receiving justice?’
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill introduced to the House of Commons 9th March 2021 provides MPs with the opportunity to vote to strengthen police powers and protect the public. This Bill will ensure tougher penalties for those who assault police officers and commit other serious crimes. It will end the automatic halfway release point. Private land will be further protected from undesirable encampments, thus defending the sacrosanct position of property ownership in common law. This Bill will preclude trespassers seeking legal remedy and advantage in foreign courts, as, for example, the travelling community were wont to do under EU rights auspices. Britain’s heritage, long disparaged by the left, will at last see some protection under this Bill. Defilers of national monuments will be deterred by an increase in sentencing; memorial desecration could result in a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
However, we can and should go further. Conservatives must now lead in their advocacy of justice and equality before the law that is the bedrock of civilisation. It should be the norm that those on the receiving end of criminal wickedness should feel that justice is done. Important topical subjects for discussion contained within the Bill include violence against women, and the right to protest. This bill comes before Parliament following the horrifying murder of Sarah Everard. Yet another outcry ensues as women are urged not to venture out after dark, and to have the five-point-press at the ready. It is a national embarrassment that the freedom of half the population should be curtailed as an alternative to crime prevention. But it is equally damaging to the national morale that this tragedy should be typically hijacked by woke extremists demanding a despotic blanket male house arrest after 6pm. A civilised society is one where only the criminal is afraid.
The problems of both general and sexual violence against women could be addressed more effectively if the prevailing fog of victimhood were to be lifted. In the aftermath of the Sarah Everard tragedy, a man-hating hysteria has come to the fore. Claims that ‘most’ women have been the victims of violence are widespread. The prevalence of such statements does little to protect those women who do suffer domestic violence, coercive control, rape or worse. The conflation of the undoubtably offensive ‘wolf-whistle’ with serious and terrifying crime is counter-productive in creating a sense that the problem is almost too large to solve. We all have a right to expect to be safe, but we do not have a right not to be offended. The distinction must be made.
The Bow Group advocates a maximum sentence of 30 years imprisonment for the most serious sexual violence, to be matched with the same for those who falsely accuse with malicious intent. The nature of rape does make it a notoriously difficult crime to prove, but the current shaming of all men does nothing to assist. Police powers must be coupled with an increase in the provision of refuge and assistance for women who do face danger. At the same time, a more sensible appraisal by women, of the majority of law-abiding, decent men must be established.
In the above post, ‘men who are really afraid of being falsely accused’ are casually listed with murderers and molesters. Those falsely accused have good reason to be ’really afraid’; they are victims. If society is to address the atrocity of actual crime against women, such all to common campaigns should cease.
A Home Office report of 2005 estimates that 8% of rape accusations were false. Since 2016, 1419 men under investigation for rape or serious sexual assault have died ‘untimely’ deaths. Violent crime is devastating. False accusation is devastating, and the tacit acceptance of it as a sort of necessary collateral damage is both terrifying for the innocent, and counter-productive for those victims in need of justice. Currently the CPS can only charge false accusers with perverting the course of justice or wasting police time. The Bow Group therefore calls for the creation of a clearer legal framework to provide justice for both the victim and the accused.
The distressing prevalence of knife crime amongst young men and boys is a serious cause for concern that seems uninteresting to those who claim that crime against women is an ‘epidemic’.
While the Bow Group broadly supports this Bill, it does not support the proposed draconian amendments to the right to peaceful protest. The right to protest is one of the ancient liberties fought for and enjoyed in Britain. It is a right that has stood this nation in stark contrast to her foes over centuries. Pandemics notwithstanding, every Briton must have the right to pick up a placard and make his voice heard, particularly in a time where freedom of speech seems under threat in many quarters. Governments change, and if the government of the day can choose which protests are acceptable and which are not, we shall find ourselves at the thin edge of a dangerous Orwellian wedge. Preservation of our own democracy and freedom is a vital aim in its own right. In addition, it maintains our soft power on the world stage, particularly when negotiating as we must, our relationship with totalitarian communist regimes. Think China.
We do, however, understand the impetus for increased powers of curtailment given the extraordinary scenes of public malevolence seen in the Black Lives Matter riots that came out of peaceful protest. The distinction must be clear between the two. If protests based on the good will and empathy of our nation allow themselves to be exploited and weaponized by extreme elements then the move to a disturbance of the peace must be known to all. The ‘Kill the Bill’ riots – putatively a response to the death of Sarah Everard and a hypocritical defence of the rite to peacefully protest – in Bristol on 21st March, which saw several police hospitalised and vehicles set alight, are another case in point. It is revealing how the issues addressed by the Bill are connected and subverted by the Left. The penalties for those who abuse and injure police, and damage property must be harsh in order to protect the right of the peaceful majority to protest.
This bill, subject to revisions that ensure the preservation of civil liberties, begins to unbind the hands of justice, and in doing so restores the faith in the British judiciary that was once the envy of the world. It could not come soon enough, but it must only be the beginning.
Joshua Whiteman-Gardner, M.St.(Oxon.)
Director of Communications, Office Manager, and Research Fellow, the Bow Group