Much has been written about the causes of the riots in England - a couple of examples are here and here - with a few brave souls blaming the initial inaction of the police. As I said previously I was alarmed when I saw television pictures of police inertly standing nearby observing a small group of youths breaking and entering a shop. It's now agreed that if the police had intervened on day one, the situation may never have developed well out of their control. Even now I'm still struggling with the Met's policy of non-intervention in such situations. It doesn't make sense a situation like this was never discussed between police and communities when the Policing By Consent policy was in consultation.
Billions are spent on police forces throughout the land to prepare them for emergency situations, yet when they're faced with one they do nothing.
Then, enter stage right, our useless leaders. David Cameron, suitably irritated because his sunshine holiday had been so rudely interrupted, announced the streets of London would be protected by 16,000 police on Tuesday night. It's gradually coming to light that a serious criminal element were responsible for the initial riots and the Prime Minister was gracious in the extreme to give them advanced warning. On Wednesday the same man - still the Prime Minister - was 'shocked' to hear of riots spreading to other English cities. What did he expect? It's human nature people will copy the actions of others if they consider they will benefit in some way. The criminals had been forewarned and were not stupid enough to repeat their actions on the London streets, but buoyed up by the inadequacy of the Met, it doesn't take a member of MI5 to realise they would quickly regroup in other cities.
Yesterday I was in the company of a couple of teenagers who have just left school. One is going to university and the other is hoping for a college course which will help him attain better qualifications because, as he freely admitted, he'd wasted his years in senior school and only now realised his knowledge of basic education was too limited for him to gain work as a trainee motor mechanic. He was fortunate because a local garage was kind enough to allow him to shadow a mechanic for a few days and it became glaringly obvious on the first day that the lad's mathematical skills were completely inadequate. He told me he'd felt 'gutted' when he was told not to return until he understood basic mathematics, because he could put a vehicle owner's life a risk quite easily. I say he was fortunate because I believe the garage did him a great favour - not only by allowing him access but by showing him 'tough love' which he had obviously never experienced.
The conversation included their opinions about the English looting and vandalism which neither condoned, although both asked me if I thought there was much of a difference between MPs and other politicians being able to claim for expensive televisions and furniture and people stealing similar items from vandalised shops. They fully understood the differences I explained, yet both insisted it was theft. I couldn't disagree.
However, they were far more critical of the justice system. 'Sheriffs give out fines when they know they'll never be paid," one remarked strongly and "Community service is a joke. I have pals who never turn up and they get away with it."
The youngsters I was talking with were in Scotland where we have our own justice system but their comments could also apply in England. Our justice systems are not suitable for today's society it would seem and yes, I have to agree that community service is, in many cases, poorly organised. Perhaps the Scottish government should think of a more effective programme which could offer character building and old-fashioned values as well as punishment for wrongdoing. But when an 86 year old receives a sentence of six months and this offence receives a year (note he had accumulated personal savings of about £250,000), is it any wonder not only our youth think there's something seriously wrong with the justice system?
It's time those in the Scottish and English judiciaries started singing from the same hymn sheets, taking into account the variations in the systems. Changes should not be made in haste. We should take great care.