Finally, a Return to Law and Order | Jake Scott

Two announcements in the last week or so have filled me with hope for the new government: the first, that Home Secretary Priti Patel wants criminals to feel ‘literal terror’ at the thought of committing a crime; the second, only recently announced, that Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to end the early release of prisoners.

This is not an article about the legitimacy of some laws. We can debate until we are blue in the face on whether drugs should be legalised, whether laws surrounding speech should be relaxed, or whether some other things ought to be illegal that currently are not. That is not the remit of this piece.

Instead, we must first recognise the simple facts: laws exist, and they must be enforced. Their legitimacy is a question for activists and legislators, but their efficacy is not.

Our attitude to law and order in this country has slackened over the last few decades; even with an increase in police numbers, their role has been transformed dramatically away from actual peacekeepers to bureaucratic box-tickers. The scale of paperwork they are responsible for is a joke, and their ever-shrinking budget even more so.

Now I know some people, especially the more conservative among us, will be sceptical over this, and I do not blame them. We hear so much grandstanding over the significance of law and order issues, but the first sign of change is always the way we talk about a problem.

When Mrs. Patel talks of criminals feeling ‘literal terror’, I do not believe she is talking about white-collar crime (though of course she definitely should). I believe she is directly talking about the on-the-ground crimes that take place in the big cities daily: the increasing number of acid attacks; the “moped” gangs in London; the rise in knife and gun crime; escalating gang wars; and so on. These crimes cannot go on. They are acts of terror themselves, even if they are not part of some terrorism; it is only right that, after these horrendous acts have been committed, the criminals feel the same fear they have inspired in their victims.

Similarly, now that Prime Minister Johnson has made it clear he wants tougher sentencing and for early release to end, it might finally press our criminal justice system into genuine reform. The current overcrowding of prisons is a definite and real problem, and this might force our infrastructure to expand in order to accommodate those criminals who rightly deserve their sentences.

The Conservatives always were the party of law and order, and it is nice to see a return to the rhetoric behind that identity. Now I think we just need to wait and see if the actions support the sentiment.

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