When It Comes To Justice, Britain Is A Strident Non-Believer | Ben Thompson
Shamima Begum’s return to the front of the nation’s newspapers – and the trending page of Twitter – reminds me of a belligerent ex sending you a text message, just as you were getting over them.
We’d just gotten over that whole debacle, and had moved onto different topics to squabble about at barbecues – namely statues, slavery and Dominic Cummings.
But no, the ISIS bride is back in the spotlight once again, after it was ruled she could return to the UK to challenge the legal decision to remove her British citizenship. Once this news hit our phones, it was open season on Twitter for all-out war.
We had the Left decrying the lack of compassion shown towards Begum, who left for Syria when she was fifteen years old, and we had the Right mocking the Left’s double standards on young people – ‘Oh, so we should let fifteen years old vote? They’re responsible enough to take on that on? Wait, what? Fifteen year olds are extremely impressionable and can be talked into anything?’
It was all a bit of a headache, and I refrained from commenting on it. Perhaps I’ve become a little weary with the whole ‘Tweet your opinion into the oblivion’ trend lately. Or maybe I just kinda felt like I had such muddled opinions on the matter that my middle-ground positions would be of no use to anybody.
But this article is about more than Begum, it’s about Britain’s lack of faith.
Not the lack of faith in… faith. But a lack of faith in our own government and all of the institutions that are supposed to keep society from falling in on itself.
Anybody who has a passing familiarity with daytime television will be aware of how issues of law and order are played. Whether it’s Phil and Holly wringing their hands about the vigilantism of ‘paedophile hunters’ or the cast of Loose Women fretting that not enough is being done about knife crime, there is a general sense that Britain has ‘gone to pot’.
One noteworthy example comes in a 2016 debate on ITV’s Loose Women where Columnist Janet Street Porter clashed with her panellists over whether criminals – namely paedophiles – should be allowed to have children.
Porter lambasted her co-hosts for sounding like “somebody in Hitler’s Germany”, but found that the audience were not on her side – as they applauded when she asked aloud, “Why don’t we just stick them in the stocks and rip their fingernails out?!”
Porter sourly noted, “I didn’t think I was sitting on The Jeremy Kyle Show.”
Even though the public opinion may be against her, Porter is right in that the rule of law should be based on rationality, rather than pure emotion.
In our hearts, we feel great angry and hatred towards paedophiles, terrorists and murderers. We may well want to see them face horrific pain as atonement for their crimes, but is a healthy society governed by the passions of men’s hearts? I don’t think so.
My anger – anger often being recognised as an irrational emotion – should not be the foundation for policy.
But the erosion of faith in justice is widespread and easy to understand. Often we don’t feel like justice is being delivered. Many of us feel like the law-abiding majority are being done over, whilst the criminals are supposedly given a cushy ride in prison.
I don’t know how we’d go about restoring this faith, as it’s a mammoth task in and of itself.
But I think we need to recognise this lack of faith in our government, if we want to understand the Shamima Begum case in a wider context.
Many of us recognise that removing Begum’s citizenship is contradictory – after all, aren’t we supposedly in favour of deporting foreign criminals back to their country of origin?
But many of us choose to override this contradiction because we feel Britain is totally ill-equipped to handle Begum.
MI5 has a terror watch-list of 43,000 extremists – 90 percent of who are Islamists – and people are oddly at ease admitting that the government isn’t up to the task of quelling extremist zeal.
A YouGov survey from earlier this year found that Britons have very little faith in the justice system. Fewer than half of Britons surveyed believed the police would capture their rapists (46%), assailants (48%) and stalkers (33%), and the figures on Britons’ faith in a conviction make for even more dismal reading.
Britons have virtually no faith in justice being done, should Begum return to Britain to answer for her crimes. So instead, many opt for her not to return altogether, to avoid another knock to our flailing confidence in British justice.
Until we start seeing the criminal justice service working effectively, the public will continue to hold a cynical view, and the notion that Begum should stand trial in her native country will continue to be scorned as the wishful thinking of ‘Luvvie Lefties’.
Photo by Royal-Queen on Flickr.