Bringing ancient justice back to the modern justice system

I would like to see five points reflected in the new justice legislation created by the Coalition government:

1.. A swift return to the ancient instruction from all judges to jurors allocated to criminal prosecution cases that in order to convict, the balance of evidence must have caused them to believe that a defendant is guilty 'beyond all reasonable doubt', and that this means that if they have any doubts at all that they should not convict, bearing in mind that the underpinning foundation of our legal system is that all defendants are innocent until proven guilty.

2. The removal of all banana republic inspired New Labour 'complaint to conviction' targets created for police and CPS. The target for any democratic society's criminal justice system should be to convict the guilty and acquit the innocent, not to frog march anyone who is the subject of a complaint through to a 'guilty' verdict as swiftly as possible.

3. A thorough investigation of the victim compensation system in terms of any potential for abuse, followed by a move to balance legislation so that people who make false allegations due to malice and/ or to fraudulently claim compensation face heavy penalties, which grow heavier the later this comes to light (as the person they have accused will have suffered for a longer time due to their allegations). This should be clearly explained to people at the point they make a complaint to the police by a professional mediator, not a police officer.

4. That no person is imprisoned without charge for longer than the 36 hours that was the limit before New Labour legislation.

5. That no person is ever subject to government employees of any description circulating information about him or her that has been gathered through rumour and unsubstantiated allegation (as can be the case on the enhanced CRB).

Why is this idea important?

I would like to see five points reflected in the new justice legislation created by the Coalition government:

1.. A swift return to the ancient instruction from all judges to jurors allocated to criminal prosecution cases that in order to convict, the balance of evidence must have caused them to believe that a defendant is guilty 'beyond all reasonable doubt', and that this means that if they have any doubts at all that they should not convict, bearing in mind that the underpinning foundation of our legal system is that all defendants are innocent until proven guilty.

2. The removal of all banana republic inspired New Labour 'complaint to conviction' targets created for police and CPS. The target for any democratic society's criminal justice system should be to convict the guilty and acquit the innocent, not to frog march anyone who is the subject of a complaint through to a 'guilty' verdict as swiftly as possible.

3. A thorough investigation of the victim compensation system in terms of any potential for abuse, followed by a move to balance legislation so that people who make false allegations due to malice and/ or to fraudulently claim compensation face heavy penalties, which grow heavier the later this comes to light (as the person they have accused will have suffered for a longer time due to their allegations). This should be clearly explained to people at the point they make a complaint to the police by a professional mediator, not a police officer.

4. That no person is imprisoned without charge for longer than the 36 hours that was the limit before New Labour legislation.

5. That no person is ever subject to government employees of any description circulating information about him or her that has been gathered through rumour and unsubstantiated allegation (as can be the case on the enhanced CRB).

Childcare and tax allowance

The law could be changed to allow a working parent to take on the pre-tax earning allowance of a home-based parent, in families with children under 5. It might also be helpful to single parents in particular if a grandparent providing unpaid care for child(ren) under 5 could be designated as the 'partner' for this purpose.

Why is this idea important?

The law could be changed to allow a working parent to take on the pre-tax earning allowance of a home-based parent, in families with children under 5. It might also be helpful to single parents in particular if a grandparent providing unpaid care for child(ren) under 5 could be designated as the 'partner' for this purpose.

Dealing with Tabloid excesses

This problem has been raised quite a few times on this website, but it is obviously very difficult to balance the need for a free press against the horrific level of intrusion that is found within some tabloid publications. What if any story was open to a legal challenge of whether firstly it was 'over-intrusive' and secondly of whether or not it was 'in the public interest'? All such cases would have to be heard in open court, with no exceptions, to avoid abuses by powerful people (e.g., politicians trying to gag reports relating to their expenses!)

If a story was judged be 'over-intrusive' and not  'in the public interest' then the publication would be liable for the full legal bill plus any compensation awarded. Those under a certain income could be granted legal aid to pursue a case that was initially judged as having some substance (possibly in a short county court hearing).

This would mean that, at the publication stage, an editor would be entirely free to publish anything s/he felt was in the public interest, but that the publication would need to be aware that it might be called upon to defend any overly-intrusive story in court, and that they could be liable for a considerable sum if the case went against them.

Why is this idea important?

This problem has been raised quite a few times on this website, but it is obviously very difficult to balance the need for a free press against the horrific level of intrusion that is found within some tabloid publications. What if any story was open to a legal challenge of whether firstly it was 'over-intrusive' and secondly of whether or not it was 'in the public interest'? All such cases would have to be heard in open court, with no exceptions, to avoid abuses by powerful people (e.g., politicians trying to gag reports relating to their expenses!)

If a story was judged be 'over-intrusive' and not  'in the public interest' then the publication would be liable for the full legal bill plus any compensation awarded. Those under a certain income could be granted legal aid to pursue a case that was initially judged as having some substance (possibly in a short county court hearing).

This would mean that, at the publication stage, an editor would be entirely free to publish anything s/he felt was in the public interest, but that the publication would need to be aware that it might be called upon to defend any overly-intrusive story in court, and that they could be liable for a considerable sum if the case went against them.

‘one off’ / juvenile offences/ unproven allegations should not destroy lives

The previous government has put us into the position where millions of people now need to declare criminal records and even unproven allegations to obtain employment. Alongside this, New Labour created many new crimes and measures to deal with petty/ public order offences such as ASBOs, Fixed Penalty Notices, a range of cautions etc that are solely mediated by the Police so do not go through the criminal justice system where a burden of proof is needed to obtain a 'guilty' verdict.

If a person receives a caution, FPN etc these are recorded on a permanent electronic record and have to be declared when seeking the enhanced CRB- which is currently required by approx a quarter of all employers. The enhanced CRB may also contain details of unproven allegations, which is an affront to the human rights of the individual concerned.

There needs to be a new 'catch-all' bill passed along the lines of 'resettlement of offenders' that ensures that those who make one silly mistake, especially at a young age, and those who have been subject to unproven allegations do not have the rest of their lives and employment opportunities blighted by this.

Why is this idea important?

The previous government has put us into the position where millions of people now need to declare criminal records and even unproven allegations to obtain employment. Alongside this, New Labour created many new crimes and measures to deal with petty/ public order offences such as ASBOs, Fixed Penalty Notices, a range of cautions etc that are solely mediated by the Police so do not go through the criminal justice system where a burden of proof is needed to obtain a 'guilty' verdict.

If a person receives a caution, FPN etc these are recorded on a permanent electronic record and have to be declared when seeking the enhanced CRB- which is currently required by approx a quarter of all employers. The enhanced CRB may also contain details of unproven allegations, which is an affront to the human rights of the individual concerned.

There needs to be a new 'catch-all' bill passed along the lines of 'resettlement of offenders' that ensures that those who make one silly mistake, especially at a young age, and those who have been subject to unproven allegations do not have the rest of their lives and employment opportunities blighted by this.

Ditch the targets culture in public services

The setting and measuring of simple targets in public services do not work. Workers develop 'tunnel vision', in terms of becoming focused on hitting the targets rather than doing a good job, and after a while these two factors frequently become mutually exclusive.

Instead of constant box ticking and consequent inspection of compliance with such the targets regime, public services should be staffed by well-qualified professionals who are trusted to do their jobs. Their work should be regularly (but not obsessively) assessed/ inspected by qualified, independent experts within the relevant occupational field who use in-depth qualitative and quantitative findings to come to balanced conclusions relating to the quality of the service provided. These findings should subsequently be genuinely open to appeal from the inspected institution, and once finalised, fully open to inspection by the general public who fund the service.

Why is this idea important?

The setting and measuring of simple targets in public services do not work. Workers develop 'tunnel vision', in terms of becoming focused on hitting the targets rather than doing a good job, and after a while these two factors frequently become mutually exclusive.

Instead of constant box ticking and consequent inspection of compliance with such the targets regime, public services should be staffed by well-qualified professionals who are trusted to do their jobs. Their work should be regularly (but not obsessively) assessed/ inspected by qualified, independent experts within the relevant occupational field who use in-depth qualitative and quantitative findings to come to balanced conclusions relating to the quality of the service provided. These findings should subsequently be genuinely open to appeal from the inspected institution, and once finalised, fully open to inspection by the general public who fund the service.

Bring the age of criminal responsibility into the 21st century

The age of criminal responsibility in England is a complete disgrace. It is patently obvious that a child of 10 does not have the level of understanding of wrong-doing that an adult has, and it is absolutely ridiculous to drag them into an adult court. The 'doli incapax' rule worked for many years, where the court first considered the level of understanding that a child aged between 10 and 14 had of the consequences of his/ her behaviour and responded accordingly, but once this was removed in the early 1990s, the age of full criminal responsibility in England became one of the lowest in the world, lower than in some non-democratic states.

This is absolutely not a call for children aged between 10 and 18 to do whatever they please and walk away scott-free. Countries with ages of criminal responsibility between 14 and 18 have systems in which children who commit serious crimes (or are moving into the category  of repeat petty offenders) have to enter  compulsory rehabilitation measures which are typically managed by senior professionals, where (among other measures) the consequences of continuing on the path that they are on are very clearly explained to them. However. most importantly, at the age of 18, they are able to embark on their adult lives without a criminal record. If they then re-offend, they enter the adult criminal justice system in the normal way. However, Scandinavian countries in particular that operate these types of system have a much lower level of re-offending than the UK.

In my opinion, the age of full criminal responsibility should be 18, with a requirement for offenders between 8 and 17 to be dealt with via a panel of specialist children's social workers, police officers and lawyers whose role is to support the parents where possible to help the child work through the issues underlying the offence(s), and to understand the consequences of his/ her actions. This may certainly include reparation for victims, or a period in care for the child if parents are found to be a large part of the underlying problem.  Whatever the crime, any offender under 18 should have strict anonymity in any press reporting, with no exceptions.

Why is this idea important?

The age of criminal responsibility in England is a complete disgrace. It is patently obvious that a child of 10 does not have the level of understanding of wrong-doing that an adult has, and it is absolutely ridiculous to drag them into an adult court. The 'doli incapax' rule worked for many years, where the court first considered the level of understanding that a child aged between 10 and 14 had of the consequences of his/ her behaviour and responded accordingly, but once this was removed in the early 1990s, the age of full criminal responsibility in England became one of the lowest in the world, lower than in some non-democratic states.

This is absolutely not a call for children aged between 10 and 18 to do whatever they please and walk away scott-free. Countries with ages of criminal responsibility between 14 and 18 have systems in which children who commit serious crimes (or are moving into the category  of repeat petty offenders) have to enter  compulsory rehabilitation measures which are typically managed by senior professionals, where (among other measures) the consequences of continuing on the path that they are on are very clearly explained to them. However. most importantly, at the age of 18, they are able to embark on their adult lives without a criminal record. If they then re-offend, they enter the adult criminal justice system in the normal way. However, Scandinavian countries in particular that operate these types of system have a much lower level of re-offending than the UK.

In my opinion, the age of full criminal responsibility should be 18, with a requirement for offenders between 8 and 17 to be dealt with via a panel of specialist children's social workers, police officers and lawyers whose role is to support the parents where possible to help the child work through the issues underlying the offence(s), and to understand the consequences of his/ her actions. This may certainly include reparation for victims, or a period in care for the child if parents are found to be a large part of the underlying problem.  Whatever the crime, any offender under 18 should have strict anonymity in any press reporting, with no exceptions.