The power of restorative justice

In a week when the Chief Inspector of Prisons published an Urgent Notification detailing the horrors of HMP Wandsworth, I found myself revisiting memories of being jailed there for the crime of fraud. Clanging doors, rattling chains, men screaming at night in anguish or despair or because their cellmate was assaulting them. No help coming. Emergencies unattended for far too long, and people dead as a result. No purpose, no hope, not even the possibility of redemption. Wandsworth is a miserable prison, one which does as much as possible to brutalise, punish and hurt those it jails, and nothing to heal or change them for the better. The process does

Why ‘affirmative action’ doesn’t work

This week’s truism: all top-down attempts at leftie social engineering end up causing rather more misery and injustice than the misery and injustice they were designed to alleviate. This is chiefly because they come up against that most un-leftie of things, reality – but also because liberals are incapable of looking at actual outcomes and are able only to wring their hands in despair and wish for stuff. The world is not an ideal place and attempts to pretend they can make it so are always misbegotten. When you politicise a crime, all kinds of problems occur The most obvious example of this is in that most explicitly iniquitous of

The horrors of lynching: The Trees, by Percival Everett, reviewed

Percival Everett’s 22nd novel The Trees was that rare thing on this year’s Booker shortlist: a genre novel. Only which genre? Crime is its first claimant – the bickering Bryants of Money, Mississippi having stumbled straight off an Elmore Leonard page. Then it’s horror – the obscenity of the first Bryant death rivalling the grisliest of Stephen King. Then, with the flummoxing custody-elusion of the black suspect, it’s a locked room mystery. Then, with the arrival of two wisecracking black cops from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Blaxploitation takes over. But the book is more than just an exercise in genre-hopping. Money, Mississippi was where 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched

Letters: What William Blake meant

Procurement profligacy Sir: In response to Susan Hill’s query ‘Who allows the profligacy in NHS hospital procurement to continue?’ (‘Best medicine’, 16 July), it seems the national scale of public sector bureaucracy is just too great. Given the size and spending power of the NHS, no one should come close to achieving equal efficiencies in economies of scale, nor gain better prices from suppliers. But this is not the case. As a non-clinical procurement professional in the NHS, having come from the private sector, I’ve been surprised to consistently find the national purchasing authority of the NHS (formerly ‘NHS Supply Chain’, now ‘SCCL’) to be the worst pricing option available

Who governs Britain? Not ministers, it seems

Who governs Britain? It’s a dangerous question, as Ted Heath learned half a century ago. But while he was concerned with untrammelled unions, ministers today must contend with another unelected cadre calling the shots. The difference is that now, like in so many horror movies, the calls are coming from inside the house.  The Telegraph reports that the Ministry of Justice has appointed a ‘transgender employee support officer’. That in itself is hardly surprising. What does stand out is the reason for the appointment. According to an email seen by the Telegraph, prison service director general Phil Copple wrote to staff last Friday to say: Following the decision last year for

Kyle Rittenhouse and Ahmaud Arbery: a tale of two trials

Two consequential trials are currently underway in America. Both in some way relate to the events of last year surrounding police and the public debate about racism. One trial is driving most of the media coverage online. One has been all but ignored. So why is the national media almost singularly focused on what appears to be fabricating racial components in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three rioters in Wisconsin, killing two, and not at all in the trial of Travis McMichael and his two accomplices, who stand accused of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was gunned down while jogging last February? We are

How Raab plans to fix the law

How do you solve a problem like Britain’s creaking criminal justice system? To the newly appointed Secretary of State, the answer involves ripping up the Human Rights Act, rolling out more electronic tags for convicts and pumping cash into preventative projects. At a Spectator event this morning, held at Tory Party Conference, Dominic Raab explained that rewriting the UK’s human rights laws was central to his reforming mission. He told editor Fraser Nelson: The Prime Minister was very clear when he appointed me deputy PM and Justice Secretary that he wanted this done… Overhauling the Human Rights Act is not just a good way of dealing with the foreign nationals

We must stop treating juvenile offenders as lost causes

At the end of October, just before I started as HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, the inspectorate and Ofsted visited Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre near Rugby. Rainsbrook was built by the Blair government to house the increasing numbers of children imprisoned as a result of policing targets and tough-on-crime policies and it was one of four centres contracted out to private providers. The great hope was that these better-funded centres would provide a more humane alternative to Young Offender Institutions. Rainsbrook holds children aged mostly 15 to 18, but on our inspection we discovered that for their first two weeks, new arrivals were being locked in their cells for 23½

The SNP may have overreached by planning to suspend jury trials

The Scottish Government may have overreached for the first time in its response to Covid-19. Today MSPs will vote on the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill, which grants Scottish Ministers emergency powers to tackle the outbreak and suspends or amends the legal status quo in some important areas. Physical attendance in court will no longer be required unless a judge specifically instructs it; instead, appearances will be made ‘by electronic means’. Ministers will be able to permit the release of prison inmates in the event of custodial transmission (lifers and those convicted of sex crimes will not be eligible). The timeframes for community payback orders will be lengthened and public bodies will