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Evil Systems vs. Evil Individuals

By Sara Scarlett
October 2nd, 2014 at 4:30 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in BBC, Crime

Another day, another war and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about evil systems versus evil individuals. When it comes to doing evil, individuals that carry out, or are perceived to be carrying out, evils are more readily demonized than systems that carry out larger evils. Take, for example, Hitler versus the Soviet Union. Despite the number of dead in the Soviet Union surpassing the number of dead in Nazi Germany, Hitler is demonized in a way that the Soviet Union is not. I’ve often wondered why this is. Could it be that the qualitative nature of Hitler’s actions were more evil than the nature of the Soviet Unions actions? I don’t think that passes scrutiny. The qualitative nature of the Holodomor is just as horrific, in it’s own way, as the Holocaust was. The only difference is responsibility for the Holocaust is pinned on one individual and the responsibility for the Holodomor is pinned on the Soviet Union, a system, rather than just Stalin.

I get the sense that the international community is more eager to chase down evil individuals than evil systems. Even on a state-level, we are far more eager to chase down individuals rather than reform rotten systems. That’s been shown to be true especially in the wake of the historic sex offence scandals. Individuals are demonised in the national papers in a way that rotten systems rarely are. It’s a cop out. It’s just easier that way but what’s easiest is rarely what’s right.


When Law-Makers are Law-Breakers

By Guest
August 8th, 2011 at 7:30 am | 4 Comments | Posted in Crime, drugs

What should happen to a policeman known to have committed a crime severe enough to warrant imprisonment? Or a sanctimonious priest known to be living in cardinal sin? What sentence would you recommend for a high court judge found guilty of a crime for which they had themselves harshly condemned others?

Well, what if it was a law-maker themselves? Shouldn’t it be all the worse? Apparently not, given the absence over a stir from Louise Mensch MP’s admittance of past drug abuse . The BBC website placed the story seventh in its UK Politics section on a fairly slow news day. Mail Online had nothing in its news or comments on Saturday, despite finding space for a story on a shoplifting seagull. The Telegraph posted the story on page five, complete with glamorous photo of the MP posing outside Westminster in an evening dress.

 None had quoted drug campaigners, former addicts or bereaved parents of teenage drug casualties as is typically done when a scientist or police commissioner calls for decriminalisation. None mentioned that 1,400 people were jailed in 2010 simply for possessing illegal drugs. The current maximum penalty for possessing mild drugs like ecstasy is seven years in prison; if the police suspect an individual intended to pass the substance to a friends, that individuals risks life imprisonment.  Those lucky enough to receive a mere caution can expect it to follow them around their entire life, hindering their life chances and effectively ruling out a career as a lawyer, teacher or police officer. While the press and police are happy to pursue Chris Huhne for a crime allegedly committed eight years ago, it seems no punishment will befall Mensch.

There are reasons not to care. Firstly, the exposé by an anonymous journalist at a time when the exposed is campaigning hard to bring down law-breaking journalists seems suspicious. Secondly, it is right that private debauchery should be kept in the private sphere unless clearly an issue in the public interest. Finally, despite widespread support to maintain prohibition, much of the public see drugs possession as the indiscretion that Mensch makes it out to be.

Within minutes of the news breaking, however, the public interest aspect became clear when the MP stated her support for criminalisation of drug users on Twitter. She then displayed gross misunderstanding of the science behind the drugs debate by responding to one follower that illegal drugs were more harmful than alcohol in moderation, though this is only true for specific drugs. For upstanding citizens like her, it is a mere misdemeanour, but woe betide those not in the nouveau aristocracy.

Unsurprisingly, she’s not the only one to have been in this position. When Ann Widdecombe announced a zero-tolerance policy for cannabis in 2000, eight Shadow Cabinet members admitted they had partaken. Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke presided over the system, despite a similar admittance, and Prime Ministers Blair and Cameron have suspiciously refused to comment on allegations of past drug-taking.

For English law to have any credibility, it must apply equally to all. Out of respect for all those currently behind bars, every MP for whom there exists evidence of former possession should be interviewed under caution to find the real villains – those involved in the destructive and bloody drugs trade. Mensch should at the very least amend her support for criminalisation.

The most important measure to introduce, however, is for every MP to state under legal oath any crime they have committed that carries severe penalties. This would not only tell us how fit our law-makers are to make judgements which can devastate the lives of those they claim to represent; it would also  inspire real debate as to which offences it is indeed right to criminalise. Yes, none of us are without sin, each of us breaking one of the innumerable trivial offences on the British statute book as often as we clean out teeth. But, unlike MPs,  who make the law, we do not cast stones at one another for it. What better way to protect the freedom of the powerless by tying it to the opportunities of the powerful?

David M Gibson is a classical liberal and a member of the Liberal Democrats. He has been an intern at the Freedom Association and writes at


Guido is wrong on capital punishment

By Andy Mayer
July 29th, 2011 at 10:50 am | 7 Comments | Posted in Crime, Libertarians

The launch of the government’s new e-petitions service has inspired Britain’s leading political blogger and libertarian Guido Fawkes to launch a campaign for a vote to restore capital punishment for “child and cop killers”.

“We shall at least see which MPs believe salus populi suprema est lex, and those that put the welfare of child killers above the wider community. Let them be counted.”

He believes such a move would have popular support, and may well be right, instinctive sympathy for murderers is in short supply.

That though should not be enough for a populist liberal or libertarian commentator to reach for the noose.

The principle problem with the death penalty is that to be just it relies on certain guilt. A post-mortem appeal is of value only to the cause of history, not the accused. Life in prison, which should mean life for those Guido is targeting, at least carries some opportunity for compensation.

To believe in the death penalty one must either believe in the infaliability of the state justice system, I suspect Guido does not. Or like the former Conservative MP for Selly Oak, Sir Anthony Beaumont-Dark, a strong influence on my youthful liberalism, that:

“a few miscarriages here and there are worth the price of protecting the public” – 1989, at a speech to KES Birmingham

The few at that time were the recently released Guildford Four, wrongly convicted of 1975 pub bombings, shortly followed by the over-turning of similar convictions for the Maguire Seven and Birmingham Six.

I do not believe those lives are worth the limited comfort of knowing some genuine killers can never kill again. I certainly don’t believe the state can be entrusted to make those choices. Even modern forensic techniques have not eliminated injustices. The death penalty is a tool, open to irreversible abuse and error, not guarantor of individual liberty.

A second reason against capital punishment is deterrence. Perhaps Guido is more compassionate than I am, but I would rather a genuine child killer, like Anders Breivik, spent the rest of their long natural lives facing the consequences of their choices, rather than getting off on early release. Child killers in particular face potential terrors and threats in prison that can see them spend long periods in solitary confinement with only the ghosts of their evil for company. That should be a far worse deterrent than a six foot drop.

Where I would concede change in the current system is that those with no hope of release, should after a minimum sentence be allowed to request assisted suicide. It should though, as with assisted dying for the terminally ill, be their choice and humane. Surely that would be a better reform campaign for a lover of freedom than a returning powers to the state to act as the lynch mob of last resort.

Token Justice

By Andy Mayer
January 25th, 2011 at 10:48 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Crime, Sleaze

The guilty verdict against Lord Taylor today, and against Illsey and Chaytor previously is a very British conclusion to the expenses scandal. Lots of damn nice chaps and female chaps who do a lot of good work and are awfully decent folk who didn’t mean any harm have been spared embarrassment by the token defenestration of the most technically guilty.

The abuse of public money by Parliamentarians in both Houses however was far more widespread than these handful of prosecutions. The line between criminal abuse and behaviour that would merit quiet dismissal from regular employment is as thin as staying a night in a second home bought for no purpose other than to fleece the taxpayer.

In the Commons the process of elections and party discipline has largely removed the worst offenders. In the Lords Taylor will be it. Until the second chamber is replaced by a democratic body, peers who transferred tens of thousands from the public to themselves will remain.

The behaviour of that Chamber this week, filibustering to avert the ending of Labour’s rotten boroughs in the north and delay AV, is rather indicative of the contempt in which this body can hold democracy. The worth the Lords do provide, adding expertise to the scrutiny and development of policy is not in short supply outside, and does not merit a job for life. Far to much of the patronage in the Lords is about party management.

The lack of reform in the Lords though is also a very British compromise. A throwback to the consensus settlements of history that have kept the country largely free of civil strife, whilst suitably financed to cause strife elsewhere.

It is though beyond an anachronism and anyone worth their ermine is free to stand for election should reform take place. That though might prove unattractive to those, who in standing for public election, would be open to question about how lucky they were to escape prosecution.

It will be interesting then to note the correlation of opposition in the House to Clegg’s reform agenda and the amount those individuals claimed for infrequently visited ‘main residences’ in the last Parliament.

Men lie to get laid shock…

By Sara Scarlett
January 23rd, 2011 at 8:47 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in Crime, The Human Condition

So what’s new about that?! You may ask… Well, what we didn’t know until now is that it is allegedly the official policy of the Metropolitan Police. Undercover police have permission to bed activists upon whom they are spying!!.

Or so say some of their ‘victims‘, who now appear to be demanding officers should require warrants to enter their premises…

“Undercover police officers routinely adopted a tactic of “promiscuity” with the blessing of senior commanders, according to a former agent who worked in a secretive unit of the Metropolitan police for four years… with women in very, very, very promiscuous groups such as the eco-wing, environmental movement, leftwing, or the Animal Liberation Front…

Sex was a tool to help officers blend in, the officer claimed, and was widely used as a technique to glean intelligence. His comments contradict claims last week from the Association of Chief Police Officers that operatives were absolutely forbidden to sleep with activists…

He said undercover officers, particularly those infiltrating environmental and leftwing groups, viewed having sex with a large number of partners “as part of the job”….

You cannot not be promiscuous in those groups. Otherwise you’ll stand out straightaway…

Female activists converge on Scotland Yard tomorrow to demand that the Met disclose the true extent of undercover policing. The demonstration is also, according to organisers, designed to express “solidarity with all the women who have been exploited by men they thought they could trust”…

The part of me that would normally be unsurprised in these circumstances is cancelled out by the part of me that projectile vomits at the thought of fornication involving two of my least favourite sub-groups. All those un-washed, hemp-wearing, deeply misinformed hippie activists and people who work for the state.


The long term consequence of this expose is likely to be a large number of desperate men attempting to join left-wing groups, and not just Guardian journalists. For now, a second protest outside MI6 was cancelled when it was explained that James Bond is a fictional character and tends to aim a little more upmarket.

Officer Mark Kennedy – aka what passes for *hot* in your average ‘left-wing activist’ group…