This is a Liberal?

Nick Clegg mouths off:

It is time for people to own our criminal justice system once again. New community courts should be set up in every town and city in Britain. Those who commit minor but visible offences such as vandalism should have to explain themselves to victims and members of the community. Together they will be able to decide how offenders can make up for the damage they have caused.

Erm, we have these already. Called Magistrates Courts. Staffed by unpaid volunteers, serving their community.

And if Britain is to be prepared for emergencies, I believe we need to re-establish some form of civil defence organisation. It must be community-based, community-led and engage people. I want to explore how we get people to learn skills to serve their community, and share the skills they have, so when emergencies happen, from flooding to terrorism, it isn\’t just a small, professional elite who step up, it\’s everyone. As leader, I will set up a group to look at how best to structure this sort of community resilience force.

Someone tell him about St. John\’s Ambulance will they?

Could someone also tell me how advocating the replacement of a voluntary community organisation with a State led one is liberal in any manner?

10 thoughts on “This is a Liberal?”

  1. Sounds like the Lib Dems are falling into the same trap as Labour: dressing up existing institutions as new ideas. All this rebranding just imposes costs with no gains in service. He’s right to be advocating these locally based services, he’s just ignorant of the reality. Give it a few years and the TA will be called the Community Action Force or some such nonsense.

  2. “some form of civil defence organisation” – Doesn’t the US Constitution mention something similar. I can’t see the LibDems going for the “right to bear arms” though.

  3. Someone also needs to tell him about MACC – Military Aid to the Civil Community ie helping out in floods. Its something that the armed forces drill in to their recruits and practice thereafter (at least they did when I served)

    They also practice MACP – Military Aid to the Civil Powers, thats driving green Godesses and utting out fires. Oh, and putting down riots if the need ever arises.

  4. I don’t know when you were last in a magistrates’ court Tim, but I think you have a rose tinted view of them! I’ve been in twice in two years – once I took a friend to his speeding hearing (which of course should not have been a crime in the first place) and most recently back in Oxford as a witness who reported someone on my site driving, if that’s what it can be called, under the ifluence (yeah – I know – big fat snitch – but you should have seen him – he was totally incapable and was ruining my flower beds in the process!) and I tell you – the mags courts are in a pretty poor state. Endless queues of the feckless there to answer for heir CSA breaches, their failure to answer bail because they’re too stupid or something to make a note of when it was supposed to be, to monitor their drug treatment and testing order and so on and so forth. My over-riding feeling on watching it all was that “these people cannot possibly be representing us, the community and our priorities”.

    Then there’s their accessibility – not in the disabled ramp sense – they’ve closed many magistrates courts and often amalgamated them into big complexes in the local main city or county town – I don’t see that as community justice.

    I’m not a Clegg supporter by any means, and I don’t support this idea of “localism” from the top – it should be for communities to be set free from government to come up with their own ideas for all these civil functions (and remember whoever it was that mentioned the army that the army themselves are saying they’re running short on manpower to deal with civil emergencies and even the Tories are talking about some kind of alternative civil emergency structure).

    Tim adds: Jock, we might have to disagree. This man:
    That’s a local, doing his local bit, to provide local justice.
    He’s also (and not coincidentally), the defender of your and my freedoms from the State. Just like, at the next level up of the Justice system, juries are.
    Sorry, I’d rather like to keep this sytem that we’ve had for near on 1,000 years.

  5. Tim, I’m not saying (and I have not really engaged with Clegg’s ideas on this anyway) that I would do away with magistrates (he may be saying that, I don’t know). Indeed I would probably have more of them, in the sense of having them more local. And I’d quite like local gaols for short term sentences – even overnight/weekend gaols as they appear to have in either Denmark or the Netherlands where miscreants can be incarcerated at night say while they go to their job during the day if they have one or do training if they haven’t, but are able to be in contact with families and so on.

    I know a number of magistrates who are as depressed as I am about their regular “customers” and who feel that that’s not really what they’re on the bench for – that much of what they do ought to be down to other services – social services or mediation or whatever.

    By and large I like the magistrate system – I just think that it has become a centrally controlled lower tier of a national justice system rather than a “bottom up” community justice system, which is what I’d prefer it to be.

  6. How about trials by TV with electronic voting online to decide on guilt? Wouldn’t that be liberal and democratic?

    Btw didn’t they used to have People’s Courts in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union?

  7. What JulieM said, plus no matter how misty-eyed people get about localism, 90% of the people who become councillors, magistrates and the like are exactly the people who shouldn’t be trusted with power.

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