Recently I posted about the failings of fixed penalty notices. The gist: police are not qualified to hand out sentences. It’s not their job; it’s what we have magistrates and judges for. Today, I came across this doozie of an idea: get kids to do it instead.
In this pilot program, which is intended to reduce youth crime, young offenders will be dealt with by putting them before a panel of unqualified children who will be expected to determine their guilt and hand down an appropriate sentence. This is, frankly, farcical. It may be well-intentioned, but it assumes that it is easy to determine guilt. It is not. Neither is it easy to decide what action should be taken in response to an offence. It is in fact so difficult that an entire quango — the Sentencing Guidelines Council — exists to publish guidance on sentencing for the courts. Their job is to help make sure that sentences are proportional, appropriate and consistent, and to issue guidelines intended to facilitate rehabilitation — which the Sun et al invariably seize upon to pander to the proletariat, generally in spectacularly crass fashion.
These “juries” will of course have very limited powers — to force the offender to apologise (what on earth is the use is that?) to pay a fine (which their parents will probably have to pay anyway) or to hand down an Acceptable Behaviour Contract — an ASBO by another name. Great. There aren’t nearly enough of those around…
Harry imagines it is very likely that these juries will be filled predominately by straight-laced do-gooders, who will comprehensively fail to gain the respect of the dyed-in-the-wool thugs over whom they sit in judgement, but who will very much enjoy handing down incompetent sentences while playing “grown-ups” as their bourgeois parents look on and coo with delight at how mature and well mannered their little darlings are.
Always good for the CV, I suppose.