Radical Law and Order Reform
I'm still ploughing through it, but it's the most interesting item of police news in ages.
Many Labour MPs remain in thrall to utopian theories of human nature and believe that criminals are driven to commit offences by social exclusion. They are not responsible - it's society that should change.
But this attitude does not go down too well on council estates, where the majority think that crime is all about knowing right from wrong. Jack Straw, Labour's first home secretary, published a White Paper entitled "No More Excuses" to ram home the message that Labour had changed.
The causes of crime
Most people do not commit crimes, because they have been brought up with a conscience that tells them it's wrong to steal or hurt other people. No one is a born criminal, but there is now a lot of evidence that their genetic endowment makes some children more likely to become criminals.
Most parents know that you can be faced with a difficult child, however good your parenting skills, and this is why having two parents matters.
A lone parent faced with an undemanding child may be able to manage, but when the child needs constant attention to prevent him from going off the rails, a single mother or father will struggle. Often such children end up in care. The Home Office has found that 27 per cent of prisoners had been in care and 47 per cent had run away from home.
But having two parents is no guarantee against crime if one of the parents is a criminal or a drug user. One Home Office study found that 43 per cent of prisoners had a family member with a conviction, and 35 per cent had other family members who had been in jail. Schools can reinforce the efforts of parents, but if the school is disorderly and fails to control bullying, crime is encouraged.
The criminal justice system also plays a part in moral education. Picture parents struggling to raise their children to be honest citizens on a run-down council estate. They urge them to respect other people and reinforce their appeals to youthful better nature with warnings about what happens if the police catch them committing crimes. But, if other local kids are obviously getting away with it, then the good parents may seem like "muppets" who don't "get it".
We should increase police numbers and switch police effort to New York-style "broken windows" policing. In England and Wales in 2000, we had 237 police officers for every 100,000 population; the French had 396, or 67 per cent more.
But they had a much lower crime rate, 6,405 crimes for every 100,000 people, 35 per cent lower than ours. In 2005 we had 143,000 police officers, up from 127,000 in 1997, but there is still a long way to go.
See also Police Reform - Police Mergers
Anyway, I'm sure this is going to cause a bit of lively debate, so I'm off to read the article again.