The following is a guest post by the Rev Dr Peter Mullen, Hon. Chaplain of The Freedom Association.
Is British criminal justice truly just? If it were, it would operate impartially without fear or favour and its only bias being in favour of the facts. But this is not what happens. Frequently the innocent are punished and the guilty go free.
This should not happen. The matter of the fair operation of the judicial process was sorted out centuries before the birth of Christ in the opening chapters of Plato’s Republic. Here, in an argument with Polymarchus, Glaucon and Thrasymachus, Socrates describes what true justice is and how it should operate: “for the maintenance of harmony in the city.” Harmony is not served where virtue is penalised and vice rewarded, where the innocent are punished and the guilty set free.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens too often today in Britain. No wonder our society is not a people at peace with itself.
Two examples of injustice are in the news this week. First, Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, resigned after being repeatedly and severely criticised for her supervision of the Crown Prosecution Service. Saunders’ incompetence – which some at the time suggested amounted to political bias – led to the collapse of rape trials when it emerged that crucial evidence was not being shared with counsel for the defence.
Also, in December 2017, the trials of Isaac Itiary, who was accused of raping a child, and Liam Allan, both collapsed when new evidence came to light. Meanwhile, many men have the accusation of rape or sexual assault hanging over them for long periods when the prompt sharing of evidence would have had them go free much earlier. These failures of justice are not rare events. Scandalously, the number of prosecutions in England and Wales that collapsed because of a failure to disclose evidence increased by 70% between 2015 and 2017.
And now we witness the disgraceful episode in which, in the course of defending his wife and property against a violent intruder, Richard Osborn-Brooks, a 78 years old man, finds himself charged with murder because he stabbed the burglar who subsequently died. It turns out that the burglar was a career thief who made his money by specifically targeting old people living alone. In other words, here we have a disgraceful affair in which an upright man is criminalised for acting justly, while serial thug is treated as if he had been an innocent victim.
I must say I enjoyed the comment by a retired detective in his letter to a national newspaper: “If that had happened in my day, my superintendent would have asked me to prepare an application for a gallantry award for Mr Osborn-Brooks and to assemble evidence against the intruder.”
It is unsettling to know that we live in a country where routinely the cause of justice is subverted by political correctness and political prejudice. Our members of parliament must put this right – by sending for Socrates if all else fails.
All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.