Thursday, April 20, 2006

Criminal compensation

The usually mild-mannered and strictly analytical Chris Dillow also thinks that Charles Clarke is a total waste of space.
Clarke’s decision to abolish discretionary compensation for people wrongfully imprisoned is utterly contemptible.
It means people freed on appeal – which can take two years – are not eligible for a penny of compensation. During this time their lives can be ruined.
...

Never mind that he’s unfit to be Home Secretary. It’s unacceptable that Clarke should even be alive.

This is unusually strong stuff from Chris (who also has some good links to other commentators). Equally, the Pedant-General—as he does frequently—incisively articulates a theory which I have been nursing for some time.
However, Clarke is proposing to use these savings to pay out to victims of the crimes of others. This is total bollocks. The state does not have the same duty to compensate the victims of crime: that should be the sole responsibility of the criminals who committed the crimes. The role of the state should be simply to effect the swift and smooth transfer of compensation from the criminal to his victim.

If such criminals are not able to pay the compensation that ought to be extracted, tough: let that act as a deterrent.

Knowing that the state can confiscate any and all of your assets and then continue to hound you for the rest of your life until you have paid sufficient compensation to repair the damage you have caused ought to be an additional incentive to stay on the straight and narrow.

This is an excellent idea: I think that it would be easy to argue that the incentive for the majority of crime is a financial one. If your crime could lead to you being financially crippled for life, or at least a very long time, then this would obviously act as a deterrent to get-richer quick crimes, i.e. most of them.

After all, this is, surely, the reason that the government introduced the Proceeds of Crime Bill, under which any assets that are deemed to have been earned through the proceeds of crime can be confiscated by the state; in theory, this goes towards trial costs, etc. Actually, I think that the majority of it probably goes towards paying for Charlie's lunches...

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