Salami slicing is a well trodden phrase used originally to describe the subtle reduction by the very thin slicing of a piece of sausage or a large piece of meat. Of course now that phrase can be applied to many areas of our lives but in the context of government policies it means the subtle reductions in financial support to a public policy. Nowhere is this more obvious than it is to our justice system in its widest context. From Kenneth Clarke at the Ministry of Justice in 2010 when he proudly announced that he was the first cabinet minister to announce his department`s budget reduction of 23% until the present time when a compulsive lying prime minister has proudly announced the recruitment of 20,000 police officers which was exactly the number his predecessors over the last decade had sacked, our system of justice has been reduced from a beacon to the wider world to a system not fit for purpose. Nowhere is this hiring and firing been more apparent than in the policy or non policy of stop and search which has become a totem of those who accuse the Metropolitan Police of racism. There is no doubt that the Met itself has been under fire for its apparent failure to weed out and actually punish officers for gross misconduct often during stop and search actions. Indeed only six officers have been disciplined since 2014 out of over 5,000 complaints. But that does nothing to disguise the fact that young black males are the main victims of black perpetrators. A government with confidence in its own policies would provide not just funds to operate an efficient policing system but would also argue that the facts on knife crime require more than rhetoric which is a recurring feature of every Justice Secretary in living memory. A Freedom of Information answer from Scotland Yard might be of interest.
There is no doubt that notwithstanding superficial improvements there is systemic failure within the police to investigate and punish their own officers. That corruption is endemic from top to bottom has been made front page news today 15th June on the murder of Daniel Morgan. There is no doubt that the Met needs systemic investigation and also that the Augean Stables of the Home Office including its current boss need a thorough clean out. Huffing and puffing by the current Home Secretary has to be met by truth, truth more truth and nothing but the truth. At a lower level amongst the hundreds of cases involving serving police officers is that of ex PC Oliver Banfield. His unlawful actions have been repeated countless times with little punishment for those culpable.
Sometimes I wonder at the lack of common sense amongst senior police officers. Such an example is Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Cox the national leader for fatal collision investigations. He has equated speeding with knife crime. He has said that reckless middle class motorists should not be treated more leniently than youths with weapons. Notwithstanding the fact that badly or recklessly driven vehicles can kill I doubt many drivers start their cars with that possibility at the back of their minds. For those whose driving is found to be careless or dangerous and/or compounded by alcohol, sanctions have increased in the last decade to punish those responsible. Knife carrying is a statement of intent. It is both amazing and depressing that such a senior officer can make such a crass remark but what is of more concern is if he can harbour such a public opinion and influence policy what is going on behind the scenes that we might have imposed upon us at some future date.
It is no surprise to all court workers that there is an enormous backlog of cases in our courts. Obviously the pandemic has exacerbated what was a disgraceful situation where the acronym CJSSS; Criminal Justice: Simple, Speedy, Summary was introduced in 2007. In many ways this so called simplification was just a new way of applying rules that were already in place. The introduction of the controversial Single Justice Procedure in 2015 was also another way to overcome what were considered obstacles to early guilty pleas. There is no doubt that the closing over the last decade of half the country`s magistrates courts has been a major contribution to the current backlog combined with the failure to improve recruitment of new magistrates resulting in an unprecedented advertising blitz to overcome the deficit the result of which has in all probability reduced the intellectual fitness required for decision making. Currently there are 56,000 cases outstanding in crown court with some timetabled for 2023.
Amidst all forms of judicial statistics, thinking and programmes there is a complete absence of joined up thinking. Policy therefore seems to belong to those who shout loudest in the required direction of those with the biggest ears. That is how justice is administered in 21st century England. There is, however, one ray of hope for this writer who has been advocating for a decade that drug users should be put on a medical pathway and not a criminal pathway to rehabilitation and reform. MP Dr Dan Poulter has lobbied for change. Perhaps he might be pointed to this blog and write workhouse in the search box for my suggestions.