...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Day 2739: Guilty


Sadly we had to give up watching the BBC's new drama CRIMINAL JUSTICE because Daddy Richard was too WUSSY to take it!

It was almost DICKENSIAN in its attack on the failings of a brutalizing system. But without the feel good factor of it being a hundred years ago and all mended now. Which, come to think of it, makes it JUST like what Mr Dickens was writing about.

We have a friend who got sent directly to JAIL, do not pass GO etc. And my Daddies are both VERY sorry that they have not done more to help.

If it is even REMOTELY like what was on the telly those first two nights, then I do not think I can understand how anyone can bear it.

To completely nobody's surprise chief barrister Mr Timothy Mutton, Chairperson of the Baa Council, has written to the Grauniad, bleating in OUTRAGE.

"It is a TRAVESTY! Barristers work jolly hard for too little money! How very dare you! Etc etc etc."

Writer Mr Peter Moffat replies in his own defense. As he used to be a lawyer himself, Mr Moffat will know the old maxim about the lawyer with himself for a client…

But, his defense is that he writes from experience as well as imagination.

With respect, both he and Mr Mutton actually miss the point. Unlike a court case, drama doesn't have to limit itself to FACTS in order to express TRUTH. At least GOOD drama doesn't… and come to think of it GOOD court cases do!

But if you want FACTS, then consider the case of Mr Majid Ahmed who wrote in the Grauniad this week about how, in spite of his A-Level success, he was turned down by Imperial College because of his criminal record.

This is shameful. How are people supposed to work their way OUT of a criminal lifestyle if the institutions just toss them back in?

"CRIMINAL JUSTICE" suggests that we have created a KAFKA-esque world where the defendant cannot tell their story to anybody: not the defense lawyers who don't want to risk being compromised; not the nice policeperson who just KNEW that the boy was guilty; not really even his parent, who wouldn't take the horror of what was happening inside the prison. A world with no place for the truth.

When the nice inspector comments on two policepeople wasting their time to guard a taped-off murder scene because "people can't be trusted to behave decently", the irony is that he doesn't realize he is commenting on himself. Because when later he goes on to talk to the defendant Ben alone without lawyers or other witnesses present trying to convince him to confess, that is HIM stepping over the "police tape" of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Everything is written to suggest that he is a good person, a dedicated officer who wants only to catch the killer of an innocent victim. He could be Morse, or Taggart, or Tennyson. But he wants a conviction, he's already decided that Ben is guilty and so he cannot be trusted to behave DECENTLY.

And because HE can't be trusted, then Ben cannot tell him the truth – that he doesn't even KNOW if he's the killer – because it will be used against him, not in the service of finding out what did happen.

Is this what the real world is like? We are protected by walls of tissue paper and cotton wool from ever having to think about it, and perhaps our nice woolly liberal civilization just keeps on going because – like Mr Wyle E Kyote – we don't look down at the chasm beneath us.

That is why Daddy SHOULD have watched this week.

Shoving people into the Criminal Justice system just to shove them out of sight is why we fail them. It is why building more prisons is a STUPID and WILFULLY BLIND answer to the problems of crime. We want people to be better after they have been to prison than they were before, not worse!

Or are people just BETTER than this, and if ENOUGH people are better and BELIEVE in better then we DON'T have to live like tribal cavepeople.

We need a justice system that CAN care for the truth. We need a legal system that has room for the individual. We need a system that makes things BETTER.

1 comment:

Jock Coats said...

I have to say though that when the flash backs started again after Ben was released (oops - was that a spoiler or have you now watched it?) I did keep wondering if he would actually remember having done it!

But a really harrowing tale anyway. Especially the thought of being forced into addiction to keep the Top Dog in power.

But I don't doubt for a minute that all that does go on in our prisons and it must be truly heroic not to give in to it all and just accept the fate someone else has set for you.