Charon conducts an imaginary interview with The Home Secretary

Cue: The Great Escape theme tune….music fades

Charon: Good morning, Home Secretary. Thank you for spending time out of your eighteen f******g hour a day schedule to do this interview.

An aide comes into the room at this point with the latest statistics on escaped prisoners. Reid glances at the paper quickly and snaps “Heads will roll”. Aide leaves room.

Home Secretary: No problem. Before you start, let me state that I have written to the judges today to ask them to jail only the most dangerous and persistent criminals.

Charon: Yes… I saw the BBC website report on this. Presumably you have a few places to play with due to prisoners, some erstwhile murderers, escaping?

Home Secretary (Smiling grimly): Yes… but unfortunately…sorry, fortunately, not enough places are being made available in this way. I am on the case. We have plans to build 8000 more places, house them in police cells, army camps, old prison wings which are ‘not fit for purpose’ and anywhere else we can find. We are even thinking about housing prisoners on naval warships which we don’t need at the moment. I gather there is a spare aircraft carrier somewhere on the south coast… Portsmouth?

Charon: Well, Home Secretary, that is fascinating, if a little inconsistent with your statement today on jailing only serious and persistent offenders – but, presumably, we can go back to jailing others when the new prisons are built. But I am not here to ask you about your plans for prisons in the future. I just wanted to ask you a few questions about why people are managing to escape from our prisons and then question you about a far more important issue – your contendership for the leadership and to be the next Prime Minister. I suspect that you will tell me that escaping prisoners and those under control orders is not a particularly big problem, that even the murderers are safe – for, presumably, they wouldn’t have been put in an open prison to end their sentences, so if you prefer, please feel free to tell me your plans to be the next Prime Minister.

Home Secretary (a taciturn expression passes over his face): I think it is clear that there are many in the party who believe that there should be a leadership contest, both for the party and the future of democracy in this country, but it is also clear that Gordon has been answering a lot of questions about Big Brother and other matters not related to the economy to position himself as the next PM when our revered leader retires in June…sorry… July….

Charon: Home Secretary – I appreciate that you have a lot on your plate, and seem to get little sleep and I don’t suppose counting prisoners jumping over prison walls is a particularly restful way to get to sleep – but my question was fairly straightforward. Let me make it more so. Do you want to be Prime Minister?

Home Secretary (looking grave): “It is probably the ambition of every serious politican. I am no different….”

At this moment an aide enters the room and discreetly whispers into The Home Secretary’s ear :“The Chief Justice wants a quiet word, Home Secretary. He has just read your letter.”

Home Secretary (smiling warmly): “Look… Mr Charabanc… I’m sorry about this…matters of state…. these things happen, but I’m going to have to end this interview. Happy to talk another time…. would August this year suit you? I should have more time then and be rested after my trip to the Bee Gees mansion in The West Indies. Thanks for coming. My minder will see you out.”

In my mind, I am led out into the street with a feeling that I have been in the presence of genius.

One thought on “Charon conducts an imaginary interview with The Home Secretary

  1. That the Executive are seeking to instruct the Judiciary to disapply the law enacted by the Legislature is a novel concept that would have exercised the mind of constitutional observers such as Professor AV Dicey and Sir Ivor Jennings who had much to say about the separation of powers and the rule of law. This aristotelian doctrine developed by John Locke in the seventeenth century applies as much to the present contemporary issue of the Iraq war and ‘cash for honours’ as it does to the executive’s attempt now to use the judiciary to dig it out of a hole it has dug itself. Locke in his Second Treatise of Civil Government written in 1690 gave as the reason for the doctrine of the separation of powers:

    “The three Organs of State must not get into one hand..It may be too great a temptation to human frailty, apt to grasp at power, for the same person who have the power of making laws, to have also in their hands the power to execute them, whereby they may exempt themselves from obedience to the laws they make, and suit the law, both it’s making and execution, the their own private advantage.”

    How prescient are those words given the current political climate in this country if we extend the meaning of ‘private advantage’ to include ‘private political advantage’

    The executive are now instructing the judiciary to send people to prison as a last resort in consequence to the executive dominated legislature’s punitive legislative approach in sending people there as a measure of first resort though ever-increasing inroads into the ability of a judge to exercise his discretion over sentencing. More and more offences now carry mandatory jail sentences, such as, for example, the possession of firearms, regardless of the circumstances of the individual case.

    The judiciary are not the Home Secretary’s handmaiden. If the Home Secretary’s failings mean he has to release dangerous people early into the community because there are no prison places left for them, he is not entitled to drag the judiciary into the political arena by making them complicit in those same political failures by failing to send dangerous people to prison in the first place!

    I hope Lord Bingham flexes his muscles and keeps the judiciary out of this ‘sorry-arsed’ political mess!

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