‘Summary justice’ soars as courts bypassed

The Times reports: ” Out-of-court punishments accounted for more than half of all offences dealt with by the criminal justice system last year, according to figures published today. The rise of summary justice at the expense of formal court hearings in courts is worrying both magistrates and judges who fear it is making a mockery of justice.”

While I plan to address this question rather more sensibly in Insite Law tomorrow morning – I thought I would cover the point as I see it rather less sensibly – but with a degree of raw honesty – here tonight. I am not surprised that magistrates and judges are worried about the rise of summary justice.  Summary justice can be a very dangerous tool in unskilled hands.

The Labour government over the past ten years has created more new laws than any government in British history.  That burning at the stake for littering  has not been brought in is, quite possibly, an oversight at the Ministry of Justice and Revenue Generation.

I am a fan of good, moderate, proportionate, sensible policing.  Most people are and properly trained police officers, policing with ‘consent’ do a pretty good job overall.  Yes… there are problems  with some Police officers but these tend to be high profile incidents and are investigated thoroughly. In the great scheme of things and daily operational life there are not that many serious breaches of law or procedure by police officers.

Unfortunately, we now have many more offences, a boatload of organisations with power to do this and that, to levy fixed penalties and regulate our lives and….  we have the Police Community Support Officers. I watch them shambling down the High Street each morning – resolutely searching for another caff to have another bun, knowing that they would not be able to deal with any serious crime or disaster should one arise. What is the point of them?  Would you want a relatively untrained PCSO assisting you in a bad car crash?  I wouldn’t.  I’d want a highly trained and experienced cop, even better a specialist traffic cop,  and a paramedic on scene.

We have fixed penalties for speeding, for parking infringements, for littering, for not putting our dustbins out on the approved day in the approved  way – and so on and so forth. We were even threatened with ‘Smoking Police’  when the smoking ban came in. There are cameras everywhere recording our transgressions – and these cameras provide the evidence for yet more minor offence infringement notices and fines.  Meanwhile the bankers and politicians have brought this country to its knees and crime will, as sure as night  follows day, rise in time of economic hardship, poverty and unemployment.  This time, of course, the crimes may well be rather more serious than  minor speeding, littering or failing to put the dustbin out on the approved day in the approved manner.

It is getting out of control and while it may be attractive to a government to have these highly efficient revenues and provide work for filing clerks and bailiffs – there will come a time when this type of justice will so irritate that it will become counter productive and lead to revolt – revolt through the ballot box in our case.


There are many pleasures to be had living on a boat. One is that I don’t have Fuckwits from the Police Community Support Service turning up on my door to tell me to cut my hedge because a criminal could hide behind it.

Right… I feel better.  Please feel free to have a RANT in my comments section. If you would like to get roaring drunk before you do post – bookmark this post and  come back.  I shall only edit comments if they are likely to result in me being issued with a fixed penalty notice!  Enjoy….

Editorial note:  I am quite aware that this is (a) a rant (b) irrational rambling and (c) fails to address the issue sensibly.

6 thoughts on “‘Summary justice’ soars as courts bypassed

  1. Is there some pattern in human nature which explains why left wing and egalitarian politics tends towards tyrannay? It happened in a more extreme form after the English revolution, the French revolution, the Chinese revolution, and after the Russian revolution. Also in Austria the monarchy was pluralist, whereas anti-semitism and eventually national socialism grew from a movement prioritising the interests of the common man (and woman of course). Therefore it is a great disappointment, but no surprise to the historian, that New Labour have also been gripped by a scary terror of dissent, and a drive to control, both within the party and in government, from their taste for administrative justice, to their propensitiy to have heavies on hand to manhandle anyone who dares heckle at the party conference . So Charon, what would you say causes this phenomenon?

  2. i don’t know about charon but i would reject the hypothesis.
    just taking the english revolution: it was hardly the fight between left and right.
    as a crude summing up, charles I represented absolutist monarchy based on religion as interpreted to the benfit of the ruling class. cromwell represented absolutist rule based on religion as interpreted to the benefit of the ruling class. there was no threat to established rules of property and the more radical levellers who represented the genuinely revolutionary concepts of universal (male) suffrage and abolition of the framework of private property were ruthlessly suppressed. in no way was cromwell ‘left wing’ or ‘egalitarian’. he was ‘republican’ in much the same way as george w bush.

    similarly the development of the modern labour party shaped by the defeats of foot and kinnock and the ‘reform’ of the party started by kinnock and continued by blair. the key point is that this reform moved the party away from egalitarian ideals, the trade union movement and those policies seen as ‘left wing’ (clause 4 for example). to claim that any authoritian tendencies we detect in the labour government is a result of socialist thinking is to mistake day for night. i’m not saying a socialist labour party may not have acted in a similar way, but we simply cannot test the theory.

    and did i read you wrong or are you blaming the anti-semitism of national socialism on the left??? an ‘interesting’ theory! would that account for their anti-communism too?

  3. My point, well illustrated by the Austrian monarchy, is that traditional social hierarchies, although unfair, restrain the excesses of the mob. That is not to say they are good – the Austrian monarchy ultimately proved destructive of the social order which had nourished it, by starting (with willing ‘partners’ elsewhere in Europe) WWI. Thus it was in its way no less destructive than the tyrannany produced by popular revolutions.

    The point about Nazis being anti-communist is of course complex – communists in Germany were enemies of Nazis, they believed in Russia without fully reaslising the consequences of Russian communism, and anyway Russia was the key antagonist of the German-speaking world for influence in central Europe, sought by the Nazis.

  4. if you’re saying that breaking down of any established order can mean an escalation in violence and behaviour that would have offended against the existing social mores, then i agree. not sure where that gets us, however. the breakdown of state capitalism in russia has seen pretty much the same thing with the new ruling class every bit as careless of human life in their pursuit of money and power.

    where you started was ‘left wing and egalitarian politics tends towards tyrannay’ and i just don’t think it holds water.

  5. SW / John Birchall

    As you both well know – there is historical evidence to support the idea that left wing governments – or apparently left wing governments tend not to be enthusiastic about ‘uncontrolled democracy’ and have a tendency to veer towards the tyrannical. We see this in Asia, we have seen it in Europe and we are seeing elements of it now with our present government.

    Perhaps it is because they do not have the assured support of a ‘ruling support base’?

    I am still thinking about my response…. I may have a glass of vino to assist – if nothing else, I can always come back and rant in a lunatic manner and hope for the best.

  6. ‘left wing governments – or apparently left wing governments’
    YES – the ‘apparently’ bit is rather the point. either way, cromwell is not an example of either ‘left-wing’ or ‘egalitarian’ principles.
    whereas yer right-wing govt…
    hey ho!

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