“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”
— Immanuel Kant
Kant had a point – and in this last week to ten days with the riots, I think reason, considered reason, is of great value. While I faffed about on twitter this morning, irritating a few fellow tweeters with my references to the ‘criminal’ activity of The Bullingdon Club (which the Prime Minister belonged to in his youth) and noting the arson which Nick Clegg engaged in during his youth – the recent rioting and looting is a serious issue and deserves serious reason being applied to the causes and the solution.
I am not a sociologist. Many have written on the subject. Many have tweeted. David Allen Green wrote in his Jack of Kent blog about the riots – quoting the historian Conrad Russell: The riots and lawlessness. I hosted a Without Prejudice podcast on the subject last week with regular panelists Carl Gardner, David Allen Green and guests Dr Evan Harris, solicitor David Wales and human rights barrister Adam Wagner.
There are dangers in a perfectly understandable ‘swing to the right’ from commentators, politicians and public sentiment. There are dangers in quick and expedient justice, rushed justice, ‘exemplary’ (or should that be ‘to make an example of’ ?) justice. Matthew Taylor considers the sentence in a case involving a bottle of water worth £3.50: Nicholas Robinson; Burglary; 6 months: An appropriate sentence? Matthew Taylor notes: “The English riots, by Adam Wagner at UK Human Rights Blog, gathers a number of resources on different aspects legal of rioting, including advice for reporters and on policing powers. One of items Adam links to is a post by ObiterJ, Who will pay? We all will ! The Riot (Damages) Act 1886″
Today, in The Guardian, a number of interesting law oriented articles: Riots: magistrates advised to ‘disregard normal sentencing’ | UK riots: Judges warned by Law Society not to hand down ‘rushed justice’.
Suzanne Moore’s article, intelligent and thoughtful, provides some food for thought: UK riots: don’t shut these kids out now.
This cartoon, which I found on twitter, sums up the view of many trying to make sense of non-sense through dark humour…
Barrister Lucy Reed, writing on her Pink Tape blog, tries to make sense from non-sense with this thoughtful piece: There’s been a riot in my living room
And this interesting viewpoint from the Civil Service is well worth a read: A challenge for the civil service – and large institutions alike.
This important issue isn’t going to to be solved by politicians scoring political points – but it may be solved with considered reason. Most people have a pretty shrewd idea why the riots happened. Surely, we don’t need yet another public inquiry to kick the issue into the long grass, to use a cliche of our times?
And we certainly don’t need a knee-jerk reaction to give government an opportunity to erode further our civil liberties because politicians of all flavours have not addressed long standing social issues and a minority of people rioted – some with malicious intent; others, young people, who may have got drawn into it through excitement, boredom, and similar excesses of youth to those experienced by young students who trash(ed) restaurants as members of The Bullingdon Club and a young Mr Clegg, who set fire to a collection of cacti collected by a German professor because he got drunk.
Back tomorrow with a podcast and some other law coverage
Best, as always