I was in Corfu town recently, and in the park opposite Liston a company was staging a promotion for it’s wares. There was loud music, a troupe of dancing cheerleaders waving pom-poms, a giant video screen, and a collection of rigid raider speedboats. And on one of the speedboats was a row of fancy silver trophies. The public was milling around and I didn’t see any signs of security, which puzzled me a little. They would never get away with it in England, I thought, those trophies wouldn’t last five minutes before they were nicked.
Now, why is that I thought? The answer came to me quite quickly – they’re on an island, so where would the thieves dispose of their booty? A few more sips of beer and another thought came to me. The reason they wouldn’t get away with displaying valuables openly in England is that thieves have a whole support network. We have a criminal industry here. It’s probably the only growth industry we have. Stolen property is handed on from thief to fence and sold on in pubs and on eBay. What are we doing to break up that network?
There was an account of a court case a few years ago which I read with astonishment. An ‘alleged’ thief was caught red-handed with property he had stolen from a nearby house moments before. The copper saw him and nabbed him. However, the copper hadn’t actually seen the thief leaving the premises with the stolen property, so it couldn’t be proven conclusively that the thief was the culprit. He said he found it under a bush and didn’t know it was stolen property. So he got off.
Now I know about miscarriages of justice, and how many we’ve had, and how bad they have been. That’s the only reason I would never support the death penalty, which I actually agree with. I would not trust our judicial system not to make a mistake. But haven’t we gone too far the other way? Are we not setting too high a standard of proof before a conviction? Given the overcrowded prisons, that probably seems like a ridiculous question, but does anyone believe we are a law-abiding society any more? We’re losing this battle, aren’t we?