Author: Michael Hughes
Publishers: Hande-Cuffe Publications Limited
Price £30 RRP UK
Publication Date: 10th Oct 2005
On completion of reading my own copy of Just Law, I made the judgement that Baroness Kennedy, QC, its author, who of course, as a Baroness, now sits in the house of Lords, had written it very much in a spirit of liberalism, and from the point of view of an eminent, top-class, high-earning lawyer - which of course she is. Her experiences obviously included acting as defence counsel on many occasions throughout her long and full career. I felt it was overall biased in favour of the 'much-aligned, offender' - and how he or she suffers within the criminal justice system, by being deprived of liberty etc. I felt there was scant regard for the actual victims of crime. I also found that Just Law took longer to read than I would have liked. This was because Baroness Kennedy, QC had utilised the following obscure words and phrases within her text:
On reflection - I suppose it's just me! I'll bet you have nearly all of the above Words within your personal vocabulary. Although I am an avid cryptic crosswords fan, I found that almost none of the above words or phrases could be easily deciphered or interpreted. Therefore my enjoyment of the book was interrupted and delayed by having to frequently put it down and visit my bookcase, to look up their meanings in the various dictionaries and a thesaurus. However, through persisting with her book to the end, I learnt a useful lesson in how to communicate easier with your target readership. I now hope that all the thousands of eventual readers of Judgement Impaired will be able to enjoy a totally uninterrupted read, as I have tried very hard to avoid gobbledegook, double Dutch and legal-speak and to deal only in plain speaking throughout. If I'm totally wrong altogether about that, I guess it will be due to the fact that my own judgement was - and still is perhaps - impaired.
In conclusion, I have enough researched Law and Order media etc material left over to make an almost immediate start on Judgement Impaired - Volume 2 - It's only fair to warn my readers too, at this early stage, that a secret admirer is already considering making me a quite substantial offer for Judgement Impaired - The Movie - but right now I'm keeping all my options open - and my size eleven-and-a-half flat feet firmly on the ground.
Throughout the book you will come across press cuttings of court reports concerning some of the cases I was involved in during my service as a Police Officer in the 60s and 70s which I hope will add to your enjoyment.
Do have a good read - and tell all of your friends that there is now real HOPE on the horizon, for a safer and, who knows? - a possible better world, with more opportunities for our safety - and plenty of 'BANGING-UP' time for our mutual enemies. Most right-thinking people in this country know that Michael Howard is right - PRISON 'WORKS! The criminal can only harm himself inside jail - not US!
Mike Hughes March 2005
"Judgement impaired illustrates in detail the many injustices imposed on victims and society as a whole, not just by the criminal element, but also by members of the judiciary, whose general attitude is to give repeat offenders a licence to re-offend time and time again; until their criminal behaviour becomes so ingrained that they are destined for a career in crime with little chance of turning back.
This book is written by someone who has hands-on experience in front-line policing and the devastation that is caused by those who break society's laws.
Reading this book will allow you to see through the eyes of a police officer the uphill fight for justice. It details why it is the very criminal justice system itself, to which we all look for protection, that fails us all so badly."
Norman Brennan, Director, The Victims of Crime Trust, British Transport Police Constable of 26 years service
All elements of the criminal justice system have to take their place in an attack coming from the right wing, which would, if followed to the letter of this book, very quickly fill our custodial establishments with individuals serving the maximum allowable sentence, some of which are criticised as being too short. At the time of this review the prison population is something more than 77.000 and just marginally short of the absolute number that could be housed. Goodness knows how many would be incarcerated if the thoughts expounded by the author were put into practice. Even if such thoughts could be implemented, the pages fail to reflect the fact that so many inmates now languishing in jails should never be there in the first place. They come from an underclass, without education, are poorly housed and all too often have only one parent. It is little wonder that they quickly fall foul of the criminal law and whilst locking them up for lengthy periods might seem by some to be the solution, the fact remains that at some stage they have to be released to be more out of touch with society than when were sentenced.
The book on the outside is beautifully presented, but it is when one turns to the written words inside that in the reviewer's opinion it begins to fall down. It lacks the professionalism associated with good quality editorship. Upper and lower case letters are mixed up, figures instead of words are used for single digit numbers and names get varied. Examples of the latter include the Lord Chancellor named as Faulkner on page 42, and Martin Narey, who was at the time in charge of the prison service, becomes Martin Nearey on page 58. The abbreviation etc., creeps in and phrases like 'if my memory serves me well' could have been omitted. To balance such criticisms out there are some good points in the book. The poor vetting procedures that allowed the late Dr Shipman to kill so many elderly people when he had been convicted of drug misuse is an example. The naming and shaming of recalcitrant juveniles is another matter that the author suggests should be used more and is a factor that those responsible for sentencing might heed more. It seems quite wrong to the reviewer that young people can be named when being made the subject of an anti - social behaviour order but can gain anonymity if they breach same.
On the law side there are some things to which issue must be taken. At page 135 murder is defined but still includes the point that death must follow within a year and a day, whereas in fact this mandatory interval was abolished by the Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996 and offenders are not, as stated on page 397, charged with being drunk and incapable, but merely being found drunk, contrary to the Licensing Act 1872, which provides no power of arrest for police officers. Such an addition was subsequently added by virtue of the Licensing Act 1902. Section 1.
The reviewer found the layout of this book rather disjointed and although countless hours must have been spent documenting court proceedings culled from the tabloid newspapers, more work was needed to join the same issues together. The circumstances of the sad death of Jonathan Zito for instance are reported on page 401 without naming him, but just eight pages on, reference is made to the Zito Trust, established by his widow.
Although this is a book about the British Criminal Justice system, suddenly, a rather curious incident concerning an unpropitious remark made at a Royal Marine Association social function is inserted. Whatever the merits of the case, which was possibly the result of alcohol talking, it seemed to the reviewer, to be entirely out of place and would have been best excluded.
The gathering together of this copy has obviously taken much time and effort and has resulted in a hardback book which is far too long for the purpose intended. In the reviewer's opinion a much shorter paperback version presenting more balanced views would have sold more copies than this large volume. Indeed, there might well have been sufficient material for several such books. It is true that the author does suggest a number of recommendations as to how, in his view, the criminal justice might be improved but most concern custodial institutions and with the present numbers at the moment only a few hundred short of total overload, it is difficult to conceive how additional minimum sentences could be introduced. Economics would also have to be considered as well as exemption clauses for the inevitable special case.
Finally, for a book of such dimensions there is no index although a table of notes and sources, laid out by newspaper entry rather than subject, is provided, which will probably make it difficult for a reader to find what he is looking for.
Brian Rowland 1023/11/05 14th November 2005
Another Viewpoint (Second Review) David Pickover
Since the death penalty was abolished, offences of unlawful homicide have quadrupled and, in the past decade, violent offences have doubled. Many would identify a correlation between these disturbing facts and the constant liberalisation of penal measures designed to keep the prison population down.
There will be many police officers and, unquestionably, great swathes of the general public who perceive that the thinking of the legislature is seriously out of kilter with their understandable expectation that the law should afford them adequate protection and criminals should receive punishments that are commensurate with the gravity of their crimes.
Judgement impaired tackles these issues head-on and offers penetrating criticism of the piecrust promises of politicians and the ineffectiveness of the magistracy and judiciary in dispensing justice in a manner in which the punishment fits the crime and public expectations are satisfied.
The author of the work, a retired police officer, does not offer it as an academic treatise but as a factual work which examines numerous cases of homicide, rape, violence, robbery, dishonesty, damage and road traffic offences.
Judgement impaired also focuses on the sometimes horrible consequences of early prison release schemes and decisions which result in dangerous criminals with a high risk of re-offending being prematurely released from prison. In this regard it is odd that Home Secretary Charles Clarke should announce an inquiry into only a single case - the tragic Monckton murder case -when Judgement impaired offers a catalogue of similar cases.
The book examines crime and its consequences through the eyes of victims and those of the many police officers who firmly believe in punishment, retribution and in a judicial and penal system that is geared to protecting the public.
The book lays bare the falsity of claims that the Government is tough on crime and the causes of crime.
Idealists, many of whom have never set eyes on a well-seasoned criminal, let alone a recidivist, who promote utopian notions such as reparation as a sensible means of dealing with criminals, should find Judgement impaired uncomfortable reading, as the author clearly has no respect for what he thinks are airyfairy, namby-pamby approaches to addressing crime.
Judgement impaired is a book which should be available at every police library, because it is a stark reminder of what policing should be all about. There is growing public and media disquiet over the fact that the Government and judicial and penal systems are failing to protect the public from the evils of crime and disorder.
Judgement impaired provides compelling evidence of this and offers a persuasive argument in support of the notion that the day has now come for a Royal Commission on justice and the protection of the public to be appointed.
In the meantime, the work should be made compulsory reading for members of the Parole Board and, more importantly, the Sentencing Guidelines Council, a body which consistently demonstrates indifference to public expectations.
Reproduced with permission from Jane's Information Group - Jane's Police Review