Big up to Sir Ming

by Stephen Tall on May 27, 2006

Ming Campbell’s been copping a fair bit of flak in the last fortnight, so it was good to see and hear him in fighting form today, launching a major speech on the liberal approach to crime and justice.

I put off reading the speech tonight, slightly concerned Ming might have conceded liberal ground to the brain-dead right-wing press. No need to worry. It strikes an highly effective balance between what Ming terms the twin pillars of a liberal society: the rule of law and respect for human rights.

I try not to make this blog a party press release machine. (It would bore me to do it, so God knows what it would be like for you to read it.) But his speech is actually well worth reading in full here.

(And the Lib Dem website is probably the only place you will read it: our Cameron-fellating media would much rather report the froth of leadership mutterings than have to get to grips with boring shit, like public policy.)

10am UPDATE: there’s a rather tired leader in today’s Indy berating Ming for his speech. Rather oddly, it’s titled, ‘What is the point of a liberal who fails to stand up for individual liberties’. So perhaps I dreamed this part of Ming’s speech: “Today my message is simple. Crime is a liberal issue. Britain is an instinctively liberal country. We believe in personal freedom and individual liberty. But we also believe that everyone should play by the rules and by the same rules.” What is the point of a liberal newspaper which fails to research its subject?

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It was at least reported on the BBC News website.

I’m a bit bemused as to the point of a “violent offenders register”. While the sex offenders register has a purpose, I’m not sure what the analogous purpose of this register would be, and Ming didn’t make it clear.

by Will on May 26, 2006 at 11:28 pm. Reply #

Can you make a major speech on crime, not mention drugs once and expect to be taken seriously?

Also i suspect that we would be slaging the government off for “eye catching initiatives” if it had proposed a Violent Offenders register. He doesn’t bother to say what this will achieve. I accept that there are quite a few interesting points made but at the end of the day isn’t he doing exactly what you slag cameron off for. Hes making a counter intuitive speech designed to shift peoples perceptions of a perceived negative. I suppose we should be grateful he didn’t call it tough liberalism.

by Cllr David Morton on May 27, 2006 at 8:45 pm. Reply #

If by a “Violent Offenders Register” Ming means that we should be entitled to know where people convicted of violent crimes live (so that we can avoid meeting them), then I think he is on to something.

Publicising the whereabouts of sex offenders would be counter-productive, because the people in question might go to ground and could be the subject of vigilante attacks. Thugs who terrorise their neighbours and duff up those who refuse to show them the right “respect” are unlikely to be so coy.

Potentially a good idea.

But I refuse to go along with Ming’s endorsement of ASBOs.

The ASBO is a legal monstrosity which imposes criminal liability on conduct which would otherwise be too imprecise to criminalise, and applies criminal sanctions on a civil standard of proof.

ASBOs look like an electoral gimmick, and to some degree they are, but I fear that they might be altogether more dangerous.

ASBOs can be used to suppress ANY kind of behaviour which incurs the disapproval of the prosecuting authorities. They are, in effect, a tyrant’s charter.

We have seen already how they can be deployed against people who are insufficiently deferential to religion. For instance, the proprietor of a website who insulted the Pope, and a publican in Bristol who called his carpark “The Porking Yard”, the sign being visible to passing Moslems.

Anti-social behaviour (a horribly woolly term) is already covered by laws dealing with offences against the person, damage to property and breaches of public order.

The ASBO is an evil which no liberal should endorse.

by Angus J Huck on May 27, 2006 at 11:44 pm. Reply #

I am generally supportive of the speech.
We should be emphasising the rule of law and clear, simple, universal laws.

This is why I cannot support the endorsment of ASBOs which are a ploy by the government to stoke up fear of ‘anti-social behaviour’.
They are too close to summary justice, and create ‘sub-laws’ which apply only to the person served with the ASBO.
A system of voluntary agreements with the police or magistrates whereby if behabiour does not improve then a prosecution for an offence under existing law will proceed would be acceptable, but creating an involuntary contract, the breaking of which will result in criminal offence with no burden of proof on the prosecution is not acceptable.

At least there’s no mention of ‘tough liberalism’. What we need is liberalism, and that includes the rule of law (at the individual and institutional level).

by Tristan on May 31, 2006 at 11:48 am. Reply #

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