Most days of the working week my focus is upon improving prison conditions; upholding prisoners’ rights or trying to keep people out of, or get them out of prison. It may come as a surprise therefore when I appear on the ‘lock him up’ side of the Huhne sentencing argument.
It shouldn’t. The last lot, Labour created so many criminal offences that every citizen and company is guilty of something. Whilst doing so they diluted common law protections for the Defendant. Cue the Condemnation. The Conservatives who promised to guarantee traditional rights and their Liberal colleagues dedicated to the rule of law have set about dismantling the legal aid system. Under both Governments the prison population has been disproportionately high. Meanwhile, from the Cabinet Office, Ministers queue up at the microphone to criticise the latest judgment that goes against them whilst deciding en masse to ignore the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.
The disregard for the Rule of Law and centuries of common law is palpable. Politicians have now taken to not only openly criticising those who interpret and practice the law but at times are attempting to completely ignore the law.
The utter arrogance of this political generation is astonishing. Huhne was correctly locked up. If nothing else it reminds those in Government that despite how they might wish otherwise they are still subject to the laws of this Country and require its protections as much as anybody else.
The sentence received by Huhne was well within the sentencing range laid down by the various range of authorities provided by the Court of Appeal. The course of public justice is only served when all of those who seek to pervert it are properly punished. There can be no doubt that Huhne’s position of public trust and the betrayal of that trust is massively aggravating.
My learned friend for keeping him out will no doubt say there is no rehabilitative effect of a short sentence, nor is Huhne a risk to the public and finally he will be so quickly in open conditions that there will be no punitive aspect to the offence.
That may well be true. But perverting the course of justice is about protecting a system. A public system of justice. Any sentence of less than imprisonment would have been outside the range of sentencing that a normal member of the public would have faced.
Prison for Huhne is a reflection of the fact that his offence was one against public justice. It shows too that politicians are not immune from the criminal law. Frankly, all of the present political generation ought to remind themselves of the concept of a public justice. The fact that someone is a politican is not a get out of jail free card.
Perhaps Huhne will also benefit from an epiphany as Aitken did. And once he is released perhaps he will share with his political generation the reality of a country who locks up too many prisoners, a criminal justice system which no longer protects the individual but is used as a political tool to try and satisfy a braying mass.
See FTD’s excellent blog http://forthedefence.org/about/