A ‘sick’ part of society

The UK August Riots caused a great old mess, mostly in its aftermath. During the riots themselves we saw communities coming together to protect neighbourhoods and clean up. But now the politicians have the floor, and what is happening and being debated now is perhaps more alarming than the riots themselves.

Cameron has applauded the tough sentences handed out to offenders. He calls them a ‘sick’ part of society, indicative of a wider moral decline in the UK. I presume he is referring to the outrageous MPs expenses scandal of last year, whereby voted officials deliberately stole tax payers’ money through fraudulent expenses claims. But perhaps not, as there will be no harsh sentencing of his colleagues (demonstrably white, upper-middle class men like his good self). Jeremy Hunt only paid back less than half of his £22,000 fraudulent claim and received no prison sentence. Ed Vaizey had antiques accidently ‘delivered to the wrong address’, and as Nathaniel Tapley says, ‘Which is fortunate, because had that been the address they were intended for, that would have been fraud’.

Conversely, rioters found guilty of charges are not only likely to receive the strictest of sentences, but if they also happen to be living in council housing, it has been mooted that they will be evicted (why not punish the family too?) and that they will lose their right to benefits. I’ll bet he wishes transportation to Australia were still an option, he certainly seems to want them outcast. Instead he will make do with sentences such as 6 months for stealing bottles of water amounting to £3.50. Nothing in comparison to Jeremy Hunt’s fraudulent claim. (See this post at UK Human Rights blog for more about the law and sentencing.)

Furthermore, Cameron is now claiming that the riots were the indirect result of the Human Rights Act, which apparently relinquishes the individual of personal responsibility and encourages an ‘I have the right’ culture. So he’s now banging on about a UK Human Rights Bill, which, we can imagine, will infringe further on our own civil liberties and allow the government to get even more involved in the judicial process. As Benjamin Ward says, the Human Rights Act ‘imposes a duty on the state to protect the public from the kind of violence witnessed in London’. Should Cameron apologise for failing us? What Cameron is really rallying against is the fact that judges can make decisions which the government doesn’t like. Which is completely as it should be. The Human Rights Act says nothing about not taking personal responsibility for one’s actions. The point is not whether the rioters are benefiting from the Human Rights Act, but that Cameron is using them as a reason to destroy the Act.

Emma Brearley


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