The BBC are reporting that the ACPO want more powers to hand out ‘instant justice’ to those who are causing a menace in town centres. The very term ‘instant justice’ conjours up images of a distopian future full of police officers acting like Judge Dredd, with no due process at all. I honestly cannot understand how a system of instant justice – summary justcice seems a more appropriate term – could be seen to be a good thing by anyone who gives the subject even the most cursory thought. Much as I would love to see the hooligan element that plague our cities rounded up and shot, it is surely obvious that punishing someone for a crime, before they have been convicted in a fair and open trial, is to the detriment of everyone?
On the other hand, and I may be giving the ACPO far too much credit here, there is something to be said for a very limited amount of summary justice. The cliched ‘clip round the ear’ from the local policemen of my youth (when I were a lad, I remember when all this were fields, etc etc), did have some postive effect in instilling respect for authority, other people and the consequences of breaking the law, regardless of it’s illegality. In some respects this seems to be what the ACPO is trying to acheive with this proposal. Yet the act of officially granting the police power to dispense summary judgement seems, in itself, to be a dangerous precedent, especially when they are already virtually unaccountable for their actions.
The fact that giving some yob a clip round the ear is now seen as more harmful to the country than giving the police wide ranging summary powers is both baffling and worrying.