Tuesday 16 August 2011

Vengeance is mine!

There is a particular biblical text which I heard on Sunday and which seems appropriate to the current frenzy, nay riot, of hobby horses being ridden around by politicians and pundits since the end of the riots.

" Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord".

This is a sentiment you also find in the Koran and which Tarig Jahan was expressing when he asked that revenge not be taken after the killing of his son.

But this is a sentiment apparently alien to some of those rushing to explain and tackle the events of last week . Not content with leaving the courts to do their job in punishing offenders they want in on the act. And indeed justice must now be meeted out, not just to criminals, but to their families, regardless of their innocence of any crime.

How interesting to see that the family that vengeful Wandsworth Council has picked on , is led by a lady who is a devout Christian and who has tried to bring her family up in the right way; and her 8 year old daughter. These people are to be cast on to the streets to satisfy a viscous tendency among certain politicians to lash out and be seen to be " tough".

It is offensive to all our notions of justice in this country that people who have not committed crimes are punished by association. That was always the Soviet approach to dissent and criminality but not, as yet, an English one.

This nonsense was brought into stark relief by the screaming front page headline of today's Daily Telegraph: "ignore the rule book and lock up looters, JPs told".

So notions of judicial independence and fair trials and punishment are also to be thrown to the wind ? Do we not want more adherence by all sections of society to rule books?

What appears to be emerging from this is a return to Victorian notions of the deserving and undeserving poor. This was exemplified by the Mail on Sunday's rabid comment piece which blamed the riots on 60 years of the welfare state.

I wonder how long it will be before someone suggests removing benefits is not enough? Why should the families of rioters not have some health benefits removed? Make them wait longer than the law abiding for hip replacements, organ transplants and the like? The logic is , after all , the same.

And we must avoid the double standards. Did anyone suggest that the families of MPs caught defrauding the public be punished? Or the chap who desecrated the Cenotaph , wild on drugs: did anyone suggest his family be punished for their failures in parenting?

One interesting suggestion came from IDS. He argued that children hanging around at night with gangs would be picked up and driven to church halls by police to speak to youth workers.

The problem for Iain ( and I'm in favour of more intervention by youth workers! )is that Councils have been busy closing youth centres and slashing the numbers of youth workers.

I agree with IDS that we need a more one to one interventionist approach. One that looks at families and intervention as a whole- this is where the third sector adds real value. He understands the importance of work by charities at the grass roots .Intervention is needed. But it is not a cost free zone.

So far the Government have been doing a lot of telling. We need to move to listening and this is where our sector must play a leading role. I very much welcome the review DC has established and I think the fact it is not a judicial enquiry is a strength . In that review we will ensure full engagement with the sector and our views.

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