Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.
The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes reckons in this BBC article that politicians should not set minimum sentences for crimes, only maximum sentences. The article is about the recent proposals to set a minimum sentence for carrying a gun at 5 years, except in exceptional cases. Simon’s argument is that it should be up to judges and magistrates to ensure that the sentence given matches the severity of the crime, not for politicians (who can obviously only make laws based on their concept of an average case).
If parliament sets a maximum sentence for a crime it says, in effect, that judges and magistrates can not be trusted to set a tariff that fits the severity of the offence in all cases. It also says that regardless of how seriously a particular offence was committed there is a limit to the punishment that society thinks should be attached to it (reflected through our elected representatives). Sure then it is only reasonable that parliament can set a minimum sentence, that society can say that no matter how trivial the infringement a certain level of punishment is required?
There is a trend, commented on by others, of trying to keep politics out of large chunks of decision making processes. This trend is aided by such examples as the independence of the central bank to set interest rates, which seems to be now universally seen as a success. However there are very definite limits to when and how this can be applied. In the case of monetary policy it is easy for parliament to instruct a group of people to target a particular inflation rate, and to give them the tool of interest rates with which to aim for this target. It is not possible for parliament to give senior judges and magistrates the target of reducing crime and then given them the tool of sentencing by which to achieve this objective. Unlike with monetary policy, there is no consensus on how crime behaves given different sentencing regimes, and so the structure of sentencing options are innately political in nature.
I’m sure it’s everywhere by now, but Apple have released a beta of a new web browser for MacOS X. It’s called Safari and I haven’t seen it in action yet, because it only works on Jaguar onwards (that’s 10.2). The rendering engine is from Konqueror, so this is great news for the KDE project because it’ll no doubt lead to some significant improvments in the quality of the software as bug fixes are sent back by Apple.
I’m back home, feeling tiered but refresh from my holiday. I’m not sure I’ve felt refreshed from a holiday before, I normally feel sad to see it go and normal life take over, but this time I actually feel like I want to get on with normal life.
Every now and again a country will be pursuing something that seems so small, in comparison to what is happening in the rest of the world, that it stands out. Here’s a classic example from Bjørn Stærk: “Yesterday, for instance, a man threatened to crash a plane into the building of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Meanwhile, three Norwegians are scheduled in court to dispute a a $350 fine for hurling paper planes at the American Embassy in Oslo, over a year ago.”
Email: colin at owlfish.com