This excellent post from Jarndyce brought Norman Brennan to my attention. Brennan runs the Victims of Crime Trust, who operate on the basis that our criminal justice system is currently biased against the victims of crime. Jarndyce shows just what offensive and dangerous nonsense this is. What I hadn’t taken in, though, is that Brennan has recently branched out: when the fancy takes him, he rallies to the defence of convicted criminals:
Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust welcomed the court’s decision to free Walker. He said: “What she did was wrong, but so was the sentence.
“If the criminal justice system continues to fail to protect the public and victims of crime, I predict that more and more people will look to taking the law into their own hands and that is anarchy.”
Let’s take that step by step. Linda Walker took the law into her own hands, by threatening some lads with an air rifle. And that is anarchy (a word which I think we can assume Brennan uses pejoratively). That said, Walker’s action was a predictable by-product of the criminal justice system’s failure to protect victims of crime, and its failure to protect the public in general (Walker’s certainly suffered from loutish behaviour, but she’s not a victim of crime). Because of this, presumably, Walker’s sentence was ‘wrong’, even though she was guilty as charged – and, what’s more, guilty of a descent into anarchy.
Brennan’s endorsement of actions like Walker’s is a kind of blackmail: if the criminal justice system does not protect people like Walker adequately, they will inevitably take the law into their own hands and rightly so. (The last phrase isn’t spelt out, but it’s hard to see what else to make of Brennan’s insistence that Walker should not have been imprisoned.)
As Jarndyce points out, the idea of bringing victims of crime into court is pretty repugnant in itself: it sentimentalises the law, as well as tending to elide the fundamental distinction between an arrested suspect and a convicted criminal. But this is something else entirely. Brennan isn’t primarily concerned with victims of crime; what he wants is to see more criminals punished more harshly, and to see more manifestations of general loutishness and yobbery treated as crimes. If the criminal justice system can’t do all this, people who feel they have suffered from this kind of behaviour will pick up the slack – and take some victims of their own. And Norman Brennan, advocate for victims of crime, will be cheering them on.