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The Need For Law,
This review is from: In the Name of the Law: Collapse of Criminal Justice (Hardcover)
In the populist zeal for crime control, the 'law' side of the law and order equation is often forgotten. This is a point made repeatedly by David Rose in his book, 'In The Name Of The Law', and it's a point I can agree with, and the author is very convincing in his arguments, and was to an extent both prescient and ahead of his time in making them when he did. In the years since publication of this book in 1996, we have seen a 'Collapse of Criminal Justice' (a chapter heading) in that the objectivity and impartiality of the criminal trial system has been and remains under attack. It is therefore surprising that the author would also seek to suggest a converse that, in the understandable desire to preserve civil liberty and prevent miscarriages of justice, law enforcement authorities have often been manacled in their pursuit of general wrong-doing by procedural technicalities. We often hear that type of argument from politicians and some journalists. Actually, it's a trope more than a real argument, but in any case it seems to me so much like begging the question. If the system has procedural due process that 'protects' criminals from punishment, then this can only mean that the system is doing its right and proper job, which is not so much to protect criminals as to protect all of us from prosecutorial abuses and the tyranny of arbitrary and unchecked state power. I am not convinced David Rose has completely grasped this point, despite his rhetorical noises toward due process, as he prefers to focus on an expedient argument that if organised criminals get away with it, that must mean there is something wrong with the system. Actually, it means the opposite. If organised criminals are getting away with it, that suggests there is something right with the system, in that the prosecution case has been tested in court and found wanting, a process which underpins everything. Unfortunately, plenty of influential others were and are taken-in by the kind of poor reasoning show by Rose on this point. Enough influential people in fact to enact some very dangerous reforms of the criminal justice system during the New Labour years that have tilted our criminal trials perilously away from objectivity.
One striking omission in this book is that while there is an entire chapter devoted to 'Race, Class and Justice', nowhere does Rose examine the Stephen Lawrence case. This book was published in 1996, so it will probably have been written roughly around the time the Lawrence family launched an unsuccessful private criminal prosecution of the suspects. As it is, Rose is addressing fairly basic points here and his analysis is pedestrian and unsophisticated. He rightly challenges the 'left-liberal' narrative on crime in light of the Left's tendency to emphasise 'identity crime', however he does not develop the theme in any depth, nor does he look critically at the underlying causes of the social problems that lead to such "crimes". Furthermore, he seems to accept that we should have "race hate" crime. In a better book, such things would be questioned.
For those with an interest in the evolution of social policy and political thought since the 1990s, this book is a good introduction to criminal justice issues and will be a useful companion to Will Hutton's book, 'The State We're In', which was written and published around the same time and addresses complementary issues.