In Praise of Restraint

In advance of the full publication of the governments new youth crime plan on Tuesday, it was today revealed that young people who carry knives will be made to visit hospitals where stabbing victims are treated.

I have to express my relief at the simplicity of the measures. In the wake of 42-day detention and secret witnesses, I had been dreading the next set of draconian laws. However, to my surprise, the youth crime plan contains nothing of the sort. Will the new measures work, perhaps. Should we be glad that the Home Secretary has for once exercised restraint in the face of media pressure, definitely.

Crime is not a topic that particularly peeks my interest, it reminds me of the long afternoons I spent in Sociology class in the sweltering heat. However, of late, the horror of watching the government stroll off with ever more of our civil liberties has put me on edge.

David Cameron last week proposed providing anyone found carrying a knife with the expectation of a prison sentence. This would not solve anything. Many of those who are now carrying knifes are, ironically, doing so because they fear being stabbed themselves. And why not, its the media's latest fetish. Every new stabbing is broken live on the news channels and will be on the front page of the next day's tabloids. Even the main news bullions now lead with knife crime regardless of the fact that there are two wars and one potential nuclear conflict going on in the world. Just like binge drinking (started by ITV News, spread to all media) and terrorism, this is an issue that cannot be solved while the media's eye is trained on it.

I've always had a problem with the term 'War on Terror', not because I dispute the danger from terrorism but because it glamourises terrorism. Terrorists are no more soldiers in a war then any common criminal. The same is happening with knife crime. Does anyone genuinely believe that those idiots waving machetes around on the BBC behave like that after the cameras have gone home? Of course not. This will only truly be solved when the media get bored and move onto something else. That said, I dread to think what that something else will be.

PS. Welcome to my new blog!

UPDATE: Polly Toynbee has written more extensively on this topic in todays Guardian. - 15/07/08

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