Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Precautionary Principle

Last week we heard loads of broadbrush wibble about the precautionary principle as applied to global warming. The idea seemed to be 'sure, the Stern Report may be wildly exaggerated, and obviously nobody actually believes that projection of 20-30% off world GDP... but because it's such a ghastly possibility, we should follow the precautionary principle and put 1% pa into avoidance measures'. 1% of our GDP being around £13bn, every year.

Today, John Reid ordered an urgent enquiry into yet more serious criminals let out of jail early to roam our streets and commit more crime. This time they included two convicted child sex offenders realeased and immediately out grooming further victims. Of course, they were supposed to be surpervised by the benighted Probation Service. But... well...

Naturally Reid has been laying into them:

"Too much money is going on writing reports and not enough on practical help. Re-offending rates are too high and show no significant signs of improvement. Blah, blah, blah..."

But as the Probation Service says, in keeping the public safe from these characters, they're being asked to do an impossible job. Bad guys belong in jail.

So why can't we have the prcautionary principle here? Yes, we know more jails would cost money, but COME ON: as we've blogged many times before (eg see here), we could double the number of prison places for a mere £3bn pa.

That's just a quarter of Stern's precautionary 1% eco levy. And in this case, we know exactly what's happening: the government releases bad guys early from prison, and an unpredictable group of them go on to commit further horrific crimes. And if that's not a case for the precautionary principle, then I don't know what is.

And unlike the virtually unknown technology of climate cooling, we understand the technology of prisons pretty well. You just need lots of bars, locked steel doors, high walls, and a floodlight deathstrip.

It's such a no-brainer, either I or Doc Reid must be missing a cog or two. I wonder which.

PS The complete divorce between Reid and his "not fit for purpose" department gathers pace. As we've blogged many times, ministers seem to have decided that things would be much easier if they could just persuade us that their job is simply to "decide policy", leaving others to somehow make it work "on the ground". So in this case, they decide to keep going with the early release of dangerous criminals, and their probation officers are responsible for everything that happens subsequently. Er... just how dumb do they think we are?

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