The right of the law abiding majority must be considered (reprised)

At the Conservative Party Conference earlier this year, the Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve announced his intention to allow the police to actively name and shame criminals in their local areas.

Wanted Poster At the time, Alex wrote a short piece entitled 'The right of the law abiding majority must be considered', in which he made the following assertion:

Those who will be affected most by this legislation are likely to have been convicted on multiple occasions and it is therefore wrong to describe this policy as outrageous or unjustified.
There have been many unjust incursions into our civil liberties in recent times, but this certainly isn't one of them.

Today we have been greeted with the news, as reported by the Telegraph, that:

Information on local offenders and their convictions will also only be online for a month and may not carry photographs after officers were told to consider any ""unjustifiably adverse effect" on the criminal.

Once again we are left wondering why the rights of the criminal are being placed before those of the victim and how this fits with the Government's 'Justice Seen, Justice Done campaign'.

The act of naming and shaming is among the most powerful tools in the police's armoury – far more powerful a deterrent than measures such as the ASBO or pathetic fining regime. It would be a shame to see the police handicapped by this latest measure.

By Dylan Sharpe

Posted by on Dec 3, 2009 in Home | 12 Comments


  1. Guy AC
    3rd December 2009

    “The act of naming and shaming is among the most powerful tools in the police’s armoury”??
    Um, sorry, I mistook you for a lobby to *defend* civil liberties? Or is that out the window when it’s Tory policies being considered?

  2. Alex Deane
    3rd December 2009

    Guy – we do indeed see our role as defending liberties. But that includes the right to be defended from crime.
    As you know, the individual in this country has a relationship with the state in which he gives up his right to seek out those who wrong him, to avenge himself, etcetera, in exchange for the state performing that role on his behalf – because the state ought to be able to do it more fairly, responsibly, even-handedly, than any individual could himself.
    Name and shame policies are aimed at those who continue to break laws, inflicting harm on the law-abiding majority who are their victims. Those victims are entitled to ask the state what is being done to protect them. They have rights too. Big Brother Watch is interested in advancing THOSE rights, not only the rights of guilty people.
    Certainly there are issues around how one comes to be suitable for naming and shaming, how one redeems oneself such as to come off that list, etcetera – but you don’t have a right to have your offending kept a secret. We have a system of open justice in this country, quite rightly.
    Most importantly
    – you don’t have a right to repeatedly commit criminal offences.
    – you don’t have a right to anonymity if you nevertheless repeatedly commit criminal offences.

  3. Lee Griffin
    3rd December 2009

    “Guy – we do indeed see our role as defending liberties. But that includes the right to be defended from crime.”
    You’re advocating the use of tactics that, if done through surveillance either by technology or by neighbors encouraged to spy on each other, you normally stand against. Why? Because they pass the threshold in to “criminal”?
    So because they’re convicted they don’t have the right to freedom to rehabilitate and become a normal and productive member of society again? Instead they should be forever hounded by us “innocents” for their transgression?
    Of course I knew the conservative links of this kind of campaign but it’s interesting as the election grows close that you’re starting to show your true colours…you’re not really about civil liberties at all are you?

  4. Alex Deane
    3rd December 2009

    We believe in naming and shaming – as you will see on this site, we name and shame overbearing councils, we name and shame PCs and PCSOs who overreach their powers, we name and shame the champions of the surveillance state – and we believe in naming and shaming persistent criminals. We believe in an open society.
    We also believe that in the presumption of innocence. However, once an individual is convicted of a crime, we believe in punishment.
    Of course people should be encouraged to rehabilitate – as per my first comment. And people should be able to come off whatever list gets you “named and shamed”, which negates your melodramatic rhetoric about being “forever hounded”. Again, as per my first comment.
    Meanwhile, I note that you haven’t responded to my actual points:
    – you don’t have a right to repeatedly commit criminal offences.
    – you don’t have a right to anonymity if you nevertheless repeatedly commit criminal offences.
    Say what you like about me and the Tories. Take a look over the site. We criticise Tories more than any other party here. But some people will never be satisfied..!

  5. Guy AC
    3rd December 2009

    The notion of a civil liberties lobby which also lobbies on behalf of the “law-abiding majority” for more draconian police measures is an interesting one. When you called yourself “Big Brother Watch” I didn’t know you meant keeping an eye on Big Brother so you can egg him on into more invasions of privacy!
    On your two points:
    “- you don’t have a right to repeatedly commit criminal offences.”
    Of course you don’t – no one ever said you did. But it doesn’t mean you forfeit all your rights either. If you commit criminal offences you should be dealt with through the penal system in the normal fashion after which you should be afforded the freedom to rehabilitate yourself and become a productive member of society, as Lee said. The persistent stigma of having been “named and shamed” is an affront to privacy and will make successful reintegration far more difficult, if not impossible, and therefore lead to more crimes being committed in the long run.
    – On your second point, there’s a difference between anonymity and being “actively named and shamed” by the police. If I was a criminal who applied for a job where I needed a CRB check, for whatever reason, I would have to disclose that information, so it’s not a case of anonymity but actively naming and shaming in the community, saying “beware these people in your area”, is effectively a sanction for mob justice.

  6. Glyn Gaskarth
    3rd December 2009

    I think the difference here is between those who believe in liberty and therefore view the exercise of state power with suspicion (in some cases) and those who are just weak on crime.
    It is perfectly consistent to believe that people should have the right to silence, to trial by jury and the presumption of innocence but that if they are convicted they could receive the death sentence, or be required to work in prison or be named and shamed.
    It is vital that we name and shame criminals because social pressure needs to be applied to them. They should feel ashamed. The trouble with the current administration is that it seems content to treat the law abiding like criminals and criminals like victims.

  7. Alex Deane
    3rd December 2009

    What he said.

  8. Alex Deane
    3rd December 2009

    Although I note that I oppose the death penalty.

  9. Gareth
    3rd December 2009

    Does your local paper not have an ‘In the courts this week’ section to publicise who has been dealt with, where they live and what their punishment was?
    Mine does!

  10. Alex Deane
    3rd December 2009

    Spot on Gareth.

  11. anonymous
    3rd December 2009

    Does anyone know what will happen if someone is found later to be innocent ie wrongly convicted/fined or framed or treated overly harshly? As with newspaper articles, what mechanism will adequately correct any mistakes or wrongs to repuraion?
    Re families. A family or innocent family members can get a bad reputation unfairly because of the actions of one. And sometimes members of the community can harass or take vengeance, including on those innocent of a crime, so I see why police might consider effect on the family. How do we balance the issues of the offender vs. the innocent including their family?
    Finally, everything posted online or in newpapers or court circulars or legal papers leaves a trace. I wouldn’t want removal of detals which can act as censorship, especially in a locality where some police or authorities abuse power; on the other hand, if young or older persons’ histories are never truly erased(including any false allegations, or labelling which lacks nuance or detail or which may be misunderstood), then we risk losing the communal quality of mercy or forgiveness and the inividual positive incentive to change or to confess guilt to something. A fine or sentence or act of shaming as punishment has a greater effect if the guilty can’t move on from the incident. No fresh starts. Employers will have access to ISA info. How are these and other issues balanced (though I am against ISA hearsay or employers and numerous govrnment employees and contractees having access to overly broad criminal checks & info)?