Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Riots, Reasons and Reconciliation

Illustration: Gary Kempston
Here is a letter signed by a group of British academics and published in The Guardian today (Wednesday, 24th August):

After the recent riots and looting in London and elsewhere, it is vital that a sense of justice be restored to society. The courts have an important role to play in this and it may be that, for the worst offenders, there is no alternative but prison. However, justice must not be confused with vengeance. The threat to withdraw the benefits of looters and to evict their families from their council houses, the suspension of normal sentencing guidelines (Met plan to hold all riot suspects in custody, 23 August), and the passing of excessively harsh prison sentences to deter others go far beyond the demands of restorative justice.

When David Cameron explained his decision to employ Andy Coulson as his communications director, he expressed concern that Coulson was being punished twice for the same offence and said he was giving him a second chance. It is hard not to see this as one ethos for the rich and powerful and another for the marginalised and excluded. To sentence a lawbreaker and then evict their family is to punish people twice for the same offence, and some also deserve a second chance. Many arrested are first-time offenders who committed fairly minor offences. This does not justify what they did, but neither does it justify sending them to prison.

Cameron must resist the lure of knee-jerk populism to find a lasting and effective solution to the problems created by the social and economic policies of the past 30 years. These have been exacerbated by the present government inflicting punitive spending cuts which disproportionately affect the poorest in society, while doing little to ensure that those who created the economic crisis are also being made to pay the price.

Professor Tina Beattie University of Roehampton
Dr Sarah Jane Boss University of Roehampton
Professor John Eade University of Roehampton
George Ferzoco University of Bristol
Dr Alison Jasper Stirling University
Professor David Jasper University of Glasgow
Rev Dr Robert Kaggwa University of Roehampton
Dr Karen Kilby University of Nottingham
Professor Richard E King University of Glasgow
Professor Ursula King University of Bristol
Dr Michele Lamb University of Roehampton
Professor Gerard Loughlin Durham University
Professor Willy Maley University of Glasgow
Dr Michael Marten University of Stirling
Professor Paul D Murray Durham University
Rev Dr Vladimir Nikiforov Royal Holloway, University of London
Dr Darren O'Byrne University of Roehampton
Dr Marcus Pound Durham University
Dr Nina Power University of Roehampton
Dr Anna Rowlands Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, Cambridge
Professor Yvonne Sherwood University of Glasgow
Dave Tinham University of Roehampton
Dr Anthony Towey St Mary's University College
Dr Heather Walton University of Glasgow

1 comment:

  1. I support the above article. we are called to be witness and prophet, to stand in solidarity with people by peaceful means. this is the call of the Gospels. to take a political stand opposing the political right wing agenda. working with others in putting forward the alternative political analysis. on peace justice the right to housing, education. the right to employment. the right as people who are unemployed to be treated as people with respect and dignity. oppposing political scape-goating of people with disability's opposing the political racist agenda. taking the stand in which Archbishop of El Salvador. Oscar Romero. the women Martyrs of El Salvador. means becomining alienated, been labelled as a Communist


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