Friday, August 03, 2007

Another brilliant BBC programme - if you can get it

Blimey - two great R4 programmes in a couple of weeks.

I missed the first part, and haven't had time to listen to it online yet, but parts two and three of the four-part The Crime of Our Lives - which covers crime and criminal justice in the UK from the dark days of the 1950s to our present nirvana - have been enthralling stuff. If you want to know how we got where we are it's a must-listen.

Unfortunately the BBC's 'Listen Again' feature seems to be having some technical issues - as a result of which parts 1 and 2 are no longer available online. I do hope they fix this - it would be a crime not to have this available. If amyone's got an mp3 of Parts 1 or 2 please let me know, although I hope the BBC will restore the online versions.

Part 2 covered the real disaster years of the sixties and early 70s - the Roy Jenkins era, the abandonment of preventative beat policing for reactive squad car patrolling, what happened to the Probation and Prison services (for which see here). A great deal of the history will be familiar to readers of Peter Hitchens 'A Brief History of Crime'. Remarkably, all shades of opinion were represented - for example, ex-probation officer David Fraser, a fierce critic of the changes, talked about the Probation Service.

You can't take underlying BBC bias out completely - an armed robber talked about how the long sentences handed out to the train robbers made criminals more prepared to kill, as the sentences wouldn't be any different, without anyone pointing out that such an attitude was only made possible by the abolition of the death penalty around the same time - but still a great programme.

Part 3 (RealAudio till next week) was even more revealing to a born-again rightie like me - after all, it's received wisdom that Roy Jenkins civilised society led directly to today's shambles. What was an eye-opener was the revelation of the utter uselessness of a succession of Tory Home secretaries during the Thatcher years. You can see why the culture wars were lost during the Eighties - these people literally didn't have a clue. We hear of Tory Home secretaries pleading with the judiciary to send less people to jail, not to charge young first-time offenders - did you know that youth crime (as reflected by the stats and presumably by a new reluctance to charge) actually went down between the 70s and the mid-eighties ? - while continuing to throw red-meat soundbites to the poor bloody infantry at Conference. And as for the new street cultures springing up - well listen to a Home Secretary (Hurd ? I'll have to listen again) describing sitting in a Belgravia apartment, hearing the police sirens go past on their way to Broadwater Farm or Brixton and asking 'who are these people' ?

I'm looking forward to part four, which I predict will include a reference to the Broken Windows theory of crime, and should feature strongly the arrival on horseback of the white knight, the first post-war Home Secretary to reduce crime - the Blessed Michael Howard.

5 comments:

Moriarty said...

Laban: if your ISP includes a usenet feed you might be able to get the first two parts from someone at the alt.binaries.sounds.radio.BBC group.

Colin Holland said...

Does it not strike you that in view of criminals being set free before fully serving their sentence, the BBC should attack previous (Conservative) governments on this issue and miss out on previous labour ones?
The first programme lauded Dixon of Dock Green in an early era (50's) when most people did not have a TV set, and completely missed out on PC49 who was the police role model during the early 50's.
So much for the lack of bias in such programmes
Colin.

JohnM said...

It's not there Moriarty but I have made a request so someone might post it.

Bert Rustle said...

There a whole series of downloadable

booklets covering this and related topics from Civitas.

For example, Charles Murray’s Underclass + 10 An excerpt beginning at page 6:

... From the mid-nineteenth century through
the first three-quarters of this century, the United
States was seen as a violent, unruly society with a lot
of personal freedom but not very civilised. During the
same period, Britain was seen, rightly, as the most
civilised country on earth. Other countries on the
continent had low crime rates, but they also had
traditions and institutions of authoritarian control.
Britain enjoyed extraordinarily low crime and
extraordinary freedom. It was a unique, magnificent
achievement, proving to the world that liberty and
safety are compatible; proving, indeed, that a genuinely
civil society is possible. No longer. Britain is
just another high-crime industrialised country.

... Another part of the answer may lie in the increased
use of prison. From 1950 until 1993, British crime
became much less risky ... Britain
might have had a low crime rate and unobtrusive
police in the first half of the century, but your
chances of getting caught if you did commit a crime
were high, and the chances of going to prison if you
were caught were high. The risk of imprisonment
began to fall starting in the mid-1950s, and, after a
few years’ lag time, crime began to rise. The risk
continued to fall and crime began to rise faster. ... Since
1993, the risk of imprisonment has been rising and
property crime has been falling. ...

... In 1900,Britain had many times the number of poor people it
has now, and a fraction of the violent crime rate. It is
not because of proletarian rage against income
inequality. The rich of 1900 had lives much more
conspicuously different from the rest of society than
the rich of 1999. On every dimension of economic and
political division, Britain and used to be a much more
riven society than it is now. It was united in one
crucial respect: a universally shared consensus of
what constituted moral standards and civilised
behaviour. And Britain used to have hardly any
crime at all.

JohnM said...

The series was posted on usenet in the above mentioned group. Laban, I have emailed you on your hotmail account offering to get you a copy.