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Nick Abbot Headshot

Reining in the Reprobates

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They say that crime doesn't pay. I don't know who "they" are in this context but "they" probably couldn't find their face with both hands. Talk to the experts, the people who really know about crime, the ones on the front line, and story is different. If you ask actual criminals, they will tell you that it pays rather handsomely, thank you very much.

One in five offenders say that breaking the law has been a worthwhile experience for them. This figure might be on the low side as they were responding to a query put to them on behalf of Her Majesty's Government.

Let's assume that you are a shifty and dishonest type - if a man with a clip board and an officious air asked you whether your illegal activity was profitable, is it likely that you would relate to him the unvarnished truth about your deplorable shenanigans? Perhaps not, so it is rather remarkable that a full 20%, of those that expressed a preference, were so unconcerned at the potential ramifications of confessing, that they practically became poster people for the criminal way of life.

When pressed, they said that a bent manner of employment was a way to get what you want. Almost none of them saw anything wrong with this belief and three quarters of those who have done time for their misdemeanours did not even consider themselves as criminal at all. They presumably imagine that they are some sort of latter day Robin Hood - taking form the rich and giving to the poor: themselves.

They even disagreed with the notion that what they were engaged in (mostly stealing) was a crime at all and that what they did never harmed anyone. That could only be true of they were nicking things exclusively from animals. No-one has been apprehended with a pile of acorns or a stash of dead mice, so lets assume they are purloining from people.

The government asked these questions because they are concerned about the re-offending rate among the delinquent class. Stealing is like Pringles - once you start, you just can't stop. Or rather, they could stop if they wanted, so they say, it is just that they don't want to. And why would they?

Do you want a new smartphone, one that is slimmer and shinier and more gorgeous than the rest, one that costs a stupid amount of money and for which there is a great long waiting list? Of course you do. You could apply on line and wait for stocks to be replenished, you could sign away your life to the phone provider for the next 24 months and commit yourself to paying in that time what in some countries is a yearly wage, or you could simply pluck one out of the hand of some unsuspecting dupe and make off with it down the High Street, where no-one at all will respond to the calls of "Stop thief" as you make haste with your escape, unmolested.

So enticing is the lifestyle of the felonious that the average desperado has over forty crimes to their name. They are in and out of the courts like they have a season ticket. They should give them a loyalty card: commit nine crimes and the tenth one is on us.

And what is the government doing about it, you may ask. Well, Chris Grayling has as plan.

Chris Grayling is The Justice Secretary. That makes him sound like the superhero in a Hollywood blockbuster. You know the sort of thing: "By day he takes dictation, by night he takes out the trash". If you look up an image of Chris on the World Wide Wait, however, you will see that if such a film were to be made, it would be the Worst Film Ever. Sharknado would pale by comparison. Not even a film starring Adam Sandler could be as bad.

Chris is not a superhero though, and his plan is not the work of a mastermind. Chris' big idea is to stop what he calls the "depressing merry-go-round" of recidivism among the outlaw community. Perhaps he has never availed himself of the delights of that fairground staple because if he had, he would know that there are few things less depressing than a merry-go-round. The clue is in the name. It says "merry" right there in the title.

Some of the people building and staffing the merry-go-round might, however, qualify for his scheme to wean them off their brigandism. Chris plans to invite companies to offer repeat offenders jobs in the community and he plans to start right at home. Well, not at home but at work.

As an example to others, Justice Secretary Chris will invite one lucky delinquent to a position in his own office in the Palace of Westminster. There, the probationary yardbird will be free to mix with our elected representatives: the cream of the political class. This unreformed reprobate will be at liberty to consort with members of the House of Commons and see the full majesty of Parliament in action.

I am sure he will feel right at home.