THE BLOG

What Might Our Politicians Learn From 'Making a Murderer'?

14/01/2016 12:11 GMT | Updated 13/01/2017 10:12 GMT

I have spent the last few nights almost apoplectic at the injustice of it all! How can this be right? How can the police get away with it? Two innocent men face life imprisonment for a crime they surely did not commit. Where is the justice?

Many people seem to have felt the same way after watching Netflix's 10-episode documentary 'Making a Murderer', which documents the trial of the (admittedly slightly creepy) Steven Avery and his nephew for murdering a 25 year photographer in 2005. Nearly 400,000 people have signed a petition to have Avery pardoned.

Although I am sure that there are many lessons to be learnt from the series about the justice system both in the USA and in the UK (I have heard many stories about police planted evidence from a friend who is criminal defence solicitor here) what really interests me is how powerful a concept justice is, how it enrages and stirs people, and how it could be harnessed by politicians.

I think the reason the Avery case enrages people is not purely the final verdict, indeed after calm analysis you may believe it was right, but rather that Avery never stood a chance. He was not given a fair crack of the whip, and the forces of the establishment were against him from the off. There is no sense of justice if the rules of the game are fixed to favour one player.

If this were applied to inequality in the UK I do not think that the electorate are so concerned about those in relative poverty so long as they have had a fair chance to succeed in life. Jeremy Corbyn's politics will never succeed because he is only willing to reward hard work with a heavy tax bill. Equality in a literal, socialist sense is inherently unjust.

In the UK, of those who grow up in the lowest income families only 12% will become high earners. Of those who grow up in high earning families 45% will reach the top bracket. Only 7% of pupils in UK attend a private school and yet 71% of senior judges, 43% of newspaper columnists, 44% of the Sunday Times Rich List and third of MPs are privately educated. Is your blood boiling yet?

There is a stunning lack of social mobility in the UK. If your parents' income is a key determinant of your own future then equality of opportunity is still simply a pipe dream. Those from poor families are swimming against the tide, just like Avery was when he went to trial.

A British Social Attitudes survey found that 95% of the public agree with the statement "in a fair society every person should the opportunity to get ahead". Yet politicians rarely speak of this issue, and do even less by way of policies. Exploiting our innate sense of justice would undoubtedly be a vote winning formula, but what is more important is that policies are in place, starting with the upheaval of the education system, to ensure that unlike Steven Avery everyone has a fair chance in life.

(Statistics are from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission)