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Costly Consequences of Populist Posturing: ASBOs, Victims, Rebalancing and Diminution in Support for Civil Liberties

NCJ Number
Punishment and Society Volume: 12 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2010 Pages: 387-413
Michael Tonry
Date Published
October 2010
27 pages
This article discusses the consequences of the Labor government's attempt to ensure that the criminal justice system is rebalanced in favor of victims for the purpose of winning electoral support.
In its effort to win electoral support by attacking the courts and other criminal justice agencies, loudly seeking to rebalance the criminal justice system in favor of the victim, and weakening civil liberties and protections against wrongful convictions, the Labour government of Tony Blair played dangerous games. There is ample evidence that tensions between the young and the old, and between the well-off and the dispossessed, were exacerbated. By repeatedly talking and acting as if crime had reached crisis proportions and required radical responses, at a time when crime rates were falling, the Government increased public anxieties and fears. By repeatedly insisting that the criminal justice system was not working satisfactorily, the Government undermined faith in legal institutions. By insisting that traditional procedural rights and protections are unimportant and can be cut back without loss of anything important, public understanding and support for fundamental ideas about liberty, fairness and justice were undermined. It is a pity and does not augur well for the future of civil liberties and rights in England and Wales. (Published Abstract) Tables, notes, and references