For those – like ConservativeHome – wanting the Tory leadership to spend more time focusing on the priorities of the public, an article by David Cameron in tonight’s London Evening Standard is very welcome.  Here are two key extracts (full text in pdf form here):

  • The inadequacy of Britain’s criminal justice system: "There are two reasons Donnel Carty and Delano Brown stabbed Mr ap Rhys Pryce. The first is that they thought they would get away with it. They had good grounds for this belief. They were both prolific robbers – the police suspect they were responsible for as many as 150 muggings in the previous seven months, sometimes as many as 15 a day. Yet Brown had no criminal record at all, and the worst punishment Carty had ever received was a conditional discharge for assaulting a police officer… As I have said repeatedly, no amount of poverty or deprivation can excuse crime: the blame belongs to the criminal. If Carty and Brown had been arrested at the beginning of their crime spree and sentenced to a stiff punishment, Mr ap Rhys Pryce might be alive today."
  • The breakdown of Britain’s moral fabric: "But stabbing an innocent man while robbing him is more than a rational calculation about the chance of being caught. Murder represents an absolute moral failure. And here is the second reason why Carty and Brown stabbed Mr ap Rhys Pryce. They did it because they didn’t care, and because they didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. Both violent crime generally, and violent crimes involving knives specifically, have doubled over the last ten years.  These horrific acts are simply the worst expression of a phenomenon we see all around us: a growing culture of disrespect, ‘attitude’, and straightforward delinquency. This is the consequence of an erosion of what used to be called the moral fabric of society – the sense that your status in the eyes of others depended on living up to positive social expectations. In many of our inner cities today, as we learn from reading about boys like Carty and Brown, a completely different set of social expectations prevails.  There is only so much that Government can do to repair our society’s moral fabric. We can – and should – ensure that schools have more power to discipline pupils who misbehave. We can – and should – remove financial penalties against marriage in the tax and benefits system. But ultimately it is society, not the state, which transmits moral messages to young people.  Most of all, it is families which are primarily responsible for whether a child does well – like Mr ap Rhys Pryce – or goes wrong, like Carty and Brown. And it will surprise no-one to learn that both Carty and Brown grew up in homes without fathers. I hope the men who left those boys’ mothers to bring them up alone are reflecting on their own responsibility this week."

The Conservative leader also used his article to reaffirm his commitment to a bigger prison buildings programme:

"Despite having one of the highest crime rates in Europe, Britain has a below-average ratio of crimes to prisoners. We quite simply do not convict and lock up enough criminals. And the principal reason for this is the lack of space. Prisons are close to bursting because, in spite of repeated warnings about overcrowding, the Government will not build more jails. Once again I urge the Government to reverse its policy and begin a prison building programme now."

Related link: Nick Paget-Brown on Crime and the Missing Culture of Punishment

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