We cheapen justice at a massive cost
01:41 GMT, 2 December 2012
There is a place for cautions and on-the-spot fines in any criminal justice system. They can be used to close minor cases, and to deal with petty offenders who are prepared to accept a fine rather than costly and time consuming court case.
Justice: Evidence suggests that police officers have been using on-the-spot fines for crimes such as rape, burglary, assault and robbery
But most people will be dismayed to find they applied to criminals who admit to serious and violent offences, including rape, burglary, assault and robbery.
Evidence suggests that police are resorting to this technique to make it look as if they are dealing with these crimes, when in fact they have lost control of them. Meanwhile, the Crown Prosecution Service, increasingly driven by cost-cutting, is equally happy to avoid the expense of pursuing them.
There is a clear danger here. Prosecution and conviction are not just administrative measures, they are expressions of moral disapproval.
If we treat crimes as if they were parking offences, they will become more common, and those who commit them will become more confident.
Justice is a necessity, not a luxury, and we must be ready to pay the bill for it. This is a major scandal and needs to be fully exposed and set right.
Guarding the turban
Sikhs have a proud record of volunteering to fight for Britain. They are renowned as formidable warriors who do not surrender.
In two world wars, Sikhs (including Spitfire pilots) fought in their turbans, which to them are hugely important symbols of their faith, and of the whole moral system that underlies their famed martial valour.
In the trenches of 1914-18, and later at El Alamein and in the Italian and Burmese campaigns, the declined to wear steel helmets, and their commanders did not try to force them to do so – a wise decision personally endorsed by Winston Churchill himself.
The modern British Army is understandably keen to recruit these brave men. So far, it has managed to accommodate the turban in every style of uniform, from combat to dress parade.
Now there is a possibility that a Sikh soldier will be on guard outside Buckingham Palace, as part of a Guards regiment whose members would normally wear the bearskin on parade.
This headgear, like the turban, symbolises a proud heritage, dating back to Waterloo.
Need these two traditions collide At a first glance, the problem might look like yet another contest between political correctness and common sense.
But since Sikhs have fought with such courage and distinction under British colours for so many years, let us see turban-wearing soldiers at the Trooping of the Colour as soon as possible.
It would be a deserved compliment to generations of Sikhs who have guarded us from our enemies, and a fitting reminder that courage and discipline cross all borders and all cultural boundaries.
Take time to reflect
Today we demonstrate how Lord Leveson's unrealistic plans for press restrictions would have prevented publication of several important stories.
How can a general backlash against a free press possibly benefit those who have undoubtedly been wronged by some irresponsible journalists and papers
It is an illogical response, largely driven by emotion.
Hasty legislation always causes more problems than it solves. Once lost, press independence from the State would be hard to regain. Cool reflection has seldom been more badly needed.
Reflection: Rushing to legislate in the wake of Lord Leveson's report would be a mistake