“Let the Punishment fit the Crime”

The editorial in The Herald today calls into question the Scottish Government’s summary justice reforms – asking whether too many serious crimes are being “diverted” from court. In doing so, it suggests that – like the Mikado – the aim of criminal justice is to “let the punishment fit the crime”.

Of course, this assumes that you take the idea of Gilbert & Sullivan seriously enough to let it influence your view of the law. I certainly do – a fact a number of Professors at the University of Strathclyde could attest to from various quotations and references spattered throughout my essays and exams (e.g. “That’s the slovenly way in which these Acts are always drawn.” – The Mikado).

However, why take the somewhat bloodthirsty Mikado (or worse, his daughter-in-law elect, Katisha) as your model? What’s wrong with the more contemplative, philosophical, some might say liberal – Sergeant of Police (from the Pirates of Penzance). Would our criminal justice system not benefit from the realisation that “When a felon’s not engaged in his employment;
Or maturing his felonious little plan; His capacity for innocent enjoyment; Is just as great as any honest man
“?

And surely we could all agree with the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe when he opines “The law is the true embodiment of everything that’s excellent. It has no kind of fault or flaw …“?

Certainly, if the new criminal justice reforms involve the forceable extraction of teeth for over-zealous advertising executive, then they will find favour with some. The key question remains, if we adopt Mikado-justice who will take the role of Pooh-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else?

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