In his 2004 Labour Party Conference speech, Tony Blair seemed to call for the abolition of trial by jury. This was largely unreported at the time, presumably because it seemed so far-fetched. Yet here it is again. Today, Home Secretary John ‘Chopper’ Reid said he wanted to,
If anyone is in any doubt about what really needs reforming in this country, all they need to do is watch the Queen opening parliament. She arrives in her Cinderella coach, tarted up in a sequined gown draped in endangered species and jewels looted from formerly occupied countries, surrounded by men frocked in tablecloths and tights, her family all looking like they’ve come straight from their Gilbert & Sullivan rehearsal. Her agent, Black Rod, marches up to the House of Commons. Her majesty’s commoners then slam the door in his face and can be heard guffawing inside. This snub signifies that we have a democracy – for about two seconds. Undeterred, Black Rod bangs on the door and demands the riff raff attend the Queen in the House of Lords, whereupon someone cracks a dignity-demolishing joke. This year it was,
‘I hope they’ve got Helen Mirren on standby.’ Drole.
The Queen then delivers a speech which has been written for her by the Prime Minister’s aides and looks about as committed to it as turkeys are to Christmas. Around forty new pieces of legislation are proposed to keep us safe in our beds. Today, she spoke of ‘putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.’ Well, they sort of are, aren’t they? If it weren’t for victims, there wouldn’t actually be crimes, would there? Perhaps I’m knit-picking.
More urbane metaphors are to be found in Anthony Minghella’s new film Breaking and Entering. This is a much more interesting take on anti-social behaviour. The dramatis personae are bog standard. You have the talented but traumatised asylum seeker youth and his hard-working, decent but lonely mother. There is the wealthy and successful but ultimately bored ‘victim’ of crime who, ironically, is dedicated to a revolutionary urban plan which aims to eliminate crime by good design. Finally, you have Ray Winstone who plays a scruffy but good-hearted cop who whisks troubled fifteen year olds up to Hampstead Heath on the back of his Vespa for a bit of unofficial mentoring. Eh? It’s perfectly innocent, promise.
But here’s where it gets really interesting. Without giving the plot away, Minghella proposes an entirely new take on perpetrator and victim reconciliation. The victim gets to have wild cinematic sex with a member of the perpetrator’s immediate family. Now that’s what I call restitution. Everyone involved seemed very happy with the outcome anyway. If Government is so insistent on replacing our centuries old criminal justice system with a policeman who’s attended a one day training course based on the format of Whose Line Is It Anway?, they could do worse than hire in Anthony Minghella to steer it.
Must get off to rehearsals for Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury now. I’m playing the Defendant. The Plaintiff will be played by Princess Anne and the Learned Judge by the Duke of Edinburgh. We shall be appearing at a
Picture from www.cartoon.me.uk