Unfortunately, I did not read John Hyde’s web article ‘What’s so bad about privatising our courts?’ until the comments had closed. However, as a former law student and now a researcher in criminology, I have the following thoughts to offer.
Given the general, headlong rush to privatisation and the treatment of big business – especially banks – by government, the accountability spoken of is likely to be conspicuously lacking. The Whitehall culture of rewarding (or covering up) failure is likely to continue. Criminal and civil justice is, and should remain, the sole responsibility of the state and not the vested interests we would likely see with privatisation.
The American system has demonstrated this many times. The US criminal justice system is inherently racist and amounts to little more than human trafficking, with prisons being built simply in anticipation of the effect of proposed legislation and the needs of the businesses run by prisons/corporations. Prisoners are frequently transferred to prisons hundreds of miles from their home states, where they receive minimal or ineffective medical care, and are often subject to a brutality worthy of a banana republic.
Continuing on this course in the UK could result in criminal defendants being serviced by a court system owned and maintained by the same company that both transports the defendants to prison and governs whether they receive parole or an effective probation oversight – even the same company that writes any pre-sentencing report. The potential for injustice and corruption is obvious, when one considers the recent jailing of two US judges for taking bribes from a corrections company to jail juveniles.
What incentive would such a company have to grant parole or recommend probation, when it would earn more from continuing to detain a prisoner? What incentive would such a company have to write a pre-sentencing report which recommends a non-custodial sentence when it would earn more from continuing to detain a prisoner?
In respect of civil litigants – if anyone can afford to be one – we could see cases where a litigant is taking action against the very company, or an associate of the company, running the courts.
John Lockett, Burnley