The most senior judge in England and Wales, Lord Woolf, wants more focus put on finding crime-fighting alternatives to sending offenders to prison.
Lord Woolf, shortly to retire as lord chief justice, writes in The Guardian "there is no alternative" to prison for serious and violent crimes.
But for many others prison may not be the best way "to turn people away from a life of crime" and cut reoffending.
That's what's gone wrong. We have an activist judicary that utilises the doctrine of 'checks and balances' to continually frustrate the will of Parliament, yet starts yammering aabout 'judical independence' every time the other two arms of government try to draw them back into this dimension. Consider the humbuggery of judges continually warning us of the dangers of overmighty and unaccountable politicians. Note too the sleight of hand: judical independence means independance from government, not the wider society.
Then again, it appears that m'lud doesn't have a lot of time for the public either:
In his article, responding to a Guardian series on the criminal justice system, he says a major challenge is to convince the public "that non-custodial sentences do provide a satisfactory punishment to offenders and that they can play a key role in diverting offenders from returning to the pathways of crime".
Again, the humbuggery is almost overwhelming. By virtue of his public office, Lord Woolf claims to be able to rule on questions involving everything from combat in Iraq to medical malpractice. Yet when it comes to matters in his area of expertise, he claims that his purely technical skills give him alone the right to pronounce on questions of morality and the like. I am unconvinced that a knowledge of the law confers particular insight on the morality of crime and punishment.
As even Woolf concedes, Parliament - for once - has the full support of the public. He is not a democrat, standing up against an unaccountable government. On the contrary, the only recognisable principle Woolf can be said to stand for is the right of an unelected elite to declare themselves above Parliament and remake laws as they see fit. I believe we settled this argument in 1649.