Everyone will have heaved a sigh of relief that the preacher of death, Abu Hamza, and four of his associates have failed in their bid to avoid extradition to the US.
Of course, the European Court of Human Rights would have caused outrage had they failed to bring in any other verdict. It would have been saying our closest ally was no different than the likes of Jordan, Morocco or Pakistan and that it could not be trusted not to torture or apply inhumane conditions – when in fact the conditions are likely to be even more over the top than our own 3.5-star gaols.
So the result, in truth, was a foregone conclusion and would, had it been otherwise, have represented a gross insult to the world’s greatest democracy.
Interestingly, the extradition is of exactly the kind that the controversial UK-US Extradition Treaty was designed to cover (i.e. terrorism). Had we reminded the US of this in many of the disputed cases where a clear terrorism link could not be established, we could have avoided much of the acrimony that has been thrown up.
But the fact remains that the treaty is flawed: the legal requirements in each case are not the same, making it easier for Uncle Sam to get his hands on our people than for us to get our hands on his. What incompetent treaty drafter thought it was in order to produce a document of this kind? He should be kicked sideways into oblivion as should the several other jobsworths who must have perused it before it was enacted into law.
This refusal to punish people who make monumental cock ups in the public sector is an affront to all of us; I believe it is at the root of so many of the outrages about which we throw up our arms and say ‘never again’ or ‘lessons will be learned’, but where they never seem to be.
In industry or commerce, it is clearly understood that either you do the job for which you are being paid or you will go. Only an equal sanction for those paid from the public purse is likely to do the trick.
Nothing, as they say, concentrates the mind like a good hanging.
What enrages the public so much is that salt is so often rubbed into the wound by either rewarding the miscreant with a promotion or allowing early retirement with the most mouth-watering of financial packages.
Police, for instance, can often avoid investigation into alleged irregularities by the simple expedient of taking early retirement. And that brings me to the ex-policeman, Brian Paddick, the no-hoper would-be mayor of London.
What a lovely set-up – naturally facilitated by money-bags Joe Public – that allows a perfectly fit and able copper to retire at the age of 49 on a pension of £65,000 a year!
This nice little nugget of information was thrown up as a result of the recent live BBC Newsnight debate between the mayoral contestants when, unwittingly, they stumbled into a pledge of total transparency in financial matters.
The issue has snowballed to the point where every senior holder of public office can now expect to be required to come clean. Get ready for more revelations about where all our money is going and how much.
But I started this article on prisons, and it seems right to finish on the same note.
The eleven and a half year sentence meted out to the London riot arsonist may have struck some as a bit over the top. But remember this: it was so very nearly murder and the offender gave not a thought to the fact that there could well have been many people trapped on an upstairs level.
As it was, a woman had to leap for her life to avoid being incinerated.
The law has always taken a very hard line where arson is concerned, and not just because it concerns property. Whole cities have been destroyed by conflagrations, including our own capital and large numbers of lives are lost to this day in fires. It is, perhaps, the most terrible way for a life to end.
Remember also that the authorities felt, rightly or wrongly – and, in this case, I think rightly – that they had to dish our exemplary sentences where the authority of the state was under threat.
For a moment during those terrible scenes of last August there was a widespread feeling that Armageddon had arrived: that if it escalates, the next thing we’ll see is the Prime Minister’s head being paraded down Whitehall on a pike, and that the dark underbelly of the disaffected underclass was taking over and was about to take revenge on the ‘haves’.
A message had to go out that if you indulge in acts of what amounted to insurrection, you can expect to pay a heavy price.
In those particular circumstances it would have seemed nonsensical to apply the normal slap-on-the-wrist for a bit of shoplifting.
And as for the recipient of the eleven and a half year sentence, also remember this: he turned out to be a career criminal with violence a part of his repertoire; and that the eleven and a half years is something of a joke anyway since he will be back on the streets in 2016 having served only half of his sentence.