Over the weekend there was a report published, that was commissioned by The Religious Education Council, in to the teaching of RE in schools; and in short in said that most schools were not doing too well at teaching the children about it. 

Now this got me thinking, now my view on the whole thing is that religion should be a private thing and if you wish to believe in any religion and its associated deities then that should be something you do in your home and/or place of worship.  Not something that the tax payer should be picking up the tab for to teach children about.

Now this would leave you with a gap in the school curriculum, and it then raises a question about well what could you fill that gap with? More English, Maths, Science, History or so on.  But to me filling that gap with something they already do well seems a tad lazy and lacklustre.

So I had a bit of a think about it, and was thinking what would be beneficial to school children that we could fill up that gap in the timetable with.  Now two things sprung to mind immediately one was home economics; we teach the kids how to cook properly and healthily.  Which gives them an invaluable skill when they leave school as they know how to turn a pile of fresh produce in to a healthy, tasty meal. 

But there was also another thing that would be handy, as these children are going to be the business men and women of the future and dealing with people from other nations, and one skill that we all lack is a general understanding of what people from Germany, Japan, China, Canada all like and enjoy.  So we could make a cultural anthropology lesson to fill the place left by RE. 

But then it dawned on me, we could combine the two.  We could educate the children about the cultures of other nations and teach them how to cook food from those nations.  That way we are equipping the children with two useful skills instead of teaching them RE.

Now obviously something like this would require a change in the law for it to be implemented, and would probably face some vehement opposition from some quarters of society.  But I think if explained to the public correctly, then there would be overwhelming public support for such a change.  As you have to ask yourself what’s more important knowing something from a religious text or being able to cook properly for yourself?

For me it’s a no brainer, let the religious bodies teach about their religion in their places of worship and use that time to teach children useful skills that can help them in life. 

In recent years we have seen the media and the public almost turn on politicians having seen them go from being a reasonably respected group of individuals to being a group that are not trusted and are “fair game” for overly intrusive media attention.  Now some of it is justifiable but some is using those justifiable occurrences to take cheap shots at anyone who is in a position of responsibility.

Over the past 5 or so days we have seen the story of Paris Brown develop; once it was revealed she had said a few questionable things on twitter.  The media went to town on this 17 year old saying she was unfit to do her job and so on; which ultimately lead to her resignation.  Now in this whole situation I don’t think she was at fault, but that there was improper due diligence in her appointment, which if it had been carried out then none of this whole debacle would have seen the light of day. 

However it now raises one big question for anyone who is contemplating running for office in the UK, and that is “is it really worth it?”

Social media is a great thing, it lets you share and communicate ideas with people all over the world but equally it lets you have heated discussions about those ideas which could result in you saying something that could if taken on its own be taken very out of context.  That in turn is used as a big stick to beat you over the head with should you run for office.  

However it also has the problem of preserving for all time (unless you go back the next day and delete it) what you say, so all those conversations you had when you were 14, 15 & 16 that you would now look at and think oh dear did I really say that? Are as good as set in stone, for anyone to come along and dig up at a later date.

Which leads us with a bit of a tricky situations if the media are going to now go after anything that anyone has said before they were appointed or elected to a position, then with social media that is really going to limit the pool of people we have available to draw upon for these people. 

Which in the meantime raises the question, who would really want to be a politician? We have all done or said something in the past that the media would probably jump on much in the same way that they jumped on a 17 year old.  So this really has to make a lot of people thing do I really want to be put in the same position. 

We often hear that politicians are out of touch with the common person, and they have no life experience before becoming an MP.  Which may be true in some cases, but could this fact be down to the media.  If we want MP’s who know what life is about, who have some experience of life then we as a nation have to accept that they may have done things some of us would disapprove of. 

So the way I see it we have two options, we either accept that people have lived lives and done things that we may think “Oh dear, I wouldn’t have done that” and subsequently get MP’s and alike with life experience.  Or we end up with MP’s who from the age of 14 or so decided they wanted to be an MP and lived a sheltered life not daring to put a foot wrong and in turn having no experience with life what so ever.

As I am sure even some of our past MP’s like Churchill, Baldwin, Attlee all probably did things in their youth that if they were around today would be front page news.  That would probably cause them to have to resign before they did what they did. 

So the choice is simple dull MP’s or MP’s with life experience?

Over the weekend we saw an announcement that Teresa May was contemplating leaving the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which was welcomed by a reasonable amount of people.  However I don’t think personally that these people have actually thought about the ramifications of such a move. 

Now I can understand why some people may be a little annoyed at times with the ECtHR, occasionally it throws up decisions that some people don’t like especially when it comes to things like deportation of terrorists and alike. 

However I think this is a knee-jerk reaction, we get a few results which some people disagree with and this has resulted in calls to leave the court.  However if you looked at the UK courts you would see a lot more decisions each year and over time that you disagreed with which have an impact on much more people. But the ECtHR has done a lot more good than the few odd outlying cases that have caused so much anger towards the court. 

Now let’s just for two minutes consider what the implications of such actions would be.  The UK’s Supreme Court is not like any other in the western world, unlike France, Germany, Spain or the USA to name a few, it has no powers to strike down any laws that parliament makes.  Now the ECtHR can’t do this either but a judgment against any Government is in effect very similar and will result in a change to the law. 

So without that safeguard it makes parliament supreme, it means that the elected officials answer to no one there is no checks and balances to prevent them doing what they want with the law.  A government with a large enough majority could rule without any question and pass any laws it wanted to running roughshod over yours and mine rights. 

Now is that really a situation that you want to be in?

Now let’s say the next prime minister after having left the Council of Europe is not to happy with criticism of his actions or his beliefs.  So to stop this happening he introduces an anti-criticism law which makes it a criminal act to criticise publicly and privately the actions of the government and re-introduces strict blasphemy laws. 

Now none of the UK courts can do anything, they have no power to overturn the laws and can only follow them as they are written down.  So you have just had your free speech heavily restricted and there is nothing you can do about it. 

With Human Rights law you would be able to challenge such a law and the courts could find in your favour which could prevent you getting a criminal record.  But without it, you are wishing away your liberty all because you didn’t like how they ruled on a few cases.   Is it really worth risking your liberty because you dislike half a dozen judgments?

While the ECtHR may not be perfect, as no system with humans in can ever be, is it really worth going the nuclear option because of it? As after all the ECtHR has done a lot of good that benefit you more than it has done to harm you. 

For example; Ireland v United Kingdom says the government can’t lock you up without trial, X.,Y. and Z. v. United Kingdom says that families do not have to be related by blood to be considered families under the law.  Lustig-Prean and Beckett v United Kingdom says discriminating against people in employment due to sexual orientation/race/gender and so on is illegal.  Then there was the Spycatcher case which the UK had tried to suppress the memoirs of an ex-MI5 office, that the court stopped.  Malone v Metropolitan Police Commissioner which involved phone tapping of people by the police. 

The list could go on and on with cases from all 47 member states to show just how beneficial the court has actually been in protecting your rights and liberties as individuals.  Leaving while it may give you some misguided sense of success in the short term will eventually lead to a less free society with less rights and more power in the hands of the government with the ability to take your rights away with even more ease. 

So before you praise this as being a great thing, just please stop and think of the consequences that will come about as a result of it. 

Over the past year or so we have seen some interesting divisions in those people who either vote Conservative or are members of the Conservative party.  A distinct division between those who are socially conservative people who want to preserve the social norm and those conservatives who are socially liberal.  One that I think has come to the front heavily on the equal marriage debate.

Now on this issue David Cameron has said he supports this issue because it is a conservative issue, and I have to whole heartedly agree with him on this.  Such a reform is typical of the previous great Conservative leaders of the past.  This is why when I look around at what is being said by some people, I think that some Conservatives have lost their way.  They have become literalists in the name thinking that to be a good Conservative you have to conserve what we have and change should only happen if it is totally needed. 

To them I say poppy cock, if we look at the history of our party we can see vast swathes of social reform instigated not preservation of the norm we see the forming and forging of great ideas of progress, liberty and opportunity for all. 

Let’s start with Sir Robert Peel, who as Home Secretary prior to becoming Prime Minister completely reformed the statute books having a bonfire of laws and replacing them with more simple easy to understand laws.  Then going on, as Prime Minister, to introduce the Factory Act’s which limited the times that women and children could be made to work.  The Railway Regulation act, the repeal of the Corn Laws.  All great social changes to improve the lives of everyday people.

Then we have The Earl of Derby, who without his Jews’ Relief Act we wouldn’t have had Benjamin Disraeli as he wouldn’t have been allowed to have been an MP in the first place.  Who’s work was hugely socially reforming the Chimney Sweepers Act, the Public Health Act and Artisans’ and Labourers’ Dwellings Improvement Act. 

Who lead on to the Marquess of Salisbury, with his introduction of Local Government, the Prevention of Cruelty to, and Protection of, Children Act and hugely the Free Education Act 1891 which ensured that all children received a free primary education.  Then finally the Workmen’s Compensation Act, which ensured that if someone was injured at work they would receive recompense for it. 

Then we have Stanley Baldwin and his enfranchisement of women over the age of 21, one of the biggest social changes in democratic terms the UK has seen.  Then Churchill who set up the Council of Europe and gave people the ability to access redress for violations of their Human Rights.  Thatcher with her Right to buy, Major with his Citizen’s Charter.  Plus many many more huge social reforms I could mention. 

I look around today and I see Conservatives calling for preservation of the here and now for the restriction of liberty and equality for all people and I feel that these people have lost what it means to be a true Conservative.  To see a social inequality and want to fix it to rectify that bit of injustice in the world; this is what it is to be a Conservative not to want to preserve the here and now.  But to want to make this nation a better place for all who live here. 

That is why David Cameron is absolutely spot on when it comes to marriage equality.  So next time there is a social issue being debated think “is this change going to improve the lives and liberty of people” and if the answer is yes then to support it is the Conservative thing to do. 

Last night I saw some gloating on my time line that Labour may be offering a free vote on the plan to allow religions the option to offer, if they want, equal marriage.  Meaning that the Quakers and the Liberal Jewish communities would be able to offer gay couples a religious marriage should they so wish.  A move by David Cameron that was very wise and not only considered the religious freedoms of those opposed but also those in favour of it. 

The arguments made against this by the conservative Christians who thought this was wrong and evil, were along the lines that such a decision would allow a challenge in the European Court of Human Rights and subsequently all churches would then have to offer equal marriage even if they didn’t want to. 

Now I have thought about this and in reality it is a laughable argument, and would never have happened.  That’s not to say a challenge wouldn’t have happened but that any such challenge wouldn’t have been successful.  Because looking at the jurisprudence of the ECtHR, their main concern with discrimination cases is the use of blanket bans on things.  Such as votes for prisoners, the inability for transgender people to change their birth certificates, the previous disparity in age of consent for gay people and so on. 

So a law which allowed religions to offer, at their discretion, marriage to everyone would not have violated the convention and so such a case would have been defeated.  Thus respecting the views of those who didn’t want to offer same sex marriage.

However and this is where it gets interesting, if marriage equality is passed and it will.  Then with what is in effect a blanket ban on all religions from being able to offer it will be challenged in the ECtHR.  But under this challenge the courts will find that such a ban is in violation of people’s rights, in that there will be direct discrimination between heterosexual and homosexual couples. 

Now there are two fancy ways that this could happen, a challenge in the UK courts would allow the Judge to issue an order of incapability which then would give the relevant Minister of State to issue secondary legislation allowing for religious marriage equality.  Or it could go all the way to the ECtHR who could equally say that the UK Government was in violation of the convention, and give them a time period to propose a change before they start awarding compensation.

Now I suggest that those people who oppose religions that wish to offer this to think carefully about this situation, as any challenge to the law would take 3 or maybe 4 years from it receiving Royal Assent.  Do you want what is on offer which means that there is some flexibility in which churches can offer it, or do you want the possibility of say a Labour Government ran by the two Ed’s removing all restrictions to churches and effectively forcing it on your church?  Just something to think about on this chilly winters day. 

Now this whole anger at MP’s renting out their second homes whilst renting a property themselves isn’t really an issue in my opinion.  Now we can all, I think, accept that the majority of MP’s need a second home of some sort to live in around the London area so that they can go to work in Westminster as well as working in their constituency. 

Now if we go back to the situation in say 2005 there were MP’s that were taking advantage of the rules and bending them as much as they could without breaking them to maximise their ability to build up a property portfolio at the expense of the tax payers.  Though they did nothing strictly wrong, it was an abuse of the system which ultimately led to the new system we have now.  This stops an MP being able to claim for mortgage payments on second homes in and around London. 

So MP’s now have 2 options to cover the cost of their accommodation in London they can rent a property or they can stay in a hotel and have the cost of that picked up by the tax payer (up to £200 a night).  Which I think most of us would consider a reasonable alternative to the previous situation. 

However we now have the problem of those MP’s who own a second home and who could live in them, but would be at a detriment to themselves if there is a mortgage on the property.  As not only would they be paying for one on their main home in their constituency, like the majority of everyone else who owns a property; but they would also be paying for a second mortgage too. 

Now if I and I am sure many of you, were in the position where you are faced with the position of being worse off financially you would do all you could to mitigate the financial loss to yourselves.  Which in this situation would mean the obvious renting out the second property you own to cover the payments of your mortgage on it.  Which then means, although you own the property and are renting it you are not making any profit on such as the rent pays the mortgage. 

So to then subsequently claim rent for living in another property is not leaving you financially better off at the tax payers’ expense, but leaves you in the same position as every other MP claiming rent for a place to live in and around the London area. 

So when I look at this hysteria about the whole situation I really think it’s a lot of fuss over nothing.  Unless people can prove that beyond all reasonable doubt that these MP’s in question are actually making a profit from the state for what they are doing.  Such as they own the property outright with no mortgage on them, then I would accept that they are playing the system in an immoral way.  But to do such you would need the financial records of the MP’s doing it to show such and personally I am not sure how you would be able to get hold of those legally that easily.  Also remember one of the key principles of English law that a person is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, not by the media and mass hysteria. 

Over the past few weeks we have heard a whole barrage about Julian Assange, we have heard from some people saying he should just go to Sweden and deal with the rape charges.  We have had some people saying what he did wasn’t rape it was just bad manners.  Lots of people with wild conspiracy theories that if he goes to Sweden the next day he will turn up in an orange jumpsuit in Guantanamo Bay.  But we have not had anyone really saying errr wait a moment what about the two victims. 

Now on the 12th August 2007, I found myself in the unfortunate position of being the victim of a serious sexual assault which was reported to the police who handled the matter and it ultimately resulted in a prosecution and conviction for the vile little man.  However you may ask what has that got to do with this situation?

Well the perpetrator absconded from bail for about 18 months.  So for this 18 month period I was left in limbo I was unable to see justice done while the perpetrator went about his life doing whatever he fancied.   Now of Mr Assange can’t quite do what he likes as he has inadvertently made himself a prisoner in the Ecuadorian embassy. 

But the two women who have levied serious allegations against him are left in limbo they have no idea what is happening, and at this stage they don’t even know if he will actually answer those charges.   Now that feeling of just not knowing what will happen or even if the accused will deal with the situation in the proper manner is one that leaves you with more questions than answers. 

It makes you start to question are you doing the right thing? Maybe it would be easier if I just called the police and told them to drop the whole thing. It makes you question the whole criminal justice system, you question yourself.  It makes your life very hard to lead as you have this weight you are dragging around with you, an inability to move on and just live your life because of all of this stuff.

Now I can only imagine what the added pressure and stress on these two women is, with the fact that their accused is on every news program and newspaper every day doing his hardest to actually avoid facing justice.   Spouting on about that the USA want to arrest him for espionage charges, which there has been no indication of such charges. 

Now dealing with the whole situation myself with the support of friends and family made me ill both physically and mentally at times, it caused me to drink lots to try and block out the whole situation to try and escape from the nightmare that was the situation.  In effect it made my life a living nightmare for 2 years till it all went to trial and I could finally relax.  

So regardless what side of the debate you are on, be that he should go to Sweden or one of his apologists maybe just maybe you should take two minutes out  before you next comment on the whole situation and think about the victims in this situation.  The two Swedish women who didn’t ask for this situation to drag on like this, who didn’t ask to be involved in some mass media show but who just want to see justice be done; and think how you would feel in their situation and then if you can then still just dismiss how they feel go for it.  But don’t take offence when someone calls you up on the whole situation. 

As always happens when a case involving the use of language makes the headlines we always end up with a debate on just how free freedom of expression should be.  It is normally argued by a vocal minority that in fact this should be an absolute right, along sides freedom from torture, but if you actually sit and think about that then it’s a very uneasy and potentially dangerous thing to consider making it such. 

So if we now imagine such a world with totally unrestricted speech, then we would have a world where someone could maliciously destroy the reputation of a person with no proof of such claims leaving the person in a situation having lost everything with no recourse.  It would allow the likes of racists and homophobes to spout of nonsense in public places with no ability to stop it.  It would allow people to send malicious hate mail and death threats with impunity.

For myself, those alone are good enough reasons not to have an unrestricted right to freedom of expression.  But it leaves us with a question that if we are going to draw a line in the sand then just where do we draw it.

Now the tort of deformation is a good limit on things, as it is there to ensure that falsehoods are not publicised in a way to cause prima facia damage to another legal body that leaves them at a detriment. Giving them recourse through the civil courts to claim damages for any harm done for any publication of such statements.  But there is a logical “fair comment” defence so if you were to say that so and so was a bit of a bumbling idiot; and if the court based on evidence provided thinks your words are such that could be held by another then even if he’s not the dictionary definition of an idiot you would not be found guilty. 

Which leads us on to comments that may cause offence to people, and how do we decide if at all that these should have sanctions attached to them.  Now this I think we can easily break down in to two sections those being comments that may cause offence to someone and comments that are designed to cause deliberate offence. 

Let’s take the first of these, a comment that is made which may offend someone.  Now these I don’t think there should be any legislation be that criminal or civil attached to these comments.  For example when you have a discussion with someone there is a chance that something you say to them may offend you.  Recently I have been talking to a Mormon and we have been debating marriage equality now his view point on the subject offends me and likewise mine may offend him.  But to ban such comments because they may offend would stifle all debate in the world and lots of conversation.  So to limit such acts because it may offend someone would be well silly.

So this leaves us with the people disseminating information with the intent to cause offence.   Which if you know anything about intent leaves two types of intent those being basically reckless intent and direct intent.  Now the first being reckless intent would be I think silly to have sanctions attached as this would be something like a husband and wife arguing over something and one calling the other a “stupid fool” or words to that effect.  Although it’s insulting and offensive it’s not something that was planed of premeditated and would be harsh to punish someone for such a comment.

This brings us to direct intent; where the person has sat down and thought about their actions and has made a conscious decision to inflict harm on another person(s) through saying or writing something.  This is personally where I think we need to start drawing lines in the sand, the obvious and easy one to start with is racist comments; where I think that we don’t set guidance for what is and isn’t punishable but more let the sentence reflect the level of severity of the offence.  We could probably extend that to some other things like homophobia and alike.

But it leaves us then with general offensive comments like wishing someone dead, or mocking someone for something or making threats of physical violence.  Now the final one is easy we’ve just had the twitter joke trial and the courts said if it’s said in jest then it should be considered that way, but I think but if someone says something that isn’t a joke then I think it is something the police and courts should look in to, as this isn’t free speech it is technically an assault. 

Now the rest of them I think it is fair to have some form of punishment for deliberately causing another person harm; but I think that any law has to be both proportionate and have an objective test attached to it.  So would a reasonable person be offended to a substantive level for a conviction to be reached.  So for any prosecution to occur you would have to show the victim suffered harm as a result of the words, that a reasonable person would have found the comments substantially offensive and that the perpetrator maliciously with intent set about causing that harm. 

So a couple of examples to help people get to grips with it, now let’s say I called Polly Toynbee a stupid Champaign Socialist and a hypocrite.  Now she may well take offence to that and be hurt but if you consider the facts a reasonable person may say yes it’s a bit offensive but not sufficient to prosecute someone. 

But if I said something like “you fucking whore, you look like you’ve had your face smashed in with a bucket and people like you would be better off dead”.  Is also offensive and a reasonable person would probably think that it’s not nice to go around saying things like that to random strangers, so there is the possibility something like that could go to court because the only reason to say such a thing was to cause someone some harm. 

Now I don’t believe this because I think we need to limit peoples speech and stop people saying things, but because causing someone psychological harm in my opinion is as bad as causing physical harm to someone.  We have big campaigns within schools to stop bullying because we know the harm it can do to children, but I think adults are as susceptible to the same harm from people deliberately trying to cause them harm; and that is the key here that we should be punishing people for causing deliberate harm to other people.   

Industrial action has again been in the forefront of debate of late, especially with the PCS calling for strikes by border staff on the eve of the Olympics and its had people talking about just what can be done when only 20% of people vote and less than 12% of the union decided to go on strike and cause an inconvenience for thousands or even millions of people. 

So what could we do to deal with strikes, well the first thing that comes to mind would be to make them illegal; any right in law could be easily amended or changed with the will of parliament.  However popular this may be with people on the right it would certainly bring about probably a general strike by the unions in an attempt to stop it.  So maybe this is not the way to go just yet.

The other idea passed around was taking the Ronald Regan approach to it and just sack all the workers, just like he did with the Air Traffic control staff when they went on strike and brought in the military to cover for them.  Now this sends a strong message to the unions and Regan didn’t really have much problems with them for the rest of his stint in office.  But such an action in the UK would be hard at the moment as the military is stretched a bit and it would fill the employment tribunals with claims. 

Then we have the Margret Thatcher approach of seeing who would back down first, as with the miners, again wouldn’t work in this situation as the unions have learned that long strikes are not really in their interest any more as the government has the power and money to outlast any prolonged strike.  So they do carefully placed single days of action now. 

So out of all the ideas there is only really one left and that’s making it law that a set percentage of union members have to vote in any ballot on strike action.  It’s been said that at least 50% of members should vote so that at least we would stop strikes being called by 10% of the unions.  But this I have an issue with, if we imposed something like this on the unions it would only be a matter of time before some people started to say that we should do the same for a general election; and one party getting 50% of the votes in a general election in a multi-party system would be near impossible and we would never have a government. 

Now where does that leave us, on all the major ideas to deal with strike issues its sort of dried up a bit.  But then I had an idea and one that I think is a jolly good idea at that.  Now if the government does something to you that causes you loss or damages to property then you have a tortious claim against the government for damages to recover any costs.  The same would apply to any private business, individuals or even a charity but in this case unions have a legal exemption from this. 

This lead me to thinking, well the left preach a lot about equality, so let’s put some equality before the law here and lets remove the Unions legal protection form tortious claims for damages.  Now obviously there would have to be some test drawn up which could be reasonably easy to do.  Just showing that any losses incurred by an individual or a company were as a direct result of the industrial action would lead to the ability to claim for any losses as a result of it. 

For example if say the teachers went on strike, parents could reclaim the cost of any child care they had to spend money on to enable them to go to work, or it would allow the parent to claim for any loss of earnings they may have suffered.  This could equally apply to tube and bus strikes in London where extra travel costs could be claimed back from the unions, and so on so you get the picture. 

Now this would mean strikes could happen and even with only 10% of the unions voting to strike, it would be no major change in the strike laws at all.  It would just mean that unions had to think very carefully if they wanted to strike over an issue that is well a little frivolous in the eyes of the public.  This way we allow strikes but ensure that there is some thought for the greater population not just the union members when they are called.

So there we have it, the perfect solution to industrial action, it doesn’t change the rights to hold strike action or limit their ability to strike action so they unions will be happy, but it also allows those caught up in unilateral damage from the strike action to get recompense; I think you have to agree it’s a fair and just solution all round. 

In the UK and in most western nations we have a problem with re-offending rates of prisoners upon release.  Now lots of things have been tried and none of them have really worked, we still have a problem with 90% of those sent to prison in 2011 having had a previous conviction.  Watching Newsnight on Tuesday got me thinking about this.  Now I have previously blogged on prisons and how they should be used as a way of helping to treat offenders who are addicted to drugs, alcohol and other things.  Now I am sure that if you introduced that it would have some impact on re-offending rates. 

Now another thing came to me today while I was on my way home, I have helped a fair few prisoners through work, and I have noticed that a lot of them have problems with basic literacy and writing.  Now this has to play a large part in their choice they make in their life after prison.  As how can we expect someone who can’t read and right properly to hold down a job? 

So I have come up with a bit of a carrot and a stick idea to help reduce re-offending, firstly we give these people the skills that can help them to reform and become a helpful member of society and if that fails we have the stick.  Which would reduce re-offending rather significantly. 

Now the idea follows a similar path as my drug treatment plan, which was we deal with the addiction then the punishment starts and we release the prisoner addiction free back in to society.  Well I thought we could maybe do something similar with an education element.  Every prisoner would be tested to see what their reading, writing and literacy skills are and they are put on a compulsory scheme which will bring them up to a minimum A-level/NVQ standard.  This would allow them to get a job upon release that paid a reasonable amount to live off. 

Now we could make it a parole condition that until a person has achieved such a qualification then they would not be eligible for release.   Now some people would think this is barbaric keeping people in prison unless they achieve a set qualification.  But If we release them with the tools to be able to go out and work surely that has to be better than keeping them in a cell for a set period of time and then just kicking them out with no skills and have them arrested 6 months down the line for breaking the law again. 

Now the second part of my idea the stick part is not a new idea, it’s something that certain parts of the USA already use; which is the three strikes and you get life.  Now I wouldn’t go for just any three criminal acts like three speeding tickets and you get life in prison; as that would be a little harsh.  However I would have it set at three convictions of offences that were either an automatic indictable offence such as Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent or 3 conviction of an either way offence like Burglary or Theft. 

Now I am all for giving people a chance and a second chance, but I think we need to draw the line at some place, and I think 3 chances is a fair shot for breaking the law.  Especially when if you watch a criminal trial for burglary or alike when convicted they will normally ask for other offences to be considered, so it’s not like these people have only broken the law 3 times in most cases.  With a policy like this it would act as a deterrent to people not to commit crime.

However there is one big question as to how we would fund this, as undoubtedly we would be locking people up in prison for longer, and in a fair few cases for life.  It would be unfair to expect the tax payer to increase their contributions to help fund such a scheme.  So I thought we could utilise these large groups of people in a productive way.  Lots of prisons in the USA use prisoners to make things as it reduces the tedium of being locked up.

So I thought we could build factories within prisons that companies could use to manufacture their goods.  They would have to pay the prison service say minimum wage for each of the prisoners that they employed and in turn each of the prisoners would be paid the standard prison rate for a day’s work.   This way we are paying the prisoner for the work they do and funding the upkeep of prisons, so there could be no accusations of generating “slave” labour.

I think a combined approach of treating addiction and educating criminals should give them the skills and opportunities to lead a crime free life; with the threat there that if they don’t change their ways then we will come down very hard on them and remove them from society.