Some of us are occasionally tempted to buy gadgets that we don’t need right now, but look shiny and new and persuade us that they will come in useful before too long. So the gadget comes home and you spend time getting it out of its box and familiarising yourself with it before finally putting it away out of sight and returning to the work you were focused on before you went shopping. Later you remember the gadget but now the excitement has gone and having spent good money on it, the temptation is to find a use for it, to avoid admitting you should never have bought it in the first place.
The Home Office is currently in a similar quandary. There are challenges being faced on some of our urban Streets, caused by the activity of gangs of young people. The riots in 2011 as we all know were precipitated by the shooting of Mark Duggan and more importantly by the failure of the Metropolitan Police and the IPCC to deal with the impact on the family and the community of this tragic event. However some of those who responded to this confusion and uncertainty were members of gangs and some of the worst incidents were caused by these gangs. In 2012 injunctions to stop the activities of gangs were extend to 14-17 year olds as this article explains. The Home Office is concerned that the legal facility has only been used twice on this age group compared to 86 times for over 18 year olds. They are suggesting that this is because agencies are unaware of their availability for this age group and so they are proposing to give the power to implement them to other agencies. An alternative interpretation is that the men and women who spend their lives working with young people, and who were opposed to the use of the gang injunction being extended to under 18year olds in the first place were right. Dealing with minors depends on different approaches to dealing with adults and simply because the Home Office can see a link between similar types of behaviour, does not make the case for the same solution being used.
Resolving the disconnect between expert practitioners and law makers is always a challenge. One that is not helped by some of the people who we elect as our MPs and then get elevated to high office by their party. On rare occasions these people bring with them genuine expertise from their work before their careers in Parliament and sometimes (although not very often) they show that they understand that asking local people and experts is not a sign of failure, but an indication of great wisdom. The officials in the Home Office are good people but most of them have a focus on the Westminster village, not on the streets of our towns and cities. Sending out people with limited understanding and an unwillingness to learn from the people they meet is bound to lead to mistakes. Just as the purchaser sees a gadget that they are sure will come in useful in the future. No amount of wise counsel will dissuade a determined person (or Minister) who is convinced that they know what will work best. However if it is a mistake to make a bad law or buy a gadget that is not needed, it compounds this to then waste further time to ask other people to find solutions for this gadget or law that has clearly not been effective. The decision was a bad one, money and time was wasted. Accept that fact and move on. Please!