I've had a piece published (click on the link and it will appear, but only once) in the New Statesman this week, as part of a special supplement on criminal justice. It looks at how the use of technology simultaneously makes life easier for victims and witnesses, and tougher for offenders. As I put it in the article, it demonstrates that both Huxley and Orwell were correct about the potential dangers of technological modernisation: it's perfectly possible that computers are both making society more aimlessly satisfying, and removing certain freedoms.
The benefits and perils of the digital age usually come as a package. Online shopping may offer a new convenience, but it also brings new types of security risk. In the case of criminal justice, the pluses and minuses of digitisation couldn't be more separately distributed. IT is very good news for the public and very bad news for the offender. As the service to the customer improves, so the loopholes open to the guilty are closed. Whether the digital age is experienced as greater individual satisfaction or as greater state surveillance depends entirely on which side of the law you operate.
Now is probably not the time to start getting on a high horse about privacy or civil liberties (I can leave that to Cherie Blair), but surely there must be some cause for concern about an agenda for criminal justice that is so unambiguously proud of (as the Government puts it) "rebalancing of the entire criminal justice system in favour of victims and the community". Surely justice isn't meant to be balanced 'in favour of' anyone. This is where the dark side of the New Labour slogan, 'for the many not the few', starts to rear its head.