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Criminal Law in 100 Years Time

What will Criminal Law Look Like in 100 Years Time?

Mind-reading technologies that negate the need for the time-consuming tradition of a courtroom? Psycho-active drugs administered in prisons to make an eight hour sentence last one thousand years in a prisoner’s head? A Judge Dredd style police state that allows judges to seek, punish and execute perpetrators on every street corner?

Well, hopefully not those things.

However, given the exponential speed with which societal changes are occurring, the criminal justice system needs to evolve, and quickly.

In 100 years time, my predictions are that the criminal legal system will have changed in four major ways:

Age distribution demographic shifts mean the criminal justice system will focus less on social delinquent crimes.

Two things are happening at the moment that will drastically decrease the number of juvenile and delinquent crimes:

Nutritional and technological advances means that people are living far longer than they used to. This predicted life expectancy is only going to increase, and 100 years from now, people could be living well into their second century.

Because of a global overpopulation, a longer life expectancy, and the emergence of a more liberal society wherein there is no obligation to procreate, there are fewer babies being born than in previous generations. For the first time, the most crime prone group (males aged 15 – 29) has seen a significant decrease in numbers. With people continuing to age and overpopulation becoming a bigger issue, this group is only going to decrease further comparatively.

With a significant increase in the health and life expectancy of the mature population set to rocket, falling numbers of babies born, and society increasingly producing either single parent families or families wherein both parents work full time, it stands to reason that children will be brought up by their grandparents more and more. In the UK and USA, this has not been the status quo in the last decade or two– children are frequently left to bring themselves up and therefore morals that would prevent them committing crimes further down the line are not instilled at a young age. The hope is that with the reappearance of a regular family caregiver in most households, the number of crimes committed by the under 30s will drop significantly.

The Standardization, Regulation and Tightening of Criminal Law Worldwide

There are two reasons for this; the first is terrorism.

I joked earlier about a Judge Dredd police state that contradicts the long-held conviction that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. That a suspect is condemned upon evidence that is beyond all reasonable doubt. Yet Kevin Gibbs, partner at Bond Dickinson, England, suggests this could be a closer reality than we imagine. “The laws are set to become a lot more draconian in the next 100 years,” he predicts soberly. “Technology becomes more sophisticated by the day, and criminal courts must find ways of tackling it. It will become more and more risky to allow suspects temporary freedom.”

He is talking of course, about the increased risk of terrorism. A good example is groups such as the Somalian organization, Al-Shabaab, who currently win small victories and suffer losses through fists and knives. In 100 years, access to the type of technology known by far more sophisticated and current globally threatening groups could be accessible for everybody. To combat this, international law is going to have to become entirely standardized, with international regulation and identical laws to prevent loopholes. Worldwide, a reversal of human rights and personal freedom could (1) mean a lack of privacy; (2) make stop and search warrants unnecessary; and (3) give international governments access to every element of each of our lives. Don’t believe me? Look at Guantanamo, where it’s already happening.

Second, increased migration. This is an element of society changing faster than population distribution; faster than technology. It is predicted that by 2040, the potential for social disharmony could lead to a spike in cultural conflict. Personal, linguistic and social expectations vary greatly between cultures, and as all societies become more integrated, so will frustrations with perceived ‘errors’ in one another’s customs.

However, by 2114, these levels of migration will be so commonplace that society will have evolved to accommodate that. The expectation is that a multi lingual society will have emerged, and a cultural hybrid, both socially and commercially, will dominate. This will hopefully incorporate the best of each culture present, allowing for a new, universal culture to emerge and standardizing people’s expectations, not just of their neighbours, but of an internationally standardized legal system too.

Increased accountability between justice systems and other societal authorities

The expectation for open communication does not stop at a joining up of courts and legal systems internationally. It is expected that alliances will be formed between legal systems and various other authorities. This could include educational institutions, non-profit organizations and governmental constituents – a complete synergy of perspectives, permeating society to increase accountability from charities, academics and citizens, consulting with every level of society about important changes to the legal system, and holding decision makers accountable for each policy created.

In summary, criminal law in 100 years time looks to impact hugely on everybody’s life. Internationally integrated culture will be reflected in standardized law, which looks the same everywhere. Personal freedom reductions and the ability to hold suspects without evidence of guilt beyond reasonable doubt is a terrifying concept, if you subscribe to the school of thought that advocates that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. However, in order to make these legal leaps, the justice system will first have to jump through a seemingly never ending series of hoops imposed by human rights groups, non profit organizations, governmental constituencies and academic institutions. The accountability of the justice system to these groups will be absolute and there will be complete transparency that simply does not exist in the current system. There must be input allowed from all sectors; otherwise the crime fighters become the criminals. For the anxious out there, worry not. A Judge Dredd state is not just around the corner.