After the horrifying riots over the last few days in London and other English cities the citizens want their revenge on the perpetrators.
David Cameron, on returning from a truncated holiday, stood outside Number Ten and said that those involved would face the full force of the law.
And vigilantes were ready to fill any vacuum of presence or authority left by the police as law abiding people tried to protect their livelihoods.
The riots came hard and swift on an unsuspecting public, so the people want retribution to come down hard and swift on the troublemakers.
But the punishment the people want to see visited on these thugs does not take the form of the law of the land. They suspect that once inside the ‘Criminal Justice System’ the hoodies are, in general, going to be treated as softly as they always are. Already Sky News was reporting this morning that there is some disquiet that the sentences being handed out in the specially set up courts are too lenient.
One stark example of this is the petition recently started by Stephen Mains on the government’s new e-petition web-site that says convicted rioters should lose their benefit payments. "No taxpayer should have to contribute to those who have destroyed property, stolen from their community and shown a disregard for the country that provides for them." It says, so neatly pigeon-holing the rioters for the rest of us. At over 90,000 signatures this has quickly become the most subscribed to petition by far, even above the ones calling for a return of capital punishment.
There are also reports that some London councils will try to evict those found to have been involved.
But let us not forget that there is already a system in place that hands out punishment on behalf of the state and for all of us. That is the law and the courts. The sentences for crimes have already been defined, let them be applied.
Any punishment quickly meted out that immediately sates our desire for revenge is likely to be an overreaction.
Heaving these thugs penniless out on to the street may make us feel better now but will not solve the problem. Society will have to re-house and feed them anyway, unless we want hordes of disenfranchised people with families in tow stealing or begging and filling the gutters of our streets. And then they could later probably win immense levels of compensation through European courts anyway. Where could we otherwise put them? On an island far away?