Disproportionate sentences

I don’t know about you, but I do appreciate a good headline.

Here’s a good one: Spending cuts mean crooks get shorter jail sentences, announced the Mirror in July, which went on to explain that, due to cuts, the Ministry of Justice would have to save £2 billion a year – and 34,000 police officers would have to lose their jobs – because budgets were to be cut by 20 per cent. My favourite bit, though, was this:

Today’s Justice Committee report calls on ministers to show “courage” by supporting tough community sentences to take pressure off the prison service.

I’d quite enjoy seeing some tough community sentences in action. You smash a window, punk, and you clean up the glass. Daub graffiti on a wall and you will scrub it off, preferably with a soft children’s toothbrush. You break into someone’s shop and jeopardise their livelihood and you will work for them, free of charge, until you have gone some way towards repaying your debt and feel remorseful. You might even get something positive out of the experience. Hey, we’ve all seen it happen in the movies.

Yet just how many offenders have been sent to prison lately in preference to community sentencing? Hundreds of rioters have taken the prison population beyond the 86,000 mark for the first time, reported the Guardian on Friday; seven hundred and twenty-three, to be precise, that week alone. Among them, the student who had just completed the first of a two-year college course in electrical engineering, aged 23, with no criminal record, who was jailed for six months for stealing a case of bottled water during the rioting (Lidl water thief jailed for six months, Telegraph). Not forgetting the 48-year-old man jailed for 16 months after stealing some doughnuts left over from the looting (Doughnut thief jailed for 16 months, BBC). This chump had been released from prison that same evening with only enough money in his pocket to buy tobacco, so took the doughnuts because he was hungry. It is true that he had more than 100 convictions for 233 offences and, because he had strayed into part of the city centre from which he was prohibited, he was in breach of an Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO), but sixteen months for pinching a couple of doughnuts?

It’s not just sticky-fingered (in this case, quite literally) opportunists and wayward protesters getting a hard time of it lately. Oh no. Just mostly. One of the most eyebrow-raising headlines I’ve seen ever – Charity hits out at jail sentence for Northampton man who gave partner herpes, Northampton Chronicle and Echo – neatly summarised the story of a 28-year-old man who was jailed for 14 months having pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm last week. I checked and it’s not a joke. Even the Daily Mail got involved. (That was the joke.)

Hmm. As there’s obviously so much space in our prisons (there isn’t) and the country can comfortably afford to lock people away (it can’t, well, could if the rich paid more tax and money wasn’t wasted bombing countries to secure cheap oil) and if our elected representatives truly wished to be seen in the eyes of the world to be consistently morally upstanding (please, have you seen the stories coming out of the UK lately?), then why not also lock up the following undesirables?

– A 64-year-old paedophile, whose victims over a 22-year period were all under the age of 14, escaped jail and was instead handed a 36-month community order coupled with a supervision order and a spot on the sex offenders’ register (North Cheam paedophile evades jail term despite two decades of abuse, Sutton Guardian).

– A 25-year-old who had for three years downloaded over 14,000 images and videos “at every level of seriousness” depicting sickening scenes. You’d like to think that getting your kicks from watching “babies being subjected to serious sexual abuse, torture or bestiality” would warrant a custodial sentence. Think again. For this pathetic specimen, treatment in the community was decided more suitable than a spell in jail (Man avoids prison term for child abuse images, Northampton Chronicle and Echo). How does a three-year community order, subject to a five-year sexual offences’ prevention order and a place on the sex offenders’ register until 2016 sound? Not as pleasing as ‘get that twisted pervert as far away from my children as possible and throw away the key,’ it has to be said.

Personally, I’d quite like paedophiles who have commonly committed unspeakable acts and individuals whom, it would seem, have the potential to commit them, be locked away for a very long time, if it’s all the same to you. Call me insensitive to the pain of business, but plate glass windows can be repaired much more easily than the damage caused to those poor children’s lives.

Doesn’t it make your blood boil? And why did this lot get off so lightly?

– A 45-year-old scientist, no less, brought a 21-year-old from her native Tanzania to the UK to brutalise and treat as an unpaid slave. She was cleared of trafficking and assault and sentenced to six months in jail (‘African Cruella de Vil’ Rebecca Balira jailed over house slave, Metro).

– Four years for pleading guilty to eight counts of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 13 doesn’t sound right, either (Jail term given to sick Runcorn paedophile branded ‘a joke’ by mother of one of his victims (Runcorn and Widnes Weekly).

Young mum tells of terrifying attack (Sunday Sun) at the hands of her partner of two-and-a-half years. He served just eight weeks behind bars – eight weeks, it’s not a typo – despite admitting assault, causing actual bodily harm and being jailed for six months. He also received the token restraining order, which must come as a great source of comfort when you’ve been left badly beaten by someone you love. I wonder if the swelling and bruises lasted longer than the violent thug’s stint in prison.

15-month jail sentence for ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ attacker (Bristol Evening Post) sounds fairer than the previous case, but not when you think back to those stolen doughnuts commanding a 16-month sentence. This time the brute pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm and two charges of battery, one of which involved a 14-year-old being thrown onto broken glass and smashing the head of a 13-year-old into a radiator despite being “100 per cent not guilty” when police interviewed him (and having 17 convictions for 33 offences, being in breach of both a community sentence for having an offensive weapon and a suspended prison term for violence against his own sister).

We can’t forget the MPs, those paragons of virtue who get to claim for things most of us have to pay for out of our own pockets, such as pot plants and DVD players. David Chaytor was jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty to fraudulently claiming more than £20,000 in expenses. He admitted three charges of false accounting. False accounting! That doesn’t sound too far from what those charged with burglary might have insisted they were guilty of: false shopping.

Jim Devine, was jailed for 16 months after submitting false invoices totalling more than £8,000. Elliot Morley was also sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for claiming more than £30,000 in false mortgage payments. It would have been a longer sentence but for the “courage” it had taken for him to enter a guilty plea. Really, it’s these selfless acts of heroism which make me glad that we pay them almost three times the average salary for hardly bothering to turn up at the House of Commons. (Can’t we cut their number down from 650 for starters? Talk about over-representation.) Eric Illsley pleaded guilty to claiming £14,500 more than he was entitled to and received 12 months’ imprisonment, for which he served three.

That’s because those given sentences of less than four years who pose a low risk, if not convicted of violent or sexual offences, can be considered eligible for early release after serving at least a quarter of their sentence under the Home Detention Curfew Scheme, subject to electronic tagging and a curfew. I look forward to discovering how many of the most recent prison intake such charitableness will be extended to.

Maybe it was pure coincidence, but I also noted yesterday that Over one in two convicted cops keep their jobs (Mirror) – and the crimes they’ve been convicted of include sexual assault, soliciting for prostitution and possession of a Class A drug.

Has our society got no sense of proportion? I wonder where we place the case of a student jailed for 18 months for falsely claiming a cleaner had raped her – just so that she could get an extension on her university coursework (Jail for student who cried rape for homework time, Metro), or the drunk driver who was nearly twice the legal limit yet, mercifully, injured nobody (Drink drive MoD man sentenced, Scarborough Evening News). Banned from driving for 17 months, fined £500 and less a danger to passers-by than the jailed student protesters how exactly?

The Telegraph presented statistics to show that some convicted rioters are being handed prison sentences which are 40 per cent longer than they would have been had they committed the same offences a year ago. I read an interesting New Statesman article which claimed that 81 per cent of the public believe the sentences meted out to the assorted looters and hooligans are either fair or not harsh enough. Presumably this includes those for Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan who were each jailed for four years under the Serious Crime Act, which states that encouraging an offence carries the same penalties as the actual offence itself, for inciting disorder on Facebook. Their efforts to encourage a riot came to naught, but that’s not considered quite the same as getting behind the wheel of a considerable chunk of metal which goes fast and can crush people with ease when in no fit state to drive, and not harming anyone, but is rather like dropping a fire extinguisher from a rooftop which hurts nobody (for which student protester Edward Woolard, you may recall, received two years and eight months in jail). Strange, that.

Ignoring my cynical suggestion that these politically-motivated sentences serve as vengeful retribution for the humiliation of the police, with the added bonus that they appease the vindictive and most likely Tory voters who have been clamouring for more prisons, police and privileges for many years, whilst also conveniently diverting attention from a fractured government’s swingeing public service spending cuts, are these sentences not horribly disproportionate? Janet Daley says, no, actually, they’re not and argues that if lesser sentences are indeed handed out for more serious crimes, as we have seen above, rather than being an indictment on the harsh sentencing observed since the riots, we should condemn the soft sentences and make them tougher. Perhaps you agree with her. Yet when someone – in this case, community worker Mohamed Hammoudan, 46 – who has lost everything he owns in an arson attack during the riots, can say that prison should not be used “as a blanket way of resolving social problems,” doesn’t it make you think? Doesn’t it make you feel ashamed?

In my view, rioters and protesters alike who are convicted of first-time offences should be shown some leniency. They don’t need prison, they need anything but; they need an opportunity to try to put things right and to repay their debt to society if they are to believe that such a thing as society exists and that there is a place for them within it.

I say this not least because appeals take time and cost money. The Telegraph reported on cuts to legal aid which are expected to save at least £300 million a year back in November. More is spent on legal aid, by the way, in England and Wales than anywhere else in the world, with a budget of more than £2 billion which helps more than two million people each year. The BBC reported earlier this year that the legal aid bill for last summer’s rioting in Belfast exceeded £34,000. That would pay the annual salary of, what, two new police officers? Twenty-six men were charged with rioting and related offences, all were granted legal aid and all pleaded guilty. Well over a thousand suspects have appeared before court so far, many of them requiring legal aid, many to appeal.

However, there is hope for those who do appeal. For example, a 24-year old mother of two was jailed for five months after admitting handling stolen goods. She has now been freed on appeal a week since her arrest. She played no part in the rioting, but claimed a pair of shorts that her house-mate, also 24, had stolen as part of a bounty of clothes, footwear and accessories. Instead of prison, 75 hours of unpaid work was decreed a more sensible punishment. Her house-mate, who had a previous conviction for theft, was jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty to stealing items worth £625 which she claimed she planned to sell to ease her debts.

Similarly, in May, seven football hooligans jailed for travelling to an organised gang fight had their sentences, which ranged from 12 months to five years, reduced by a quarter on appeal. Their lawyers argued that their sentences – for conspiracy to commit violent disorder – were too long considering that no violence had taken place (Burnley FC ‘Suicide Squad’ members have jail terms cut, Clitheroe Advertiser).

So now the courts will be clogged with appeals and I hope belated leniency and common sense will eventually be shown. But what an embarrassing, wasteful, arse-backward system of dispensing justice we have in Britain. And so much for tough community sentences to take pressure off the prison service.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

65 thoughts on “Disproportionate sentences”

  1. Personally I think paedophiles should be strung up by the knackers and displayed in the town square. :/ I have zero empathy and have have equally heinous thoughts about their ‘defenders’ claiming it’s an illness and they can be rehabilitated (which, by the way, is the biggest bunch of hogwash ever!) These “types” have, in my view, immediately given up any “civil liberties”.

    Disproportionate sentences are by no means unique to the UK I imagine.

    1. Completely disagree. Unless they have acted out on their sexual tendencies and committed a sexual crime against a minor (in which case I would agree with your remedies) they should be treated for their problems, not punished. One should NEVER, under any circumstance, be punished for a way of thinking or for a psychological abnormality that can be controlled. One should only be punished for an actual crime that has occurred or has been attempted.

      I understand the need to be firm when it comes to protecting children, but you have to be smart about it. Making examples of those who have abused children does not make others stop. It will only make them more determined to hide the problem. And if the problem is hidden it cannot be addressed.

      By refusing to treat the innocent for their psychological problems, you just force them underground. And when you force them underground, you make it more likely that they will succumb to their urges, and thus commit a crime. You have to offer a way out for these people to prevent them from making a mistake that will destroy both themselves and their innocent victims.

    2. A bit of a Catch-22 I suppose. In order to “help”, identification would be needed and in order to identify, a crime would have to be perpetrated. I don’t know enough about the rehabilitation process of child sexual predators and its efficacy but do know of the ones who have been repeat offenders and no amount of ‘rehabilitation’ has yielded positive results and they get released back in to society to live a few doors away from a playground or school.

      I don’t have the answer to the problem but I do know that I don’t want them locked up, given food, shelter, clothing (such that it is), psychological counseling, legal advice and the possibility of furthering their education at my expense. And that’s exactly who pays for it — the taxpayer. There isn’t this phantom pot of gold at the end of a rainbow somewhere paying for all of this.

  2. Justice is blind, and life just ain’t fair. Social conservatives spent so much of their energy and time just a few years ago, convincing us that we needed to “lock ’em up and throw away the key.” Then they realized that this is an expensive policy. NOW they want to fire the police, lower judges’ salaries, and close jails. They want us to believe that labor unions and entitlement programs brought us to this point. Which makes no sense. In truth, labor unions and entitlement programs kept millions of people OUT of jail during most of the 20th century.

  3. Just wanted to say THANK YOU for taking the time to write such wonderful, intelligent copy. Perhaps you need to run for office as it appears common sense is rapidly losing ground!

    Kind Regards~~~Annie

  4. On another note, F’Ed, would ya lay off the frivolous topics already? One can only take so much of the games and laughter before one stops taking you seriously!!

    1. :)) So much for Songs from 1971, which got shunted out of the way. We can’t be too serious all the time, though; there’s still time and space for the random nonsense which has, in the absence of news, become the norm.

      Thank you for indulging me and allowing me a soapbox.

    2. Actually, jokes aside, I like the mix of serious and nonsense topics to be found in this Blog.

  5. Good post. Recent weeks have shown that the British justice system is utterly clueless and needs a massive overhaul.

    1. Doesn’t it just? To think how much money is being made off the back of this shambles. Those in the legal profession must be loving this chance to further enrichen themselves.

  6. So, offenders aren’t given appropriate punishments and it costs the country a fortune. A fortune that ought to be spent on the good people of the country who are seeing cuts to services, increased food prices, increased fuel prices and so on.

    I’d like to see paedophiles either kept in prison for a very very long time or castrated or whatever it takes to remove their sexual urges because they are never going to change.

    Does a heterosexual person ever change? No. Does a homosexual person, (once they’ve realised that’s what they are, I mean that nicely, I’ve had friends struggle to discover themselves) ever change? No.

    Why would anyone ever expect a paedophile to change? If they are going to be allowed to live in the community the community should have the confidence that they can never do it again. The bonus is, no more long term reporting to probation officers or whatever it is they have to do. Save that budget for something else.


    1. Don’t forget the cost to the taxpayer for new identities, even plastic surgery in some cases, when those who do serve time in prison are eventually released and fear reprisals. £250,000 for the necessary documentation alone, apparently.

      This should make you wonder if there are not better ways to save public money. £1.5 million to Maxine Carr for a new identity, police protection, a house and even a job on her release? Please. What a shame there isn’t some far away island that’s being wasted on the super-rich for these wasters to be dropped off and left.

      Am I starting to sound like a Daily Mail reader? You can tell me.

  7. I’ll probably comment on bits at a time Fed as it comes to me and as I re-read your post. You’ve written another incredible piece. 🙂

    I think domestic violence offenders should be locked up in a really tough regime for a very long time. No TVs or computer games or cigarettes and lots of hard labour.

    If there are children involved, and they want access, it should be supervised access (after they leave prison, why traumatise children more by taking them to prison visits?) these men gave up their right to see their children when they battered the child’s mother. If they have no respect for her role in their children’s welfare, they ought not to expect her co-operation in facilitating access. There are social services contact centres which do this.


    1. I completely agree with you, Ash, about the treatment domestic violence offenders should deserve.

      Unfortunately, reality is very different, as we can read here.

    2. Yes, in reality, most abusers are not locked up. It seems to be very difficult to prosecute an offender.

      Thisis a British organisation that helps domestic violence victims of any kind. Women, children, men, gay, lesbian. Although this organisation is predominantly to help women and children, they can signpost a male victim to appropriate help.

      I thought it made interesting reading because it describes the various forms DV can take, the reasons it happens, all sorts of other information. Very useful for people suffering abuse and for their friends and extended family who don’t know what to do about it.


    3. Thank you for the link, Ash. It was very interesting to visit the website. This is what we have here.

      This Association’s volunteers actually do a great job. They’re even more helpful now, after the last heavy cuts on (I hope it’s the right translation) state family clinics. :/

  8. I think that ‘la justice expeditive’ (is it ‘summary justice’ in English?), hasty sentencing (I think it’s what happened in England after the last riots) is dangerous and can only lead to injustice, unfairness and abuse.

    Anyway, filling prisons with underclass rioters/looters is a short-term solution which won’t actually solve any problems. The radical solution to prevent an underclass from getting violent and destructive being to not ‘create’ an underclass. Silly, I know, but… Who, what ‘creates’ an underclass? It’s the complex but real problem, not only in England, of course, but in all our so called ‘rich’ countries.

    Another thing I heard is that David Cameron suggested to evict rioters and looters from social housing, that is from their home. I think it’s the worst thing to do, does it mean that he wants them to go back to the streets for ever? Oh!

    Speaking of the four year jail sentence given to a man for setting up a Facebook page encouraging a riot in Warrington, I found this article interesting.

    “If you take these steps, what separates you from the Saudi government demanding the ability to listen to and restrict its BBM networks? What separates you from Arab tyrannies cutting off social communication via Twitter or from China banning it?”

    1. I still think it’s all about turning working people against one another, keeping the underclass down, giving everybody but them someone to blame for their woes other than corrupt bankers and politicians. Cameron and his clueless millionaire cronies should hope that working people don’t turn against the ones who have for many centuries caused the suppression of the poor and the creation of an underclass: the rich.

      I hope that isn’t deemed ‘incitement to violence’, ‘incitement to riot’ or even ‘incitement to bash very firmly on a keyboard’.

    2. or even ‘incitement to bash very firmly on a keyboard’.

      With your forehead. . . :))


  9. It was so interesting to read this post, FEd. You actually did a big research to write it and add the links.

    Unless we read foreign newspapers, just a few of what you told arrives here; that’s why, at least before listening about the recent riots, I thought Britain had less problems with justice.

    I completely agree with Mohamed Hammoudan’s words. Basically, he expressed the same opinion of Italian prisons directors, who went on strike in July to protest against prisons overcrowding. I think numbers might help to realise the seriousness of the situation.

    What can I say about justice? I live in a country where a considerable part of the members of Parliament is/has been condemned or investigated for some kind of crime (corruption, tax evasion…) and where the Government is much busier thinking about new laws to save the Prime Minister from his several condemnations, than the country from going bankrupt.

    So, who would actually deserve to be arrested is most of times free, while prisons are full of drug addicts (uselessly, as they are often not dangerous at all, but just in need of a cure), rioting students and protesters, who are often even judged with summary trials, or illegal immigrants, who are now about the 36% of the total incarcerated population, because of a completely wrong and quite racist law approved by this Government a few years ago.

    Just a shame.

  10. OK. How about sentences that were given to celebrities.

    David Crosby had to serve 9 months in prison for drug charged related to possession of cocaine and heroin. Yet Lindsey Lohan spent a handful of days due to a violation of parole. And that is after two DUIs, failing drug tests, etc.

    Granted there are some 25 years between these sentences but there is no doubt that if a non-celebrity acted up like Lohan has, that the sentences and punishment would be much harsher.

    I also note that Crosby’s more recent brush with the law in 2004 resulted in much less severe punishment. Which also seems to suggest that celebrity gets more breaks than the common folk.



  11. Really mad events re looting and riots over the last few weeks. But it has been on the cards for a few years now. We have been living as a nation on the never never for too long, what we wanted we got but paid for later. And now no one gets credit, no one has jobs or money except the rich who have gotten richer, and we see MPS with their hand in the till, we see the banks getting away with murder, robbing the nation of its wealth, very, very wealthy people living here and paying no tax, corrupt police taking bribes, need I go on? So people thought they can do so can I, there’s always going to be an element who go too far i.e. violence and wanton destruction. Prison has never been an answer but if you give them some national service, a tour of Afghanistan, that would do the trick.

    On a more lighter note, we were at Henley 80s Rewind festival, some great artists on: Average White Band, UB40, Candy Staton, and Kim Wilde was great, Billy Ocean. I nearly got thumped off Kat, as we were stood by the V.I.P. area and Carol Decker stood feet from me, think Kat noticed me drooling. Great weekend, no trouble, great atmosphere and woken every morning by Comfortably Numb blasted out from the arena area. Stayed in a squirt, very comfy. Also thought I spotted David cruising up the Thames, stood on deck of a rather nice launch. :))

    Regards Damian

  12. It is very easy to get through the day without stealing something or falsely accusing someone of rape. Instead of people whining about the sentence they get maybe they should be dwelling on the fact they are in the position they are in because of a choice they made.

  13. One of the difficulties of this debate is knowing how to get a balanced perspective on the actual typical sentencing that occurs. Newspapers will tend to report on the exceptions and these tend to colour the perception of what is happening. Maybe the examples quoted are the principle exceptions in which case the overwhelming majority of thousands of sentences may be more reasonable?

    Looking at principles, I think there is little argument against the use of harsh sentences against violent offenders. Violence against the person, and in particular those who cannot defend themselves should face a combination of custodial sentence with whatever rehabilitative measures can be employed to examine the behaviour and it’s impact on others.

    In contrast, as you suggest, offences against property could be punished by a more productive use of community service / restorative or compensatory measures. This does raise some practical issues. Substantial monitoring / supervision to ensure that the sentence actually achieves it’s ends and protects the public from further opportunistic crimes, potential intimidation or unwanted proximity (I for one wouldn’t want Jeffrey Archer anywhere near me thank you very much!). In an age of unemployment we also need to be wary of using criminals as an unpaid / low-paid workforce. That said there does appear to be plenty of things not getting done – particularly maintaining decaying urban infrastructure which our orange jumpsuited heroes could get to.

    We should also not lose sight of the many petty crimes which exist in a cycle of repeat and ineffective sentence, at the level of magistrate courts, for which nobody seems to have an answer.

    I think it is true to say that on balance the majority of people (no insignificant matter in a democracy) feel that sentencing on the whole is too light for serious offending, but that there must be a better way than prison for less serious offending. The advantage of this is that one would tend to fund the other. This I believe was an issue behind Ken Clark’s insensitive stumbling on the rape issue. Most people are probably convinced that “discounted” sentences are appropriate for offenders who co-operate with the system, save time, money and trauma for victims and who show some remorse. However, rather than shorten existing sentencing, it would probably have been fruitful to double sentences for those who did not co-operate rather than halve sentences for thos who do …. the incentivising effect would be the same.

    Of course, big public incidents like the riots do lead to sentencing which is aimed at deterring repeats … which may be appropriate in what is essentially a copycat type of offending. The law still seems to be dragging itself away from a 19th Century pre-occupation with law against property, which is sad but inevitable.

    It is particularly difficult to make policy to address so many individual circumstances … to what extent does society “excuse” crimes where the perpetrator is poor, disaffected, suffering depression or other extenuating circumstances? How does it differentiate between those genuinely impacted and those who opportunistically use these considerations as a shelter? What does it say about those equally impacted who do not offend? It’s all very difficult. The cases quoted generally look like “no brainers” but do we know all the circumstances to make the judgement? The judges cannot all be idiots (joking aside) and there is I am sure a great deal of pride in the administration of the law by an independent judiciary which remains an essential component of a free society.

    Hey Ho, I’ve rambled on long enough without particularly getting anywhere (as usual). Good thought provoking stuff F’ed, old chap.

    Nice to see the pressure for a bit of disclosure on Hillsborough seems to be paying off as well … makes us all curious to see what’s in those papers, eh?

    Oh and apparently Lauro was less than impressed when someone tried to pass him a red “CHAMP19NS” scarf on Monday night …. now there’s a crime against all decency, don’t you think? 😀

  14. A very sombre ‘Lo All.

    Fed, once again dogs and trees and barking spring to mind. Disproportionate sentencing, eh! I wonder if the panel who are vetting this young chap would be prepared, if he is given his liberty, to have him live in their neighbourhood? Taking into account the use of words such as “brutal” and “frenzied”, “disembowelled”, “extreme danger to the public”, etc., indeed this young fellow will have served approximately the same sentence as the two chaps combined who thought it a good idea to organise a looting party using the Facebook machine during the recent upheaval in the UK.

    At the same time I have noticed a couple of Lord Snooty’s brigade have started to stir up the “Bring back hanging” issue. Do you get my point? I am vehemently opposed to capital punishment. Roy Harper makes a strong point in this song.

    The whole justice system in this country is a disproportionate mess! Be careful how you tread and try and have fun.

    1. Hello Mike. 🙂

      I have to admit, there have been times when I’ve thought re-introduction of capital punishment was necessary, some crimes are just so awful.

      If we are not going to re-introduce the ultimate deterrent, then we somehow have to make prison sentences longer. I think we really need to question whether the mental health authorities are always right.

      I wonder as well, who foots the bill when someone is sent to a secure mental institution for an indefinite period? Health or prison service?

      Prisons have doctors, why aren’t prisons suitable? Certainly specialist psychiatric doctors could still oversee a “patient”.

      Ahhhhhhh, I see, prison overcrowding! That’s it.


    2. Ash,

      In principle the distinction is that if someone is found to be suffering from a mental condition that means they did not act freely, then they are not criminally responsible for their actions and therefore not guilty of a crime. They are placed in a “hospital” for their own care and for the protection of wider society.

      It certainly raised obvious questions about whether the diagnosis is sound and whether we can have confidence in treatment leading to them no longer being a threat to society.

      In this case however they just seem to have got it plain wrong (subject as always to knowing the full facts of course).

  15. FEd,

    Thanks for another great topic and I really feel that paedophiles should be put away for life.

    Take Care, Thomas

  16. I wholeheartedly agree with “rioters and protesters alike who are convicted of first-time offences should be shown some leniency. They don’t need prison, they need anything but; they need an opportunity to try to put things right and to repay their debt to society if they are to believe that such a thing as society exists and that there is a place for them within it.”

    In fact I would like to see a system other than prison that puts people to work for their offences as much as possible. Even as far as looking for ways for the violent and aggressive to pay back rather than time in HMPS… Improving infrastructure, planting trees/gardens anything but sitting as a cost base.

  17. Speaking about people who drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, causing someone else’s death, Italian government is now discussing the introduction of a new crime, called “omicidio stradale” (“road murder”), which, it seems, would be an intermediate level between manslaughter and intentional murder.

    Honestly, I’m in two minds about it: on the one hand I’d agree, because I think everyone who drinks and drives is aware (at least, if not too drunk even to realise it) that he’s putting both himself and others at risk, but he chooses to do it anyway.

    On the other hand, I’m afraid the law could have been proposed just to raise people’s attention and bring discredit on those who, our mass media (but not official statistics) say, are mostly responsible for driving under the influence of drugs and causing accidents: immigrants, of course.

    Sorry for my ignorance, but does road murder exist in your countries? I couldn’t find anything about it searching the web.

    1. There’s a charge of ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ in the UK. For this, the maximum punishment is 14 years’ imprisonment, I believe, but I don’t recall any case where more than a few years was served.

      I do recall the case of a police driving instructor who crashed into a car, killing the driver. Somehow he was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving but was found guilty of ‘careless driving’ instead. For this he received a fine and was banned from driving for six months. There was no disciplinary action.

      Another famous case was that of Gary Hart, responsible for ten deaths after he fell asleep at the wheel and his car ended up on a railway line, which a train then crashed into. His punishment: five years in jail and a five-year driving ban.

    2. Here, France, according to our penal code:

      ‘Causing death by careless driving’ -> 5 years of imprisonment and a 75.000 euro fine.

      ‘Causing death by dangerous driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs’ -> 7 years of imprisonment and a 100.000 euro fine.

      ‘Causing death by dangerous driving + at least two aggravating circumstances’ -> 10 years of imprisonment and a 150.000 euro fine.

    3. Thank you for the explanation and for the links.

      After reading both of the articles, I can’t help wondering if voluntarily driving at almost double the speed limit on a public road would have been anyway judged less seriously than accidentally falling asleep at the wheel (without being drunk, if I understood well), or if that happened only because a policeman was driving.

      Please, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not the kind of person who is necessarily against the police, but I think no one can deny some professional orders (politicians, policemen and doctors, first, in my experience) are/feel above the law and nearly untouchables.

      Genoa G8 trials are surely the most emblematic and sickening examples I can recall. Here are some recent news from Amnesty International.

      What the article doesn’t make clear is that either some of the policemen, or the civilian doctor who were found guilty of the violences at the Diaz school and the Bolzaneto barracks, instead of being incarcerated, were all promoted to higher and very well-paid professional levels.

      It might seem impossible, but, unfortunately, it’s true.

    4. Thanks for the information, Michèle. Taking for granted that it’s correctly applied, it looks like a fair law.

  18. This struck me as being completely at odds with the Draconian sentences being handed out willy-nilly to anyone even loosely connected to the riots.

    Obviously I know nothing about the background/personal circumstances of the 70 year old involved but, to me, it just doesn’t add up. Why was he treated in this manner (ie. with a bit of common sense) when so many other people have had their futures taken from them for a moment of stupidity? Wonder if he’s the father of an MP.

    You’re spot on that this is about turning working people against one another, all working people, middle-class included (although whether they’d appreciate being lumped in with the Proles is another matter). The scrapping of child benefit when one parent earns £44 000 being an example. It’ll start off at that level but now that it’s been accepted in principle that figure will drop.

    Same crap with tuition fees in England and Wales – and shame on Tony Blair for introducing them in the first place.

    Wonder what the Glasgow Extreme Paint-balling Champion will get. (A lifetime’s supply of deep fried Mars Bars if it was anything to do with me.)

  19. Off topic everyone, I’m sorry. I just wanted to send goodwill and best wishes to all preparing for the upcoming and rare North American East Coast double feature of the 5.9 Magnitude earthquake and Hurricane Irene. How cynical they are, the weather team who chose that name for the storm! 8| :))

    That earthquake shook us hard, but damage was much worse in Washington DC: the Washington Monument is the tallest stone obelisk in the world, and the tallest structure in the city. That crack at the very top of the monument is 4 feet long and according to authorities, you can see daylight through it. They are finding more cracks every day. My husband and I were in the city just 2 days before, we’re a bit shaken ourselves. The Monument is a beloved national landmark: I wouldn’t be surprised if 1/2 to 1 million visitors a year went to its top, which has the best view of the city and is central to the Washington Mall. Marathon joggers trained going up and down the inside steps. Now authorities upon quoting a $1B price tag at restoring the Washington Monument have for safety reasons shut it down indefinitely to visitors. The Washington National Cathedral and Smithsonian Castle were also damaged. The central spire of the Cathedral was very heavily dislodged with sculptural stone littering the ground. Broken glass and masonry, cracks in buildings.That quake caused panic in the streets for fear that the shaking and rumbling was another 9/11, one of my friends was there.

    1. The immense power of nature in indeed amazing and continues to do what it has been doing since the beginning of time! Some people felt the earthquake in New York and took to the streets. I didn’t feel a thing but my son was at home and said the wall unit shook in the living room. A colleague in an adjacent office thought he was having a heart attack until the building PA system announced what was going on. Missed the effects of Ms. Irene as well but within blocks of me, others were less fortunate. Colleagues are still without power and telephone service and many have flooded basements. In my area, the emergency services response has been extraordinary — hats off to all of them.

    2. Some of us felt the earthquake up here in Ottawa, though we were very fortunate to be just beyond the edge of Irene’s path of destruction a few days later.

  20. G’day FEd,

    Great to see the Blog alerts up and running again.

    The riots were a shock to me from this side of the globe. I know the last few topics must be difficult for the people of England and previous events for the Gilmour family. I hope the gap in between the rich and poor, the educated and those with no opportunity for it will be addressed World wide. I also hope that paedophiles get locked up forever.

    On a different subject 5 years since Live in Gdansk, can you believe it? It’s great to be able to watch this performance whenever I like. Thanks again to all the crew for recording this concert. I’m hoping to have a live in Gdansk night in August 2013 for my 50th birthday on my 5 acres of land at the base of the world heritage listed border ranges.

    Stay healthy and happy,

    1. On a different subject 5 years since Live in Gdansk, can you believe it?

      I can’t. Where has the time gone?

    2. I was just listening to the Gdansk CD at lunchtime. That version of Echoes is superb – DG’s guitar tone (and playing) is amazing.

  21. Just wanted to let you all know what’s going on with this hurricane that’s hitting the East Coast of the US. It’s devastating or is about to devastate the most populated areas of America: Philadelphia, New York, Washington. This storm is 500 miles wide. Where I am in upstate New York, we’re on the fringes of this storm. We’re going to get a lot of rain and lots of wind, the power may be out for half a day, but we’re going to be okay. My brothers in New York City may not fare so well, though. Authorities have actually shut down the subways, airports and trains for the first time ever!!

    1. Actually, they DID shut down the airports, subways and trains of New York just after the tragic events of 9/11/01. This is the first time it’s done for a NATURAL disaster.

    2. I got the facts wrong when I posted this, during the storm. The storm didn’t cause any longterm damage in the cities. It caused severe flooding that wreaked havoc farther inland, especially in the states of New York, Vermont and Massachusetts which got over a foot of rain during the storm. My brothers in New York City were unhurt, and neither was I (in the area of Albany, NY). But just three miles away from me, a river rose fourteen feet above its banks and left entire sections of my city under water. In the region, entire villages and towns, some of which are hundreds of years old, were washed away.

      It is BAD!! The entire state of Vermont was severely damaged by the floods. One river changed course and is now running through what was a small city.

    3. Dan, I was so sorry to see what happened on the TV news. The flooding looked as bad as the tsunami that hit Japan. Along a longer coastline too.

      The water damage must be terrible and sewers always spew out their contents too during such an event. I imagine it will take a long time to clear it all up. The subways must be in a terrible state and this of course will cause transport problems for a long time.

      I wish you and all our American readers the best of luck. 🙂


  22. Sorry for being off topic once more, but I heard some worrying news about Hurricane Irene, which is now hitting United States. It seems there were nine deaths in North Carolina and Virginia and many problems in New York and other cities.

    I just hope all American bloggers who live in affected areas are safe.

  23. Were you ever in the paper business beforehand Fed? Not as a young delivery person, because your research indicates thorough knowledge in this field. Just thought I’d ask.


    1. That’s very kind of you, Frank. I have delivered my fair share of newspapers, actually. Bloody hard work on a Sunday with all those inserts.

  24. Oh dear, oh dear.

    Talk about harsh punishments … 8-2 at Old Trafford for fielding a team of muppets … I think it’s time David picked a sensible team to support. :))

    1. Speaking of football, should we (Lille) really feel so pleased and proud about Liverpool’s deal with LOSC for the loan transfer of Joe Cole for the season? You are a ‘Reds specialist’, is he such a terrific player? I wonder…

      Oh but Arsenal got our Gervinho… 🙁

      1. Well, I hope Lille get more out of him than Liverpool did.

        I’m just waiting to hear that Craig Bellamy has returned to Anfield, which is a good bit of business, along with confirmation that Raul Meireles isn’t going anywhere.

        Love this Deadline Day lark.

  25. Did you read this news in today’s Guardian?

    “A Guardian analysis of 1,000 riot-related cases heard by magistrates found those already sentenced were receiving prison terms 25% longer than normal and a 70% overall rate of imprisonment which compared with a “normal” rate of just 2%.”

  26. Jim Devine was sentenced to 16 months for cheating his expense claims, robbing British taxpayers effectively when we trusted him to represent us and behave properly and lawfully.

    In the first place, 16 months is not enough because he knew he was doing it. Is this not abuse of trust and power?

    The final insult, he’s only served four months!


  27. I’ve just read that Polly and David’s son lost his appeal against jail sentence. I’m sorry about it. The title of this topic seemed just perfect to describe his situation, that’s why I decided to leave my comment here.

    Maybe, if his father were a cop…

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