Those hard arsed Crown Court judges - Part 2

Jailing those involved in the riots for longer than they deserve risks undermining confidence in the justice system, lawyers and campaigners said today.

Lets have a quick show of hands. Who thinks there is any confidence left in the justice system to undermine?
The warning that the rush to send out a tough message and to make an example of those involved in violence was leading to "some very bad sentences" came as members of the coalition Government appeared split over the issue.

Define bad sentences. So far, apart from these two Facebook guys who have been jailed for two years apiece, most of the sentences have been fairly lame. I know we like to let burglars and violent criminals off with a slap on the wrist, but these people can't be treated as though the crimes they committed were isolated. The fact that they played a part in the mindless rioting has to be taken into account and the sentences have to reflect that.

The only bad thing about the sentences we have seen so far is that they, dare I say it, don't go far enough.
Human rights lawyers and criminal barristers also warned against a "knee-jerk response" by the courts over the violence and looting following "the public's anger and the politicians' rhetoric".

I can understand criminal barristers having a concern, they are there to see that everyone gets a fair trial, but I think their comments should be limited to individual cases and kept within the arena of the courts. As long as their defendants have been granted their right to proper representation, fair enough, let the judges throw the book at them, it needs to be done.

As for human rights lawyers, well...

But Mr Cameron said: "What happened on our streets was absolutely appalling behaviour and to send a very clear message that it's wrong and won't be tolerated is what the criminal justice system should be doing.
"They decided in that court to send a tough sentence, send a tough message and I think it's very good that courts are able to do that."

He's right, there do need to be real consequences in the aftermath of these riots. This may be all politicians bluster, but weather or not the Camermong has any real backbone, his words are true and the judges need to hear it.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes admitted there were "two strands of political opinion" in the coalition and so there were bound to be "different voices" on what response there should be to the riots.
"The people who have criminal offences can expect no mercy," he told Sky News.
"But I hope the courts will look more sympathetically on a youngster who has never had a criminal offence and may have been swept up into the system."

Well then that's for the courts to decide, but on the other hand, we don't want youngsters with no criminal record to be given the impression that there are no repercussions for criminal behaviour.

Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell also took a swipe at Tories who have been demanding tough prison sentences for rioters.

Actually he didn't. He said that politicians should keep their opinions to them selves, whatever they may be.

"With all due deference to the Prime Minister, politicians should not be either cheering nor booing in the matter of sentencing," he said.


Leading criminal barrister John Cooper QC warned that judges and magistrates had a duty "not to be influenced by angry Britain", describing some of the sentences handed down already as "disproportionate and somewhat hysterical".

None of the sentences handed down so far can be considered hysterical. If you treat each case as a single act and stay within the sentencing guidelines then yes, some are disproportionate. They are not however, influenced by public opinion, they are influenced by the fact that these were not stand alone criminal acts but were part of the overall situation of rioting, arson, looting and general wanton criminal behaviour. That needs to be taken into account.

Sally Ireland, director of criminal justice policy at the Justice campaign group, also said several cases appeared "very much outside the normal range", adding that giving rioters disproportionate sentences to make an example out of them could "compromise confidence in the justice system".

The criminal acts that these people are being punished for are 'very much outside the normal range'. Somebody who works for 'justice campaign group' should surely want justice for the victims here, who have had their very livelihoods destroyed. Or is it just the criminals they campaign for?
She pointed to that of 23-year-old college student Nicolas Robinson, of Borough, south east London, who, despite having no criminal record, was jailed for six months on Thursday for stealing a £3.50 case of bottled water from a Lidl supermarket in Brixton, south London, during a night of rioting.

Put that way, she makes it sound like a petty first time shoplifter has been sent down for six months. That isn't the case. Lidl was looted and wrecked, affecting the lives of the employees, the business owners and the insurance company that is responsible for paying for it all, it's not just about a £3.50 case of bottled water.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns for the Howard League for Penal Reform, added that the rush to send a message out was leading to "some very bad sentences, which will be overturned on appeal".

They may be but I think the appeal courts will look in favour of the original sentences rather than go soft in these cases.

If we really want justice, this is not the time to be looking at the soft, limp wristed community punishments we are used to. It's time to get tough, not just now but for the future too. Crime has to be punished. It's about time the courts got tough on all thieves and violent offenders, not just today but for all the days to come.


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