If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Devine Justice 2

Well, he could hardly have expected to get off after virtually confessing live on Channel 4, now could he? From the BBC:
Ex-Labour MP Jim Devine has been jailed for 16 months for fraudulently claiming £8,385 in expenses.

Devine was last month found guilty of using false invoices for cleaning and printing work.
He's not as nice as he looks, you know. He made up stories about his former office manager, Marion Kinley, to justify firing her, and she was awarded £35,000 damages by a tribunal for unfair dismissal. He couldn't pay, and was declared bankrupt last month, so she never received a penny. Even during his trial (and presumably under oath) he claimed that she forged his signature to pay herself more than £5000, although his legal team now admit that this was false.

Sixteen months sounds about right - until you read this:
Devine's lawyer said he would probably serve eight months - but could get out in four with good behaviour.
I know I've said this before, but why was he sentenced to 16 months if he will automatically get out in 8? And why do the defence team think that it will be halved again? Sentencing in this case, as in all the other cases I read about, is a nonsense. Of course, there's the sympathy whinge:
In mitigation, Devine's lawyer said the fraud had been "entirely out of character" and prison would "bear heavily on him" as he suffers high blood pressure and has lost his reputation as well as his 30-year political career.

He's been sentenced to prison, which is the least we could hope for. And good riddance to a nasty, dishonest bully.


  1. "Devine's lawyer said the fraud had been "entirely out of character" "

    As he is also a proven liar, how would they know?

  2. He was a Labour Party official. Didn't you know that makes him 'good' by definition?

    He only lied on behalf of the downtrodden, or something. And the office manager was obviously a Tory stooge. Anyway, this is all a Murdoch plot to target decent, hardworking socialists - or was that the other Scottish idiot Sheridan?

    Whatever. He's spending tonight in prison. That's enough for me.

  3. "I know I've said this before, but why was he sentenced to 16 months if he will automatically get out in 8?"

    This really, really bugs me too. It ought to be mandatory that when the judge give the sentence, they also give the REAL time that will be served, minus the expected discounts.

    If I was Justice Minister, that's what I'd be legislating f...

    Oh. Hang on. If I was Justice Minister, there wouldn't be any automatic discounts in the first place!

  4. I expect it is to keep the headline figures looking reasonable, and the expectations of the casual reader satisfied. Armed robbery? Eight years? Sounds about right. By the time the crim gets out in four, the headline figure has been forgotten.

    It's fundamentally dishonest. If all sentences are halved automatically, then the half-sentence is the sentence. And it's not as if it happens in 'some' or even 'most' cases. As far as I have been able to find out, it is assumed by all involved (except those who pay for it, naturally) that a sentence will be half of the headline tariff. I haven't been able to find out when this came in, or under whom, or for what reason, and I have tried. I have a friend who is a circuit judge. I'll ask him next time I see him.

    Where the extra '50% off' comes from with Devine heaven only knows.

  5. Richard, the Criminal Justice Act 2003 gives him an automatic release on licence half way through his sentence(which means he can be recalled if he breaches the terms of his licence). The additional reduction of up to half of his sentence is on the basis of his good behaviour in prison. Given that each adult prisoner costs us about £30,000 per year, it is to our advantage that non-violent offenders are processed as quickly and cheaply as possible. Four months is still a long time to keep one's cheeks clenched and fear physical attacks from prisoners who want to assert their higher place in the moral pecking order over an ex-MP. But for someone who's worked his way up ScotsLabour, prisonlife should be a doddle. It's a pity many prison farms have been closed as working in the piggery would have been appropriate for him.

  6. Brian, thanks, and I appreciate the explanation. I've asked plenty of people, but you are the first to come up with a coherent answer. 2003 ... that would be, oh, can't remember the name of the PM then ...

    I understand the costs argument, but isn't it a bit illogical to say that "it is to our advantage that non-violent offenders are processed as quickly and cheaply as possible"? Following that line of argument, why imprison them at all? It would be cheaper to let them go. After all, doesn't the sentencing tariff aleady distinguish between violent and non-violent offences? If we don't want to keep non-violent offenders in for as long (for whatever reason), why not just reduce the tariff and be straight about it? (These questions are rhetorical and not directed at you, by the way.)

    I would agree that Devine will be at risk of some physical attention (although I very much doubt of the sexual kind), but I am sure the authorities will make sure that he serves his sentence well away from all of that.

    You're right about the prison farms, although I would be more than happy to have him doing hard labour on the Siberian railway, for example.

  7. Richard,
    The CJA 2003 is the law of unintended cosequences for three MPs.
    I consider that most prison sentences are still too "one-size fits all" which don't achieve what they are intended to. There should instead be very short custodial sentences to scare the bejabers out of most people and much longer, educational sentences for hard nuts to address iliteracy and innumeracy and cure drug addiction. Murder, rape, serious assaults and child sex crimes deserve the thick end of sentences regardless of the offender, however. Prison works but only if prisoners work to reform themselves and are not simply warehoused.
    You may recall that Boy George was released after 4 months of a 15 month sentence (was that because he was enjoying it? :-))on condition that he was under curfew and tagged for the remainder and reported to his probation officer. Now tags can be removed and put on a Canada goose, but I don't think Devine is capable of that.
    On the topic of early release, in theory it's a good idea (saves money, allows offender to reintegrate into law-abiding society) but, like the very similiar care in the community, it is under-resourced because the Ministers, MPs and Senior Civil Servants are nicely insulated from the consequences of their policies.
    Sentence tariffs can be increased for violence and hate factors and reduced for pleading guilty etc (the CPS produce guidelines). If the MSM reported the Judge's reasons for the sentence (CJA 2003 s174)then we might be more understanding.
    I hope Devine isn't segregated under section 45 with the sex-offenders and police. Better that he uses his experience as an MP to assist his fellow inmates and their families.

  8. Agreed, as long as your 'short custodial sentences' are unpleasant enough to work. There is indeed an argument for longer-term rehabilitative sentences, where the conditions could be fairly civilised, but to be blunt, for prison to work as a deterrent it's got to be pretty nasty and people need to be frankly scared of going. At the moment, I don't think that is true.

  9. Agreed, for many of the underclass the opportunity to "earn" a bluebird or dot neck tattoo is an aspiration. For many, prison offers the purpose, security, and order that is lacking in their lives on the outside. It's all very well being libertarian for the majority of functional people but some do need the State to sort them out.
    Peter Hitchens reckoned the rot set in when mainly middle-class suffragettes and conscientious objectors were imprisoned and opinion was that they shouldn't be treated so harshly. The Marxist orthodoxy of sociology which placed the blame for criminal behaviour on the evils of male, capitalist society finally kicked the chair away from the idea that prison should be a punishment as well as reformative of character.

  10. Of course, you could also say that about the Army - discpline, order, shape to their lives. Some people need it, and it's a shame that we as a society can't provide it. (That's 'society' as in a collection of individuals, not a collectivist state.) I've heard that thought before about conchies and suffragettes, and I think it is true.


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