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

- George Washington

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Riot sentences "too severe"

According to 'MPs and justice campaigners', some of the sentences handed down in the last few days to people convicted of offences during the recent riots are too severe.

On Tuesday two men were jailed for four years for using Facebook to incite riots and another was given 18 months for having a stolen TV in his car.
Just think: if we were in the habit of giving sentences like as a routine, would the rioters perhaps have thought twice about burning and stealing other people's property in the first place?

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said sentences "should be about restorative justice" not retribution.

Then Tom Brake is a muppet. Retribution has always been a legitimate purpose of sentencing. It expresses society's rejection of the behaviour and lets the rest of us feel that the problem has been dealt with - that awful pop-psych thing of 'closure'.

Mr Brake told the BBC's Newsnight that some of those convicted had received sentences which would have been different if they had committed the same crime the day before the riots.

Told you he's a muppet. Of course they were different. If I light a cigarette in my garden, that is a very different thing from society's point of view than* if I light it in my local petrol station on delivery day.

"This should be about restorative justice - in other words making people acknowledge the offences they have committed - and preferably, if the victims want it, [to] actually sit down face to face with the victims so that they can hear from the victims the impact they have had. But it should not be about retribution," he said.

Personally, if I have just had my business burned to the ground or my home and its contents destroyed, the last thing I would want is to sit down with the perpetrators and discuss it - unless it was in a closed room, no cameras, and I had an AK47 to help me out.

Leading criminal barrister John Cooper QC said he believed the sentences were "over the top" and were likely to be overturned by the Court of Appeal.

I'm sure if he has anything to do with it, they will.

"What we need to remember here is that there's a protocol for sentencing, and there are rules and procedures in sentencing which make them effective and make them fair. What we can't do, in my view, in situations like this, is suddenly throw the rule book away simply because there's a groundswell of opinion."

Well for one thing, John Cooper QC is a barrister, which means he is employed by the rest of us, not the other way round. And yes, you can throw away the rule-book because of a groundswell of opinion. The rule-book is only the groudswell of popular opinion taken over a longer period of time, after all. Bring on elected Police chiefs!

Sitting at Manchester Crown Court, sentencing Judge Andrew Gilbart QC said: "I have no doubt at all that the principal purpose is that the courts should show that outbursts of criminal behaviour like this will be and must be met with sentences longer than they would be if the offences had been committed in isolation.

"For those reasons I consider that the sentencing guidelines for specific offences are of much less weight in the context of the current case, and can properly be departed from."


In the comments, from John O'Hagan:

Since this country is good at out sourcing services to Mumbai and other places, what say we out source our Prisons to Mumbai where real prisons exist, would probably only cost the tax payer around £2 per day you would'nt get much rioting after that i can tell you


* Yes, I know we say 'different from' and the Americans say 'different than', but the first sounded wrong and the second sounded right, OK?


  1. I knew it wouldn't take long for some lilly livered MP to start wetting his pants about people actually going to prison.
    Restorative justice? Throw away the bloody key.
    I know I wouldn't want to sit and have a nice chat over a cup of tea with some bugger who had ruined my livelyhood.
    You're right. He's definately a muppet

  2. "Just think: if we were in the habit of giving sentences like as a routine, would the rioters perhaps have thought twice about burning and stealing other people's property in the first place? "

    It's hard to say - no-one ever seems to expect to get caught, after all.

  3. It's a little easy to write off the rioters and pretend that harsh sentences will allow "us feel that the problem has been dealt with".

    The backlash against these "people" is justified - but our focus is poorly aimed. There should be a genuine attempt to understand and correct why so many resorted to this act of wanton looting and destruction.

    If this isn't done - it will happen again. Perhaps its the influence of rap music, the fact hoodies make you evil or a symptom of capitalist consumerism on the verge of collapse signalled by a Spartacus moment where the unemployed, the poor, the ones with no future, took back what was taken.

    Judge for yourself, and lets face it, we have judged every single one of them without judging the very sick society that has produced them.

    Each one convicted so far has been responsible for from anything to a few quid to thousands and thousands of pounds damage. Let us not forget our MP's stole the same from us not so long ago.

    Let us not forget the financial collapse built on a pathetic house of cards has caused untold damage. And still they haven't fixed the foundation.

    The MP's are still free.
    The bankers are free and getting their bonuses still.

    Tell me, who really is costing this country?

  4. MPs, whatever their faults, and there were and are many, were not violent. Bankers, conscience-free graspers though they are, were not violent.

    Money is only money. Torching people's homes and businesses and murdering people is something else. You cannot conflate expenses cheating and financial skulduggery with violent disorder and mob aggression. I am pleased to see that, for once, the judiciary appear to be taking this seriously and are handing out penalties which are more commensurate with the crime.


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