Thursday, 7 March 2013

I can't be the only one amazed when judges actually hand down a tough sentence these days

From this morning's Daily Telegraph:

Two men were jailed for drugging and raping vulnerable young girls after trawling the streets looking for “fresh meat”.

Shazad Rehman, 30, and Bilal Hussain, 23, plied ther girls with alcohol and cannabis and took them to hotels where they abused them. The men went out to target vulnerable victims in Keighley and Halifax, West Yorks. The girls said they got so drunk they were not aware of what was happening. One, a 14-year old, said: “The choice was either have sex with them or get beaten up."

Yesterday, they were both found guilty at Bradford Crown Court of raping two girls and assaulting others. Rehman was jailed for…

I realised at that point that I had absolutely no idea what was coming next – twelve months suspended for two years? Four years each, minus the period they’d spent on remand, and two years off for good behaviour, so they’d only spend 18 months in prison?
I was pleasantly surprised – astonished, even - to learn that these two charmers had received sentences of eighteen-and-a-half and seventeen-and-a-half years.


In July, 2011, two 20-year old men raped an eleven year old girl in Luton. They filmed part of this vile outrage on a mobile phone. When tried, they were each sentenced to three years and four months. After the case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Attorney-General,  the sentences were doubled to seven years (which still strikes me as lenient – she was 11, for God’s sake).

Thank goodness that unduly lenient sentences are routinely sent to the Court of Appeal. Apart for the 2011 Luton child-rape case, sentences in another 96 cases that year were increased after being referred to a higher authority. One of these was a case in which Cherie Booth – yes, Tony Blair’s ghastly wife – chose not to send a drug dealer to jail, despite the fact that he’d been caught with nearly £150,000-worth of cocaine on him. The Court of Appeal reviewed the case and, having described the original non-sentence as a “startling result”, sentenced him to three-and-a-half years (still ridiculously lenient, of course, but – hey – better than nothing).

As a non-Big Stater, I’m okay with the judiciary remaining largely independent of government: I don’t particularly want the length of sentences to go up and down like a whore’s drawers depending on whether there’s an election in the offing or whether some transient politician needs an approving headline in the Sun to help them cling to office. But as a convinced hanger-and-flogger, I’d love to know why the system keeps appointing judges who seem so utterly uninterested in championing the safety of the law-abiding. It would also be interesting to know what sort of punishment is meted out to judges whose limp-wristed sentences have to be revised by more public-spirited, unselfish, sensible judges at a later date.

One of the reasons why Britons feel so disillusioned with the criminal justice system is that sentencing decisions appear to be so random, so arbitrary that they often seems to be based on the whim of judges more interested in demonstrating how wonderfully compassionate they are than in protecting the law-abiding. Perhaps, as I recommended in a previous post, a tattooist should be employed to etch Adam Smith’s wonderful adage on the inside of judges' eyelids: Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.

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