Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I have to admit still being puzzled by suspended prison sentences. To me, a crime is either so serious that only a prison sentence is appropriate or it isn't. What are we actually saying when we suspend a sentence ? And how do you explain it to the victim of a crime when the perpetrator "gets off with" a suspended sentence order.

I had two recent examples that might help. Both of these came into my court on the same day.

(1) A rather nasty common assault - two drunk young women beat up another drunk woman - with kicks and blows to the head with stiletto shoes. Had a bunch of equally drunk lads not intervened, I'm sure there would have been a murder. Both girls had little previous. Sentence : 12 weeks immediate custody

(2) Local cab driver with a serious cocaine addiction that he funded by stealing golf equipment from cars at the many plush golf courses in my area. Charged with theft and possession. Fairly extensive previous for similar. Sentence : 12 weeks suspended.

So what were the difference ?

* The girls had no dependents i.e. nobody else would be harmed by them being imprisoned
* The girls had committed a violent crime
* The girls were first-time offenders
* The cabbie had substance issues that probation reckoned could be addressed through a drug treatment programme. This could prevent further offending in a way that 12 weeks prison would be unlikely to manage.
* The cabbie had children.

There's no scientific way of putting the above together and deciding to get G4S to take the girls down and releasing the cabbie rather than vice-versa. We could have decided it was a "bit extreme" to send two first-timers to prison. We could have decided that the cabbie's considerable previous meant that he was due some stick this time. In the end, we need to decide which outcome is best for society as a whole.

Now there's a phrase that bears repeating : "... we need to decide which outcome is best for society as a whole"

Heck of a job description, isn't it ?!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


... is the German word for "Rubber Bullets". Sounds to me like a new type of Haribo - a bit like Gummi Bears, just shaped like a bullet.

Anyway, I left for a holiday in Germany the night after the riots kicked off . My foot was still messed up after the accident and I had meanwhile picked up some species of fever that burned so fiercely that I couldn't sleep and so I watched over and over again on the 24-hour news channel as familiar towns repeatably burned and the financial markets entered a repeated death-spiral.

I couldn't help humming "Ride of the Valkyrie" - it was that kind of night.

While in Germany I wasn't out of touch because I had the "Bild" newspaper and my erratic German language skills.

Here's a link to one of my favourite articles :-

(original)       Kann ich jetzt noch nach London reisen?  
(translation)   Can I still travel to London ?

What's the German for "Yes - of course you can - just avoid the bits that are on fire" ?

After a wonderful holiday full of good beer, Currywurst and way too many Brötchen, I came back to find that the English press and political establishment weren't any more coherent than a sleazy German tabloid with more boobs than headlines.

But you know what ? I'm going to be one of the few people in the country who doesn't have a strong opinion on "What Must Be Done". You see, I don't live in these neighbourhoods and anything I said would be under-informed and naive.

Exactly like the Lie-Dem MPs for Waitroseshire who seem to think the Mags and Judges should have given the thugs a nice big hug and a community centre.

Or the Tory Boys who ran amok in the early '90s with the Bullingdon Posse - they want a big stick for poor people who smash stuff up.

As for the Labour Party - I couldn't work out from their impenetrable billshut what exactly their position was. Sorry.

Vote Stan.