Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Sentencing of Rioters

There has been some concern expressed from some quarters, including here, regarding the sentencing of those involved in the recent riots.

Personally, I feel the District Judges and Crown Court Judges have not been politically influenced. I rather suspect that, having been constrained for years by our ludicrous sentencing guidelines, the Judges have jumped at the opportunity to step outside of the constraints of those guidelines and give sentences that appear to actually reflect the offence and public demand.

Those who work outside of the failing justice system in this country need to be aware that the sentences given bear little resemblance to time actually served. For example, an offender looting a shop and pleading guilty to burglary has been attracting a tariff of around 3 years imprisonment. A third is taken off for a guilty plea, and so we are down to two years. The offender is eligible for Home Detention Curfew (introduced in 1999) after serving just one quarter of their sentence. So what may seem a harsh 2 years prison actually means 6 months prison followed by around 3 months on a curfew order at home. The home curfew usually applies from 8pm to 6 am but may be less or up to 12 hours maximum. (The maximum curfew may be increased to 16 hours in the near future.)

Shorter sentences are equally reduced. Magistrates currently are only allowed to impose a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment. A sentence of 6 months results in 3 months prison at the most and usually 2.

Recently we had a spate of burglaries. The suspect for these offences had been sentenced to 5 years in prison (he had convictions for more than 60 offences) in 2009. You may be forgiven for thinking he could not be responsible as he must be in prison. We have learnt this means nothing and always check. The prisoner may be on weekend release, work experience or even paroled. This man had been released on parole after 14 months in prison.

Successive Governments have conned the public regarding prison sentences and the lack of almost any rehabilitation for those serving less than three years. These policies are just parts of the significant failings of the justice system and one of the reasons the system fails to deal with offenders effectively either from a punitive or rehabilitative perspective.


  1. At the risk of joining a procession of similar posts:-

    By my rough calculation he had been sentenced to a total of 30 years over 3 discrete periods of offending involving violently assaulting (physically and sexually) and robbing females.

    He served (depending on which reports you read) between 16 and 18 years.

    Doubtless these crimes, and his latest spree are the fault of the police for failing to monitor him.
    Still things will be a lot better when these back office posts get cut....


  2. Sentencing that I have witnessed over the years has often made me think that Gilbert and Sullivan were on to something when they penned "Trial By Jury" - many a true word etc.
    As for punishments fitting not the crime but the guidelines which, in turn, fit the only justice model you can currently operate, this is hardly the way to run a ballroom. Rather than planning from the desired outcome and then working backwards, it's a bit like going to war but deciding beforehand that because of your resources, you will only fire your weapons in the months that don't have the letter `R` in them and hope that no one will notice.