Thursday, 25 August 2011

Justice system - double standards

My column in this week's Cornish Guardian builds on my previous comments on the rioting. It focuses on some of the sentencing that followed and the double-standards. Thanks to Cornish Zetetics, who I have quoted. The piece was as follows:

Civilized countries need a justice system that treats everyone fairly, is consistent and proportionate, and seeks to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes.

You may recall that in last week’s Cornish Guardian, I wrote about the rioting that had taken place in a number of English cities. And I welcomed the fact that those individuals who rioted, and took part in violent disorder, were being dealt with severely by the courts.

I stand by that view, but I did not envisage that I would be so perplexed at the extent of some of the sentences being handed out.

For example, I could not comprehend why one single parent with no previous convictions, who did not take part in the riots but accepted a single piece of stolen clothing, could be sentenced to five months in jail.

One local on-line commentator has compared the experience of this woman to those of another, more fortunate, class of individual – an MP. He wrote:

Ursula Nevin – “Stretford woman (two children, one and five years old) in prison for five months after pleading guilty to receiving stolen goods (a pair of shorts) from a rioter.”

Hazel Blears MP – “Salford woman (no children) accused of defrauding taxpayers of £13,320 in unpaid capital gains tax. When discovered admitted guilt by writing out cheque for Inland Revenue. Remains uncharged. Not in prison and keeps her £65,000 a year salary.”

I consider this to be a telling comparison. It shows that there is massive inequity at the heart of our justice system. How could one person receive such a disproportionate sentence? And would she have been “got off” if she had offered to give the shorts back – of course she wouldn’t have!

I am particularly appalled at the comments of right-wing MPs, who have been lining up to demand ever more severe sanctions on offenders including the eviction of families from their homes.

One of the most outspoken Tories has been work and pensions spokesman James Clappison, who has even called for a reduction in benefit payments.

But this is man who already owns two “homes” outright – as well as 22 other properties – and yet has somehow managed to claim over £100,000 in second home expenses (or benefits) since 2001. Money which was spent on such things as utility bills, property improvements including the refurbishment of brass fittings on his front door, a television licence and cable television bill, as well as gardening costs – including petunias, geraniums and busy lizzies.

It’s another wonderful case of double standards if you ask me.

For information, Ursula Nevin has rightly had her sentence reduced to 75 hours community service. James Clappison MP has paid back the £38.50 he should not have claimed for bedding plants. No action has been taken and he has not been jailed for five months.


PaulS said...

Dick makes a good point in comparing the grossly unequal treatment of the two women.

But there is more.

Many young people are now waking up to the horrible reality that their parents and their grandparents have stolen their future. And not just their future, but also the future of several following generations.

Let me remind you:
- conspicuous consumption by all of us, even the relatively poor, over the past 50 years (compare to the previous 50 years)
- destruction of the planetary environment probably leading to desertification of the majority of land surface
- destruction of ocean life, from corals to game fish
- unthinking waste of the most dense energy source known to man created millions years ago (oil and gas)without creating an alternative
- imminent collapse of the world financial system and thus our current economic system
- imposition of a university fine of some £30,000 plus on each young student whilst prior generations contributed nothing, either then or now
- elimination of life chances for most young people, particular those sentenced by the system to either do drugs or be for ever poor.

Wouldn't you riot?
I would and I expect lot more anger and many more riots to come.

But then 'Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?' said Groucho Marx and all of us. The difference is that we mean it!


Kilsally said...

Or the Facebook posters who got 4 years for inciting a riot that never actually happened - compared to recent case in Northern Ireland where a guy threatened to shoot Gregory Campbell MP via a post on Facebook and he got off with a suspended sentence.