Saturday, February 17, 2007

Activist Judges Reduce All Sentences At A Stroke

Remember the overflowing prisons crisis. I think it was the Home Office disaster before last.

Mr Reid wrote to all sentencers reminding them that the jails were full and other sentences available. Not of course that he was trying to influence them. Oh no.

Somebody must have been working hard behind the scenes since then. All the prison problems solved at a judicial stroke. Admittedly more crime problems for the rest of us, but what does that matter ?

Court of Appeal
Published February 16, 2007

Regina v Seed
Regina v Stark

Before Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Chief Justice, Sir Igor Judge, President and Mr Justice David Clarke
Judgment February 13, 2007

When considering the length of a custodial sentence, judges should bear in mind the fact that, at present, the prison regime was likely to be more punitive because of prison overcrowding.

Particular care should be exercised before imposing a custodial sentence on a first offender since association with seasoned criminals might make reoffending more likely rather than deter it, particularly where the offender was young.

Enforcement of fines was now rigorous and effective and, where the offender had the means, a heavy fine could often be an adequate and appropriate punishment.

The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, so stated when: (i) Allowing an appeal by Trigger Seed against a prison sentence of six months imposed by Mrs Recorder Simler at Chelmsford Crown Court on January 8, 2007 following his plea of guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm. A seven-day prison sentence was substituted.

(ii) Allowing an appeal by Phillip Stark against a nine-month prison sentence imposed by Judge Cutler at Winchester Crown Court on December 8, 2006 following his pleas of guilty to bigamy and failing to surrender to bail. A three-month prison sentence was substituted.

I have no law training, but it looks as if a new legal principle has just emerged from Lord "Don't jail muggers if they're in a gang" Phillips' fertile brain. The punishment element of a prison sentence is positively correlated with the degree of prson overcrowding - via an obscure algorithm that cuts six months to seven days and nine months to three months.

I wonder what the victim of the wonderfully named Trigger Seed (what's his background ?) thinks of 7 days for ABH. If I assault Lord Phillips and cause ABH - an idea that seems unusually appealing for some reason - will I get 7 days ? And if a few of us do it in a gang, will we walk free, citing 'peer pressure' ?

Lord Phillips was educated at Bryanston and Cambridge, lives in Hampstead.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps concerned citizens should form their own gangs, and dispense summary beatings to young thugs such as Messrs Seed and Stark, and others who terrorise their neighbourhoods. Of course, they always seem to be able to find prison spaces for victims who fight back.

I once attended a speech by Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, one of the law lords, and asked him whether he thought that sentences were too light, or judges out of touch. His reply was that it was the public who were out of touch, that the ignorant proles didn't know how tough prison was for the poor criminals, and that five years inside was a very long time indeed (in the context of two men convicted of manslaughter). And Walker's one of the saner ones.

Anonymous said...

Lord Phillips should be elected. He is by far too politically-aligned with the ruling regime.

In the past The Lord Chancellor shielded the public from the political alignment of the LCJ and Lord Irvine was obviously the last Lord Chancellor to do so.

We now have a very party political Bunter Falconer and an equally politically-clumsy LCJ in Phillips. This is unsustainable.

I think we must start to elect District Judges and Circuit Judges and have the LCJ subject to approval of a Select Committee.

The Judicial System is not only demonstrably detached from public accountability or approval, but is staffed by persons whose political affiliations are so clear and whose utter contempt for the public renders them a creature of the ruling party

Martin said...


I do have some legal training; the Fulham Reactionary might be able to help me out on the finer points of the law on the wro-other side of Hadrian's Wall.

As at July 10 1998, the law of Scotland was that, with the exception of the the statutory sentence of life imprisonment for murder, no offender who:

1. Was under the age of 21

2. Had never before been to custody,

could be sent to detention without the production of Social Enquiry and Community Service reports.

This was a system that WORKED!


The motivating principle behind sentences such as probation and community service is that they are deemed to be 'alternatives to custody'; in other words, they should only be imposed where custody is appropriate and there is some factor in the offender's background (usually substance abuse for the imposition of probation, or the final shot across the bows in the case of community service), which means detaining THAT offender for THAT crime under THOSE circumstances is inappropriate.

Lord Phillips' reasoning is,

"Particular care should be exercised before imposing a custodial sentence on a first offender since association with seasoned criminals might make reoffending more likely rather than deter it, particularly where the offender was young."

A. Unless I'm greatly mistaken, nobody gets sent to chokey already unless all other avenues have been investigated, so it seems fatuous for him to mention the likelihood of 'first offenders' being corrupted by association with hardened criminals.

We knows prisons are, always have been and always will be universities of crime for those inclined to the criminal lifestyle - those who used to be described as 'outlaws'.

The famously soft and cuddly billionaire sociopath Nicholas van Hoogstraten once remarked that he came out harder from his first stretch than before he went in.

Case closed.

B. Lord Phillips seems to be recognising that the jails are full of hardened criminals. One can't help but think that his mention of the offender's youth as a matter which a sentncing judge should take into account is a softening up for 'Nobody below 21 shall be imprisoned'.

Although I sincerely hope he Fulham Reactionary was being facetious when he suggests vigilantism, it is grossly unfortunate that unless the Augean Stables into which the social engineers have turned England's criminal justice sytem are cleansed from top to bottom, then vigilantism is inevitable.

People have had enough.

With regards to gang violence, please indulge my narration of a war story.

In 1995, I was (professionally) involved on the periphery of a case at Dumbarton Sheriff Court in which there had been a suggestion of gang violence.

The sentencing judge was the (now retired) Sheriff John Fitzsimons.

I can still recall Wee Fitzy's injunction to the convicts standing in front of him to the last word -

"If there's gang violence going on in Dumbartion I'm going to stamp it out".

Sheriff John Fitzsimons - not quite Bryanston and Cambridge. He worked as a TV repairman in Glasgow before coming to the law as a late vocation. More Fitzsimons', fewer Phillips.

Anonymous said...

He was made a QC in 1978 and served as a recorder from 1982 to 1987.

He became a High Court judge in 1987, later presiding over the complicated trials involving the Maxwells and investment company Barlow Clowes.

He was twice promoted during the two-year, nine-month inquiry into BSE.

Must have been a super report on BSE to be promoted TWICE...I am sorry he found Barlow Clowes a complicated trial - I found it very easy to understand "Guy von Cramer" and his rise from market-stallholder in Leeds to dynamic multi-millionaire before Barlow-Clowes collapsed

Still noone said judges were very bright - intelligence being a career handicap in Britain

Anonymous said...

"Enforcement of fines was now rigorous and effective"

What a whopper. I'd jail the judge for perjury for that statement alone.

Anonymous said...

"His reply was that it was the public who were out of touch.."

Yep, he's a member of our legal establishment, for sure....