The law-abiding public are angry, of that there’s no doubt; and what’s clear is that they don’t want the thugs and agitators responsible for last week’s outrages let off the hook. But when they want tough sentencing, they want it for people like the thugs who steamed into the Ledbury restaurant and robbed the diners at knifepoint; the kind who burned down the Reeves store in Croydon; who mowed down those three young men in Birmingham. Not for people like the student who opportunistically helped himself for £3.50 of bottled water as he passed a looted store and ended up being sentenced to 18 months in prison. Not only is that sentence going to ruin a man’s life and cost the taxpayer at least £40,000 in valuable jail space but it creates the disconcerting impression that our justice system is arbitrary, cruel and out of touch.And though I don't condone theft even of a bottle of water, it is indeed absurd that it should receive a harsher sentence during the 'riots' than at any other time.
Today, via DK, I discovered an excellent post from Bella Gerens:
Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were jailed for four years each for inciting the disorder on Facebook despite both being of previous good character.
From the same Telegraph article:
A fourth defendant, Linda Boyd, 31, who has 62 previous convictions, was given a 10 month jail term suspended for two years after she was caught trying to drag away a £500 haul of alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco.
I’m not sure I need to make this comment, but: what kind of justice is this when two people of previous good character receive lengthy custodial sentences for making remarks on Facebook, but a third person who has a long, long history of criminal behaviour is given a suspended sentence for being caught with stolen goods?
I understand that these were different courts with different judges in different regional jurisdictions, but there still seems to be a massive disparity in the interpretation of sentencing guidelines here.
It is outrageous that remarks on Facebook merit a longer, harsher jail sentence than some rapes and murders, let alone theft and looting.
But what is really outrageous is that making remarks on Facebook can be criminalised at all. Perhaps Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan can band together with Paul Chambers and his supporters to help stamp out this fascist British tendency toward criminalisation of speech.
To my admittedly prejudiced eye, Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan do look like a couple of thugs.
Perhaps they're guilty of many crimes for which they have not been convicted. But the crime for which they've actually been convicted shouldn't exist at all.
I'm reminded of a characteristically eloquent post by Tom Paine from February 2009: Should "egging on" be a crime?.
Now it seems you don't even need to be physically present to be held liable for the actions of others. We live in dark times.