Sometimes things happen to make me think unliberal thoughts

The conviction of three teenagers today for the kicking to death of father of three, Garry Newlove, brings home to all of us just how many problems we face in the UK with rampant street crime, teenagers knowing they will get away with virtually anything short of murder, and a police force who either don't care or are not resourced enough to care.

I heard the widow of Gary Newlove speaking on the radio after the verdicts were given, and she spoke of her feelings that a live sentence should be life, and I have to say that when someone is given a 25 years sentence it is shocking to think that they will be out in just 12 years.

We also have to ask though why it is that the police seemed not to care one jot about vandalism and thuggery going on before Mr Newlove's death. Isn't it about time the police took a zero tolerance view to this type of crime. the police call it "petty crime", but to the victims it is anything but.

A few years ago I had my car stolen. When I reported it and the police asked me where I had parked it, the policeman who took my statement said "I think we know who did it, its the same two brothers". When i asked what they would do, would they take fingerprint samples, etc, they replied that there was no point. They had only limited resources and if they got a conviction they would only be inside for a few weeks before being let out again, such was the low tariff for care crime.

Perhaps it is time we asked ourselves do the punishments fit the crimes in this country ? I many cases, I fear they don't.


Jo Hayes said...

It's not un-liberal to ask such questions, surely. I don't remember anything in Mill's "On Liberty" commending leaving vandalism and violence unpunished but I do remember a great deal about individual liberty being limited where it involves harm to others. NOt having my copy to hand, the question I find hard is finding a rationale for the idea of a punishment "fitting" a crime. The teenage thugs who battered Mr Newlove to death have way to go to prove they are not a complete waste of space, but we don't subscribe to the eye for an eye theory - otherwise it would be capital punishment for all three.

John B said...

Noooooooooo! You're letting the Daily Mailists get you you...

1) a life sentence *is* for life. If you are released (which only happens if you are able to convince a parole board that you would not present a danger to society) you spend the rest of your life on license, able to be returned to jail indefinitely not only for committing other serious crimes but also for simply breaching your conditions.

2) the magistrate (thelawwestofealingbroadway.blogspot.com) had a very interesting document on his site, which I can't find, in which the public were asked:
a) what sentence should people get for [crime X]
b) what sentence do people currently get for [crime X]

It found that people's guesses for b were far lower than reality, and indeed that generally people's guesses for a were about in line with the average sentence received.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I know you are only let on "on license" if you are given a life term, but 12 years really is not a life sentence is it.

Another point that I did not raise is concurrent sentences. Why do people get 5 life sentences ? Surely they should run consecutively, not concurrently ?

John B said...

1) if you want to abolish all parole then by all means campaign for that - but a life sentence means what it says in the context of the criminal justice system, in exactly the same way that a 12-year sentence means what it says.

2) in general, consecutive sentences are given for different sorts of crime (i.e. if you defraud a granny and then get into a pub fight, you'll get serve one then the other) whereas concurrent sentences are given for the same sort of crime (i.e. if you defraud 2 grannies, then your sentences for each fraud will be longer than if you'd only defrauded one, but they'll be served at the same time). I suppose that implies that if you're a contract killer who also rapes people for fun, you might get consecutive life sentences - but in general, it'll fit the rules for concurrent. However, the fact that you've done 5 murders will both increase your tariff and make the parole board much less likely to ever release you.

Paul E said...

My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Garry Newlove's family at this terrible time, and may i say that what these mindless thugs recieved as their sentences will never be enough. I say that we should pull out all our hard working troups from iraq and other war torn parts of the world and send the likes of these scum over there and maybe then we will see just how hard they are, i can tell you they would'nt last five minutes may they rot in hell for what they did to this man and his adoring family. To Garry's family may the nations prayers and best wishes be with you always.