Finally,a top judge talks some sense!


Thursday September 3,2009
By Martyn Brown

BRITAIN’S “soft option” justice system was attacked yesterday by a judge who condemned the Government’s failed sentencing guidelines for violent criminals.

Judge Ian Pearson said Labour policies restricted the handing out of longer sentences for ­serious offences such as grievous bodily harm and dangerous driving.

He said his hands were tied by the sentencing rules even though judges “frequently want to ­impose heavier sentences”.

He also poured scorn on ­community punishments and called for stiffer penalties.

MPs and pressure groups praised Judge Pearson for ­standing up for law-abiding ­citizens who “want violent ­criminals put in prison, not given ­softer ­sentences”.

The judge said bad drivers who left their victims permanently ­injured could only be jailed for two years – while a pub drinker who attacked someone with a broken glass would face a maximum of three years behind bars, unless intent could be proved.
“The sentencing framework for all offences will remain under constant review.”

His withering attack comes at a time when yob-plagued Britain has a higher violent crime rate than America or any nation in the European Union.

Judge Pearson, who has sat at Portsmouth Crown Court for four years, said: “Dangerous driving is a maximum of two years when it should be at least five.

“You can get 10 years for killing by dangerous driving but only two if you maim them for life. Grievous bodily harm is a maximum of five years, unless made with intent, which can be life.

“There’s an argument for a mid-range offence carrying 10 years. If someone is glassed in a pub and badly scarred, unless you can prove it was with intent, you can only really give them three years. If you can prove it was with intent you can give them life. It’s an anomaly.”

The judge said he believed ­prison did act as a ­deterrent and courts “shouldn’t shirk away from imposing prison sentences when appropriate”.

He added: “Obviously, crown court judges can only sentence in accordance with the law and in accordance with the views of the appeal court. We would like ­frequently to impose heavier ­sentences.”

The judge also said the public were right to view community punishments as an easy alternative to jail. He said offenders who breached terms of the penalties had to be punished quickly.

“The public, rightly in my view, have some concern over community penalties,” he said.

“It shouldn’t be a soft option. If they step out of line they will come back to court straight away.” Tory justice spokesman Dominic Grieve said the comments proved Labour’s efforts to keep offenders out of prison at all costs had been a colossal failure.

“This Government has put ­systematic pressure on the courts not to imprison offenders and released thousands early,” he said.

“Labour’s reckless policy has put the public at greater risk.”

David Green, of the social policy think tank Civitas, said: “There is an immense pressure on judges to abide by these guidelines.

“If a judge defies them he will find his career possibly grinding to a halt. People on the street say they want violent criminals put in prison, not given softer sentences.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The Government ­supports the need for stiff ­penalties for those who present a ­danger on the roads. Where a person commits a ­serious driving offence he will be sentenced accordingly.

“The sentencing framework for all offences will remain under constant review.”

European Commission figures show that 1,158,957 violent crimes were recorded in Britain in 2007, compared to 652,974 in 1997, when Labour came to power.
Wasn't it a certain Mr Jack Straw MP who in 1997 spouted the phrase "Tough on Crime and Tough on the Causes of Crime"

More like weak on Crime and weaker on the people who commit crime. 13 wasted years under Labour cannot end soon enough.

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