River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The Village Pump Soapbox

March 2003

Soft on Crime?

As I have said before when I first suggested the Soapbox I thought it could provide a platform for people to air some of their pet grievances or moans, or somewhere for people to shout about something, perhaps with a view to encouraging others to think similarly, or simply to get it off their chest. I confess that I have been disappointed that so few people seem to have anything that they want to say. I have tried to keep the idea alive by offering something to the editor that he could use if nothing appears from others. Initially it was easy for me to get on a few my own hobbyhorses and air my views on such topics as, out-of-town shops, global warming, bull bars, speed cameras, faith schools etc. At times I have tried to put an original slant and on occasions I have also tried to be a little controversial in the hope that that might stimulate some correspondence, once or twice that has happened. More recently I have found it difficult to find a topic that I have strong views on that has not been well and truly aired by the national or local media.

Such is the case this month, but there is nothing more guaranteed to get my blood boiling than to hear of abuse of children and, despite the more than full coverage of this subject in the media I cannot resist joining in the shouting. Time and again those responsible for protecting children have failed, each time we are told lessons will be learned but it seems they never are. The tragic and awful death of little Victoria Climbie did at least result in a public inquiry so perhaps lessons will be learned and changes made, but why was it that the only people to be sacked were junior social workers? Why were not those really responsible sacked? And what of her torturers/muderers, Marie-Therese Kouao and Carl Manning? They were both sentenced to 'life' whatever that means these days. Does it mean that they will be free in about 8years, as so often seems to be the case? I have no sympathy for Myra Hindley, but was her crime any worse than theirs? I hope that they get the same treatment as she did and are left to die in prison.

Yet another case to make me angry was the death of six year old Rebecca Sawyer, killed by an irresponsible criminal, Ian Carr, driving through a red light in a stolen car. Bad enough, but when you discover the criminal record of this lunatic and the failure of the justice system to deal with him, you can get really angry. Last month I complained that we were soft on crime and this case certainly proves it. Carr's record of offences and associated punishment is:

Theft - conditional discharge, Theft - £25 fine, Shoplifting - £25 fine, Arson - 2yr supervision order, Burglary - 28 days, Attempted theft - 21 days, Burglary - 28 months, Four cases of attempted burglary plus three cases of theft plus attempted car theft plus common assault plus handling stolen goods plus criminal damage - total punishment? - Two year supervision order! Attempted Burglary - conditional discharge, Causing death by Dangerous Driving plus Car Theft plus Driving whilst disqualified plus Perverting the Course of Justice - 12 months, Burglary plus Attempted Burglary - 100 days, Burglary - 100 hours community service, Shoplifting - absolute discharge, Burglary - 150 days, Theft - 120 hours community service, Attempted Burglary - 120 hours community service, Handling stolen goods - 12 months probation, Car Theft - conditional discharge, Driving whilst disqualified - conditional discharge, Burglary - 12 months probation, Car Theft plus Burglary plus Reckless Driving plus Attempted Burglary plus breach of bail conditions plus Driving whilst disqualified plus traffic offences - total punishment - 51 months, Receiving stolen goods - 120 hours community service, Burglary and Theft - 12 months, Criminal Damage plus Threatening Behaviour plus Burglary - believe it or not 'conditional discharge', Driving while disqualified - six penalty points.

In 1998 he was finally jailed for six years and nine months for a variety of further offences -- in just over four years after that he was out and had killed young Rebecca. It should be pointed out that most of his confinements listed above were in young offender institutions and that he could never have served the full time for which he was sentenced. It is also worth mentioning that during the period covered by the above record he was also charged and found guilty on five occasions of driving while uninsured, a serious offence in my view, and received no punishment whatsoever for that offence.

It is unbelievable to my mind that, with a record such as he had going back over a number of years that he was still receiving sentences such as 'conditional discharge' and 'community service'. Of course, if he had actually served the sentence that was imposed in 1998, Rebecca would still be alive.

Soft on Crime? What do you think?

Ron Watts

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