We have noticed a distinct softening in attitudes to villains over the past few years. Not amongst us, mind you, for we constantly have cause to demand retribution as one lout after another decides that it would be fun to climb over the allotment gate and to smash up anything in sight, including the greenhouses. A few weeks ago Tom fixed a cross piece over the gate and included several upturned nails. It wasn’t long before we were advised to take the primitive defence down since should anyone climbing the gate cut themselves they would be able to sue us for injuries incurred! We have since learned that the local church has had to post warning notices about the non-dry paint it uses on its drainpipes to deter those stealing lead from the roof.
It seems to us that the whole justice system has been amended in favour of the criminal. And we are not alone in thinking thus. Last week saw an outburst from a prominent judge. Judge Julian Lambert won quite a few fans here by saying that “we live in soft times now”. He was furious at having to pass nothing more severe that a community service order on a man who terrified home owner Ross Campbell who heard noises in the night and, on coming downstairs, was confronted by a hooded man in his living room who was piling up computer gear, a wallet and DVDs. Can you imagine how you would feel, but heaven help you if you were young and strong enough to give the burglar a hiding! Do that and you would receive more than community service.
The judge was restricted by a probation report that suggested that the intruder should be spared prison. Had the judge taken that course an appeal would have led to the sentence being overturned. Tory MP Philip Hollobone spoke for many when he said that people shoiuld be brought to account for the ridiculous advice on prison sentences. He added that “the message that soft sentencing sends out is that somebody who breaks into someone’s home will only get community service and that’s not a deterrent. More judges should be speaking out about this”.
Victim Support agreed. A spokesman said that many victims feel let down by the criminal justice system and the complexity of sentencing decisions. Burglary can have a very serious impact upon peoples lives”. They are right on all counts. I know an elderly couple whose peace of mind has been shattered whilst their burglar was given a soft community task and has since burgled again. The complexity issue too is real one, it subsequently emerged that another factor determining Judge Lambert’s decision was the fact that the burglar pleaded guilty. So that’s all right then, commit any crime you like and plead guilty. All is then forgiven.
My self understanding reassures me that I am not a ‘flogger and hanger’ but I genuinely believe that the pendulum has swung too far. I hate to be a prophet of doom but the situation is likely to get much worse. Kenneth Clarke is the softest Justice Minister of all time. Incredibly he seems to believe that no one should go to prison because it doesn’t reform. It probably doesn’t, but it makes society a good deal safer and is a deterrent which fooling around in unsupervised community work-groups most certainly isn’t. Please don’t bother telling me that I’m wrong – I’ve worked as a volunteer alongside a group and can honestly say that the only work done was that of the volunteers.
I imagine that this whole drive toward extreme leniency is heavily influenced by the government’s desire to close prisons and thus to save costs. But what price does one put on peace of mind? We now face a situation where the criminals and bullies walk from magistrate’s courts laughing anf feeling quite relaxed about reoffending, sometimes that very day.
Yesterday a local councillor wrote to me seeking support for opposition to local plans to slash police numbers and dispose altogether of their support community officers. I shall sign the petition without any hope of a u-turn by millionnaires with electronic gates and private security cover. And for good measure practice tax avoidance the outcome of which far exceeds the cost of a hundred prisons.
All that I can really do is leave my front door open. It may well be an offence in Clarke’s new world not to leave a snack for the burglar but I draw the line at this even if I am infringing the criminal’s human rights!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “When I date a guy, I think, is this the man I want my children to spend their weekends with”….Rita Rudner ” I’ve been chased by women before but never when I was awake”….Bob Hope. “I like only two types of men – domestic and foreign”….Mae West. ” When I finally met Mr Right, I had no idea his first name was Always”……Rita Rudner “I’ve been on so many blind dates, I should get a free dog” ….Wendy Liebman. “Two out of five Irish women prefer alcohol to sex and its just my luck to have gone out with both of them”…Joseph O’Connor “The only place men want women to have depth is in their decolletage”…Zsa Zsa Gabor “I was dating this girl for two years, and then the nagging starts, ‘I wanna know your name’…..Mike Binder. “I’m single by choice. Not my choice”…..Orny Adams “There are ways out of everything, apart from Birmingham’s one-way system”….Jasper Carrott. “Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive”…..Elbert Hubbard “If you want people to think you’re wise, just agree with them”….Leo Rosten “At the unemployment exchange my dad gave his occupation as an astronaut but not prepared to travel”….Roy Chubby Brown.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. John Walker (New Zealand) 2. George Davis
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What was the name of the first US space shuttle? 2. The sinking of the ‘Amoco Cadiz’ caused an oil pollution disaster on which coast?