Article extract >>
Hundreds of young criminals, including muggers, will escape jail under a new twin-track sentencing strategy announced yesterday and immediately condemned by the Tories as "sending out entirely the wrong message".
First, a council chaired by the most senior judge in England and Wales said that muggers under 17 should be given community penalties rather than custody if they used only "minimal force" when committing robberies.
Then the Youth Justice Board, which is responsible for the punishment of youth offenders, said that many more who were given harsher sentences should nevertheless be kept in open conditions, including Borstal-style residential school accommodation. A "key assumption" should be that custody for young people should be a last resort, it said.
The two policies combined will allow hundreds of youths every year to avoid a spell in a young offenders institution.
The draft guidance issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, chaired by Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice, appeared to conflict with a ruling from his predecessor, Lord Woolf, in January 2002.
On that occasion, the Court of Appeal decided that mobile phone muggers - even young, unarmed offenders - should be jailed for at least 18 months unless circumstances were very exceptional.
However, Lord Phillips said: "I am quite sure that Lord Woolf was not trying to lay down some kind of automatic guideline. He believed that detention was not necessary for, say, a 15-year-old standing on the fringe of a group of lads who simply said to another boy, who was using a phone, 'Hand that over or we'll thump you.' "
Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that community orders would be reserved for "robberies at the very lowest end of the scale". Such offences were committed by "very young offenders, taking pocket money off each other in the street outside school".
Mr Macdonald said that at present such 13- to 15-year-olds received community orders. He emphasised that the new guidelines did not amount to any change in sentencing policy.
The Sentencing Guidelines Council, which was set up last year, takes advice from the Sentencing Advisory Panel, which consults widely. After considering the views of the Government and opposition parties, the council will issue final guidelines on robbery which must be taken into account by courts without the need for a formal ruling by the Court of Appeal.
Under the latest proposals, a robber who caused serious injury by the use of force or a weapon could expect seven years' detention in the case of a young offender and eight years for an adult.
All the guidelines are starting points. The sentence could be cut if there were mitigating factors, such as remorse, the return of property or co-operation with the police. Aggravating factors, such as being part of a gang or wearing a disguise, could increase it to a recommended maximum of 12 years.
Lord Phillips said he hoped that the proposals, if adopted, would lead to greater consistency in sentencing.
"These guidelines reflect the overall statistics for what is happening to offenders who commit robbery at the moment," he said.
But Oliver Heald, the Conservatives' spokesman on legal affairs, said: "Mugging is one of the most serious crimes; it causes great distress and alarm to victims. The new guidelines send entirely the wrong message about how we deal with this offence.
"Community sentences have their place but they will be effective only if they are handed down appropriately then properly enforced.
"They should not be used as alternatives to custodial sentences to relieve the pressure on our overcrowded prisons."
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Full article, source :: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main...ixnewstop.html
Alright i'm convinced, the plague that is Political Correctness or PC Flu, has mutated, it's airborne. It seems to be absolutely everywhere, the former Lord Chief Justice who only left recently was a bakery's worth of fruit cakes, his replacement is no better.
HA, and people are worried about Bird Flu, maybe they should begin mass culling for PC Flu too.
Seriously, this is going to instil zero confidence in the judiciary and in so doing, make things worse for the police although it is nothing to do with them. Public trust is going to fall through the floor if these measures come to pass, it will only ferment vigilante justice down the road IMO.
I tell you, i was mugged when i was younger, i wouldn't be happy for them to escape justice in my eyes, and jail.