I just read over at The Radical Blues a story entitled Justice: Two cases of youthful indiscretion detailing the similarities between an incident involving Nick Clegg and one involving a 17 year-old from Peckham. It is a story that has been told several times in the past few days. I do though dispute what the author is trying to say in his blog though.
The differences are not their backgrounds but the way in which society dealt with both crimes at the time. Nick Clegg and his pals did some community service and gave something back and learned their lesson. They did something bad. Many teenagers do something bad but they weren’t thrown in jail because that helps no-one. When you are young you are often naive and you don’t get anything from being locked up and hanging around with genuine bad people for a few months.
It shows that community punishments can work. Whilst Clegg didn’t face any criminal charges that is only because he agreed to give something back to the community and if I recall the story correctly was painting local buildings in his spare time for the rest of the summer. Now unless there are a lot of skeletons in the closet that is the extent of Clegg’s past issues so it shows that community payback schemes that he advocates work.
Now in this current climate of everyone wanting all these rioters rounded up and put on the front line in Afghanistan to show them what’s what judges have been overly harsh in sentencing. Someone stealing a bottle of lucozade is not an offence that deserves jail time. Whatever you think about these people you can’t try them all using the same formula. Every offence is different. I have banged on about this for eons but people don’t believe it. Ok some people do but a lot don’t. They think we need a one-size fits all judicial system and that is crazy folks. Crazy.
I couldn’t give two hoots that she is a church-going girl. That to me means nothing but it is about as pertinent as the fact this young woman was from Peckham. Judges don’t care about that at this point as they are just too busy giving everyone convicted of anything to do with the wanton criminality of last week as harsh a sentence as possible. They think it is what the public want and they think it is what these young people need.
Instead of trying every case on it’s own merits they are just looking at the charge and the verdict and looking straight away at the higher bands of sentence and that isn’t justice and more importantly it isn’t right. Community payback punishments are the way forward but it seems as though large sections of society and the judges trying these cases would prefer to look tough and ruin people’s futures instead of being fair and that my friends makes me deeply uncomfortable indeed.
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