On Tuesday two men were jailed for four years for using Facebook to incite riots and another was given 18 months for having a stolen TV in his car.Just think: if we were in the habit of giving sentences like as a routine, would the rioters perhaps have thought twice about burning and stealing other people's property in the first place?
Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said sentences "should be about restorative justice" not retribution.Then Tom Brake is a muppet. Retribution has always been a legitimate purpose of sentencing. It expresses society's rejection of the behaviour and lets the rest of us feel that the problem has been dealt with - that awful pop-psych thing of 'closure'.
Mr Brake told the BBC's Newsnight that some of those convicted had received sentences which would have been different if they had committed the same crime the day before the riots.
Told you he's a muppet. Of course they were different. If I light a cigarette in my garden, that is a very different thing from society's point of view than* if I light it in my local petrol station on delivery day.
"This should be about restorative justice - in other words making people acknowledge the offences they have committed - and preferably, if the victims want it, [to] actually sit down face to face with the victims so that they can hear from the victims the impact they have had. But it should not be about retribution," he said.
Personally, if I have just had my business burned to the ground or my home and its contents destroyed, the last thing I would want is to sit down with the perpetrators and discuss it - unless it was in a closed room, no cameras, and I had an AK47 to help me out.
Leading criminal barrister John Cooper QC said he believed the sentences were "over the top" and were likely to be overturned by the Court of Appeal.
I'm sure if he has anything to do with it, they will.
"What we need to remember here is that there's a protocol for sentencing, and there are rules and procedures in sentencing which make them effective and make them fair. What we can't do, in my view, in situations like this, is suddenly throw the rule book away simply because there's a groundswell of opinion."
Well for one thing, John Cooper QC is a barrister, which means he is employed by the rest of us, not the other way round. And yes, you can throw away the rule-book because of a groundswell of opinion. The rule-book is only the groudswell of popular opinion taken over a longer period of time, after all. Bring on elected Police chiefs!
Sitting at Manchester Crown Court, sentencing Judge Andrew Gilbart QC said: "I have no doubt at all that the principal purpose is that the courts should show that outbursts of criminal behaviour like this will be and must be met with sentences longer than they would be if the offences had been committed in isolation.
"For those reasons I consider that the sentencing guidelines for specific offences are of much less weight in the context of the current case, and can properly be departed from."
In the comments, from John O'Hagan:
Since this country is good at out sourcing services to Mumbai and other places, what say we out source our Prisons to Mumbai where real prisons exist, would probably only cost the tax payer around £2 per day you would'nt get much rioting after that i can tell you