Friday, June 12, 2015


We were down to deal with a dozen or so sentencing cases last week, most of them with the help pf pre-sentence reports from Probation. Inevitably, a good proportion of the cases were drug-related; either possession (not supply, that usually goes off to Hizonner) or acquisitive crime committed to fund an expensive habit.

Somebody on £65 a week benefit or thereabouts cannot fund a £20-a-day Class A habit without thieving, and for the addict the most usual target is any self-service shop. High-value low-bulk stuff is the usual loot, so we are well used to seeing top-line razors, Duracell batteries, and the inevitable bottles of spirits.mentioned on the charge sheet.

One of our customers was a young woman of 23 or so, a serial drug user an shoplifter. We considered the case carefully, and could not avoid the conclusion that she would have to go to prison (not for the first time).

The report said that she had grown up in care, and that she had been with four different sets of foster parents. That alone would have added to her insecurity, and that is sadly a pointer to going off the rails.

So we did what we had to do, and gave her 12 weeks, of which she will serve 6. It won't do any good, of course.


  1. "It won't do any good, of course"

    Sadly, so true, but what else is there? We don't seem to have any alternatives that have any chance of working for the addict. I am a great believer in trying to rehabilitate but there also has to be a punitive element too. The shops that these losers in life prey on have a right to expect the court to impose some punishment on the offender, especially the recidivists.

    I certainly have no answers, I don't know anyone who does.

    Tomorrow I'll spend a depressing morning on the bench dealing with the mad, the bad and the sad and I'll go home feeling that we've achieved nothing. It's just how it is and I don't see it changing (for the better) any time soon.


  2. "So we did what we had to do, and gave her 12 weeks, of which she will serve 6. It won't do any good, of course."

    It'll give the shopkeepers 6 weeks break from her thieving, that's good enough reason.

  3. We need funded and structured residential rehab centres not prisons.
    If they are successful at rehab then relocate them.
    Its got to be better than the merry go round that exists with prison release and reoffend

  4. I'm guessing she was on benefits so would have had some income, albeit small. You may have waived the £85 costs that would have been requested, but she would still have to pay the £80 government surcharge and if the offence was after 13th April, the £180 criminal courts charge.

    That's another £260 that the court was obliged to impose and which will be added to the ever growing mountain of fines, costs and charges that will never be collected.

  5. As Tigerr says it gives shopkeepers 6 weeks respite. So prison doesn't work, eh? We double the prison population and crime out there goes down. Great, but instead of her costing the state (i.e. us) £65 a week, and some random shopkeepers what it costs to feed her habit, we incarcerate her somewhere where it costs the state (i.e. us) a damn sight more.

    I'm in favour of (at least) two things:
    1. A bloody good birching (for the thieving) so her punishment costs the state (i.e. us) the absolute minimum
    2. A proper treatment of her Class A drug addiction as a medical problem. If her drug habit is £20 a day, it would costs us all far less to just give it to her, thus cutting out all the criminal infrastructure of import and supply.

  6. I can't see any point in punishment when it has no effect at all on the criminal, except perhaps to make her worse. Unless you are trying to drive her to suicide.

    The cheapest solution does seem to be to supply the drug on prescription, and offer a residential rehab (perhaps in the Outer Hebrides). My impression is that coming off addictive drugs often works at the third or fourth attempt.

    Much of the problem and expense comes from the ill-defined borderline between "medical" and "criminal". We need to think hard about these categories.

  7. My God- birching- I don't think so. Those days thankfully are gone.

    Lets have a bit of humanity. Sending these buggers to prison is no answer at all. Apart from the cost it means they lose their accommodation and any help/treatment they were getting falls away. What we need is proper and if need be enforce rehab clinics where they must go , must be treated and then packed off home under a properly monitored cufew.

    Imposing all these charges on people who we all know cannot pay is a complete farce. Rather than persecuting the sad and the mad we should concentrate aon the fraudsters and villains who are making good money out or crime and strip them of their ill gotten gains.

  8. Actually, the knee jerk reaction against corporal punishment has always confused me. It demonstrably works in Singapore. It actually inflicts a pain on the repeat criminal that otherwise frankly does not exist in western (UK) justice.

    Or are you lot racist in believing that it's OK for the asians to use it, but not us?

  9. Perhaps I'm somehow in the wrong...but all my life I've been almost obsessively's just the way I've been brought up...I would hope that if I broke the law, it'd somehow snap back and punish me...and warn me not to continue wrong-doing...

    So I tend to see the law in black and white terms...there is no "rehabilitation" whatsoever...just harsh punishment, which may or may not achieve the same end...

    Am I so wrong?

  10. Rehabilitation is surely, in reality, a joke? If the court prescribes a harsh enough, or apt enough penalty for bad behaviour, doesn't the risk of re-offending decline?


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