I read with a fatalistic air of resignation the lead story in The Times today, where somebody calling himself Bernard Hogan-Howe, I kid you not, and claiming to be the Chief Constable of Merseyside, was complaining about lenient sentences handed out by the courts to those convicted of possession of a firearm.
The thrust of Bernie’s complaint was that the mandatory five year sentence for the offence was not being uniformly imposed around the country, and by inference, Merseyside was no exception.
I have never been a fan of deterrent sentences, on the simple basis that they don’t work. Equally, I deplore attempts by politicians and the Bernies of this world to highjack the sentencing process. This should remain the preserve of the judiciary, without unwelcome and uninformed intervention from those pursuing their own agenda, and David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, does himself and his Party no credit whatsoever by climbing onto Bernie’s bandwagon.
Many years ago, I remember attending a debate on the restoration of the death penalty. It was a meaningless exercise, as battle lines were drawn up well in advance. The most memorable crass comment of the night was the remark that “if you hang them, they won’t do it again.”
The criminal element of our society who arm themselves with guns don’t read or write, so they don’t know anything about mandatory minimum sentences, and they don’t give a rat’s crap about Bernie or David Davis, assuming they’ve heard of them in the first place, which they haven’t, and they’re not alone. Of course, even their limited thought processes will tell them it’s wrong to carry a gun, worse still to fire it, but when they go out armed and looking for trouble, they don’t assume they’ll be caught.
It’s a fair assumption, as Bernie’s team in Merseyside have yet to make a significant arrest following the fatal shooting of 11 year old Rhys Jones last year, so what sort of a message does that send out to the gun toting criminal classes of Merseyside? Bernie should get his priorities right, get on with his job, and stop trying to shift the blame onto the judiciary for his own shortcomings.
Addendum: Excitement mounts to fever pitch. The fragrant and elusive Frances Gibb, the editor of Law Times, has re-emerged from Purdah and put her name to an article on Family Justice. I confess I dozed off after the second paragraph, but good to see her back in the saddle again. When I shook myself out of my bucolic torpor, my eye caught the advertisement on the same page for a commercial High Court Judge in Saint Lucia. I could almost feel the gentle breeze wafting through the Casuarina trees, the bare chested maidens carrying me shoulder high through the crashing surf, and a thundering great rum punch to greet me upon my arrival. Then I looked at the salary on offer in return for a considerable workload, and my thoughts returned to the day job, my dreams shattered. Never mind, there’s always tomorrow, and hope springs eternal!