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Fraudulent sentences and the courage of burglars

[21 Jan 2013] Last week two conmen who tricked companies out of squillions of pounds were given five- and seven-year sentences. This was solemnly announced in news bulletins as if it were the truth.

But the plain language of these headline figures conceals a burning lie, which is that such sentences are almost always automatically halved. Prison overcrowding means that most inmates are let out early. Few custodial sentences mean what they say. So the public is continually duped by politicians, the judiciary and the media about the real rewards of crime.

Some judges are also soft – that’s soft in the head, as well as soft in sentencing. The worst recent case was Judge Peter Bowers, who at a Teesside court on 4 September told Richard Rochford, a 26-year-old self-confessed burglar, that he wouldn’t be sending him to prison because prison did criminals ‘little good’. He told the burglar: ‘It takes a huge amount of courage, as far as I can see, for somebody to burgle somebody’s house. I wouldn’t have the nerve.’

So burglars now have lots of ‘courage’, according to this great guardian of the public. Has a word with such positive associations ever been so tarnished? At least David Cameron, the prime minister, spoke out against the Judge Bowers way of thinking, saying burglars were ‘cowards’ whose ‘hateful crime’ violated victims. And the judge has now been reprimanded, though not sacked as he should have been, by the Office for Judicial Complaints. 

The shock of being burgled has just killed an 85-year-old war veteran, Raymond Grinyer, who collapsed and died soon after finding his home in Romford ransacked of jewellery, coins saved for his grandchildren in piggy banks, £3,500 in cash, passports, and his war medals. The exceptionally courageous burglar broke in while Mr Grinyer was away spending Christmas with relatives. [cont]

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