So a teenager called Paul Thompson has been called a stupid idiot. Now it’s well known that most teenagers are stupid idiots. I was when I was a teenager because I thought I knew everything when in fact I knew nothing. But this teenager was called a stupid idiot by a judge. So it must be true because judges have a lot of experience of stupid teenagers passing through their courtrooms.
So why was he called a stupid idiot? Because he took a photo on his blackberry whilst in court. He was too stupid not to have seen the many signs, usually in pictorial form so illiteracy can’t be an excuse, in and around the court that ban photos, mobile phones, food, drink, smoking, etc. It is against the law to take photographs in a court. Maybe he got sign blindness from seeing too many signs.
So what does the judge do at such a heinous crime? Judge Barbara Mensah jailed him. Within 75 minutes of the crime, the teenager was tried and convicted and sentenced to two months. Speedy justice, seen to be done. This is what everyone wants – a working and trusted justice system.
But don’t be so quick to cheer the judge in her decision.
Another part of justice is that it should be seen to be fair and proportionate.
Now I’m sure all of you will say that in terms of the level of criminality, taking a photo inside a court room is pretty low down in the grand scheme of things. I mean, everyone knows what they look like so it’s not like it’s top secret. This wasn’t a court where an informer was hiding behind a screen where secrecy is necessary. This was a simple court case where the teenager’s friend had been accused of stealing from an off-duty policeman (I bet you are thinking of the phrase “where is a policeman when you need them” at this point). So even though it might be a crime, the level of punishment should be commiserate with the seriousness of it. So a fine, a slap on the wrist (sorry we can’t do that any more; human rights and all that), or a suspended sentence or even a short community sentence would probably be more appropriate. And usually when you plead guilty, as the teenager did, you get a bit taken off your sentence.
When you have serial criminals going through the court system (just read Inspector Gadget’s blog) and coming out the other side without any punishment at all, not even a slap on the wrist, then the justice system is not seen as fair and proportionate.
A system which a reasonable person sees as corrupt, illogical, unfair, unbalanced, and unreliable (any more un words?) is seen as a joke. A system in disrepute is a system that no one will trust and one that they will not use. What will this lead to? It will lead to people meeting out justice themselves.
Or will it? Was the judge’s hands tied by interfering Labour politicians who set out sentencing guidelines, including the 3000 extra ones they created?
UPDATE: David Allen Green has more details about the case in the New Statesman.
Photo from Staffordshire University website.
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