One of the measures announced in the draft Queens Speech by the Prime Minister yesterday should leave taxpayers seething with rage. The announcement of a ‘Sentencing Commission’ to set “prison sentences…depending on the amount of space in jails” shows the government have lost the plot on crime and cynically move to shift the blame to an unaccountable quango.
To award a sentence based on the lack of prison places risks pathetically lenient sentences for the most heinous criminals. Because the government failed to build new prisons they can see the storm coming and – if the Sentencing Commission comes into force – they will put their hands up and say “I’m not to blame for lenient sentences, the Sentencing Commission is”.
Although they give assurances that ‘serious criminals’ won’t receive community orders, I think we can take this with a pinch of salt. For example:
- Yassin Nassari, a dangerous extremist convicted of smuggling missile blueprints into the UK was released early from prison in March.
- David Tiley, a convicted rapist, was released early from prison and went on to murder his disabled fiancée and her carer in 2007.
- Lloyd Edwards, a convicted burgler released from a ‘detention centre’ went on to kill a mother in her home in 2006.
This was all done on the government’s watch. While the above avoid prison or are released early, Steven Peers, Josephine Rooney and Richard Fitzmaurice were all sent to prison for non-payment of Council Tax. It’s there that you can see the government’s appalling prison priorities, pensioners and fathers sent to prison for not handing over £1,000-odd to their local Council compared to early release for rapists and terrorists.
To dodge tough sentencing by disgracefully attempting to pass the buck on an issue the public feel passionately about shows an abrogation of responsibility the government owes to us. The most serious criminals should be locked away for a long time to express the seriousness of their crimes against individuals and society. The severity of the crime should determine the sentence. To use any other criteria shows a complete disregard for people’s safety and a lack of respect for the victims of serious crime. Creating yet another quango won't solve the problems of the government's own making.