Friday, August 19, 2011

Concern over harsh UK unrest sentences

Source: Press TV

British legal and political figures have expressed their concern over the harsh sentences of the youth involved in the widespread unrest that swept across England.

Lord Macdonald, former Director of the Prosecution Service in England and Wales, warned that the Court of Appeal would want to review some of the jail sentences given to protesters following rising concerns that the protesters are facing a “postcode lottery” on punishments which varied all over the country.

"People read about these sentences and they scratch their heads and wonder how one man can get one day, and a mother of two children can get five months. It's difficult to see on the facts we know if there's justification for that disparity, and that leads to injustice in individual cases.

"I think the Court of Appeal will be interested to get hold of some of these cases and to express its own view on what the correct level of sentencing should have been and that will help all of the other judges, including magistrates in the lower courts to get it right in future," Macdonald said.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes urged the courts to make sure not all those convicted are imprisoned.

Insisting that those who involved in recent unrest will be punished “toughly and firmly,” Hughes said: "But I hope the courts will show understanding and relative leniency on first-time offenders and make sure that all the sentences don't just put people inside and pull them out again, but engage with the community."

Lord Carlile, former Downing Street advisor on terrorism, also criticized cabinet ministers for violating the judiciary's independence. He stressed ministers were not helpful by interfering sentencing and added "just filling up prisons" would not stop future unrest.

UK Rights groups condemned the courts for passing harsh sentences for those arrested in aftermath of the country's massive unrest.

Two men have received four years behind bars over calling for protests on the internet. Another man is jailed for six months for stealing a bottle of water.

Premier David Cameron defended the tough penalties, saying: “What happened on our streets was absolutely appalling behavior and to send a very clear message that it's wrong and won't be tolerated is what the criminal justice system should be doing.

“They decided in that court to send a tough sentence, send a tough message and I think it's very good that courts are able to do that.”

Some 3,000 have been arrested, and over one-thousand three-hundred people have appeared in court.

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