Lighter sentence for being middle-class/educated/white?

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  • Lighter sentence for being middle-class/educated/white?
  • grum
    Member

    This seems very odd/wrong to me – basically the judge seems to be saying you get a lighter sentence if you have more to lose. Does this mean it’s generally allowed to give poor people or the unemployed heavier sentences for the same crime than you would a well-off person in a respectable job?

    Sentencing Kenehan, Mr Justice Keith told the 35-year-old, who he described as being infatuated by Lewis: “If one was looking for stereotypes, you would be the gangster’s moll.

    “But that would be too facile a description of you. You are a woman of many talents, hugely gifted with intellect, ambition and drive, with qualities of generosity and kindness which have so impressed the many people who spoke so highly of you in the course of the trial.

    “The fact is that had you not met Lewis, you would not be where you are now. Whether you will be able to pursue your career in the future is now highly questionable.

    “That is the real punishment for you, and although you must, of course, go to prison, you would, I think, have been punished twice over if I did not significantly reduce the sentences I would otherwise have passed to reflect your spectacular fall from grace, and the indignity of being at the receiving end of the system which you studied and taught with such conspicuous success.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/jail-for-london-metropolitan-lecturer-who-turned-gangsters-moll-and-helped-her-boyfriend-after-he-executed-a-rival-9166448.html

    thegreatape
    Member

    I suppose it’s treating each case on its merits – looking at the motivation of the person as well as their actions, perhaps their behaviour prior to that incident, likelihood of them doing it again, and, as this judge said, what they have already lost as a result of their actions.

    Maxine Carr got the same (42 months) for lying for and assisting Ian Huntley after the Soham murders. Not as far as I can see middle class or educated.

    Janette Mercer got 3 years for lying to the police to try and protect her son after he murdered Rhys Jones. Not sure of her education but working as a prostitute.

    In all three they were put in what was evidently to them a very difficult position – loyalty to the offender against doing what was right – and then clearly made the wrong decision.

    Contrast with Karen Matthews, who’s planned abduction of her own daughter was motivated purely by greed, resulting in an 8 year sentence.

    Premier Icon BigDummy
    Subscriber

    That is interesting.

    I’m not particularly surprised by it, although it is put rather crudely.

    If she does not have previous, is of previous good character and (as is almost certain here) has made herself borderline unemployable by her stupidity then (a) she probably isn’t going to do it again and (b) she has suffered fairly devastating consequences in terms of her social standing – she has been publicly shamed very effectively. So a large part of what you might hope to achieve by sending her to prison is achieved by the end of the first week she’s there. The sentence needs to be within whatever guidelines relating to the seriousness of the offence that the judge is working with, but having it at the lower end doesn’t seem wrong in principle to me.

    Premier Icon maccruiskeen
    Subscriber

    basically the judge seems to be saying you get a lighter sentence if you have more to lose.

    Thats exactly how all sentencing is done – thats a judges job. The jury convicts the judge sets the sentence.

    The tariff they give in every case reflects the consequences it will have on the individual, they take into account for instance what the defendant loses in terms of current and future employment, whether they have dependents and the effect the sentence will have on them (a year in prison is a longer year for someone with children than it is for someone without), whether they show remorse and so on. Sentences have consequences long after the jail term is over, the record of the sentence sticks with you and means you have limited employment options, no access to credit, not access to insurance for a long, long time. The defendant in this case has binned their future career and a long or short sentence makes no difference in that respect.

    Junkyard
    Member

    i think it is not unreasonable to see that sometimes folk get in with the wrong crowd and do things they would not do otherwise and then sentence accordingly

    It was an interesting case though

    grum
    Member

    she has been publicly shamed very effectively. So a large part of what you might hope to achieve by sending her to prison is achieved by the end of the first week she’s there.

    Thats exactly how all sentencing is done – thats a judges job. The jury convicts the judge sets the sentence.

    I get that but I don’t see how that’s in any way fair – as above surely that just means that people who are already doing less well in life get harsher sentences for the same/similar crimes. You could equally argue that as an educated professional person she had much less of an excuse for getting involved in crime and should be dealt with more harshly.

    So, say a top executive gets done for selling drugs – no need to really punish him much because of the social stigma – unemployed scally does the same and should be treated more harshly as for him the shame isn’t the same? I realise this is probably the reality but it just seems massively wrong to me.

    Premier Icon zippykona
    Subscriber

    When my nephew was in court I was surprised that the judge mentioned that he had a steady job and girlfriend.
    I assumed he would be sentenced purely on the crime.

    Premier Icon Nick
    Subscriber

    she probably isn’t going to do it again

    folk get in with the wrong crowd and do things they would not do otherwise

    hmmm, well being unemployable and spending at least the next 18 months “with the wrong crowd” is unlikely to leave her with lots of options for walking the straight and narrow…

    Premier Icon maccruiskeen
    Subscriber

    There was a doc on R4 by Ben Goldacre that made an interesting point that although Judges evaluate cases individually theres not an evidence base for them to refer to for the decisions they make and theres no feedback so they don’t know which of the decisions they make are the most effective.

    It highlighted convictions where the culprit was drug addicted. A very high proportion of addicts die of overdoses a short while after release. But as far as the judge is concerned they only know if a sentence is successful in rehabilitating an offender if they never see that offender in court again. So they don’t have proper feedback about success, they only have failure fed back to them if someone re-offends on their manor and the case comes through their court and not someone else’s – but in addiction cases they don’t know if offender is on the righteous straight and narrow after release or dead in a lake of their own vomit. In fact they don’t know when and if each custodial sentence they hand out to addicts is in reality a death sentence.

    So, say a top executive gets done for selling drugs – no need to really punish him much because of the social stigma – unemployed scally does the same and should be treated more harshly as for him the shame isn’t the same?

    Thats if you think time behind bars is equally punishing to everyone, my experices meeting people behind bars is there are people who are career criminals to whom time is an occupational hazard and people who aren’t but who’s errors or otherwise had put them there. I had a civil prisoner who got two weeks for persistently not paying mantainance and associated fines. Two weeks behind bars was utter, utter horror for him, he couldn’t understand why I’d spend two hours at a time in there for money, or more to the point how I could walk back in again having been there once. Theres was definitely no way h’d make a choice that would put him back there again in future. On an hour by hour basis he was being punished more than anyone else in the room. For others theres no shock to prison so the alternative to the shock is to at least use duration as an inconvenience.

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