Monday, 17 June 2013

Sex offenders should face a life in custody for the lives they have ruined

Today the state of the UK Criminal Justice System was visually and horrifically summed up by the sentencing of the evil child abuser Stuart Hall to just 15 month in Prison, for physically and mentally abusing 13 girls over a life time of abuse and torment. For a man who lived a life of luxury and celebrity while he secretly destroyed the lives' of young girls to feed his evil desires all paid for by the British License Fee Payer, its another two fingers up to natural justice and the system. The injustice that he has received less than one and half months for every life he has destroyed and in reality will only be behind bars for just over two weeks for each of those lives is enough to stick in the throat of anyone with a conscience or a heart beat looking at this case.

I am a big supporter of prison reform, I've done case work for clients on death row in the USA, I've supported the work of the Howard League for Penal Reform and I've spoken at events and conferences on the need for fewer people in prison and more focus on rehabilitation and restorative justice. This is a cause I believe in philosophically and economically, prison is filled disproportionately with people from poorer backgrounds, those with mental health issues and those from specific ethnic backgrounds compared with wider society. Locking everyone up has been shown in the USA to be an admittance of a failure to solve the challenges these communities face and society washing its hands of chunks of it it that it doesn't know how to change. Equally locking large numbers of people in prison costs the tax payer a fortune for each and every individual locked up, and with a very large probability that after their release they will end up right back behind bars after failing to be rehabilitated by the system. The solution to this is simple, for offences that are not a danger to the public none violent, sexual and non repeat offenders alternative sentencing should always be the norm, forced work programs, restorative justice schemes, large fines deducted straight off wages or benefits reflective of earnings to inflict same level of penalty on the criminal and proper supported probation schemes paid for by results not on block contracts.

At this point you might be confused and starting to think i'm one of the same old do gooders that has lead to Stuart Halls appallingly soft sentence today for abusing 13 young girls, the truth is you couldn't be further from the truth.

Over the last decade Prison has increasingly been filled by those serving lesser offences, first time criminals and those people who are not a real risk to the public and at the same time we have seen criminals on longer sentences continue to get let out for "good behaviour" only serving half of their sentences, and life sentences  actually meaning life being the exception rather than the rule. By freeing up the system from those people who do not benefit from time behind bars we can refocus the entire justice system into a two tier approach. The first tier being for rehabilitation for those criminals who can become productive members of society again and for who prison would be barrier rather than the answer. The second tier should be all about protecting society from the most dangerous people in it, this includes all violent and sex offenders, child abusers and serious persistent offenders. This tier should involve mandatory severe sentences of tens of years and many where life sentences mean life. The regime in prison with not needing to focus on rehabilitation can be basic and reflective of the damage these individuals have caused on other peoples lives, whilst at the same time respecting we are a civilised society we will not cause even the most evil undue harm, but equally this extends to basic facilities and not the luxuries experienced in prison today.

Finally sentences should reflect the society we live in today regardless of when the crimes were committed, historic sex offenders should not face the luxury of gaining leniency by the sheer fact their horrific crimes happened in a different era and instead we should look at how long does society need protected from this individual something you can expect to be counted in decades and not months as we have seen in the case of Stuart Hall.

This is an issue that has the majority of public support behind it, its time to end piecemeal law making and take a bold positive step to keep our children, our families and our communities safe. Its time to reform criminal sentencing and the prison system to one that serves society and not the criminals.

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