Sunday, October 25, 2020
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Crime and (soft) punishment

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Jenny McDonagh, who worked for Kensington and Chelsea council, stole £62,000 from a Grenfell Tower victim fund and £35,000 while working for the NHS. She has been jailed for five-and-a-half years and no doubt will be released in under three as per sentencing guidelines for England and Wales which state that offenders sentenced to two years or more will serve half their sentence in prison and serve the rest in the community on licence. Not bad for £32,000 a year.

Lorry driver David Shields killed a woman motorist while he was checking his mobile phone and was jailed for five years last week. Likewise he will serve only two-and-a-half if he doesn’t breach his conditions.

Both cases are serious, so why should they not serve the full term? That’s a question for the Ministry of Justice.

But if the law in England and Wales is feeble, in Scotland it is a complete ass. This is illustrated by the case of teenage drug dealer Thomas Lamont. He sold ecstasy to 14-year-old Zoe Bremner, who subsequently died. Sheriff Johanna Johnston at Glasgow Sheriff Court sentenced 18-year-old Lamont to one year in jail and his co-accused Stephen Selkirk to 14 months. Under Scottish guidelines which state that those given short sentences, defined as under four years, are released after serving half, these two will be out in six or seven months, whilst the grief of Zoe’s parents is still raw.

The SNP are fond of saying that ‘where Scotland leads others will follow’ so here is an opportunity for the Scottish government to act and lay down far stricter sentencing rules with no ‘good behaviour’ reduction. Or will the SNP fudge yet another important issue?

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Clark Cross
Clark Cross is a retired chartered accountant, finance director and managing director. He lives in Scotland.

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