After insanity on the streets, we have insanity on the bench

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by Kenneth Roy 
 
One of the most shocking cases to come before a Scottish court in recent years involved the torture of a 14-year-old girl in a car park at a shopping centre in Edinburgh. Two girls aged 14 and a boy aged 13 stripped the victim naked and, during a ferocious attack lasting 45 minutes, left her covered in blood from head to toe and with six two-centimetre wounds on the back of her head, inflicted by stiletto heels. All the while, one of her assailants was filming the assault on a mobile phone.

by Kenneth Roy
 
One of the most shocking cases to come before a Scottish court in recent years involved the torture of a 14-year-old girl in a car park at a shopping centre in Edinburgh. Two girls aged 14 and a boy aged 13 stripped the victim naked and, during a ferocious attack lasting 45 minutes, left her covered in blood from head to toe and with six two-centimetre wounds on the back of her head, inflicted by stiletto heels. All the while, one of her assailants was filming the assault on a mobile phone.

For anyone in Scotland who is still feeling warmly patriotic about the absence of gang-inspired disorder in Scotland while parts of England burned, it is salutary to remember this case. A picture emerged of three young people from ‘chaotic, abusive and violent home backgrounds’, actively involved in Edinburgh’s youth gang culture, and completely disengaged from education.
 
Lord Malcolm, imposing sentence, reflected the public’s revulsion and horror, perhaps (he added) despair too, not least because of the youth of those involved. The girl’s life had been put in danger by their ‘uncontrolled violence and cruelty’.

He sentenced each of the attackers to four years’ detention. Bear that figure in mind: four years. That was in November 2009. All three will be out no later than this autumn, if indeed they have not already been released back into the community.

Four years is a common sentence not only for serious assault of the kind I have just described, but for rape. It was the term of imprisonment handed out last month in Edinburgh to Gordon Skene, 23, a man said to be known for his ‘recklessness’ towards women, who raped a teenager in West Lothian. It was the sentence recently imposed on a former Brighton police officer, Sean Allman, who twice raped a woman in Hampshire. For these two counts of rape: four years. He got an extra two years for assaulting his wife, who had suffered ‘sustained violence and abuse’ at his hands for quarter of a century, leaving her ‘traumatised’.

Note these figures again. Four years for double rape of one woman. Two years for destroying another woman’s life.

In Aberdeen in June, Lord Bracadale gave four years to a Polish barman, Michael Skindzier, working in Shetland, who climbed into a woman’s bed when she was asleep and raped her in what the police described as a ‘horriific and cowardly attack’. Lord Bracadale said he was aware that the sentence he was imposing could not undo the damage that had been done to a young woman’s life.

I repeat: four years.


‘In your favour I note you do not have any previous convictions. I also note you made a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity…I sentence you to four years’ imprisonment’.


Four years is also a familiar sentence for drug dealers. Another recent case from Scotland: a remand prisoner in Perth, Thomas Smith, who had ‘an appalling record of criminal activity’, was caught in his cell with heroin with a jail value of £13,000. He got four years.

Robbers, too, can expect four years. Indeed it is so widely accepted a tariff for this crime that the case of one Christopher Hudson is featured in a Ministry of Justice guide to sentencing. The judge’s speech is offered as a model: ‘Robbery is an extremely serious offence. To attack a young woman in the dark and put a knife to her throat is utterly deplorable – she would have been terrified. The fact that you are a drug addict cannot possibly excuse such behaviour…In your favour I note you do not have any previous convictions. I also note you made a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity…I sentence you to four years’ imprisonment’.

Four years, then, is a serious sentence for serious crimes. Yesterday, in a court at Chester, two young men, Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, both of previous good character, were sentenced for inciting rioting on the social networking site Facebook. ‘This happened at a time when collective insanity gripped the nation’, said the judge – a statement arguable in its accuracy since the collective insanity was confined to a rather small number of English cities and failed to grip Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, failing also to grip such English cities as Newcastle, where a collective sanity continued to reign.

Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan proved to be quite inept at inciting anything. Neither of their proposed riots actually took place. Nothing happened. It is possible that Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan would be incapable of inciting the proverbial piss-up in a brewery.

For their rank stupidity, they were sent down for four years. A sentence proportionate to the offence would have been four months. Four years is what you get when you subject a girl to a vicious attack in a car park and film it on your mobile phone. Four years is what you get when you commit double rape. Four years is what you get when you deal heroin. The collective insanity to which the judge refers is the insanity now gripping the bodies judicial and politic as they fail to understand what went on in England two weeks ago and now fail to deal with it sensibly.

 

Courtesy of Kenneth Roy – read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review