Recent riot sentences too harsh ?

Magistrates can’t win !

Magistrates, like teachers, can scarcely be accused of doing the job for money. Further, they regularly face criticism for either being too lenient or too harsh. Many magistrates will have felt pressured to get tough when dealing with the offenders from the unprecedented recent riots and yet, they are still being criticized.

The President of the Prison Governors Association has come out and criticized the sentences resulting from the riots. We can certainly see both sides of the argument. On the one hand, many of the offences are likely to have been opportunistic, stupid and undertaken by “sheep” – those wanting to appear cool, to be part of the gang and to not lose face. Ordinarily, they would not attract harsh sentences, especially if first time offences. On the other hand, quite clearly, the Government, backed by an overwhelming majority of the public, believe that the riots are indicative of a bigger problem in society, a breakdown in respect for all and everything. On that basis, no society wishing to stay intact can do other than to put a marker down, hence the harsh sentences.

The Guardian recently reported that of 1,000 riot-related cases heard by magistrates, 70% of defendants were imprisoned, a massive jump from the norm of 2%.

What do you think about this ?