English: Frances Crook OBE. Director, the Howard League for Penal Reform. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Oxford University LAW PROFESSOR Andrew Ashworth said thieves and fraudsters should be SPARED jail, with prison sentences reserved for the most serious crimes, those of a violent, threatening or sexual nature. Clearly professor Ashworth hasn’t been the victim of credit card fraud or identity theft! His proclamation is no doubt welcomed by those of us thinking of committing white-collar crimes.
He goes on to say that for “pure property offences”, including theft, handling of stolen goods, criminal damage and fraud, imprisonment is disproportionate and the priority should be on making sure victims are compensated and that perpetrators make amends. In the real world in which Ashworth DOESN’T live, victims are rarely compensated!
Prof Ashworth’s pamphlet titled ‘What If Imprisonment Were Abolished For Property Offences?’ has been released by the Howard League for Penal Reform. The Howard League plans to distribute the pamphlet to every magistrates’ court in England and Wales in a bid to spark a debate on sentencing issues. Ashworth concludes that fines and community sentences would be more effective and proportionate than locking someone up. Oh really? A 50pence a week fine for wrecking someone’s life? A community service that sometimes isn’t monitored? We should all experience the rarefied existence of living on a university campus.
The effect of such a radical policy would be profound, Ashworth said, significantly reducing the prison population and saving millions of pounds each year. Exactly! Such a policy would save the government millions, but in turn, cost the PUBLIC millions by encouraging individuals to commit fraud! According to the pamphlet, 20,000 people go to prison each year for theft or handling stolen goods, 5,000 for fraud and 1,000 for criminal damage. Since the government is worried about the cost of housing criminals, then may I humbly suggest it cuts the £12BILLION a year in foreign aid to countries who steal much of it to buy flats in Zürich and build rockets they don’t need, and BUILD MORE PRISONS. YOU MUST DISCOURAGE CRIMINALITY! IT MUST NOT BE CONSIDERED A CAREER CHOICE! To suggest that a fine & community service will encourage criminals NOT to re-offend is LUDICROUS! The punishment MUST fit the crime, otherwise society will break down faster than it already is breaking down. If there is no REAL punishment for your crime, you will carry on committing crime, and probably while you’re serving your community service. SOFT justice will ALWAYS encourage criminals to re-offend!
Case in point: Anne Baker, 61, stole £1.1million over thirteen years from her employer, The Princess Grace Hospital, Marylebone, West London. Inventing a ‘Dr Baker,’ she submitted 131 bogus invoices to her department for radiology consultancy services. Baker then signed off the invoices herself using her maiden name Anne Fitzpatrick, and pocketed £1.14million. She and her husband Andrew spent the money on landscaping their garden and installing waterfalls and fountains at their home. The couple also bought a luxury villa in turkey, bought Jaguars and an Aston Martin. Much of the unused stolen money was hidden in foreign bank accounts. Anne Baker was jailed for four years yesterday, and her husband, for six. Now according to Professor Ashworth, they shouldn’t have been imprisoned!
It’s official, Britain is soft on crime! Research from the Centre for Crime Prevention revealed that habitual criminals are routinely avoiding jail terms with some even having received 300 or more previous convictions or cautions. 29,000 criminals have avoided prison sentences despite racking up 25 or more previous conditions. Data from Freedom of Information requests shows that almost 112,000 criminals, found guilty of at least their sixth offence in 2012 avoided prison.