The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Press Gang

This article in The Times is an example of much that is wrong with the way in which the Press treats crime and punishment issues.
Journalists feed on each other, and attitudes fashions and usages are shared between different papers. For example, in the Times article David Brown speaks of the young men convicted of the manslaughter of Damilola Taylor serving 'just' half their sentence. That is of course the norm, but the impact of that 'just' is to imply that they have been let off in some way. Damilola's parents have suffered the loss of their son, and they have had to come to terms with an investigation that was badly handled in many ways. Mr. Taylor
had urged the judge to impose life sentences, saying: “Anything under ten years would be unacceptable. That is not even a year for every one Damilola lived.”
With all due sympathy and respect to the Taylors that is exactly why impartial judges pass sentence rather than grieving victims. The idea of linking the sentence to the age of the deceased is a new one, but of course Mr. Taylor wasn't really suggesting pro-rata sentences. The article is headlined that the killers "could walk free in three years". As I have said, the 50% remission is what everyone gets, and it is hardly a novelty. Time on remand is automatically taken off any sentence, but the "Times", which ought to know better, leaves the impression that the killers have been done some sort of favour.
The tabloids are the worst offenders, but the infection of sloppy journalism spreads fast, and even serious newspapers are spreading untruths under the guise of news. Still, at least the Taylors did not claim that they were the ones serving a life sentence, the standard response of victims' relatives these days.