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The danger of disproportionate sentences

26 August 2011

8:02 PM

26 August 2011

8:02 PM

It’s great that hundreds of looters are being punished properly, and the police
are to be congratulated for working hard to find the thugs responsible for damage during the riots. But whilst it’s important to be tough, let’s also beware of completely 
ludicrous, perhaps counterproductive sentencing.

Today it was reported that a young
man called Anderson Fernandes has been jailed for 16 months for stealing an ice cream. He walked into an open ice cream store, prepared two scoops on a cone, took one lick, then passed it on to a
nearby woman because, he said, he didn’t like the coffee flavour. Is this really a crime that deserves a 16-month sentence? It’s true that Fernandes wasn’t a model citizen —
he’d had just appeared in court charged with possession of an offensive weapon and class A drugs. But the fact remains that he’s got over a year for stealing an ice-cream.

There are muggers doing less; rapists and murderers being released, in part due to over-crowding. Anderson didn’t actually break into the shop or cause any direct threat to the public. If he
has to be punished, what about community service? If jail sentences appear disproportionate, there is a real danger of further riots.

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