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The legal response to the vile riots in London and other parts of the UK

Dear Reader,

I am sure that you are aware that in the UK a series of disgusting riots have occurred, these have lead to some rather shocking misunderstandings and exaggerations. I discovered that the Moscow news reported that the rioters had broken into London Zoo and had then released the animals, this did not happen but I do suspect that a lion or a viper would be more than a match for a typical rioter.

One of the things which has been misunderstood is that idea that British police have irreversibly changed into RoboCop style police complete with plastic shields, helmets and big sticks. While during rioting or other major unrest police officers will don special armour and have big plastic shields as soon as the rioting is over the police will put away their riot shields rather than going around for weeks on end like a group of Roman soldiers in some great formation resembling a tortoise.

Predictably and quite rightly the police have started to round up those responsible for the vile outrages; it is interesting that when these felons have been brought before courts that some commentators on the British legal system have expressed shock and outrage that the sentences have been rather harsher than normal.

I hold the view that crimes committed during the riot are special; these are crimes which are attacks on the life of the British nation. As these crimes are exceptionally serious then they quite rightly attract a more severe reaction from the legal system.

It is important to understand that a British judge or magistrate has a great deal of latitude when passing sentence, depending on the circumstances the same crime might attract a slap on the wrist or a very severe jail term.

The person who was given six months for stealing a water bottle might under normal conditions get a modest fine for stealing food/drink from a shop. But during the riot the commission of any crime contributes to the environment of law breaking which has so plagued my home nation.

I have recently read some of the sentencing guidelines issued for UK magistrates and a lot of it makes perfect sense. If we consider a modest crime of violence then the same act could be treated in a very different way.

Mr Z is sitting in a bar; a man comes in and mocks him describing in graphic detail something obscene about Mrs Z. Mr Z then rises to his feet and reconfigures the man’s nose with his fist.

Mr Z comes home and finds his wife in a compromising position with his best friend; he then punches the man and squashes his nose.

Mr Z takes exception to a man who barges in front of him in the kebab house queue and knocks him to the floor with a punch

Mr Z sees a football referee in the street who disallowed a goal which would have enabled his favourite football team to avoid relegation. He then punches the man.

Mr Z does not like the fact he has just been given a speeding ticket by a policeman, he then punches the policeman.

Mr Z is not willing to wait for his plate of curry; he racially abuses a waiter and punches him

Mr Z lays in wait for the football referee and attacks him on a dark night as the hapless man takes out his wheelie bin to the street

Mr Z lures a pizza delivery man to a house during the night and punches him while robbing him of the food

Mr Z chooses to attack the football referee while he is officiating at a under 16s football match in the park

Mr Z sees his ex-wife eating ice cream with her seven year old daughter and then goes and punches the former Mrs Z in front of her child.

Mr Z punches a pregnant Mrs Z in her own home while his eight year old son is clinging to his mother for protection (Mr Z has indicated that he wants to flog the boy for slurping his soup)

I am having trouble thinking of a more depraved version of Mr Z but let’s have a go

Mr Z punches an old man who is out walking with his five year old grandson and knocks him to the ground (breaking his glasses) while stealing his pension money. The old man falls onto his late wife’s beloved dog thus hurting the little dog. Mr Z thinks it is a jolly lark to attack the old man, his yob like friend films the deed and Mr Z then publishes it on the internet.

I imagine that you will have noticed a general trend that the acts of Mr Z seem to be getting more and more depraved, you will be glad to know that Mr Z is not a real man, he seems to be a bit of a one man violent crime wave. Now imagine that you are the magistrate and you need to pass sentence on Mr Z, the early versions of Mr Z will be likely to get a more modest penalty than the later versions of Mr Z. I think that the
reasonable person will view the deeds of Mr Z in a dim light, but the later versions of Mr Z are far worse than the early versions of him.

The presence of children, the vulnerable victim, the victim whose profession exposes them to the risk of violence, the attack within the victims home and the mocking of the victim by distributing a video recording of the attack are all features of the crime which rightfully make a person more disgusted at Mr Z’s conduct.

I hold the view that just as it is reasonable for the general public to find the latter deeds more morally repugnant than the early deeds, it is also reasonable for the legal system to treat the later versions of Mr Z in a harsher way to reflect the fact that he choose to commit these crimes which have these aggravating features.

In the same way as the aggravating factors which I mentioned made throwing the punch more serious, I think that the fact that a crime was committed during a riot makes the crime more serious. So I have to support the harsher sentences as long as these sentences were on the statue book on the day of the riot.

If we were to impose fifty lashes with the 200000 volt electric cat of ninety nine tails on the rioters who took part in the vile unrest then it is wrong on several grounds. Even if many people in society would like to see the vile yobs lashed, maybe they have not thought of the electric cat of 99 tails but some people would like them birched, whipped or beaten.

  1. The electric cat of 99 tails would be a cruel and degrading punishment.
  2. The use of this punishment would involve retrospective law, in another blog post I have written of how retrospective law is wrong.
  3. Even if the electric cat was on the law book (maybe in the 1891 criminal justice bill section 123 subsection z as amended by the 1984 ministry of love act it is mentioned in one line) it is so poorly known that few reasonable people would know about it, because the penalty has not been clearly advertised to the publish I think its use would be wrong.

This brings me onto another issue; I will save that for another day.

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