FEROCIOUS DETERRENT SENTENCES FOR THOSE CRIMES THAT CAUSE THE MOST DISTRESS
The general European rate of crime is supposed to have decreased during the last decade. We can’t be sure of all the statistics, because we now know there has been much fiddling with the figures. But it would be good to take advantage of any trend to try to nearly obliterate two crimes that cause great personal distress – namely mugging (street robbery) and burglaries of private dwellings.
Unlike Britain in the 19th Century, no-one is reliant on crime to keep themselves or their children in food. Therefore it is unacceptable that innocent people should suffer such distress from these unnecessary crimes.
MUGGING/STREET ROBBERY. There should be a huge taboo about any type of violence in the street, and this taboo should be reflected in the sentencing. In a nation that claims to be civilized , we should be able to walk anywhere without the slightest fear of violent robbery. The results can be devastating. I knew one woman in Brixton who, after suffering a mugging at the age of 50, never dared again to leave her house in the evening.
Robbery (the term implies either violence or a threat of violence) is is not a rare crime. More than 60,000 incidents being reported each year, and of course the real figure being more than 100,000, because many are not reported. Over the years the sentences of convicted muggers have mostly got more lenient, with the length of sentences reducing, and there has been a massive increase in community sentences, and even in suspended sentences (only 16 in 1998; 476 in 2009). Instead there should be ferocious penalties, including “two strikes (not three strikes) and you’re out”. Prison sentences for robbery involving knives and guns are often still absurdly lenient. Street crime has also been exacerbated by the value of the latest mobile phones. In London, our capital city of which we should be proud, more than 160 mobiles are snatched from pedestrians each day.
With a crime such as street robbery, it is exceptionally difficult for the police to catch the offender. Another reason to give a ferocious penalty to the minority that are caught. Some might argue that this would expensively fill up our prisons. But in fact a ferocious and well publicised deterrent would greatly reduce the incidence of this crime. And taking everything into account, the expense of prison is not so great as appears, because it would save the huge paperwork and administration of dealing with the crimes that the villains would commit if they hadn’t been imprisoned. Most crime such as robbery and burglary is committed by recidivists.
BURGLARIES. Very real distress is caused when homes are burgled. Just recently the Guardian reported the extreme case of a vulnerable old man whose life was wrecked by being burgled dozens of times in his final years. More often than might be gathered from newspapers, burglars leave shit or urine in the house, and make a horrendous mess, thus adding to the horror for the victims.
Even, taking into account massaged statistics, there are more than 200,000 ‘burglaries in a dwelling’ each year. This is totally unacceptable and unnecessary. Again it would be reduced by ferocious penalties, and ‘two strikes and you’re out’. Often when taken to court, burglars ask for dozens of offences to be ‘taken into account’, but all these past offences do little to increase the sentence, and seem not to take any account of the massive distress that has been caused. Again, as any student of criminology knows, a massive increase in the length of prison sentences would be a valuable deterrent, and again, this would be greatly enhanced by ‘two strikes and you’re out’.