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Wednesday, April 18, 2007 

Scum-watch: Neverending deja vu.

Would you trust this woman?

It's a pretty thankless task being a tabloid hack. According to last year's poll conducted on behalf of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, a massive 7% of the population trust tabloid journalists (PDF), yet the vast majority of newspapers sold in this country are those very same journals which those untrustworthy hacks contribute to. As it doesn't look like the public are suddenly going to see the light and all start buying a broad or an ex-broad, the solution is surely for tabloid journalists to either stop making the news up, and distorting/misreporting the news.

Of course, this isn't going to happen due to the very nature of tabloid newspapers; the editors in charge, and the proprietors themselves. Hence the cycle continues, and when looking at the same shit day after day I suffer from eternal deja-vu.

Today is no exception. The Sun loves it when a "soft" judge opens his mouth, for it gives them an excuse to try and make the public believe that we aren't the most criminally punitive country in Europe, and that prison does indeed work. Or rather, it loves it because it can distort what the "soft" judge actually said and make it look as though he's an idiot who shouldn't be left in charge of a guinea pig, let alone be sending "villains" down the Scrubs. Previous case studies include Lord Philips, who made a scholarly speech discussing the implications of mandatory sentencing, which the Sun twisted into "Top judge: Let killers out of jail". Lord Woolf, who was giving evidence to the Home Affairs select committee, is today's victim.

Woolf in a 'go soft' jail plea

BRITAIN’S former top judge yesterday called for a sentencing shake-up that would put FEWER criminals in jail.

Lord Woolf told MPs that prison should be reserved for “those that really deserve it”.

He told a Commons committee that NO new jails should be built, adding: “We have many people in prisons now who don’t need to be there.”

He also blamed prison overcrowding for high re-offending rates.

His evidence is yet to be posted in full on the select committee website, so I can't go through exactly what he did say. However, piecing it together through the reports in the Grauniad, Torygraph and Times, it becomes quickly apparent that he was predictably putting across a far more nuanced argument:

Lord Woolf said that there were two solutions to the prison overcrowding crisis: to build more prisons or to reduce the prison population.

But putting more resources into new prisons, he added, would not solve the problme (sic) long-term: it was expensive, and unconstructive.

“What we should be doing is to make greater progress to make more effective non-custodial sentences.”

Meanwhile prison places should be reserved only for “those who really deserve it and need it”.

He said overcrowding was a major barrier to rehabilitation, and the country could not afford to keep building new prisons.

“We have not got over the message just how expensive incarceration is. The cost of sentences should be set out in clear and realistic terms.”

He added: “The primary use of prisons must be for violent offences.”

Lord Woolf said prison places were so expensive that they needed to be reserved only for those who "really deserve and need it". He suggested that the Sentencing Guidelines Council should be told by the government how much money was available for prisons for the next five years and asked to draw up guidelines that keep the prison population within those resources.He said: "The judge should know how much the sentence he is imposing will cost the public, and if there is a suitable cheaper option then he should choose that. We have not got over the message just how expensive incarceration is. The cost of sentences should be set out in clear and realistic terms." Lord Woolf, who sat as a judge in the criminal courts for 25 years, acknowledged that the confidence of judges and magistrates in community punishments had deteriorated, partly because of an overstretched probation service. He accepted that violent crime had to be dealt with severely, and denied that he was as "out of touch" as some tabloid newspaper editors had claimed.

A cap should be placed on the prison population to reduce overcrowding, the former Lord Chief Justice said yesterday.

Lord Woolf, who retired last year, said jail should be reserved only for "those who really deserve it and need it".

He said overcrowding was a major barrier to rehabilitation, and the country could not afford to keep building new prisons.

It's quite clear then that Woolf was in fact making the argument that simply building more prisons will not solve overcrowding as the current emphasis on custodial sentences will mean that they will be filled as quickly as they can be built. Additionally, that emphasis on sentencing and the overcrowding which is the result is in fact making the public less safe, as re-offending rates are going up as a result, from 51% in 1992 to 67% now. He didn't in fact say that no new jails should be built, but instead that the cost needs to be considered. It costs a mesmerising £40,000 to keep a person in prison for a year - money which would surely be better spent in a good number of the cases in which someone serves a year or under on community punishments instead. Consider the "gran from hell" sentenced to 6 months in jail at 81, which'll cost £20,000, when there almost certainly most have been a better solution than locking her away.

Woolf has then been successfully proved to be saying that judges "should go soft", so it's time to remind the readers' that the Sun opposes these liberal morons:

UK prisons are at bursting point with a population over 80,000. The Sun has called for more jails to be built and for judges to hand down tougher sentences to criminals.

Home Secretary John Reid has failed to deliver on a promise to turn old Army camps into jails.

Which was completely unworkable and proposed by... the Sun itself!

Here's the leader:

LORD Woolf has learned nothing since retiring as Britain’s top judge.

What's he supposed to learn? That the Sun's right and he's wrong and that's that?

In office, he constantly pleaded for softer sentences and cushier jails.

Now, in his dotage, he wants criminals set loose and plans for new jails scrapped.

That's exactly what he said, yes.

The daft old bird thinks that despite soaring rates of violent crime, we should put fewer convicted offenders behind bars.

Except that he said that "violent crime needed to be dealt with severely". Places are always going to be there for violent offenders; Woolf's point was that we needed to think about how other offenders are managed.

He may have a point that some petty criminals do not deserve to be locked up.

But those are well and truly outnumbered by the villains who are a menace to society and are being set free by wishy-washy liberal judges like Lord Woolf.

Right. Judges have been shown to be in fact getting ever harsher, and the prisons wouldn't be overcrowded if these violent criminals were being set free, but oh, what's the point?

Elsewhere in today's Scum, there's a slight difference in the reporting on two separate cases involving sex:

Lad's 100s of romps with Miss

AN ex-schoolboy told a court yesterday he romped with a married woman class assistant in car parks, hotels and at her home.

He was 15 when he began the alleged fling with Jeni Saville-King.

The lad, now 18, claimed sex acts occurred “hundreds of times” but they did not have full intercourse until he turned 16.

Jurors were told Saville-King, 29, became PREGNANT during the year-long affair but she assured him her husband was the father.

If this had been a man, he'd be denounced as a pervert, a sicko and as abusing his position of trust. As it involves a rather pretty 29-year-old woman, it's instead a semi-jokey, lad's dream come true. Contrast this report with this article on a man only sentenced for theft and admitting to having a problem with a sexual fetish:

Shoe perv walks free


Oh, and one of the finalists in a talent show previously got her tits out (nudity, obviously). Amazing news. Hopefully we'll adopt a similar attitude to reality TV to that taking hold in the States in regard to American Idol: they're voting for the worst.

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