Why is it wrong to overturn wrongful convictions, Mr Bone?

It is a pretty safe bet that whenever Peter Bone MP opines on the criminal justice system he is wrong. He has voted to lower the abortion limit to 12 weeks, to retain the criminal offence of blasphemy and to reintroduce the death penalty (although not for blasphemy). One of his typical interventions last year was to sponsor a bill which would have forced judges to pass lengthy prison sentences even when they knew that it would be unjust to do so.

In fairness to him, he is wrong about plenty of other things too. In 2010 he signed an Early Day Motion in support of homeopathy (Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott were fellow signatories, as well as the completely barmy Conservative MP David Tredinnick, who believes in astrology). Continue reading “Why is it wrong to overturn wrongful convictions, Mr Bone?”

The law on transsexual sex has lost touch with humanity and common sense

There has been widespread concern expressed at the 8 year prison sentence passed on Gayle Newland, the 25 year old Chester University student who was recently convicted of assaulting her sexual partner by penetration.

Just weeks later, female to male (but pre-op) transsexual, Kyran Lee, appeared before the Lincoln Crown Court and received a suspended sentence for assault by penetration. The judge’s relative leniency spared the Ministry of Justice the dilemma of deciding if he should be sent to a male or female prison.

There were many differences between the two cases, not least the fact that Newland had been convicted after a trial, whilst Lee pleaded guilty. Lee also faced only a single count.

Nevertheless, the different treatment afforded to the two defendants was striking, and it perhaps serves to emphasise the confusion that now surrounds the law relating to transsexual people and the criminal law.

From shortly after Newland was dragged to the cells, screaming “I’m scared!” press comment has been almost universally critical of HHJ Dutton’s sentence (even though he was faithfully following the Sentencing Guidelines). An entirely unscientific online poll by the Daily Telegraph found that 72% of respondents thought the sentence was too severe, and a similar poll for the Chester Chronicle produced nearly identical results.

Gayle Newland: 8 year sentence widely criticised
Gayle Newland: 8 year sentence widely criticised

Continue reading “The law on transsexual sex has lost touch with humanity and common sense”

Neil Fox’s character has not been vindicated, it has been assassinated

The disc jockey Neil Fox was yesterday acquitted of ten charges of indecent and sexual assault against women and girls. The accusation was that he had committed the offences between 1988 and 2014.

As these things go, the allegations were not particularly serious. They involved unwanted “French” kissing, bottom and breast grabbing and the allegation that Mr Fox had put his hand up various skirts. The worst was perhaps an allegation that he had engaged in sexual activity with a 15 year old girl.

One of the more unusual aspects of the case is that Mr Fox chose to be tried in the Magistrates Court rather than in the Crown Court. This meant that the verdict would not be decided by a jury, but by a bench of magistrates or a (professional and legally qualified) District Judge. In fact, as things turned out he was tried by the Chief District Judge, Howard Riddle and a pair of lay magistrates. This is the Magistrates Court equivalent of a seven judge Court of Appeal. It is very unusual.

Continue reading “Neil Fox’s character has not been vindicated, it has been assassinated”

A few thoughts on Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius has had his conviction and 5 year prison sentence for culpable homicide overturned by the South African Court of Appeal. It has been replaced by a finding that he was guilty of murder. Instead of re-sentencing him itself, the Court of Appeal has sent the case back to the trial judge, Thokozile Masipa. Continue reading “A few thoughts on Oscar Pistorius”

Should we always prosecute people who make false allegations?

What should happen to people who make false allegations?

The issue has been put into stark focus by the publicity given this week to the case of Geoff Long.

Mr Long had a daughter called Tina from an unsuccessful first marriage. In 2010 she went to Brighton police and claimed that he had systematically abused her over thirty years earlier when she was aged between 8 and 16.

There was apparently no corroboration to her allegation, but it led to Mr Long’s prosecution. The jury believed Tina, and he was convicted. He received a sentence of 5 years imprisonment.

To rub salt into his wounds Tina then gave her story to a magazine, which published it under the headline “34 years on I finally made him face up to his hideous crimes.” Continue reading “Should we always prosecute people who make false allegations?”

Theresa May wants to ban pleasure

I had rather naively thought that a central part of Conservative philosophy was that, unless there is strong evidence of harm that can be prevented or alleviated by Government action, it’s usually best to let people live their lives without interference from the state. Theresa May’s Home Office thinks rather differently. It proudly announced last month that since 2010 it has banned more than 500 new drugs, as though this were an end and a self-evident good in itself.

Well, we now know it was not an end, it was a beginning, and 500 banned substances were just a taster. In its Psychoactive Substances Bill the second reading of which is to take place in the House of Lords next week, it has made proposals to ban all “psychoactive substances” apart from a few defined exceptions.

Did you know that tea was a “psychoactive substance”? Well under this new law it will be, and you will be allowed to drink it only as a special exemption from the normal rule. Continue reading “Theresa May wants to ban pleasure”

Sir Cliff Richard and historic sex cases: is our justice system fair to old men?

I was 15 when I met Cliff Richard.

I was a pupil at a boys only boarding school. Every Sunday – this was back in the 1970s – we all had to attend a religious service. Mostly these took place in the school’s wonderful chapel but every so often speakers were invited to give a religious talk in a more secular setting. One of these was Cliff.

He was a star, albeit no longer a very trendy one, and there was great excitement as the day of his visit approached. Not only would the great man sing, play his guitar and entertain us in his characteristic happy-clappy-Jesus-loves-you sort of way, he would also answer questions, so it was said, “about anything you like.” Continue reading “Sir Cliff Richard and historic sex cases: is our justice system fair to old men?”