Friday, August 06, 2010
Insane Britain: Despite 688 crimes, this burglar got another chance, and re-offended
A teenager who burgled almost 700 properties during a £1million crime spree because he enjoyed the 'buzz' of stealing was finally jailed yesterday. Bradley Wernham, 19, was caught trying to break into a house just three months after a judge had spared him prison to give him a 'second chance'.
The case is embarrassing for Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who controversially wants to see more emphasis on rehabilitation so fewer criminals can be jailed.
Yesterday, jailing Wernham for five years, Judge Christopher Ball, QC, insisted he had originally been right to 'gamble' by enrolling the thief on a taxpayer-funded rehabilitation scheme that provided him with a rent-free flat and job training.
Astonishingly, police yesterday hailed the 'innovative' approach taken with Wernham as a 'success' and said they would continue to use it.
Critics, including the teenager's victims and an MP, reacted with disbelief that Wernham had been allowed to strike again, describing the decision not to jail him first time round as 'ridiculous'.
Engineer Tim Marsland, 39, who had his £2,500 Kawasaki ZX6R motorcycle and equipment stolen by Wernham, said: If you don't get locked up for 700 burglaries what do you have to do? It was totally ridiculous - it was a joke that he got let off. 'It's a better result now. He is where he belongs. I know he won't serve anything like five years but maybe a bit of time in prison will sort him out a bit.'
Wernham gave some indication of the level of his readiness to reform with a bragging message posted on his Facebook page last night. The badly spelt message - sent six hours after he was jailed - read: 'Be out in 18 months or before.. Yeeh is guna ride this s**t'.'
Wernham was branded one of Britain's most prolific thieves when he admitted 17 burglaries and thefts and asked for 645 others to be taken into account when he first appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex in October 2009. He already had convictions for 26 other offences, bringing the total to 688 crimes.
The teenager, who lived with his mother and two brothers in Harlow, Essex, started his life of crime aged ten, targeting hundreds of homes as well as pubs, garages, shops, schools, and even a church. Frequently he would break into properties to obtain car keys and then make off with the vehicle.
He stole property worth an estimated £1.1million during his oneman crimewave, including an £85,000 Mercedes, a £50,000 Porsche Cayman and a £30,000 Land Rover Discovery.
He was arrested in March 2009 after he broke into a Beefeater restaurant and stole money from a fruit machine, hours after snatching two Kawasaki motorbikes worth £4,000 from a nearby garage. But to avoid jail he struck a deal with police and probation officers that they would give him education, training and support so that he could end his criminal lifestyle.
As part of the process, he toured around Harlow pointing out the 645 properties that he had broken into early in his criminal career. As a result, Judge Ball let him walk free from court last October, and Wernham was relocated to Chelmsford, where he moved into a rent-free flat with a girlfriend.
He was also ordered to do 150 hours of community service and obey a six-month overnight curfew order from 11pm to 6am. But just two months later, in December, Wernham was caught driving without insurance. He was not charged, but on January 5 this year he was caught as he broke into a home which had a BMW parked on the drive.
Officers were nearby as they had Wernham under surveillance, having noticed a sharp rise in the number of burglaries since he had moved to Chelmsford. Wernham pleaded guilty to attempted burglary, but claimed he did it only because he was 'so stressed' by police following him.
This time Judge Ball dismissed his claims as 'palpable nonsense' and jailed him. He told Wernham, who smirked as he was sentenced: 'You cast yourself as a victim and you're not. 'Until you are a man, or man enough to appreciate that fact, there will be little hope in you changing your conduct.'
He called Wernham a 'prolific and successful burglar to which no shop, office, garden shed, garage, school or even house is safe', adding: 'Committing offences gives you a buzz, gives you an adrenaline rush, and you were pitting your wits against the police.'
But Judge Ball also launched an impassioned defence of the scheme which aims to give repeat offenders the chance to 'break the cycle of offending' without going to jail. He said overcrowded jails had made it much tougher for prison staff to run rehabilitation programmes, adding: 'There are more ways of making life safer for the public than just locking people up.
Admitting that the scheme had 'not been successful in the sense that Mr Wernham has chosen to reoffend' he insisted: 'The opportunity must never be taken away just because one case has failed.'
Outside court, Superintendent Glenn Maleary of Essex Police pledged to push on with the scheme, which the constabulary was trialling with Wernham after its use by Hertfordshire Police. He said: 'I view the overall scheme, and the innovative approach that was taken in relation to Bradley Wernham, to still be a success.'
But Conservative MP for Chelmsford Simon Burns said he was ' disappointed but not surprised' that Wernham had reoffended after a 'ludicrously light sentence'.
The British police state
The criminals are safe. It is ordinary decent citizens who get harassed
Years ago, if someone had said Britain was becoming a police state, with all manner of officials intruding on our privacy, interfering with our lives and making unwarranted demands upon us, all with Parliament's full approval, I'd have thought it a grotesque exaggeration.
Now I'm not so sure. Last week my partner and I were travelling to France through London's City Airport.
Having cleared security, two uniformed men from the Border Agency blocked our way. 'Where are you travelling?' one of them asked. 'Nice,' I replied. 'For how long?' they asked.
'Two or three days.'
'What is the purpose of your visit?' 'Business and pleasure.' My good mood was rapidly evaporating. 'What's this all about?' I asked. 'Are you carrying more than £1,000 in cash?' he inquired.
'As it happens, I'm not,' I replied, 'But what if I was? Is that now a crime?' 'Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 we have the power to ask you to prove where that money came from,' he solemnly intoned.
Now, of course, when some people read this, they will think: 'So what?' Well, I don't. This is wrong on all counts. First of all this kind of approach is a needle-in-a-haystack operation, unlikely to uncover serious offences.
The Mr Bigs of money laundering will be laughing if this is the best resistance our authorities can offer against their illegal activity. The only thing this crude Border Agency initiative will achieve is inconvenience to a lot of innocent travellers.
Right now, many thousands of holidaymakers are embarking on their annual summer break in droves. Many of them are leaving the country with currency worth at least £1,000 on them. And why shouldn't they? To confuse them with money launderers is insulting and no substitute for the careful police intelligence that might bring serious criminals to book.
Even if the principle of checking random tourists was valid - which it isn't - £1,000 sets the bar way too low. This is just a work creation scheme for uniformed jobsworths.
But then pointing the finger of suspicion at ordinary, decent people and giving officials another opportunity to interfere in our lives, is becoming commonplace in today's Britain.
My brush with the Border Agency may seem trivial. But in the context of the ever-increasing abuse of the laws which are meant to prevent crime and terrorism, it provides a disturbing insight into so much that is wrong in Britain's criminal justice system today.
Too many laws are being subverted by the police and other bodies just so that they can throw their weight around. Indeed, there are hardly any areas of our lives which are now free from the prying of the state machine.
Legions of town hall bureaucrats have been spying on people to see what they put in their dustbins and whether they put them out at the right time. More than half our town halls admitted to spying on families suspected of 'dustbin crimes' in 2008. The authorities installed secret CCTV cameras sometimes concealed in tin cans, on lamp posts or in compliant neighbours' homes.
Such abuses of power are now endemic: last week, the Borough of Poole Council was condemned by the courts for spying on a middle-class family 21 times to check if they actually lived in the right catchment area for their children's school.
The police, needless to say, are the worst offenders, routinely abusing powers under the Terrorism Act to bring back the old 'sus' laws. This is the informal name for the laws which gave the police the right to stop and search whoever they liked, whenever they liked - without any valid reason - just because of suspicion.
The Archbishop of York revealed this week that he has been stopped and searched by police eight times under the Terrorism Act 2000. Is it because the uniformed officers really suspect John Sentamu is Al Qaeda's Yorkshire boss? Or is it because he's black? I know what I think.
The new home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced the suspension of stop and search powers because of the tidal wave of criticism about their abuse. And she is right, not least because of the damage that arbitrary stop and search powers do to good community relations.
Thirty years ago, there were race riots in Brixton and elsewhere and one of the root causes was the black community's resentment of oppressive policing - particularly the huge numbers of black people stopped and searched without cause.
I'm proud that one of my first acts as an MP was to sit on the committee that abolished the 'sus' laws and then, as home Office Minister, to replace them, in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, by establishing the power to stop and search only if there was reasonable cause.
Labour's Terrorism Act of ten years ago has proved yet again that police can't be trusted with such powers, and Theresa May should take them away permanently.
Not that being white is any guarantee of freedom from harassment. Countless law-abiding citizens have been stopped by police for taking pictures and had their cameras confiscated, for nothing more than photographing prominent buildings and tourist attractions. Yet again, a law passed by our Parliament of poodles to stop terrorists scouting potential targets has been abused in the most absurd way.
I have had my boat boarded on the Thames by a police officer who chose to ask a number of questions about where it was registered and other mundane details. Initially I was perfectly willing to answer the officer's questions, but as he droned on and on I told him I'd had more than enough. He then flourished a form saying that actually I was being stopped under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
I asked him if he had any idea how insulting it was to a former home Office Minister for the police to so blatantly abuse their powers. He looked puzzled. Such a thought had plainly never occurred to him.
My old mate Alan West - a former First Sea Lord - dines out on the story of having his car stopped and searched to prevent terrorism when at the time he was actually the serving Security Minister. It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry.
At least I know where I stand with the law: what about people not versed in the law who are genuinely cowed by the police when they are taking a picture of Nelson's Column or minding their own business on a river?
I am old enough to have been the Foreign Office Minister responsible for Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall. I travelled there and I saw for myself the routine prying in people's lives and liberties that propped up Communist states.
Now is the time for us to protest, if we do not want to find ourselves living under that same crushing yoke. A new government - and belatedly, the courts - is at last waking up to the threat to our liberties posed by a myriad of laws and regulations which are being wilfully misused by the authorities to destroy our rights and freedoms.
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. History shows that those who won't fight for freedom lose it. So if you are stopped at the airport by some Border Agency jobsworth and asked about your euros, tell him you think it is a disgrace he should be doing this. Because, actually, it is.
Democrat judge rules that Muslim custom trumps American law
A New Jersey family court judge's decision not to grant a restraining order to a woman who was sexually abused by her Moroccan husband and forced repeatedly to have sex with him is sounding the alarm for advocates of laws designed to ban Shariah in America.
Judge Joseph Charles [A former NJ Democrat senator], in denying the restraining order to the woman after her divorce, ruled that her ex-husband felt he had behaved according to his Muslim beliefs -- and that he did not have "criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault" his wife.
According to the court record, the man's wife -- a Moroccan woman who had recently immigrated to the U.S. at the time of the attacks -- alleged:
"Defendant forced plaintiff to have sex with him while she cried. Plaintiff testified that defendant always told her "this is according to our religion. You are my wife, I c[an] do anything to you. The woman, she should submit and do anything I ask her to do."
In considering the woman's plea for a restraining order after the couple divorced, Charles ruled in June 2009 that a preponderance of the evidence showed the defendant had harassed and assaulted her, but "The court believes that [defendant] was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited."
Charles' ruling was overturned last month by New Jersey's Appellate Court, which ruled that the husband's religious beliefs were irrelevant and that the judge, in taking them into consideration, "was mistaken."
The woman's lawyer, Jennifer Donnelly of New Jersey Legal Services, told FoxNews.com that Charles' ruling should add to the case for a proposed Oklahoma law, which will be on the ballot in November, which would ban judges from considering "international law or Shariah Law" in their rulings.
"Those who don't want the bill to pass say, 'there's really no need for it because why would a judge walk down that road of religion?'" Donnelly said. "Clearly here, this judge did walk down that road. He may not have said 'Shariah law.' But I think it's indicative that, in trying to be respectful of religion, judges venture into a very slippery slope."
Donnelly said she was surprised when Charles refused to issue a restraining order, adding that the only tipoffs that it might happen were questions he put to the husband's imam when he testified in the case.
The Appeals Court ruling notes, "The imam testified regarding Islamic law as it relates to sexual behavior. The imam confirmed that a wife must comply with her husband's sexual demands, because the husband is prohibited from obtaining sexual satisfaction elsewhere. "However, a husband was forbidden to approach his wife 'like any animal.' ... he acknowledged that New Jersey law considered coerced sex between married people to be rape."
Charles, a former New Jersey state senator, declined to comment on his ruling. The husband, who represented himself in court, remains unnamed, as does his ex-wife.
While the judge in the case did not specifically mention Islamic or Shariah law, Robert Spencer, director of JihadWatch.com, said he might as well have. "This is a ruling that is strictly in line with Islamic law, which does indeed declare that a wife may not refuse her husband sex under virtually any circumstances," Spencer said. "The only legal framework that would not consider marital rape to be sexual assault is Shariah."
But Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council for American Islamic Relations, said claims about Shariah law in the U.S. play into irrational fears about Muslims. "It fits into the whole extremist Muslim-basher theme that Muslims are somehow trying to replace the Constitution with Islamic law," he said. "That is absolute fantasy, and hateful. Islamic beliefs don't permit rape of any kind," he said, speaking of the New Jersey case.
Asked whether the imam's testimony contradicted that, Hooper replied, "It's just clear that a Muslim husband shouldn't do anything of this sort to his wife. It's just common sense. You don't need a religious figure to tell you that's wrong."
First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA, said, "The Shariah law debate is a total distraction," and he noted that in the U.S., two people may sign a contract and give an Islamic court the power to determine if the contract is breached. In a 2003 case, for instance, a Texas district court ruled that the private "Texas Islamic Court" should decide the amount a husband owed his wife in a divorce proceeding -- because when they got married, they had signed a contract specifying that was what they wanted.
But assault is illegal, regardless of any contract, Volokh said, and the Appellate Court in New Jersey ruled correctly. "The claimed religious practice of non-consensual sex involved in this case is so heinous that almost everybody thinks that you shouldn't have the right to do that, no matter what your religious beliefs are."
The husband in the case has been indicted on criminal charges and is expected to face trial in the fall.
Donnelly said that, as far as she knew, her client had not had trouble with her ex-husband since they divorced. She added that she hoped the Appeals Court ruling for her client would set a precedent. "This ruling will really help people coming behind her," she said.
Australian police must not co-operate with countries that have the death penalty?
This is another example of chronically confused Leftist thinking. Indonesia has the death penalty and on other occasions the Federal Australian Left has been falling over itself to increase co-operation between Australian and Indonesia!
Indonesia is a nation of over 200 million Muslims and is virtually on Australia's Northern doorstep so any sane Australian Federal government would be doing its utmost to preserve good relations with them. What is reported below can only alienate the Indonesians. One can only hope that the instruction concerned will be rapidly withdrawn
THE Australian Federal Police has been told to consider the impact its investigations have on Australian citizens when working with countries that apply the death penalty.
Yesterday's instruction was contained in an official ministerial direction by Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor and was an apparent reference to the AFP's role in the Bali Nine drug case, in which nine young Australians attempted to smuggle heroin into Australia from Bali.
Arrested as they were leaving Indonesia, three of the group - Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and Scott Rush - were subsequently sentenced to death, The Australian reports.
Their fate provoked savage criticism of the AFP, which co-operated with Indonesian authorities to bust the 2005 conspiracy.
The direction, which updates a set of instructions issued in August 2008, sets the AFP's law enforcement priorities and outlines the strategic framework in which the Government expects the AFP to operate.
It instructs the AFP to "take account of the Government's long-standing opposition to the application of the death penalty in performing its international liaison functions". It is the first time such an instruction has been included in the ministerial directions.
But former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock described the new instructions as "very problematic".
Mr Ruddock, who was Australia's attorney-general at the time of the Bali Nine case, said the instruction would apply to a range of crime types, such as terrorism. "That's really saying that in relation to potential terrorist events the AFP cannot provide information to the Indonesians," Mr Ruddock said.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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