Sunday, January 30, 2011

I've never seen anything so wet in all my life': British judge slams 'soft' sentencing options that prevented him jailing burglar

A judge has hit out after sentencing guidelines prevented him from sending a burglar to prison. Julian Lambert lambasted the justice system as ‘soft’ after he was forced to hand burglar Daniel Rogers, 25, a community sentence.

He said: ‘I’ve never seen anything so wet in all my life – 80 hours’ community work for burgling someone’s house. ‘I very much regret sentencing guidelines which say I should not send you straight to prison. ‘We live in soft times.’

His comments highlight the frustration felt by many judges over restrictions placed on their powers.

The Guideline Judgments Case Compendium sets out clear sentencing guidelines for judges and magistrates. It states that cases of burglary with minimal loss and damage and a low impact on the victim should be dealt with by a community sentence. A burglary with some higher culpability on the part of the offender or having a greater impact on the victim should usually involve a custodial sentence of between nine and 18 months, though the term can be longer.

Burglaries with serious culpability or impact have a starting point of two years’ imprisonment, and the maximum sentence for domestic burglary is 14 years. A judge must also take into account any mitigating factors and aggravating factors such as when the burglary was and whether the occupier was at home. A plea of guilty or not guilty is also a factor.

Bristol Crown Court heard that Rogers broke into a house in the city last year and began looking for valuable items. Owner Ross Campbell discovered Rogers as he rifled through his living room and the burglar snatched computer gear, a wallet and DVDs before running out of the house.

Rogers, who lives in Southmead, Bristol, pleaded guilty to burglary after police tracked him down through a fingerprint left on a games controller.

Jonathan Stanniland, prosecuting, said Mr Campbell heard noises coming from downstairs and found a hooded man in his living room. He said: ‘He chased the man out of the rear door. ‘The man went into the back garden and scaled a fence to next door.’ He added that Mr Campbell had suffered from anxiety after the break-in and feared that he may have been targeted because he and Rogers had three friends in common on Facebook.

Judge Lambert said he despaired of current sentencing guidelines when he was handed a report advising him not to send him to prison. But judges are bound to take in mitigating factors – such as Rogers’s early guilty plea – when it comes to sentencing. It was recommended that he sentence Rogers to just 80 hours’ community work.

But the judge gave him 240 hours, a six-month curfew between 9pm to 6am, a 12-month ban from licensed premises and 18 months of supervision. He told Rogers: ‘You’ve got the lot. It may be easier for you to do the time.’

James Haskell, defending, said his client could do community service and said a curfew would prevent Rogers from going out drinking, which he had used as a ‘coping mechanism’ previously.

Last night the judge’s comments drew support from Sue Lloyd, of Victim Support. She said: ‘Victims often feel let down by the criminal justice system and the complexities of sentencing decisions. ‘Burglary can have a serious impact on a victim, not only because of the theft and damage involved but also the sense of invasion of what should be a safe, private place.’

The Avon and Somerset Probation Service said any probation report supplied to a judge before sentencing was for guidance only. A spokesman said: ‘The pre-sentence report is purely to provide information and act as a guide for the judge.’


Some most embarrassing Wikileaks

To the horror of a European political intelligentsia which has been steadfast to the point of fanatical in its opposition to Israeli “settlements” in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian leadership itself, we now know, has long accepted that the vast majority of Israeli settlements can be considered legitimate and would become part of Israel under any reasonable peace agreement.

This is utterly devastating since it simultaneously shows that everyone from the British Foreign Office and the BBC to the European Commission and the continent’s passionately anti-Israeli NGO community have been adopting a position which was significantly more uncompromising on “settlements” than the Palestinian leadership itself, and also that that same Palestinian leadership had accepted that the so called 1967 “borders” — the gold standard for practically every anti-Israeli polemic around — are irrelevant to the prospects of a lasting peace.

In one of its most resentful leader columns for years, the Guardian was nothing short of apoplectic: not so much with Israel, but with a Palestinian leadership which has effectively blown the credibility of the Guardian’s very own mantras on the MidEast straight out of the water. The Palestinian leadership, the paper declaimed, had been shown to be “weak” and “craven”. Their concessions amounted to “surrender of land Palestinians have lived on for centuries”. And, in words that look alarmingly close to the position adopted by Hamas, “The Palestinian Authority may continue as an employer but, as of today, its legitimacy as negotiators will have all but ended on the Palestinian street.” This is sheer spite.

The Palestinian leadership accepts what any reasonable person has been able to accept for decades. The Guardian then slams them as surrender monkeys. The Guardian newspaper is more hardline against Israel than the Palestinian leadership itself. And bear in mind, as you mull over the implications of that stark and unyielding state of affairs, that the Palestinian Authority is led by Mahmoud Abbas, who is a Holocaust denier.

But it gets worse. The only conceivable way out of this for the anti-Israel community is to turn this all upside down and argue — as analysts, reporters (anyone they can get their hands on) have been doing on the BBC all day — that what this really shows is the extent of Israeli “intransigence”: the Palestinians offer all these concessions, and still the Israelis say no! This was the line adopted by Paul Danahar, the BBC’s MidEast bureau chief, who quite casually averred that, “The Israelis look churlish for turning down major concessions”. Good thing no-one’s taking sides then.

Tragicomically, it just won’t wash. Privately and morally, senior Palestinians can see that there is nothing illegitimate or even especially problematic about most of the “settlements”, (as reasonable observers of the MidEast have been saying for years). This we know from the leaks themselves. But publicly and politically they cannot sell such concessions to their own people. This we know because they are currently trying to distance themselves from the leaks, and because they educate their own people in an implacable rejectionism which extends to the “moderate” Palestinian authority glorifying suicide bombers and other terrorists by naming streets and squares after them.

Logically and reasonably, the Israeli response is to see such “concessions” for what they are: well intentioned in so far as they go, but impossible to implement in practice. Quite apart from the question of Hamas-run Gaza, the Palestinians have been playing the same old game of saying one thing to one audience and something else to another. They are not a credible partner for peace, and the Israelis do not look remotely “churlish” for understanding this.

It will be interesting to see how this whole affair now plays out. But never again can the anti-Israel community play the settlement card and at the same time retain a single ounce of credibility.


Australia: Wrapped in the flag and loving it

Sally Neighbour makes observations below that are similar to the ones I made briefly on Australia day. Note that I was able to explain what she cannot

NOT usually one for patriotic musings, at lunchtime on Wednesday I nonetheless found myself pondering the meaning of Australia Day and how this once second-rate public holiday became the source of such riotous celebration across the land.

At the time I was floating on a giant inflatable plastic thong, clinging to a rope tethered between buoys beyond the breakers at Bondi Beach.

For the record, it wasn't my idea. But there we were, bobbing on the ocean, me and 2067 other patsies, all set to make a world record for the number of people gullible enough to queue for 45 minutes and - get this - pay $30 to promote a foreign brand of rubber thong. The marketing genius who thought that up surely deserves an Order of Australia for services to advertising.

As the hoary strains of Men At Work's Down Under drifted predictably across the sea, our mooring provided a novel vantage point of Bondi Beach, now crowded with tens of thousands of bodies, outnumbered only by Australian flags - on bikinis, board shorts, towels, hats, umbrellas, beach shelters, painted faces and fake tattoos.

I wondered: how had it come to this? How had I been roped into such a commercial stunt? (In short, because my in-principle objections sounded lame in the face of my 11-year-old's protestation: "but it'll be fun". And damn it, it was.) More to the point, when and why had Australians embraced with such gusto an event that, not long ago, was regarded as just an excuse for a day off?

In the 1970s and 80s, having a holiday to commemorate the arrival of the first boats of white settlers was widely regarded - at least among my generation - as passe, an anachronistic nod to a history we weren't sure whether to be proud of or not.

As for the Australian flag, it was seen by many as an irrelevant relic of our colonial past, doomed for the scrapheap come the republic.

We would no sooner have draped ourselves in such a frumpy ensign than donned our grandma's bowling whites and headed for the local green.

For some, a vague discomfort with Australia's national symbols was only sharpened in recent years by the spectre of Pauline Hanson wrapped in the flag and its use as a symbol of ugly jingoism at Cronulla in 2005. "The cloak of racism," one friend calls it.

But such reservations have little traction among generations X and Y. Ambivalence has given way to unabashed pride in all things Australian, not least the flag.

They turn up to the Big Day Out with it tattooed on their skin. The same young Australians flock to Gallipoli each year to mark Anzac Day, and trek in their thousands along the Kokoda Track.

Just why this is so is a question that intrigues social researcher Rebecca Huntley, director of the survey-based market research firm, Ipsos. She has commissioned a study beginning this year called "being Australian", which will examine, among other things, the patriotism of gens X and Y.

Ipsos research thus far shows the things people most typically associate with being Australian are time-honoured values such as the "great Australian dream" of owning their own home, the idea of having a "laid-back" lifestyle, which Huntley says is "a core part of being Australian", and the knowledge that people will pull together in a time of need such as the recent floods. The surging affinity with nationalistic symbols is a more recent trend, most markedly in the past three years.

Huntley is reluctant to jump to conclusions about why young Australians are clearly more comfortable with the flag than the generation before them.

Maybe the young revellers simply realise how fortunate they are. It's hard to know when all you can get out of them is, "Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie, Oi Oi Oi!" It was left to a jubilant newcomer at a citizenship ceremony in Sydney to articulate why being Australian was something to be immensely grateful for. "The opportunity to find jobs here is much better and it's much safer. I do think that Australians who haven't travelled and seen how the rest of the world lives take the freedom here for granted."


Standing Up to the PC Bullies

Professor Robert Engler has taught sociology at Chicago’s Roosevelt University for 12 years. Like many professors, he occasional tells a joke, but in this instance, mirth cost him his job, probably his career plus thousands in legal fees. Here’s the joke:

A group of sociologists did a poll in Arizona about the new immigration law. Sixty percent said they were in favor, and 40 percent said, 'No hablo English.'"

The gag may not be a side-splitter, but it hardly insults Hispanics. Nevertheless, in the spring of 2010 it elicited two written complaints as ethnically offensive, and as a result, he was fired and his course, “City and Citizenship” (a graduation requirement) was discontinued. In fact, his department refused to put the “harassment” charge in writing and Engler only discovered the accusation in the student newspaper.

And why was this lame joke so harmful? Cristina Solis justified her complaint with "If that is what it took to give him a reality check, and to make sure that no other student has to go through that, maybe it's for the best." She also claimed that Engler’s joke was inappropriate for "a school like Roosevelt University, which is based on social justice."

This mountain-out-of-a-mole hill strategy is hardly unique--a free speech organization FIRE encounters dozens per year. Important lessons are to be learned from this seemingly minor Politically Correct outrage.

First, American education has produced an entire generation that is hyper-sensitive to any affront, real or imagined, who collect grievances as some hobbyists collect postage stamps. Indeed, victimhood seems hard wired into their DNA so an insult-free environment, regardless of millions spent for sensitivity training, let alone accommodations, is beyond reach. Further add quick-to-demonstrate groups whose raison d’ĂȘtre (and funding) depends on quick-trigger mobilizations of angry followers.

Second, it is impossible to anticipate what might stir the pot. Unlike Pakistan, our blasphemy laws are unwritten, even unknowable in advance. The eminent Harvard historian Stephen Thernstrom was brought up on charges that he offended black students when he said “slave” instead of “enslaved person” since, it was claimed, “slave” de-humanized those in bondage. When the Dean took the student’s side, he decided not to teach the course in the future.

Third, the aggrieved party is judge and jury. Professor Engler could not request that an impartial panel of humor experts to assess the joke’s hurtfulness. After all, the only admissible credential for this expertise is one’s racial or ethnic identify, and who can challenge that? So, if a black accuses a white of racism, trial over.

Fourth, emotional harm trumps scientific truth. The truth may set you free but it will not win back your job. When co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and Nobel laureate James Watson characterized sub-Saharan Africans as having lower IQ’s than whites, he was pushed out as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (see here). Nor did he regain his job when he backtracked with” there is no scientific basis for such a belief” (actually ample but not all scientific data support Watson’s initial statement. For confirming data, see here).

Fifth, once stigmatized as “offensive” there is no redemption. Dog killers get a better deal. Profusely apologizing, adding endless qualifiers, claiming that one’s offensive remarks were misinterpreted or taken out of context do not bring absolutions. And it only takes a tiny handful of incidents to kill public discussion. Larry Summers will probably go down in history not for his stellar academic record but as the Harvard Dean who famously hinted that biology might explain why women do not occupy top scientific position. Anybody want to re-open the debate?

Finally, and perhaps most depressing, those deemed guilty of “offensiveness” will seldom receive any public backing, regardless of the charge’s ridiculousness, its scientific accuracy or one’s expertise. Even the accuser’s outright scurrilous lies will not draw public rebuke. The heretic is on his own though trusted friends may privately provide succor. Nor is the First Amendment relevant—this only protects you from government action, not enraged private citizens. Perhaps the only exception has been Juan Williams who got a $2 million dollar contract from Fox News after admitting that airline passengers in Muslim garb made him nervous. I suspect that ordinary passengers uttering those “hateful” words would receive extra airport security.

What can be done? In the short run, not much—the offended cannot be mollified. Prosecuting heretics is undoubtedly just human nature; only the subject changes—religious dissenters in medieval times, those who link violence to Islam today.

But, there is some good news—orthodoxies bringing dangerous willful blindness are not forever. In Victorian times even mentioning venereal disease was taboo; today schools may be legally required to explain it to youngsters.

The path to success begins by overcoming the accused heretic’s isolation. PC types are typically bullies quickly emboldened when they can attack timid, isolated enemies, one at a time. Perhaps Roosevelt University faculty and students should have organized an ethnic humor night with stand-up comics telling Hispanic, Jewish, Black and Polish jokes? Bring in Jackie Mason or Chris Rock. Give Professor Engler an open mike and a coach to polish his delivery.

More important, don’t surrender to those using “being offended” as the ticket to success. Appeasement only brings a bigger bill next time around. How many times have we seen an “offensive” incident eliciting demonstrations demanding hiring more minority faculty, extra sensitive training, a new publicly funded cultural center and similar accommodations to, allegedly, heal the wounds? In fact, these pay-offs often encourages hoaxes.

Finally, when all is said and done, there is no substitute for invoking truth or at least an argument that is likely to be true. The truth often hurts, it can be offensive and lowers self-esteem, but public debate built on soothing lies invites disaster.

Consider what might now happen at Roosevelt University. Other professors teaching potentially controversial subjects will cleanse any “insulting” references to Hispanics or other easy-to-anger groups. Topics like crime, teenage pregnancy and welfare dependency will vanish lest a slip of the tongue, even the wrong facial expression, brings charges of harassment. Prudent faculty might also revert to plain vanilla boring lectures and award sensitive students “A’s” as an insurance policy. Other might just pander to these groups to play it safe. Classes will grow duller, less spontaneous and Hispanic students, among other thin-skinned students, will receive an incomplete, watered down but flattering education filled soothing lies. And they will never know it and so graduates will have feasted on a diet of lies and omissions. So much for Roosevelt University’s commitment to social justice.



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.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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