What does it take to get locked up? Troublemaker who broke a man’s jaw in three places, pervert who had 600 images of child abuse and thug who held a woman at knife point, all avoid jail in shocking week of soft justice
- Damning evidence of how soft justice is handed out at courts has been revealed
- Audit of sentences from 12 courts reveals ‘habitual’ criminals are walking free
- Stephen Wright reports on a week-long survey of lenient sentences across UK
The ‘appalling’ soft justice meted out by courts is laid bare in a Daily Mail investigation today.
Violent thugs, prolific burglars and drug dealers are all escaping jail terms.
An audit of sentences imposed at 12 courts reveals how ‘habitual’ criminals are being allowed to remain at liberty to commit further offences.
One lout with 38 previous convictions – who broke an innocent man’s jaw in an unprovoked street attack – turned up at court with a holdall clearly expecting to receive a custodial term.
The ‘appalling’ soft justice meted out by courts is laid bare in a Daily Mail investigation (pictured, Sheffield Crown Court)
But a judge opted not to send him to jail, much to the disgust of the victim in the case. Shockingly, since the Mail’s week-long survey, a string of new examples of light-touch sentences have emerged. Over the course of the last two weeks alone, judges have allowed serious offenders – including sex criminals and kidnappers – to walk free.
In some instances, judges have even expressed sympathy towards those facing punishment by claiming sending them to jail would be unfair.
The four men pictured on the front page – Mark Thomas, Thomas Younger, Glyn Leedell and Mark Greagsbey – were all convicted of serious offences, including serious violence, but were all allowed free.
Today’s findings are likely to raise questions over whether the crisis in UK prisons – graphically illustrated this week by the scandal at Birmingham jail – is partly to blame for these ‘soft’ sentences. Assaults in jails are on the rise and reports have highlighted rampant drug use.
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Earlier this year, Justice Secretary David Gauke urged courts to only use short sentences of under 12 months as a ‘last resort’. However, critics are likely to argue that soft justice is contributing to the violent current ‘Wild West Britain’ crime-wave. Many now believe the lack of a deterrent is emboldening law-breakers. Violent crime surged by 21 per cent last year, with 1.3million offences recorded by police – the highest level since records began 15 years ago.
Harry Fletcher, founder of the Victims Rights Campaign, called for an inquiry by the Commons’ Justice Select Committee into the Mail’s findings. ‘These are truly shocking cases involving very serious violence which should result in custodial sentences. It is astonishing they do not,’ he said. ‘Victims are being let down and communities are not being protected. It is appalling.’
The Mail commissioned reporters to cover punishments handed out by courts in Bristol, Cardiff, Southampton, Bournemouth, London, Birmingham, Ipswich, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle across one week.
An audit of sentences imposed at 12 courts reveals how ‘habitual’ criminals are being allowed to remain free (pictured, Newcastle Crown Court)
Among the cases were those of a serial menace to society who dodged jail despite holding a knife to a woman’s neck and telling her ‘I am going to kill you’.
A crack addict who committed burglary while on licence from a previous break-in was allowed to stay on the streets. In June, Justice Minister Rory Stewart said prison sentences of less than a year should be scrapped for all but the most serious offences.
He argued that community penalties should be imposed – and even claimed victims of crime would be ‘better off’ with fewer criminals in jail.
Ministers have argued prisons are not working because they have become ‘offender warehouses’. At the time, critics branded Mr Stewart’s call a ‘green light for criminals’.
But he was recently backed up by Mr Gauke who urged courts to only use short sentences of under 12 months in extreme circumstances.
The sex offenders and kidnapper walking free
The Daily Mail unearthed numerous examples of judges adopting a lenient approach in sentencing. Below are some examples from the last two weeks:
- A kidnapper whose teenage victim was bundled into a car boot and raped was spared jail because a judge said it would be ‘unfair’ to her.
Helen Thompson, 43, was convicted for her role in the 1998 kidnapping in which she drove a 16-year-old girl to a flat where she was subjected to a horrifying sexual assault. While two men were jailed for a total of 38 years for their involvement, Thompson, who denied taking part, was let off with 12 months in jail, suspended for a year.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano at Warwick Crown Court said: ‘You have worked hard to put that behind you, and it would be quite unfair of me to send you to prison today.’
- A Border Force worker walked free despite admitting to grooming what he thought were two girls of 12.
Gary Hodgkiss, 48, also admitted possessing nearly 250 indecent images when he appeared at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester. But Judge Bernadette Baxter said she was giving Hodgkiss a chance to ‘build on the admissions’ and handed him 20 months in jail, suspended for two years.
- A voyeur who described filming up women’s skirts as his hobby was spared jail and even allowed to keep using his phone. Richard Sivier admitted he had used cameras to take the photos and videos of women over the course of 18 months, before posting some of the images online. Though a new law allows those convicted of ‘upskirting’ to be jailed for up to two years, he was given only an eight-week jail sentence suspended for two years at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
- A driver who sped the wrong way down a dual carriageway to escape police during a chase was spared jail.
Troy Stanton, 22, was uninsured when he drove into oncoming traffic at 70mph in a bid to evade officers in Coventry.
After pleading guilty to dangerous driving and having no insurance at Warwick Crown Court, he was given a 12-month community order with 200 hours of unpaid work, banned from driving for a year and fined £340. Sentencing, Judge Sally Hancox said she was giving Stanton a ‘one and only chance’.
He said prison should ‘change the lives’ of criminals instead of being used solely as a tool for ‘punishment’ and ‘retribution’.
Crime victim Tony Rutherford, 36, whose jaw was broken by Younger in an attack, was shocked when the Mail – not the police – told him his attacker had been freed.
Mr Rutherford said: ‘What message does that send to people if someone can leave someone in the condition he left me and walk away without a care? I’ve been through hell.’
David Spencer, of the Centre for Crime Prevention pressure group, said: ‘This fascinating investigation illustrates all too clearly what we have been saying: The British criminal justice system as it stands is much too soft. For the sake of public safety, this has to end now.’
Damning evidence of how soft justice is handed out at courts can be revealed after a Daily Mail investigation into sentencing hearings at 12 courts across the country.
Brutal thugs, serial burglars and drug dealers escaped prison despite reaching the threshold for custodial terms.
Stephen Wright reports on a week-long survey of lenient sentences included the following cases:
A drunken electrician who punched his work supervisor so hard it damaged the man’s voice box avoided jail – after a court heard he was about to get married.
Mark Thomas, 31, threatened and later attacked Lee Street, 33, at a wedding reception after finding marshmallows in his beer. He left his victim with life-changing injuries.
After drinking up to ten pints of beer at the event, Thomas, pictured right, directed his anger at Mr Street, with whom he worked at Scottish and Southern Energy, even though the victim had not been responsible for the prank.
The yob struck him twice on the back of the head and then punched him in the face and neck. Mr Street was left with a damaged voice box after the attack in July last year and is still unable to speak normally, Southampton Crown Court heard.
Marc Thomas (pictured) escaped three years in jail after he threatened and later attacked a man at a wedding
Thomas, of Totton, near Southampton, admitted causing grievous bodily harm. Mitigating, Jodie Mittell said: ‘He walks into court today with uncertainty on whether he will be given an immediate custodial sentence. His wedding is arranged for August 13.’
He could have faced up to three years in jail but was given a 12-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay £2,000 in compensation to Mr Street. It is just one of numerous lenient sentences handed down by judges.
In another case, a young drug dealer who expected to be jailed and even entered court with an overnight bag also avoided a custodial sentence.
Jake Faulkner, 24, was caught with nearly £10,000 in cash when police raided his one bed flat in Chorlton, Manchester. Faulkner also had four Nokia mobile phones, an iPhone, digital scales and bags for the sale of drugs. He was also found to have a ball bearing gun and two knives.
The guidelines for his offences had a starting point of one year in prison with a range of 26 weeks to a maximum of three years’ immediate custody.
Judge David Hernandez told him: ‘I noticed you entered court with a bag no doubt anticipating custody.’ But the judge then imposed an eight-month suspended sentence with 120 hours of unpaid work and a 40-day rehabilitation order.
And a career burglar with 24 previous convictions for 77 offences was spared jail for a spree of hotel burglaries which a judge called ‘a way of life’.
John Warren broke into a number of London hotel rooms including one at Raddison Blu in Marylebone, where he kicked down the door on a terrified unaccompanied female guest.
Prosecutor Christopher Prior said Warren had stolen a pair of 18 carat earnings, headphones and Apple products from one hotel, valued at around £4,040, in order to feed his drug addiction.
He added Warren had been given a five year sentence at the same court back in 2013 for similar theft related crimes.
Warren, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to five counts of burglary other than a dwelling with intent to steal and one count of burglary other than a dwelling. The maximum sentence for burglary other than a dwelling is ten years.
But the 53-year-old was handed a two year sentence suspended for 24 months after the judge, Recorder Clive Jones, decided the serial burglar was intent on rehabilitation.
Agreeing with Mr Prior, Judge Jones added: ‘It is a way of life.’
Attacker Thomas Younger entered court carrying a holdall in anticipation of starting an immediate prison term for brutal assault.
But Younger grinned and said ‘thank you’ to Recorder Andrew Dallas after being given a suspended sentence.
He left his victim Tony Rutherford with life-changing injuries after breaking his jaw in three places.
Thomas Younger (pictured outside court) threw two fingers up to a reporter after escaping jail for a brutal assault
Newcastle Crown Court heard that without warning Younger, 28, hit Mr Rutherford, 36, in the face outside a city centre bar in January this year.
The victim was left needing plates screwed into his shattered jaw following the motiveless attack.
Despite surgery, his teeth were left permanently unaligned and he can no longer bite correctly or smile properly.
Younger, from Newcastle, had 38 previous convictions.
He pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm without intent, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail.
But Judge Dallas instead gave him a suspended 12-month jail term, and ordered 200 hours of unpaid work.
The tattooed tout gave a Daily Mail reporter a two-fingered salute as he left the court building with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
A crack addict who committed a burglary whilst on prison licence from a previous burglary walked free after a judge was told he ‘thrives on positive reinforcement’.
Marc Price broke into a Subway restaurant and caused £500 worth of damage whilst stealing a British Heart Foundation charity box. Newcastle Crown Court was told that at the time of the offence Price, who has a 20-year drug problem, was on post-release licence for a previous burglary and had seven burglaries and a robbery on his record of 81 convictions.
Marc Price (pictured) broke into a Subway restaurant and caused £500 worth of damage whilst stealing a British Heart Foundation charity box
Judge Sarah Mallett asked to hear from a probation officer who told her: ‘Mr Price tells me that he very much thrives on positive reinforcement, it might just be the time for Mr Price now.’
Rather than sending the 39-year-old back to prison for the offence which took place near his home in Blyth, Northumberland, the judge deferred sentencing for four months.
However, she warned that if he committed further offences during that time he really would go to jail.
Glyn Leedell avoided jail despite threatening to kill a woman with a kitchen knife.
The criminal and his girlfriend met the victim in a pub in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
They were invited back to the victim’s house to carry on socialising with her friends.
But the woman became concerned when she discovered Leedell, 39, had taken a knife from her kitchen, Sheffield Crown Court heard.
The woman tried to pass the knife to one of her friends but Leedell, above, then produced another one with a blade of about five inches. He held the knife to the woman’s neck telling her: ‘I am going to kill you. I am going to slice your throat.’
Glyn Leedell (pictured) avoided jail despite telling a woman ‘I am going to slice your throat’
He was eventually bundled out of the house. Leedell admitted affray which carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail.
The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson, was told the lout, from Mexborough, had 44 previous convictions – but gave him an 18-month suspended sentence.
And in another case, a son avoided jail despite smashing up his mother’s house and threatening to stab her.
Shane Haddlesey, 25, had caused hundreds of pounds of damage at his mother’s home in October last year and also grabbed a knife and told her: ‘I am going to f****** stab you’.
He pleaded guilty to criminal damage, possession of a bladed item, threatening behaviour and battery at Leeds Crown Court but received a nine-month suspended sentence.
A pervert who had more than 600 images on his computer of children being sexually abused escaped with a two-year community order.
Allan Williamson, 45, had 446 images including 68 films which were classed at the highest level of Category A on his laptop when police raided his flat in Hulme, Manchester.
The still and film images showed children as young as seven being sexually abused by adults. Williamson also had 137 images classed as category B and 76 as category C.
The court heard the starting point for the Category A offences was one year with a maximum of three years in prison.
But Judge Elizabeth Nicholls imposed a two year community order with 30 days rehabilitation at Manchester Crown Court after saying Williamson had been ‘open and frank’ with the police about his behaviour. She told Williamson: ‘In the light of the fact you have taken tentative steps to address these issues, I can step back from the custody threshold.’
A controlling son who terrorised his mother into handing over her life savings by violently attacking her dogs every time she tried to resist was spared jail.
Mark Greagsbey bullied his mother Carol, 54, so severely over three years while he was living with her in west London she considered taking her own life. The 34-year-old, right, denied engaging in coercive and controlling behaviour in a family relationship but was convicted after trial.
Mark Greagsbey (pictured) bullied his mother Carol so severely over three years that she considered taking her own life
Magistrate Sarah Houston said the case was ‘one of the most serious we see in these courts’ but still handed him a 26-week suspended jail term at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
He must also pay his mother £5,000 in compensation.
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