Thursday, April 20, 2006

Is This Justice?

I'm not normally a member of the hang 'em and flog 'em brigade. To my mind, prison should be used as a punishment of the last resort; efforts at rehabilitation, and punishments such as heavier community service orders are a sounder investment in the future. Well, that's what I like to think on my more positive days, at any rate.

I couldn't believe this story that I read today.

Kevin Hazelwood, 40, of Oriental Place, Brighton, Sussex, was told by Lewes Crown Court that he must serve a minimum of five years and seven months.

Last month he admitted six rapes, two attempted rapes, three sexual assaults and two indecent assaults.

He was on a sex offenders' treatment programme at the time of the attacks.

That's less than one year per rape, never mind the persistent attempts for other rapes on top of that. And this is how we punish someone who has been given the chance of rehabilitation, too! What penalties for a first-time offender with one rape?

If the principle of offering a second chance has any grounding in policy, it must be the carrot that is twinned with the stick. Offenders shouldn't expect the state to throw money at them time and time again - that's just throwing good money after bad. If they're given the chance to get their lives back on track, and there are many compelling reasons why they should be (after all, unless we make everything punishable by life imprisonment, they have to be let back out at some point, and I think it is immoral to use prison simply as a holding house for people to offend again), then it must be emphasised that there are penalties for more lenient treatment the first time.

Giving derisory sentences like that to repeat offenders makes a mockery of the justice system.