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article imageOp-Ed: UK crime round up for October 21

By Alexander Baron     Oct 20, 2011 in Crime
A round up from the UK of crimes in the news: shocking, disgusting and relatively trivial including an ongoing murder trial, and a failed appeal from the recent riots.
The case of two men who incited riots through Facebook was covered here in August. Really this is two cases because Jordan Philip Blackshaw and Perry John Sutcliffe acted independently and do not appear to have known each other. Sutcliffe has previously been alluded to as Sutcliffe-Keenan but here he was named as plain Sutcliffe.
As predicted in the August 17 article, they did not receive much of a discount from the Court of Appeal. In fact the outcome was even worse than that, their sentences were upheld in total. Their appeals were heard on September 27 along with no less than eight others, and the judgment was published in full on October 18. As was to be expected, the Court took its time, and the verdicts were delivered by the Lord Chief Justice himself. For legal buffs, the full 141 paragraph judgment can be found here, but the bottom line is that it was bad news for almost all of the defendants. The Court explained in great detail why all these sentences were of such apparent severity, but the bottom line is that in their context they were aggravated crimes, and aggravated crimes warrant aggravated punishments.
Stephen Craven had his sentence for handling stolen goods and theft reduced to 6 months; he had been “genuinely, walking home when the events occurred”.
David Beswick had originally been given a sentence of 18 months for handling stolen goods. His sentence was halved.
Stephen Carter had received a sentence of 16 months. His sentence was halved too.
None of these men had taken a direct part in the riots, which was the only real mitigation they had.
In a lower court, three men facing even more serious charges had some good news.
In March, 5 year old Thusha Kamaleswaran was caught in the crossfire in a South London shop as our home grown gangstas went on the rampage. She was left paralysed from the waist down. Three youths have now been told that at their trial in January next year they will not face charges of attempted murder in relation to her injuries, although they still face other, equally serious charges. Good news for some, but not for a young girl who is likely to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
At Bristol Crown Court, an even more serious case saw defendant Vincent Tabak explaining to a jury how he had smothered his neighbour Joanna Yeates rather than murdered her. This controversial case began in December last year when the young landscape architect disappeared. Her body was found dumped in a country lane on Christmas Day, and the tabloids had a field day when her elderly landlord Chris Jefferies was arrested on suspicion of her murder. This ended with Mr Jefferies in court, but not as a defendant. Two newspapers were fined for contempt of court, and the retired schoolmaster was last seen crying all the way to the bank.
When the police turned up on Vincent Tabak's doorstep, a different scenario ensued, and it has now been clear for some time that he would not deny killing Miss Yeates, only mens rea, the guilty mind that must be demonstrated to a jury.
Although his trial has some way to go, crime buffs may have noticed a superficial similarity with the defence put forward by Ian Huntley, the man convicted of murdering schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, in particular his description of how he claimed to have accidentally smothered Jessica. Unlike Huntley, Tabak does not have to explain how at the same time he was smothering one victim, the other was drowning in his bath. He does though, have another, and equally formidable obstacle: he is being defended by William Clegg, who defended Michael Stone, a man convicted of an heinous double murder on prosecution evidence that was so laughable that you couldn't make it up. Even though Damien Daley did.
From the ultimate crime to frankly a bizarre one, which coincidentally also happened in Bristol. Back in February, a man with learning difficulties walked into a barber shop and asked for a pattern to be shaved on his head. The barber was only too happy to oblige; in fact he was so happy that he shaved a smiley face into it, and added the word "fool".
It is difficult not to laugh at this, but after it was reported to the authorities, instead of seeing the joke, they charged Michael Campbell with common assault.
Unsurprisingly, he was convicted by a magistrates' court of the crime of the century in spite of his pleas that there had been a misunderstanding.
Campbell has yet to be sentenced, but is likely to find this little joke expensive. Instead of fining him though, might it not be more productive to sentence him to giving a hundred vulnerable people free haircuts? Under supervision, of course.
Finally, Dale Farm has at last bid good riddance to its unwanted travellers. Actually, the word travellers is something of a misnomer, as these squatters have been static for the past ten years. Basildon Council has spent millions of pounds trying to get rid of these people who have been squatting on this Green Belt land of late aided and abetted by a rag-bag mob of the usual suspects. To date there have been 34 arrests.
Just as predictably, the likes of redhead and red everything else Vanessa Redgrave have spoken up in their defence. Of course, if she loves these people so much there is a very simple solution, she can put them up in her own garden, but for the rest of us, especially the good people of Basildon, the answer is NIMBY - NOT IN MY BACK YARD.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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