In English law as in all legal systems worthy of the name, there is a principle of proportionality. Sometimes you will read a sensational headline that claims X faces seven years in gaol for stealing a can of beans from a supermarket or some such nonsense. The maximum sentence for simple theft in the UK is indeed seven years, but a fine or even a caution is much more likely for a first offence. When the sentence handed down is manifestly unfair, there is a right of appeal. The Court of Appeal strikes down overtly severe sentences regularly; it also has the right to increase sentences, a power that is rightly used sparingly, and is done on a reference from the Attorney General himself.
In July last year, two men were each gaoled for 3 years and 4 months for the rape of an 11 year old girl. This week, the sentences of Roshane Channer and Ruben Monteiro were increased to seven years
. Though this is to be welcomed, most people, certainly most parents, would probably have considered ten years, or even twelve, to be far from excessive given the circumstances of this quite shocking case.
If you want to read the long version and have the stomach for it, the Court of Appeal judgment has already been published
Last year, when the victim was examined, by which time she was presumably 12 years old, she weighed nearly 14 stone. From this judgment, it is clear this was a young girl who was vulnerable in many ways, and incredibly this was not the first time she had been sexually abused.
This particular act - which involved both rape and oral rape - came to light only because a 16 year old boy filmed it on his mobile phone and shared it, presumably thinking this was something humorous.
Another rape case saw 18 year old Ryan Forde given a six year sentence
for an attack on a young woman who was on her way home from a night out in the small hours of September 11, last year, a date best known of course for mass murder rather than rape, but that was little comfort to the victim. Forde had pleaded not guilty but his lies were not believed, probably because there was a witness, a man but for whose actions the attack would have been far worse. Gatis Raktins was awarded £400 out of the public purse by the trial judge.
Brian Farmer spent 22 years in the British Army, serving in both Northern Ireland and the Gulf only to be murdered in his own home. On Wednesday it was reported that two arrests had been made
in connection with the death of the 64 year old; a third arrest has since been made; at the time of writing all three suspects have been bailed pending further inquiries and further tests after an inconclusive autopsy.
From rape to murder and back to rape; a man has been charged with no less than 4 counts of rape
after an attack on one
woman at Chelmsford, Essex, last Saturday. The unnamed victim who is said to be in her 20s was kidnapped in the small hours.
Finally, neither rape nor murder but a serious assault that could very nearly have been the latter. A story from the Bromley local press this week concerns another extraordinarily lenient sentence meted out for a crime of extreme gravity. It is unclear if the assault on Jamie McKechnie by Andrew Ellis
was attributable to too much alcohol, drugs or some sort of extreme personality disorder, but it is clear that it was totally gratuitous. What started as an exchange of words in the street on August 15 last year ended with a murderous assault that left the younger man in a wheelchair and with serious neurological damage.
The victim's parents were said to have been furious at the sentence, which could easily have been doubled or trebled. The maximum sentence for GBH in Britain is life, which is what Jamie McKechnie appears to be serving.
At Croydon Crown Court, Ellis was given a three year sentence for grievous bodily harm; this is another sentence the Attorney General should consider referring to the Court of Appeal, but probably won't.