AND WHY WE SHOULD ALL WEEP FOR BRITISH JUSTICE
|The extent of the damage done to Samantha Fraser's face|
This case, reported in the Mail today by Peter Hitchens highlights the sickening state of the miserable justice system of our country, where a slouching youth can smash the face of a beautiful girl with a brick and walk from court with nothing more than a £200 fine and a year to pay it.
He won’t even have a criminal record and we're not allowed to know his name.
His case was heard in a special 'youth court' where his victim was not present and where everyone behaved with great consideration in case he was upset.
Peter has written a long article about the case, some of which is reprinted here. His sentiments must surely be echoed by every decent citizen left in the UK. Even as a time served retired copper, this one made my blood boil to read the details.
Somehow the story needs to reverberate for years to come in the minds of the fat-bottomed, complacent people who are responsible for this, and who will do nothing about it, ever, in case somebody at the BBC calls them 'fascists'.
When Clare Fraser told Peter what had happened to her lovely daughter Samantha, and what had not happened to the boy who attacked her, he admits that he actually cried. I can understand why.
Not just because of the horrible injury to a good and admirable person; not just because of the eloquent fury of Clare's letter to Peter; not because of the squalor and mean-mindedness of the lout who, in a second of casual cruelty, smashed a hole in another person’s life as well as in her face. But because Peter had to admit to her that there was probably nothing to be done about it.
The injustice of our age is of a different kind. But it is no less smug and no less in need of being made to feel so ashamed of itself that it reforms its behaviour deeply and permanently. Something similar needs to be said here to those who for decades have withdrawn the police from the streets, neutered the courts, and coddled the lout in the hope that he will be nice back.
The people (of all political parties) who have fiddled the crime figures down, the people who have automatically halved every prison sentence, the people who even now are saying that it will be perfectly all right if fewer wrongdoers are sent to prison, the sort who say that critics such as me are indulging in exaggeration and 'moral panic'. Not to mention the dried-up dead-hearted prosecutors, with calculators instead of consciences, who think their purpose is economy rather than justice.
So far have we come that these events can happen in our country.
The scene is Widnes in the modern North of England, a district of neat, modest houses and sweeping new road systems, more Morrisons and Lidl than Waitrose, but bright and reasonably prosperous, not some lunar dead zone of boarded-up windows, dead fridges and old mattresses.
|Ambitious: Before her ordeal, Samantha |
had hopes of a modeling career
A youth, having nothing better to do one evening, hurled a brick at the car in which she was sitting. He just happened to be feeling that way, without warning. It could have been any car. It could have been your car, or mine. The brick came straight through the window at an impact speed of about 30mph, bringing a shower of glass fragments with it. It smashed Samantha’s nose into a thousand pieces.
It made an actual hole in her forehead.
She, having no idea what had taken place, numb with fright, unable to see and pouring blood, screamed repeatedly: ‘What’s happened?!’ ‘What’s happened?!’ Her friends in the car tried to tell her everything was all right, but as she says: 'I didn’t believe them. I couldn’t see. I was thinking that I would now be blind, that I would never be able to do athletics again.'
When her elder brother saw the wreckage of her face, he urged his mother, Clare, not to come to the hospital because the sight would distress her too much.
Samantha herself wasn’t allowed near a mirror for months after the attack last June.
Later, when she saw pictures of herself soon after the attack, she did not believe it was actually her. 'It didn’t look anything like me. It looked like something out of a violent film.'
Surgeons had to cut up through the roof of her mouth and slice the skin of her scalp from ear to ear to pull her poor face back into shape. She has metal plates in her cheeks and nose. They have done a marvellous job of rebuilding, and that Samantha herself is still a very good-looking young woman (though her mother talks wistfully of how irrecoverably perfect her nose used to be) and astonishingly free from bitterness.
Samantha explained flatly that her senses of taste and smell have been destroyed forever. 'Eating food now is just like eating ... nothing,' she says, with a quiet understatement that actually conveys rather powerfully what a loss this is.
'Sometimes we wish she would moan a bit,' says Clare, a funny, thoughtful fierce person who understandably thinks her daughter has a lot to complain about. Rather than moan, this remarkable 17-year-old has thought very carefully about what the event means, and how she should respond. As her vision slowly returns to normal, she is once again training as an athlete. She is not so sure about the (entirely justified) hopes she had once of a modelling career. She still hopes to study to become a nurse, as she always planned.
Disgustingly, her attacker – who was for a while at the same school as her – was able to intimidate her while he awaited trial, making foul gestures at her through classroom windows and once mocking her by miming the throwing of a brick. As long as she lives in the family home, she knows he is not far away.
She won’t go near the stretch of road where the attack happened. She doesn’t like it. Suddenly, in the only sign of real distress she gives in a long conversation, she blurts out: 'I don’t like it anywhere in this country!
'It’s horrible. Do I want to move away from here? Yes, I want to move to America.' In Texas or California, she believes, she can live her life free of such people.
Samantha’s parents were not told that they had 28 days to lodge an appeal against the trivial sentence imposed on the youth responsible, so they have no formal route to justice. All they can do is protest. The insulting compensation payments arrive, in little dribbles, and perhaps they may obtain more such compensation, but it does not actually compensate.
What they hunger and thirst for is justice. For a while they actually hoped to get it.
They unreservedly praise the police for trying to catch the culprit and succeeding.
|The letter from the CPS which shows how little they cared about Samantha|
Then there is the sheaf of letters from the CPS 'Witness Care Officer', one Linda Mullarkey. These letters, prompted by years of complaints that victims and witnesses were treated like dirt by the courts, seek to give the impression that the authorities really, really care. Alas, one of Ms Mullarkey’s missives shows the concern is just cut and pasted out of a book. 'On behalf of the prosecution team,' she says, 'I would like to thank you for your assistance in this case. 'Samantha’s evidence was crucial in bringing it to justice and his contribution is greatly appreciated.' We all make mistakes, but male Samanthas are rare in this country, if not entirely unknown, and anyone who had the slightest true concern about this particular crime would not have allowed such an error to remain in a finished letter. In this piece of sloppiness we see the gap between what we are told and what actually happens.
If all the recent politicians’ speeches about 'crackdowns', 'bobbies on the beat', 'tough sentences' and the rest were played end to end, they would last about a year. But in this wholly clear-cut case of wicked, inexcusable and life-changing violence on an ordinary suburban street, we see them for what they are. A slimy mass of conscious falsehood, accompanied by the patronising and insulting dismissal of real fear and pain by people who themselves live in comfortable safety.
I agree with Peter in wishing I could think of a way to make them cry.
Professionals behind the travesty
The CPS Prosecutor
Clare Sedgmond was previously a solicitor at the Department for Work and Pensions. Last year she prosecuted a man who had threatened his ex-wife and her family in abusive calls and texts. He received only a 12-month community order after Ms Sedgmond told a magistrate: 'We hope to come to some amicable agreement.'
Defending her conduct in the case against Ms Fraser’s attacker, a CPS spokeswoman said: 'The defendant was charged with causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The defence offered a plea to GBH without the intent element. After reviewing the evidence, the prosecutor decided the plea was acceptable.'
The CPS Regional Chief
Paul Whittaker, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Merseyside, has a CBE for his work to reform the justice service – but he appears to have largely made his name by cutting costs. His CPS biography says he has been 'at the forefront of innovation in the service'. It adds: 'Merseyside was the first CPS area to develop the Early Guilty Plea scheme, which ... reduces expense to the public purse whilst also achieving swift justice.'
The Youth Court Magistrate
Vivienne Higgins, magistrate at Runcorn Youth Court, lives with her property developer husband in Widnes. She declined to comment, but in court she said she decided not to give a custodial sentence because the assailant was not a persistent offender, adding it was important to note he was 14 at the time of the crime.
She said: 'We have considered the principle of the Youth Justice System and lack of previous offences. We therefore are sentencing him to the recommended Referral Order for [12 months]. Compensation £200.' The Order is a contract 'to repair harm caused by the offence and address the causes of offending behaviour'.
The Defence Solicitor
Liam Ferris persuaded the CPS they would be unable to prove his client guilty of GBH with intent, and successfully challenged attempts to have the case heard at Crown Court instead of Youth Court. Mr Ferris, who has been a solicitor for 16 years and works in Widnes, has admitted he tries 'not to think about' whether his client is guilty. He recently defended a heroin dealer saying his client needed to 'deal' to pay off a drugs debt. He was unavailable for comment.
Well done Peter for bringing this to public attention. Your sentiments must be echoed by every decent minded citizen left in this country. Sady, this is yet another nail in the coffin in the miserable joke that has become our British justice system.
S18 Offences Against The Person Act : Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously by any means whatsoever, wound or cause GBH to any other person with intent to do GBH to any person. (Life Imprisonment)
S20 Unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict GBH upon any other person either with or without any weapon or instrument. (5 years Imprisonment)
Malice includes a recklessness as to whether any harmful consequences which are foreseen as likely will actually ensue or not.
If the intent to do GBH is absent, there is certainly a reckless element, so prima facie offence of S20 is committed. The penalties are there. The sentencing guidelines are a joke. This offence should have attracted a custodial sentence.