The last labour government and the current tory government have issued sentencing edict called Sentencing Guidelines that make it incredibly hard for courts to jail offenders. Even when prison sentences are passed, they are often suspended. This means the offender doesn’t go to prison if he keeps out of trouble for the period of the suspension. There are lots of arguments both ways about this. I’m not going to go into them. However, it does mean that many burglars, even of dwelling houses, or people involved in very serious assaults often avoid prison.
So, a young man with no previous convictions who is living in a squat as he is homeless, would surely not receive a prison sentence? When you consider he had not forced his way into the empty flat. He had not damaged the flat and the behaviour of him and another was such that the neighbours did not even realise it was a squat. When the police arrived, he admits he is living there and fully accepts he had no right to be there.
Well, you may be as shocked as I was to realise he got 14 weeks immediate imprisonment this week for squatting.
Squatting was made a criminal offence earlier this year to deal with the situation where people were breaking into properties and denying owners their homes, often causing lots of damage and moving from squat to squat remaining until court orders were served upon them.
This squatter aged 21was not such a person.
A London man aged 21 has become the first person to be jailed for squatting under a new law.
Alex Haigh pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 weeks after police found him at a property in Pimlico. He is now in Wormwood Scrubs.
The law was brought in amid a squatting crisis in London as organised eastern European gangs and other squatters targeted family homes.
Michelle Blake, 33, arrested with Haigh, awaits sentence and possible jail, while Anthony Ismond, 46, was fined £100. Both also admitted squatting. They are the first people prosecuted since ministers acted to turn squatting — which could previously only be tackled by civil action — into a crime under new legislation which came into effect at the start of this month.
Haigh’s parents said they were “devastated” by his imprisonment and insisted he was a “well brought-up” young man who had taken “the wrong road” after coming to the capital.
The arrests came after Met officers called at the housing association flat in Cumberland Street on September 2, the day after the new anti-squatting law came into effect, to find Haigh and Blake inside.
Police say they were told the flat was being used as a squat by Ismond. He had given it as his home address after being arrested on an unrelated matterby officers investigating a burglary elsewhere in London.
Both Haigh and Blake told police they were squatting at the home and did not live there — but were arrested after being informed that the law had just changed to make their action illegal.
Haigh was jailed by West London magistrates, while Blake was sent to prison to await sentence after failing to attend a previous hearing. Ismond was recalled to Wandsworth Prison for breaching conditions of a release on licence from a previous drug offence.
Haigh left his home city of Plymouth in July to find “opportunities” in London and worked for a time as an apprentice bricklayer.
His mother Janet, who still lives in Plymouth with husband Peter, said she only learned of his offence when he called her from Wormwood Scrubs the night of his arrest.
She said: “We are worried that Alex is in prison. Both of us are absolutely devastated. He comes from a really normal family and has been brought up really well.
“He has taken a wrong road and we are extremely concerned about him. I have spoken to him about getting a solicitor but he says he is fine. Whether he will appeal or not, I’m not sure.”
Haigh’s father Peter, who runs his own construction business in Plymouth, said: “They have made an example of him. To put him in that prison environment, I don’t understand it. If he broke the law he should be dealt with but it is like putting someone who has not paid their tax into Dartmoor Prison.”
The squatted Pimlico terrace flat — owned by housing association L&Q and spread over ground floor and basement — was boarded up today.
The last tenants moved out in 2011 and most residents were unaware squatters were living there. L&Q said it began civil proceedings against the squatters in August after going to the property with a prospective new resident and discovering their presence.
Squatting was not a criminal offence then so no complaint was made to police. The association added: “The police informed us of the arrest of these individuals at this property. Prior to these arrests, we had already begun taking action to seek their removal.”
The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed the successful actions for “squatting in a residential building contrary to Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012” — and said it was the first known case under it. The law makes it an offence to occupy a residential property without the owner’s consent.
Any-one convicted faces up to six months in prison and a £5,000 fine.
Housing charities and other campaigners claim that the reform — introduced after a spate of London cases in which squatters occupied and damaged homes — is unnecessary and will unfairly criminalise the homeless.
But ministers urged the Met to be “robust” in enforcing the law, saying swift police action will protect householders from the trauma of seeing their homes “stolen” and be a deterrent.
Ex-justice minister Crispin Blunt this month said it was intended to show that “squatters’ rights have come to an end”. The Government estimates that up to 4,200 squatters could be prosecuted each year.
I have done my own research int othe facts of this story. I accept the media rarely tell the whole truth. I have been able to establish the young man has no previous convictions and he fully admitted the matter and co-operated with the police. The police do not suggest there was any damage done to the property.
I have no issue with making squatting a criminal offence, but I do have objections to the sentencing. Should we really be jailing people like him and leaving free those responsible for violent crime or those responsible for burglaries and the like.
Megan Stammers & Jeremy Forrest
This being a teacher running off with a pupil aged 15 and only half his age. I’m amazed how many people are suggesting he’s done nothing wrong and that she went willingly. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but he is in a position of responsibility and is not only responsible for teaching her, but is also responsible when she is at school for assisting her moral and spiritual welfare. It would be bad enough him running away with her if he was just a local male she knew, but he has abused his position of trust.
I am a little shocked at how because he is a professional that people’s attitudes differ compared to if he had been an unemployed no hoper. Parents don’t expect the local layabout to provide moral and spiritual guidance to their offspring.
On a different note, when she gets back to school, I’ll bet Megan Stammer’s essay on what she did on her holidays makes great reading.
You may remember that back in 1999 the paedophile member of The Who was given a police caution after being caught (and admitting) paying to view child pornography. At the time he claimed it was part of his research for a book on child pornography. You may wonder what happened to his book. I checked with the British Library and apparently they also are still waiting for the book to be published.
Well today, Paedophile Pete is quoted in the London Evening Standard as claiming he was trying to be a “white Knight” showing British Banks were linked to Russian pornography.
The Who guitarist Pete Townshend has spoken publicly for the first time about his “insane” decision to pay for access to a child pornography site— and said he was trying to prove British banks were complicit in channelling profits from paedophile rings.
He said he regretted the actions which led to his arrest in 2003 on suspicion of using child pornography, but that he was trying to be a “white knight” by investigating the practices.
The star, who was put on the sex offender register, insisted he was only looking at the pictures online for “research” for a campaign against child pornography. He claimed he wanted to demonstrate that child abuse has a financial chain that runs from Russian orphanages to British banks.
In an interview with The Times, which is serialising his memoir Who I Am, Townshend, 67, said: “It’s white knight syndrome. You want to be the one that’s seen to be helping.
“I had experienced something creepy as a child, so you imagine, what if I was a girl of nine or 10 and my uncle had raped me every week? I felt I had an understanding, and I could help.”
In 1999 he paid for the site and pressed a button labelled “click here for child porn” — but cancelled the subscription immediately. However his actions were spotted by officers investigating the sites as part of the FBI-led Operation Ore crackdown which led to almost 4,000 arrests including those of judges, teachers, doctors and more than 50 police.
When police seized his computers and files they found nothing incriminating, but the subsequent publicity left him feeling suicidal. Townshend said: “What I did was insane.”
He adds: “If I had a gun I would have shot myself. It really did feel like a lynching.” He did not speak out sooner or fight the allegations in court because “there was no sense of ‘the truth will out’. The police at Kingston station gave me half an hour to make a decision about whether to go to court or not”.
He added: “My lawyers were as surprised as I was because everyone thought I would be let off. And I thought that if I went to court they would f***ing rip me apart.”
No mention of a book this time! The Standard article states that:
When police seized his computers and files they found nothing incriminating
Well nothing incriminating if you exclude the evidence he had used his credit card to pay to view child pornography and that he had viewed such pornography. So as the Standard says, nothing incriminating at all then.
All Paedo Pete has done by giving this interview is to remind everyone he is the Gary Glitter of 1960s pop groups and to show he has changed his excuses since 1999.
Give it up Pete, you were caught viewing child pornography and admitted it. That is the bottom line.
John Terry –The FA Disciplinary Hearing
So the FA this week finally dealt with John Terry for the foul, abusive and racist language he used towards Anton Ferdinand. A 4 game ban and a fine of 9 days wages (£220,000) is the verdict. The Chelsea friendly reporter Mhir Bhose in the Evening Standard is already calling the FA all sorts for this verdict. Others are claiming that because a criminal case was brought, there should have been no FA Disciplinary panel.
Firstly, the delay in bringing the case was because the FA wanted to be seen to co-operate with the police and not to prejudice a criminal trial. However, as the criminal charges were such as could never e tried before a jury, there was no risk of prejudice in the eyes of the law. (Lay Magistrates and District Judges are deemed to be above influence by the media etc.!). So to have delayed the disciplinary hearing to after the end of the criminal proceedings was probably unnecessary, albeit done with good motive.
Now the claim that as there had been a criminal trial there should not be an FA disciplinary hearing is simply nonsense. Why? Well firstly, they are dealing with different issues. The Magistrates’ Court hearing was to decide if Terry had broken the criminal law. The FA hearing was to decide a separate issue, i.e. whether he had broken the FA rules on players conduct. These rules are different to the criminal law and also the proof needed to show a breach is different. Imagine you get arrested for viewing child pornography on your work computer. You would face a criminal trial and it may well be that you are found not guilty as the prosecution could not prove the girls (or boys) in the pictures were under 16 years old. You would almost certainly still face a disciplinary hearing at work for using the work equipment in an inappropriate manner. The fact that you had not been convicted in a criminal court would not give you a defence to or an exemption from the work disciplinary hearing. Now imagine you were say a solicitor, or a doctor or someone else working in a regulated job, then you would also be likely to face disciplinary proceedings from the Regulators for your actions. You would expect this of the regulator, so why not from the FA who are effectively the Regulator of football.This is effectively what has happened to john Terry, except his employer has chosen to ignore his behaviour and/ or condone the same.
He was found not guilty of the criminal allegation – he was not found to be innocent. Remember in English Criminal courts, the verdict is guilty or not guilty. Not guilty means that the prosecution have not proved the allegation, it is different from saying you did not do the action alleged.
John Terry – What is a Racist?
Another issue to arise from the John Terry case is the question of what is a racist? John Terry clearly shouted towards Anton Ferdinand words along the lines of “F*cking black c*nt”. The words can be clearly lip read from the TV footage. Does this mean that John Terry is a racist? If so, what exactly is a racist? I ask this because John Terry is apparently good friends with Ashley Cole who is black and has for many years captained both Chelsea and England when there have been numerous black players who were happy to play under his captaincy and also appear to be his friends.
It would seem therefore that to be a racist, it is not about hating someone of a different colour or a particular colour or race. Indeed, John Terry used words about skin colour not someone’s race or nationality. So, it would seem that John Terry does not apparently have an issue with all black people.
Can you be a part time racist? Can you switch between being racist and not? Are you a racist simply for uttering words, even if you are only using the word as an adjective. In his case, Terry was calling Fedinand a “C*NT” because he had allegedly been insulted by Ferdinand. The word black was an adjective in the way it was used.
Is it any worse to call someone a “F*cking black c*nt” that to call a ginger haired person a “F*cking Ginger C*nt” and if so why? The legal system seems to distinguish between the 2. For calling someone black rather than ginger, the courts have to give you an increased penalty and they have to announce in open court the uplift on sentence so everyone is aware of the uplift.
So, it seems that where you are born counts for more than other features when insulting someone. Now imagine you are in a bar or pub in Berwick upon Tweed and a Scotsman and a Geordie are having an argument. The Scotsman calls the Geordie a “F*cking Geordie c*nt” and the Geordie calls the Scotsman a “F*cking Scottish C*nt”. Both are arrested and charged for their actions. They appear in court, but the Geordie will face a far higher penalty than the Scotsman because the law says Scottish are a race, but Geordies aren’t. Can this scenario be fair? Surely we should be punishing people for their actions not the silly semantics put in place by those pandering to the PC lobby.
So, what is a racist? I await an explanation.
PS John Terry is a horrid man and none of this should be seen as a defence of him or his actions.