The Chronicles of Judge Tim Stead
Briefly, two sisters - Paula and Lindsay - robbed someone. Paula's actions consisted of demanding money, snatching a handbag and then giving up when the victim's three-year-old child started crying. Lindsay's actions consisted of grabbing the handbag then punching the victim in the face. Paula had no prior convictions, Lindsay a string of theft-related 'previous'.
Commonsense, regardless of any Home Office guidelines, would suggest that Paula has carried out a non-violent attempt at theft which ceased when she realised she had upset a child. Lindsay, on the other hand, inflicted violence on the victim in front of said child. The police 'cautioned' Paula, which is effectively a formal warning which sits on your record and can be used against you if you do the same thing again. Lindsay, however, was charged to go to court, the theory being she's had plenty of chances and her actions were worse.
The judge, Tim Stead, in letting Lindsay off with a supervision order, said that if the police hadn't cautioned the other offender, he would have sent Lindsay to prison for two years, but it just didn't seem fair under the circumstances. I've re-read this several times, but it still says the same thing.
I had not realised that the police were supposed to treat every suspect the same, regardless of what they've done. Before cautioning or charging anyone in future, I will be sure to pick up the phone to Recorder Tim Stead and double-check that he won't be acquitting any murderers as a result.
Read on for some other great decisions by Recorder Tim Stead:
- In 2002 he gave out a whopping 18 month detention and training order (which means 9 months prison, which means 4 months prison - see here) to a guy who clubbed someone with a pool cue resulting in the need for plastic surgery. Oh and a few hours community service to his accomplice.
- In 2004 he refused to impose a heavy fine on a driver with an appalling driving record because "it would hit his girlfriend and their young baby". Instead, the driver was left free to hit anyone he pleased. (Bear in mind I'm not a fan of heavy sentencing for motoring offences, but this guy was already on bail for dangerous driving after a pursuit with the police.)
- In 2005 he spared a guy growing a hydroponics factory from prison because he had a job. He did force him to do 120 hours community service, so that'll teach him.
- In 2005, he fined a guy £750 and 100 hours of community service for GBH after he bit off someone's ear. The offender, a Mr Toogood was truly sorry, so the ear didn't really matter.
- In another ear-biting case in 2007, this time with an offender who had previous done exactly the same thing before, he jailed the guy for 18 months (halve this for actual total served, if he was unlucky).
- In 2006 Judge Tim Stead jailed some drug dealers for 5-7 years. A good sentence, but they had in fact been involved in an operation which earned £1.3million in drug deals, and a factory containing £25,000 of heroin. Is anyone else thinking there's a maximum sentence of life for Class A trafficking for a good reason?
- In 2007 he jailed a robber who pulled a knife on a kid after putting him in a headlock, for the grand total of three years (again, halve it for time served). In his remarks he said the knife had been an "afterthought" and the offence has just started out as a theft attempt and only became a robbery because the victim maliciously tried to resist.
- And yet, despite all of the above, a guy who made fake designer clothes was fined in excess of £100,000 with a three year jail term to serve if he failed to pay.
- Interestingly, in another ear-slicing case in 2005, Recorder Tim Stead adjourned the case for sentencing. Probably a good move for the victim, because the recorder who took on the job jailed the offender for eight years. Which proves that Mr Stead's sentences are NOT the result of guidelines or policy.
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* In case you don't know the jargon, a Recorder, like Mr Tim Stead, is a kind of judge. Or should that be, kind of a judge.