This is the official blog of Sgt Ellie Bloggs, a real live police sergeant on the front line of England. It's not the official opinion of my police force, but all the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't pay my salary.


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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Four Years - the new Life

Three men hit a passer-by over the head and steal his Blackberry. The man later dies from a brain haemorrhage as a direct result of the blow. Despite the victim not telling anyone what had really happened, it is mostly caught on CCTV and the offenders are later convicted after trying to blame each other for the crime.

The offence of Robbery carries a maximum life sentence in this country. Even if you accept that the offenders did not intend to kill the man, most people would still consider this at the upper end of seriousness as far as robberies go. You would therefore expect a pretty lengthy sentence.

In fact, Roshan Samedov, Jegir Ahmmadi and Awat Muradi have been sentenced to nine years each, which means if they behave, they will be out of prison before they reach the age of their victim, 24-year-old Saravanakumar Sellappan.

I have no doubt all three of these men have committed violent crimes before. You don't just wake up one day and decide to attack and rob someone. We'll never know, because juvenile offences get written off at the age of eighteen, and offences committed abroad are seldom researched or taken into account (the three arrived in the country in 2007). Either way, can 4-5 years really be the price of a Blackberry and its owner?

What sentence can we expect for Kes Nattriss, who didn't even successfully kill anyone (this time)?

The new government has set the ball rolling promising greater charging powers for the police. When can we expect the review of bail, remand and sentencing that will ensure there is actually a point to the police charging anyone at all?



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21 Comments:

Anonymous Simon Baddeley said...

My beloved daughter, who just got married, is in the midst of her training to be a police officer after twoi years as a PCSO. We're very proud of her. Your writing - very funny, perservering, acute, angry but not bitter - is medicine for me, imagining the world she'll work in, the mean streets. Respect.
http://democracystreet.blogspot.com/2010/05/she-got-married.html

23 May, 2010 01:54

 
Anonymous TheBinarySurfer said...

Lets not dick around and do it by halves shall we?

Bin CPS (it is a badly thought out, badly structured and badly run department as a whole; the bad far outweighs the good), attach the lawyers directly to the police structure with the ability for anyone of sergeant rank or above to dictate the charge.

Lets hope that Cameron has the balls to effect real change. The alternative is this toothless system that suffers ever-greater attrition on the arrest-conviction ratio with each step towards a courtroom.

23 May, 2010 03:17

 
Anonymous Antipodean said...

"Mrs May will tell the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth that the decisions on charging for a wide range of criminal offences will be removed from the Crown Prosecution Service and handed back to custody sergeants in police stations. Her proposals are expected to apply to minor offences, with CPS lawyers still being consulted over whether or not to press charges in more serious cases."

This is exactly how it is done in Australia. The Police prosecute summary and minor indictable matters (ranging from failing to stop at a stop sign to house breakings, serious assaults and the like) and the government lawyers do the major indictable matters (like murder, attempted murder, rape and possess drugs for sale).

In 99% of minor matters, the offence you arrest for is the offence the crook will face. No asking a lawyer about it, you know what happened, you know the best charge. The charging Sergeant may have some input and the Police prosecutor who adjudicates it will have the final say, but, importantly, it is the Police as a whole who decide the charge.

Is it perfect? No. Do Police prosecutors make mistakes? Yes (I know because it's what I do.)

But. The difference is that I know exactly what it is that the Police do, because I was an active copper. So, I've seen victims drenched in their own blood. Seen drunk morons stumbling around after car-accidents. Seen victims walking dazedly around their houses, trying to make a list of their precious items stolen from them.

It does put a fire in one's belly.

Of course, the flip side is, that I also know the excuses that coppers come up with for not doing what I've asked them to do in preparation for a file.

23 May, 2010 04:36

 
Anonymous Almost Retired. said...

Simply put, there are too many interestes in the process between arrest and conclusion.

The police do not have the resources to process the criminals in the manner the public might think they should.

And to be honest, the Force I work with does not record, or act, in the same way as our adjacent Forces, we have different rules and different actions, even different warrant cards. Yet unlike the public, and the criminal, our Force stops at the post code border.


Our 56 Million pounds worth of IT and IT related equipment, talks to only seven other forces in UK and none of them are neighbours. (but it's ok, they are in the process of buying another one)

We return quarterly results of Violent crime, Homophobic Crime and other crime types to ACPO, but because we record it differently, the figures do not match their expectations, so someone has to manipulate it in order for ACPO to release those wonderful local crime facts and maps. That means, the Crime Maps are somewhat wrong for our Forces Area. We have fields of grass where there is low crime, but more crime than a nearby village.

To be Honest, we have some senior managers who disagree as to what is a Homophobic Crime, some quote the law as verbatim, others demonsrate that the governments description of Homophobic Crime is to be used. Add to that a 'tailored' element of recording software and neither choice fits perfectly.

No small wonder that when the victim wants to see a positive conclusion all we can offer is a jumble of ideas and hopes, and that, is before the system and its greedy fingers, read CPS, gets involved.

An odd thing in custody, the computer record for Gender shows choices of 'Male, Female and Other', just how out of touch can one for get!

But, every police officer below the rank of Chief Inspector will tell you they only want to do their job, arrest bad guys and keep the streets safe for members of the public. I believe them.

Officers of and above that rank, knows whats best for them to say, know what pension they want to secure and know where the best acpo related desks are to fight for as part of their career plan. They would not know a crime if they ran into it in their 4 x 4 on their way home from a hard day in the office attending a meeting.

23 May, 2010 08:18

 
Blogger John R said...

Surely the problem in this case was sentencing not charging?

The court had the abilty to send the three thugs away for life (not that it's really life of course) but chose a much shorter sentence. So, in this case at least, the process worked but Judge Alzheimer effectively let them off.

Charging may well be important in the earlier stages of the whole process but is it not at least as important to get the judges back on the side of the public (or sack them) as a matter of priority?

23 May, 2010 09:59

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

John R, I think that was my point.

23 May, 2010 10:38

 
Anonymous youngJP said...

Bringing the discussion back to the point, the Sentencing Guidelines for Robbery are here:

http://www.sentencing-guidelines.gov.uk/docs/robbery-guidelines.pdf

Where the victim is caused serious physical injury by the use of significant force and/or use of a weapon the starting point is 8 years custody with a range of 7-12 years custody.

So although the judge is within the range, admittedly it could have been longer. It does sound like, on the brief facts provided in the news article, that a sentence in the range of 12-15 years would have been more appropriate.

Why not complain? http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/fact_sheets/unduly_lenient_sentences/

"Victims, their families, and members of the public may complain to their local CPS Area office, which may refer the sentence to the Attorney General if they consider the sentence to be unduly lenient"

23 May, 2010 12:08

 
Anonymous Cabbage said...

Looking at the guidelines youngJP has linked to, it does indeed seem like the sentence should've been longer. The starting point for 'caused serious injury by use of significant force or a weapon' is, as he quotes, 8 years. Then the fact that multiple offenders were involved is a listed typical aggravating factor specific to this offence. Also, from the list of general aggravating factors we have the fact that the offence occurred in an isolated place (due to them stalking the target there).

Most of all, however, we have the 'especially serious physical... effect on the victim, even if unintended'. Death is surely the most serious example of that aggravating factor one can imagine, and frankly I would expect it to push the sentence up to the top of the sentencing range and get them 12 years. If anything, the death of the victim should be a sufficiently exceptional circumstance to justify departing from the guidelines and sentencing above the sentencing range.

It does seem to me that the guidelines are actually entirely reasonable and suggest sensible sentences, just that they have been misapplied in this case due to not giving the primary aggravating factor (the victim died) anywhere near enough weight. Of course, I am not a lawyer so perhaps there are intricacies I don't understand.

Of course, the bigger issue is not the sentence itself (although I certainly agree that it is too low), but the fact that they will, if all I read on these blogs is to be believed, be released halfway through it. The farce of early release looks to me to be the main source of injustice, not the softness of the courts.

23 May, 2010 16:28

 
Anonymous NottsSarge said...

The problem with prescribing the upper limit for offences is that the implication is that there could be no 'worse' scenario. Charging standards aside, if I am convicted of robbing Cabbage in an unprovoked, drug-fuelled attack, using weapons, which leaves them a cabbage (pun intended) who requires extensive state care for the rest of their life, you would rightly think I'd be looking at the upper range of sentencing. It seems to me that Courts are unwilling to go to the top end as they don't want to effectively define something as the 'top end' of the offence. What if Cabbage's partner was there and as a consequence is now a gibbering emotional wreck who also needs state care? What if something similar were to happen and it was a gun, not a knife etc.
Scales for these things are sensible but only if Courts are prepared to utilise the full range, otherwise the top end sentence becomes meaningless.

Parole half way through is the norm - I agree that early release is generally wrong. I don't have the stats, but I'd guess that the reoffending rate for those on parole is pretty high. Having lost a colleague to someone who was on parole, reoffended and was in fact on recall, I'm firmly in the ten-years-means-ten-years camp.

24 May, 2010 12:10

 
Anonymous Cabbage said...

NottsSarge: I agree entirely with you that reserving the top end of the sentence for some sort of hypothetical supervillain who committed the offence in the worst possible way anyone can ever imagine is not a sensible way to approach sentencing. Courts should be willing to sentence at the top of the sentencing band even if a worse offence is conceivable, and indeed even if a worse offence is conceivable that still wouldn't be exceptional enough to justify breaking from the guidelines.

24 May, 2010 12:21

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

YoungJP, ok so 8-12 years for the robbery. What about the manslaughter, or do we just chuck that in as an "aggravating factor"?

24 May, 2010 18:09

 
Blogger Big Fella said...

The courts have no backbone either mags or crown. I dont even bother to hang around for sentencing and delete emails when they arrive from our courts office because they never get the justice they deserve. The courts dont believe us and always take what the suspect says as the truth.

I had a guy lying his pants off in court stating he had a job with this firm and had a course booked with the local college. Whilst the court broke for a time, I contacted the workplace and collegeand they had never heard of this male. I gave the info to CPS,and the court didnt want to know and set another court date for probation to check on this guys new job and course!!!! WTF.

I dont care now, I just nick em at scene and move on to the next job. I shake my head every time I read the paper or see the news with people not getting justice, people walking out of open prison (isnt that an oxymoron) and these so called nutters who are let out of a section place for a day out and kill someone - what is going on??????

24 May, 2010 20:50

 
Anonymous Jaques said...

Madame Author,

Not becoming jaded are you? Your one-trick-pony attempts at wordsmithery dazzling and as sophisticated as the poor quality of writing of "Sex and the City" seem to have deserted you, WPC Bimbo.

BTW, how are the book sales coming?

26 May, 2010 10:33

 
Anonymous Jeff Wood said...

Who, pray, is the contemptible creep above?

26 May, 2010 16:58

 
Blogger John Kline said...

Question. At court if one is fined and part of the fine goes to one of the pigs what actually happens? You are told to pay £75 to some vermin in blue. You take your time (let's say 5 years). PC Plod has left. Do they track 'em down and hand over £75? Does it go into a kitty whereby you scum buy swastikas? (Or whatever it is you do)?

26 May, 2010 17:28

 
Anonymous Private Detective said...

i agree with you.

26 May, 2010 21:10

 
Anonymous youngJP said...

"PC Bloggs said...
YoungJP, ok so 8-12 years for the robbery. What about the manslaughter, or do we just chuck that in as an "aggravating factor"?"

The general principles in sentencing is for the most serious offence, as I said in my original post 12-15 years would have been more appropriate to reflect the seriousness of the combined robbery and resulting death. Point is, the sentence of 9 years isn't far off the guidelines. The courts don't write the guidelines, they follow them.

If you don't think the sentence is tough enough - and there may be some merit in that - then complain as above to the CPS who will consider taking it forward to the Attorney General.

26 May, 2010 22:09

 
Blogger English Pensioner said...

If, during the course of committing a crime, the criminal action results in the death of an innocent person, it should be treated as murder, whether the death was intended or not. It is ludicrous for a criminal to be able to hit someone over the head and for his victim to subsequently die, and then claim that he'd only intended to frighten the victim but not hurt him. Even if the victim dies of a heart attach from the shock, it should still be regarded as murder.
The law should be based on the simple question, "Would the victim still be alive if you had not done what you did?"; if the answer is yes it is murder.
If the law says otherwise, the law is an ass and needs changing, and I'm sure that the government would get full public support in making such a change.
I don't think that the police can be blamed for this situation, and I can't see how the proposed changes will make any difference.

26 May, 2010 23:28

 
Anonymous shijuro said...

English Pensioner, whilst I applaud your idea, it would require a large bit of a law changing...

Murder is (in a nutshell) 'Unlawful killing with malice aforethought' in other words, someone dies and you intended for them to die.

Unlawful killing without intent is manslaughter.

I agree more people should face manslaughter charges.

In this case it is more likely that it was a 'plea bargin' (the Defence lawyer says to CPS 'listen George, my client will plead to the robbery but not to the manslaughter' then the CPS droid will say, 'job's a good 'un - drinks all 'round!'.

Contrary to what you may hear, we have plenty of law, it's just that courts/lawyers just avoid using it.

The lawyers and court don't appear to be that accountable either and that, for me, is the most frustrating thing of all...

27 May, 2010 12:58

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Actually in this case shijuro he was found guilty of manslaughter AND robbery. I think manslaughter may well have been the right charge - "manslaughter by unlawful act" covers the circumstances English Pensioner refers to. Perhaps that type of manslaughter coupled with a serious criminal offence should automatically carry a higher tariff than negligent manslaughter - if it doesn't already?

30 May, 2010 10:40

 
Anonymous silvafox said...

so much misunderstanding as to the law

the intent for murder is only really serious bodily harm (not to kill). Pros have to prove beyond reasonable doubt. A one blow death is not going to meet the standard.

re sentencing : like it or not there is guilty plea credit to take into account. Assuming an early guilty plea the judge has actually viewed it as worth 13 and a half years (which would take into account the aggravating features as referred to in the guidelines including the manslaughter).

So dont blame the judge, blame the guidance setters and politicians who set the rules on release.

06 June, 2010 21:34

 

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