Monthly Archives: September 2013

12 year old boys banned from every football ground in the UK

Two twelve-year-old boys from Newcastle have admitted throwing missiles during the aftermath of a Newcastle United v Sunderland football game in April 2013.  As a result, a Court has imposed three year football banning orders, effectively banning the boys from every football ground in the UK.

The boys were handed in to police by their parents following media reports of the incident, which erupted following Sunderland’s 3-0 win at the Newcastle United home ground.

 

The pair, who cannot be named as they are under 18 years old, have been banned from the city centre on match days and will have to surrender their passports whenever Newcastle or England play overseas.

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Coronation Street actor found not guilty of child sex offences

Michael Le Vell, best known as Coronation Street character Kevin Webster, has been found not guilty of child sex offences following a trial at Manchester Crown Court.

Photo: PA Wire

Le Vell, tried under his real name of Michael Turner, was acquitted of all twelve charges, including five counts of rape, three counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual activity with a child and two counts of causing a child to engage in sexual activity. The jury took just over 4 hours to find him not guilty of all charges.

The complainant, now aged 17, told the jury that Le Vell put a teddy bear over her mouth whilst he raped her telling her he was “just getting rid of all the evil and bad inside me”. Her account was labelled inconsistent, unbelievable and lacking detail by defence barrister Alisdair Williamson. Reportedly there was no physical injuries to the complainant.

During the trial the jury heard personal details of Le Vell’s private life, including Le Vell’s alcohol addiction, one-night-stands and an affair.

Le Vell gave evidence during the trial and has always denied the allegations. He told the jury he was “fighting for his life”. Eleanor Laws QC, prosecuting, cross-examined Le Vell on his need to be persuasive in giving evidence, and compared it to an acting job. Le Vell replied:

“It’s nothing like an acting job. You never get put in a position like this. They never teach you to be here and face what I have been faced with for the last two years. No one can teach you that.

I’m fighting for my life.”

Of course it was not up to Le Vell to persuade the jury of his innocence. The burden of proof remains on the prosecution; it is up to them to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, so that the jury are sure of guilt. If the jury are not sure, they will acquit, as they have done in Le Vell’s case.

Le Vell is expected to return to ITV later this year.

Stealing from your employer? Don’t call yourself “mybossisanumpty” and sell your wares on Ebay

Who could resist a story about a thieving employee who got caught? Well, the Daily Mail and UKCriminalLawBlog certainly couldn’t. Enter “mybossisanumpty”. A surprising Ebay name you might think, particularly if the owner of said name is selling off goods allegedly to have been stolen from his employer.

This item, sold on eBay, is one of several which an employee stole from hardware retailer Norman Precision

Investigations are still ongoing but we’re told that a number of stolen items belonging to hardware retailer Norman Precision have been found being sold on Ebay by mybossisanumpty.

An officer dealing with the investigation is purported to have confirmed that on 16th August a 54 year-old man from Stroud was arrested on suspicion of theft and has been bailed until 4th October pending further enquiries.

It’s said that the sales have been ongoing for over two years, with mybossisanumpty receiving excellent feedback from buyers.

If the matter does get to Court we’ll update this post. In the meantime; you have been warned. This is how not to steal from your employer.

The Daily Mail article is here. Unfortunately there are no comments from angry readers as of yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
The author of this post is self-employed and admits regularly stealing pens from her home study to use in her kitchen. She is yet to progress to Ebay selling.

Causing death by dangerous driving

Causing death by driving (both careless and dangerous) often divides opinion. For those who say ‘it could happen to any one of us’, it is seen as a somewhat ‘unfortunate’ offence. For others, the punishments for killing someone whilst driving a vehicle are insufficient.

The offence

Road Traffic Act 1988 s 1 creates the offence. Basically, a person has to be ‘driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place’ and must cause ‘the death of another person’ to be guilty of an offence.

Section 2A defines ‘dangerous driving’:

(1) For the purposes of sections 1, 1A and 2 above a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if (and, subject to subsection (2) below, only if)—

(a) the way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and

(b) it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

(2) A person is also to be regarded as driving dangerously for the purposes of sections 1, 1A and 2 above if it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state would be dangerous.

Sentencing

The sentencing of death by driving cases is fraught with difficulty. There is an obvious need to reflect the loss of life (although courts almost always state that ‘of course no prison sentence can properly reflect the fact that someone has been killed, however, it is of course necessary to reflect the facts of the case – death by dangerous driving cases are characterised by poor judgement or deliberate decisions to drive dangerously – but are absent of an intention to kill someone.

The maximum sentence is 14 years and the offence is indictable only, meaning that cases can only be heard in the Crown Court.

The courts can make an order depriving the offender of his or her vehicle, if appropriate, and the offence is listed in CJA 2003 Sch 15B, which means in the most serious cases, an extended sentence may be imposed.

The guidelines attempt to divide the standard of driving into the following categories.

Level 1: The most serious offences encompassing driving that involved a deliberate decision to ignore (or a flagrant disregard for) the rules of the road and an apparent disregard for the great danger being caused to others.

Starting point: 8 years Range: 7-14 years

Level 2: Driving that created a substantial risk of danger

Starting point: 5 years Range: 4-7 years

Level 3: Driving that created a significant risk of danger (Where the driving is markedly less culpable than for this level, reference should be made to the starting point and range for the most serious level of causing death by careless driving)

Starting point: 3 years Range: 2-5 years

Substantial sentences

Sending a person to custody is a serious decision. As you can see from the guidelines, the sentences for causing death by dangerous driving are all custodial (very few receive non-custodial penalties and the guidelines appear not to contemplate such sentences) and for substantial periods.

As an example of a level 3 offence (the lowest category), the guideline suggests the situation where a driver drives knowingly deprived of adequate sleep or rest. How many people fall in to that category when driving to work? If you have young children and/or a challenging job involving working away/long hours, I suspect you are constantly sleep deprived.

Types of driving

The types of driving which can amount to death by dangerous driving are diverse. They include: Falling asleep at the wheel, driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs, foreign drivers on UK roads, accident caused by poor eyesight, overtaking at ill-timed moments, fleeing the scene of a crime, speeding (although speeding is not in itself sufficient to establish dangerous driving, see here) and even a single misjudgement or momentary inattention.

The guideline states:

Level 1 offences are likely to be characterised by:

•             A prolonged, persistent and deliberate course of very bad driving           

AND/OR

•             Consumption of substantial amounts of alcohol or drugs leading to gross impairment

AND/OR

•             A group of determinants of seriousness which in isolation or smaller number would place the offence in level 2

Level 2 is likely to be characterised by:

•             Greatly excessive speed, racing or competitive driving against another driver

OR

•             Gross avoidable distraction such as reading or composing text messages over  a period of time

OR

•             Driving whilst ability to  drive is impaired as a result of consumption of alcohol or drugs, failing to take prescribed medication or as a result of a known medical condition

OR

•             A group of determinants of seriousness which in isolation or smaller number would place the offence in level 3

Level 3 is likely to be characterised by:

•             Driving above the speed limit/at a speed that is inappropriate for the prevailing conditions

OR

•             Driving when knowingly deprived of adequate sleep or rest or knowing that the vehicle  has a dangerous defect or is poorly maintained or is dangerously loaded

OR

•             A brief but obvious danger arising from a seriously dangerous manoeuvre

OR

•             Driving whilst avoidably distracted

OR

•             Failing  to have proper  regard   to vulnerable road users

Views of the victim’s family

In any case featuring loss of life, emotions run high. It is therefore completely understandable why families of the victim feel angry, upset and let down by what seem to be low sentences considering that the defendant is responsible for the death of their loved one.

It is important however that the views of the victim’s family as to the appropriate sentence are not taken into consideration. To do so would result in inconsistency, injustice and promote an attitude of vengeful punishment.

Woman, 38, sentenced to 18 months for killing cyclist while distracted by satnav for 18 seconds

Scales of justice

Achieving the correct balance between mercy and punishment is difficult

On The Telegraph website on Saturday 7 September, the following headline appeared above a story about death by dangerous driving:

It took satnav 18 seconds to tear two families apart

The article reported: “I hate the word ‘accident’,” says the victim’s widow, her eyes red with grief. “She bloody murdered him as far as I’m concerned.”

It continued:

Mrs McClure, 38, was found guilty at Reading Crown Court of causing death by dangerous driving and is now starting an 18-month prison sentence.

The article is powerfully written. Describing the collision, it states:

“The prosecution would later say she had at least 18 seconds in which to see him and make a slight adjustment to go past.

One, two, three, four, five… She was looking down at the satellite-navigation system in the car instead of at the road, according to her own statement.

Six, seven, eight… She was travelling at 40mph or more, and he was getting closer, fast.

Ten, 11, 12… She was trying to make the satnav zoom out for a better map, she told the police.

Thirteen, 14, 15… Tony was dressed in a bright-red cycling vest and silver helmet.

Sixteen, 17, 18… she saw him at the very last moment, the judge and jury at Reading Crown Court heard in July. There was no time to swerve.”

Mrs McClure’s trial

We know nothing of the facts (save for what was reported by The Telegraph) however, we can make some (fairly safe) assumptions based on what we know.

The fact that she was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving may suggest that she had offered to plead to the lesser offence of causing death by careless driving (maximum sentence 5 years – many receive community orders). This is common in such cases and the prosecution (in consultation with the victim’s family) has to make a decision as to whether that was appropriate. It may be that it was deemed inappropriate and so the case went forward to trial on the count of death by dangerous.

With no plea (and therefore no basis of plea – a written document setting out the facts as claimed by the defendant, often used to restrict their culpability) the sentence has to be based on the prosecution’s case as found by the jury.

This, according to The Telegraph, is as outlined above. There may be more to it that has not been reported.

Personal situation

We know little about Mrs McClure’s personal situation, other than she is aged 38, married and has two young children. The effect on the children – particularly if she is the primary carer for the children – is highly relevant.

It can be assumed that she has no convictions.

Guidelines

The Telegraph reported:

“Judge Nicholas Wood said she was “avoidably distracted” by the navigation system. Sentencing her at Reading Crown Court last Friday, he said: “This case is a tragic loss of life and shows the potential dangers of looking at a satnav while driving, even at an average speed.”

The judge said Mrs McClure had “failed to have a proper regard for a cyclist, a vulnerable road user”.

Considering the guidelines, that would suggest that the judge placed the case into level 3 – driving that created a significant risk of danger . The guideline suggests a number of scenarios which may fall into level 3, one of which is:

•             Driving whilst avoidably distracted

It is arguable that the length of time during which she was distracted warranted an increase from the level 3 starting point (3 years).

It is unclear as to why the sentence was below the starting point. The judge should have given his reasons for this when sentencing. It may be that the remorse, the help given at the scene and the previous (assumed) good character warranted a reduction.

Divided views

In another article on The Telegraph over the weekend, Mic Wright wrote about the case:

No one who kills with their car as a result of that kind of gross negligence just “makes a mistake”. A speeding motor vehicle is a weapon in reckless hands. It doesn’t matter if that driver is a nice woman who bakes cakes and cares about her community. Fiddling with a satnav as you move down a road at 60mph is inexcusable. It is too easy to say: “But it could happen to any of us”.

That is certainly a view shared by many.

The views of the victim’s family in this case – that the sentence should have been longer and that death by dangerous driving is akin to murder – are completely understandable.

However, from a (necessarily) dispassionate view point, one might ask what would be achieved by imprisoning Mrs McClure for 3 years, or 6 years or 9 years. No sentence can adequately mark the loss of life, not even a life sentence.

The sentence must reflect the factors of the offence – this was a piece of seriously bad driving. Had the victim been 1 minute earlier, or Mrs McClure been 1 minute later, then the collision most likely would not have happened. It is for that reason that many see death by driving cases as misfortune, and that can ‘happen to anybody’.

There has to be a balance. Custodial sentences for seriously bad driving are necessary, because, driving a vehicle on a road comes with great responsibility. The consequences of mistakes or poor decisions are all too apparent. However, the other side of the scales, to achieve that balance, is that no one sets out to kill someone when they get into their car. To advocate lengthier sentences above those currently imposed, would be to unduly ‘skew’ the sentencing system and result in disproportionate sentences for people who, often, have made a terrible error of judgement.

A view from…the Crown Court dock – being sentenced

Friday came and I sat in the waiting room until Jeremy turned up. I had brought a bag and I was ready. I found it quite hard knowing what to pack. Nobody tells you what you can take into prison, so I packed some underwear, some jeans and tops, all plain and simple stuff.  I’d said goodbye to my Mother who was devastated. My Mother is Irish and her words were “them fecking courts took you away from me once and now they’re going to do it again” Those words still ring in my ears today. That was how she saw it. Courts were her nemesis. They’d taken away her children all those years ago in 1977.

I was called through to the court, through the front door this time. I went to the dock again after being searched in a small back room by a G4S guard. I stood up as the courtroom did when the Judge entered and they all sat down. I was asked to stand again. The Judge told me I had been found guilty of fraud. He also told me that he had read the pre-sentence report and understood that for 18 months I had not committed any crimes and that given my circumstances, my education, the fact that I had a sole trader business, he was going with the recommendation made by the probation service. He told me that he understood how difficult that it must be to turn one’s life around, but that I had broken the law and that sentence must be passed. I was given the following sentence:

  • An 18-week custodial sentence suspended for one year
  • There were no supervision requirements attached
  • No community service order was attached
  • An order to pay the sum outstanding to the landlord of £250.00
  • No fines or costs were attached

I was supposed to feel relieved. Fact was I didn’t. I had no home, I was on the verge of losing my business, and I’d lost my father, my children. Should I have felt great?  The friends I had lost, for a small part of me, I just knew they were never strong enough to handle what was really going on with me. That’s no reflection on them as people, but some people have deep strengths and some people don’t. It was all gone, everything. I hadn’t earned any money as another odious idiot caused me hell earlier; I had lost most of my belongings as I had walked away from the home that was to be my marital home. I did however have five people who pulled me through; my mother, two of my clients and three friends.

Two of my long-term clients had sensed that something was wrong. I was missing deadlines, didn’t care about my work and instead of giving up on me as a provider for them, they got their heads together. Over nine years of working with people builds a relationship and they knew something wasn’t right with me.  Two people who had never met each other before united and gave me the ticking off I needed. They had work for me and they wanted me back. They believed in me and trusted me. My friends clubbed together and bought me a new computer and my mother loaned me the deposit for my new home, which I have recently moved into.  Those people saved me and gave me something to live for. Despite the nastiness of some people and I have been on the end of some nasty little individuals who used me as a scapegoat to cover up their own behaviours, I’ve got good people around me.

I went back six weeks ago to the canal bank where I’d lived. The canal will always be a special place, that particular bit where I lived for two weeks. I went with my friend and we sat there for two hours on my canal bank for two hours and we talked, we laughed and we spread some poppy seeds. That spot brought me some peace when I was at a very bleak point in my life. The canal with its eerie silence and its wildlife breathed life into me. I wanted to die but strangely, it kept me alive.

I’m a convicted criminal. Let’s not make any bones about that or dress that up in any way. I broke the law and I deserved to be sentenced for that act. I was foolish and I didn’t ask for help where I could have done. I’m currently serving my sentence and I’m doing well. I had no access to services, but I’ve had help and I’ve worked hard to try to rebuild. I’ve still a long way to go to make some amends with those I love; my children, but that is only going to come with a passage of time and may well take some years.  The friends I’ve lost, I don’t have to make up to. I own my crime and if they want to make it theirs then I cannot do anything about that. My time is precious, I give back and then some to those who care enough to see the real me and not allow that to cloud their love and respect for me. Those who I can make amends to, I will and I have.

Oh – remember that warrant that someone forgot to put on the computer those two weeks previously? Well someone forgot to take it off the PNC. The Police turned up at my Mother’s property to arrest me the day following my sentence.  Oh yes they did…  I was to be taken into custody to be put before the court on Monday. But that’s another story….

I’d like to thank Dan, Sara and in particular Lyndon for giving me the opportunity to use their space to tell my story.

It was nearly all over, but it isn’t now…

About the author: Tracey McMahon is a 45 year, copy writer/transcriber/translator. She is a convicted offender and is currently serving her sentence.

A view from…the Crown Court dock – pleading guilty

It took a fuel stop, an hour’s pissing around at a Police Station in Manchester, where I was given a sandwich, handcuffed, walked to another cell, locked in for 40 minutes and five hours to get me to the Crown Court; in the wrong town (The G4S driver had miss-spelt the town we were supposed to be going to and I knew we were heading to the wrong town – how was I supposed to know? They could have been picking someone up from there) then to the Magistrate’s Court in the right town when I was supposed to be at the Crown Court. It was now 3 pm and my bloody suit was fairly crumpled.  I was asked by the driver via the female guard where the back door was for the court. Sighs…  At this point I wanted to slit my own throat. I mean, how I am supposed to know that?  I know where the front door of the court is for pity’s sake.

Lyndon Harris asked me to be honest in this account of my experiences and I’m going to honour that request. In December of 2011, I was convicted of fraud for the first time. I’d taken out a credit card in my stepmother’s name, paid it; she found out, reported me.  I didn’t even wait for the bank to produce the evidence, Police called me, I went in and pleaded guilty right from the off. I had to pay off substantial debts left to me by my ex-husband; fees that I’d built up over a five year battle in Family Law courts to see my children.  I wasn’t sorry; I’m a mother, who fought for her children. Show me a mother who wouldn’t do anything to fight for her children and I’ll show you a man that never plays with himself.  It’s not an excuse, its honesty, love it loathe it.  As a result of that offence, my sentence was a custodial sentence of 12 weeks, which was suspended for one year. This offence had been committed a week after this sentence was passed and I was in breach of that suspended sentence. That suspended sentence was completed on November 24th 2012. I knew it was off to the big house for me.  Of course, there is a long story behind why I did what I did and I am not sorry. Not in the slightest. I am sorry only for the pain I have caused my family. There, I have said it.

I was taken to another cell; this was far less pretty than the Warwickshire one. Oh my, how do people etch things into cell doors? What do they use, anyone?  There was no pleasantness this time. No smiling custody sergeant, no chatty WPC to help me through. No, this is G4S, one woman (questionable, but I’ll run with it) told her colleague that I wouldn’t be able to take my handbag into prison and that she had her eye on it. I mean whisper it, by all means, but she was quite overt around her plans for my handbag. They’d made their mind up I was going to prison. I could sense their underlying hatred for me. Nice handbag, nice clothes, nice shoes and I’m pretty in tune with body language, they were almost sneering at me. I might have lived on a canal bank, but I still had pride in the way I presented myself. The night shelter run by the Salvation Army let the homeless in for showers and a coffee. I didn’t have much, but what I had was good quality. They didn’t give me any eye-contact whatsoever. Now there’s impassion and then there is being downright bloody ignorant. I was collected (more handcuffs) and taken through the cell corridor and up to civilisation where Jeremy was standing waiting for me, leaning against a door frame looking as cool as a cucumber. I found some resolve from somewhere and I managed to hold it together.

We went through my case. Jeremy explained what would happen. I would be convicted today and sentencing could be in a few weeks. I would likely be remanded in custody and Probation would do a pre-sentence report for sentencing purposes. I was taken back to the cell, by a man this time, who was far more pleasant. No handcuffs this time. Not that I cared at this point. I was done for. Then ten minutes later I was taken to the court room.

I sat in the dock then rose when the Judge came in and we were all seated. I scanned the room and there she was; the journalist. I threw her a warning glance just because I wanted to. I then put my head down. I wanted to die, right there and then. I heard the prosecutor say his part and I waited for Jeremy to state my defence. I was guided to stand up by the woman sitting next to me. I was at the point where I simply wanted to crumple to the floor and pray for an early death. I answered “Guilty” to the charges laid before me. One was for “Failing to Attend” court and the one which was going to send me to prison was: Fraud by Misrepresentation.

In December 2011, after I was sentenced for the first offence, my partner and I split up for the first time and I moved into the property of a man who told me he owned the property and he was looking for a lodger. It was a little out of town and after the press had printed a nice spread around my first case in the regional paper; I decided to tell him that I had been convicted of fraud. He was accepting of the situation after telling me he had been convicted of fraud and had had a couple of suspended sentences. His father had also been convicted of a million pound fraud back in 2004 when he was a local councillor. His father had the book thrown at him as he was a “respected councillor” I suppose you’d call them both rogues. I’d written him a cheque for two month’s rent; £875. I’d had a client who had disappeared and I was running out of funds quickly. With the sentence, caring for my mother, splitting up with my partner, a nine year battle to see my children, my mind was mashed

Now this landlord was beginning to become a little familiar with me. It was the last thing I needed at the time. I rejected him. At this point, my ex-partner had found me and asked me to return home. I did, having remained with the rogue for three weeks. The cheque bounced and his campaign started. He knew I was on a suspended sentence the messages came through. Just in case he couldn’t have me on the cheque bouncing, he made a claim that I had stolen £900 cash, a Rolex and a Breitling watch from his bedroom. I’d moved back with my partner on December 9th. I’d returned to the property to collect my goods on 20th December 2011, he helped me to load the car and was with me the whole time. I have never returned to the property since.  His statement to the police claimed I’d been at the property on the 6th January. My partner was my alibi. I was at home with him on the 6th January. I was a convicted fraudster, not a thief. This is the thing, theft and fraud, while both dishonesty offences, are not the same. They are two different acts; two different charges and two different crimes. In his statement he claimed he noticed the watches and cash were missing an hour after I had been at the property. Yet he didn’t make his statement until the 22nd of January.

Did I intend to defraud him?  Prosecution stated I did, I pleaded guilty, and minds are made up. The bank provided account evidence which showed my behaviour, a regular income, up until the middle of November, no discrepancies there. I was told that the Prosecutor would insist that I was only pleading Not Guilty because I knew I was in breach of my suspended sentence. “Intent” That’s the word isn’t it? That’s the letter of the law. Did I feel guilty? No, do I feel a sense of injustice?  I did, that’s seeping away now. That one signature on a cheque, which actually should have only been £250.00, me signing my name, taking that decision, fearful that I would be homeless, rendered me what I was trying to avoid in the first place. That might explain why at the start of this journey I may have come across as though I was trying to get away with something. Would he have had me charged had I not told him that I had been convicted previously? That I was on a suspended sentence? Or would he have called me up and told me in no uncertain terms that my cheque had bounced and demanded his money?

I told my partner everything apart from the unwanted advances the rogue had made on me while living there. His soon to be ex-wife called me and told me that it was her house, not his and that he had accused her many times of stealing cash and had reported her to the police. I drew down the Land Registry report and it was in there I saw she was telling the truth. He was allowed to live in the property as long as he paid the bills, that was the agreement she had with him. She had no idea he had taken in a lodger. He was simply angry at me for the cheque and for rejecting him. I haven’t made that up. I have every single SMS he sent me telling me I would regret turning him down and writing him a rubber cheque. A 10×8 was where I was going. In the police transcription, the words “texts not threatening” were written down next to where I told the officer.  He was also highly in the mire financially himself

Anyway, enough of that…

The Judge spoke with the court Probation Officer who agreed to see me the next day for a pre-sentence report. I was ordered to return for my sentence hearing on the Friday. This was Wednesday. Surprisingly, the Judge allowed me bail. I couldn’t believe it. It was all wrapped up in ten minutes and I was allowed to go. I was taken back down to the cell for ten minutes. A form was brought to me by the pleasant guard which I had to sign and I was released to be taken up the back stairs to meet with Jeremy. I was reunited with my goods. Jeremy was as surprised as I was. But, it was only 48 hours. It did however give me time to talk to my mother. I could stay with her till Friday. For the first time in over 38 years I sobbed in my mother’s arms. She never left me alone all night. She simply sat and watched over me.

I had my meeting with the wonderful Nick who did a thorough report on me. It took over three hours and he rather cleverly got to the bottom of my offending behaviour. He was going to recommend to the court that prison would benefit no-one least of all me and that Probation had done everything they could for me as my Probation Officer from my previous offence had given me a great reference on how I’d worked with her. There was nothing that Probation could do for me. He would be recommending a suspended sentence without any orders attached.

By Tracey McMahon

About the author: Tracey McMahon is a 45 year, copy writer/transcriber/translator. She is a convicted offender and is currently serving her sentence.