MPs wasting YOUR money on hopeless criminal justice legislation

Last week, I read a blog written by barrister Matthew Scott. It concerned the proposed Sentencing Escalator Bill. It is a Private Members Bill sponsored by Philip Hollobone MP, the member for Kettering.

You can read the Bill here (it won’t take long). Its essence is that where a person is convicted of the same offence on a second (or subsequent) occasion, the Bill would require that the sentence for the second (or subsequent) offence be longer than the original sentence.

You can read Matthew’s blog here. Matthew concisely and effectively demolishes the proposal. Aside from further limiting judicial discretion – the idea that judges who preside over trials or have access to the case papers are best placed to know what the proper sentence is, surprising I know, – (as Matthew very concisely and eloquently explains) the Bill would create a number of anomalies.

One such anomaly would be thus. An offender is convicted of a nasty s47 ABH, receiving 4 years. He is subsequently convicted of ABH. The Bill would require that he receives a lengthier sentence than on the first ABH, notwithstanding that the second ABH might be very minor and in realty warrant a 12 month sentence. Matthew highlights that if the first conviction was for GBH, and the second was for ABH, then the Bill would not require that a lengthier sentence be imposed. The Bill would, as he states, target those who had been fairly nasty in the past, but not those with a very nasty past.

Consider where an offender is convicted of theft from their employer, involving vast amounts of money and a sophisticated method. They receive 6 years. If they were then convicted of stealing a Mars bar from a shop, the Bill would require that they receive a lengthier sentence. (Thanks to Dan Bunting for that example).

Nonsense.

Another Private Members Bill sponsored by Phillip Bone MP is the Young Offenders (Parental Responsibility) Bill. You can read it here. Again, it won’t take long.

If enacted it would basically mean that where a child or young person commits an offence, their parents are responsible for it. Doesn’t sound too bad you say? The effect would be that where a child commits an offence, but isn’t charged or subjected to a penalty (the meaning of which is unclear), the person(s) with parental responsibility for the child also commit and offence and are liable for the same punishment as the child would have been.

Sound fair?

The purpose of this post was not to rehash Matthew’s excellent blog but to highlight the fact that some of the people who we pay £65,000 per year (plus expenses) to represent us are wasting public time and money on idiotic proposals which will never make it onto the statute book.

If any readers live in Mr Hollobone’s constituency, and you agree with Matthew’s conclusion, and our concerns, about Mr Hollobone’s Bills and the waste of time and money he is responsible for, why not write him a letter. We’d be happy to publish it (and any reply you received).

Either way, let us know your thoughts.

Follow Matthew on Twitter @BarristerBlogger

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12 thoughts on “MPs wasting YOUR money on hopeless criminal justice legislation

  1. Tracey McMahon (@MAFTC)

    I’m glad you have posted this and I read Matthew’s blog (brilliant)

    I’m very confused about this. With the announcement of RJ (of which I am sceptical over, as I tend to be over most things to do with MPs & anything to do with CJS) I’m nothing other than baffled at this one.

    Reply
  2. Malcolm Boura

    I wish I shared your confidence that they will not become law. This is not about justice, or what works, it is ideology. Looked at clause 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour Bill recently? The biggest attack on civil liberties that I can remember is strolling through Parliament driven by tabloid politics.

    Reply
  3. John Allman

    There is only one thing worse than paying £65,000 plus expenses to those who make idiotic proposals which will never make it onto the statute book, and that is paying £142,500 to someone whose idiotic proposals *do* make it onto the statute book.

    Reply
  4. Dan Bunting

    This has got a zero chance of becoming law in reality.

    One other point is the law of unintended consequences. Judges will know the escalator applies – with people who look like they may be repeat offenders, will the under-sentence so as not to end up passing ridiculous sentences? Would be ironic if this lead to fewer prison sentences …

    Reply
      1. Dan Bunting

        The problem with the ‘unless unreasonable’ safety valve is that it only allows the same sentence as last time to be passed – not a great safety!

  5. Andrew

    The limited time for Private Members’ Bills has been hijacked this session by the Referendum Bill (which should have been a government bill in government time) and this rubbish will not get debated.

    Reply
  6. Adam

    I have to say I agree that the bill is wrong and ridiculous. But I certainly don’t agree that this somehow means that the salary this MP earns is somehow made illegitimate. Surely the point of democratic governance is that we allow all opinions and then subject them to scrutiny. Self evidently this bill has failed scrutiny, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the MP was wrong to suggest it. He has more right than any of us to propose legislation since he has a democratic mandate. I can’t see how debating potential legislative provisions, even ones we don’t agree with, is somehow a waste of money. Why not argue that all democracy is a waste of money and let the experts decide?

    I would agree that highlighting this bill serves as a means to attack ridiculous political position of the MP. But I don’t think it is fair or right to make this about money or expenses, they have no relevance unless one feels that we should only pay MP’s we agree with, (or that are sensible, perish the thought!)

    Reply
    1. Dan Bunting

      I understand that and agree that he should be free to put forward ridiculous policy ideas. Here, I suspect that this was not a serious attempt to change the law, the two MPs knew full well that this was dead in the water (as well as being unlawful) and would never get anywhere.

      I think the point is that why, in those circumstances, should we all have to pay the costs for this to drafted, published and debated?

      Reply
  7. Andrew

    You either pay the b*ggers a salary or we go back to the days when you had to be of independent means to be an MP, and I know which I prefer.

    I would pay them rather more than they get now with free second-class travel between Westminster, home and constituency; and if they do not live within reasonable reach of Westminster reasonable hotel costs when (as now rarely happens_ the House sits late. And a stated sum for office salaries for UNRELATED staff.

    But no more. No families sucking on the public teat and no building capital assets off it either.

    Does that sound reasonable?

    Reply
  8. Lyndon Harris Post author

    Dan has got it spot on. I’m not unhappy about it because I disagree, I am unhappy about it because it won’t ever make it to the statute book and consequently is a colossal waste of money.

    Additionally, I would expect an MP deem it appropriate to receive advice on areas in which they are not experts. If an MP thought it a good idea to propose a reform to the NHS, I would expect them to seek advice on it. Either Mr Hollobone sought no advice, or received bad advice. Neither are acceptable in my view.

    Reply

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