Two drunk animals, aged 25 and 22, launched an unprovoked attack on two men outside a pub. Having knocked one of them out cold, they then rained blows on the other victim and, when he was down, kicked him in the head 18 times.
(You can admire their handiwork, or rather footwork, on this video: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/buckingham-palace-guard-and-soldier-spared-jail-after-cctv-shows-them-stamping-on-victims-head-10202036.html)
They then ran away and tried to hide, but were arrested and eventually put on trial. Now what kind of punishment do you think would fit the crime?
Before you answer, consider that someone who cheats on his taxes is likely to be sent down for at least a year or two, to rub shoulders with the creator of a fraudulent pyramid scheme and a chap who didn’t realise his wife wasn’t in the mood for sex.
Now what sentence do you think would be just for this beastly, violent crime? A custodian sentence surely, but how long? Twenty years? Fifteen? Ten?
My answer to that question would be the maximum the law allows. Viciously kicking a man in the head 18 times is attempted murder, and it’s not for any lack of zeal on the attackers’ part that the victim survived.
Hence my personal verdict would be life with a 25-year tariff, but then I know I tend to be rather harsh. So shall we settle on 25 with a 12-year tariff? Done.
Except that it isn’t. The judge sentenced one animal to 12 months suspended and the other to a 12-month community order. They walked free.
Now is the time to name names. The two criminals are both soldiers: Shaun Smith is a Scots Guard and Jason Collins a Welsh Guard, who has done sentry duty outside Buckingham Palace (before and after the crime).
Both are highly regarded in the service, and the character references their received at the trial were nothing short of glowing. That, according to Judge James Hill, QC, explains the derisory sentence, which he himself admits is otherwise inexplicable.
“I state in open court that what I have done is entirely exceptional,” he said. Oh, it’s quite a bit worse than that, Your Honour. It’s a travesty of justice and mockery of the law – the very law you are entrusted to uphold.
Amazingly the defence was allowed to plea bargain down from attempted murder and then grievous bodily harm (GBH) to the least imaginable charge, that of two counts of actual bodily harm (ABH).
But even that minimum charge allows for a maximum sentence of a fiver per count, 10 years in total. It’s unconscionable that the two thugs were set free just because they are good at their job.
I’d suggest that their crime is worse than fiddling a tax return or running a pyramid scheme – or even, dare I say it, making love to one’s wife without written permission, appropriately notarised.
Oh yes, Smith and Collins had each had six pints of beer and 15 shots, roughly an equivalent of a bottle of spirits.
I don’t know if that was used as a mitigating circumstance in their turning from angels into devils, to use their defender’s words. It should have been used by the prosecution as an aggravating one.
The two criminals are old enough to know their limit, beyond which they turn into murdering beasts. If they go beyond it, this means they don’t mind becoming murdering beasts.
Neither, evidently, does the law, and the explanation for this goes way further than the obvious incompetence of a single judge.
These days crimes against individuals are small beer compared to crimes against the state, whose interests our judges serve with canine loyalty in preference to society’s interests.
Hence, for example, 95 per cent of all burglaries go unpunished and, in most cases, even not investigated properly. It’s as if the law tacitly accepts that a burglar is helping the state to do its principal job, that of income redistribution.
Even violent assaults are excusable, provided, for old times’ sake, they don’t result in disfigurement or death: they don’t threaten the state at all, and if they threaten individuals, it’s just too bad. What was the victim of Smith and Collins doing out in the street late at night anyway? He has only himself to blame.
Not so with crimes committed against the state either directly, by depriving it of a few pounds of tax flesh, or indirectly, by, say, challenging the state’s prerogative to squeeze its body of laws into every marital bed in some awful threesome.
Such deeds are punished severely because they flout the state’s power in a way in which even violent crimes against individuals don’t. The modern state isn’t about protecting individuals or, God forbid, society. It’s about lording it over them.
It is hardly surprising then that even many of those people who fear the law don’t really respect it. And fear alone isn’t a sufficient deterrent – the morality of good and bad has been replaced by the morality of not getting caught, which imposes a far weaker restraint.
Hence every ‘exceptional’ sentence like the one passed by Judge Hill diminishes the law in general and its ability to protect people specifically. The inevitable upshot will be a growing crime rate, with Her Majesty’s subjects feeling unsafe every time they venture out after dark.
Law and order? Ordure, is more like it.