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Sentences for rioters must fit the crime; Views of the North.

WHATEVER our views are about the recent disturbances in London and elsewhere which received so much media coverage, we should be deeply concerned about the apparent political interference in the sentencing process that has led to a proliferation of custodial punishments meted out to the young people involved.

The suggestion that on the s advice of their learned clerks - themselves acting on instructions from above - our local magistrates are being advised to ignore the rules of sentencing guidelines sets a disturbing precedent.

This has worrying parallels with the political interference in the treatment of striking miners during the state-sponsored repression of the dark Thatcherite years.

No one condones the scenes of disruption that were witnessed over the period of the riots, but locking up a young person for six months for stealing an ice cream cone is not going to resolve the underlying problems in our communities.

It is my hope that the understandable outcry over these punitive sentences - much of which has come from the Liberal Democrat wing of the coalition Government - will bring about a return to a system of justice that is about the needs of society and not about the headline-grabbing wishes of certain political figures.

COUN ROB HIGGINS, Labour, Benwell-Scotswood Ward, Newcastle City Council
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 22, 2011
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