The Ulster Unionist Party’s Justice Spokesperson, Doug Beattie MC MLA, has called for a culture change in sentencing policy in the local justice system.
Doug Beattie MC MLA said:
“Two cases last week highlighted everything that is wrong with our justice system and in particular sentencing policy.
“The justice system has four purposes. It should punish the offender, impose a sentence that acts as a deterrent to others, ensures public safety and if possible, rehabilitation. The first three can all be achieved fairly easily, the fourth is obviously more difficult.
“It is perfectly clear that the system in Northern Ireland is failing miserably. When punishment is insufficient, there is no deterrent and public safety is put at risk.
“At times it seems that the sole aim of the justice system is to keep people out of prison.
“Last week we had the case of a schoolteacher who was harassed by a parent for 18 months and who now carries protection devices issued by the PSNI. The perpetrator received a four-month prison sentence suspended for three years.
“No punishment there, no deterrent, and certainly nothing to make the victim feel safe in either her workplace or her own home.
“The same day we had the case of two drug addicts who burgled a man’s home. One had 26 previous convictions and when arrested was in breach of a suspended sentence for handling stolen goods. His accomplice – his twin brother in fact – had 38 previous convictions and was in breach of a conditional discharge for criminal damage and common assault at the time of the burglary.
“We are told that the Probation Service assessed the twins as having a ‘high likelihood of reoffending’ but they were not considered to pose a serious risk of causing serious harm to the public in the future.
“The Judge said he hoped the two weeks spent on remand had served as a ‘salutary lesson’ and added that a further period in custody would ‘serve little purpose.’ As a result, he imposed community service and a probation order.
“In other words, as long as they only burgle homes and don’t attack anyone, the Probation service is happy enough. That is utterly shameful. And after a combined total of 64 convictions, the judge thinks two weeks on remand will sort them out.
“The public will not understand the logic applied in either of these two cases. A culture change is needed in our justice system whereby punishment is placed at the heart of the process long with deterrence and the need to protect the public. They are posted missing at the minute.”