Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Criminal objects to looking like a criminal

A judge at Gloucester Crown Court has altered a convicted criminal's sentence, removing a requirement that he wear an electronic tag, and substituting a requirement that he carry out thirty hours unpaid work. Why did he do this? Well, because the criminal asked him to.

To be precise, Lewis Beer, who in April pleaded guilty to carrying out an assault at a nightclub in Cheltenham, asked that he be spared tagging, on the grounds that wearing the tag "made him look like a criminal", and that he was, as a result of this, finding it hard to gain employment as a gym instructor.

Well, I have news for you, Lewis: you are a criminal! That's kind of what having convictions for ABH and common assault means. And I'm afraid that the fact that people will now regard you with distaste is entirely your own fault. Perhaps you should have thought about that before you attacked someone.

I am also somewhat surprised to see the judge apparently assisting a criminal in covering up his crime. Presumably any employers he may go to for a job will be able to find out about his conviction, even without the tag. But people who he might be instructing in the gym, should anyone give him a job, would only be alerted to this fact by the tag. Understandably, they might not be overly keen on the idea of having a gym instructor with a recent conviction for violence. Now that the tag has gone, however, they just won't know, and they won't, therefore, have the chance to object.
There must also have been some reason why Beer was required to wear the tag in the first place. If unpaid work was the most appropriate sentence, why wasn't he given that right away? The reasons that led to him being tagged have apparently been disregarded in this decision.

There are, of course, circumstances where a sentence can reasonably be altered. But I really don't see that sparing a criminal from the social stigma that attaches to being a criminal is among them. And, as I said, if I were going to be in close proximity to a man with two assault convictions, I'd want to know about it. Wouldn't you?

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