Tom Richmond: Victims of crime ignored in political struggle

Rory McIlroy.
Rory McIlroy.
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THERE is now a familiar undercurrent to every coalition U-turn. David Cameron says a listening government is a virtue – while his spin doctors hang the Minister in question out to dry.

It was the same over sentencing. The PM took the credit for reversing plans to reward those serious offenders who plead guilty – while Justice Secretary Ken Clarke took the blame.

Frankly, this political sparring is not the issue, though I’m still puzzled how longer prison sentences will bring about the financial savings that Cameron envisages.

It’s about whether the punishment fits the crime – and whether the interests of victims, whose wishes have been totally ignored in this power struggle, are honoured by the courts.

They are not. They continue to be betrayed 14 years after New Labour’s 1997 manifesto promised to put victims “at the heart of the criminal justice system”.

On the day Cameron capitulated in Downing Street, it was being reported that 80 per cent of the public feel that the system puts the rights of criminals before the people they have robbed, burgled, mugged and so forth.

And despite the fact that crime costs the country £34bn a year, less than one penny in every pound spent by the Ministry of Justice goes on projects or schemes to help victims.

This is wrong. Yet there is a simple way that this could be rectified. When every case goes before the courts, a checklist should be followed – has the victim been informed, and do they wish to make any submissions about how the crime has impacted upon their lives?

It would also go further than victims of crime being given the chance to view the judge’s remarks when punishing offenders, the suggestion put forward by the chairman of the Sentencing Council.

If this victim-first approach was followed, the judiciary might be more aware of the distress caused by criminality – and the public might, just, command a modicum of confidence in the sentences passed down.

It would certainly be far more beneficial than Clarke playing down the “panache” of the sentencing U-turn – and Cameron trying to escape justice for his Government’s latest policy crimes.

GIVEN the seriousness of the Greek financial collapse, and the potential consequences for British taxpayers, I was amazed that there were no more than 50 MPs present in the House of Commons on Monday to discuss this crisis. Where were the other 600?

Those present would have heard former Europe minister Denis MacShane’s rebuke of Boris Johnson when the Mayor of London advocated Greece going bust. The Rotherham MP said: “That is a signal to every Greek to get on his bike and seek work elsewhere. Is that really what we want — a new flood of economic migrants into Britain?”

CREDIT to Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew. One reason why the Government is safeguarding the cheque, until a paper-based alternative can be introduced, is after he told the House of Commons: “I spent 16 years in the fund-raising sector. Does the Minister agree that one giving barrier for many people is the abolition of cheques?”

It is nice to see an MP putting their experience of the real world to practical use. For, given the number of small businesses and one-man bands that cannot afford electronic payment machines – such as the car mechanic or experts who repair burglar alarms – this is a far bigger issue than the Government contends. Without the tried and tested cheque book, I would not have been in a position to pay either this week.

AS the fight to save children’s hearts surgery in Yorkshire rumbles on with a 500,000-signature petition delivered to Downing Street, why were charity collectors, on behalf of London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, collecting money the other week on the streets of Ilkley?

I can’t imagine Great Ormond Street – a great cause, I might add – would be too happy at collections for Yorkshire hospitals taking place on its patch.

I WASN’T impressed by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s explanation about the Government’s allocation of the 9,000 Olympic tickets that it will receive.

Hunt says 3,000 will be allocated to staff associated with the games; 2,400 are being made available to host towns and cities, and they, too, will be purchased; 2,900 will be made available to guests of the Government and 450 tickets will be allocated as prizes in the school games, to which 6,000 schools have signed up.

I make that 8,750 tickets. What about the remaining 250?

RORY McIlroy’s golf could not have been more impressive when he became the youngest post-war winner of the US Open. Nor could his awareness about his place in society – the Northern Irishman brushed aside the Irish tricolor that was thrown on his shoulders as he went to sign his scorecard.

This is a 22-year-old who is aware that he’s a role model to the whole of Northern Ireland, Britain and Europe. His appeal could be measured by the extent to which American fans chanted “Go Rory Go” – Tiger Woods never had such a place in their affections.

Equally impressive was the TV punditry of Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, once of Ilkley. When spectators kept shouting “in the hole” every time the young tyro boomed a drive off the tee, he simply said: “I wish people like that would leave quietly.”

So do I.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk