September 18: Sentencing of child abuser raises fears of two-tier justice system

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Courts must not leave the impression that some victims matter more than others.

CHILD sexual abuse is amongst the most horrible of crimes and society rightly expects that its perpetrators are pursued relentlessly by the police and dealt with severely by the courts.

A key reason why the courts should take the hardest line possible with offenders is that such abuse not only blights its victims’ lives in the short term, but often leaves emotional scars that can remain for the rest of their days.

Tough sentences by the courts represent an unmistakeable deterrent, warning would-be abusers that they can expect no leniency if they descend to committing these vile offences.

The effect on victims is always uppermost in the mind of any judge when sentencing offenders, as was apparent yesterday when the Criminal Appeal Court upheld a jail term imposed on a Yorkshire man that was longer than it would have been had his victims not been Asian.

The cultural sensitivities surrounding those victims, and the impact that the abuse they suffered is likely to have on the rest of their lives, were taken into account by the judge who imposed the sentence.

There may, though, be a degree of disquiet amongst some survivors of abuse and their families at what could be perceived to be a two-tier sentencing policy that values some victims more highly than others.

A painful episode in Yorkshire’s recent history has been the abuse of white girls in Rotherham by predominantly Asian men. It would be a bitter pill for those victims to swallow if they felt their suffering was classified according to their ethnicity and abusers sentenced less harshly because the children they preyed upon were white.

The courts do their utmost to mete out justice that brings comfort to victims, but they must be careful not to leave any impression that some victims matter more than others.

Policing cuts

Greater understanding needed

IT SEEMS extraordinary that neither the Home Office nor police forces have a comprehensive understanding of the impact that financial cuts are causing.

But that is the verdict of the Public Accounts Committee in a report which will surely be embarrassing to the Government, cause consternation within the police service and disturb the public.

Policing can be no more immune from the cost-cutting measures necessary to put the public finances back on an even keel than any other taxpayer-funded function of the state.

It must, though, be done carefully with due regard to maintaining policing at a level appropriate to deal with the challenges posed by crime, terrorism and public safety, and that means cuts can only made on the basis of a proper degree of knowledge.

How the situation identified by the PAC has arisen is not entirely clear, but what is evident is that this lack of understanding needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency by the Government, elected police and crime commissioners and chief constables.

It is simply not good enough for the Government to order cuts in budgets without any appreciation of the impact they may have, nor of any acknowledgement of the knock-on effects for the police of cuts in other areas.

Nor is it good enough for the local management of police forces to lack the necessary business skills needed to run them. The PAC has made a number of recommendations. They should be heeded without delay.

Labour’s woes

Breakaway offer deepens rifts

LABOUR’S current woes will only be aggravated by the offer by Hull tycoon and one of the party’s biggest donors Assem Allam to fund MPs who wish to defect or form a new party.

Mr Allam is doubtless sincere in his belief that this is the best course for centre-left opposition to the Government, but his intervention can only deepen divisions within Labour over its direction under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Only time will tell if any Labour MPs will take up the offer, though the spectre of the ill-fated SDP which broke away from the party’s infighting of more than 30 years ago hovers at the shoulder of any who might consider it.

But that the offer has been made, and will doubtless be discussed at Westminster – albeit furtively – is an indication of how far the party is from being a unified opposition, let alone a government in waiting.