National politics

BBC spinning knife sentencing

The BBC Today programme’s biggest UK story first thing this morning was headlined “Knife sentencing ‘not effective'”.

Apparently Nicola Marfleet, the govenor of Pentonville Prison, interviewed teens on behalf of the Howard League for Penal Reform who had been excluded from school or were serving time in custody.
Most believed tough sentences (up to a maximum of four years) were only meant to “scare” them and they were more likely to be tagged than jailed. The BBC has used this statement of the obvious to produce a headline that cannot be substantiated with the facts.

Kids are not dumb. They talk to each other in playgrounds and they are accurately reporting actual criminal justice system outcomes rather than Labour spin on sentencing. The most up to-date Home Office figures showed that even when the maximum sentence for carrying was only 3 years only about one fifth of all offenders got ANY custodial sentence at all – the vast majority got tagged or some such. The kids are bang on the money.

It is not the sentences that are at fault it is the criminal justice system that systematically fails to do the people’s will. If one kid in a neighbourhood school got four years for carrying you could guarantee that the schoolyard grapevine would broadcast this message very clearly to local schools very quickly. The message currently being broadcast is that you will not get banged up for carrying.

4 replies on “BBC spinning knife sentencing”

Well the sentences won’t be effective if they aren’t applied, will they? It doesn’t take a piece of publicly funded research to tell us that – common sense will do and it’s cheaper.

The correct conclusion to draw from this is that empty threats are ineffective and send a message of weakness on the part of the authorities and wider society. Thugs like weakness, they feed off it, in the same way that they take advantage of fear.

If the government won’t impose the sentences, they shouldn’t make the threat in the first place.

And it would be nice to see some laws directed at solving the problem rather than just providing good PR for ministers.


Just to set your mind at ease Mr Evans – this research was done as part of the author’s masters degree dissertation in criminology and was not therefore a ‘publicly funded piece of research’.


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