‘Stop saying sentences are too soft’: Top judge calls for end to criticism of jail terms following row over length of prison time given to PC Andrew Harper’s killers
- Lord Burnett said ‘ignorant’ attacks on the penalties set by judges are ‘corrosive’
- He said the debate on sentencing must ‘proceed on fact and not misconception’
- The comments follow discontent among minsters over jail terms given to PC Andrew Harper’s killers
The country’s most senior judge yesterday demanded an end to criticism of the judiciary for handing serious criminals ‘soft’ sentences.
The Lord Chief Justice’s comments follow discontent among ministers over the jail terms given to PC Andrew Harper’s killers.
Lord Burnett said ‘ignorant’ attacks on the penalties set by judges are ‘corrosive and harmful’.
He added: ‘Please avoid the knee-jerk criticism of a judge for applying the law and guidelines when they produce a sentence the commentator wishes were more severe.’
The country’s most senior judge Lord Burnett (pictured) yesterday demanded an end to criticism of the judiciary for handing serious criminals ‘soft’ sentences
The demand, in a speech to lawyers, follows protests over the sentences handed to three teen burglars who killed PC Harper in Berkshire last year. He suffered catastrophic injuries after his ankles got caught in a strap attached to their getaway car.
Driver Henry Long was jailed for 16 years and accomplices Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole for 13 years after they were convicted of manslaughter.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is among politicians thought to have been unhappy that the sentences were not greater, and there is support among cabinet ministers for a new law to cover killings of police officers. Attorney General Suella Braverman appeared before Appeal Judges last month to argue that the sentences were unduly lenient.
The Lord Chief Justice’s comments follow discontent among ministers over the jail terms given to PC Andrew Harper’s (pictured) killers
Lord Burnett, the head of the judiciary in England and Wales, said: ‘Occasionally judges go wrong. We operate in public and state our reasons for making our decisions. Anyone is at liberty to disagree and can do so explaining why.
‘But unreasoned or, worse, ignorant or ill-informed criticism from apparently authoritative quarters tends wrongly to erode confidence in the administration of justice. That is corrosive and harmful.’
He added: ‘Of course, different views about matters of importance are a sign of a healthy democracy.
‘Sentencing policy is a matter of acute interest to individuals caught up in the criminal courts, to commentators and academics, to the public and politicians.
‘Let the debate proceed on fact and not misconception.’
Earlier this month Lord Burnett said attacks on lawyers and judges undermine the rule of law and questioned if politicians knew the boundaries of their role.
There has been widespread unhappiness at the actions of some immigration lawyers due to cases such as the recent campaign that stopped the deportation of 23 criminals, including rapists and killers, to Jamaica.
Lord Burnett said yesterday: ‘Were the mythical alien to arrive on earth and, I grant you yet more improbably, take an interest in sentencing in England and Wales by reading the newspapers and dipping into the more noisy parts of online media, it would soon gain the impression that sentencing had got softer in recent years.
‘There is a difficulty with this narrative. It is a myth. There is no doubt that in recent decades sentencing levels have increased, not reduced.’
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