JP Floru is a Westminster Councillor, Senior Research Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute and writer of Heavens on Earth - How to Create Mass Prosperity
When this morning the BBC’s Today Programme gave abundant publicity to a professor who believes that property thieves should not be sent to prison, I had some difficulty classifying it in either the “Silly Season Stories” or the “BBC Left Wing Bias” drawer. The Independent apparently ran with the story first, quelle surprise. Is belittling property crime innocuous?
Professor Andrew Ashworth, Labour’s ex crime advisor, believes that thieves should be let off with a community sentence and the payment of damages. Never mind that most thieves have no money; and that for most of us a community sentence equals a slap on the wrist. Stealing £250 worth of clothes is not serious harm, the professor claims.
His utterances in a pamphlet for the Howard League for Penal Reform were true to form: while he was chairman of the Sentencing Advisory Panel for three years under the Labour government criticisms of going soft on crime were rife. Many courts have been busy implementing views like Professor Ashworth’s for a long time. As Peter Cuthbertson of the Centre for Crime Prevention puts it: “‘Already the courts bend over backwards to give criminals community sentences and fines which fail to protect the public”. Last year, around 91,000 serious and repeat offenders, including thousands of thieves and other property criminals, escaped prison.