I'm endebted to my local paper, the Lancashire Telegraph, for this story concerning the conviction of two men, cousins Azeem and Tabassum Shah from Nelson, for abducting three tipsy fourteen and fifteen year-old-girls, who they drove to a hotel twenty miles from their home town.
A further charge of 'engaging in sexual activity' with one of the girls against Azeem Shah was allowed to lie on the file.
Interesting expression, that; here's what it actually means, according to the CJS online database:
An offence not admitted to by a defendant may be allowed to lie on file if the
judge agrees that there is sufficient evidence, but it is not in the public interest to
have a trial, as the defendant has admitted other offences, and a further
conviction would make a difference to the sentence.
As you will have read, neither man was jailed, irrespective of the fact that the maximum penalty for child abduction - for that is what these girls were, vulnerable children - is seven years' imprisonment.
Bearing in mind the 'qualifying' criteria for an offence to lie on the file, are we to understand that HHJ Newell would not have jailed Azeem Shah on conviction for 'engaging in sexual activity', whatever that euphemism means, with one of them?
The comments attached to the Telegraph's story are highly critical of the lenient sentences these men received, probably because they strongly suspect that the only reason these two men - one of whom is a married father of two children, for goodness' sake - took the girls to that hotel twenty miles from their homes on an August evening because, in that charmingly innocent, but simultaneously damning phrase, they intended to 'engage in sexual activity' with them.
I think that the Shahs can count themselves very lucky indeed not to be in jail tonight, and if I were involved in conducting this prosecution, I would be busily preparing my appeal against this unduly lenient sentence even as I type.
But to conclude, irresepective of the fact that I think Judge Newell got this sentencing exercise quite badly wrong, too many of those condemning him for his leniency in the comments section lapse into nakedly racist language in doing so.
Shame on them; (if they are familiar with the concept) because not only do they reveal their ignorance, they also serve to undermine the very cause they are purporting to support, because anyone with a modicum of decency will simply ignore their rantings as the howling of knuckle dragging imbeciles.