There has been considerable media interest in the reaction of the Criminal Justice System to the summer rioting that broke out in many major cities this month. This morning on the radio I heard a representative of magistrates argue with a representative of prison governors over whether there had been a frenzy of disproportionate sentences meted out to those involved in the riots. I am not particularly qualified to comment -it has been many years since I regularly attended the criminal courts. Some of the sentencing does strike me as tough, but no more so than on other occasions when the Establishment is under threat.
Also on the radio over the summer I heard a senior London Crown Prosecutor indicate that no cautions had been given to offenders involved in the riots. A document leaked from the Metropolitan Police to The Guardian appears to confirm that as a matter of policy no cautions have been considered by the Police for such offenders either. I will keep to myself thoughts on whether all this is a good or a bad thing; happily I blog my views on cycling not rioting.
What all this does suggest, however, is that the 'Gravity Factors Matrix' used by the police before issuing a caution , is no more than a fig-leaf to cover a police assessment of what the public interest requires. It is naive in the extreme to suppose that these decisions are not influenced by political, media and public pressure. We need to send out the message that the public interest requires the prosecution of those guilty of harming a cyclist, whether using a motor vehicle or fists. Such people may never be at the receiving end of the iron fist, as if they were in on a riot, but if we make enough fuss, the kid-glove treatment may at least cease.