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Discussion » Questions » Legal » Unusual Sentence Given in UK Court. Opinions Please.

Unusual Sentence Given in UK Court. Opinions Please.

I find myself reluctantly agreeing with the sentence, though I'm not entirely comfortable with it.

Posted - December 14, 2016


  • 11343
    There really isn't much useful information in this article but I will give it a shot.

    Passing notes or making threats of violence against others is criminal and needs to be treated as such.   That I agree with.
    However if the current laws are not enough to handle said threats than the proper recourse is to amend the sentencing and law to an effective level.
    Allowing Judges and courts to arbitrarily overstep the words and limitations of laws sets a dangerous cycle and undermines the relevancy of any and all laws.  It makes the judges and courts all powerful and boundless.   That's a worse threat for society and people as whole than anything.

    So I may support the sentencing as a proper fit for his crime,  however if the sentencing is beyond the bounds and authority of the law, then that I can't support.   Then again I don't live in the UK so I really don't care since it's not my country or courts. 
      December 14, 2016 11:12 AM MST

  • 3991
    I largely agree with your answer.

    I will, however, note that going too far the other way (with too-rigid sentencing laws) can also be problematic. In California, the people passed by initiative a "3-strikes" law which put criminals in prison for 25-to-life upon their third offense. Unfortunately, the law was poorly crafted so some petty criminals (I remember one exceptional case involved the theft of a some pizza slices) faced very long sentences for comparatively minor offenses.

    Cases like the one cited in the question make for tricky decisions which are never 100% satisfactory.
      December 14, 2016 11:25 AM MST

  • 11343
    Good point.   Three strikes was a poorly planned knee-jerk measure by any standard.   Again though I would side that the problem isn't with not holding judges to the letter of law,  it's a problem with over use of the power of law and too much legislation without properly analyzing it's effects.   So again  I would side with it being a need to change the law, not just ignoring it.

    That's another problem with giving this kind of ability to courts and judges.  It hampers the outrage over poorly written laws and discourages them from being done away with when needed since the courts might not follow them and enforce them.  Which seems like a good thing on the surface, but is really a bad thing since it leaves the law there to be possibly used in the future.

    This is the slippery slope I know.   Slippery slope often being labelled as a defacto logical fallacy.   When in reality it's sometimes a logical fallacy.  If you apply it as "  If A is allowed, B will follow".  That's a logical fallacy.  It doesn't have to.   If it's applied as " If A is allowed, it makes B too easy to happen and leaves too much possibility for it."   That is by no means a logical fallacy.   The slippery slope as "you will fall down" it is a mistaken assumption.   The slippery slope as " You stand where falling is way too easy to risk" has a logical basis.

    This kind of case kinda is in a similar vein of why I'm conflicted on military draft.   The personal freedom side of me says that no one should be forced to serve against their own choice.  The objective side of me though sees that if people had their neck on the line each time we went to war,  that public would pay much more attention to and be much more critical of the reasons and outcomes of us going to war.   It would likely throw a populist wrench in the gears of the war machine.  So it's a tough call even though I do pick a side on the issue.
      December 14, 2016 11:41 AM MST

  • I believe the maximum sentence for making a threat to kill here is 10 years.  He made 5 threats and got 9 years each - to run consecutively.  So the judge is technically within his rights, it's just the unusual nature of the sentence that's got me thinking.  Usually these things will run concurrently and he'd be out in about 5-8 years.
      December 14, 2016 4:34 PM MST

  • 11343
    Gotcha.  It does raise another question in my mind.

    Should a person be able to self imprison themselves if they feel and can show evidence that they are a future threat to society?
      December 14, 2016 4:36 PM MST

  • 11343
    BTW...  This is a good thread.
      December 14, 2016 11:13 AM MST

  • 6375
    Sentence is way too harsh.  He's being punished for being a nutbar and offending the sensibilities of the common man.  45 years in prison is too.  Some people have lighter sentences for killing someone.  I see you guys have some sentencing guideline issues like we do.
      December 14, 2016 11:34 AM MST

  • My initial thought too.  Certainly it's more than unusual.  But the man has been psychiatrically assessed and declared not in need of hospitalisation, so therefore he's not 'mad' in the traditional legal sense.  And he's asked not to be released - though of course there may be other reasons for that request than his appreciation of his own danger to others.

    Sentences this long are almost unheard of in the UK; I can think of only a few in the last century and only one or two in the last 20 years or so.  And although his threats are crimes in and of themselves, the threat hasn't actually been carried out, which usually merits a less serious sentence than if it had.

    It's also quite rare for sentences to be stacked (9 years x 5 offences in this case) in this way, although it's not legally 'improper' in any way.  Just very unusual.  I'm still very much in two minds about it.
      December 14, 2016 12:26 PM MST

  • There's no simple answer, is there?

    The judge certainly went out on a limb which may open the sentence to appeal at some future date. While the public can be reassured that Richard Ford's threats will not be possible while he remains in prison, I wonder if it's reasonable to incarcerate a man, in advance, for crime he might commit. Surely the mere fact of threatening somebody doesn't warrant such a long sentence: certainly not in the UK.

    I think it was David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) who, following his religious conversion was subject to petitions and appeals by well-intentioned Christians seeking his release. That's not uncommon. What was unusual was that Berkowitz himself appealed to the Governor asking that his sentence NOT be overturned. He said that he had committed horrible crimes and should not be released.

    That seems to be what Ford is saying: "Don't set me free. I'm dangerous."

    While part of me is grateful that the judge has taken a positive stance on this, part of me is appalled that a relatively minor offender should be incarcerated for what will effectively be the rest of his life on the basis of a threat.
      December 14, 2016 1:35 PM MST

  • It's another aspect of the case I find rather difficult to comprehend.  

    The maximum sentence for threatening to kill is, I think, 10 years (though other considerations, including other offences might of course apply).  Technically the judge is within his legal rights to sentence him for more than he received for each case (9 years), but I would have expected the sentences to run concurrently.

    Either this is one of 'those' cases with no satisfactory outcome, or perhaps the court heard something that hasn't come out in press reports.  I still don't know what to think of it.
      December 14, 2016 4:03 PM MST

  • Unless I'm missing something, I don't believe he was sentenced for threatening to do something, I think he was sentenced to Prevent him from doing something
      December 14, 2016 2:10 PM MST

  • Well, yes - and no.  :)

    I think he has to be sentenced for an actual crime.  People cannot be sentenced (officially at least) in order to prevent one, though sentences may be extended (or that was the case until recently) to ensure public safety.  However I think there needs to be an indeterminate sentence for this to happen, and I believe they were done away with here about four years ago.
      December 14, 2016 3:59 PM MST

  • I'm in Oz so I'm only guessing on how your laws are applied .. We do  trend to follow closely though and I do know here that some serial rapists who have not shown any remorse have been kept in Gaol at the completion of their sentence as the power an unacceptable risk ... So here at least a potential threat in certain cases is enough to keep you at her majesties  pleasure
      December 14, 2016 4:21 PM MST

  • I'm not 100% certain but I think I saw something to the effect that indeterminate sentences were abolished here in 2012 on human rights grounds.  Doing so brought the UK into line with the majority of EU states (ironic I know) but it may well be the case that nations with an English Law basis to their law might still apply these 'at her maj's pleasure' sentences.  

    But I'm not getting any nearer being clear in my own mind on this judgement.  :)
      December 14, 2016 4:30 PM MST

  • Yes ... It's a bit of a slippery slope ... Gaoling someone for what they might do ... But isn't this what happens if some one is talked for threatening with a gun?... Is it the threat, or the fact they might shoot someone?
      December 14, 2016 4:33 PM MST

  • 985
    If you're going to lock someone away for this length of time you may as well execute them and be done with it.

    Lawyers claiming that human rights  preclude this are an expensive luxury inappropriate in times of austerity as is the interminable legal wrangling on death row in the US.

      December 14, 2016 5:07 PM MST