According to the British Sentencing Council’s definitive guidelines on the imposition of custodial sentences:
• A custodial sentence must not be imposed unless the offence or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it was so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence.
Furthermore, the Criminal Justice Act 2003, part 12, chapter 3, para. 9 (5), states:
Before making a suspended sentence order imposing two or more different requirements falling within subsection (1) [mine has no less that five], the court must consider whether, in the circumstances of the case, the requirements are compatible with each other.
And again quoting from the above guidelines:
• A suspended sentence MUST NOT be imposed as a more severe form of community order. A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence. Sentencers should be clear that they would impose an immediate custodial sentence if the power to suspend were not available. If not, a non-custodial sentence should be imposed.
At my conviction last May, District Judge John Zani was fairly precise in his indication that my offences were serious enough to warrant custody. My musical malice had “on the face of it”, passed the custody threshold and therefore I was facing a spell behind bars or – as it turned out – a custodial punishment in the form of a Suspended Sentence Order including slave labour plus four other requirements.
Are these requirements compatible? Not really. Forced labour plus a 12-month social media ban plus a fine prevent me from earning a crust. The strangest part of my order is the 20-day “Rehabilitation Requirement Activity” (RAR). Let me explain.
After my conviction, complete with threat of jail, the Probation Service (NPS) acted to stay the afternoon’s planned sentencing. Several news sites including The Sun and The Guardian stated that this had been the court’s original plan. Even my barrister was convinced I would be locked up that day. Most other mainstream sites also repeated Zani’s threat of a custodial sentence – for singing! Tra la la!
However, once again according to the CJA 2003:
A court may not impose an unpaid work requirement in respect of an offender unless after hearing (if the courts thinks necessary) an officer of a local probation board or an officer of a provider of probation services , the court is satisfied that the offender is a suitable person to perform work under such a requirement.
Perhaps Zani didn’t think a Probation Report was necessary, but I dare say his Legal Advisor did, along with the NPS.
The following week, I met with a senior Probation Officer – again necessitating a £100 round trip to London. He told me that he had been informed that same day (by whom?) that a) my case was to be handled differently than originally planned and it was therefore unlikely I’d be sent to jail; and b) that any imposed RAR would not be an attempt to make me change my views (!) My “rehabilitation”, apparently, would consist of one-to-one occasional meetings to help me avoid falling foul of the law in future.
After sentencing, I mentioned all the above and more to my local probation officer in Derbyshire. (Perhaps also the moment to complain about the two-hour round trip needed to get to the probation office – not to mention the three-hour round trip to get to my local magistrates court – Hello, Ruth George MP!)
My local Probation Officer did hand me several leaflets about possible RAR activities, but it became immediately clear to me – and soon afterwards clear to him as well – that there was absolutely nothing suitable for yours truly. Why? Well, perhaps because I’m only a criminal on paper – more precisely, manuscript paper – thanks to the judgement of one obscure District Judge.
Speaking of whom: another case over which Zani presided in 2014 concerned an assault by a serving police officer on a mentally-handicapped Somali prisoner. The same officer had previously been convicted for criminal damage and common assault following an altercation with a taxi driver. Was the officer sent to jail? No. The officer was handed a Suspended Sentence Order including Unpaid Work and a fine.
There you go. Justice in Britain today. You can commit assault, or cause brain damage to an innocent citizen by reckless driving – and the courts won’t treat you that harshly. You can even get off quite lightly (with only a fine) for uploading a video of a dog giving Hitler salutes to the command repeated 23 times: Gas the J**s!
However, if you mock non-credible historiography and its associated liars in satirical songs, they will come down on you like a ton of bricks…
The truth is no longer a defence in our corrupt, rotten System. Thankfully, my sense of humour is intact. Zani didn’t get to decide my sentence. It was all sketched out for him in advance, as indeed was the judgement, no doubt by close associates of those who also wrote Police and Crime Commissioner Dhindsa’s prose last November in the Times of Israel. Threatening a singer with prison shows how far these System Drones are prepared to stoop in order to cling on to their privileged statuses.
Perhaps it’s time someone in a position of power showed real guts? Because once the tsunami really hits, those unwilling to place their neck on the line will be among the first to be swept away. Then, they will know the true meaning of Community Payback.