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.