At the risk of increasing my blood pressure to dangerous levels I ventured onto the BBC’s Have Your Say (HYS) page today. One of the questions they are asking is:
Are fixed penalty fines fair punishment for serious offenders?
Thankfully, the page isn’t in the usual format and is asking for readers’ stories to be sent to the editors via an online form. I particularly hate it when the BBC invites lay people to talk about the CJS as the most people understand about the CJS (unless they’ve been through it) is from what they see on The Bill and Judge John Deed (and they’re not the most authoritative or reliable sources).
Now, the answer to the question posed by the BBC is a failry straight forward and simple one…NO! FPNs are not fair punishments for serious offenders and should never be used for serious offences (although, I have a feeling that sometimes they are). The BBC says:
Offenders carrying out serious crimes such as violent assault are being cautioned or given fixed penalties.
That is what the BBC has learned from lawyers and magistrates. Do you have experience of this?
Now, this concerns me greatly if this is the case. I’m not really surprised, or at least I shouldn’t be, at the journalistic integrity of the BBC. Latley it has been more about gutter style tabloid "news" than actual news and as such often publishes sensationalist headlines in orider to stir up anger amongst people who know no better.
I will admit that my knowledge of the English CJS system only extends so far as what is similar to that of the system in Scotland – and there are many great differences between the two systems. However, I find it hard to believe that such practises take place often (although I am willing ot be disproved by people with more expertise). However, even if it happens just the once it would be of great concern.
Anyone, in the know, wish to share their knowledge?