The best advice my dad ever gave me was that there is only one crime – getting caught. I have treasured that advice for many years but I now realise that my dad was wrong. There is another offence – marrying a stupid woman. That’s why Chris Huhne is in prison for 8 months and in my view he deserves it – not for swapping a few speeding points – but for marrying Vicky Pryce.
And as for her, either she is as stupid as she seems or she’s so desperate to win Chris back that, knowing he left her for a lesbian, she thinks that a few months padded up with Rose West might teach her how to drink from the furry cup.
The Marx family are, of course, no strangers to prison. My oldest boy, Wilf, is doing a year in prison at the moment and, like poor old Chris Huhne, his prison sentence is a breach of natural justice. Like Chris Huhne he was thrown onto the scrap heap without being given a second chance.
The unelectable idiot Nigel Farage has set out UKIP’s policy on law and order and top of his agenda are two equally stupid ideas – send more criminals to prison and make them serve the full sentences they get in court.
Perhaps if he reads the heartrending experiences of my boy Wilf it might soften his heart – but I doubt it.
A couple of years ago Wilf mugged another kid for his mobile telephone. He was caught and, having admitted his guilt, he was given what is known as an official reprimand. The police officer told him he would only get one reprimand, he wouldn’t be dealt with so leniently next time he got into trouble.
Six months later he got drunk and hit a youth who was looking at his girlfriend with a bottle. He was arrested and, having been caught on CCTV, he admitted his guilt. Having already had an official reprimand he wasn’t offered another. This time he was given an official warning. He was told it was the only warning he’d get – he wouldn’t be so lucky next time.
A few months later he beat up a bus driver who wouldn’t let him onto the bus without paying his fare. He was arrested and again found he had been caught on the bus’s own CCTV. He admitted he’d done it, and this time there was neither a warning nor a reprimand on offer – he was given an official caution. It was, he was told, the only caution he’d get.
A few weeks later he saw someone who looked like the bus driver walking along in the street so he beat him up. It turned out not to have been the bus driver but, in Wilf’s defence, it was an honest mistake. On this occasion the CPS actually charged him with assault. We couldn’t believe it. Surely there must be more meaningless liberal words like reprimand, warning and caution that the police could have used? But no, he was sent to court and ended up with a conditional discharge for 12 months.
A few days later he was playing about in the street, harmlessly throwing stones at a crew of firemen trying to put out a fire, and ended up being charged with violent disorder. This time they really threw the book at him. He ended up with 60 hours of community service – wasting his Saturday mornings weeding old peoples’ gardens.
At his first day on community service he punched a pensioner who complained that he wasn’t just pulling up weeds, but pulling up his flowers as well. Wilf was charged with Actual Bodily Harm and this time ended up with a six month prison sentence – suspended for two years – which meant he didn’t have to do a day of it.
That night he went out to celebrate and had a little too much to drunk. To cut a long story short he ended up hitting someone, who had spilt his pint, with a pool cue and then throwing a bar stool through the pub window. He was charged again and this time he was sent straight to prison – for twelve months.
I couldn’t believe it! He was only 21. The judge didn’t seem interested in his barrister’s plea for leniency and compassion. That’s the problem with our heartless justice system – it doesn’t give people like my Wilf or Chris Huhne a second chance.
Wilf started off his sentence at a category B prison and the degrading conditions there came as a terrible shock to his system. I went to visit him in prison the day after he was sentenced and found him very tearful. At the prison canteen there was only a choice of three main courses and two puddings but, as he’d arrived too late from court for hot food, he was only given sandwiches for supper.
His cell was also a disgrace. He was only given one pillow, there was no soft toilet paper and the television in his cell only had the basic Sky package. He’s a big football fan is Wilf and I’m sure you’ll all agree that depriving him of Sky Sports is a breach of the Human Rights Act (cruel and inhumane punishment). The so-called games’ room was also positively third world. There was only a Playstation 2 and most of the games were at least a year old.
I cheered him up a bit when I passed him the cannabis I had smuggled in for him but he got a bit tearful again when he told me that he’d already seen most of the films in the prison DVD library.
He was only at the category B prison for a week then he was moved to a category D open prison – but that wasn’t much better! He still only had the basic Sky package on the TV in his cell and the canteen menu was almost as limited as in the category B prison, but at least there were several Playstation 3’s in the games room and we were allowed to bring games in for him – as well as the latest DVD’s. He was also allowed to keep his car in the car park, to use when he came home – which the prisoners are allowed to do every weekend.
When I first went to see him at the open prison I was asked for ID at the entry gate. When I left, however, nobody asked to see any ID. I raised it with the guard at the gate and he explained that there was a gypsy camp up the road and they’d been sneaking into the prison for their dinner. That’s why you needed to show ID on the way in, to prove you were allowed into the prison.
I note that on the UKIP website their heartless leader, Nigel Farage, intends to increase sentencing for offenders and end automatic parole after serving half of their sentence, as well as abolishing the early release scheme.
Isn’t that typical of UKIP’s short sighted policies? Don’t they realize that prison is nothing more than a school for crime? By the time Chris Huhne gets out of prison he’ll know how to hot wire a Land Rover and bake up a gram of crack cocaine. How will Farage feel then, when the former cabinet minister ends up running a combined brothel and crack den? Will he still think UKIP’s policy on crime is such a good idea?
UKIP don’t understand this because, unlike Labour, Conservative and the Liberals, none of their politicians have actually been to prison. That’s why they make foolish pronouncements like life should mean life or prisoners should have to do the entire sentence imposed upon them. They have no idea just how draconian the system already is.
Take the case of my Wilf. He got a year in prison. Out of that year he received the usual 50% automatic parole taking it down to six months to serve and, because he had denied the charges against him until the last minute and had been on bail for nine months with an electronic tag, that counted as four and a half months of the remainder of his sentence, taking it down to one and a half months to serve. He will then qualify for the early release scheme, which will see him released a month before he’s due out – but he’s still going to be in prison for a long time – nearly two weeks to be precise. I’m sure that nobody, not even the heartless Farage, can claim that Wilf won’t have paid his debt to society in full!
Basically, like Chris Huhne, Wilf is a good lad who has made a mistake. Perhaps after Nigel Farage reads this heartrending account of his experiences of the criminal justice system he might change his mind about increasing prison sentences for so called criminals and join the Howard League for Penal Reform.