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Edward Woolard doesn’t deserve his sentence


5:25 pm - January 14th 2011

by Paul Sagar    


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18 years old is a strange age. Legally, you’re an adult. But in many ways you’re still a child. Looking back on my own late teenage years, I’m astonished at how immature I really was.

Which brings me to Edward Woolard. There’s no doubt Woolard was an idiot at the precise moment he threw that fire extinguisher off the top of Milbank.

Yet whether he is an idiot through-and-through is a different matter.

Certainly the national media branded him a thug in its instant witch hunt. But in truth, none of us know whether he was simply seized by a one-off moment of immature madness. Either way Woolard is paying dearly.

32 months in jail, at the age of 18. His life prospects in tatters, and a family no doubt heartbroken.

You may think he deserves it. Not simply to act as a deterrent to other acts of idiocy, but also to reflect that he could have killed somebody. And the authorities also had to send a clear message for their own purposes.

But two and a half years in jail is a long time. Especially for not killing anybody, in an unpremeditated single act of stupidity. I can’t help but find it excessive.

And that’s partly because I keep thinking: “that could have been me”. When I was 18 I did something very, very stupid too.

Angry and frustrated at the world generally – and heartbroken because the girl I was head-over-heels about decided she preferred her boyfriend after all – I got into a drunken fight one Friday night. Except I’d also been doing some amateur Thai boxing. And I hit the guy in the sort of way that you don’t hit people, even in organised amateur fights. Because you can kill them.

Needless to say I didn’t kill anyone. But if the angles had been a little different, the impact a little more, his alcohol-levels a little higher, it’s very possible I might have. A moment of madness, and I could have killed a man. And gone to prison for 20 years.

But I’m lucky. My moment of madness didn’t go that way. I’m free to pursue a successful and comfortable life. As I sincerely hope the guy I struck 6 years ago currently does.

Incidentally, PC Simon Harwood is lucky too, after he struck Ian Tomlinson without warning and pushed him to the ground at the G20 protests. Harwood never saw the inside of a dock, and the Crown Prosecution Service decided this particular bobby wouldn’t even stand trial for assault.

No such luck for Edward Woolard. I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

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About the author
Paul Sagar is a post-graduate student at the University of London and blogs at Bad Conscience.
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Reader comments


The very ease with which such potentially devastating acts can be committed by people caught up in things is the precise reason why the law sentences harshly here. The aim of the stiff sentence is to make people think twice before doing something stupid.

Paul, your article is nonsense. He won’t serve any more than half of that sentence, and the fact is had it been an 18 year old Tory throwing a fire extinguisher off the roof of a tall building into a crowd of people, you’d be calling for his lifetime imprisonment. Just because you agree with Woollard’s cause doesn’t mean you need to be an apologist for his crime.

And it is ridiculous to suggest that just because someone else committed a crime but didn’t get sentenced, that means we should let Woollard off. Plenty of people ran others over last year but didn’t go to jail, does that mean if I run someone over I can plead “but they never went to prison, why should I?”

His sentance is perfectly justified. I did stupid things when I was 18 too but I never put anyones life in danger. And as for PC Simon Harwood he should be prosecuted too, but that has no baring on this case.

There is a genuine deterrent argument here, precisely because a lot of the people involved in these actions are young and excitable, and therefrore liable to do stupid things.

And without doubting your Thai-boxing skills, I’m thinking a lump of metal dropped from over 100 metres poses an even more serious threat than an expertly thrown fist.

So I’d say a custodial sentence is certainly justified. But, the length of that sentence is something else. It is much too long. When all’s said and done, no-one was hurt, and the guy seems properly remorseful, not to mention having received quite a lot of punishment already, in term of public humiliation and damage to his reputation.

But no surprises there, the courts are always draconian when it comes to crimes against the police, and punishments are always mild-to-non-existent when the boot’s on the other foot.

Paul Coterill covered this on his blog (http://thoughcowardsflinch.com/2011/01/11/is-the-edward-wollard-sentence-fair/). He’s had experience as a magistrate and found the sentence severe. There’s some politics here, if I’m not mistaken.

if he had been caught speeding or drink driving he would have got a fine and points off his licence or if seriously drunk then loss of licence but nothing approaching this sort of sentence.

Drink driving or speeding is similarly dangerous to others. There needs to be consistency in the law.

Kevin

This is why I have no confidence in the judiciary. Most judges are tory stooges. This is global elite justice for you. An example must be set by our masters.

I was watching motorway cops the other night , and a lorry driver got caught using his phone, and when
they stopped him they found open cans of Special Brew in the cab. He was 3 times over the legal limit
and as the policeman said. He was in charge of a 45 tonne lorry, that could have done huge damage.
“That is criminal “ He continually denied he had been drinking and refused to admit it. He was fined
£119, and lost his licence for 9 months. But of course he was involved in business, so laws don’t
matter.

@Oxkev

Imagine if your wife or child had been hit on the head by that fire extinguisher. Would you be so sanguine about Woollard now?

Or if he was protesting in favour of foxhunting?

Or if he had run into an investment bank and fired a gun in the direction of some bankers without actually killing anyone?

Throwing a fire extinguisher off the top of a building shows intent to cause serious harm to the people below. It’s stupid, and the sentence will make sure Woollard understands how stupid it is.

It’s stupid, and the sentence will make sure Woollard understands how stupid it is.

Hmm. If people are going to be imprisoned, simply for doing things which are very stupid, then I’d suggest the comments you’ve left on this thread so far are getting dangerously close to earning you a life-sentence, ‘Bourgeois’.

I’m not sure where I stand on Woolard – or, in fact, it it’s worth standing anywhere in particular – but while PC Harwood was lucky to escape the dock he shouldn’t have escaped it: the guy should’a been slapped inside a Courtroom. It doesn’t really count in the fire-extinguisher-flinging one’s favour.

(The original piece is labelled ‘Cold World’ yet this is replaced by the nonsensical ‘Edward Woolard doesn’t get deserve his sentence’ – who edits the titles on LC?)

“And the authorities also had to send a clear message for their own purposes.”

That’s all you need to say.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a fair judicial system?

Talking about fox hunting did you see that story about a fox who shot the hunter? It was abroad somewhere and the hunter was about to finish the fox off with the but of his gun, but in the struggle the fox fired the gun and it hit the hunter and the fox got away.

No that is the kind of fox hunting I like the sound of. Where the fox shoots the red faced, blood thirsty moron.

It’s quite unbelieveable that Sally and her ilk can see this sentence as unjust.
All normal people think the sentence is fair and just, we live in a civilised country, anyone who isn’t civilised and acts in a dangerous manner for what ever reason deserves the full penalty of law.
He was very stupid as not only did the fire extingusher just miss police it could have gone anywhere and hit and killed some of the many young people there demonstrating.
I suspect if it had Sally would have wanted him hung, drawn and quartered.

@Bourgeois

How would that be any different to how I would feel if it was done as a result of a speeding or drunken driver?

Kevin

Expecting the state to have a truly just legal system is – in fairness – a bit like expecting an estate agent to give a sincere appraisal of the flat they’re showing you. The law is too arbitrary and its agents will never have quite so much integrity.

(Some commenters have a point that if it was a fired-up young cop who’d whacked a protestor I’d probably want a tough sentence. Think I’ll stick with my original policy of not really caring.)

@Vince

Sally would’ve first accused him of being a police officer, probably undercover like Mark Kennedy.

There are reports that Alfie Meadows was in fact injured by another protester. The claims that police prevented him getting to hospital, repeated by his own mother, have been proven to be false.

@Oxkev

So if someone fired a machine gun into a crowd yet didn’t kill or hit anyone, he should get a fine?

@Bourgeois

Does that mean that you think we should have mandatory prison sentences for those caught drink driving or speeding and get rid of the points system?

Kevin

@Bourgeois

You really are tring to rewrite history aren’t you. It was always clear in relation to Alfie Meadows that the police did not succeed in denying him access to the hospital but that they did not succeed because of the hospital staff and the fact fact that he was treated at said hospital was never disputed.

Reports of injury by another protestor? There can be reports of anything it doesn’t make them true.

Kevin

I think that Paul Sagar’s discussion of Harwood/Tomlinson distracts from his mainly fine argument.

I have read enough well qualified argument elsewhere to be convinced that Woolard’s sentence is excessive. The sentence is 32 months which will be reduced to 16 months for his co-operation during the prosecution, unless he acts like an ass in detention. With luck and common sense on his behalf, he will be out in 12 months.

That 12 months will serve as punishment. There is nothing about Woolard’s background to suggest detention will further deter or rehabilitate him; prosecution and, no doubt, words from family and friends have already fulfilled those functions.

Don’t assume that Woolard’s life prospects are in tatters. He has another 60 years to redeem himself if necessary, but in a couple of years he’ll just be another 20+ year old lad with a future. He can’t deny that moment of stupidity and we have to let him rebuild — as we should for any ex-prisoner.

23. the a&e charge nurse

Very much agree with the sentiments of the OP – if somebody was seriously injured then it would have been a different matter, and a custodial sentence would have been appropriate.

EW certainly made a horrendous error of judgement but assuming he is a young man of otherwise good character then surely he deserves the benefit of the doubt at this crucial stage in his life?

“It’s quite unbelieveable that Sally and her ilk can see this sentence as unjust.
All normal people think the sentence is fair and just”

Oh dear oh dear, talk about Daily Mail deluded. The point is that his sentence in unjust in relation to what other people get for other crimes. Surely even someone with as low IQ as you can understand that premise. This sentence is politically motivated.

As I point out, driving a 44 tonne lorry 3 times over the legal limit gets you £119 fine. Both acts could have killed someone, but they did not. One is an 18 year old and the lorry driver was a 50 year old man.

Has he explained what he was trying to achieve by throwing a fire extinguisher off the roof? What caused him to do so? What did he think would happen if a heavy metal object was thrown from that height with a large crowd of people below? Perhaps it would bounce off of someone’s head?

Drink driving or speeding is similarly dangerous to others. There needs to be consistency in the law.

Nonsense.

The odds against my causing injury or death to others by driving at excessive speed or after drinking are tiny. If were I do so, I would deserve to face the consequences.

If I throw a fire extinguisher from a rooftop onto a crowded quadrangle the odds against my causing injury or death are high. Perhaps it’s odds on.

Furthermore, when I drive too fast I do not do so with the intention of causing harm to others. My purpose is to get to my destination more quickly. Whereas the purpose of dropping a fire extinguisher on a crowd is?

So, not similarly dangerous at all.

@1 Benjamin Gray: “The very ease with which such potentially devastating acts can be committed by people caught up in things is the precise reason why the law sentences harshly here.”

The words that interest me are “caught up in things”.

When people are “caught up in things” they act irrationally. Thus the deterrence argument fails; irrational people perform acts that they would not do otherwise and, by definition, are not swayed by consequences.

It is unlikely that Edward Woolard will repeat his acts. It is probable that he not only understands the folly of one act but realises that he should not place himself in circumstances where he might do it again. When released, Woolard will be free to attend demos but won’t act like a prick. Many of us would consider that to be rehabilitation.

Woolard will be imprisoned. That is punishment.

I suppose the other argument is that “a long sentence sends a message to society”, although the logic is blurred with deterrence. I don’t understand why society needs a message. Citizens can make up their own minds about the stupidity of throwing heavy objects out of buildings.

There might be a useful lesson, however. If you are going to a demo, you’ve decided to go for rational reasons; so stay rational and stick around sensible people; black balaclavas == trouble.

Pagar, I can’t help but feel that you are stretching disingenuousness to its limit.

@25 Richard: “Has he explained what he was trying to achieve by throwing a fire extinguisher off the roof?”

His defence appears to be “moment of madness”.

“The odds against my causing injury or death to others by driving at excessive speed or after drinking are tiny”

Priceless, the troll thinks he’s Jeremy Clarkson now.

It is illegal to speed, and illegal to drive over the limit. If you do either you are deliberately breaking the law. In my example the lorry driver drives for a living which makes his actions even more irresponsible.

The trolls want a political example to be dished out because they want us all to bow to their masters.

31. Nick of the North

Woolard should have got 12 months straight away for that daft haircut.

32. the a&e charge nurse

[27] “When people are “caught up in things” they act irrationally” – a very important point – the atmosphere in the student group was likely to have been one of heightened emotion – surely this was a significant contributory factor when EW overstepped the mark?

Had EW acted entirely alone then perhaps there might have been greater scope to attribute a sinister motivation for his extremely reckless actions?
To be clear I am not suggesting that EW was manipulated by anybody else but rather his behaviour was influenced by the mood of the group.

33. Anon E Mouse

sally – You mention fox hunting. Did you know Kate Hoey, the Labour MP, is the Chairman of Countryside Alliance?

This link takes you to her latest comments to the fox hunting supporters:

http://www.countryside-alliance.org.uk/hunting-campaigns/hunting-views/kate-hoey-mp-writes-to-supporters/

And Anne Widdecombe (with the Labour MP Tony Banks) the Tory MP, proposed the very bill that got rid of fox hunting in this country.

So a Tory was responsible for the bill that got rid of fox hunting and a Labour MP is still the head of the fox hunting brigade.

Do you still not know what hypocrisy is sally?

Because when I asked you about the countess toff Harriet Harman, educated at the same school as George Osborne and the fact her husband, Jack Dromey, the union dinosaur, had somehow been elected on her “all women” shortlist you went quiet. Well?

I agree with Ben (I think) – or if I don’t I’ll make this point: raising the issue of the copper who hit the young man over the head, or perhaps even the met officer who killed Ian Tomlinson, just serves to show that they and Edward deserve punishment, the latter ought not to be exemplified in order to say Mr Woolard doesn’t deserve a relatively tough sentence.

Another thing, we should not be patronising him on his age; stupidity is age non-specific.

@26 Pagar: “The odds against my causing injury or death to others by driving at excessive speed or after drinking are tiny. If were I do so, I would deserve to face the consequences.”

Jo Blogs is over the limit or speeding, and awarded penalty X. Jo Smith commits the same offence but is examined further because an injury occurs, and incurs penalty Y. Logically penalty X == penalty Y. The same crime was committed with different consequences.

Woollard’s act was stupid. There was a high probability of death or serious injury. His act must be considered against similar acts.

What’s tough about the sentence? He was convicted of violent disorder and could have been jailed for 5 years. The judge sentenced him leniently because he pleaded guilty and because his mother identified him to the police investigating the crime. Let’s hope he comes out of prison a better, more sensible person.

Woollard’s act was stupid. There was a high probability of death or serious injury.

It wasn’t “stupid”. It was criminal and malicious and was subsequent to him joining a gang of thugs who smashed their way into private property and terrorized the occupants. Let’s hope the police apprehend the other criminals who have committed violent acts on these protests and the courts give them what they deserve.

By the way, the rumour is that Alfie Meadows was laid low by a lump of concrete thrown by a protester and not by a police baton. If true, wouldn’t that be ironic?

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5ie9PXRIc8uePNghwRK5pOq7Z4ImA?docId=B8047041294656712A0000

The mother of a rioting student who threw a fire extinguisher from the roof of a central London building has said he deserves to be punished.

“I brought up my children to take responsibility for their actions and he has. I believe he deserves to be punished.”

@26 Fuck my hat! Pager you surely must be aware of how cars are one of the largest causes of untimely deaths, if not THE largest in the country. Be it from carelessness to recklessness while driving. Hurtling down a residential street at 35 mph is easily the equivalent in terms of “might kill someone if you hit them” of throwing a fire extinguisher off a roof. Those ‘slow down and mind that child’ adverts didn’t get made because some children might get killed by speeding, they got made because children DID get killed by ‘someone in a hurry’.

Thank you Cylux.

People who speed, choose to do so. People who drink and drive choose to do so, and the destruction to peoples lives goes well beyond the people killed. Many more people are permanently maimed, brain damaged, disabled than are killed.

Kevin

swally the police stop a drunk driver of a lorry, but the point with him ,was he didn;t hit anything edward wollard hit the ground with a heavy object at great speed on purpose,if the drink driver had drove into a wall 2 feet from people on purpose he may have had a sentence

@39 Yes cars are a relaively large cause of untimely deaths. However there are far more car journeys than there are instances of heavy objects thrown from tall buildings into crowds of people!

Somebody who drives dangerously or drinks and drives does not set out to deliberately injure someone. Throwing a fire extinguisher from a great height into a crowd of people must be done with the deliberate intention of causing harm.

@ Charlieman

Jo Blogs is over the limit or speeding, and awarded penalty X. Jo Smith commits the same offence but is examined further because an injury occurs, and incurs penalty Y. Logically penalty X == penalty Y. The same crime was committed with different consequences.

Sorry, no.

Penalty X is unjustified because there was no consequence. Nobody was hurt as a result of Blog’s actions so, in my view, there was no “crime”.

Interestingly, that apparently extreme consequentalist standpoint is tacitly acknowledged in the case of Woolard. Had the fire extinguisher killed a policeman, the charge would have been different and the sentence much more severe.

That Woollard behaved like a tit is not a matter for doubt. What is, however, is the question of intent. That Rivlin decided that his starting point for sentencing would be between four to five years (the maxiumum for the offence with which he was charged) suggest that he thought that that the intent was clear. This is dubious to say the least.

@ Bourgeois #38

That interview was given before the sentencing. I can’t help but feel that Tanya Garwood may feel a little differently about it now.

@charlieman #22:

“The sentence is 32 months which will be reduced to 16 months for his co-operation during the prosecution, unless he acts like an ass in detention. With luck and common sense on his behalf, he will be out in 12 months.”

As I understood it, Rivlin said that Woollard would have to serve a minimum of 16 months in prison. I would assume that his behaviour would determine how much beyond that he would serve. I don’t see how setting a minimum like that could be seen as anything other than vindictive.

Can anyone confirm what I have read elsewhere that – because of the length of the sentence and the fact that he was over 18 at the time of conviction – the conviction can never be regarded as ‘spent’? If that is the case, then won’t that – in the charitable, open-hearted society we live in – mean that he will be practically unemployable for the rest of his life? He would have to declare it on all job applications, CRB applications, passport applications, etc. for the next 50 years or more. I don’t see how he would be able to be rehabilitated in those circumstances.

Even if the above isn’t true, the conviction would still have to be declarable for 5-10 years. I wonder if all those hugging themselves with delight at the length of the sentence will be the same ones pointing at him in a few years and saying, “Why’s he sponging off the welfare? Why doesn’t he get a job?”

There’s an awful lot of “whatiffery” going on, e.g. “What if the extinguisher had hit someone?” It didn’t. People should be punished on the basis of what did happen rather than what might have happened. Most of us have been a few seconds or a few inches from something nasty. It’s largely chance, largely luck.

As for the deterrent value of the sentence; it wouldn’t make anyone think twice because anyone in that situation would be unlikely to have thought once.

The length of the sentence (and the mandatory minimum ordered by Rivlin) seems to have a political (used in the broadest sense) element. Frankly, if members of the judiciary want to ‘send a message’, they should resign the bench and go and work for Vodafone.

@42 All your statement means is that if throwing fire extinguishers off the top of buildings were more common, it would be condemned less and considered a non-issue. Also, whom exactly did Mr Woolard wish to kill? Given that not intending to kill someone while then driving pissed or recklessly is apparently sufficient grounds to make it okay.

Penalty X is unjustified because there was no consequence. Nobody was hurt as a result of Blog’s actions so, in my view, there was no “crime”… Had the fire extinguisher killed a policeman, the charge would have been different and the sentence much more severe.

In Pagarworld, there is presumably no crime of “attempted murder” — you may shoot a gun at someone’s head but as long as you are a poor shot and miss, you have committed no crime. But funnily enough, in the real world of the UK, the crime of attempted murder carries the same maximum sentence as that of murder, ie. a life sentence. Go figure.

@45 My point was that your comment that car accidents are a large cause of death needs to be put into context – there are an awful lot of car journeys made each year.

I believe there was an intent to cause harm – do you think he threw the fire extinguisher into a square crowded with people aiming to hit a clear space? What do you think he intended when throwing a heavy object from a great height into a crowd of people?

@44 ‘“What if the extinguisher had hit someone?” It didn’t. People should be punished on the basis of what did happen rather than what might have happened”

I have wandered about this. Is it fair if two people act equally stupidly with the same intent get different punishments because the consequences by pure luck happen to be different? Surely people should be punished based on their act and their intent?

The consequence would off course be that there would be no difference between for example the crime of death by dangerous driving and dangerous driving, resulting in either reduced punishment for the former or greater punishment for the latter.

In Pagarworld, there is presumably no crime of “attempted murder”

That’s not correct.

In Pagarworld, causing harm to another or acting with the intention of doing so is rightly a criminal act.

So injuring someone or damaging their property because you drove your car too fast is criminal- breaking an arbitrary speed limit is not.

Shooting at some ones head or throwing a fire extinguisher into a crowded square is also criminal.

Glad to clear that up, Scooby.

49. Laughing Gravy

I was a magistrate – now retired. The procedure for sentencing, and the factors to be taken into account, are laid out in Statute. Without knowing Judge Rivlin’s full analysis, it looks as if he got to the correct numerical number of months imprisonment in this case. He had to give 33% off for the early guilty plea, he has deducted other months for remorse etc. He is allowed by law to consider deterence as a factor in the sentence – which he did. Woolard will serve 16months in prison (again this is standard practice), and then be freed on licence for the remaining 16months. However, there is one factor which is causing discussion amongst sentencers. That is, whether all, or part of, the sentence of imprisonment should have been suspended. Personally, I would have suspended all the imprisonment and required a period of unpaid community work during that period of suspension. I must say, however, not all sentencers would agree with suspension in this case.

Ah the usual degree of stupidity where people on the far left will defend criminals because they happen to be acting in some regards to a cause they support. I remember a lovely SWP girl who explained why she was supporting a group which victimise women and gays as “I’d support their fight even if they ate babies as long as they achieved freedom from oppression”. Er right….

“The length of the sentence (and the mandatory minimum ordered by Rivlin) seems to have a political (used in the broadest sense) element.”

Well not according to someone (#49) who actually seems to know what he is talking about.

52. the a&e charge nurse

[51] yes, LG’s post was enlightening and confirmed my suspicion that a non-custodial sentence might have been an option.

It is true to say however that clashes between the police and student demonstrators have been highly politicised on LC – there has certainly been a tendency to hyperbole whenever alleged infractions by the are highlighted on this blog (that is not to say that the police are not culpable in SOME cases).

YMT [50] argues that Edward Woolard is no more than a political football and given the rhetoric touched on above it is possible that some of these anxieties MAY have influenced the decision to send a reckless young man to jail rather than awarding a non-custodial sentence?

53. scandalousbill

It seems to me that the basic tenant of justice has been missed in this situation. Had someone been injured by Woolard, the charge would have been much different, much more serious and imprisonment would have been perhaps most applicable.

But that did not happen. And if you consider that a number of more serious and repeat offenders have been given community service orders, the notion of the punishment fitting the crime does not seem to apply in this case.

54. Laughing Gravy

Perhaps I could add some further clarification to my earlier post. A suspended sentence of imprisonment is still classed as a custodial sentence. The law requires that the purpose(s) of a sentence be stated: eg rehabilitation, punishment, deterence, restitution. It seems the Judge Rivlin wished to make deterrence a prime purpose of this sentence. That then raises the question of suspension (which I am sure the judge will have considered) – can a suspended sentence act as a deterrent? In this case, I would argue that Woolard will be deterred by the sentence given and suspended. But what about deterring others in future?

55. Just Visiting

It’s interesting how language is subtly used – those defending the thrower said he was merely stupid, or being a tit.

To those guys – what words would they use for the student using a petrol bomb?

56. the a&e charge nurse

[55] a good question – and one I think that helps put EW actions into further context?

A petrol bomb requires forethought since various components need to be assembled and are unlikely to be easily to hand.

As far as I know EW did not acquire a fire extinguisher before the protest then lug it to the top of a 20-story building before chucking it off the roof, no he probably grabbed something that was to hand – a highly dangerous act, certainly, but not premeditated in the same way that the use of a petrol bomb might have been?

“I was a magistrate – now retired. The procedure for sentencing, and the factors to be taken into account, are laid out in Statute.”

Oh, they all say that.

But the variety, and severity of sentence varies enormously. Depending on wealth, class, location, and who was the victim.

I am not defending what he did, but I will bet that had a member of the countryside bloodthirsty alliance done something similar, on their march, that person would not have got the same sentence.

Tony Blair, lies and starts illegal war killing hundreds and thousands of people with millions displaced from their home country, and he gets……….The opportunity to become very rich, vs. 18 year old twat who lobs fire extinguisher who gets jail time.

Troll justice for you.

The link I posted @6 above is also from an ex-magistrate.

So if someone fired a machine gun into a crowd yet didn’t kill or hit anyone, he should get a fine?

I’m convinced by this fine argument. I’m going to go and turn myself in in case I shoot a machine gun into a crowd in some indeterminate future.

@Fungus #47:

“Is it fair if two people act equally stupidly with the same intent get different punishments because the consequences by pure luck happen to be different?”

Probably yes, because the consequences *were* different. There is such a thing as ‘good luck’ and ‘bad luck’, and you can’t legislate for either.

@LG #49:

Thanks for the ‘insider’s’ view. However, Rivlin seems to have started from the view that a basic sentence at or near the maximum for the offence was required. I can see little justification from the facts of the case for such a view.

Further, you state that serving half the sentence in prison is “standard practice”. My impression was that the standard parole & remission criteria would apply *unless the judge/magistrate stated otherwise*, which is what Rivlin did in this case. Had he not set a minimum, wouldn’t this have meant that Woollard would probably have served about a third of the sentence (around 11 months)?

I agree entirely with you about the merits of suspending all or part of the term, by the way, especially in the case of someone with a likely very low risk of re-offending.

It’s the element of ‘deterrence’ which sticks in my craw a bit, because I don’t think there’s much evidence for its efficacy. It’s also arbitrary, as in the joke about the two magistrates each up for speeding. To expedite the matter, they agreed to try each other in turn. Mag. #1 fined Mag. #2 £500, but when Mag. #1 came up before his colleague, Mag. #2 said, “There havebeen far too many cases of this sort before this court recently, and I have to set an example. Six months!”.

People should be judged and sentenced on the basis of the facts of the case being heard (and its own context), not on the desire to “encourager les autres”. That’s why NuLab’s changes to allow previous convictions to be brought in evidence during the hearing part of a trial rather than solely at sentencing were so pernicious; it introduces irrelevancies simply for administrative or political convenience.

Is the sentence being appealed?

62. Laughing Gravy

@ The Judge #60

Section 33, CJA 1991 would apply in this case (release for those on sentence of 12 months to 47 months), which specifies release after 50% of sentence the remainder on licence. The starting point is a factor. Judge Rivlin would have been required to consider starting at the sentence to be awarded to a first-time offender found guilty after a trial (a not guilty plea). He chose 48 months (20% of the maximum). It could be argued that this is at the upper end, but the offence was committed in a busy public place, a ‘weapon’ was used, people were put in fear, he was part of a mob. On the other hand, Rivlin came down from 5 years presumably to allow for the impulsive unplanned nature of the action, and no person was hurt (though lives were endangered). It could be argued that more should have been allowed for personal mitigation – particularly the genuine remorse shown. Nevertheless, to me the numbers look about right. What has to be remembered is that sentencers are more constrained than they were. There is still some judicial discretion, but it is nowhere near what it used to be. You may not like it, but deterrence is one of the purposes of sentencing; enshrined in law by the Labour Government. A final point and I will shut up. If I were Woolard’s lawyers I would appeal the sentence – not the numbers, but the lack of suspension which would seem to me appropriate for the silly, but not malign, young man.

Although it does seem like rather a tough sentence, this doesn’t have to ruin his life and he will be a different person when he comes out than the person he would have been if this never happened. Maybe for the better.

Will he being going to a young offenders prison? If so, that will be tough from what I understand of such places, but there is no reason why he can’t continue with his education. In six months time, he will I presume be in a very relaxed category D like open prison, and I’d be interested to know what kind of opportunities and activities are available to someone like that in prison.

It would be nice too if he had some visits and correspondence from people, just to keep his spirits and morale up.

Thanks to Laughing Gravy and The Judge for their contributions.

I’m still a bit wooly with my understanding of spent convictions. A sentence of 32 months is greater than 2.5 years so (I think) Woollard will always have to declare the conviction when applying for a job etc. However Woollard will spend half of his custody in a Young Offenders’ Institution. Can anyone clarify whether this affects the requirement to declare a conviction?

@50 YMT: “Ah the usual degree of stupidity where people on the far left will defend criminals because they happen to be acting in some regards to a cause they support.”

I’m not on the far left. I agree with the government policy on tuition fees. On the whole, the people who have questioned the length of sentence in this thread have come from the soggy liberal part of the political spectrum, from right and left.

Speaking for myself rather then them, my motivation is to understand how rehabilitation and deterrence formed the judgement.

@63 – agreed. He is in Feltham Young Offenders Institution.

@47

I believe there was an intent to cause harm – do you think he threw the fire extinguisher into a square crowded with people aiming to hit a clear space? What do you think he intended when throwing a heavy object from a great height into a crowd of people?

If he did throw it off the top of the building with the intent to kill or hurt, as opposed to say clumsily dropping it or only trying to scare the police, then how the fuck did he miss and hit the only big patch of empty space? It was, after all, a target-rich environment. Then after having murder in mind he then hands himself in, confesses that he was the one responsible and cooperates fully with the police and justice system.
Sorry, that narrative just doesn’t wash. More likely he either just wanted to scare or was so caught up in excitement that he briefly forgot that huffing heavy things off the top of buildings is very fucking dangerous, much like driving pissed or speeding down residential roads.

I also question what the point is of “setting an example” of someone who hands themselves in and cooperates with the police. A fine idea to others that could be taken from the sentence is that it’s better to lie low and deny all involvement should you perform similar actions in the future.
I.e. the example being set is that it’s a bad idea to cooperate with the law. Well done Judgy.

@LG #62

Thanks for the clarification.

@Damon #63

“In six months time, he will I presume be in a very relaxed category D like open prison”

IIRC, Rivlin stipulated that the whole 16-month minimum must be served in a YOI.

“I’d be interested to know what kind of opportunities and activities are available to someone like that in prison.”

Probably minimal, as education facilities tend to be the first things to go during a period of spending cuts.

@Charlieman #64

This is what I asked earlier, because someone on Guardian Cif mentioned it. Perhaps a passing lawyer could give us a definitive answer?

@Cylux #67

Agree with your last paragraph – I can’t imagine a greater disincentive to handing yourself in than the thought that the court will just as likely shaft you anyway.

@60 The Judge: “People should be judged and sentenced on the basis of the facts of the case being heard (and its own context), not on the desire to “encourager les autres”. That’s why NuLab’s changes to allow previous convictions to be brought in evidence during the hearing part of a trial rather than solely at sentencing were so pernicious; it introduces irrelevancies simply for administrative or political convenience.”

Similarly we have victim statements. The Ministry of Justice presented a good argument that, during experiments, victim statements provided therapy to victims/family and understanding to perpetrators. However, we have to be wary whether victim statements influence sentencing.

I thought that revelation of previous convictions was restricted (ie pertinent to a record of previous behaviour and with judicial approval)?

How can people dismiss his act as a harmless, “silly” act, rather than a malign one? If you throw a fire extinguisher off the top of a building into a large crowd below, there’s a very good chance it will hit someone. It almost hit a policeman, it could’ve very easily hit a protester. No doubt had it hit a protester, Woollard would be accused of being an agent provocateur rather than a naughty boy who only deserves a slap on the wrist.

71. Daniel Factor

He was an idiot when he threw that fire extinguisher.

A fine or community service would have been better than prison.

@70. Bourgeois: “How can people dismiss his act as a harmless, “silly” act, rather than a malign one?”

Nobody in this thread has argued that Woollard’s act was without potential consequence.

Silly, acted like a tit, caught up in the moment: most people agree on that.

Malign intentions? Unlike the molotov cocktail criminal, Woollard did not attend the demo prepared for violence. He was not wearing a balaclava. The prosecutors did not demonstrate that he is a member of an extremist organisation intending to overthrow government. Woollard was prosecuted, reasonably, for violent conduct.

This thread discusses Woollard’s sentence.

@67 Cylux

“I also question what the point is of “setting an example” of someone who hands themselves in and cooperates with the police. A fine idea to others that could be taken from the sentence is that it’s better to lie low and deny all involvement should you perform similar actions in the future.”

But his sentence was reduced because he cooperated with the law!

@73 But he was still made an example of with his sentence being made harsher than it needed to be. I could understand the rationale behind doing that for someone who didn’t hand themselves in, didn’t display any remorse for their actions and doesn’t cooperate fully, but for someone who does? Pointless and arbitrary in my opinion.

76. Anon E Mouse

sally – Come on then; you seem to be avoiding the truth whilst insulting everyone else for not sharing your inconsistent views.

You see I think you are your ilk are one of the reasons people fell out with Labour – too much hypocrisy and lying and smearing about other people.

Well?

sally – You mention fox hunting. Did you know Kate Hoey, the Labour MP, is the Chairman of Countryside Alliance?

This link takes you to her latest comments to the fox hunting supporters:

http://www.countryside-alliance.org.uk/hunting-campaigns/hunting-views/kate-hoey-mp-writes-to-supporters/

And Anne Widdecombe (with the Labour MP Tony Banks) the Tory MP, proposed the very bill that got rid of fox hunting in this country.

So a Tory was responsible for the bill that got rid of fox hunting and a Labour MP is still the head of the fox hunting brigade.

Do you still not know what hypocrisy is sally?

Because when I asked you about the countess toff Harriet Harman, educated at the same school as George Osborne and the fact her husband, Jack Dromey, the union dinosaur, had somehow been elected on her “all women” shortlist you went quiet.

Paul Sagar

none of us know whether he was simply seized by a one-off moment of immature madness. Either way Woolard is paying dearly.

I don’t agree with Woolard’s cause, but I do feel sympathetic to the underlying sentiment of the OP. One has to bear in mind, however, that every week some youngster is sent down for something done in a similar “moment of madness” – in a pub fight etc.

@60 The Judge

“Probably yes, because the consequences *were* different. There is such a thing as ‘good luck’ and ‘bad luck’, and you can’t legislate for either.”

But surely this is exactly what the law is doing. By having seperate punishments for dangerous driving and death by dangerous driving surely the law is legislating for bad luck and good luck?

79. Just Visiting

A&E

> As far as I know EW did not acquire a fire extinguisher before the protest then lug it to the top of a 20-story building before chucking it off the roof, no he probably grabbed something that was to hand

” something to hand” ?

I think you need some evidence, before making guesses like this.

Do you know for sure he didn’t lug the thing up from a lower floor?

Do you know for sure how far across the roof he had to carry it?

80. Major Gripe

Harsh, yes, but not unfair. I didn’t come from a particularly good background but even at the age of 10 I knew when I was doing something stupid or dangerous. This sort of thing just doesn’t come from nowhere, even if he was caught up in the moment.

I, and pretty much all of my angry friends who pushed the boundaries at 18, would have known we were crossing the line into criminal behavjour the moment we entered the Millbank tower, and we wouldn’t have done it. Even if we had, we certainly wouldn’t have thought it was a good idea to hurl a heavy metal cylinder from a high roof into a crowd.

If this man doesn’t have the intelligence to figure out the potential consequences of his actions before hurling the extinguisher, then he shouldn’t be allowed to walk the streets for his own safety and that of others. Since he clearly does have the intelligence, there was at worst intent, and at best a suspension of concsience, involved in the action.

Anyone who says that it might easily have been them needs rehab, counselling, and/or sectioning.

@14 Vince: All normal people think the sentence is fair and just, we live in a civilised country, anyone who isn’t civilised and acts in a dangerous manner for what ever reason deserves the full penalty of law.

Are you so stupid, narrow-minded and contemptable that you cannot contemplate that anyone might have a reasonable view that disagrees with your own?

Apparently, yes.

I remember a Daily Mail headline of: Britain’s Most Wanted Poll Tax Rioter Exposed. ‘The girl in bov ver boots’ as the Mail described her, was my ex girlfriend. They devoted the centre pages to the story and her unremarkable and ‘normal’ family background. She too had been dobbed in by her mum and was given a similar sentence.

Otherwise rational and level headed people do stupid things when they feel aggrieved and get carried along with the mob.

The sentence seems extreme and disproportionate when you can shoot an innocent Brazilian seven times in the head or push a news vendor over in the street and they die a few hours later and no one is punished.

Geoffrey Rivlin QC gave Edward Woollard a “deterrent sentence” but this is not justice for the accused. Among others Lord Justice Asquith has written that ‘exemplary punishment is unjust’. The English legal system equips judges to become tools of the Establishment’s political ends in this way.

“Geoffrey Rivlin QC gave Edward Woollard a “deterrent sentence”

I wonder if Geoffrey Rivlin gives other people a “deterrent sentence” when he is handing out juctice. Does he think that wife beaters need to be given a “deterrent sentence” or does he just do that when he is acting as state stooge.

When the 3 coppers who knocked down driving and killed girls without their flashing lights on were sentenced to all approxiametly 8yrs in prison, or the copper who left the dogs to die in the back of teh car went to prison for 2yrs, or Ali Dizaei for perjury and false allegations after stabbing himself adn saying it was a web designer, or the copper who raped two women was sentenced or the copper who pimped two prostitutes was sent to prison for 3 years, were there calls by the left fore their sentences to be reduced?

@85

Yup, all of those examples are exactly the same as someone lobbing a fire extinguisher off a roof in a moment of idiocy.

If your point is that Wollards action swere a monent of stupidity( or a long momnet) then not putting your flashing light on when a polce driver has to chase after a escaping stolen car and then tragically hits someone ,then it was a momoent of stupidity for the P.C not to put his falshing light on.

@87

Yes, and they killed someone, hence the severe sentence. Had they not killed anyone a severe sentence would be unjustified.

Woolard didn’t kill anyone.

Yeah right. I was protesting for years and years and i think throwing something the weight of a fire extinguisher at people from five floors is attempted murder. That thing woulnd’t have stopped when it reached someones head it would have mashed their skull completely.

90. Laughing Gravy

I have just had a look at this site after being away for a few days. There is a lack of knowledge of what charges could have been brought. Had Woolard killed someone the charge would have been manslaughter (max: life), had he just hit someone the charge would have been GBH with intent (max: life). The charge of Violent Disorder – a public order offence at the more serious end – takes account of the fact that he did not actually hurt anybody although he was involved in a serious public order offence. Endangerment can be taken into account in the sentence (and probably was). Lets get real, this was a very serious affair all round. As I have said before, I think his sentence should have been suspended but it pure fantasy to claim that the State/Judge is being particularly hard on this young man.

And yet, LG, a ‘deterrent sentence’ means that more than the facts/circumstances of the actual case before the court are taken into account when deciding the sentence. It’s that which I have grave doubts about, along with why Rivlin thought the starting point of Woollard’s sentence should be set at the higher end of the scale.

92. Anon E Mouse

sally – Why are you ignoring me? Too frit? You seem to be all fired up at dishing out your crazy views no one else shares…

Come on then; you seem to be avoiding the truth whilst insulting everyone else for not sharing your inconsistent views.

You see I think you are your ilk are one of the reasons people fell out with Labour – too much hypocrisy and lying and smearing about other people.

Well?

sally – You mention fox hunting. Did you know Kate Hoey, the Labour MP, is the Chairman of Countryside Alliance?

This link takes you to her latest comments to the fox hunting supporters:

http://www.countryside-alliance.org.uk/hunting-campaigns/hunting-views/kate-hoey-mp-writes-to-supporters/

And Anne Widdecombe (with the Labour MP Tony Banks) the Tory MP, proposed the very bill that got rid of fox hunting in this country.

So a Tory was responsible for the bill that got rid of fox hunting and a Labour MP is still the head of the fox hunting brigade.

Do you still not know what hypocrisy is sally?

Because when I asked you about the countess toff Harriet Harman, educated at the same school as George Osborne and the fact her husband, Jack Dromey, the union dinosaur, had somehow been elected on her “all women” shortlist you went quiet.

88@ but the copper who knocked the girls down ,did get a longer snetence than Woolard

LG writes: ‘pure fantasy to claim that the State/Judge is being particularly hard on this young man’, but there’s nothing surprising about it, on the contrary Britsh judges and magistrates usually make politicised decisions e.g. Peterloo, the Chartists, the General Strike, the miners’ strike and the Poll Tax riots.

Mark Rose,

Britsh judges and magistrates usually make politicised decisions e.g. Peterloo, the Chartists, the General Strike, the miners’ strike and the Poll Tax riots

In what sense are you using the word “usually”?

ukliberty,
In what sense are you using the word “usually”?

When the Establishment feels it is being threatened


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