Why was my friend jailed over botched attempt to end his own life?


3:08 pm - January 31st 2012

by Rupert Read    


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My friend and former colleague Steven Altman has been thrown into jail – for attempting to kill himself.

When I heard the news, I was just gobsmacked. I could not believe it. I had thought we didn’t any longer punish people who were suffering from mental ill-health, for trying to kill themselves.

It appears that the recommendation of the probation service which advised that Steven shouldn’t go to prison has been ignored.

A vulnerable person who was seeking to end his own life, and who is no threat to the community, should not be sent to prison. What is so hard to understand in that?

But it is apparently too hard for our punitive culture — as embodied in this case in this judge — to get its head around. (This is also about capitalism and the law: the reason why Steven’s case went as gravely it did in court was partly a result purely of the financial scale of the damage done to the property.)

Steven has suffered from severe depression and he attempted suicide last year in an incident which led to this court case. At no time did Steven intend to harm anyone other than himself and he had no intention of causing damage to anybody’s property.

Although Steven has made a good recovery, depression can recur and he needs support to maintain his recovery. Especially after his girlfriend died of a heart-attack last weekend.

Over the last year, Steven has had difficulty finding appropriate support from health professionals. I know this from personal experience; I saw Steven and his other close friends really struggling to get him the support he needed. His recovery thus far is testament to his own determination. It is obviously now severely jeopardised, by the criminal ‘justice’ system.

This story of a microcosm of the dismayingly outdated attitudes in our society to mental ill-health. It is political; and it isn’t over yet. I am sure that Steven will not take this sentence lying down, and nor will I, and nor, I hope, will you.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Rupert Read is a Green Party councillor and ran as a MEP candidate in Eastern region in 2009. He blogs at Rupert's Read and Comment is free
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Reader comments


Why was my friend jailed over botched attempt to end his own life?

Because your friend admitted to arson in a court of law, something you seem to have omitted in the above.

I don’t really think its a minor point, surely you see the dangers to others by setting fire to your flat?

I think this post should make note of the fact that he was jailed for arson, which, uncontroversially, would have endangered people’s life and property. Don’t get me wrong – I think that psychiatric treatment would be far more appropriate and jail time could do a lot of harm to the poor bloke. The verdict seems odd and cruel to me. But the implication of this piece is that he was convicted for the attempting suicide, and that isn’t true.

Dave @ 1

Fuck me mate, the guy is suffering mental illness and was trying to kill himself. Locking this guy away in jail is doing EXACTLY nothing to remedy the situation. You are not going to reform mentally illness out of a person by locking him away, nor are you to deter him from being mentally ill either.

What is it with you cunts and this overwhelming need to mete out punishment? Can you simply not understand that this person needed help? Instead of sticking him in jail, why not attempt to give him the help he so desperately needs?

It is arseholes like you that has dragged this pit of a Country back to the Middle Ages. When this guy comes out of prison he is not going to be a better person, nor is he going to be cured, either. He is going to go from being someone with a history of mental illness to someone with a history of mental illness, who has been in prison.

Given what happened to Joe Paraskeva, in another instance where some footling oaf (no doubt dressed up like an tatty old stuffed toy) has casually ignored professional advice:

<a href="http://www.justiceforjoe.org.uk/&quot;

then your friend might have been seen in that context as having got off lightly.

But I totally agree with you, Rupert. As someone who suffers from a (mercifully) mild form of depression, I know even from my level of experience that there are points where you just want it all to bloody well stop, and no other consideration impinges on your thinking. That is what psychiatric illness actually does to people, and the judiciary should damn well realise that when they make their decisions.

(This is why, Dave @1, you are missing the point with your last paragraph. It’s a question not of guilt, but of culpability, which is far from being the same thing all the time).

The idea that imprisonment is any suitable way of dealing with such circumstances is testament to the cloddish short-sightedness of the system and – even more so – of grandstanding politicians and malinformed public who have been encouraged to see vengeance as the only acceptable solution to any criminal act – unless they or ‘their kind of people’ are committing it, of course.

The proper way of dealing with cases like this is treatment – something that your friend is unlikely to get in a prison in either the quality or quantity required.

But then, ever since that ethical black-hole called ‘Care In The Community’ was instigated, prisons have been seen by rulers and ruled alike as the only place to put the psychiatrically ill.

Sigh,

Will someone please instruct me on how to format a bloody link here?

TIA

Poor chap. But should he be locked away somewhere untill he’s assesed?
He could do it again and that would present a danger to the public. We know how many prison places there are in the UK, but what’s the ratio of mental health facilities, secure and out patient, in comparison? Very much lower I guess.
I would at least expect that he will be having some serious psychiatric counselling whilst inside.

@3

Locking this guy away in jail is doing EXACTLY nothing to remedy the situation.

— Not true, its preventing him from burning disabled children and bunny rabbits to death.

What is it with you cunts and this overwhelming need to mete out punishment?

–Don’t know what you mean, I never said he belonged in prison. I was explaining why he was sent there, something the OP neglected to mention.

Can you simply not understand that this person needed help?

-Yes

Instead of sticking him in jail, why not attempt to give him the help he so desperately needs?

-I didn’t stick him there and I cant even spell pyschatric treatment, let alone give it to people

It is arseholes like you that has dragged this pit of a Country back to the Middle Ages.

-Lol, can you givesome examples? Preferably without bursting into tears

In summary, all I did was respond to the headline. He was jailed because he is a risk to others.

You’d send him home would you with a weekly check up? Give me your solution that doesnt involve this chap beiong behind a locked door.

Also, I dont know why but I really like it when people make massive assumptions about what I say.

It really gives an insight into others predjudices and the way they pigeon hole and sterotype.

I also guess, given that you’ve called me a cunt and an areshole (You must be a big brave boy – but don’t let mummy find out) im on average a perineum

9. Chaise Guevara

“A vulnerable person who was seeking to end his own life, and who is no threat to the community, should not be sent to prison. What is so hard to understand in that? ”

The above pretty much sums up what’s so dishonest about this article: of course the sentence sounds unreasonable if you leave out the reason he was sentenced.

That said, while the sentence fits the crime, it doesn’t seem to fit the individual. If he meant no harm to anyone but himself, I feel it would have been more appropriate to suspend the sentence on the condition that he gets help. The milk of human kindness doesn’t sound like it was flowing at that court.

Also, I dont know why but I really like it when people make massive assumptions about what I say.

Ah, this is one of the laws of the internet: if you criticise something it must mean you support some other thing.

@9: Charming, Chaise…
…dear oh dear… You people (you and Dave etc.) are really quite horrendously missing the point. I was of course assuming that anyone who took an interest in this article of mine enough to be bothered to comment, at least, would read the nested link, which supplies the facts as laid out by the local newspaper. It is quite absurd and offensive to pretend that I was trying to hide the truth.
The POINT, of course, is that that some of the other commenters have made, and I would have hoped it might have been relatively uncontroversial, on a ‘liberal’ blog… What on earth are we doing throwing someone in jail who used to be very depressed, and who as a result tried to kill himself in a way that completely inadvertently put others at risk, and who now is much less depressed but who could easily get suicidal again – _because_ he is being thrown into prison, a place where anyone vulnerable does not want to go/be…

It is not just dishonest but rather ludicrous to claim that my article is dishonest! It _would_ be, if I didn’t link at the very start of it to the report of the sentencing in yesterday’s paper.

Before this turns into a slanging match can I suggest everyone reads this account of Altman’s conviction so at least we can all keep a sense of perspective and deal with the reported facts of the case.

As thing stand, his mental state at the time appears to have been taken into consideration…

“A decision not to proceed with a second, more serious charge, was taken after psychiatric reports revealed Altman was suffering from severe depression and had no idea his actions would lead to others being harmed.”

Rupert,

I can’t help noticing your reaction is so strong that you actually use two lines exactly the same as those of Claire Stephenson in the cited report. Odd.

For reference: It appears that the recommendation of the probation service which advised that Steven shouldn’t go to prison has been ignored.

“A vulnerable person who was seeking to end his own life, and who is no threat to the community, should not be sent to prison.

Anyway, recycling of lines aside, I note that the report you cite mentions the following:

A decision not to proceed with a second, more serious charge, was taken after psychiatric reports revealed Altman was suffering from severe depression and had no idea his actions would lead to others being harmed.

So clearly account of his state was taken in court.

Then Rupert wraps up his article with the following (my emphasis):

This story of a microcosm of the dismayingly outdated attitudes in our society to mental ill-health. It is political; and it isn’t over yet. I am sure that Steven will not take this sentence lying down, and nor will I, and nor, I hope, will you.

I suspect there needs to be some evidence for that claim that this story about the poor attitude to mental ill-health (and arson) in society is actually political – because you are not denying that the actual arson took place (you admit the attempted suicide) the political bit has to be the sentancing. I can’t help but wonder about this though – you may disagree, but considering this was arson, I see no problem with the sentance.

A further EDP article might help here: http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/politics/norwich_city_councillor_steven_altman_jailed_after_setting_fire_to_college_road_flat_in_suicide_attempt_1_1192887

This provides this nice set of details:

Kevin Eastwick, prosecuting, said at 6.30pm on March 6 somebody living in another of the flats in College Road reported a smoke alarm going off.

Another sounded about 45 minutes later and Mr Eastwick said it was Altman who called the fire brigade and told the other residents to get out.

He said Altman, who was taken into the care of ambulance crews, was spoken to by police officers and told them he had set fire to his flat to “kill myself” but “didn’t realise it would affect other people”.

The property, which had £35,000 worth of damage caused as a result of the fire, was examined by fire officers and scenes of crime officers who discovered evidence of two fires in the bathroom – one below the sink and the other in the shower basin.

Mr Eastwick said, when interviewed by police, Altman had told them he had been suffering from depression for a couple of months and had split up from his girlfriend a couple of days before.

He said he had drunk a couple of bottles of wine, started the fire and laid down in the bathroom.

The article goes on to note Mr Altman admitted the charge (so implictly accepted the prosecutor’s account).

Clearly other people were in their homes in the same building, and considerable damage was caused by someone who, if depressed, should not be drinking (if I am suffering I do not keep alchohol in the house – that way I focus on chocolate instead). If he is incapable of not making that decision, you want to argue that Mr Altman should be able to endanger others freely – Mr Altman at least seems to have admitted he made a criminal mistake, rather than enter a defence of whatever temporary insanity is called nowadays. Bluntly, this does not look political to me.

But the key reason I think this is seen as political comes at the end of the article:

Any councillor who receives a custodial sentence of at least three months is required to step down, but the law also makes it clear that, in such circumstances, the person has 28 days to appeal to the court against the sentence – during which he or she has the right to remain a councillor.

It appears that a Green councillor should not be jailed because they will cease to be a councillor…

Sorry Rupert, but the combination of your omission of important facts, repetition of what are clearly planted lines and the fact there is a political stake here suggest that this is not merely about mental health. However bad your depression, endangering others is criminal – and trying to excuse this to ensure your colleague does not lose his seat through appealing to the mental health lobby on disingenious grounds looks very bad. No doubt this man is your friend, and this has been upsetting for you, but the way you approached this article is not good.

And yet not single police officer has been convicted for any of the huge rise in deaths in police custody.

The judges and the police don’t all meet down the lodge for nothing.

“A vulnerable person who was seeking to end his own life, and who is no threat to the community, should not be sent to prison. What is so hard to understand in that?”

Should he be in prison – perhaps not?

But to describe him as “no threat” is clearly inaccurate, if not dishonest.

I agree that sending him to prison is not going to help his mental illness but arson is a particularly serious crime. If the fire had taken hold he could have killed everyone else in the building. For this reason I can fully understand those who believe he should be jailed.

I guess it all boils down to a question of what the prison service is for. Punishment or rehabilitation. Personally I believe he should be treated in a secure psychiatric facility rather than locked up in prison and possibly given a suspended sentence on top.

Then again, I wasn’t in the court and I am not a legal expert. There must be a precedent from similar cases over the years that the judge can take into account.

Sorry, but I doubt there would be this much fuss if he wasn’t a member of political party.

Just because you are a small party does not mean you shouldn’t be exempt from the expectation that you don’t do favours for people like using the press to mitigate a criminal punishment – if the tories had used their friends in the media to lobby for a reduction in Archer’s sentence there would rightly be an outcry.

What you should be doing is calling for more support for people with mental health problems so that situations like this don’t end up with somebody doing something stupid and reckless. What would you say about somebody who tried to kill themselves by driving fast into another vehicle?

Clearly, this man’s behaviour caused a lot of damage and clearly, his actions endangered the lives of other people. Nobody is condoning his actions. What is being served by putting this guy in jail? Someone suffering mental health issues and attempts to kill himself needs help, not punishment.

He is not going to be cured anytime soon and certainly not going to receive anything that will help him receive the help he needs in jail either.

Locking him away in a jail is nothing short barbaric. We live in a society that treats people with mental health issues as a crime. To answer the question in the OP, he was locked up because we live in a society that would rather spend billions of quid punishing mentally ill people than treating their illness.

How many people end up committing crime through mental health issues? This is the result of care in the community being a total fuck up from start to finish. We released dangerous people (to themselves as well as other people) into the community and low and behold, we have spent untold Billions cleaning up the mess.

This is the Tory mentality, over and over and over again. Just calling people ‘fit’ does not magically cure such people. Describing people as ‘cured’ does mean that they melt into the background and get on with their lives. They are STILL as damaged as ever, they still need help and they still get into the system and become institutionalised. Every penny ‘saved’ from care in the community has been put towards locking these people in jails all over the Country.

So here we have another person who has fallen through the net and cost us God knows how much. We can start the ball rolling at £35k for the damage, then add the court case, the fire service, the police, the jail sentence, the probation service and the next twenty years or whatever on benefits and good god knows what else. For what? Because a guy with mental health issues be denied the help he needs dealing with his problems?

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 11

“You people (you and Dave etc.) are really quite horrendously missing the point.”

Hardly, given that the point of the article (as I take it) is how draconian and inhumane the sentence was, and as I made clear before, I agree.

“I was of course assuming that anyone who took an interest in this article of mine enough to be bothered to comment, at least, would read the nested link, which supplies the facts as laid out by the local newspaper. It is quite absurd and offensive to pretend that I was trying to hide the truth.”

Yeah, I know you linked to it, but I can’t help be reminded of those tabloid articles that bury the truth somewhere halfway down the text, in the hopes that most readers will have reached the correct level of outrage and stopped reading by then.

In any case, you spent the whole article making out that he had been jailed simply for attempting suicide (the headline doesn’t help either, though I don’t know whether you or Sunny wrote that). Do you think everyone checks the links on stories, and even if you do, why not explain the basics anyway? You could at least have brought up the salient facts.

Probably no threat to the community, but you wouldn’t want to be next door…

The man clearly needs help, possibly in a secure setting as Chris states above, until he’s himself again.

Calling it political though is hysterical and detracts from the man’s predicament

I am very surprised that a referral wasn’t made to the forensic services, particularly as a psychiatrist had determined that he was suffering from severe depression and was unaware of the consequences of his actions.
One thing is certain, mental health services are being cut across the whole country, it would be a poor show if this had anything to do with funding.
Hopefully, a referral might be made by the prison medic because he has been placed in the wrong service, yes arson is very dangerous but it’s treatment that is required not punishment.

Watchman @14:

“The article goes on to note Mr Altman admitted the charge (so implictly accepted the prosecutor’s account).”

No, I think it’s more likely that he knew (or had been advised) that if he didn’t plead guilty and then was convicted, the judge would have given him approximately 21 months (14 months is 21 less the one-third reduction for the guilty plea). It’s the nearest we get in this country to the offensive practice of ‘plea bargaining’, and it’s still too close to it.

24. Dear Old Ted

Rupert, ‘It is not just dishonest but rather ludicrous to claim that my article is dishonest!’

Wow. I have only this to add to those above who have taken your piece apart. The disingenuity is typical of local (and national) politics – so much for the Greens ‘difference’ there then.

I feel sorry for everyone concerned. Mr Altman, his family and friends and not least the neighbours who were dragged into Mr Altman’s personal nightmare.

A genuine question though: why wasn’t Altman sectioned? I completely empathise with any notion of ‘treatment’ rather than ‘punishment’ and I can understand people thinking that, for whatever reason he needs to be ‘removed’ as threat to others. That the threat is unintentional is irrelevant really as his judgement is seriously impaired: a rational man would understand the danger to others that self-immolation would bring in a shared, closed environment.

So why not sectioning? He’s obviously a danger to himself, a danger to others and suffering from mental health issues. Surely they’re the main conditions meeting sectioning? Has this been explained anywhere else?

He really shouldn’t be in prison. Any mental health issues will only be exacerbated and any vulnerability exploited by the rest of the prison population. That’s not to say psychiatric wards themselves are fantastic but they’d be more suitable than a prison.

Chaise @ 20

In any case, you spent the whole article making out that he had been jailed simply for attempting suicide (the headline doesn’t help either, though I don’t know whether you or Sunny wrote that). Do you think everyone checks the links on stories, and even if you do, why not explain the basics anyway? You could at least have brought up the salient facts.

Hold on though. The guy set his house on fire as a suicide attempt. There is no suggestion that he was attempting to harm other people. His actions could have killed other people, but it does not appear that was intention. It is not as if he pushed lighted newspapers through a letter box or doused a car in petrol.

Surely every right thinking person can see that the issue here is the mental state he was in and this is not driven by malice?

Nothing can be served by locking this man in jail. He has mental health issues, for fucks sake. This is the blame culture that is so prevaliant in this Country. The need for ‘something’ to be done drives our policies. We cannot just chalk that one down to the fact that some poor bugger went of the rails, nope, someone has to be dragged around the street for the baying mob to throw rotten fruit at and therefore ‘something
has been done’.

Two minutes reading this story should allow anyone with a crumb of a brain to see that this is a result of a man with deep mental health issues and not the result wanton vandalism.

Of course, that will never appease the angry torchfire waving mob, does it?

@19 – I feel like I’m in my mothers womb, being protected by embryonic fluids of love when I read anything you’ve written Jim.

But that aside, apart from harping on about “help” what specifically would you do to help. that didnt involved altman being behind a locked door somewhere?

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 26 Jim

I agree with you. Based on my knowledge right now, it seems to have been a suicide attempt, and I don’t think jail was appropriate at all. However, that fact does not prevent me from admitting that the jail sentence was for committing arson, presumably because he put others at risk (or could have put others at risk).

I don’t think he should be in jail. It seems harsh, counterproductive and heartless. I’m not arguing with that at all. I just don’t think it does anyone any favours for the OP to make it sound like he was jailed simply for trying to commit suicide – which would be even worse, but I’m pretty sure it’s no longer a crime.

Dave @ 27

Well, for a start, he could have been sectioned for his and other people’s safety. At least he would not have a criminal conviction to deal with as well as all the other issues he will need to adress.

The wider issue is what kind of options are open to the healthcare trust he lives in.

There needs to be an outlet for people with mental health issues, rather than waiting for someone to go to this extreme, then spending a couple of hundreds of thousand quid punishing him and then dealing with the aftermath of his prison sentence. We have not saved a single penny in leaving him to rot ‘in the community’, the prison system is full of people who should not really be there and should be looked after in mental health wards.

Who would invent a system where the menatily ill are left alone right up until someone dies or nearly dies, as in this case? Instead of dealing with the underlying cause of this fire, why not make sure he gets the treatment he needs?

What EXACTLY have we got out of this sentence? He has mental health problems, they are going to get worse, he will find it impossible to find work, given he will have been convicted of arson and he will have kept a prison space from someone who is actually bad enough to deserve one.

Christ, this is a fuck up from the start to finish and will have cost us so fucking much more than a health visitor.

Quite depressing reading some of the comments below. A lack of understanding about the effects of depression and how it changes peoples thinking and perceptions. The world is a very scary and unpleasant place when you are depressed and to fight your way out is difficult. People do not think straight when they are depressed, and do things they would not normally do when well.
Setting fire to your flat in order to kill yourself is clearly a stupid thing to do, but does anyone really think he would have done anything like this if he were well ? If not, why does anyone think that a prison sentence is correct or sensible ?
It comes back to the lack of help for people trying to live with and recover from depression. There is a lack of help becuse there is not enough money. Why is there not enough money? How much treatment and support could one bankers bonus pay for ? We have our priorities wrong as a society and people like Steve end up paying the price.

“Why was my friend jailed over botched attempt to end his own life?”

In addition to the arson dimension, this is an additional possible common law offence which can cover almost anything:

“In English criminal law, public nuisance is a class of common law offence in which the injury, loss or damage is suffered by the local community as a whole rather than by individual victims.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_nuisance

It doesn’t surprise me that he got jail for an arson offence. As far as the judiciary system sees it he is causing potential harm for others. I am surprised though that the courts didn’t take into consideration is mental health. I know from experience that psychologists et al have been trying to make the courts think beyond potential harm for others and to look at mental distress. Many people who commit arson offences who experience mental distress are horrified when confronted with the fact they could have harmed others. Again, courts lack insight and understanding when it comes to arson offences.

When I visited women residents in Broadmoor, Ashworth and Rampton during the mid to late 1990s, majority of the index offences were arson. Again, the courts didn’t understand the state of mind of these women, many had been sexually abused as kids, raped as teenagers. Many felt powerless and vulnerable and had no control over their lives. The courts, it seems, still have a long way to go re arson and mental distress.

Weren’t Guy Fawkes and friends just intending a bit of arson in November 1605 with that misguided attempt to blow up Parliament?

“Guy Fawkes could have changed the face of London if his 1605 plot had not been foiled, explosion experts have said.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3240135.stm

If only the courts recognised that they were all rather misunderstood, they might have been saved a painful execution by hanging, drawing and quartering.

Bob, what the fuck are you on? Any evidence for Fawkes et al merely being mis understood? We all know what they where up to, they were trying to kill the king and return this Country to the Catholic fold.

It may surprise you to learn that our understanding of mental health issues have moved on since 1605 and that Altman was not ‘misunderstood’ he was suffering from mental health problems, to the extent that he was attempting to commit suicide. Gatsby and Fawkes were not trying to commit suicide.

@34 Jim: “Altman was not ‘misunderstood’ he was suffering from mental health problems, to the extent that he was attempting to commit suicide. Gatsby and Fawkes were not trying to commit suicide.”

No but anyone in 1605 who seriously believed that the very Protestant-inclined English would convert to Catholicism after Fawkes and friends had blown up king and Parliament, Westminister Abbey and part of Whitehall was very obviously seriously mentally deranged and should have been consigned to a lunatic asylum.

Those with a thin understanding of the history of that period might recall that over 280 Protestant heretics were burned at the stake during Mary Tudor’s mercifully short reign from 1553-58, that thousands of Protestant Huguenots were slaughted in France at the St Bartholomew Day’s massacre in 1572, which caused thousands of asylum seekers to seek refuge over the Channel in England, and that attempted invasion of England in 1588 by the Spanish Armada with a Papal commission to restore Catholicism to the realm. After all that, the chances of England converting en masse to Catholicism were zilch. Guy Fawkes was plainly mentally ill.

36. Chaise Guevara

@ 34 Jim

“Bob, what the fuck are you on?”

He’s on a random tangent that has little or anything to do with the topic at hand.

Chaise: “He’s on a random tangent that has little or anything to do with the topic at hand.”

You are wrong again, Chaise.

What’s I’m on about is what constitutes sufficient mental derangement or mental illness to excuse or exonerate an act of arson.

Is the kind of mental illness relevant: bipolar, schizophrenia or psychopathy? Is a religious rationale acceptable? If so, how and why?

Those same issues relate to the abortive attempt of Guy Fawkes and friends to blow up Parliament in 1605.

I sympathise with Mr Altman, who is clearly troubled. The sentence was not, however, a harsh one.
Mr Altman may have been merely reckless in starting a fire. Other suicidal types, and people with other psychological problems, may be more calculating in their actions. There needs to be a clear message to such people that arson will not be tolerated – and if you commit arson there will be serious consequences.

His sentence will hopefully be a deterrent to others perhaps not so innocent-minded as he is.

It does seem incredibly harsh to lock someone up for inadvertent consequences of a suicide attempt. Quite apart from anything else, I thought in this country we didn’t punish mentally ill people for acts committed when they were “not of sound mind” through no fault of their own. I hope he appeals.

Sandman (#38):

Locking someone up not because they deserve it but to “send a signal” sounds more like a propaganda system than a justice system to me. The same argument would inevitably lead to deliberately punishing suspects who can’t be proved to be guilty of the crime at all. I mean, so long as enough other criminals thought they might be guilty, it would still send a strong deterrent to lock them up, no?

40. So Much For Subtlety

19. Jim

Clearly, this man’s behaviour caused a lot of damage and clearly, his actions endangered the lives of other people. Nobody is condoning his actions.

I beg to differ. A lot of people are condoning his actions. They are saying he was within his rights and prison is not the solution.

What is being served by putting this guy in jail? Someone suffering mental health issues and attempts to kill himself needs help, not punishment.

Putting him in prison will deter. It may also mean he will get the help he needs. Certainly it is unlikely he will be able to kill himself in prison given the attention he is likely to get as a vulnerable case.

But the question is why does he need help? Support for euthanasia is quite high around here. Most people seem to have accepted that people are entitled to kill themselves if they want. With the help of a real doctor if need be. Why is this man’s case any different? This just looks like the dying end of the traditional Christian view that suicide is sinful and hence someone who does it must be mentally ill. But we all support euthanasia now don’t we? So we know that suicide can be a rational act to bring closure to a painful life. How do we know this is not the case here? If we remove suicide as a sign of mental illness and insist that it is a rational act, then why should he not be jailed? If someone sets fire to their house to roast a pig in the ashes – stupid but not mentally ill per se although it may be argued – we would jail them. Why not here?

He is not going to be cured anytime soon and certainly not going to receive anything that will help him receive the help he needs in jail either.

We have nothing to help him outside prison either. We do not do anything for the mentally ill except prolong their symptoms. Doing nothing is probably the best thing. But he won’t get nothing. He will be placed in a secure suicide-proof cell, he will be denied anything that he might use to harm himself, he will be kept under round-the-clock surveillance. All in all, he is better off in prison than a lot of places he could be.

Locking him away in a jail is nothing short barbaric. We live in a society that treats people with mental health issues as a crime. To answer the question in the OP, he was locked up because we live in a society that would rather spend billions of quid punishing mentally ill people than treating their illness.

You continue to insist this is a mental health issue and not a rational choice to end a life. Why? By all means, let’s mainstream mental health issues. He should be in jail then. As he would be if he did it for any mainstream reason.

And there is no treatment we have that works. CBT perhaps.

How many people end up committing crime through mental health issues?

Roughly nil. Apart from some percentage of rapists. Why do you ask?

This is the Tory mentality, over and over and over again. Just calling people ‘fit’ does not magically cure such people. Describing people as ‘cured’ does mean that they melt into the background and get on with their lives. They are STILL as damaged as ever, they still need help and they still get into the system and become institutionalised. Every penny ‘saved’ from care in the community has been put towards locking these people in jails all over the Country.

Sorry but that wasn’t a Tory policy. The Tories carried it out, but it was on the books from the 1950s. It was the Left that insisted that the mentally ill were passive victims of an uncaring society. That argued that asylums were prisons for people who could not cope with capitalism. That insisted, like Thomas Szasz, that mental illness did not exist at all. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was not a work of the right.

So here we have another person who has fallen through the net and cost us God knows how much. We can start the ball rolling at £35k for the damage, then add the court case, the fire service, the police, the jail sentence, the probation service and the next twenty years or whatever on benefits and good god knows what else. For what? Because a guy with mental health issues be denied the help he needs dealing with his problems?

What makes you think that any level of help we could offer would have stopped him from trying to end his own life? He caused the damage to the flat. Not the lack of social services.

26. Jim

Hold on though. The guy set his house on fire as a suicide attempt. There is no suggestion that he was attempting to harm other people. His actions could have killed other people, but it does not appear that was intention. It is not as if he pushed lighted newspapers through a letter box or doused a car in petrol.

He set his flat on fire. Not his house. What the f**k do you mean there is no suggestion he was attempting to harm other people? Either he was doing a damn good job of trying to harm other people or he is a moron. Everyone knows that if you start a fire in a flat you could burn down the entire building. The only person not suggesting there was a criminally negligent indifference to harm to other people is you.

Surely every right thinking person can see that the issue here is the mental state he was in and this is not driven by malice?

Malice is not the be-all and end-all. There is also indifference to other’s safety.

Nothing can be served by locking this man in jail.

There is a lot to be lost by telling people they can set flats on fire.

He has mental health issues, for fucks sake.

The only sign we have seen of this is his suicide attempt – an attempt that everyone here would support and defend if only he had flown to Switzerland and paid to have it done. Weird.

Two minutes reading this story should allow anyone with a crumb of a brain to see that this is a result of a man with deep mental health issues and not the result wanton vandalism.

The former may be true, but the latter is irrelevant. If I plant landmines in Hyde Park, it may well be not the result of wanton vandalism. It may also be that I have no desire to see people blown up while walking their dog. I could have wanted to come back the next day and test my new ground penetrating radar. But none of that is going to make much difference in Court because people should not go about planting land mines. Nor should they try to set their flats on fire when other people live in the building.

Jim

Well, for a start, he could have been sectioned for his and other people’s safety. At least he would not have a criminal conviction to deal with as well as all the other issues he will need to adress.

So you want him locked up? Great.

Who would invent a system where the menatily ill are left alone right up until someone dies or nearly dies, as in this case? Instead of dealing with the underlying cause of this fire, why not make sure he gets the treatment he needs?

Anyone who cares deeply, but wrongly, about patients’ rights. The people who have, in fact, given us this system. We can’t deal with the underlying cause of this fire. We have no way to treat anyone for anything with any degree of success – except perhaps in severe cases of depression involving electro-shock therapy. Besides, why don’t you respect his right to end his own life?

I just love the idea that a health visitor would have made the difference. Cute.

41. So Much For Subtlety

39. jungle

It does seem incredibly harsh to lock someone up for inadvertent consequences of a suicide attempt.

Why? What if a large multinational corporation built a chemical plant in, say, India. On the cheap. And there was an inevitable failure of the equipment that poisoned an entirely neighbourhood killing hundreds of children. Would you say that it was not intended and so no one should go to jail?

Quite apart from anything else, I thought in this country we didn’t punish mentally ill people for acts committed when they were “not of sound mind” through no fault of their own. I hope he appeals.

What makes you think that he was not of sound mind? Being mentally ill is not a get out of jail free card. You have to show that he could not understand the consequences of his actions. Are you saying that he did not know that setting his flat on fire posed a risk to everyone else in the building? What is it precisely about depression that makes people unable to understand this?

Locking someone up not because they deserve it but to “send a signal” sounds more like a propaganda system than a justice system to me.

It is called deterrence. And it works. What use is a justice system if we can’t punish and we can’t deter?

The same argument would inevitably lead to deliberately punishing suspects who can’t be proved to be guilty of the crime at all. I mean, so long as enough other criminals thought they might be guilty, it would still send a strong deterrent to lock them up, no?

An argument could be made.

42. So Much For Subtlety

35. Bob B

No but anyone in 1605 who seriously believed that the very Protestant-inclined English would convert to Catholicism after Fawkes and friends had blown up king and Parliament, Westminister Abbey and part of Whitehall was very obviously seriously mentally deranged and should have been consigned to a lunatic asylum.

The problem with this Whiggish reading of history is that you assume the English were very Protestant-inclined in 1605. I don’t think the evidence would support you. On the contrary, Britain probably had a solid Catholic majority at the time. Not merely Britain, but England. Notice how the Church of England has always felt the need to pretend it was Catholic. That alone suggests the English did not give up their Catholicism lightly.

Go read Eamon Duffy’s “The Stripping of the Altars” and come back to tell us why he is wrong. As late as 1580 Catholicism was probably still solidly popular in England and the religion of the majority. It was the Civil War and Cromwell who made Protestantism the majority English belief.

[I feel especially sorry for] the neighbours who were dragged into Mr Altman’s personal nightmare.

?!

They had a night’s sleep interrupted and their building probably smelled a bit smokey for a few weeks. That ranks up there with stubbing your toe in the ‘terrible things to happen to a person’ stakes.

It’s not clear from the articles whether Altman was a tenant or an owner-occupier. If the latter, he’s the only person who suffered any real harm from the case; if the former, then he and his landlord were the only people to suffer any real harm.

@43
What??
By pure chance the building didn’t burn down and other residents weren’t killed – phew, well that’s OK then. Yes, I’m sure they feel exactly the same as if they had stubbed a toe.

I assume you believe that drunk or recklessly speeding drivers should not be prosecuted if they only dent someone’s car rather than kill them?

@Watchman: Your slurs are unwarranted. You’ve misunderstood what I meant when I said “This is political”. I meant: The treatment of mentally-unwell persons as criminals is political.

@23: Yes, ‘The Judge’, you’re right.

I think there is some misunderstanding as to what Steven tried to do: understandable, given the vagueness on this point of the newspaper article that I linked to at the start of my article. He didn’t try to burn the house down that he was living in. He tried to create a lot of smoke in his bathroom from charcoal brickettes, to suffocate himself. This is a recognised method of killing yourself promoted by some people on irresponsible suicide websites. The ‘barbecue fire’ he made in the bath got somewhat out of control, and there was as a result massive smoke-damage to the property.

“People do not think straight when they are depressed”

But equally most do not become reckless with other peoples lives. The irrational thoughts tend to be of an exaggerated nature – ‘I’ve lost my job’ becomes ‘I’m never going to get another job ever’ and stuff like that. Also most people going through a period of depression of the type this person had (triggered by a relationship breakdown) get through it with a lot of support from others and emerge as stronger people.

We need to get away from this idea that people with mental health issues are dangerous, as it is a narrative that is both untrue and leads to a lot of otherwise intelligent people justifying the vast removal of civil liberties that people with mental health problems have faced in the past.

Rupert @ 44

I think there is some misunderstanding as to what Steven tried to do:

There is no misunderstanding here, I assure you. This is par for the course with the Tory vermin. They smell blood of a vulnerable person and they are in for the kill.

Now that SMFS has got the blood in his nostrils and a mentally ill person is at the bottom of the pile, this thread is over. If it was a pack hyenas taking down a baby deer, it would be considered beautiful.

Thanks for your story, by the way, Rupert, but we live at a particular low point in our society and the Tories are in the ascendancy. Good luck to you mate.

“He didn’t try to burn the house down that he was living in.”

I’m sure he didn’t.
But he could easily have ended up doing so.

It is therefore obviously wrong/dishonest of you to describe him as “no threat”.

If he’d tried to commit suicide by parking his car on a railway line he’d have been jailed too. It’s the danger to other people and the criminal damage to property that does it. He’s rather lucky that the court accepted that he had no awareness that he was putting others’ lives at risk, because arson with recklessness as to endangering life carries a much heftier sentence.

SMFS: “The problem with this Whiggish reading of history is that you assume the English were very Protestant-inclined in 1605. I don’t think the evidence would support you”

That’s more rubbish from you. Protestant asylum seekers from mainland Europe had already beome a public issue during Elizabeth’s reign (1558-1603) according to Daniel Defoe’s True-Born Englishman – he reported that 300,000 came to Britain to settle during Good Queen Bess’s time when England’s total population was probably less than 5 million.

The English public were made very well aware of an expected invasion by the Spanish Armada, which finally materialised in 1588, because of the pre-arranged system of beacon warnings along the coast to signal first sightings of the Armada. Elizabeth made a famed speech to her troops at Tilbury to repel the anticipated invasion:
http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/tilbury.htm

The Armada of large galleons, when it came, was successfully attacked by many small ships sailing out of southern ports but was finally dispersed by a fierce fortuitous storm in which thousands of lives of the Spanish soldiers and crew aboard the Armada were lost on a catastrophic scale – by reports, there were 10,000 Spanish troops aboard the Armada.

Events on that scale were surely too momentous to be forgotten quickly and perhaps looked like divine benign intervention to many at the time. The abortive attempt by Guy Fawkes and friends to blow up Parliament in 1605 came only 17 years later, well within living memory, and only two years into the reign of James I (or VI of Scotland), Elizabeth’s successor as monarch. James was widely known to be a militant Protestant – which likely made him very acceptable to the English political establishment he inherited from Elizabeth.

38
If Mr Altman had been referred to the forensic services it is likely that he would have spent much longer in a secure hospital than being dealt with by the CJS. It is a myth that hospitalization is the ‘soft option’. Most patients in those environments would like to be returned to prison because a clear tariff is given. And in some cases, those who were admitted to a secure hospital have then to also serve a prison sentence.
44
Attempted murder is not treated as ‘murder’ even though the victim/s survived through pure chance. In this case Altman was attempting to kill himself not others. and suicide is not against the law.
48
That’s a very good point, but unfortunately when a person with a mental health problem commits a crime it is their health status that comes to the fore in media reporting. We never hear that a person with a heart condition has committed this or that.

Rupert,

@Watchman: Your slurs are unwarranted. You’ve misunderstood what I meant when I said “This is political”. I meant: The treatment of mentally-unwell persons as criminals is political.

Apologies then. I did not read it that way – and the fact he was a fellow councillor in your party made the misreading easier. I was not meaning to cause offense (unless obviously you had been as cyncial as I originally assumed).

I do however have problems with that conclusion as well – you seem determined Mr Altman’s actions were the result of mental illness, not his own choices. I have seen nothing to suggest this was the case – even when crippled with depression, you can still work out consequences of actions. If you cannot, you should not be in a position where your actions can have such consequences.

It appears Mr Altman, drunk as well as suffering from depression, did something truly stupid and dangerous. The court clearly considered it was criminally dangerous, and clearly considered Mr Altman was not so mentally ill (please note much of the discussion above seems to imply a simple dichotmy of mentally ill and healthy, which is totally unrealistic) that he could not stand trial. The Judge above is probably correct about the benefit of pleading guilty (albeit Mr Altman clearly never made an attempt to deny his actions, to his credit), but none of this means that Mr Altman did not do what was reported in court, and the court mades its decision on this basis. If Mr Altman is not ill enough to be sectioned (and that is a last resort remember) but a sentance was judged to be required, what choice did the court have.

Put it this way. If I am depressed, and commit a crime, say burning down some of those bloody ugly windmills in Mid-Wales, which I can attribute to my depression, can I avoid jail simply because I happen to suffer from depression? I would hope not – only if my depression controls me (and only if that is a pretty permanent state of affairs) is there a defence that I am not in control of myself – and in that case I should not be walking around anyway, as I would not be responsible for my actions.

Mind you, all criminal sentances are by definition political anyway. It is a clear political decision to send the message that these actions are unacceptable and will be punished. So Rupert is right about that – I just doubt that we can be more political and discriminate in favour of the mentally ill by exempting them from punishment for their crimes. Mental illness is a burden, but it is not one that can be exchanged for jail time (unless you really believe the mentally ill are all criminal anyway…).

PS. Having reread my last comment, I should point out to Rupert that my appology for misinterpreting his comments is sincere – the comment itself doesn’t convey that enough.

The question is whether prison is appropriate for someone who did something when they were mentally unwell which had bad consequences that he absolutely did not intend. As made clear in comment 47 (thanks also to you for comment at 49, Jim!), this was NOT someone intending to burn down their house so as to incinerate themselves (and everyone else as collateral damage). This was someone intending, while desperately desperately depressed, to do away with themselves by smoke inhalation from a small charcoal fire that accidentally got out of control.
The word ‘arson’ therefore seems to be misleading some people here. We need to ask: what was Steven’s motive for committing arson? The answer is: He didn’t have one. He _wasn’t_ trying to burn his flat down.
In this context, it is doubly incredible to me that he has been thrown in the slammer for 7 months.

I suppose there is a political dimension to the fact that Altman chose charcoal briquettes – a biomass rather than a fossil fuel – in his suicide attempt. Admirably consistent.

That said, isn’t there some teeny-weeny irony to be remarked in someone who is so sensitively attuned to the risks of global warming being so utterly oblivious to the rather more proximate risks of setting fire to a building?

Still, when all’s said, a secure psychiatric institution would seem a more suitable destination than a bog-standard prison.

The word ‘arson’ therefore seems to be misleading some people here. We need to ask: what was Steven’s motive for committing arson? The answer is: He didn’t have one. He _wasn’t_ trying to burn his flat down.

Arson is simply the act of causing criminal damage by fire. The fire he set caused £35,000 worth of damage – when the threshold for considering whether the damage caused is ‘serious’ or not is £5,000. He set the fire in a residential building, with an inherent risk of the fire spreading and endangering others’ lives and property. Being drunk at the time is usually also considered an aggravating factor.

Those are the aggravating factors (and consider that the maximum sentence for arson is life imprisonment). Against this, it was held that due to his mental illness he was not reckless as to endangering others, let alone intentionally endangering them. Given the relevant sentencing guidelines (R v Walker: chap jailed for 2 years after dropping a cigarette on the bedroom floor of his flat and going to bed), a custodial sentence was all but inevitable.

“The question is whether prison is appropriate for someone who did something when they were mentally unwell”

What if that something was worse than an unintended arson?

Like Murder or Rape or something.

What level of mitigation should courts give to people who committ crimes when mentally ill?

Is it wise to give defence barristers a fairly easy to concoct defence for virtually anything?

The drunk or speeding driver isn’t *trying* to kill anyone.

A “small” fire that “accidentally” got out of control.
Fires can get out of control? Who knew??

He may not deserve prison but he clearly is a threat to the safety of others.
It is wholly dishonest to assert otherwise.

“The drunk or speeding driver isn’t *trying* to kill anyone”

But if they do kill or injure someone whilst pissed or speeding they’ll go down for it. I think the actions are pretty similar to the arson really, and frankly the punishments for death by dangerous driving are often too low.

@61 quite so

I was thrown in jug 4 the first time in my life for protesting(due to my naivety of the police cps and duty solicitors) My first night was sharing a cell with a very frietend young man who was schizophrenic. it was so obvious i was gobsmacked at why he was thrown in with me by a cold hearted screw. I spent all night talking to him and it calmed him down as i spoke to him about what he was experiencing. then in the morning a screw looked in with a church of england vicer and asked if their was any one who was in danger. i said yes and they took him out of the cell straight away with out me being able to say anything.

I have to say they either knew or he was being used as a pawn to see if they could wind me up like at the beginning of the shawshank redemption, either way he should’nt of been their and i’m disgusted at the law in this country

61
But isn’t drink driving a criminal offence and causing death by speeding would be treated as such. Causing death by driving within the law when it isn’t the driver’s fault would be treated as accidental and there would be no charges to answer. Motive is considered and so is the circumstances ie acting outside of the law.
Negligence can also be a factor (the act was certainly negligent) but his mental health is definately a mitigating factor.

@rupert 47
I’m sorry but the fact he was using charcoal briquettes and that he was influenced by a website is not a defence or a mitigating factor.
Everybody knows you should not start a barbecue indoors, especially if you intend to be unconscious before you put it out. And everybody knows that you should take advice on websites with a pinch of salt.

Your friend knew at the very least that he was going to cause significant smoke damage and a lot of alarm to neighbours. That’s enough to warrant a prison sentence.

Unfortunately there are pyromaniacs out there. They cannot be allowed to think they can get away with it by feigning depression.

I hope that he’s able to access the care he needs in prison, which I think is the bigger point.

I am just trying to make the simple point that Mr Read is being dishonest when he claims that Mr Altman poses “no threat”.

“Motive is considered ”

Death by dangerous driving is precisely where there is no intention to kill. When the intention is there, that becomes a murder charge.

Your friend knew at the very least that he was going to cause significant smoke damage and a lot of alarm to neighbours. That’s enough to warrant a prison sentence.

No, had he been of sound mind at the time, he’d have know that *at worst* he was going to cause significant smoke damage and a lot of alarm to neighbours.

Smokey charcoal in an enamel bath or a china sink is not going to cause an actual fire (see: physics); anyone claiming that it could plausibly have done so has less conception of the nature of fire than yer average caveman.

At which point, we’re back to ‘landlord needs to redo flat; neighbours a bit inconvenienced”. Now, you might think that deserves jail, just as you might think that people who park on double-yellows should be hanged.

The drunk or speeding driver isn’t *trying* to kill anyone.

And gets a fine plus some points or a ban, unless they do actually kill someone. I agree, something comparable would have been appropriate here.

70. Chaise Guevara

@ 64 steveb

Well, obviously driving within the law isn’t illegal. Setting fire to things within the law isn’t illegal either! The point, as you yourself mentioned, is negligence – presumably the court was satisfied that he had willingly put other people or their property at unjustified risk. I agree that jail was the wrong decision, though.

Smokey charcoal in an enamel bath or a china sink is not going to cause an actual fire (see: physics); anyone claiming that it could plausibly have done so has less conception of the nature of fire than yer average caveman.

Must have been a hell of a plush bathroom for a pile of smouldering charcoal to cause £35,000 worth of damage. You could rip out and replace the whole room three times over for that.

At which point, we’re back to ‘landlord needs to redo flat; neighbours a bit inconvenienced”. Now, you might think that deserves jail, just as you might think that people who park on double-yellows should be hanged.

Sentencing guidelines for arson are pretty well established. 7 months is about as lenient a sentence for residential arson as I’ve seen.

72. Matt Wardman

Is serious (>5k) arson an offence where custody is mandated?

And what happens when a Councillor loses office through a criminal conviction? IS it a new election or does the next most successful candidate inherit the seat (in which case Norwich CC is now on a knife-edge)?

Is serious (>5k) arson an offence where custody is mandated?

I think there’s only one crime with a mandatory sentence isn’t there? Although maybe knife crime now is too. There’s certainly a very strong presumption that, if it’s serious to go up to crown court, arson leads to a custodial sentence – and usually 2-3 years+.

Even where there is considered to be no intention/recklessness to endanger life, so-called ‘simple’ arson, it carries pretty stiff sentences. It’s a proper, serious offence.

Matt,

And what happens when a Councillor loses office through a criminal conviction? IS it a new election or does the next most successful candidate inherit the seat (in which case Norwich CC is now on a knife-edge)?

Unless there is some particularly odd system in place (and I don’t think any English council has one that odd – that a representative of the second placed party (who might technically have zero votes) could be appointed because the elected representative is disbarred) then there will be a by-election. A counsillor receiving compulsory psychiatric treatment (because there was no way this case was going to lead to sectioning it appears) gets to keep his or her seat though. Hence my initial misplaced concern about the point this was political being in fact a political motive on Rupert’s part, rather than actually being personal horror at what happened to a friend and colleague.

CJ @ 66

I am just trying to make the simple point that Mr Read is being dishonest when he claims that Mr Altman poses “no threat”.

But he is only a threat because of the State of his mental health, no one has supplied any evidence to suggest that he is an intrinsically ‘bad’ person. If his mental health was treated or at least adressed, then he would cease to be a threat, surely?

I cannot see how he can be held responsible for his actions if there was an impediment on his judgement at the time the offence took place.

76. So Much For Subtlety

52. Bob B

That’s more rubbish from you. Protestant asylum seekers from mainland Europe had already beome a public issue during Elizabeth’s reign (1558-1603) according to Daniel Defoe’s True-Born Englishman – he reported that 300,000 came to Britain to settle during Good Queen Bess’s time when England’s total population was probably less than 5 million.

It is clear that no amount of evidence is going to help you Bob. You’re too far down the rabbit hole. But try reading Duffy’s book. Although it is a waste of my time, why do you think the refugee issue has anything to do with anything? Yes, Protestants were a minority in other countries too. A small number – almost certainly nowhere near that many – came to Britain. Making them a minority in Britain as well. So freakin’ what? If you weren’t so obsessed with the Dan Brown version of events you would see how irrelevant this is to your case.

The English public were made very well aware of an expected invasion by the Spanish Armada, which finally materialised in 1588, because of the pre-arranged system of beacon warnings along the coast to signal first sightings of the Armada.

And perhaps English people didn’t like the Spanish much. Who knows? What is clear is that the Spanish were not repelled by a mass uprising of English people.

Events on that scale were surely too momentous to be forgotten quickly and perhaps looked like divine benign intervention to many at the time.

In 1940-41 Britain was saved from invasion by Protestant Germany. That doesn’t mean all British people hated Lutherans. Nor does it mean England was strongly anti-Catholic. It wasn’t. The mere fact of the Penal Laws ought to prove that Catholics were strongly entrenched in English society.

The abortive attempt by Guy Fawkes and friends to blow up Parliament in 1605 came only 17 years later, well within living memory, and only two years into the reign of James I (or VI of Scotland), Elizabeth’s successor as monarch. James was widely known to be a militant Protestant – which likely made him very acceptable to the English political establishment he inherited from Elizabeth.

Yes, to the English political establishment. That is not the same as to the English people is it? What is more English people could perfectly well disapprove of both Guy Fawkes and the attempt to force them to give up their ancestors’ religion. Which at the time most of them probably did.

You have no evidence Bob. You don’t even know what the issues are. It is sad.

I cannot see how he can be held responsible for his actions if there was an impediment on his judgement at the time the offence took place.

Because responsibility is a sliding scale, not a binary analysis. The court explicitly took his depression into account while sentencing.

Tim @ 77

You cannot be seriously suggesting that the likelihood that a defendant’s mental health played a part in the alleged crime goes down as the seriousness of the crime goes up?

Much has been made of the fact that his man’s actions caused £35k of damage, but surely that can have no bearing on whether or not he was culpable?

Altman tried to kill himself via smoke inhalation and failed; those actions speak for themselves. It hardly matters whether his neighbour happens to have furniture from Argos or a Chippendale original in his house at the time. Surely, the only thing that matters is whether or not his frame of mind at the time of the incident means he was action in a rational fashion?

@76: “But try reading Duffy’s book”

Eamon Duffy is an official Catholic propagandist so his conclusions are pre-ordained and I have many better books to read than his.

I prefer to look at the evidence from independent historians and there is no evidence of wide popular support for Catholicism c. 1600, not after the public burning of at least 280 Protestant heretics during the reign of Mary Tudor – who was popularly known as Bloody Mary during her own lifetime; the St Bartholomew Day’s massacre of the Protestant Huguenots in France in August 1572 – and I’ll go by Daniel Defoe’s estimate of the number of asylum settlers who came here at 300,000; and that attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588, which had been widely anticipated, hence the pre-arranged system of warning beacons along the coast to signal the first sighting. That stirring speech of Elizabeth to her assembled troops at Tilbury in 1588 is still quoted.

There is certainly no evidence to suggest wide popular sympathy for the plot of Guy Fawkes and friends to blow up Parliament in 1605 to promote the benighted cause of Catholicism by an act of mass murder. In a modern setting, their defence lawyers at the trial of Guy Fawkes and the surviving conspirators could have pleaded mental health issues – details of the trial can be found here:
http://www.armitstead.com/gunpowder/gunpowder_trial.html

Anti-Catholic sentiments ran deep through English history from Mary Tudor’s reign onwards – unsurprisingly so: there’s a plaque on the wall of Balliol College, Oxford, commemorating the public burning nearby of Latimer (1555), Ridley (1555) and Cranmer (1556), the Oxford Martyrs even though all three were Cambridge graduates.

Peel in the Commons and Wellington in the Lords faced strong opposition in Parliament as they pushed through the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 to extend normal civil rights to Catholics.

80. So Much For Subtlety

79. Bob B

Eamon Duffy is an official Catholic propagandist so his conclusions are pre-ordained and I have many better books to read than his.

Duffy is a professor from Cambridge. I fail to see how that makes him an official Catholic anything. But no doubt you know it is all the Illuminatii or whatever.

I prefer to look at the evidence from independent historians and there is no evidence of wide popular support for Catholicism c. 1600,

One thing Duffy does well is show that clearly there was – before 1580 anyway.

not after the public burning of at least 280 Protestant heretics during the reign of Mary Tudor – who was popularly known as Bloody Mary during her own lifetime

Prove she was popularly known as anything in her lifetime. Protestant fanatics called her all sorts of names, but that doesn’t mean most people did. So she burnt some Protestants. As Henry VIII and Elizabeth did with Catholics. You can hardly claim one lot was unacceptable to the British people and the other was.

the St Bartholomew Day’s massacre of the Protestant Huguenots in France in August 1572

Has nothing to do with Britain at all.

– and I’ll go by Daniel Defoe’s estimate of the number of asylum settlers who came here at 300,000

Because it suits your argument. You reject a real historian like Duffy but you take a paid mouthpiece like Defoe. Go figure.

; and that attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588, which had been widely anticipated, hence the pre-arranged system of warning beacons along the coast to signal the first sighting. That stirring speech of Elizabeth to her assembled troops at Tilbury in 1588 is still quoted.

Do you do anything but cut and paste? Again your little set piece rant does nothing to address the question at all.

There is certainly no evidence to suggest wide popular sympathy for the plot of Guy Fawkes and friends to blow up Parliament in 1605 to promote the benighted cause of Catholicism by an act of mass murder.

Nor is there the remotest evidence that it was unpopular. Or that Catholicism, a completely different issue, was either. You simply wish it was.

In a modern setting, their defence lawyers at the trial of Guy Fawkes and the surviving conspirators could have pleaded mental health issues

In a modern setting they would assert that they were tortured, as indeed they were, and so walk free. Notice that the government did not trust the normal torturers to do their job and so sent a special group from the Court to do it. Proof that something unusual was going on – and probably proof of popular unrest.

Anti-Catholic sentiments ran deep through English history from Mary Tudor’s reign onwards

No they didn’t. From Cromwell’s time? Sure.

unsurprisingly so: there’s a plaque on the wall of Balliol College, Oxford, commemorating the public burning nearby of Latimer (1555), Ridley (1555) and Cranmer (1556), the Oxford Martyrs even though all three were Cambridge graduates.

And down near Edgeware Road there is a memorial to Catholics burnt by Elizabeth. So what? The memorial was set up when precisely? It was a nineteenth century dispute among Oxford academics that lead to the present memorial. Not popular feeling at the time.

Peel in the Commons and Wellington in the Lords faced strong opposition in Parliament as they pushed through the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 to extend normal civil rights to Catholics.

By 1829 no doubt. But not in 1560.

@75. Jim: “I cannot see how he can be held responsible for his actions if there was an impediment on his judgement at the time the offence took place.”

My recollection of the news reports is that the offender was depressed and that he had consumed a bottle or two of wine. I reckon that if I thumped you, Jim, after imbibing too much, you’d be upset if the court did not hold me responsible for my actions.

Rupert Read could have presented a decent argument that sufferers of depression or minor mental illness need to be considered differently in the criminal justice system. But Rupert Read did not present a decent argument, hence most of the posts above.

Steven Altman has been treated by the court with a little bit of generosity (a charge was dropped) but mostly treated as a typical petty irresponsible arsonist. The seriousness with which the courts treat arson is historical; domestic fires today are less likely to cause death, but it remains that even the most petty act of arson can kill people.

I am willing to debate whether treatment of petty irresponsible arsonists is best handled outside the criminal justice system. Rupert Read records: “Over the last year, Steven has had difficulty finding appropriate support from health professionals.” In my opinion, that should have been the basis of Rupert Read’s argument.

Charlieman @ 81

My recollection of the news reports is that the offender was depressed and that he had consumed a bottle or two of wine. I reckon that if I thumped you, Jim, after imbibing too much, you’d be upset if the court did not hold me responsible for my actions.

But, he never actually hit anybody or attacked anybody. Nor did he act out of a sense of malice towards a third party. He intended only to harm himself. He intended to kill himself via smoke inhalation and it went wrong. Arson was not the intent of his actions.

Had he attempted to kill himself by setting HIMSELF on fire, I would agree that would be a different matter, you could at least argue that he should have had the foresight to see the damage that such an act may have had. Had he parked his car on a level crossing, you could argue that he must have had a reasonable suspicion that he would have derailed a train. Had he turned up at his ex girlfriend’s house with petrol, then that would be a completely different and far more serious matter. If this was one of those ‘murder suicide’ things you here about that went wrong, I would have thrown the book at him myself.

It appears that he has chosen the most bizarre method of committing arson. It is obvious to me, if no one else, that his was the act of a desperate man in lamentable circumstances. Had there been any evidence that he was indeed trying to damage the rest of the flats in the building you could have charged him with attempted murder.

What I find rather depressing is the baying mob mentality of this Country. Looking at the replies about ‘sending signals’ and the like are to be expected, I suppose. ‘Something bad’ has happened, so ‘someone must pay’ and all that. I just wish some of us had the ability to look at the bigger picture.

Anyone who has the capacity to understand what they have done has the capacity to accept the consequences of their actions.

This man clearly has been assessed by mental health services (and as he is in the criminal justice system I expect he has been assessed by several different mental health practitioners). It is not appropriate to use the mental health act if someone has capacity. the conclusion of all of these assessments must have been that he does not require treatment under the mental health act.

Arson is one of the most reckless acts – regardless of what his stated ‘intention’ was. Once you set a fire you set a sequence of events that you have absolutely no control over. To look at it another way he could consider himself very lucky to not find himself charged with causing the death of a lot of people (the house in question was a victorian terrace).

So, according to Rupert Read this is the fault of mental health services (I trust that he has complained about this ‘poor response’ to the relevant mental health trust?), the courts and the political system? What about the responsibility of this individual? Or does Read think that green councillors should be exempt from self responsibility? (how ironic).

I’m no fan of locking people up. Prison clearly does not work. But Read isn’t really making those points, is he? Poor me, my green party city councillor friend got a prison sentence and I will muddy the waters to detract from what he actually did.

He had also consumed two bottles of wine. An aggravating factor surely, rather than a mitigating one? Never lose sight of the fact that we are sober before we are drunk. A choice that he made, the consequences of which he has to face. It is also interesting to note that he contacted the emergency services himself. we are not talking about a man who was dragged from a burning building, having barricaded himself in with an intent to die ending up in prison. we are talking about a man who after the event said he was feeling suicidal.

I look forward to Rupert Read campaigning about mental health care (especially in the prison population). I expect I’ll be waiting for a long time.

SMFS (41) “Why? What if a large multinational corporation built a chemical plant in, say, India. On the cheap. And there was an inevitable failure of the equipment that poisoned an entirely neighbourhood killing hundreds of children. Would you say that it was not intended and so no one should go to jail?”

That’s an utterly ridiculous comparison… I mean, I may be jumping to conclusions here, but the board of the large multinational corporation in question were probably not collectively suicidally depressed at the time they caused the accident.

Charlieman: “Rupert Read could have presented a decent argument that sufferers of depression or minor mental illness need to be considered differently in the criminal justice system.”

He probably didn’t do that because he thought that argument was won many years ago. He’s clearly wrong: today’s right wing clearly think that mental illness is something you can deter by making an example of people with prison sentences.

@80 SMFS: As obtuse as usual, I see. Your response has more abuse than analysis. Try not to be so naive – look at Duffy’s connections: he is a member of the Pontifical Historical Commission, so I hardly expect a dispassionate commentary from him on issues relating to Catholicism.

“As Henry VIII and Elizabeth did with Catholics. You can hardly claim one lot was unacceptable to the British people and the other was.”

More than 280 Protestant heretics were burned at the stake in Mary Tudor’s reign in the three year period 1555-58 – a much greater number and rate of atrocities than the number of Catholics executed for their faith during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth.

“the St Bartholomew Day’s massacre of the Protestant Huguenots in France in August 1572” – Has nothing to do with Britain at all.

That’s more rubbish – the Protestant Huguenots from France sought refuge in England to escape persecution which extended beyond the St Bartholomew Day’s massacre of August 1572 into the civil wars in France during the following century.

“You reject a real historian like Duffy but you take a paid mouthpiece like Defoe. Go figure.”

Duffy is a professional “Catholic” historian while Defoe was writing in 1701 to mock chauvinistic attacks on “foreigners” settled in England in his satirical poem The True-Born Englishman, which turned out to be highly popular:

Borrowing new blood and manners from the clime,
Proudly they learn all mankind to contemn,
And all their race are true-born Englishmen.
Dutch, Walloons, Flemings, Irishmen, and Scots,
Vaudois and Valtelins, and Hugonots,
In good Queen Bess’s charitable reign,
Supplied us with three hundred thousand men.
Religion—God, we thank Thee!—sent them hither,
Priests, Protestants, the Devil and all together:
Of all professions and of every trade,
All that were persecuted or afraid;

” Again your little set piece rant does nothing to address the question at all.”

That’s more rubbish from you. The Spanish Armada of 131 ships – a very substantial fleet of warships – sent to invade England in 1588 had a commission from the Pope to restore Catholicism to England. It was widely anticipated and prepared for along the south coast. Elizabeth’s famed speech to assembled troops at Tilbury show the importance she and the court attached to repelling the expected invasion. The arrival of the Armada in the Channels led to ten days of running sea battles until the fortuitous fierce storm dispersed the Armada. The events certainly affected public sentiment – Thomas Hobbes writing for his seminal work The Leviathan in 1660: “My mother hearing of the Spanish Armada sailing up the English channel gave premature birth to me”.

Why were the Oxford martyrs, who were all Cambridge graduates, burned at the stake in Oxford and not Cambridge?

You are simply not worth my time.

Hold on. We all seem to be accepting, at face value, that this bloke suffered with depression. And that that somehow rendered him incapable of making rational decisions.

How patronising to people who genuinely suffer with depression.

How about this: his girlfriend dumped him, he got pissed, he did something stupid that potentially endangered other people’s lives. There you go: prison. And quite right too.

And don’t forget that the court did take into account his supposed depression. Hardly monsters then eh?

If you’re of the opinion that arson – for whatever reason – should be treated lightly, you’re a very strange person.

He got 14 months. He’ll be out in 6. And? If he wasn’t Rupert Read’s friend we wouldn’t even be talking about this as an issue – it’d just be a story about some arsonist who quite rightly got sent to prison.

And you know, maybe next time he thinks about killing himself he might a) think harder about it, and b) consider that he might also potentially be doing someone else harm.

@85. jungle: “He probably didn’t do that because he thought that argument was won many years ago.”

No matter how shitty the government, you should make your case. In case you have not observed, Conservatives do not wish to be identified as utter shits and are not the majority party.

“He’s clearly wrong: today’s right wing clearly think that mental illness is something you can deter by making an example of people with prison sentences.”

I am not a Conservative Party sympathiser. I agree that some Conservative Party sympathisers believe that mental illness is cured by bonkers shit. I do not believe in bonkers shit. Therefore deliver a sensible argument about how arsonists should be treated within criminal justice.

@82. Jim: “But, he never actually hit anybody or attacked anybody. Nor did he act out of a sense of malice towards a third party. He intended only to harm himself. He intended to kill himself via smoke inhalation and it went wrong. Arson was not the intent of his actions.”

You know what, Jim, the definition of arson is intentionally lighting a fire outside a “fireplace”. Then we have to toss in disregard for the safety of others who lived in other flats adjacent to where he lived. A smart geezer (which does not apply in this case) may have have asphyxiated him/herself without harm or distress to others. Kill yourself if you wish but do not imperil other people.

@68. john b: “Smokey charcoal in an enamel bath or a china sink is not going to cause an actual fire (see: physics)…”

I have an enamel bath but I am a freak. If anyone burns charcoal in a plastic bath tub, the consequences of burning are ugly. Police officers are warned not to touch burned out cars; bloody right, stay away from burned out cars and stay away from burned out houses and bathrooms.

Bob @ 86:

“Duffy is a professional “Catholic” historian while Defoe was writing in 1701 to mock chauvinistic attacks on “foreigners” settled in England”

If Defoe was writing to mock attacks on foreigners settling in England, don’t you think he’d have had a motive to exaggerate the numbers of immigrants during Queen Elizabeth’s reign?

91. So Much For Subtlety

81. Charlieman

Rupert Read records: “Over the last year, Steven has had difficulty finding appropriate support from health professionals.” In my opinion, that should have been the basis of Rupert Read’s argument.

Although a lot can be hidden in that comment. Perhaps they did not think he was really sick? Perhaps he did not like the medication? Who knows?

84. jungle

That’s an utterly ridiculous comparison… I mean, I may be jumping to conclusions here, but the board of the large multinational corporation in question were probably not collectively suicidally depressed at the time they caused the accident.

I bet that if they were told they were looking at 25 years in an Indian prison, they would soon claim they were. And have impressive medical documentation to prove it.

jungle

He probably didn’t do that because he thought that argument was won many years ago. He’s clearly wrong: today’s right wing clearly think that mental illness is something you can deter by making an example of people with prison sentences.

You probably could deter many modern mental illness diagnoses with a prison term. Given many of them are either fake or exaggerated. But you still have not addressed the core paradox here – if instead of setting his flat on fire, he had flown to Switzerland and asked a doctor to kill him, you all would be defending his right to do so. Why is it such a big deal when he does it on his own?

92. So Much For Subtlety

86. Bob B

Try not to be so naive – look at Duffy’s connections: he is a member of the Pontifical Historical Commission, so I hardly expect a dispassionate commentary from him on issues relating to Catholicism.

Duffy is a prominent historian. It is reasonable he is appointed to such a position. It doesn’t mean he is not a good historian. You are simply letting your bigotry get away with you. As per usual.

More than 280 Protestant heretics were burned at the stake in Mary Tudor’s reign in the three year period 1555-58 – a much greater number and rate of atrocities than the number of Catholics executed for their faith during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth.

That is utter rubbish, Henry killed about that many in the wake of the Pilgrimage of Grace alone. The Protestants won. And as with all such internal civil disputes, the side that won killed the most.

Duffy is a professional “Catholic” historian while Defoe was writing in 1701 to mock chauvinistic attacks on “foreigners” settled in England in his satirical poem The True-Born Englishman, which turned out to be highly popular:

Duffy is a professor at Cambridge. Not a Catholic institution last I heard. He is, by way of pastime, an advisor to the Pope. But professionally, he is a highly competent historian in a secular institution. Defoe on the other hand was a paid mouthpiece. The fact that Defoe has to defend the refugees proves they were not popular in Britain – they were under attack.

That’s more rubbish from you. The Spanish Armada of 131 ships – a very substantial fleet of warships – sent to invade England in 1588 had a commission from the Pope to restore Catholicism to England. It was widely anticipated and prepared for along the south coast.

But you continue to have no evidence that the English people would have opposed a restoration of their religion. You assert it as if it were true. It isn’t.

The rest remains irrelevant.

Why were the Oxford martyrs, who were all Cambridge graduates, burned at the stake in Oxford and not Cambridge?

No idea. Who cares?

And by the way, all Huguenot refugees put together was probably less than 200,000. Of whom maybe 50,000 came to Britain. Making stuff up again.

93. Kismet Hardy

Heard the one about the juror who got thrown into prison for six months for looking at the internet? The streets of Britain are a little bit safer for it

94. Kismet Hardy

Heard the one about the juror that got thrown into jail for 6 months for looking at the Internet? The streets of Britain will be a little safer for it

Was he in possession of a Kalashnikov and threatening to shoot himself in the face while talking to the Samaritans on the phone?

You know what, Jim, the definition of arson is intentionally lighting a fire outside a “fireplace”.

Exactly. We have a law that’s designed for mediaeval cities where everything’s made of wood and there’s no fire brigade, where lighting a fire outside a fireplace risks Great Fire of London style consequences – and therefore punishes acts which do not, in today’s environment, have potential to cause serious harm as if they were anything more than a form of criminal damage.

That’s orthogonal to the point of Altman’s mental illness. I agree with the commentators making the point that the court *has* taken his depression into account, and given him a more lenient sentence than would have been the case otherwise. Similarly, perhaps people who are mentally ill and park on double yellow lines could merely be imprisoned for life rather than hanged.

He is, by way of pastime, an advisor to the Pope… Defoe on the other hand was a paid mouthpiece.

I believe the relevant expression here is LOLOLOLOL.

“Arson is one of the most reckless acts – regardless of what his stated ‘intention’ was. Once you set a fire you set a sequence of events that you have absolutely no control over. To look at it another way he could consider himself very lucky to not find himself charged with causing the death of a lot of people (the house in question was a victorian terrace).”

Precisely so.

Yet Read asserts he was “no threat” to others.

You cannot be seriously suggesting that the likelihood that a defendant’s mental health played a part in the alleged crime goes down as the seriousness of the crime goes up?

No, I’m not. I think you just made that up.

Read the reports: a charge was dropped on the grounds of his mental condition. Given the circumstances of the case, and the fact that the judge said that due to his condition he did not even consider the likelihood of causing harm to others that charge is very likely to have been arson with recklessness as to endangering life. If he’d been convicted of that he’d have been looking at 2 years in jail minimum.

Exactly. We have a law that’s designed for mediaeval cities where everything’s made of wood and there’s no fire brigade.

The law on arson derives from the 1971 Criminal Damage Act. It’s hardly a throwback to Tudor England. As florence says above lighting a fire in a Victorian terrace house is intrinsically dangerous, and effectively out of the control of whoever lights it.

99. Chaise Guevara

@ 96 john b

“Exactly. We have a law that’s designed for mediaeval cities where everything’s made of wood and there’s no fire brigade, where lighting a fire outside a fireplace risks Great Fire of London style consequences – and therefore punishes acts which do not, in today’s environment, have potential to cause serious harm as if they were anything more than a form of criminal damage. ”

Except for, you know, those people who suffocate or burn to death in fires started by arson. Exactly how serious does something need to get to count as “serious harm” to you?

And while arson law – like most of our laws – was written back in Ye Goode Olde Dayes, laws get updated, as does sentencing. This guy got 14 months, and I agree that’s excessive. In medieval times, he’d have been hanged (I haven’t checked this, but hanging seemed to be their solution to everything). So it’s hardly like we’re applying medieval rules that have no relevance to the present day.

Well this has certainly brought some strange beasts out of the woodwork. I hope now though that people can concentrate on an appeal against Steves prison sentence.
Perhaps the comments here could be forwarded to MIND, could be useful for them in terms of the misunderstanding, (some deliberate and mischievious of course and what fun to bash a green) of depression they and others are fighting to improve. For all our sakes, not just those of us with mental health problems/issues.
Feels like a warning should be put on the blog as well,if it carries on, warning people some of the comments could damage their mental health. Im continually fighting depression/anxiety, low level at moment thank goodness, but it did cause me upset, whilst at the same time Id want to support any campaign to suppport Steve.

@100

warning people some of the comments could damage their mental health,

Thats acceptable, perhaps people suffering depression should be tattoed with “could damage your phyiscal health”

Chaise @ 99:

“In medieval times, he’d have been hanged (I haven’t checked this, but hanging seemed to be their solution to everything).”

The hanging mania was more a feature of the eighteenth century than the mediaeval period, when a wider ranger of punishments were used, including branding, mutilation, or being put in the stocks. Although arson might well have been a capital crime back then.

103. So Much For Subtlety

102. XXX

The hanging mania was more a feature of the eighteenth century than the mediaeval period, when a wider ranger of punishments were used, including branding, mutilation, or being put in the stocks. Although arson might well have been a capital crime back then.

From William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England

“3. THE punishment of arson was death by our ancient Saxon laws.11 And, in the reign of Edward the first, this sentence was executed by a king of lex talionis [law of retaliation]; for the incendiaries were burnt to death:12 as they were also by the gothic constitutions.13 The statute 8 Hen. VI. c. 6. made the wilful burning of houses, under some special circumstances therein mentioned, amount to the crime of high treason. But it was again reduced to felony by the general acts of Edward VI and queen Mary: and now the punishment of all capital felonies is uniform, namely, by suspension. The offense of arson was denied the benefit of clergy by statute 21 Hen. VIII. c. 1. but that statute was repealed by 1 Edw. VI. c. 12. and arson was afterwards held to be ousted of clergy, with respect to the principal offender, only by inference and deduction from the statute 4 & 5 P. & M. c. 4. which expressly denied it to the accessory;14 though now it is expressly denied to the principal also, by statute 9 Geo. I. c. 22.”

By “suspension” I assume he meant hanging.

(Spelling and other graphical features tidied up a little)

Just to add a further data point to this, and to show that Rupert is essentially correct in his view on the sentence his friend received:

(I just know that I won’t get this link right – copy & paste if you will)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-16874924

The salient quotes:

“Dixon and Schofield admitted arson at Newcastle Crown Court….”

“Dixon, of Thornhope Close, and Schofield, of Roche Court – both Barmston, Washington – were both ordered to complete a community rehabilitation order and be electronically tagged during a three-month curfew.”

So a custodial sentence is not obligatory for a conviction for arson, is it?

Yes, some of you will claim that these two arsonists were under 18. OK, but they were not (so far as we know) suffering from a severe depressive episode at the time of their offences, and were quite clearly intent from the outset on causing serious damage to public property.

I’m not saying that these two should have been thrown in the jug (there may have been mitigating factors not reported upon); all I will say is that if Dixon & Schofield shouldn’t be in there, then as sure as hell Steven Altman shouldn’t be.

I have respect for anybody who commits suicide: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/world-suicide-prevention-day-on-10-september/ At least they take life into their own hands instead of just being pushed around.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Creative Corner Cafe

    jailed over botched attempt to end his own life? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rYZGTOqk via @libcon

  2. Fran

    Unbelievable a man with severe depression sent to prison instead of help. http://t.co/fI2DiPqg http://t.co/C5czxRGt Via @CathElliott

  3. Justin Lewis

    Unbelievable a man with severe depression sent to prison instead of help. http://t.co/fI2DiPqg http://t.co/C5czxRGt Via @CathElliott

  4. Mark Thompson

    @AlJahom http://t.co/6eX9akoA it's a bit more complicated though following the link within. Arson was actually the charge.

  5. Mark Thompson

    @KP_LD Actually it was arson. Still seems an odd decision though given what happened. http://t.co/6eX9akoA

  6. Andy Mayer

    Why was my friend jailed over botched attempt to end his own life? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/c3O8IeSc via @libcon

  7. William Hill

    Why was my friend jailed over botched attempt to end his own life? http://t.co/wjj7Dfgj

  8. Andy Richards

    Why was my friend jailed over botched attempt to end his own life? http://t.co/19LrMs1g

  9. Al Jahom

    @devilskitchen did you see this Green cunt who set fire to himself in a block of flats that LC are whinging about? http://t.co/bXyXgCRc

  10. sandratowers59

    jailed over botched attempt to end his own life? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rYZGTOqk via @libcon

  11. John Wark (or am I?)

    @PaulSaxton you may enjoy the comments on this piece http://t.co/yLWTuptA

  12. Jason Brickley

    Why was my friend jailed over botched attempt to end his own life? http://t.co/EoemuizB

  13. A few good links | eChurch Blog

    […] Liberal Conspiracy – Why was my friend jailed over botched attempt to end his own life? […]

  14. BevR

    Why was my friend jailed over botched attempt to end his own life? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/v8PHJFHA via @libcon





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