Law must be the same for everyone

I'VE always believed that prison should be reserved for those who really deserve it - for those who could cause harm if they are left in society.It seems to me that a far more effective punishment for prominent fraudsters is a community sentence and the loss of their good name.

- has been legalled

I'VE always believed that prison should be reserved for those who really deserve it - for those who could cause harm if they are left in society.

It seems to me that a far more effective punishment for prominent fraudsters is a community sentence and the loss of their good name.

So part of me feels that the community sentence handed to former Conservative group leader Stephen Barker for forging a will was the right decision.

However deep down I know this was wrong. Barker pleaded guilty forging a signature on a will and then getting a subordinate at work to witness the signature.

As a result the proportion of a £300,000 will that was heading his way leapt from eight to 72 per cent. According to my calculations that meant the amount he got out of it went up by £192,000.

Most Read

Had he got away with it, there would have been some real losers in this - relations of the dead man.

I can't help feeling that had someone from Whitton estate fiddled their benefits to the tune of £192,000 they might have been inside Norwich jail faster than you could say custodial sentence.

And often you find that when people are up in court for fiddling benefits the offences started when they didn't understand a form and then the problem escalated as they found they had spent money they were not entitled to.

Barker isn't in that position. You don't “accidentally” forge someone's signature. It is a conscious decision - and Barker is highly intelligent. He knew exactly what he was doing.

Which all leaves me thinking he was extremely fortunate not to lose his liberty - although his good name has been forever tarnished.

We do not need a justice system which locks up everyone no matter what they do - we could do with far fewer people being locked up and being made to do something useful to society when they misbehave.

But most of all we need a system which is seen to be fair - where the punishment is the same if you come from the council estates of Ipswich or the leafy lanes of Ashbocking.

ONE of the most ridiculed policies of John Major's government was the Cones Hotline, which enabled motorists to complain about sections of road which were partially shut.

I never called it, and apparently it had little effect - but I could have done with something like that the other day on a trip to Norwich.

As anyone who has ever tried to drive up to our neighbouring city knows, the A140 which links East Anglia's two most important population centres isn't exactly wonderful.

There is only one section of this road where you can get in front of all the lorries and tractors you will encounter - the dual carriageway Scole by-pass.

Sadly some genius in Norfolk County Hall has now decided to close off the slow lanes of both carriageways with cones - for the whole length of the by-pass.

Then to add insult to injury they decided not to do anything about the lane closure - over the entire length of the road not a single road engineer could be seen.

Norfolk's motto has always been “Do Different.” I was left concluding that having rejected Suffolk's 50mph speed limit over the southern section of the A140 the highways bosses up the road had decided on a very odd tactic to slow down all the traffic heading into the county.

CIVIL leaders in this country tackle the questions of race and religion at their peril - and nothing illustrates the difficulties more than the row that has erupted over the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments about Sharia Law.

Living in a part of the world like Suffolk where there are few racial tensions, the whole row may seem to be slightly other-worldly.

None of the members of the Muslim community I know in the area have expressed a wish to introduce Sharia Law - and while many have the impression that Sharia is only about chopping thieves' hands off, in reality the ancient Muslim system of justice isn't that far removed from the system we use in the West.

When Dr Rowan Williams raised the issue in a long, and academic speech, it was very difficult for even the most learned professors to understand exactly what he was saying - is it any wonder that the rest of the country got tripped up on his soundbites?

I'm sure Dr Williams did not wish to upset members of his church and of the establishment as a whole by his comments, and I'm rather concerned they created the flak that they did.

What was of more concern to me over the last few days was a front page headline in one national newspaper which said: “Every 4 minutes a migrant is arrested in Britain.”

That kind of inflammatory headline does far more to undermine community relations than esoteric comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury.