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Why do two people get different sentences for the same offence?

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There is a, very minor, story in today’s Daily Mail about a businessman sentenced for drink driving that has led to quite a few people asking why he received a fine of £488 (actually, he was fined £367 but the Mail got that bit wrong) and a 14-month driving ban while Chris Tarrant was fined £6,000 and handed a 12-month ban for the same offence, even though Mr Tarrant had a much lower alcohol level. 
As I acted for the businessman, I’m tempted to say that the difference must reflect the fact that one had a specialist drink driving solicitor while the other was represented by a corporate crime expert, although I’m sure that the truth is that the law on sentencing came into play. So, since people are speculating about the differences in sentence I though we might as well take a moment to look at how people are sentenced by criminal courts. We’ll use drink driving as an example, but the principles apply to all criminal offences.
When a person appears in court for drink driving the sentence …

Tricky lying foreigners trick Supreme Court into allowing them to stay in UK #bastards

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The Daily Fail Heil er I mean Mail today reports on two awful Albanians who tricked the Supreme Court into letting them stay in the UK despite their having lied to the wonderful, faultless British Government by claiming they were from Kosovo. They report that “Dinjan Hysaj and Agron Bakijasi pretended to be victims of ethnic cleansing when they came to the UK in the 1990s, but were ordered to leave the country when their lies were exposed.” Lawyers for the pair wracked up bills of “£1million in legal aid” (yeah right – in fact the Supreme Court ordered a detailed assessment of costs and no figure was quoted in the case but in any event a cool mil sounds unlikely to me) fighting deportation by arguing that lying about nationality was not enough to remove British citizenship… oh did we forget to mention that they are British citizens and the case is really about whether they should be deprived of citizenship?
The Mail says that this could lead to thousands more being allowed to stay, alt…

Laura Plummer gaoled for taking Tramadol into Egypt

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Big news in the UK today is the case of Laura Plummer, a 33 year old British woman who managed to “accidentally” plead guilty to importing Tramadol painkiller tablets into Egypt in a bizarre misunderstanding on Christmas Day. She has now been sentenced to three years imprisonment by the court. In Egypt it seems that the possession and importation of Tramadol is banned without a special prescription because it is widely abused in that country. Ms Plummer has said that she did not know the medication was illegal in Egypt and had taken it into the country for her Egyptian boyfriend, Omar Caboo, who is also 33 years old. According to the news reports I’ve read of Ms Plummer’s account and those given by her family to explain her actions, Ms Plummer obtained the drugs from a friend here in the UK. It is unclear whether that friend was in possession of a prescription nor, if they were, how it came to be that they built up such an extensive stockpile if they genuinely required the medication –…

Disclosure: Liam Allan cleared of rape

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The Times front page carries a startling report today of a rape trial that ended in acquittal of the defendant, Liam Allan, on the second day of trial after the police revealed a cache of messages obtained by them from the complainant’s telephone that they had decided to withhold from both the prosecutor and the defence. It seems that in Mr Allan’s case the police had seized the complainant’s mobile telephone as evidence and interrogated it to obtain all messages contained therein. What happened next is unclear, the least damaging (to the police officers involved) theory is that they simply did not bother to read the messages. I’ll leave you to work out other possibilities. On day one of the trial, the complainant (who is still entitled to anonymity despite the prosecution being so sure that her allegations were entirely fabricated that they felt compelled to offer no evidence against the defendant) gave evidence that she was raped and sexually assaulted multiple times by Mr Allan. The …

British values: queuing

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Ask a foreigner to describe Britain and the British and you’ll no doubt get a list that includes cold weather, rain, stiff upper lips, tea drinking and queuing. Most of these are myths and stereotypes but some have substance to them.
Paragraph 26 of Schedule 11 to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 allows Transport for London to make byelaws governing all kinds of conduct on the railways under TfL’s control. This is standard stuff, railways across the country have these powers. They can, and do, create rules and laws including criminal offences that apply only to their railways.
TfL’s byelaws regulate conduct such as banning smoking and open containers of alcohol as well as potentially dangerous substances, including acid that could be used in an attack. Perhaps more surprisingly byelaw 1 regulates queuing.
“1. Queuing
(1) The Operator or an authorised person may require any person to queue in order to regulate order or safety on or near the railway.
(2) Any person directed by a notice …

The statutory warning

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The statutory warning sounds like something impossibly dull – any maybe it is if you’re not a lawyer – but it is something that is very important in drink driving cases.
When the police suspect somebody of drink driving they must take a specimen of breath, blood or urine from them that can be analysed to show whether the person was over or under the drink driving limit at the time they drove. Parliament has laid down strict rules about what must happen prior to the police requiring that a person suspected of drink driving provides a specimen for analysis.
Section 7 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 gives the police the power to require a person to provide a specimen and tells us that the person commits an offence if he or she fails or refuses to do without reasonable excuse. However, section 7(7) says that: “A constable must, on requiring any person to provide a specimen in pursuance of this section, warn him that a failure to provide it may render him liable to prosecution.” The words are m…