Friday, 06 March 2015

Double standards

From: Inside edge

Two men with double barrelled names admit their guilt. One gets ridicule and a caution and says sorry to his family. The other?

The other gets 11 months and knows that by the time he gets out his family may have been evicted. No prizes for guessing that the first man is Antony Worrall Thompson and that the second is Daniel Sartain-Clarke. 

Earlier this week, the 60-year-old celebrity chef admitted to shoplifting from Tescos on five separate occasions over Christmas. He accepted a police caution and promised to seek treatment after sneaking out blocks or cheese, onions and bottles of wine without paying. 

Cue viral jokes on the internet plus lots of tweets and blogs highlighting the contrastingly harsh treatment of looters in last summer’s riots (the man who got six months for stealing £3.50 worth of water, for example) and even a Daily Mail web debate about whether the middle classes get off lightly. 

Yesterday 18-year-old Daniel Sartain-Clarke was sentenced to 11 months in a young offender’s institute for his part in last year’s looting. He pleaded guilty to a charge of burglary at his local Curry’s. 

The Daily Mail suggests somewhat confusingly that he both broke into the store and was discovered by police in the stockroom two hours after it was broken into by others. The BBC and others report the comments of the judge following evidence about his background that: ‘You are a committed Christian and an aid worker. I have reams of references attesting to you. You are a helper and a doer. This is as out of character as it’s possible to imagine.’

The contrast between the two cases would be debatable even if it was just confined to the criminal justice system and the difference between theft and burglary - but it’s what will happen next that really distinguishes them.

Worrall Thompson told the Express yesterday that he is back in his rented High Wycombe home crying himself to sleep. ‘I feel very guilty and want to know why I’ve done this,’ he said. ‘This has all been so humiliating but it’s a punishment I have to take on the chin. My wife, Jay, has been fantastic. She picked me up from the police station and we stayed up late into the night talking and trying to work out why I did it.’ His children knew and had been very supportive.

Sartain-Clarke has been at a bail hostel 100 miles away from home for the last few months. And as he begins his sentence, his mother Maite de la Calva and eight-year-old sister are facing eviction from their rented Wandsworth council home. 

As Inside Housing reports, the council appears determined to press ahead with the next stage of the eviction process after issuing a notice seeking possession in August. ‘His actions that night were a clear and unequivocal breach of our tenancy conditions and as a result we will now be moving on to the next stage of the legal process.’ said a spokesman. 

The family are being represented by the human rights group Liberty, which accuses the council of ‘shameless self-promotion’.  As lawyer Emma Norton put it in October: ‘Ms de la Calva has committed no crime and if she lived in a mortgaged house she would not face such bullying.  Whether in a mansion or a flat everyone should be equal before the law.’

However, Liberty also notes: ‘It is one of the standard terms of a Wandsworth tenancy agreement that the tenant, lodgers, friends, relatives, visitors and any other person living at the property refrain from doing anything which interferes with the “convenience” of other people living in Wandsworth. The Housing Act 1985 also suggests a basis for eviction where the tenant or a person living in or visiting her household has been convicted of an indictable offence.’

The Financial Times report of the illegal subletting consultation this morning says the government has admitted that no council has yet taken up its call to evict rioters and that Wandsworth is the only one that has pursued someone publicly. It also quotes Wandsworth as saying it will give the mother a chance to ‘tell her side of the story’ before a final decision is taken.

Hopefully those are signs of a climbdown to come. If not, it will be up to the courts to decide whether the arguments made for an eviction (nuisance in the neighbourhood, setting an example, or just a breach of the tenancy conditions) can justify what will be both a double punishment and a collective punishment. And that will leave the rest of us wondering whether collective punishment can ever teach the sense of individual responsibility we were told was so lacking in the wake of the riots. 

Readers' comments (17)

  • Rick Campbell

    Whether or not Wandsworth Council climb down or not is , to an extent, perhaps immaterial to many readers of IH and the media especially those who would demonise much maligned social housing tenants and leaseholders.

    I seem to remember at the time (last summer) that there was much discussion (some perhaps a bit heated) as to the crimes committed during 'the riots'.

    It appears that the double/multiple punishments are perhaps an issue worthy of more discussion especially in the matter of Wandsworth a) blatantly 'naming and shaming' a particular tenant who was not herself involved in the riots and b) Wandsworth council seeking to punish the aforementioned non-wrongdoing.

    I wonder how long it will be before the likes of Wandsworth seek to repossess a leasehold property in an equal blaze of publicity where a leaseholder has failed to have a current gas certificate.

    Before anyone mocks the previous paragraph, I would point out that it is often the case that IH posters raise issues that pre-dates actions by government, statutory bodies, agencies, Ministers, landlords, etc.

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  • Melvin Bone

    I'm not sure Worrall Thompson was accused of burglary as well though...So hardly the same offence is it...

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  • Rick Campbell

    Quite so Melvin, the criminal acts are different -- although there will be those who may see them both as theft, and all thefts being the same regardless whether the theft was under a cloak of MPs expenses, rioting, sub-letting and so on.

    Apparently, when a social renting tenant or a social renting tenant's family is involved, there must be an associated demonisation --- Mr W-T is a private tenant I believe.

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  • Melvin Bone

    Good points Rick. Daniel Sartain-Clarkes' offences are more like those of the expense fiddling MP's than the cheese thieving Worral Thompson.

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  • Rick Campbell

    I thought you might enjoy them Melvin old chum.

    (not the wine and cheese, obviously)

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  • Scales of Justice: Oxford Magistrates' Court round-up
    Carolyne Bosworth-Waite, 33, of Newman Road, Oxford, admitted shoplifting food worth £11.42 from Sainsbury’s in Oxford on May 16. Given a 12-month conditional discharge and told to pay £50 costs.

    Antony Rogers, 25, of Pegasus Road, Oxford, admitted shoplifting a sandwich and packet of crisps valued at £2.65 from Sainsbury’s in Oxford on January 26. Given a six-month conditional discharge and told to pay £2.65 compensation and £40 costs.

    Sedad Dawood, 36, of Coniston Avenue, Oxford, admitted shoplifting a pair of jeans and a jacket valued at £69.91 from Gap in Oxford on February 18. Fined £200, a £15 victims’ surcharge and £150 costs.

    Stephen Cooney, 42, of Speedwell Street, Oxford, admitted shoplifting a brown leather jacket valued at £119 from Zara in Oxford on May 15. Given a 12-week curfew and told to pay £80 costs.

    Victoria Arthur, 38, of Mortimer Road, Oxford, admitted shoplifting a bottle of perfume valued at £55 from Boots in Oxford on May 2. Also admitted failing to surrender to court bail on June 1 and commission of a further offence while subject to a conditional discharge. Fined £50, a £15 victims’ surcharge and £90 costs.

    Trevor Francis, 32, of Asquith Road, Oxford, admitted shoplifting meat valued at £50 from Co-op in Marston on December 28 and shoplifting three babygrows valued at £20 from Matalan in Oxford on May 10. Given a six-month drug-rehabilitation order and 12 months’ supervision. Also told to pay £85 costs.

    Andrew Tanner, 52, of Victoria Road, Bournemouth, convicted of shoplifting a tweed jacket valued at £129 from Marks & Spencer in Oxford on March 22 and admitted commission of a further offence while subject to a conditional discharge. Given a two-year exclusion order from Marks & Spencer in Queen Street and told to pay £50 costs.

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  • Rick Campbell

    Animosity, and so early in the day too.

    There goes the neighnourhood!

    How long before a social housing tenant gets the blame?

    But seriously, the justice system in Oxford, at first glance, seems to have an elemeny of proportionalaty about it.

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  • Melvin Bone

    Oxford sounds like a criminal hotspot...

    No-one was done for burglary AND theft though...

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  • Lee Page

    To be fair Melvin, Jules does mention a difference between theft and burglary.

    My own understanding in these circumstances is quite simple - in one case the shop was closed (burglary) and in the other it was open (theft)!

    At least Sartain-Clarke didn't go back 5 times like Worrall-Thompson did!

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  • Melvin Bone

    'in one case the shop was closed (burglary) and in the other it was open (theft)!'

    That makes it ok then...

    To be fair he will get time of in remand lopped from the sentence and at least a third lopped off if he is a good boy inside and even more if he opts for a home detention order...

    So to say he will be banged up for 11 months is not really accurate.

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  • Rick Campbell

    He might not have a home Melvin, and that could prevent his early release -- unless as an about-to-be-released prisoner he attracts a high priority for housing.

    -- nor might his mum and young sister

    -- which is why so many people have their underwear in a knot

    -- it's not all about him as such

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  • Richard Mandunya

    This amounts to social injustice being propagated with the blessing of the Con-Dems! This is obviously some form of miscarriage of justice.

    To be honest, it would have been easier for W-T to get another house if he was evicted than the poor mother enduring eviction, and possibly ending up homeless.

    How shameful, in a so-called civilized society. I guess it is a crime to be poor in David's England.

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  • Melvin Bone

    Oddly as an ex-con he will probably have priority and could even get out of the single room rate applied to most under 35's as such...

    There is always a bright side.

    'This is obviously some form of miscarriage of justice.' Getting caught during a riot nicking stuff from a shop that had been ransacked...seems an open and shut case to me. He even pleaded guilty. Are you suggesting his plea was a lie?

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  • Joe Halewood

    Melvin appreciate the humour but he wont get an exemption to the under-35 SAR. That only applies to MAPPA cases not all ex-offenders.

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  • Rick Campbell

    If his plea was a lie, will that be good training for him to be a Housing or Prime Minister?

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  • Melvin Bone

    Prime Ministers never lie Rick. They just sometimes give out erroneous information...

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  • Rick Campbell

    You are very naughty Melvin but correct.

    Of course if Mr Cameron was a social housing tenant he'd have been hung, drawn and quartered by now -- in the metaphorical sense, of course.

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