The detective who sought to make money from selling information to the News of the World has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. This is less time in prison than the conviction would normally have carried:
[T]he judge said had that not been the case she would have been sentenced to three years. The judge said he was particularly concerned about the child, and admitted that her absence while she is in prison could be damaging. However, he said that, had she not been arrested, the detective would have returned to work by now, and therefore the child would be cared for by others anyway.
I am pleased that she will spend less time in prison than she might, and that assuming good behaviour she will be reunited with her child in a few months. But what strikes me is that the matter of adoption, as opposed to simply having a child, seems to have been given greater weight than it does in most other sentencing of women, in less high profile cases.
The Corston Coalition points out that:
Imprisonment also has a serious impact on women’s children: ninety-five per cent of the children of women offenders have to leave their home on the conviction of their mother.
But, as the Coalition then points out:
The number of women sentenced to custody has increased by more than half between 1998 and 2008. In 2008, 8,862 women, not including those on remand, were sentenced to custody. In the last decade, the women’s prison population has risen by 44 per cent; in comparison, the male prison population has risen by 26 per cent.
Clearly the judge in this case felt the crime was of such gravity that the need for a prison sentence outweighed the needs of the child. I can (nearly) understand that, given the principle of vengeance written into our criminal justice system.
Yet for the vast majority of women sent to prison, there are clear, viable and effective non-prison options, and they still get sent down.
Let us hope, at least, that the judge’s sentence mitigation in this case will create some form of precedent in less high-profile cases.