The case reported on Monday of Sarah Catt cannot evoke much sympathy.And yet…I bet you’ll dig deep and find some, won’t you?
What conceivable good can be served by such a sentence? It appears merely a gesture of abhorrent rage on the judge's part.I rather think ‘abhorrent rage’ is quite a sane response to a case such as this one.
The judge used the cliche often used of wrongdoing women, that she was "cool and calculating", as if any women expecting sympathy should be hot and emotional.Actually, that’s not a description reserved only for women at all. It’s often used to distinguish crimes passionelle from malice-aforethought-style murder. It’s applied to men AND women.
A quick look at Google could have told you that.
Leeds police then added the traditional damnation "on the steps of the court house", a modern version of the pillory. Catt was "extremely deceitful, cold and calculating". She had shown no remorse and had lied to everyone concerned.Yes. Those are considered aggravating factors in the justice system. No matter what the crime.
Little in the case tells in Catt's favour, except that she had a loving husband who stood by her, and a family that was still together. A previous pregnancy at university had led to an adoption. She had an affair and, on the facts as presented, she acted from panic and desperation on finding she was pregnant.That’s a pretty long bout of ‘panic and desperation’ there, isn’t it, Simon?
Catt asserted that the foetus was stillborn, though she clearly did not help herself by refusing to say where it was.Oh, I think she did help herself. I think she helped herself by ensuring her story of a stillbirth couldn’t be disproved…
The judge said the act was between manslaughter and murder, but you cannot murder a foetus. It may be almost a person, but in common law it is not one until born alive and independent of its mother. It is legal to terminate a pregnancy after 24 weeks and indeed up to full term, albeit under strict medical supervision and only where there is a risk of serious abnormality or a grave, permanent injury to the mother. What Catt did was clearly illegal, but not manslaughter or murder.Not under the law as it stands, no. Most would, quite rightly, view it as abhorrent beyond belief.
… it does not seem the role of the justice system to pass judgment and sentence on the basis of female demeanour, let alone to expect a better emotional performance from those who have been to university.Really? But aren’t we supposed to believe in ‘bettering oneself’ through education?
Catt should not have done what she did, but locking her away for eight years will cost the state about £225,000, at the going rate. It must come near to destroying her family. A long sentence is, as any judge should know, "for life", given the impact it has on life thereafter. Everything about the case suggests a woman badly in need of care and treatment.Actually, it doesn’t. This is no naïve teenager scared of her parents, denying and concealing a pregnancy until too late. This is a grown woman, who has already been around the block several times.
In Catt's case, no social purpose is served by a fine or prison. A civilised response would be to find some way of piecing together a life so clearly devastated, especially for the sake of a family. Instead, the judge is punishing the living members of a family for the sake of a dead one.But isn’t this always the case when women who commit crimes go to prison? Indeed, it isn’t even confined to women, unless you believe them to be the sole caregiver.
You might as well argue that women shouldn’t go to ja…
Oh. I see.
The harm to society done by the judges in sending women unnecessarily to jail must far outweigh that of the original crime. In this matter Britain is still in the middle ages. And we have the cheek to go round the world, lecturing others on justice and the rule of law.In many other parts of the world, she’d have been stoned to death for this crime. Without the need for a trial! You know, I think Britain’s still ahead, somehow…
Blogging solicitor Amanda Bancroft weighs in with the God question:
The sentencing remarks in this case are in full here. Paragraph 15 mentions the Abortion Act. The judge says: "There is no mitigation available by reference to the Abortion Act, whatever view one takes of its provisions which are, wrongly, liberally construed in practice so as to make abortion available essentially on demand prior to 24 weeks with the approval of registered medical practitioners." Of course, interpreting the precise meaning of a person's words is never easy. However, one reading of that passage suggests that the judge considers we as a society are wrong in giving the Abortion Act a liberal construct to allow as many women as possible abortions under its terms. Considering the offence he is sentencing, the remarks are cause for concern. One starts to wonder if there are motivations involved that ought have no place in the sentencing of any person.Those motivations being religious ones, of course.
When one starts looking into the background of the judge, it transpires that he was appointed vice-president of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship in 2003, and remains in post today.*gasp* The smoking gun!
When one reads the remarks of the judge knowing his belief system, one can only ask: did the judge view this case only on the context of the crime she actually committed, or also in the context of a crime against a god which may not be hers?Sorry to burst your bubble, Amanda, but I’m not in the slightest bit religious, and I feel nothing but utter revulsion for a woman who does what this one has done.
I think the judge was too lenient. She should have got double the prison sentence.