A woman has been fined nearly £300 for stealing three bottles of baby milk at South Derbyshire Magistrates Court this week.
Janis Butans, 34, was given a six-week community order with a curfew and ordered to pay a £150 criminal court fee, £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge after sentenced for stealing the bottles from a Sainsbury’s in Intu Derby shopping centre coming to a total of £295, according to the Derby Telegraph.
It comes less than a week after the Independent reported a crowdfunding campaign had been set up to help a woman in Kidderminster pay court fines of nearly £330 for stealing a 75p pack of Mars Bars.Naturally, the usual suspect s are OUTRAGED! at this:
Mandatory court fines were brought in by former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling shortly before the general election in May to make the courts more self financing. But the charges have been denounced by legal reform charity, the Howard League, as “unequitable”.
The charity’s chief executive Frances Crook said: “There is no leeway. Its a fixed charge and the courts cannot vary it because of circumstance, they have to impose it”Well, yes.
Because soft-hearted do-gooders (like yourself) on the bench were constantly indulging their own wet consciences at the expense of the taxpayer and the poor bloody shopkeeper or member of the public, freedom to impose these fines had to be removed from them.
In a blogpost on the league’s website, she said the reports of “the homeless and hungry” being heavily fined “read like something from pre-Dickens” .
She has called for urgent reform of magistrates court saying the courts “would still be recognisable to an 18th century observer.”Actually, our courts would indeed be ‘unrecognisable’, but not for the reasons you propose. They’d think we were far too lenient!
“The court charge, whilst being manifestly unfair, has at least focused attention on the financial penalties applied to people who are stealing food and clothing” she said,
“These people are annoying and they are sometimes intimidating. But they are not serious criminals. What kind of country have we become?”They might not be serious criminals, but I think you vastly underestimate the nuisance factor. Probably because you rarely experience it.
Just last week, I watched a hi-vis-clad construction worker come out of McDonalds with a cup of coffee for the familiar beggar who often panhandles for spare change just outside. He walked away, and she followed me into the shop to tip the full cup straight into the bin then go back outside to resume begging.
She wasn’t “’ungry an’ ‘omeless!” despite her familiar refrain, she simply wants money for booze or drugs. Often, the ‘small thefts of food or clothing’ aren’t, as Frances simperingly imagines, to keep body and soul together, but because they are the easiest items to sell on.
So while they might not be the most serious offenders, they are often persistent recidivists. Anything that helps to remove the nuisance factor is to be welcomed.