Charity's concern over increasingly harsh sentencing meted out to vulnerable
Society’s most vulnerable are facing “Dickensian” sentences from courts for trivial shoplifting offences, many of which are the result of draconian cuts to their benefits.
The Howard League, a prison reform charity, said stories of the homeless and hungry being heavily fined read like something from "pre-Dickens".
It was responding to news that a shoplifter was fined nearly £300 on top of a six-week community order for stealing three bottles of baby milk from a supermarket in Derby.
Janis Butans, 34, of London Road, Derby, was handed a six-week community order with curfew and was ordered to pay a £150 criminal courts charge, £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge for stealing three bottles of baby milk from Sainsbury's on 18 July.
It comes after TFN 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.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said in a blog that fixed penalty fines, mandatory in England and Wales, were only further penalising the most needy.
It read like something from "pre-Dickens” she said and called for urgent reform as the current system “would still be recognisable to an 18th century observer.”
“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?”