'Give the public the benefit of the doubt, not the prisoner': The Queen's Speech

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The Crime Bill was empty words, designed with an election in mind, said one victim last night.

Mark Manwaring, whose sister, Alison, and father, Matthew, were murdered for a pounds 7,750 car in Barking, Essex, four years ago, said the key measures did not go far enough towards ensuring the safety of the public, although they were a step in the right direction.

While the Crime Bill proposes moves to match the sentence prisoners serve more closely with the sentence imposed by the court, Flight Lieutenant Manwaring, 31, a navigator in the Royal Air Force, wants a harder line taken. "When you think about it, the only person allowed to lie in court is the judge in sentencing somebody. When he says 10 years, he's telling a lie to appease everybody. Ten years for a rape sounds pretty good but if he said four years [which could be the true figure] there would be public outrage.

"The sentence should be the sentence. End of story. Like everything the Government does, it's never the best option but this is something to keep people quiet and make them think this is the party of law and order."

Flt Lt Manwaring approved of the introduction of automatic life sentences for those convicted of a second serious violent or sexual offence and of minimum sentences for persistent burglars and drug dealers. "While people are inside, they're not doing damage to children and the good citizens of the country. You've got to give the public the benefit of the doubt, not the prisoner. But the average life sentence is only 12 years, so life should mean life."

Flt Lt Manwaring said he sympathised with those who argued that education and tackling social problems would help cut crime, but that was a long- term solution. In the meantime, the public had to be protected and justice done.

"I'm not a politician. I like to listen to them and put a commonsense perspective. What you need is justice being seen to be done, so perhaps you can put the seal on a terrible ordeal and put it behind you. If justice hasn't been done, it is like an open wound that you carry around with you for the rest of your life."