I have moaned and groaned perhaps too often about the restrictions imposed upon sentencers by the Sentencing Council Guidelines. It has become evident especially in the light of recent events that judges and magistrates are increasingly being reported giving explanations for their sentences imposed when they vary from the guidelines. All judges and magistrates make their observations under these circumstances in open court as they are directed. It is the reporting which appears to be more accurate. When high profile offenders are sentenced the public interest is heightened. Those in the public eye in sport or entertainment are often not slow in using their positions of wealth and influence in trying to bend the law to their position. With offences that are generally below the horizon of public prurience and fines are imposed there are sometimes sufficient facts reported to make reasoned comment. Such cases often involve motoring offences.
Danny Simpson a footballer with Premier Division Newcastle United was recently convicted of driving at 48MPH in a 30MPH zone. Whether or not the footballer`s income was stated on the means form as it should have been before he was fined it is virtually widespread public knowledge that no player in that league earns less than £10,000 a week. Leaving aside the totting disqualification imposed which is under appeal I ask myself why he was fined only the princely sum of £333, prosecution costs of £30 and a victim surcharge of £15. The offence carries a maximum of £1,000 and is a Band B which equates to a week`s wages. If he pleaded guilty there was the bench`s duty to reduce the fine by 1/3. So my question is why was he not fined £666. The costs also seem to be a fraction of the costs applied for by CPS which are not reported in this case.. What factors could have induced the bench to arrive at the figure they did?
On the surface anybody in that court facing similar charges but existing on benefits or lower wages than half a million pounds a year would be justified in asking if there is equity in this justice system for this most common of offences.