CHARLES GRAHAM - Jail is for real offenders

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WOULDN’T it be terrible if we all agreed on everything?

There’d certainly be no point having this column if that were the case.

And it hardly came as a surprise to discover that there wasn’t unanimity among readers with my view that Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce shouldn’t be sent to prison. And quite right too!

One person - who didn’t give their name - kindly took the trouble to post a cutting from my page with the words “Evening Post reader disagrees.”

Accompanying the clipping is another from a national newspaper column, the gist of which was the reasons why it was right to lock them up.

With some of it I agreed, not least the suggestion that they, especially Huhne, should be made an example of after such systematic deception.

But it was also claimed that this was a rare victory over the “almost masonic view that they were One Of Us (ie respectable, hard-working, middle class people)” and would usually have been let off without a prison sentence.

Well please let me at least set the record straight on this issue.

In no way did I think they should have been given preferential treatment because of their social or intellectual background.

The reasons I think they should have been given community orders were because we have over-crowded prisons whose problems would be eased by handing alternative sentences to those who are not a danger to people or property. And because, unlike some other folk who are given community orders, there is little doubt Huhne and Pryce would have seen such a punishment through (particularly humiliating for people who have fallen so low, I would have thought).

It could be argued that their fall from grace is from such a height that that too is a pretty tough punishment.

And if we treat them just as we would any other perpetrators of the same offences, should all of the estimated 300,000 people who swap speeding points each year be jailed?

Everyone who commits a crime and then denies it in court are purjoring themselves. Are they all jailed too? No.

Our prisons are places which should be largely populated by murderers, robbers, sex offenders, violent thugs and thieves.

Folk who tell lies are reprehensible offenders, deserve censure and are not to be treated lightly.

But while locking up the Huhnes to sound a warning to other point-swappers was understandable, I still hold that it is not the correct punishment for a first-time offence for untruthfulness, regardless of the felons’ status.