When is a judge not a judge ? When he trespasses heavy-footed into areas that he has no right to be in. Judge Farooq Ahmed told the convicted fraudster, illegal immigrant and previously class A drug dealer, who had been deported from the UK twice before, that the appropriate sentence for his crimes was 12 months custody. Leaving aside the fact that it was already a lenient sentence, according to sentencing guidelines, for seven counts of identity fraud, deception and false representation, the judge then did Vincent Miller a second, and even bigger, favour, by reducing it to 11 months to avoid automatic deportation proceedings.
He told Miller that “it isn’t necessary for me to pass a sentence of 12 months because a sentence of 11 months will have the same effect.” If that astounding remark were true then a 12 month sentence would never be imposed. Why not go further and argue that a 10 months sentence is much the same as 11 months, or maybe 9 months.
The judge was thinking about the fraudster’s three children (there is no wife or partner) and the ubiquitous Article 8 of the Human Rights Act which says that "everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life". Fine, respect it but don’t distort criminal justice by giving it greater weight than it merits. Leave the deportation decision to the UK Border Agency whose job it is to carry out the deportation proceedings, which do not necessarily lead to deportation. They will have the children uppermost in their minds too.
Article 8 is only 5 lines long. But it is curious how judges never seem to get as far as line 4 which says that the right does not have to be applied if not applying it would serve the prevention of crime or disorder. So people who are judged likely to re-offend should not be protected by Article 8. With Miller’s record of convictions and his persistent (and successful) attempts to enter this country illegally he has clearly waived his right.
The sentencing of any criminal can have great effect on his or her family and that should be taken into account but not to the extent of discriminating against those without families and destroying the crucial elements of the sentence i.e. punishment, deterrence, and protection of the public. Children can be disadvantaged in many ways, not just by having their dad sentenced, for example disadvantaged by unemployment in the family or by bullying at school, but those children don’t get the preferential treatment afforded to the families of offenders under the over-exposed Article 8.
And Vincent Miller knew he was putting his children at risk by repeated criminal offending, but didn’t seem to care much about them, so is he a good father anyway ? Is it so essential that he is around to bring them up, or would they be better off under alternative care ? Or was he the clever one, knowing that no matter what he does, good old Article 8 will always protect him and his children from having to leave the country they want to stay in.