Thursday, 29 April 2010

Fined, Tagged and Under Curfew – The Judicial Lottery

What a great story. Old woman fined £1000, electronically tagged and placed on a 6pm-7am curfew – for selling a goldfish to a 14-year-old, thereby breaking the 2006 law which states it's illegal to sell pets to under-16s.
Mrs Joan Higgins, a 66-year-old pet shop owner was caught out in a sting operation by council officials in Manchester, who sent the youngster into the store to buy a fish. Higgins sold him the goldfish without asking his age or providing any information about the care of the fish.
A spokesman for Trafford Council defended the decision to bring the case.
Head of Public Protection (I kid you not), said: "The evidence presented for this conviction clearly demonstrates that it is irresponsible to sell animals to those who are not old enough to look after them.”
I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of under-16s capable of looking after animals. Just as many adults are not. It doesn’t take much of a trawl of the web to find evidence for this. Adults however, no matter how incapable of looking after animals, get the benefit of the doubt. That means it is usually too late for the animals when this is discovered.
It will also show the usual inconsistency in sentencing. And that’s the real problem here. We see it in relation to all sorts of crimes. It more than shows that sentencing depends on the personal views held by whichever individuals you find yourself up in front of.
This case won’t change that. But it is a timely reminder of the justice system lottery.