>> 16 Sep 2004


By Courthawk

Three stories to ponder this week. First off, in case you thought that the lenient sentence disease was confined to Northern Ireland, this should put you right, taken from BBC News Online. (Helpful hint: Don't let the word "life" mislead you


A 16-year-old boy who stabbed a jogger in a north London park has been jailed for life. Elias Cecchetti was found guilty at an Old Bailey trial in April of attacking Monica Watts, 39, in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington, in December 2003. He was also convicted of stabbing a man, 17, in Finsbury Park, north London, in September 2003 at another trial at the same court in July. He was sentenced for both crimes at Maidstone Crown Court.

Cecchetti, who went by the street name of Slasher, had 20 convictions for crimes committed between the ages of 13 and 15. He was electronically tagged at the time he attacked Miss Watts but his curfew was between 1900 BST and 0700 BST and he carried out the stabbing at 1700 BST. As the teacher jogged in the park, Cecchetti shouted that he was "going to get" her. When she asked what that meant, he stabbed her five times and kicked her wounds. Cecchetti was cleared of attempted murder but the jury found him guilty of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Miss Watts only survived the attack because a doctor, who was walking through the park with her children at the time, treated her.

Cecchetti was convicted of unlawfully wounding his 17-year-old former friend at an earlier trial. He narrowly missed the teenager's heart when he stabbed him in the chest after a row over a hat. Det Chf Insp Ron Scott who led the investigation said: "Elias Cecchetti is without doubt the most dangerous juvenile I have ever encountered in my 28 years of service. "He has proved to be a calculating and callous individual whose complete disregard for others is extremely disturbing. I believe that he lay in wait for a victim in Clissold Park with an intention to harm someone." Judge Warwick McKinnon sentenced him to life for the attack on Miss Watts and two counts of robbery, and two-and-a-half-year's for the attack on his other victim. He described Cecchetti as "a person who has shown a propensity to commit almost random acts of violence and in some cases extremely serious acts of violence". He was ordered to serve a minimum of four years before being considered for release.

So it's four years for stabbing, with twenty convictions behind him already! A minimum of ten years would have been in order, but of course that's what some murderers get these days and he hasn't killed anyone - yet. Two predictions can safely be made: (1) He will only serve the four year minimum (or something slightly above it) of his "life" sentence, despite DCI Ron Scott's description of him. (2) He will re-offend within a year of release and next time it could well be murder. An innocent person will pay dearly for the system's failure to protect us from this psychopath.


Next up, congratulations to the police, but surely armed robbery with "previous" should get more than five years? The story is from the Belfast Telegraph:


An undercover policeman posed as a Securicor worker delivering a cashbox to a Co Antrim bank in a PSNI sting operation which snared a robbery gang, a court has heard. Antrim Crown Court was told yesterday that because of concern about the number of security van hold-ups a specialist police squad has been set up - and in a planned operation they swooped on three Belfast men outside the First Trust Bank in Ballycastle on April 15 last year.

Emmanual Jude Kavanagh (43), of no fixed address, and Martin Gerard McNally (37), of Vere Foster Walk, were each jailed for five years and ordered to serve two years probation on their release for their part in the carefully planned armed robbery which involved Kavanagh using an imitation firearm. A third man, Thomas John McCaughey (38) of Glasvey Close, Belfast, was told he can expect to be jailed for a similar term but he had his sentencing adjourned for the preparation of reports. An armed robbery charge against McCaughey's 18-year-old girlfriend Francine Margaret Anne McLaughlin, of Rosnareen Avenue, Belfast, was not proceeded with by the prosecution. Two of the vehicles were also seen in a car park in Ballycastle before the robbery.The court heard all three men had previous records.


I like to close on a hopeful note, but this week I'm afraid that's not possible. This is a depressing tale of how a drug addict thief continues to thieve, but effectively gets off, despite being convicted for a burglary while on bail from a previous sentence! Note that the new two year "sentence" will not "interfere" with his previously scheduled release date. I'm tempted to say "you couldn't make it up!" The story is from the Belfast Telegraph:


A drug addict career burglar who was caught red-handed hiding under the dining room table of the house he had broken into has been jailed for two years. Belfast Crown Court heard yesterday that officers were called to the house in Osborne Park in the south of the city at around 11.30pm last February after neighbours had alerted them to the break-in, knowing that the owners were on holiday. Prosecution lawyer David Russell said officers found a ground floor window had been smashed and, after searching the house, found Balmer hiding under the table.

Balmer, from Agincourt Avenue in Belfast, was arrested and questioned but claimed he could not remember anything, "offering the explanation that his drink had been spiked". However, he later pleaded guilty to the single charge of burglary. Defence lawyer Neil Moore revealed that Balmer, already serving a four-year jail term imposed last June for two "identical offences", had been out on High Court bail at the time of the offence. The lawyer said that after his release from the previous sentence, Balmer had been ordered to serve a further year on probation where he would have to take part in a methadone maintainence programme. "What appears to be part and parcel of his offending is his heroine addiction," declared Mr Moore.

Imposing the jail term and ordering Balmer to serve two years on probation, Judge Tom Burgess said that while the jail term would not interfere with his release date next year, his addiction was "clearly a deep seated problem that will take at least a year and I think well up to two years".


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