Crime writer Duncan Campbell takes his seat in the press bench for a most satisfying trio of cases.
“Will the defendant please stand?
“Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, you have been found guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm. The evidence against you is overwhelming. The jury has heard how, in 1990, your fellow Old Etonian, Darius Guppy, asked you to find out the address of the News of the World journalist, Stuart Collier, so that he could be seriously harmed because he was carrying out an investigation into Mr Guppy, who, as the jury heard, was later jailed for insurance and VAT fraud.
“A tape recording of the conversation between you and Mr Guppy – a recording made by an associate of Mr Guppy for his own reasons – makes it quite clear that you were prepared to help him in his endeavour.
“I will remind the court of exactly what was said: you asked him ‘how badly are you going to hurt this guy?’. When Mr Guppy replied: ‘not badly at all’, you said: ‘Really, I want to know because if this guy is seriously hurt I will be fucking furious’. The exchange continued thus – Guppy: ‘He will not have any broken limbs or a broken arm and he will not be put into intensive care or anything like that. He will probably get a couple of black eyes and a cracked rib’. Johnson: ‘A cracked rib?’. Guppy: ‘Nothing which you didn’t suffer in rugby, OK? But he’ll get scared and that’s what I want him to do. I want him to get scared. I want him to have no idea who’s behind it, OK? And I want him to realise that he’s f*cked someone off and whoever he’s f*cked off is not the sort of person he wants to mess around with’. After the conversation continues, you reply: ‘OK Darry, I’ve said I’ll do it. I’ll do it, don’t worry’.
“The jury rightly disregarded your claim that you were only ‘joking’. Your main concern, as also evidenced by the tape recording, was that the crime would not be traced to you. Despite the fact that you were yourself a journalist, you were more than happy to assist in a plot to cause physical harm to a fellow journalist.
“I am sentencing you to the maximum sentence of five years under the Offences Against the Person Act. You would normally be released after serving half of this term but, because you have just announced in your so-called ‘crime week’ that prisoners will now serve their full term, you will serve the whole sentence, regardless of whether you behave yourself well in prison, regardless of what efforts you make at rehabilitation and regardless of the state of overcrowded in prisons which will mean that you will have to share a cell.
“And I – silence! – take him down and bring in the second defendant.”
“Michael Andrew Gove, you have been found guilty at your own admission of being in possession of the class A drug, cocaine. To your credit, you have made a full confession of which I will remind the court.
“You said: ‘I took drugs on several occasions at social events more than 20 years ago. At the time I was a young journalist. It was a mistake. I look back and I think I wish I hadn’t done that’.”
“Many offenders now serving long sentences in this country, which jails more people per head than any other country in western Europe, may, like yourself, look back and ‘wish they hadn’t done that’, as you put it. But the law is the law and a prison term is appropriate, in your case to a maximum of seven years.
“I disregard in passing sentence claims made by the prosecution that you had form in that, in 2016, you had ‘stabbed Boris Johnson in the back’, as I accept that the stabbing was metaphorical rather than physical and that you have very clearly shown complete contrition for your behaviour in that matter.
“However, your government has done nothing to address the issue of drugs and has ignored the urgings of many senior police officers who have called for their decriminalisation. You are hereby sentenced to 12 months.
“Please bring in the next defendant.”
“Priti Sushil Patell, on 3 August this year you said that you wanted criminals ‘to literally feel terror at the thought of committing offences’.
“Under the new offence, ‘murder of the English language’, brought in last week by Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, you have been found guilty on two counts.
“Firstly, the splitting of an infinitive and, secondly, for the inaccurate use of the word ‘literally’, which, as you must well know, is constantly and lazily employed when people wish to emphasise a point.
“Because of the overcrowding situation in women’s jails since your government’s decision to sell off Holloway Prison, I am inclined to spare you from incarceration on these offences. However, you also used the word ‘terror’ in a loose and reckless way. You must be well aware, Ms Patel, that many people who casually threaten terror in this country can find themselves arrested and jailed or lose their citizenship.
“You have already shown yourself to be an unreliable person more interested in your own advancement than in the condition of others in that, in 2017, you were sacked by the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, because you, as a government minister, abused your position and carried out a series of private meetings without her knowledge. On that occasion, you admitted that your actions ‘fell below the high standards that are expected of a secretary of state’. To put it mildly.
“Now as Home Secretary, rather than addressing the serious crime problems caused by the reduction by 21,000 of the numbers of police officers in the country, the catastrophic privatisation of parts of the probation service and the chaos within the courts system – all caused in the name of austerity in order to protect the richest of our citizens from an increase in their taxes – you resort to empty rhetoric.
“You have also once stated that you would be in favour of the re-introduction of capital punishment. Like Mr Johnson, you should know that, although Great Britain jails more of its citizens per head than any other western European country, it also has a higher murder and violent crime rate than its neighbours.
“I hereby sentence you to 180 hours of community service. The first 60 hours you will spend cleaning prison cells so that you can appreciate the extent of the collapse of the prison system which you now aim to over-burden with more inmates. The second 60 hours you will spend as a cleaner in a probation office and the third 60 hours you will dust the offices of Reprieve, so that you can learn that capital punishment is not only ineffective, vindictive and uncivilised, but can often result in the death of innocent people.
“I would add that – fortunately for all three defendants – hypocrisy has not yet been declared a crime.