John McLellan: Soft prison sentences for killers undermine justice

Shaun Woodburn's killer has been jailed for four years
Shaun Woodburn's killer has been jailed for four years
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A reader from Trinity got in touch after last week’s column about the Bonfire Night trouble and perfectly illustrated the frustration that both public and police feel in dealing with youths – and, it has to be said, their families – whose disdain for the law is absolute.

“We’ve been plagued for years with kids joyriding motorbikes,” he wrote. “A couple of years back three cars were set alight in Bonnington Grove out of sheer malice and twice I’ve been to court as a witness only to find the same repeat offenders get a piffling community service order.

“I’m not frightened of these morons, as I know many of my neighbours are, but I will not be going to court again just to see the culprits get off with a slap on the wrist. I had to take three days off work to go to court. What’s the point?”

More than a few readers will agree and it’s plainly true that for a small hard-core education and rehabilitation aren’t working any more than the criminal justice system.

We have to believe that some will change their ways, but those who cock a snook at authority will hardly have been made to think twice by the four-year jail term handed down to the 17-year-old killer of footballer Shaun Woodburn.

The sentence will see the seemingly unremorseful boy back on the streets in two years, so if it’s two years for a life what’s the equivalent tariff for torching a car? As the reader said, what’s the point?