Playing the man not the ball in the Sarah Catt case

There seems to be some unease among Guardian journos at the sentencing remarks of Justice Jeremy Cooke in the Sarah Catt 38-week abortion case. Since it seems rather difficult to challenge them on legal grounds, they're trying out a go at the judge:

A judge who criticised UK abortion policies while sentencing a woman to eight years in prison for performing her own abortion at a late stage in her pregnancy is one of at least five members of the judiciary with links to a Christian charity which has campaigned for more conservative abortion laws.
There has been surprise at the severity of the sentence Justice Jeremy Cooke imposed on Sarah Catt...
That sentence, let us be reminded, was a sentence of 8 years in jail; in the normal course of things Mrs. Catt will be out on licence after half of that. Since the defence did not show that Mrs. Catt was anything but in her right mind and aware of the consequences of what she did, there was no option for a psychiatric treatment instead.

If Sarah Catt, in the same state of mind, had killed a baby who had just been born, she would have been looking at a murder charge and a sentence of life imprisonment. That sentence in these circumstances looks like 15 year minimum starting point to me. Catt actually got a 12 year sentence with a reasonably generous 1/3 off for guilty plea, so from where I'm sitting this sentence seems bang on. Of course, people like Simon Jenkins in the Guardian don't think any woman should go to jail:

What conceivable good can be served by such a sentence? It appears merely a gesture of abhorrent rage on the judge's part. He accused Catt of robbing "an apparently defenceless child ... of the life which he was about to commence".
He gets something of a shoeing in the the comments:
Putting people in prison harms them, their families and their children. For both men and women. If the crime is relatively small the effect may be disproportionate. For both men and women. Either argue for fewer and shorter sentences for 'minor' criminals of both sexes. Or admit that you care about women but not about men.

So why the concern about Mr. Justice Cooke? It seems that his dig at the modern day treatment of the 1967 Abortion Act ruffled a few feathers:

There is no mitigation available by reference to the Abortion Act, whatever view one takes of its provisions which are, wrongly, liberally construed in practice so as to make abortion available essentially on demand prior to 24 weeks with the approval of registered medical practitioners.
and, in the grand tradition of politics, the pro-abortion camp thought they'd take a pop at his character rather than the facts of what he said. Would anyone like to argue that we don't have effectively abortion-on-demand up to 24 weeks in the UK? Anyone? Bueller? If you read the 1967 Abortion Act then its provisions are clear:
If two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith—
  1. that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or
  2. that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
  3. that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated; or
  4. that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
That, let me point out, is not the same as abortion-on-demand. There may be good societal reasons for the modifications that current practice have applied to this act, but they're not legal.

The reason we have Christian justices is the same reason we have Sikh justices, Muslim justices, Christian libraries, Jewish engineers, secular magistrates and pagan policemen. Our professionals are drawn from the whole population of the UK with their varying beliefs and creeds. As long as they do not come into conflict with their role (a Jewish butcher counter at Sainsburys refusing to handle pork, a Christian registrar refusing to marry same-sex couples, a Muslim taxi driver refusing to accept guide dogs) then what's the problem? If the journos in this article actually have anything to point where Mr. Justice Cooke is violating sentencing guidelines, by all means do so - and I'm sure Mrs. Catt's lawyer would be doing so on appeal. Otherwise, stop flinging faeces.

Incidentally, I wonder (and we'll never find out, which is good) what the religious make-up of the jury was? For, let us remember, a jury convicted Catt of the charge, not a judge. Wouldn't it be ironic if the jury members' beliefs were a mix of Christian, Jewish, Muslik, Sikh, Hindu, agnostic and atheist?

[ While we're here, with the journos trying to re-open the debate, let's have full disclosure. I believe that there's a good chance that Catt's dose of Misoprostol, while sufficient to cause an abortion, did not kill the child. In that case she would have given birth to a child who would have been entitled to full legal protection. Abandoning that child to their fate, or worse, would have resulted in a murder charge and a sentence that would likely have been greater than the aforementioned 15 year minimum term. I see Mrs. Catt's refusal to yield the location of the child's body as likely to indicate the worst of the possibilities for the fate of her child, and she should thank whatever deity she believes in that the prosecution did not go down that route. ]

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