The United Nations – or at least some part of it – is protesting that Julian Assange’s 50 week sentence for skipping bail is excessive. The correct reaction to this news being a cheery two fingered Anglo Saxon Wave. We’ll decide upon our justice system, thanks very much. Especially when there’s that hint of a soupcon of the thought that the protests are because they like the manner that Assange sticks it to The Man rather than a dutiful consideration of the facts of the case.
It’s also not obvious that the sentence is disproportionate:
The UN has claimed Julian Assange’s prison sentence is “disproportionate”, dismissing his skipping bail as a “minor violation”. Assange, 47, lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for almost seven years – a self-imposed exile which cost the taxpayer £16m. He took refuge to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he has denied. The WikiLeaks co-founder was dragged from the building by police officers last month after relations between him and the embassy soured, and he was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for a bail violation. Now rights experts from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have criticised the length of his sentence, which was close to the maximum penalty which can be given for the offence.
Well, you’d rather expect maximum sentences to be imposed for maximum offences of that type. And skipping bail most certain is an offence, for this very good reason:
Assange agreed in a British court that if he was not banged up on remand then he would turn up for trial. He didn’t turn up for trial. So, he skipped his bail. And that’s why he is being punished. For the same reason that perjury gains a stiff sentence – as Chris Huhne, his wife and Jonathan Aitken found out. For the same reason that contempt of court does. Because the system of justice only works if all agree to be bound by it. Further, if people skip bail then bail is less likely to be granted to others in future. If no one turned up for trial then there would never be any bail at all. People merely accused would spend months to years in prison awaiting the trial that would find them innocent and thus free them. Jailing people who skip bail is important which is why he’s going to serve time for having done so.
As to whether it’s excessive, well, we’ve another recent case of bail skipping to consider:
Funny how these stories sometimes come up in tandem, isn’t it? Julian Assange has just been arrested for skipping bail and on the very same day we get told that Jack Savage – the speedboat killer – has been sentenced to 6 months for skipping bail.
Should Assange get more than Savage? Sure he should. The point here being that skipping bail – as with perjury, contempt of court – is an assault on the very integrity of the judicial system itself. And taunting people from an Embassy for 7 years is more of such an assault than skipping off to whoingodknowswherecaucasiastan is. Thus a greater sentence is justified. As is a greater sentence for skipping for 7 years, not a lesser time period.
By recent standards of sentencing for bail dodging it doesn’t seem excessive at all. Not unless you’re judging by Assange and The Man rather than actually by the law.
This next is ridiculous though:
They have also criticised the UK authorities for jailing Assange in high-security Belmarsh Prison in south east London, where he has been detained for the last three weeks.
That’s the way the system works. You get jugged you go into a high security prison for a few weeks. Where you are assessed, watched, thought about and then assigned to the correct category of prison to serve out your sentence. That’s just the way the system works.
“It is worth recalling that the detention and the subsequent bail of Mr Assange in the UK were connected to preliminary investigations initiated in 2010 by a prosecutor in Sweden. “It is equally worth noting that that prosecutor did not press any charges against Mr Assange and that, in 2017, after interviewing him in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, she discontinued investigations and brought an end to the case.
They’re whining because Assange is their sweetie, not because of anything to do with the law or the portionality of the sentence.