Religious Discrimination in UK Courts

Lighter sentences for religious people?

6th February

Discriminatory and Unjust...

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Judge lenient to thug due to him being supposedly religious

Cherie Booth, QC, as she is known while sitting as a judge, is the subject of a complaint for allegedly keeping a violent yob out of prison because he was religious .

Shamso Miah had left a mosque when he grabbed Mohammed Furcan and punched him over an argument about queing. The thug ran outside but Furcan chased after him and demanded to know why he had been struck. Miah punched him again.

Sitting at Inner London Crown Court, Mrs Blair told Miah: I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before. You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable.

Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society, which has protested to the Office for Judicial Complaints, says: This seems to indicate that she would not have treated a non-religious person with the same latitude. We think this is discriminatory and unjust.


13th June

Update: Lenient Judgment...

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Cherie Blair cleared of wrong doing after appearing to give lenient sentence to religious man

Cherie Blair has been cleared of wrongdoing as a judge after she chose to spare a Muslim criminal from jail. An investigation by a secret tribunal found her decision to give a lenient punishment to a religious person did not amount to misconduct.

The decision in favour of Blair followed a landmark Appeal Court judgment in April in a case concerning Christian rights which ruled that no religious belief should have special protection in law. The former Prime Minister's wife was sitting as a part-time judge at Inner London Crown Court in January when she sentenced Shamso Miah.

Miah pleaded guilty to assault after an argument in a bank queue ended when he broke another customer's jaw. Blair gave him a suspended six-month jail sentence and community service, saying: You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour. The suggestion that religious belief could earn a lighter sentence brought a complaint over Blair's conduct from the National Secular Society.

The Office for Judicial Complaints said no disciplinary action is necessary .

But the National Secular Society that brought the case complained about the secrecy surrounding the investigation. Terry Sanderson, president of the NSS, said: We hope this episode will serve as a reminder to the judiciary to treat everyone before them equally, regardless of their belief or lack of it, and never to act in a way that might give the perception that this might not be the case.


21st June

Update: Not Quite the Whole Truth...

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Cherie Blair ticked off for giving lenient sentence to religious man

Cherie Blair has suffered the humiliation of a secret dressing down from a top judge after sparing a Muslim criminal from jail because he was religious , it has emerged.

The revelation has given rise to accusations of a cover-up by the Office for Judicial Complaints - because it originally issued a statement claiming Blair had been cleared of wrongdoing while sitting as a judge.

The secret tribunal claimed last week that an investigation found her decision to give a lenient punishment to Shamso Miah did not amount to misconduct.

However, it has emerged that a complaint by the National Secular Society that religious belief should not earn a convict a lighter sentence had actually been partially substantiated and Blair will receive informal advice .

A letter emerged saying that Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke and the Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge had expressed some concern about the impact [of the comments] on the public perception of the judiciary and the sentencing process.

All judges must, of course, be very mindful of how they express themselves when dealing with sensitive issues of equality and diversity - including religion, race and sex - so as not to create the impression that some individuals can expect more leniency than others.

It added: They have agreed, however, that Recorder Booth should receive informal advice from a senior judge about the comments she made in this particular case, but that is not a formal disciplinary sanction.


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