Been meaning to post on this all day, but I’m disgusted by the 32 month sentence that has been handed down to Edward Woollard – the 18 year old student protester who threw a fire extinguisher off Tory party HQ.
Let’s be clear: what he did was awful. It could have killed someone. It was a very stupid thing to do.
But, nobody was hurt. And he immediately confessed what he had done, has shown very genuine remorse, and has been written many references to attest to his good character. This was a genuine moment of madness. And while he should clearly be punished I think the price he is paying – a 32 month sentence – is too high. He is being made an example of.
Let’s put this into context. Someone I know was also on those student protests. They were held in a ‘kettle’ by the police. The person I know wears glasses. She is a post-grad in English, and couldn’t be further from being a violent protester. Yet a policeman reached over the front line of police and smashed her in the face, breaking her glasses and causing her concussion. Actual injury. His punishment? Nothing.
Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor, was walking away from the G20 protests in April 2009 when he was struck by a policeman. He fell to the floor and died. The policeman will not face criminal proceedings because of a legal technicality.
Many many students were injured by police in the protests – students who had simply gathered, and were not being violent themselves. A man was dragged out of his wheelchair. And yet the full force of the law – the full force of establishment disgust – comes down on one scapegoat, who happens to be Edward Woollard.
We should be ashamed of prison sentences like this. Community service, yes. Appropriate punishment, of course. But to send a young man to prison for all this time is a disgraceful way to ruin his life – and a hugely expensive one at that. I hope he appeals and wins. And that the curmudgeonly old judge who passed sentence will remember something of his own youth and see that this is no way to rehabilitate someone who has had one moment of madness – do that, or chase after the police who actually did cause tremendous harm on that day.