Thursday 11 March 2004

Anti-social workers

16-year-old Thomas Shields was sentenced to life for a vicious murder.

A straightforward case, you may think. Unless you're a "social" worker, that is:

Lord Hardie said that, by law, only a life sentence could be imposed for murder. However, he also had to fix the minimum period that Shields would have to serve before he became eligible for parole which might or might not be granted at the end of the period.

As is customary, the judge had obtained a background report, prepared by a social worker, to assist him in passing sentence. The report looked at non-custodial options.

"For a social worker to be considering options of fines, community service, probation, and discussing probation with the accused and ascertaining whether he would agree to comply with probation conditions, is absurd," Lord Hardie said.

"Quite honestly, it is failing to comply with the obligations of the social work department to the court. To discuss with any person the option of probation in such a case not only confers on the accused a false sense of hope but is a total waste of public money."

Judges are often accused of being out-of-touch. Not this time. We need a mass cull of public sector workers and this case demonstrates that social workers should be at the top of the hit list.