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Libyan gets minimum of 20 years for Lockerbie Bombing by Scottish Court.
January 31, 2001 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Libyan gets minimum of 20 years for Lockerbie Bombing by Scottish Court. Why are British courts handing out such tiny sentences? After all, in America it's not uncommon for people to receive 99 years for a single murder. Some people are doing over 10 years for rape alone. This Libyan could have easily received the death sentence if he were in the US, as it was similar in scale to the Oklahoma City bombing.

Yet, in the UK, it's possible to kill people through negligence, and get away with it. Just last month an uninsured driver was speeding, killed a pedestrian, fled the scene, and although found guilty, only received a driving ban!

Is the UK overly soft in its sentencing? Or is the USA overly draconian?
posted by wackybrit (23 comments total)

 
Could be worse. I imagine sentences for traffic violations are harsher in Lybia than murder sentences in the states... unless you are in Texas that is.
posted by terrapin at 10:37 AM on January 31, 2001


I know you were joking, but traffic crime doesn't entirely exist in such places. In Turkey, for example, you can drive however you wish as long as you don't actually hit anyone. Driving offences are rarely caught and you're rarely punished for anything.

It's only countries like the US (and especially the UK) where innocent drivers making simple mistakes are picked on and hounded to the ends of the earth.
posted by wackybrit at 11:01 AM on January 31, 2001


I'm amazed they convicted him at all, given how little actual evidence they had against him. Besides, Al-Megrahi actually received a life sentence. The only difference between this sentence and one in a (non-executing) American state is the possibility of parole. Considering the sparsity of evidence, and the fact that he's serving his time in a foreign country (Scotland), I don't think that's at all unreasonable.
posted by jpoulos at 11:07 AM on January 31, 2001


US President George W Bush: "I want to assure the families and victims the United States Government continues to press Libya to accept responsibility for this act and to compensate the families," he added.

Well if we're expecting compensation for murder committed by the Libyan version of the CIA, does that mean Poppy Bush is gonna be cutting fat checks for the thousands of deaths in Central America (and the rest of the world) that he orchestrated as director of the CIA.

Better go get the checkbook Bar...
posted by ritualdevice at 11:07 AM on January 31, 2001


You aren't punished for making simple mistakes in America. You're punished for negligence and endagering other people. Big difference. And it makes it nicer to drive here than in, let's say, Libya.
posted by Doug at 11:08 AM on January 31, 2001


You aren't, Doug? That's good to hear actually because here in the UK we are.

People are often fined for leaving their car engines running while they're not in the car and waiting for them to defrost. People are fined for swigging water while waiting at traffic lights. People are fined for eating a biscuit while driving.

To be honest, the UK has gone car crime crazy. The police would rather not deal with violent crime (which has risen considerably in the last few years).. but would rather deal with easy pickings in fines from drivers (driving related tickets have increased by over 1000% in 10 years).

God Bless America.
posted by wackybrit at 11:15 AM on January 31, 2001


Man, I can't possibly think of a worse thing a person can do than eat a biscuit in a car. Let alone while driving.
Ok, well, that's all pretty insane. I'd actually assumed you meant driving mistakes, such as accidentally running over an old lady. You can be fined here for talking on a cell phone, which is pretty silly, also.
posted by Doug at 11:20 AM on January 31, 2001


You have no doubt heard of the Russian diplomat who got smashed at some function and ran over and killed a woman walking her dog this weekend in Ottawa. Claimed diplomatic immunity and went home free.
posted by dithered at 11:25 AM on January 31, 2001


Is it, perhaps, because the parole system is such a joke in the US? By giving someone 99 years, that means they don't come up for parole for a good long time (20 years?). Is there even such a thing as parole in the UK?

Perhaps 99 US years is like 20 UK years?
posted by fooljay at 11:42 AM on January 31, 2001


dithered, same thing happened in Washington, DC. It was a pretty famous case.

Eventually the Gov't was able to put enough pressure on the man and the Russians for him to return and face trial. However I lost track of the story and I'm not sure what the outcome was.
posted by cell divide at 12:03 PM on January 31, 2001


Time to impose a bit of sanity on the discussion. All murder sentences in the UK are "life". What differs is the "tariff" that the judge deems necessary before parole can be considered. Even then, parole only comes after the admission of responsibility, and the decision of the parole board.

It's a false comparison, I think, between cases like this and the policing of "petty" crimes: gourmet justice as opposed to fast-food cases. I'd agree with wackybrit that the police seem content to rely upon driving offences and CCTV to boost crime numbers: ideally, they'd like us all DNA-listed and radio-tagged for surveillance. And it's about time that cars were recognised as a deadly weapon. But the malaise in one part of the legal system shouldn't be regarded as infecting the whole: that this trial was actually held at all is a mark of the robustness of Scots law.

That said, there's enough murkiness around the Lockerbie case that I doubt we'll ever know what actually happened. Banging up one of the suspects for 20 years at least creates a "lone gunman" scapegoat.

posted by holgate at 12:10 PM on January 31, 2001


Well, like Eddie Izzard sez, you kill one person, you go to jail for life, kill ten people, they send you to texas and hit you in the head with a brick. Kill twenty people, and they put you a room and look at you through a window. Any more than that, and we can't handle it. It's almost like... "Good job! You killed 10 million people? You must get up very early in the morning!"
Well, it's much funnier when he says it.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:21 PM on January 31, 2001


I actually think you should be fined for using a cell phone while driving. Most people have enough trouble just driving, much less using a cell phone...
posted by owillis at 12:27 PM on January 31, 2001


fined for eating a biscuit while driving

I hope it was at least a big greasy sausage biscuit from McDonald's, instead of one of those wimpy cookies. ;)
posted by daveadams at 12:56 PM on January 31, 2001


Lessee... British "biscuit" == American "cookie" IIRC. (In WWII, American troops about to go to the UK in preparation for the invasion were given a cheat-sheet of equivalences, such as "lorry"=="truck", "first floor"=="second floor" [the floor above ground floor]. This helped prevent a lot of confusion.)

And all other things being equal, I know I'd rather serve time in a Scottish jail than in a Libyan one.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:23 PM on January 31, 2001


British "biscuit" == American "cookie" IIRC

I know, hence my (apparently subtle) joke.
posted by daveadams at 2:57 PM on January 31, 2001


Some people are doing over 10 years for rape alone.

It's a shame they're not serving more.
posted by Hankins at 3:09 PM on January 31, 2001


I wish more countries would adopt America's harsh sentences. In Australia a life sentence means 25 years maximum. I really would like to know why they call it a life sentence.
posted by Zool at 4:41 PM on January 31, 2001


It was a KitKat.
posted by holgate at 9:24 PM on January 31, 2001


1) What does biscuit mean in American?

2) Wackbrit - you've mentioned motorists and biscuits. I'm afraid you are now obliged to take a pop at politically-correct social workers, gays in general and Peter Mandelson and Reinaldo in particular.
posted by Mocata at 4:02 AM on February 1, 2001


People are often fined for leaving their car engines running while they're not in the car and waiting for them to defrost. People are fined for swigging water while waiting at traffic lights. People are fined for eating a biscuit while driving

Do you work for a tabloid wackybrit? You should.
You make it sound like there's a policeman waiting by every frozen car, waiting to pounce on the poor unsuspecting owner when they pop indoors to get their coat.

The Lockerbie trial served the purpose for which it was seemingly intended - the families of the victims got to see the bad guy go to jail, and the respective governments didn't have to go into any of that embarassing diplomacy-type stuff that gets in the way of oil and arms deals in the Middle East.
posted by Markb at 4:21 AM on February 1, 2001


An American biscuit is a light, fluffy quickbread, sort of like a British scone, only not as sweet and without the fruit.
posted by harmful at 6:28 AM on February 1, 2001


I wish more countries would adopt America's harsh sentences.

Really? Hmmm, and I thought most rational people held the notion of reducing the number of people in prison...
posted by Neb at 12:33 PM on February 4, 2001


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