Deporting people to the States

So Gary McKinnon’s apparently off to a US jail forever for doing fuck all. Hurrah!

It’s interesting – both on the NatWest case and this case, opinion seemed broadly divided between:

1) people who think it’s possible to get a fair trial in the US
…and..
2) people who understand the US judicial system

Why’s that? Well, the US judicial system has two features that come together to make fair trials for non-violent crime impossible: very very long sentences for trivial offences; and discounts for pleading guilty that can amount to cutting your sentence by 90%.

So in the UK, if you were accused of conning your employer out of a million quid, or of hacking the military’s computers, you’d be looking at a sentence of a few years maximum. Which would be fair, as you wouldn’t actually have done anyone any real harm. A guilty plea would get you 1/3 off your final sentence – so if you’re not guilty but there’s some circumstantial evidence against you, or if you are technically guilty but think a jury would go your way, then it’s still worth fighting.

In the US, you can be charged initially with counts that would leave you in jail for the rest of your natural. Remember, this is *for nicking a bit of cash*, or *for some not-super-complex hackery* – if you think that’s fair and proportionate YOU ARE INSANE. But then, the kindly prosecutor-man will offer you a sentence which is only slightly longer than you’d get in the UK, as long as you plead guilty to everything.

This effectively means that, if prosecuted for a non-violent criminal offence in the US (they can’t get away with the same kind of sentencing discounts for violent crime, on the grounds that the long starting points there aren’t totally insane), your only reasonable strategy is to plead guilty.

And that isn’t a judicial system to which we should be sending people at all, never mind on the basis of nothing as per the current system.

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4 thoughts on “Deporting people to the States

  1. dsquared says:

    Pleading guilty is also the right thing to do if you are, incredibly obviously, guilty. As were both the NatWest defendants (who nicked millions of pounds, not “a bit of money”) and Gary McKinnon (who was aware while he was doing it that hacking into CIA computer systems carries severe penalties). If you don’t mind, I’ll wait until a defendant comes along where there’s even a tiny chance that they didn’t do it before starting the protest movement.

    If you don’t want to face US justice, then you always have the option of confining your crimes to the non-US world. If you can’t follow that bit of advice, the consequences are clear. And IIRC, McKinnon was offered a plea bargain for three years, which he was very badly advised not to have taken.

  2. PDF says:

    Millions of pounds that your employer doesn’t mind you nicking, and which only gets taken to court because of a crazy Texan lynch-mob out for Enron-y revenge. Losing some money is a mild pain in the arse; going to jail is unutterably horrible. I don’t, and never will, understand why people think the latter is an appropriate punishment for inflicting the former (in the absence of violence, threats and/or home invasion).

    And sure, if you don’t do anything to annoy the Americans, you’re probably safe from them. But wouldn’t it be nicer to live in a country where you knew that you were guaranteed safe from being sent off to Foreignia for horrible torture?

  3. dsquared says:

    No that’s bizarre; it was millions of pounds that their employer was being conned out of, and it got taken to court because they’d committed a multimillion pound fraud; there’s nothing lynch-mobby, crazy or specifically Texan about prosecuting people for fraud. They haven’t been subjected to unutterable torture; they’ve done all their bird in a perfectly respectable open prison. They were, basically, three very dishonest men who got caught and went to jail.

  4. PDF says:

    RBS didn’t want to prosecute. The Texans insisted as part of the general Enron witch-hunt, even though the victim and the perpetrators were all British-based Brits.

    I accept that we disagree on the merits of the British system whereby people who do harmless, non-violent non-crimes largely don’t go to jail, but given that this is the de facto case in the UK, it seems radically unfair to try people who’re accused of such crimes in the US – just as even a radical Muslim would probably think it was a bit off to deport somebody accused of drunk-and-disorderly in Glasgow to Saudi Arabia for trial.

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