In 2016, we looked at the case of Edward Vines a university contemporary of journalist Emily Maitlis. He had made Ms Maitlis’ life a ‘living hell’ for 25 years for repeatedly stalking her.
Back then, he was convicted of breaching Restraining Order and was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
On 16th January 2018, so less than 18 months after he was sent to prison, he was back in Court for further breaches.
It seems that these consisted of writing letters to her whilst he was in prison, and again after he had been released and was living in a bail hostel.
He pleaded guilty initially (we think in the Magistrates’ Court) and the case was sent to the Crown Court for sentence.
When he appeared at Court, he applied to vacate (change from guilty to not guilty) his plea of guilty. This was unsuccessful and he received another 3 year prison sentence.
In the news report, reports of the Victim Personal Statement that Ms Maitlis wrote to the Court are given, which make fairly harrowing reading.
There are Sentencing Guidelines for the offence of breaching a Restraining Order (see page 9).
As we said last time, the sentence passed (especially after credit for a plea of guilty) seems to be well over the odds. But when you consider the history of the case for the last few decades, the sentence is completely explicable – the Judge had no real choice.
It does raise the wider question of what do you do with someone like Mr Vines? It is clear that repeated prison sentences have not had any effect, and there is nothing to suggest that making the sentences longer and longer will do (and in any event, the maximum sentence is 5 years, not far off what Mr Vines got, given the plea of guilty).
Making the maximum sentence longer would not appear to help either, and there is no provision for an indeterminate sentence for these offences.
It’s tempting as a lay person to think that there must be ‘something wrong’ with Mr Vines, but we assume that this has been thoroughly considered and there is not an answer there.
But you clearly can’t do nothing. In the absence of a solution, or a change of heart from Mr Vines, it is likely that he will repeatedly find himself back in front of the Court, being sent to prison.