I’d probably class myself more as a dove than a hawk when it comes to the sentencing of criminals.
Indeed, I think unpaid work combined with a strict curfew monitored by electronic tag is often a better alternative to sending criminals to prison, both in terms of their rehabilitation and saving taxpayers’ money.
And I usually wince at calls to ‘throw away the key’ (or worse) when it comes to people who have committed serious crimes, particularly when the offender is young and has most likely been failed by his/her family/ school/ society.
But the case of 34-year-old Ben Stevens is different.
This evil creature systematically tortured a seven-year-old boy over a period of five months.
He made him eat his own faeces and vomit.
He pulled the boy by the nose so that he lost his nasal septum.
He punched him repeatedly in the groin.
He ran his hand under boiling water causing pain so intense the child required morphine.
Stevens was sentenced to 11 years in prison by Aylesbury Crown Court judge Her Honour Judge Kristina Montgomery.
I do not doubt she sentenced him objectively based on her many years of experience in the judiciary, within the limitations of sentencing guidelines and having taken into consideration the full facts of the case.
However, to a layman, 11 years just does not seem long enough – and the feedback to our story online would suggest Herald readers share the same view.
Even in the best case scenario, Stevens will be out by the age of 45. His victim, on the other hand, has been traumatised for life. It would be no surprise if the deep memories of those five months of torture impact on his future relationships, mental wellbeing, education and job prospects, in spite of the best efforts of the good people now supporting his recovery.
Surely crimes involving such pre-meditated and sustained cruelty should be punished with a life sentence, in much the same way as murder – which very often involves an awful but momentary burst of violence?
Only then will the crimes of monsters like Ben Stevens be treated in the way the public feels is appropriate.