I'm angry and disgusted to read of the case of Ian Patterson.
A district judge today criticised sentencing powers which left him unable to jail a 17-year-old youth for making a hoax call to the fire service that led to a woman's death.
Nicola Stacy, 36, from Sheffield, died last month when her car was hit by a fire engine responding to an emergency call made by Ian Patterson 'for a laugh'.
Handing Patterson an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) and a 12-month referral order, District Judge John Foster said the case was one of the worst he had seen and the defendant deserved to go to prison but could not because of his age.
Earlier this month, Patterson, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Doncaster Youth Court to three counts of making false reports to South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service on June 26, June 27 and June 29.
Today, the court heard that the teenager made the third call from a mobile phone at 10.49pm and reported that a warehouse was on fire on Old Sheffield Road, Rotherham.
Two fire engines were sent to the reported fire and, while one arrived to discover it was a false alarm, the other was involved in the fatal collision as it was travelling to the warehouse.
Ms Stacy was declared dead at the scene of the accident and her 10-year-old daughter, who was a front-seat passenger, was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Sentencing Patterson, District Judge Foster said: 'Entirely, it seems to me, as a result of your actions, someone has lost their life and a young child has been seriously hurt. Very seriously hurt.'
He continued: 'What has frankly astonished me is the powers I have to deal with a case of this sort are so limited.
'Parliament has decreed that if you were 18 years of age you could be sent to prison but for a maximum of three months only. But you are not 18, you are 17.
'You richly deserve to lose your liberty in my view for a significant period of time but because you are 17 and because the maximum sentence an adult can receive is three months in prison, I cannot sentence you to custody.'
Commenting on Patterson's explanation to the police that he made the phone calls 'for a laugh' because he was bored, District Judge Foster said: 'I cannot think of a less apt reason being proffered by a defendant for committing an offence with the consequences this had.'
This is one of those times when I almost despair at the legal system. If the law won't permit a suitable punishment for this homicidal maniac, then the law - at least in the UK - is truly an ass.
May the soul of Nicola Stacy rest in God's peace.