“There is deep and genuine regret on her part.”
A judge is being investigated after giving a pass to a woman who caused a fiery car crash – and admitting she would have locked her up if she were a man.
Judge Sarah Buckingham heard on April 11 that Victoria Parry, a 30-year-old shopkeeper from Stratford-upon-Avon, had been caught drunk driving for a third time. In this case, last May, she had downed a bottle of wine before smashing her hatchback into three others cars and careening into a ditch.
After other drivers pulled Parry from the flaming wreckage, she was found to have a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.
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Parry admitted dangerous driving to the Warwick Crown Court, but her lawyer, Lucy Tapper, asked for leniency. She said Parry had started drinking heavily to cope with the end of a longterm abusive relationship and that she had already suffered enough from the accident.
“There is deep and genuine regret on her part,” Tapper said. “Having a crash presents its own consequences in terms of what you’ve done, and to have your car burst into flames is quite terrifying. She says she thought she was going to die.”
Judge Buckingham responded by deferring Parry’s sentencing by three months, saying that she would have certainly handed down a jail sentence to a man for the same crime.
“If Miss Parry was a man, there is no question it would have been straight down the stairs, because this is a shocking case of dangerous driving against a background of two previous convictions for excess alcohol,” she said.
“But this offense was committed in May 2018 and she has not been in trouble since. She has clearly got an alcohol problem. She is, whether she admits it or not, an alcoholic.”
Addressing Parry, the judge added: “You richly deserve an immediate custodial sentence of 18 months. I want to see whether you can really address the issues rather than paying lip service. If you succeed, I will not make the custody immediate. If you don’t comply, I will conclude that you are not worthy of the chance.”
News of the sentencing provoked public outcry, according to Birmingham Live.
“Scandalous example of privileged bigotry,” one man commented.
“Discrimination without question,” said a woman.
“Maybe this is why ‘gender neutral’ is becoming so popular,” said another man. “You can get out of a jail term!”
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Brake, a British road safety group, issued a statement saying: “When drivers take illegal and selfish actions such as drink-driving they knowingly put lives in danger. Repeat offenders are the most dangerous and must be dealt with severely so that they no longer pose a threat.”
Amid the backlash, the Independent Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said it was looking at Buckingham for potential misconduct.
In the United States and elsewhere, women often get off with much lighter sentences than men for the same crimes. Some contend that women deserve greater leniency because they are more likely to be low-level criminals, coerced into crime by men, and traumatized by physical or sexual abuse. They also need to be free to raise their children, the argument goes.
But others point out that men face no shortage of their own hardships, and they have children to raise, too. More broadly, there is a growing sense in some quarters that men are being vilified, and held to a higher standard than women, in the #MeToo era.
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