Criminals in the United Kingdom, including violent offenders, are receiving reduced sentences due to courts taking into account strict coronavirus regimes in the country’s prisons, The Times has revealed.

British judges have shown leniency since April, after a court ruled that measures implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus at detention facilities, including extended periods of isolation, could be considered when handing down a sentence. The case involved a man who sexually abused a schoolgirl, the paper reported. 

Mercy was also given to a sex offender who was caught trying to groom an underage girl. In July he was jailed for a mere 20 months, apparently because the judge had concerns about the restrictive coronavirus policies adopted by prisons. 

Lighter sentences are also being given to violent criminals. In September, two masked burglars who broke into a home and terrorized a family received reduced prison terms because the judge acknowledged that the thugs would have to spend 23 hours a day in their cells due to Covid-19 rules. 

In June, the council which sets guidelines for judges issued a notice that highlighted “the concerns that many people have about the effect the Covid-19 emergency is having on conditions in prisons and the potentially heavier impact of custodial sentences on offenders and their families.

The health crisis has put enormous stress on the country’s justice system, as it attempts to balance safety measures with ensuring justice is meted out. 

Not everyone is sympathetic to the reasoning being applied by some judges, however. Tory MP Tim Loughton told The Times that the practice of handing out lighter sentences amounted to a “special summer sale” and a “Covid bonus for prisoners.”

The UK isn’t the only country to face issues surrounding coronavirus and its prison population. Across the United States, prisoners have been released early due to concerns about the disease, prompting criticisms and accusations that the policy has led to an uptick in violent crime in places like New York City. 

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