These two events took place two days apart last week. The two perpetrators of these two events both received the same sentence: four weeks in prison*.

Event one:

A Port Erin man who met with friends at a football club instead of self-isolating… The court heard on 22 October, Wood went to Rushen Football Club where he met a group of people at 10.30pm.

At around four o’clock the next morning, he and a woman went for a walk around the village before he returned home. Later that morning, police went to speak to him about an unrelated matter and spotted him walking around outside…

Four weeks of jail for Covid-19 rule breaker

Event two:

A woman who left her home in a taxi following a late-night drunken row with her partner… admitted failing to self-isolate on 24 October by making the journey to a homeless shelter.

At about 03:00 BST on Saturday she took a taxi to Graih in Douglas, telling the driver she had returned from Blackpool two days earlier… Townsend’s defence solicitor said she had had a drunken argument with her partner and had left the home to “de-escalate” the situation.

Coronavirus: woman jailed for leaving home after row

Both receive same resolution

Both of these people received the same penalty: four weeks in prison*. In the case of someone who repeatedly makes a series of deliberate decisions to put other people at risk, the penalty should be harsher. In the case of someone who makes an (impaired) one-off decision to flee a late-night domestic disturbance to go to a homeless shelter, the penalty should be lighter. In this latter case, a suspended sentence or probation is the right remedy, because it is unlikely that someone is going to deliberately put themselves in the position of being a victim of a domestic disturbance.

More seriously, punishing someone who flees a domestic disturbance runs the risk of putting Manx women’s lives at risk – because they might be discouraged from fleeing domestic violence. In the heat of the moment, they may remember hearing that a woman fled a domestic disturbance, and was sent to prison for four weeks. Next time that a woman faces a broadly similar situation, they might decide to stay. Next time, their life might remain at risk as a result.

As a community, we need to reduce the risk of harm of domestic violence. Because the Isle of Man Government failed to take quick action at the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, the domestic abuse rate rose 21% during pandemic on our island. We need to learn from our government’s errors, and avoid making the same mistake again.

Our justice system must massively improve its ability to differentiate between two different events. People who deliberately commit crimes of evil should be punished harshly. People who accidentally commit crimes of stupidity should be educated and warned to avoid repeating the mistake.

*The man in “event one” also had to pay a fine of £125, but I think we can ignore the fine in this context.

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