IT almost beggars belief... Last week a gang of under-age yobs who admitted tying 13-year-old Kyle Parker to a tree, putting a monkey mask on him before setting fire to him - all the while filming it on their mobiles - were told by the Crown Prosecution Service they wouldn't be charged because they were all of previous good character.
What kind of farcical reason is that for this gutless, inept organisation not to prosecute a group of boys who tried to kill another boy? ALL criminals are of previous good character until they commit their first crime.
So, 13 teenagers who try to kill a defenceless boy and have the audacity to call it Happy Slapping (a misnomer for a vicious, premeditated crime) get off scot- free, yet just days later 71-year-old retired vicar Alfred Ridley, who has a serious heart condition, was thrown into one of Britain's toughest jails for refusing to pay £63 he owed in council tax.
It will cost taxpayers more than £3,000 to keep Alfred locked up in Woodhill top- security jail for his 28-day sentence and God only knows what will happen to him in an institution which counts murderers, rapists and robbers among its inmates.
Until he was banged up Mr Ridley lived with his wife in a council house on an income of £530 a month, but he withheld £63 from his £970 council tax bill because he maintained that an 8.5 per cent rise imposed by South Northamptonshire Council in 2003 was illegal.
What the hell is wrong with this country when muggers, burglars, robbers and kids who think it is OK to try and kill other kids, are allowed to manipulate our increasingly soft legal system yet decent men like Alfred Ridley, who has devoted his life to helping others, is chucked in jail for a piddling £63?
You can bet if he was some scrounging layabout on benefits who hadn't paid £63 worth of fines he'd be sitting on his sofa at home now instead of slopping out at Woodhill. You can bet if he'd been an asylum seeker bleating about his human rights he'd have had a boat-load of compensation already.
It's a disgrace that our courts use the full force of the law to punish soft targets yet hardened criminals who know how to manipulate it get treated with kid gloves - especially if they utter those magic words "human rights".
One inmate released from Woodhill last week said when Alfred arrived: "He looked depressed and shaken up. He had his head down and was just staring at the floor."
Of course he was! He was ashamed for God's sake. A decent, law-abiding man like Alfred Ridley will carry the shame of being slung in jail until his dying day - unlike some ofthe other wasters in there with him who see "doing time" as a bit of a holiday.
And just as the magistrates who put him in jail should be sacked for having zero judgment, what excuse do the fools at South Northamptonshire Council have for deciding to waive Alfred's arrears two days after he was jailed? Why didn't they do it months ago, which would have saved Alfred a lot of life-threatening distress, not to mention a costly court case?
And while we're at it, this Government must also shoulder some of the blame. How dare they put hard-up pensioners in the intolerable position of having to spend vast amounts of the little money they have on extortionate council tax demands?
It's shameful that elderly people who've worked their entire lives are having to spend what should be a peaceful retirement worrying how they're going to pay their council tax from a pension that barely gives them enough to feed, heat and clothe themselves.
Tony and Cherie Blair come from working-class stock. They know only too well the hardships that elderly people face, yet they're presiding over a Government which is bullying pensioners into early graves. The real disgrace here is that we elected Tony Blair on a socialist ticket. Sadly, the closest he and Cherie get to socialism these days is when they have an intellectual debate about it over champagne and canapes with their posh friends.
The words hypocrites and traitors come to mind.