News just in: Edward Woollard, 18, has been given a thirty two month sentence for 'violent disorder' for his part in the student protest at Tory HQ last year where he dropped a fire extinguisher from the roof of the building, narrowly missing police and protesters alike.
It's a stiff sentence for a stupid act but he'll be unlikely to receive any sympathy from the press. Indeed I'm not going to defend his actions because they were criminally reckless and could have resulted in severe injury or death of a protester, police office or passer-by.
Sadly this does not herald a list of prosecutions against violent behaviour. We will not see those who put Alfie Meadows in hospital before the courts, nor those who put Ian Tomlinson in the morgue. This prosecution may well be the first of many against students though, many of whom will not have endangered lives or been violent in the way that Mr Woollard undoubtedly was.
Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC said in his sentencing;
"It is deeply regrettable, indeed a shocking thing, for a court to have sentence a young man such as you to a substantial term of custody.
"But the courts have a duty to provide the community with such protection from violence as they can and this means sending out a very clear message to anyone minded to behave in this way that an offence of this seriousness will not be tolerated.
"It is my judgment, exceedingly fortunate that your action did not result in death or very serious injury either to a police officer or a fellow protester."
The judge praised Wollard's mother saying he was taking into account her "extraordinary and courageous conduct" in persuading him to give himself up. I'm not sure she will be thanking him for these words at what must be a heart rending time for her.
However, we should also not allow the hypocrisy surrounding these events to go unmarked. Where Camilla's Stickgate seems to be in the news every day and those police officers who put Alfie Meadows in hospital go unremarked. Thankfully Meadows is recovering, but he was a victim of violence in a far more serious way than Prince Charles' consort, but somehow we are not all equal in the eyes of the great and the good.
My personal view is that this sentence seems comparatively high compared to others who have committed violent offences, but I'm more concerned that this does not herald the start of a series of convictions against those who did not endanger lives on these protests, whilst violent police officers appear to be immune from the law.