Linda Colling: Harsh and inconsistent

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MORE crackpot sentencing. And rough justice for new mother Natalie Clark.

Just nine weeks after giving birth she was locked up for 12 months after sinking her teeth into a workmate’s neck on a taxi ride home from a Rhianna concert.

No wonder the 29-year-old from Hewitt Avenue, Hollycarrside, was stunned by the severity of the sentence and was led sobbing to the cells.

Even her victim Lorraine Conlan, who was left with a bite mark and a slight black eye, was shocked at the verdict doled out by Judge Roger Thorn.

On the same day the Echo reported a shoplifter who sunk his teeth into a supermarket manager’s arm after he was tackled fleeing the store with £130 worth of razors. He walked free.

Kevin Coates, 33, from Wraith Terrace, Ryhope, was given 10 months, suspended for 18 months, with 18 months supervision after having served three months in custody. Where’s the justice here? Where is the consistency in sentencing?

One is a thief who bites when caught red-handed, the other a drunken woman who bites when having a barney.

One has a history of dishonesty linked to his drink problems and the other, no previous convictions, a Red Cross volunteer and a caring mother.

Coates pleaded guilty. He had no option. And I can well see the judge was making an example of the young mother because she had used every excuse from self defence to branding those giving evidence against her liars. But, it was still harsh.

More inconsistency when a burglar who ransacked a dead woman’s home walked free. Her daughter rightly lashed out at the suspended sentence of 12 months she called a “disgrace” given to 19-year-old Mark Wright, of Mainsforth Terrace West, Hendon, who had “absolutely trashed” her late mother’s home in Thelma Street, for copper piping. Wright was only nicked by his DNA.

And on the same day we reported on how yet another man walked free, drink driver, Andrew Cowell of Beckworth Green, Doxford Park, who fled the scene after smashing into three houses, leaving a friend with multiple broken bones after “showing off” at the wheel doing up to 80mph in a 30mph zone.

Nine months on his joiner friend is still on light duties at work and may never drive again due to his injuries.

Almost twice over the limit, Cowell was lucky not to have killed someone when he lost control of his Ford Cosworth while giving his three pals a lift home from the pub.

The car hit houses in Eden Vale causing £30,000 worth of damage to one and terrifying occupants. One woman told police she thought they were all dead.

OK, Cowell had never been in trouble before and cares for his younger sister after the deaths of their parents, but the 12 month suspended jail term he was given did not send out the right signal at all.

OK, the judge accepted he had acted out of character and “the only possible explanation” was that he was still grieving the deaths of his parents who had died within a short time.

This man was lethal, unlike Natalie Clark – whose nine-week-old son is now being looked after by a friend, and whose daughter Natalie, eight, is being taken care of by her father.

If any example should be made it should have been of this man. Such recklessness deserves time behind bars. And that’s the message that should have been sent out by Mr Recorder Eric Elliott.