It’s already clear that, even among people that care about George, opinion is split on whether George’s jail sentence is a good thing, or a bad thing; whether it’s right and just – or whether the judge made a mistake. For people that don’t care about George – well, it’s clear what they think – they think he’s a joke. People are searching like crazy for George Michael prison jokes, George Michael jail jokes, new George Michael jokes.
For what they’re worth, then, here are my thoughts…
The first thing to say is – I thought this would happen. When the charges were first brought, I wrote that he was going to be in pretty serious trouble this time around. At that time, I thought he would be given a suspended jail sentence. Indeed, the judge said today that he considered that option. However, a few weeks ago, when the judge said to George that he may be facing jail, I thought it was a certainty that he would actually go to jail. I thought that today – the only question in the judge’s mind was how long he would go to jail for.
The second thing to say is – I believe the judge didn’t want to send George to jail. However, the “normal” punishment for this kind of repeated offense is jail; and he was faced with some things he couldn’t ignore…
For one thing, George has obviously learned nothing from his previous conviction. It was beyond obvious to anyone that wanted to look that George had a drug problem at the time of the previous conviction – including to the court. Last time, the court was kind. But George didn’t accept he had a problem, and didn’t take his chance to sort himself out. He seems to have thought his drug use was just the same as someone having a glass of wine with their dinner. And that’s fine. He’s a big boy. It’s his life. He’s wrong though. His drug use was affecting his life negatively. For another thing, the facts of the case are undeniable: George could so easily have killed someone because of his drug use – or even more than one person. He is out of control.
So, what was the judge supposed to do? A fine means nothing to George. The driving ban for sure would stop part of the problem – the drug driving. That’s only part of the problem, though. It’s in George’s interest to accept that he really has a drug problem – both with prescription drugs, and illegal drugs – and do something about it. Now, it’s true that George already checked himself into a clinic to get himself off the drugs. That’s good. However, he said he was going to sort himself out before, and it didn’t happen. So, it’s not beyond doubt that this was done only to impress the court to try to escape jail.
So, it’s easy to see why, in the end, the judge felt he had to send George to jail. A lot was said in court today about what a good guy George is, and how much he regrets his behavior. The judge clearly took this into account, and reduced the sentence he handed down to pretty much the minimum. All that said – this doesn’t mean he didn’t make a mistake sending George to jail. While it’s true the judge felt he shouldn’t ignore the sentencing guidelines, the truth is this is the judge’s decision; and the judge’s decision alone. It was within his power to hand down a suspended sentence. That might have been a better answer.
The third thing to say is – I’m not sure this jail sentence will make any difference to George in terms of him sorting himself out. For all that was said in court today about George being a vulnerable person, George is incredibly strong-willed. He will have little or no interest in what the judge, or anyone else, thinks about him, or his drug use. Whether he accepts he has a problem is going to be entirely down to his own reaction to his own behavior.
The fourth thing to say is – prison will be a horrible place for someone like George. There’s a lot of things said about prison in the UK being like staying in a hotel, but where everything is free. That’s true… for the typical people that go to jail. For many of those people, their life in jail is better than their life outside jail. That’s just not the case for smart people, who value their freedom… like George.
The final thing to say is – I hope he doesn’t have too awful a time in jail, and that he’s not too negatively affected by the experience in the long-term.
So, to the bottom line: if I was the judge, would I have handed out a custodial sentence. The answer is – no, I wouldn’t. I would have said the following in court to George…
“Quit with all the whining and the mitigating circumstances crap. It’s obvious to everyone you have a drug problem. If you think you don’t, I’m afraid you’re wrong. If you think that, because you have money, you can do what you’re want, I afraid you’re wrong. If you think you don’t have problems to sort out, I’m afraid you’re wrong. So, here’s what I’m going to do. I am going to hand you the maximum jail sentence for this that I can – 12 months. But this will be suspended for three years. If you get into any more trouble for anything related to drugs – even possession of small amounts, you will go to prison, and serve the full term. No let out in a short time for good behavior. I’m giving you a chance to really sort yourself out. I hope you take it. If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’ll be remembered as a shambolic joke, rather than as one of the most talented, and important singers and songwriters this country has ever produced. All that you’ve achieved, would be wasted for a few pills and cigarettes. Doesn’t seem worth it to me.”