There might have been some hope of closure.
Sadly, that seems unlikely after hearing the always dignified Reeves family speaking on the steps of the Old Bailey this morning after a 11-year, six-month sentence was handed down to Gordon Thompson for his for his part in the torching of the furniture store and adjoining flats at Reeves Corner during the Croydon riots last August.
An 11-year jail term for an offence that carries a maximum life sentence? For a man with no fewer than 20 previous convictions? Including one armed robbery where he went armed with a machete and knives?
Gordon Thompson can expect to be released in 2017. Will he emerge as a reformed character?
Maurice Reeves, the 80-year-old eminence gris at the five-generation Croydon business, has been a admirable figure since last August, his obvious anguish tempered by wisdom and some degree of forgiveness as he has sought to understand more about some of the circumstances which led to the outbreak of rioting across London that left his store in ashes and rubble.
But Maurice Reeves was clearly sceptical after being in court this morning for the sentencing of the 34-year-old father of two admitted arsonist from Waddon Road.
“Is it enough?” Maurice Reeves questioned the sentence.
“He’s been a serial offender, and obviously the other sentences he’s received have not stopped him offending again.
“Will he offend again? We’ll find out in about five years’ time when he is let out on parole.”
Thompson had initially pleaded not guilty, but after seeing himself on damning CCTV in the act of throwing a lighter into the store, the career criminal changed his plea.
He admitted burglary and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary. Judge Thornton had ordered the jury to return not guilty verdicts in respect of an alternative charge of arson with intent to endanger life and a further count of violent disorder.
Maurice Reeves thanked the people of Croydon for their support of his family and their business in the past eight months. The night of 8/8, he said, when he had to watch, helpless as his family’s furniture store went up in a massive conflagration, “is etched on my mind and on my heart forever. It will haunt me always”.
His son, Trevor Reeves, read a prepared statement outside the Central Criminal Court, in which he lamented the loss of the landmark store: “The sentence will not bring it back,” he said.
“We want the justice system to discourage criminals in the future and hope that coming generations will look back at these events and learn that this behaviour will not be tolerated by the good and honest citizens who are the backbone of our society.”
It is hard to argue with that.
So far, Magistrates’ and Crown Courts, in sentencing those involved with last summer’s riots, have been making examples of offenders: six-month sentences for the more minor offences judged by magistrates, where three-month sentences would be the norm; 18 months for riot offenders convicted at Crown Court, where the more usual sentence is a year.
But will such hard sentences solve the crime problems? Will the sentences deter or reform the offenders?
Maurice Reeves doesn’t seem to think so.
- Rioter dramatically admits burning down furniture shop (thesun.co.uk)
- Council leader Fisher in denial over policing the riots (insidecroydon.com)
- ‘Rioter Boasted About Starting Croydon Fire’ (news.sky.com)