WE don't subscribe to the view that a huge fine or a custodial sentence is necessarily the best punishment for someone who has committed a crime.
But in order for a punishment to be an credible deterrent it has to be effective.
Yesterday a bakery worker who stole more than £20,000 from her employer was back in court for a proceeds of crime application hearing.
For anyone who doesn't know, a proceeds of crime hearing is supposed to show that crime doesn't pay by giving prosecutors powers to confiscate money or assets.
When her bosses found out about her crime Joan Whitrick promised to pay them back. She didn't.
And when she was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court she was told: "The £20,105 will have to be paid back even if it takes you the rest of your days to do it.”
But when Whitrick pleaded poverty yesterday the Crown agreed to accept a nominal sum of just £10 - a figure so derisory it is almost an insult.
Sometimes our courts are bound by the law. If Whitrick says she cannot pay, then she cannot pay (unless, of course, she comes into money, in which case we trust she will be back before the court). But at her earlier hearing Whitrick's barrister said she was now working as a sales manager for a different company and had earned a promotion.
It seems incredble, therefore, that she cannot afford to pay more than the cost of a takeaway.
And it doesn't send out a positive message to anyone else tempted to steal from their employer.