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Let's clear the decks.

Sally Clark was not - and never was - guilty. Her conviction seemed odd at the time and was (too) belatedly overturned. Her situation could not be more different from this one.

Mr Farrimond pleaded guilty to attempting to murder his wife. He did not (assuming that it was open to him to do so) suggest that his state of mind was so affected that his responsibility for his acts or his intentions were so diminished as to absolve him. Given his job he was in a good position to know the score.

However, it is clear that he was at the end of his tether, his actions were wholly out of character and that those who were affected by them - including his victim - or knew him understood and forgave him. The trial judge accepted this and the sentence was at the lowest possible end of the spectrum. There was no AG review.

Mr Farrimond is a solicitor. Solicitors are expected to behave so as to uphold the public's confidence in their profession.

Clearly they should be honest. And yet in very recent times there seems to be a dawning recognition that there are levels of dishonesty. A hand in the till or a false statement to mislead the court may not be the same as a panicked bogus letter or email. Especially if there is evidence tether endedness.

So should any custodial sentence be the end? This may be the acid test. However, if prison is inevitable but the sentence is in its context merciful, then does that make a difference? The analogy with the developing treatment of dishonesty may inform the debate.

Does the seriousness of the offence make a difference? Sticking my neck out, I rather doubt if Mr Farrimond will trouble the Crown Court from the dock again. My feeling is that members of the public would, while repelled by the act, have some sympathy. I have the stronger feeling that his profession would be met with indifference.

The SDT was fully informed and made its decision based upon the full option list. Unless it was wholly wrong to take a merciful stand, then I think its decision should stand.

However, if a serious criminal offence with custody as its result is the end then so be it. I hope that it isn't.

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