Behind Bars: Butt, Asif and Amir sent to prison

Go straight to jail, do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect your corrupt ill gotten gains.

That was the message Mr Justice Cooke delivered at Southwark Crown Court this morning. It was the verdict that most people who care about cricket wanted. Whether the sentences are long enough is another matter – we’re undecided to be honest – but the important thing is that the three Pakistani cricketers have been punished publically and decisively.

As the ring leader in the affair, Salman Butt, who initially responded to the charges by cynically portraying himself as an innocent bystander being pursued by dastardly forces, received a two and a half year prison sentence. How ironic that a jury should decide a man called Butt was guilty of talking out of his (cough).

Mohammad Asif can count himself somewhat fortunate. He received just a one year sentence despite claims by Mazhar Majeed’s lawyers that he earned more than twenty times the money received by Butt and Amir. The money trail, however, did not lead directly to Asif – a man who has been accused of cheating before; although it must be stressed that his ban for using steroids was eventually overturned on appeal.

As the youngest of the three offenders, and the only one who owned up and pleaded guilty, Mohammad Amir received a six month sentence. Whereas the others will be sent to Wandsworth Prison, Amir is off to Feltham young offenders institute. It is debatable which place is worse.

It must be remembered, of course, that the convicted Pakistanis will not serve their sentences in full. They’ll remain in jail for approximately half the time (subject to good behaviour). Butt will therefore be in jail for just over a year, whilst Asif and Amir will be behind bars for six months and three months respectively. Is this long enough to be an effective deterrent?

Former cricketers have already argued that the sentences aren’t harsh enough. Sir Ian Botham and Darren Gough have voiced their concerns. However, this hasn’t stopped the guilty players from appealing the judge’s decision; Butt and Amir’s lawyers have already signalled their intention to fight on. His Beefiness will not be amused.

Whatever you think of the sentences – and we’d love to hear your views on this one – the important thing is that the players have suffered serious consequences. Six months in jail is not a walk in the park. It will surely make cricketers think twice before accepting illegal payments in the UK. Whether it will deter the fixers elsewhere in the world is another matter.

James Morgan

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