PROMPTED by the absurd "guideline" from Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, backed by Lord Irvine, the Lord Chancellor, that most first-time burglars should not be sent to jail, I highlighted here last week some discrepancies in sentences for burglary.

Releasing one burglar under the new policy, a judge told him that his three admitted offences, carried out at homes where he had worked as a painter and decorator, would otherwise have brought him 18 months in jail. But on the same day in another court, a man who stole from church collection boxes - usually without even breaking into them - was jailed for four years.

A few days later another criminal also received four years. He was a speeding motorist who, on a rainy day in Bristol, with his wipers not working, overtook a van and knocked down a seven-months pregnant woman. Her child, born by emergency Caesarian section, had brain damage and died two days later.

Worse even than this, a drunken 19-year-old joyrider who killed three people when he drove through Prestwich at 90mph was jailed for just six months longer than that church thief. The husband of one of the victims rightly branded the sentence "an absolute disgrace".

But of course similar "disgraces" are commonplace with serious motoring offences, for which the punishment lags far behind public feeling. Very surprisingly, RoSPA is satisfied with the Government's intention to raise the maximum jail sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from ten years to 14.

In practice that means seven. As the case of Ashington's Ian Carr, who has killed two people in separate dangerous driving incidents, one his friend and the other a six-year-old girl, surely demonstrates, a term of life imprisonment needs to be available to deal with the worst driving offenders.

Even "life" will in most cases mean only about 12 years - but the sentence would allow a judge to recommend a term, which might be longer. Only problem then - finding judges to recognise dangerous driving as a major crime.

TRYING to allay fears about the plans for the Fylingdales Warning Station, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told a meeting at Goathland that he didn't believe the base would be a target for terrorists. I agree. So perhaps the £1.2m just put up by the Government to establish a special anti-terrorist unit in North Yorkshire could be used for local policing instead?

Still, despite other Hoon assurances - no extra buildings, no change in appearance or power output - it's clear that Fylingdales is entering a wholly different, probably more dangerous, phase. The worst fear must be that a rocket base could appear one day. The first requirement is to hold a proper public meeting, not the invitation-only event addressed by Hoon.

BAD news for Planet Earth. Bicycle sales in China have halved in recent years, from 40 million to 25 million. The Chinese government is encouraging price cutting on new cars, and cities are scrapping bicycle lanes. When the "great car culture" spreads everywhere our world is finished.