Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

I don't often comment on particular sentencing decisions, not least because it's a dangerous game for anyone not in possession of the full facts of a case. However, here the issue appears to be one entirely of the judge's maximum sentencing powers available to the court. I think it will come as a surprise to many members of the public to learn that the maximum sentence for Aggravated Vehicle Taking is two years imprisonment, and then only when serious personal injury is caused, as in this tragic case. 

On occasion and when having nothing better to do, I am prone to watch old episodes of 'Police Camera Action!' or similar, and am invariably appalled by the dangerously reckless driving of those being pursued by the police. I shouldn't I suppose, but my anger is often such that I feel very little sympathy when the culprits are invariably caught and somewhat roughly handled in the process. I have to say that this feeling is frequently compounded when I hear what sentence was eventually dished out for such terrifyingly dangerous behaviour.   

In short I find myself agreeing with His Honour Judge Hayward Smith on this. Here we seem to have an example where the sentencing guidelines have removed way too much discretion from sentencers. In my view it's left them completely unable to adequately reflect the seriousness and consequences of actions typified by this case. It's of absolutely no comfort at all to know that had death been the result, the maximum penalty has been increased to14 years on indictment. 

Just as an aside, and at a time when there are attempts to stifle public comment by the  Judiciary, I note that this judge has also had cause to severely criticise the actions of the Crown Prosecution Service's increasing habit of indulging in plea-bargaining. As this piece from last year in the Daily Mail shows, he made his views abundently clear.  

1 comment:

  1. In highlighting the judge`s comments last year you have shown that a coach and horses were driven through the Senior Presiding Judge`s recently published so called guidelines on judicial blogging and commenting because it could be argued that public confidence in the judiciary had been undermined by these reported comments. I personally would applaud the judge for his forthrightness but nevertheless it is an example of why the S.P.J. is himself more open to criticism than those he seeks to silence.