Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.
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Wednesday, 17 May 2017
PUNISHMENT//WHO YOU ARE OR WHAT YOU DID?
A few years ago Sentencing Guidelines were modified so that increased fines above the normal maxima could be imposed in place of community orders where appropriate. In simple terms those offenders who could afford it could buy their way to a sentence of lesser magnitude. It seems to me that a similar principle has been applied in the case of the above mentioned student: substitute academic and social potential for ability to pay and the judge`s reasoning is clear. My point is that it might be clear to him but were the argument applied wholesale the justice system would be in turmoil. The 18 year old addict from a broken home subjected to abuse since childhood is the opposite side of the sentencing coin. Some would say that s/he should be offered reduced punishment in recompense for his/her background. Before Sentencing Guidelines judges and magistrates used their own common sense to decide sentencing for such offenders; both those offering benefits (current or future) to society and the addicted thug at the bottom of the social heap. The Guidelines are more or less a tick box exercise. Should rich offenders be able to buy a financial penalty which others could not afford? Should a certain standing in society protect an offender from prison? Should deprivation of all kinds and/or addiction be considered mitigation and an argument for more considerate treatment? In cases of violence drunkenness is on the contrary considered an aggravating factor. There is also the matter of public protection which IMHO is often overlooked by those who seek to remove custody from many offences and offenders. In the actual case discussed here the assumption by the judge is that this is a one time offence and public protection is not a consideration. When news of another stabbing of a girlfriend/boyfriend by a partner or ex partner is concluded by immediate custody for a first time offender no doubt there will be a comparison.
This is a murky area of the law. It has even darker undertones when who you are takes precedence of what you did.