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Sentencing policy

Comment 28th August 2010

Currently the Sentencing Council requires magistrates'courts to "follow" their guidelines. 

 

The SC is a body of 14 people including senior judges and 6  non-judicial members.  There are just two people from the magistrates' courts – one lay magistrate and one district judge.  As 96% of criminal cases are concluded in the magistates' courts, the balance of day-to-day understanding of the SC is lacking yet their recommendations are expected to regulate sentencing in the lower courts.

 

Previously, guidelines were issued by "The Magistrates' Association" whose members know the needs of the lower courts and who recognise that consistency in sentencing is important yet local knowledge must be allowed to operate.  As an example, the loss of a driving licence is a more severe penalty to a country driver who, with a bus service of perhaps once a day, might become unemployed whereas a city dweller may be inconvenienced but keep his job.  

 

The SC and its predecessor the SGC has consistently reduced penalties and this has led to increased crime.  (Lower crime rates are reported by some Government bodies but they ignore the fact that the use of fixed penalty notices hae been widened and do not show in crime statistics).

 

To save money and restore effective sentencing, the SC should be scrapped forthwith.   

Why does this matter?

The idea of centrally controlled sentencing by people with limited, out-of-date or no daily experience of magistrates' courts is the antithesis of fairness.

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