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Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 – Remove Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Comment 3rd July 2010

I would like to see the Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for possession of an illegal weapon removed – to give greater discretion back to the judiciary.   The current law proscribes that an offender is sentenced to a minimum of 5 years in prison for illegal possession of a fiream.  I am not advocating an weakening of the laws on gun ownership, but propose the mandatory tariff removed, as it leaves no room for our judiciary to consider each case individually.

Why does this matter?

Consider someone who suffers from Bi-polar Disorder, and is not recieving adequate medication or psychotherapy.  Without the right help, he suffers depressive episodes, to the point of contemplating taking his own life.  He foolishly tries to obtain a gun, and is caught by the Police in the process.  He is full of remorse for his actions.  He has no previous criminal record.  He fully co-operates with the Police, and is immediately released on bail.  He is referred to recieve pschotherapy, which he responds well to, and returns to work (he is degree-educated and is well-respected in his job).  His employers are fully supportive.  Nine months later, his case comes to court.  The Judge considers the case and reviews the character witness statements.  The Judge comprehends that the defendant has made a serious error of judgement, but there were mitigating circumstances, and at the time of the offence he was of no risk to anybody apart from himself.  However, the Judge has no option ther than to impose a mandatory 5 year prison sentence.  What purpose will this sentence serve, when all the person needed was help, and he was now getting it? it is essential to have an effective deterent to stop the proliferation of illegal weapons, but can this not be done whilst maintaining some discretion for the judiciary? 

 


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