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Sentencing - Are they too harsh/lenient?


Sentencing - Are they too harsh/lenient?

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Simmo
Simmo
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How do you feel about sentencing as a whole (not just custodial sentences)?. Are they always fair and just? Every case is judged on its own individual merits but can sentences at times be unduly lenient or way too harsh, and what impact does a sentence have on a persons drive to rehabilitate? Share your own experiences.
khafka
khafka
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The short answer for me is "it depends". Some cases I can see being too short/lenient and others way too harsh. But then you have to weigh it against each other, is the harsh one too harsh and the lenient one fair, or is the lenient one too soft and the harsh one just right? Maybe both are wrong and it should be somewhere in the middle?

General research concludes that the aftermath of sentencing is oftentimes much harsher and long lasting than the sentence itself.

I'm still very much in favour of a clean slate approach. Once your sentence/order is done then that's it. Done. It doesn't show on any disclosure or anything. The only people privy to your criminal history is the police. Struggling to find a job due to something you did 20 years ago is a very real issue facing thousands of ex-offenders who just want to get back into a normal life, or what could be construed as one.

AB2014
AB2014
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khafka - 5 Oct 20 4:09 AM
The short answer for me is "it depends". Some cases I can see being too short/lenient and others way too harsh. But then you have to weigh it against each other, is the harsh one too harsh and the lenient one fair, or is the lenient one too soft and the harsh one just right? Maybe both are wrong and it should be somewhere in the middle?

General research concludes that the aftermath of sentencing is oftentimes much harsher and long lasting than the sentence itself.

I'm still very much in favour of a clean slate approach. Once your sentence/order is done then that's it. Done. It doesn't show on any disclosure or anything. The only people privy to your criminal history is the police. Struggling to find a job due to something you did 20 years ago is a very real issue facing thousands of ex-offenders who just want to get back into a normal life, or what could be construed as one.

I don't know if any of you heard the Radio 4 programme on Wednesday evening about prison and rehabilitation. The barrister presenting the programme said that sentencing is too harsh, but the sentencing guidelines set minimum sentences regardless of the circumstances. Magistrates, and especially judges, are also acutely aware of the prosecution's right to appeal and the public's right to complain, so they are incentivised to "go large", as it were. There is also the tabloid approach that, to quote Monty Python, "the full penalty of the law can scarcely atone for their ghastly crimes".

To summarise, then, many sentences are too harsh, and there is very little discretion for sentencing to be lenient.

=========================================================

As Chris Stacey said: Although its not formally part of the sentence that is handed down in court, the criminal record that someone comes away with effectively becomes a second sentence, which can have a long-lasting, if not lifelong, impact.

punter99
punter99
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Simmo - 5 Oct 20 3:42 AM
How do you feel about sentencing as a whole (not just custodial sentences)?. Are they always fair and just? Every case is judged on its own individual merits but can sentences at times be unduly lenient or way too harsh, and what impact does a sentence have on a persons drive to rehabilitate? Share your own experiences.

It depends on what the objective of sentencing is. Are you sentencing to punish, to deter or to rehabilitate? Do you believe that sentence length should depend on the amount of harm caused to the victim? Should some offenders be punished more severely because the public views them as more 'dangerous' than other offenders?

Last year the govt said that short sentences (under 12 months) were not working, because they were just long enough to disrupt someone's life, but not long enough to allow the authorities to rehabilitate that person. In Scotland, I believe the justice system has a presumption against short sentences, but in England they are still very common.

AB2014
AB2014
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punter99 - 5 Oct 20 10:56 AM
Simmo - 5 Oct 20 3:42 AM
How do you feel about sentencing as a whole (not just custodial sentences)?. Are they always fair and just? Every case is judged on its own individual merits but can sentences at times be unduly lenient or way too harsh, and what impact does a sentence have on a persons drive to rehabilitate? Share your own experiences.

It depends on what the objective of sentencing is. Are you sentencing to punish, to deter or to rehabilitate? Do you believe that sentence length should depend on the amount of harm caused to the victim? Should some offenders be punished more severely because the public views them as more 'dangerous' than other offenders?

Last year the govt said that short sentences (under 12 months) were not working, because they were just long enough to disrupt someone's life, but not long enough to allow the authorities to rehabilitate that person. In Scotland, I believe the justice system has a presumption against short sentences, but in England they are still very common.

Another point in the programme is that prison has no deterrent effect, even if one is intended. The number of people in prison shows that it is not a deterrent. Rehabilitation is not really the courts' concern, whether it should be or not, but there is (or was) a sign in many prisons saying that people are sent there as punishment, not for punishment. In England & Wales, the government keeps making noises about the ineffectiveness of short sentences, but no actual presumption against short sentences. Some courts just suspend the short prison term, which has exactly the same rehabilitation period anyway, and prevents filtering. There is the thing about post-licence supervision, but that could be just as easily achieved by a community order, as there is no post-licence supervision for suspended sentences.

=========================================================

As Chris Stacey said: Although its not formally part of the sentence that is handed down in court, the criminal record that someone comes away with effectively becomes a second sentence, which can have a long-lasting, if not lifelong, impact.

punter99
punter99
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AB2014 - 5 Oct 20 11:08 AM
punter99 - 5 Oct 20 10:56 AM
Simmo - 5 Oct 20 3:42 AM
How do you feel about sentencing as a whole (not just custodial sentences)?. Are they always fair and just? Every case is judged on its own individual merits but can sentences at times be unduly lenient or way too harsh, and what impact does a sentence have on a persons drive to rehabilitate? Share your own experiences.

It depends on what the objective of sentencing is. Are you sentencing to punish, to deter or to rehabilitate? Do you believe that sentence length should depend on the amount of harm caused to the victim? Should some offenders be punished more severely because the public views them as more 'dangerous' than other offenders?

Last year the govt said that short sentences (under 12 months) were not working, because they were just long enough to disrupt someone's life, but not long enough to allow the authorities to rehabilitate that person. In Scotland, I believe the justice system has a presumption against short sentences, but in England they are still very common.

Another point in the programme is that prison has no deterrent effect, even if one is intended. The number of people in prison shows that it is not a deterrent. Rehabilitation is not really the courts' concern, whether it should be or not, but there is (or was) a sign in many prisons saying that people are sent there as punishment, not for punishment. In England & Wales, the government keeps making noises about the ineffectiveness of short sentences, but no actual presumption against short sentences. Some courts just suspend the short prison term, which has exactly the same rehabilitation period anyway, and prevents filtering. There is the thing about post-licence supervision, but that could be just as easily achieved by a community order, as there is no post-licence supervision for suspended sentences.

Rehabilitation is the courts concern. One of the factors that could determine if someone gets a community order or a custodial sentence is their responsiveness to rehabilitation. In the pre sentence report, probation will highlight to the judge whether the person is displaying an understanding of their offending and a willingness to change.

AB2014
AB2014
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punter99 - 5 Oct 20 11:38 AM
AB2014 - 5 Oct 20 11:08 AM
punter99 - 5 Oct 20 10:56 AM
Simmo - 5 Oct 20 3:42 AM
How do you feel about sentencing as a whole (not just custodial sentences)?. Are they always fair and just? Every case is judged on its own individual merits but can sentences at times be unduly lenient or way too harsh, and what impact does a sentence have on a persons drive to rehabilitate? Share your own experiences.

It depends on what the objective of sentencing is. Are you sentencing to punish, to deter or to rehabilitate? Do you believe that sentence length should depend on the amount of harm caused to the victim? Should some offenders be punished more severely because the public views them as more 'dangerous' than other offenders?

Last year the govt said that short sentences (under 12 months) were not working, because they were just long enough to disrupt someone's life, but not long enough to allow the authorities to rehabilitate that person. In Scotland, I believe the justice system has a presumption against short sentences, but in England they are still very common.

Another point in the programme is that prison has no deterrent effect, even if one is intended. The number of people in prison shows that it is not a deterrent. Rehabilitation is not really the courts' concern, whether it should be or not, but there is (or was) a sign in many prisons saying that people are sent there as punishment, not for punishment. In England & Wales, the government keeps making noises about the ineffectiveness of short sentences, but no actual presumption against short sentences. Some courts just suspend the short prison term, which has exactly the same rehabilitation period anyway, and prevents filtering. There is the thing about post-licence supervision, but that could be just as easily achieved by a community order, as there is no post-licence supervision for suspended sentences.

Rehabilitation is the courts concern. One of the factors that could determine if someone gets a community order or a custodial sentence is their responsiveness to rehabilitation. In the pre sentence report, probation will highlight to the judge whether the person is displaying an understanding of their offending and a willingness to change.

I have to disagree, partially. It should be their concern, as they are setting the direction of travel. However, there are many tales of people going back to court to get an order ended, including restraining orders. If they mention that the order is preventing their conviction from becoming spent, the judge says "Your rehabilitation is not my concern". That seems fairly clear-cut. 

=========================================================

As Chris Stacey said: Although its not formally part of the sentence that is handed down in court, the criminal record that someone comes away with effectively becomes a second sentence, which can have a long-lasting, if not lifelong, impact.

Simmo
Simmo
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khafka - 5 Oct 20 4:09 AM
The short answer for me is "it depends". Some cases I can see being too short/lenient and others way too harsh. But then you have to weigh it against each other, is the harsh one too harsh and the lenient one fair, or is the lenient one too soft and the harsh one just right? Maybe both are wrong and it should be somewhere in the middle?

General research concludes that the aftermath of sentencing is oftentimes much harsher and long lasting than the sentence itself.

I'm still very much in favour of a clean slate approach. Once your sentence/order is done then that's it. Done. It doesn't show on any disclosure or anything. The only people privy to your criminal history is the police. Struggling to find a job due to something you did 20 years ago is a very real issue facing thousands of ex-offenders who just want to get back into a normal life, or what could be construed as one.

I completely agree. The long lasting effects of the conviction on housing, work, relationships and everything else is far longer lasting than the actual sentence, and can be far more of a punishment too. I also agree that even on an enhanced disclosure, only a select few spent convictions should be shown. For example, if you were applying to work with vulnerable adults, why does a conviction from many years earlier for any offences other than something relevant to the job that could indicate that you are ever a risk, ever be disclosed. Once the rehabilitation period for the sentence has passed, it should not even be included on an enhanced DBS certificate if it is wholly irrelevant. If they want convicted offenders to rehabilitate and be a contributing part of 'normal' society, they should atleast give us half a chance to do this.
Simmo
Simmo
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punter99 - 5 Oct 20 10:56 AM
Simmo - 5 Oct 20 3:42 AM
How do you feel about sentencing as a whole (not just custodial sentences)?. Are they always fair and just? Every case is judged on its own individual merits but can sentences at times be unduly lenient or way too harsh, and what impact does a sentence have on a persons drive to rehabilitate? Share your own experiences.

It depends on what the objective of sentencing is. Are you sentencing to punish, to deter or to rehabilitate? Do you believe that sentence length should depend on the amount of harm caused to the victim? Should some offenders be punished more severely because the public views them as more 'dangerous' than other offenders?

Last year the govt said that short sentences (under 12 months) were not working, because they were just long enough to disrupt someone's life, but not long enough to allow the authorities to rehabilitate that person. In Scotland, I believe the justice system has a presumption against short sentences, but in England they are still very common.

I agree. Short sentences do very little accept serve as a token sentence for the courts and CPS to show they have put people in prison. True you spend time inside but there isnt enough time to engage with the relevant programs and staff to be able to address the offending behaviour and work on rectifying it. On short sentences little or no work is done with the offender around their offending behaviour so therefore it is never changed.
AB2014
AB2014
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Simmo - 5 Oct 20 1:54 PM
khafka - 5 Oct 20 4:09 AM
The short answer for me is "it depends". Some cases I can see being too short/lenient and others way too harsh. But then you have to weigh it against each other, is the harsh one too harsh and the lenient one fair, or is the lenient one too soft and the harsh one just right? Maybe both are wrong and it should be somewhere in the middle?

General research concludes that the aftermath of sentencing is oftentimes much harsher and long lasting than the sentence itself.

I'm still very much in favour of a clean slate approach. Once your sentence/order is done then that's it. Done. It doesn't show on any disclosure or anything. The only people privy to your criminal history is the police. Struggling to find a job due to something you did 20 years ago is a very real issue facing thousands of ex-offenders who just want to get back into a normal life, or what could be construed as one.

I completely agree. The long lasting effects of the conviction on housing, work, relationships and everything else is far longer lasting than the actual sentence, and can be far more of a punishment too. I also agree that even on an enhanced disclosure, only a select few spent convictions should be shown. For example, if you were applying to work with vulnerable adults, why does a conviction from many years earlier for any offences other than something relevant to the job that could indicate that you are ever a risk, ever be disclosed. Once the rehabilitation period for the sentence has passed, it should not even be included on an enhanced DBS certificate if it is wholly irrelevant. If they want convicted offenders to rehabilitate and be a contributing part of 'normal' society, they should atleast give us half a chance to do this.

I agree with the point about enhanced DBS checks. At least in Scotland there is a procedure for applying to a court to get some convictions removed, even if there is a long time to wait before you are eligible to apply. That is better than the system in England and Wales, where the options are limited:
  1. Grin and bear it
  2. Don't grin, but bear it anyway
At least now there is the prospect of improvements to the filtering system in England and Wales, but we're waiting for the government and the DBS to get their act together. Until then, we're still stuck with what we've got.


=========================================================

As Chris Stacey said: Although its not formally part of the sentence that is handed down in court, the criminal record that someone comes away with effectively becomes a second sentence, which can have a long-lasting, if not lifelong, impact.

GO


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