Thursday, 8 May 2014

Robo-sentencing is wrong

Nick Clegg is quite right to oppose automatic six month sentences for anyone caught carrying an illegal knife for the second time. All sentences which ignore the individual circumstances of the offence, the offender and the victim are wrong.

This Tory proposal will no doubt also be adopted by Labour, who seem to be unable to come up with a single policy idea of their own.

What Nick Clegg did not say is that knife crimes should be treated more leniently than they are at the moment. He didn't say that he was opposed to a stricter set of sentencing guidelines for judges dealing with offenders convicted of a knife crime.

But robo-sentencing, where there is an automatic tariff that does not allow a judge to consider the details of the crime, the effect on the victim and the circumstances of the offender, are very wrong. There will be some cases where a mandatory minimum term will be overly harsh. But there will also be cases where a judge sees the minimum as being the standard tariff and does not send an offender to prison for a longer term in a case where a free hand might have led to this.

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