The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sentence Construction

If you ever doubted that sentencing is as much an art as it is a science, just run your mind over two recent sentences that have hit the news. A teenage schoolboy protester, high on adrenalin and low on common sense, dropped an empty fire extinguisher from a tall building. Reckless, stupid, dangerous; the act was rightly described as a moment of madness, conceived and executed in a brief few seconds.

A member of Parliament systematically and cynically cheated the taxpayer out of £20,000 or so, taking months if not years to do it.

Both were of previous good character, both pleaded guilty. The student handed himself in, the MP was exposed by a newspaper.

The former was jailed for 32 months, the latter for 18 months.

Judges are no fools and construct sentences with great care. There are arguments in both cases for a sentence to deter others, just as it could be argued that custody is useless and, in the case of the young man, damaging.

18 months or 32 months; if it had been the other way round, would it have been fairer? Or should both have had 18, or both 32?

Not easy, is it?