Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Mid-sentence blip...

With all the arguing in the sentencing story about whether it’s worse to give criminals 50% off their prison term than it is to give them 33% off, something quite important has been under played.

The way the story has been told so far is that currently if a person charged with a crime gives an early guilty plea, they will get their sentence reduced by a third (a 33% “discount”).

But, according to the political dialogue, the Government wants to increase the discount to 50% in a bid to offer a greater incentive for people to own up.

The thing is, as pointed out by the increasingly noticed Anna Soubry in this week’s justice debate, judges can already give a 50% discount if they want to.

In 2009 the Labour Government introduced the 33% discount as a guideline only, but it was still up to judges if they wanted to offer a 20% discount, a 75% discount or nothing at all for a guilty plea if they saw fit.

If the 50% discount were introduced chances are it too would be a guideline and it would be up to judges to implement it or not, just like they could have chosen to do before the Government’s Green Paper came out.

It is true that more 33% discounts popped up after the Government introduced the guideline in 2009, but with the final decision still down to a judge it makes all the political fuss in the Commons feel a little empty.

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