When a defendant pleads guilty, or if found guilty of an offence, the role of the judge (Indictable offence) or magistrates (summery/either way offence) is to decide on the verdict. Magistates can impose a maximum of 6 months imprisonment for one offence, 12 months for two and a maximum fine of £5000. Judges in the Crown Court have no limits. But there are restrictions for each type of crime. (E.g GBH has a maximum of 5 years.) Judges can decide to give the maximum sentence for crimes or give them less, but murder has a mandatory life sentence. There is no minimum sentence for first time offenders. But under The Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 there are minimum sentences for persistant offenders. (Drug dealer, burglars, and an automatic life sentence for persons commiting a second serious offence.)
In the Magistates' Court fines are the most popular, followed by community sentences. In the Crown Court custodial sentences are the most commonly used.
Aims of Sentencing
This is concerned with the reason, or objective of the judge for handing down a particular sentence, (What they hope to achieve from the sentence.)
The preferred choice of sentence and aim of sentence alternates depending on the current Governments statis, pressure from the media and society. The aims of sentenceing consider the wider situation and take into consideration the victim, offender and society.
The Criminal Justice Act (CJA) 2003 s142 sets out the aims of sentencing for adult offenders and the court should have regard to:
- Reduction of crime through deterrence
- Reformation and rehabilitation
- Protection of the public
- Reparation by offenders to their victims
This is society's revenge for the offence. The sentence should fit the crime and there should be blameworthy on the offender. The aim is not to reduce crime or alter the offenders behavoiur. This idea was expressed by Kant in "The Metaphysical Elements of Justice."
He wrote... "Judicial punishment can never be used merely as a mean to promote some other good for the criminal himself or for the civil society, but instead it must in all cases be imposed on him only on the ground that he has committed the crime."
Retribution is only concerned with the offence committed and making sure that the punishment is equal to the crime. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
Today retribution is based more on the idea that each offence should have a set tariff. (removing discretion making it a uniform sentence.) The Sentencing Council for England & Wales have been set up by part four of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to promote transparency and consistency in sentencing, whilst maintaining judiciary independence.
The Sentencing Council is an independant, non-departmental public body of the Minister of Justice which replaces the Sentencing Guideline Council and the Sentencing Advisory Panel.
The Sentencing Council will:
- Promote a clear, fair and consistent approach to sentencing