Jailed for stealing £3,000 but not for stealing £22,000? Why?
A Bad Day in Court?
Several newspapers recently pondered why ‘one woman is jailed after stealing just £3,000 but another who took £22,000 walks free.”
The story was sparked by a tale of two defendants who appeared at the same court centre, on the same day, but faced different judges.
The papers concluded that one was unlucky to have been sentenced by a Judge renowned for being tough on sentence.
Most lawyers know this scenario only too well and given that there is a large margin of appreciation when it comes to sentencing, there may be nothing that can be done about it.
There are a number of scenarios that we can consider when it comes to sentencing.
The sentences were, in fact, appropriate in both cases
It must be remembered that cases which look similar at first blush may, in fact, be greatly different. This is particularly true when a defendant’s offending history is taken into account. Judges will also look at their family and personal circumstances; whether they have expressed remorse; in case such as this whether they have made efforts to repay the money; the effect on the losers of the money; and importantly, if they pleaded guilty and if they did how early they entered that plea.
There are lots of relevant factors that must be taken into account before deciding on the most appropriate sentence to pass in any individual case.
The lenient sentence
In some cases, a great result at sentence may be short-lived. In some instances the Attorney General can consider referring the sentence to the Court of Appeal if it is thought to have been ‘unduly lenient’.
The harsh sentence
If a sentence is either wrong in principle or manifestly excessive, the defendant can apply to appeal that sentence. We will always promptly advice our clients when this scenario arises.
Disparity in sentencing
The court of appeal is not interested in what another defendant before a different court may have received. Sentences must be assessed on their merits, so another person’s good result will not translate into a reduction for a person not treated leniently.
Any disparity in sentencing is, however, a more critical consideration when several defendants are sentenced in the same case.
Slightly more complex issues arise in this scenario, and we will always carefully assess the situation and advise accordingly.
Ultimately, sentencing guidelines are not tramlines, and absolute fairness in sentencing is not always achieved; but there are nonetheless important protections to ensure that judges do not go beyond a proper exercise of discretion.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com. Let us help.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.