Should Crooks Be Able To Get Their Sentences Reduced?
When someone commits a crime there are laws that govern the kind of sentence they should receive. But its never black and white. A Court may be far more lenient on one offender than on another, despite the crimes committed being essentially the same.
Sentence discounting is nothing new. The Crimes Act sets out maximum sentences for different crimes, but courts generally have the power to reduce penalties as they see fit. The legal system operates on the idea that all of the circumstances surrounding a particular crime should be considered before deciding on the sentence.
Just as aggravating factors mean offenders get a tougher sentence, such as shooting a police officer (seen to be worse than shooting just anybody), mitigating circumstances mean an offender gets a milder sentence. Perhaps they were driving drunk because of an emergency. Maybe a woman who attacked her partner had suffered years of their verbal abuse.
In other words, if there is a reason for the behaviour that resulted in the crime, the Court will take it into account.
There are also things an offender can do to reduce their sentence.
If they plead guilty the sentence is automatically reduced, although by how much will depend on the timing. Voluntarily approaching the police to confess shows more remorse than would a confession after being caught. Pleading guilty before a case goes to trial is more useful than a confession after a trial has begun. It means less time and public money is needed to carry out the investigation and cover the Court costs.
Assisting the authorities can also mean a reduced sentence. For example, a drug dealer might name a crook higher up the chain, or give evidence at a trial. Some see this system as a cop-out for offenders; a way to get themselves a better deal without really being remorseful.
But many criminal lawyers would argue that there are advantages. Investigations get cleared up faster, saving time and money, and making the Court system less clogged.
The NSW Government recently announced some tougher changes. In the past, prohibited persons, such as sex crime offenders, might have received a reduced sentence because they could no longer get employment in their field. Not anymore.
If an offender dobs on someone else, they wont automatically get more leniencies due to an assumed danger they face in jail. Nor will crooks that have had their assets confiscated as proceeds of crime.
And when an offender gets a reduced sentence for assisting authorities, the Court will have to state what their sentence would otherwise have been.
As a rule, the reduced sentence should still reasonably fit the nature of the crime.