Wednesday, 10 February 2010


A man who rose to the rank of Commander in the Metropolitian Police was jailed for misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice.  Thankfully, in the United Kingdom, such cases are rare and he is the most senior officer to be jailed since 1977 - see The Independent 8th February.  It is not the purpose of this blog to gloat at anyone's fall from grace but it is interesting to note that Mr Justice Simon imposed a "deterrent sentence" of 4 years imprisonment.  It remains to be seen whether loss of pension rights will follow - here is the applicable regulation.

Deterrence is (and always was) one of the objectives of sentencing but the words "deterrent sentence" imply a degree of extra harshness.  Indeed, in a general sense, the deterrence of persons from committing offences is one of the reasons for having any form of punishment.  The Criminal Justice Act 2003 put the objectives into statutory form.  Maybe the need for deterrent sentencing is obvious in some cases but there is surprisingly little guidance on when such a sentence is appropriate.  Suppose that there is a sudden perception that a particular crime is becoming more prevalent.  Can the sudden imposition of a deterrent sentence on one individual be unfair when others have previously been sentenced for the same offence more lightly?  Just when is it proper to for deterrent sentences to be imposed?

It is worth noting here that Police Officers frequently face some seriously violent events and the vast majority of officers peform their work in an exemplary manner.  The arrest of a man in connection with the murder of P.C. Blakelock is a reminder of this - see The Independent.  In 1987, three men (Silcott, Braithwaite and Raghip) were convicted of P.C. Blakelock's murder but, in 1991, their convictions were quashed on appeal.  For a history of this case see here.  Their case was one of the first miscarriage of justice cases to occur after the implementation of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.


  1. "Can the sudden imposition of a deterrent sentence on one individual be unfair when others have previously been sentenced for the same offence more lightly?"

    The fact that sentences are different is not of itself evidence that the harsher sentence was unfair. It may be that the more lenient sentences were unfairly lenient.

    The various criminals should not be judged against each other, but against the acts that the criminal did against wider society, in whose interest public justice is done.

    So consistency in sentencing is not a legitmate aim - since it may mean consistently unjust. Instead the aim must be to make the sentence just in each case.

    That said, I am not convinced of the need for a special class of "deterrent" sentences - all sentences should be deterrent. Perhaps the judge simple meant to highlight the powers that constables posess compared to other government officers, the opportunities for abuse that those powers present, and the need for hasher sentencing to provide a deterrent against that abuse.

  2. I am just an 'umble JP so the scope of my sentencing authority is somewhat limited. However, even at the lower end of the criminal spectrum, we do impose deterrent sentencing. We do so routinely in cases of domestic violence, imposing a greater sentence than we would for similar injuries caused to an unknown victim, rather than, say, a family member. at a different level, in the town where I sit, we had been plagued with cyclists riding through the main pedestrian areas. The police started a clampdown and we decided that the starting point would be GBP 100 plus surcharge and costs after a guilty plea (ie 150 less a third). This is higher than for say, low level speeding in a car. The local newspaper rant he story more than once and whilst the problem hasn't gone to zero, it is much better than it used to be. Trivial but true.

  3. @rex, in your cycling case I find it hard to believe that the difference between a £30 and £100 fine makes the difference. Surely the fact that the police troubled to take the case to court at all would be a bigger factor?

    As for your DV cases, I agree that these should attract a sentence which deters, but do you not also want to deter attacks on strangers?

  4. I note that if the Commander's pension is forfeit and he wishes to appeal then he will end up back before the Crown Court:

    Appeal by a member of a home police force
    H5.—(1) Where a member of a home police force, or a person claiming an award in respect of such a member, is aggrieved by the refusal of the police authority to admit a claim to receive as of right an award or a larger award than that granted, or by the forfeiture under Regulation K5 by the police authority of any award granted to or in respect of such a member, he may, subject to Regulation H7, appeal to the Crown Court and that court, after enquiring into the case, may make such order in the matter as appears to it to be just.

  5. Conviction is the ultimate deterrent.I would presume that most readers here are aware of the low level of convictions for lower [relatively] level offences. Re the case in question the conviction of an officer of commander rank will breath fresh air into a job where most corruption is at much lower seniority.

  6. Many thanks for the interesting comments. Deterrence is an important topic and merits a further post.