Thursday, 25 February 2010

Undue lenience and a seriously cruel act

One of the safety valves of the criminal process is that the Attorney-General may refer (under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 s36) sentences to the Court of Appeal if she considers them to be unduly lenient.  It is a most useful provision.  The case of Harpal Singh Moore is one where a sentence has been doubled.  He had applied (a number of times) a hot iron to his wife's face causing serious injury.  Hallett LJ described the offence as a "brutal, sustained act of cruelty."  The Court of Appeal considered that a sentence of 5 years imprisonment was right even though Harpal Singh Moore had been described as of "good character" and had no previous convictions for violence.  This increase of sentence is to be welcomed.  See the Attorney-General's website for details.

The present government has, rightly in my opinion, mounted a strong campaign to tackle the serious issue of domestic violence - see Home Office.  Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVC) have been set up based on a number of existing Magistrates' Courts - see Ministry of Justice March 2009.  The approach taken to these cases is one involving several criminal justice agencies and is to be welcomed.  The message is that domestic violence will be taken seriously.


  1. I am proud to have been chairman of the specialist domestic violence panel set up at our mags court as a pilot, before the wider roll-out. Initially we were criticised by the press for inconsistency but the panel soon became much more consistent. We do not resile from custodial sentences, these being imposed much more regularly than in the criminal courts. We regularly send cases up and the local crowmn court judges do not hesitate to impose significant sentences either. Think years not weeks. We would like to belive the message is getting through that domestic violence is not tolerated, but I suppose that is a bit much to expect, and impossible to measure, given the extent to which this is an under-reported crime. I, and my fellow JPs on the panel, have strong views about the effectiveness or otherwise of various probation service led interventions, but I will save these for another occasion.

  2. Rex_imperator, many thanks. I noticed this link to some very good materials:

    Home Office Crime Reduction