Sunday, 31 October 2010

Speech by Leveson LJ - Chairman of the Sentencing Council

Visitors to this blog may be interested to read a speech by Lord Justice Leveson - Chairman of the Sentencing Council - see "Sentencing in the 21st Century - The Conkerton Lecture - 21st October 2010."

For more details of the role of the Sentencing Council - see here.


  1. I have in the past been extremely impressed by reading speeches given by senior judges, by their humanity, modesty, experience, wit, insight and wisdom.

    Sadly that was not the case with this speech. Perhaps his Lordship was not on form, but to pick a few:

    Of murder:
    "In each case, the victim has lost his most precious possession, that is to say his life."

    I do not know any fathers who would agree with that assessment.

    Of the purposes of sentencing:
    "Thus for our purposes, the “punishment of offenders” and the “making of reparation” can be seen as expressions of retribution."

    Such confusion would be forgivable in a sixth former, but not in a judge. Punishment is making the offender feel himself the consequences he visited upon others. Reparation is making the victim whole. A rich man who steals the only sheep of a poor man can easily make reparation by giving one back, but that would in no way be an adequate punishment. Conversely it is impossible to make reparation for some offences.

    That Leveson LJ cannot see that these are two entirely different things inspires no confidence in his wisdom.

    "The impetus for change came in response to concern about the prison population which led to an investigation by Lord Carter of Coles into options for improving the balance between the supply of, and demand for, prison places."

    In other words, to reduce sentences across the board by stealth, a fundamentally dishonest operation. The legitmate occupation of the Sentencing Council is one of communication - to discover and codify sentencing practice, so that judges may be assisted by the wisdom of other judges. It is not right to use this route to seek to move practice in any particular direction.

  2. Ben - you make good points.

    I also found this speech "interesting" but I do not wish to "unpick" it too much since readers must form their own views.

    IMHO, the speech contains a mention of victims and allowing their anger to be "palliated" but, in reality, one detects a greater emphasis is emerging on rehabilitation of the offender and very little real emphasis on punishing offenders.

    There is also a greater emphasis on keeping as many out of jail as possible and so the "must follow" guidelines (not quite "tramlines" - yet) are to be adjusted to achieve this. However, I detect little coming by way of improved resources to ensure that rehabilitation methods are as good as possible.

    Further, there are many repeat offenders who continue to commit low level crimes and with whom all the alternatives to prison have been tried. Surely, the "anti" ought to increase in the case of repeat offenders.

    A further point is that he does not seem to recognise that there is a considerable amount of "undercharging" just so that the prosecution can get a result. Thus assault occasioning actual bodily harm becomes common assault.

    There is, IMHO, no doubt that judicial discretion (especially for magistrates) is being fettered.